Updated: a day ago
A short story inspired by a picture prompt
Songs that helped inspire...
-The Secret History (The Chamber Orchestra of London)
-Fireside Dance (Danny Eflman)
-Sleeping Lotus (Joep Beving)
-Forbidden Lullaby (Derek Fiechter)
“I’m waiting. Like I promised I would be.”
My eyes fluttered open before squinting at the light streaming through the window. For a long time I lay there, unmoving, just staring into the light. It reminded me of that flash of light I had seen so many years ago before everything had faded away.
Slowly, I stretched my arms, then my legs before sitting up, the thin blanket falling off me and halfway onto the floor. With a sense of confusion, I looked down at my clothes. I had slept in them. Again. They were the same clothes I remembered from the day before and then the day before that—a little yellow suit jack and a button up collared shirt tucked into a plain, dark, knee length skirt. Strange how I couldn’t quite seem to remember when I had first don these clothes or how many days I had gone wearing them, and then sleeping in them again. And strange how they weren’t wrinkled. In fact, they were a smooth and crisp as if I had just finished ironing them.
The light streaming from the window blinded my vision again as I stared into it and a fog settled over my brain. Faintly, I heard voices. Some of them were familiar, and some of them were not. I strained to hear the ones that stirred something in my heart.
A man’s voice became clearer through the softly buzzing air. “I have to go. I have to. But I’ll come back. I promise. You wait for me, yeah? Wait for me. Wait for me. Wait for me.” The words echoed again and again until I heard the shadow of my own voice whispering back, “I promise I will wait.”
The words faded again, leaving me only with the sound of the unfamiliar drone of a stranger’s words. Drifting from thought to thought, feeling as if I were floating through time, I focused on the voice, trying to grasp something from the hum.
“I swore I had already made my bed today.” The voice was of a young girl. I squinted against the bright light. A young girl was standing at the foot of the bed. Or was she? It was too hard to tell. She was more like a shadow, a hallucination, than reality. Perhaps, I was still asleep, still dreaming.
Another voice, one I couldn’t hear well, answered but the young girl’s voice interrupted loudly. “No! I swear! It’s happened again! It must be a ghost!”
Sternly the other voice disagreed, causing the child to descend into tears. Faint, echoing footsteps gave me the impression the second stranger had left the room, if they had even been here in the first place.
The unnerving sobs grew softer and with the quiet that followed, the brightness of the light faded as well. My tired eyes scanned the room. It was dark. Too dark. But no … there was still light. It wasn’t a dark room. Rather, there was no color. I glanced at my jacket. The yellow of it was disturbingly bright against the grey tones of the room. I frowned, but it was almost all too strange to think much of.
There were toys in the room. Dolls, paper clothes, tops, and little building blocks. I noticed the bed I was sitting on was much too small for my own size. So it wasn’t my bed, and neither was it my room. But if it wasn’t, then why was I here? I looked to the window again. I knew that window—knew that trim that cut little squares across the glass and the hinges the window panes swung open on had those same gouges where we had once tried to pry them off to replace them. We. Who was we? A face flashed before me, a laugh filled the air, a smile brightened the room. “Wait for me,” he whispered again.
The little girl’s voice drew my attention back to her. She had knelt down at the foot of the bed. A doll now rested in her hands. Her mouth was moving and I strained to hear her words.
“… long time ago, mommy says ten years, during the war, a man was drafted to go fight. He promised he would come home to his new wife. And so he did. But he came home to find his wife dead. The bottom part of the house having had caught fire and the smoke killed her.”
A restlessness arose in me at those words. It was disturbing enough that a child would speak so freely of death and sorrow, but even more so was the itching, no, the burning that had kindled in my limbs.
The girl leaned down to the doll, placing her chubby red lips to the porcelain ear. “It was this house, Sue. This very one! And they say this was the room they found her in—the wife I mean.” Her small round eyes looked up and pierced into mine. My breath caught in my throat.
A fury of emotion and memory flooded through me. I remembered our wedding: the ridiculously silky and lacy, white gown I had wore and the funny little top hat he had wore. I remembered buying this house, and then the war starting, and then the letter proclaiming my new husband was drafted into the war. Then I remembered screaming. So much screaming. And the house growing hot and filling with smoke, filling my lungs, and the burning, burning pain before that blinding flash of light.
Tears streamed down my face as I turned back to the light that streamed through the window. “I’m waiting. Like I promised I would be,” I whispered. But I knew I could wait no longer. There was nothing left to wait for.
I stepped up onto the bed and placed my feet on the window frame. Looking out I saw nothing but light and felt no fear. Then, with a deep breath, I let go.
Thank you so much for reading! Let me know how you liked it in the comments below. Have you ever written a short story off a picture prompt? This was my first time!
May the suns smile upon your presence
--Effie Joe Stock