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Written in the flash fiction style, which means a story no longer that 1000 words – about 2-3 pages – in length, “Wild” is a nice quick taste of my writing. This story is exactly 985 words in length. Writing this short is a real challenge, to get in the details of the story but also keep it very concise enough to meet the word target.
“Wild” is about a couple of kids, a rough girl and the new boy at school with a strange sleeping disorder, and how the girl helps the boy recover and the bizarre consequences of his recovery. It was based on a wild dream I had once! I hope you enjoy it.
Tilly kicked Donny Dunham in the shin before he could add balls to the incomplete design drawn on the slumbering new kid’s face.
“Watch out!” his crony said. “She’s wild.”
Tilly snatched the black marker and the boys went back to their seats laughing. People ought to defend themselves, Tilly knew, but the new kid was sick. Had doctor’s certificates and everything.
James, the new kid, stirred, lifting his head off his desk. He blinked at the marker and then at Tilly.
“You’ve got something on your face,” Tilly said.
“So do you,” said James.
Tilly pressed a tiny fist against the yellowed bruise on her cheek. “It’s nothing.”
Tilly went back to her seat in time for the teacher to return and James to fall asleep again. Mrs. Bitterwood harrumphed about narcolepsy and unknown fatigue syndromes then quickly had a nurse escorting James out and on his way home. Discovering James had left his homework behind, Mrs. Bitterwood asked Tilly to take it round after school since she lived on the same street. Tilly pulled a face but agreed. She didn’t want to get into trouble. Again.
Tilly jammed the brakes of her bike and skidded on the gravel driveway. The dust blackened her school socks and swirled onto her tongue as she panted for breath. She spat on the new kid’s lawn. Tilly spied through the kitchen window and saw James’s mom. The woman was grinding up white tablets and sprinkling the powder onto mashed potatoes. Tilly shrugged. She hated swallowing tablets too.
The doorbell rang a Christmas carol despite being March. James’s mother called for him to get it. James stumbled to the front door, eyes half closed and brown hair looking like a tangle of tarantulas.
Tilly thrust his homework at him.
“Thanks,” James said. “You’re nice.”
“Ain’t nice. I’m rough and filthy and rude and a wild thing. It’s what Dad says.”
James poked the doormat with his toes and Tilly played with a hole in her shirt.
“James! Dinner!” his mom called.
His lip pulled up unattractively. “Ugh. I always feel worst after eating.”
Tilly frowned. “Can I come in? I gotta piss.”
James’s mother appeared. “Don’t you live just down the street?”
“Puh-lease? I’m gonna bust my bladder.” Tilly hopped on the spot.
Given directions, Tilly ran into the house while James and his mom sat down for dinner. She went left where she was told right and dug through unpacked moving boxes and cupboards until she found a massive stash of medication. She read a few labels. Experimental use. Not released for human trials. One had dosages meant for horses.
On the way out Tilly emptied the mom’s wallet.
The next day, Tilly sat down next to James under the schoolyard oak tree. He woke up when she jabbed a finger into his ribs.
“You always been sick?”
“Couple years maybe. Was eight when I started getting weird dreams and blacking out. Now I’m just sleepy all the time.”
“You take pills for it?”
James reached into his backpack and retrieved a rattling container, grinning wickedly. “Just these. Mostly I sell them to other kids.”
Tilly smiled, showing her crooked teeth. “Share my lunch with me? I made it myself. Bet it won’t make you feel sick.”
Tilly and James shared her lunch every day after that. Tilly made extra peanut butter and banana sandwiches for James to take home and eat instead of dinner. It took less than a fortnight before James stopped falling asleep in class.
“Your mom was drugging you,” Tilly said, grinning at the wide awake, ice blue eyes that looked back at her.
“Mom? No way.”
“Way way,” Tilly said. “My sandwiches made you better.”
James kept getting distracted by a crying girl behind them. Tilly rolled her eyes. “Sandy’s dog died last night. She reckons it was all tore up and bloody but I think she’s just a fibber after attention.”
James took a long look at Tilly. “So, my mum drugs me. What does your dad do?”
Tilly kicked James in the shin and ran away.
Tilly’s dad was in the front hall, arguing with someone. Tilly hid under her covers because it was no good when her dad got angry at night. He came anyway and dragged her out. Her arm burned under his grip.
“This woman says you been leading her son astray.”
James’s mom was all white except her puffy eyes. “You made James stop his medication, didn’t you?”
“You mean I stopped you from drugging him.”
“I had to! You don’t understand. It’s safer for everyone this way.”
Tilly’s Dad still had hold of her arm and lifted her till her toes scraped the floor. “You stealing some kid’s pills, little beast?”
Tilly hissed at him like a feral cat. Her arm was ready to pop from its socket but she refused to cry.
“Making strange women come round at this hour to complain about you, you’re nothing but trouble.”
Her dad’s hand met Tilly’s cheek in a loud smack and James’s mom looked horrified. Her eyes widened further when a mournful howl came from the yard.
The front door thumped and the house shook. The crackle of snapping wood made Tilly’s dad curse and drop her. The door burst apart and a hairy creature filled the space, silhouetted against the full moon.
Saliva dripped from an army of gleaming teeth. Jaws snapped and snapped again, closing on the soft flesh of necks. Claws raked, crushing bone, and bodies fell around Tilly, bloodied.
Tilly closed her eyes until she felt hot breath on her cheek. She opened them to see ice blue eyes staring back at her. Tilly brushed a shaking palm down the wolf’s furry neck and he licked her cheek with a rough tongue.
Tilly matched James’s howl, and the two wild things ran away together into the night.
Souvenirs volés - The Memory's Wake French (français) Translation
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