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Short Story - Dec/Jan 2022

Gone: Part 3

Gone: Part 3

After Caleb lost his job due to Covid-19, the family moved into a remote house surrounded by a mysterious forest. Within days the parents were in warfare with each other whilst their daughter, Caylin, fled into the woods in search of escape with her imaginary friends. In the dark night she stumbled onto a puzzling man claiming to know a secret room where real-life fairies live. Naively she followed the man into an underground chamber. To her shock she found a room with five lifeless children who had wing-shaped branches protruding from their backs. Scared, she turned around, but was greeted by the man’s sinister grin. Meanwhile her parents were caught up in their own worlds.

“Caylin! Come get your coffee in your room!” Caleb spoke loudly, his voice hoarse from the previous night’s drinking. But he received no reply.

Assuming she’s in the bathroom, Caleb left her cup alongside her bed, ambled to his bedroom and handed a warm cup of coffee to his wife. “I’m sorry, Bianca.” She took the cup and sighed. Having swallowed the coffee without much thought, Bianca dragged her tired body out of bed to get ready for the day.

Outside the sky painted an orange canvas as the sun penetrated the cotton clouds while the birds sang in symphony.

But inside the wooden house tension grew. “Caylin, hurry up!” Bianca called from the front door. Only the birds replied.

“Caylin, you are going to be late for school.” Annoyed, Bianca struggled up the staircase only to find her daughter’s room empty. She rushed to the bathroom and froze. “Caylin!” Bianca shouted. “Caylin, where are you?”

Quick-paced breaths escaped Bianca’s lungs as anger took over and within seconds, she staggered down the stairs and bolted to the kitchen. But there was no one.

“Caylin? Caylin! Where are you?” But she called in vain. As reality dawned, Bianca’s heart tightened. Fearfully she fell to her knees, hysteria bubbling out into shrieks.

Caleb raced down the stairs. “Bianca,” he said, desperately trying to stay calm. “What’s wrong?” But he knew.

Caylin was gone.

For a moment the two parents stared deep into each other’s eyes, sobbing in harmony, until toxic thoughts infested Bianca’s mind like a parasite.

“It is all your fault that she ran away! You abandoned your family. You always arrive home drunk; you barely provide for us and…” Her shouts evaporated as tears streamed down her soft cheeks. “You never spend time with us anymore… now she’s gone. She ran away.” Bianca took a deep breath. “Because of you, Caleb.”

Outside, the wilderness quietened as clouds darkened the sky.

Caleb’s guilt poured out in one defensive word after the other. Soon their anger flamed into a choreographed dance of destruction. With their tongues as sharp as silver swords, they eradicated each other until Bianca bolted to the front door, desperate for escape.

Afraid to lose his wife as well, Caleb paced after her, grabbed her arm in a swift movement and wrapped his arms around her.

“Let me go!” Bianca shrieked as she pushed him away with all the strength she could muster. But Caleb held on. “Let me go!” she struggled on, until her strength was depleted.

Together they stood inside the gloomy house, hopelessly crying in each other’s arms. Realising he hasn’t held his wife like this since he lost his job, Caleb pulled Bianca closer. “I’m truly sorry Bianca. I’ll try harder,” he spoke softly, “and together we’ll find her.”

Caylin’s eyes stretched in horror as she realised that the mysterious man was blocking the doorway.

“I said, aren’t the fairies the prettiest friends one could have?” he growled. She merely nodded her head. “Good,” he bent down to Caylin. His warm breath freaked every nerve in her body. “Would you like me to introduce them to you?” the man said, grinning lopsidedly.

But Caylin obstinately glued her feet to the ground as the word “no” softly escaped her mouth.

“What! That is what you came here for. Isn’t it?”

Hearing the man’s voice transform into a deep darkness, a metal bolt shot straight through her heart. The man furiously grabbed her by the wrist and tugged her to the dead bodies. “Here is Sarah,” he said calmer. “She also loved to play in the woods.”

Caylin’s hand numbed.

“Oh, and this one. She’s one of my favourite friends…” But his words faded and all she could process was the dreadful sight in front of her: Glazed eyes, rigid bodies and those wicked branches. The sight had shocked her before, but up close it paralyzed her.

“Answer me, little one!” his words gripped her back.

“Sorry, what?” her voice trembled.

“Do you also want to be a fairy? Then we can be friends forever.” His teeth were yellow and skew.

She wanted to escape, but constrained herself: “Hmmm… maybe tomorrow? I miss my parents. Can I go home now?”

The man slowly pulled her closer, digging his nails into her wrist. “Then I will force you to be one,” he said, slowly, looked her dead in the eye and screamed: “Now!”

Caylin fought against his grip, but the man’s fingers clung like an octopus. She tugged her arm, in vain. Seeing the metal table, adrenaline pumped through her veins. Caylin manoeuvred herself closer to the middle of the room, grabbed the knife on the table and swung it straight into his hand. A scream erupted. The knife missed her own skin by millimetres. Freeing herself, she dashed through the dusty corridor.

But the man was faster.

For every step she took, he took two. Getting caught in a hurricane of dust, the man flung her around. In mid-air, a shimmer of a needle caught her eye. Her kicks and screams were in vain. With gritted teeth the man whispered into her ear: “Now we can make you a fairy… a friend,” and in a flash a cold, unfamiliar sensation overcame Caylin.

As she collapsed, hail started falling outside.

To be continued…

Sareez Basson

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