We played in the field across from the red brick building filled with books and letters. After lunch it felt good to release energy, scream at the sun that warmed our backs.
Connie and I chased each other, giggling. She was fast and always caught me, but she was my favorite.
Kylie blew dandelion fluff into Jacob’s hair. He complained, but not really. It was a game the two played that didn’t make any sense to me. When I asked Papa about it one evening, his cheeks turned red and he said he’d explain it when I’m older. I always had to wait until I was older.
Simon sat beside Ms. Marple, our daytime mother. When she wasn’t looking, he shoved green grass stems into his mouth, gnawing on the fibers.
Robert kicked at a dirt patch, sneering and making ugly faces at Connie and I. We ignored him, he was smelly and gross like all boys, and continued our play—frolicking and singing songs about bushy tails.
In the distance, I heard an angry dog bark. My ears twitched as its howl echoed.
Robert, who’d been wrinkling his nose, with his tongue waggling toward Connie, vanished. It was like a magic trick. A wet mist stained Connie and I with red speckles. We gawked at the empty space where Robert had been taunting us.
The dog barked again. The low growl louder. Closer.
A clump of weeds that Simple Simon had been reaching for leapt into the air, smacked his face in an explosion of mud.
Ms. Marple cried out and we, her daytime children, scampered and bounced. Run little bunnies. Run to your hole. Her call the sound of a wounded animal.
It’s time to play rabbit in the hole, Ms. Marple wailed, and we ran to our burrow.
She’d taught us how to play the game at the start of the year. We played it once a month, practicing until we were good. Ms. Marple had assigned us a special hole that all of us would hide within. We pressed our backs to shelves filled with workbooks and pencils, crouched beneath forgotten popsicle-stick mobiles.
To win the game we had to be very still, be very quiet. Ms. Marple would seal us in the hole while she stayed outside and sung a lullaby. We learned to patiently wait, silently listening, until she’d open the door and cheer that we won.
I didn’t think we were winning the game this time. Nobody was following the rules.
Ms. Marple sung quietly, a hummed whisper. That was not how she normally played the game. I pressed my ear against the barrier, wanting to hear her. It was so hard to be quiet and still. I wished I could sing along to day mother’s music. Connie squeezed my hand. Simon cried like the baby he was. Jacob complained that Kylie was stepping on his foot because boys are stupid like that.
The dog barked again. This time it sounded like a lion’s roar. I swallowed my yelp. I didn’t want to make a noise and make us lose. Dogs were not allowed inside. Someone was going to be in big trouble.
Piercing bells clattered. Simon sobbed and flailed. There was so much noise, my ears hurt.
The door covering our closet cubby swung open. I kicked Simon in his shin for making a racket, sure that Ms. Marple would scold us and tell us we’d lost. That must have been why she’d stopped singing.
It wasn’t Ms. Marple at the opening. It was an angry beast.
It snarled, and my Connie disappeared.
It bellowed, roared, and Simon stopped his whimpering noise.
The cobalt monster turned to face me. Smoke drifting from its cruel muzzle.
It breathed fire and bit my flesh, its metallic teeth sharp and rending.
I looked at the red stains growing on my dress and thought about how upset nighttime mommy, real Mommy, was gonna be at me. She hated when I made a mess. I was gonna be in so much trouble when I got home. So much trouble.
S.M. Fedor has previously appeared in Burning Love & Bleeding
Hearts, Festival De La Bête Noire, and the forthcoming Mickey Finn vol.
2. Scott splits his time between writing neo-noir & new-weird influenced
crime/horror thrillers and creating award-winning VFX for film/TV. He
resides in Montreal and is currently at work on his debut novel.