Hometown Haunts: Flash Fiction challenge
To celebrate the upcoming release of Hometown Haunts (a collection of spooky stories for YA readers published by Wakefield Press), the #LoveOzYa gang are running a flash fiction challenge over on their Insta page. They're releasing a series of writing prompts linked to each story - and the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction incorporating the three components included in each prompt.
Here is my story which incorporates these three prompts: outside toilet, cricket ball, and torch (linked to Lisa Fuller's story Don't Look).
Come and Play
by Sandy Bigna
The shrill shrieks of kids playing drift through the languid afternoon air. I toss my red battered cricket ball from hand to hand. It makes a dusty thudding sound. All the kids at the campsite seem to know each other. I’d hung around hopefully while they chased each other down to the stream and back. But no one had asked me to play.
I hesitate, then push open the door of our cabin. Mum’s folding up clothes, which Rick has dropped on the floor. She smiles when she sees me in the doorway. ‘Hey Joey. Hungry mate?’
I shake my head. ‘Nah. Just bored. I want a game of cricket.’
Mum glances over to where Rick sits at the pull-out table, his hand curved around a bottle of beer. He’s watching something on the screen of his iPad. I think it’s a footy match. He slurps at his drink and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand.
Mum looks back at me. ‘Why don’t you ask the other kids to play?’
I shake my head, leaning against the doorway. ‘Nah. None of them want to play with me.’
Rick glances up briefly from his iPad. ‘Don’t blame them. You throw like a girl.’
My stomach clenches. I look down at my bare dusty feet. Mum comes over and puts a hand on my shoulder.
‘Go outside and play, mate,’ she says quietly. ‘I’ll call you when dinner’s ready. Sausages tonight. Pretty great, huh?’
We’ve had sausages almost every night and their fat greasy smell is starting to make me feel nauseous. But I nod, and move away from the doorway.
I stand in the middle of the campground tossing my ball from one hand to the other. A boy rushes past me, wet from swimming in the stream. He bangs me with his shoulder so I drop the ball into the dust. His laughter rings out behind him.
My face feels hot as I stoop to pick up the ball. I wander over to the edge of the forest. Here the trees are crowded together, and the air is cooler. I draw my arm back, then pitch the ball into the forest, as hard as I can.
After we’ve eaten the sausages round the campfire, Rick, who smells strongly of beer, staggers into the cabin. I hear him tripping over something in the dark and swearing. Mum stokes the fire, refusing to meet my eye. I want to ask her why she puts up with him. But there’s no point. I know she’s afraid of him too.
I wake up during the night with a sudden urgent need to pee. I try to hold on, but it won’t go away. I reluctantly slide out of my sleeping bag, grab the torch next to the door, and tiptoe outside towards the outdoor toilet block. The dim yellow light of my torch light dances before me. It’s real creepy with everyone asleep, and the dark so thick. I go and pee, then as I’m heading back to the cabin I see it.
The torch light shines on my red battered cricket ball, sitting in the middle of the campground. I stare at it. It can’t be. I threw it hard into the dense undergrowth and there’s no way anyone could have climbed in and got it. I pick it up and see my initials in faded black marker. JM.
I glance behind me at the forest.
And then I hear it. A voice. Kind of like a kid’s voice.
‘Come and play.’
I swear if I hadn’t just gone to the loo, I’d have wet myself.
‘Who said that?’ My voice is shaky.
‘I’m here. In the forest. Come and play. You wanted someone to play with today, right?’
My heart’s thudding as I stare into the forest, shining my torch around. But all I can see are dark trees huddled together.
I clear my throat. ‘Who are you?’
The voice gives a little laugh. ‘I’m your new playmate. I promise I won’t let you down. Come and play, it’ll be fun. What else are you gonna do - go back in there with that drunken pig?’
My hand shakes. I look down at the ball in my hand, then glance back at the dark shape of my cabin, where mum and Rick are sleeping.
Then slowly, I step towards the forest.