I had a little time, with nothing to do, and decided to try my hand at flash fiction. Here’s a taste, based on a couple of images I like, and the lead character from The Stream, Charlie Patterson.
She was a beautiful child.
That was the first thing Charlie noticed about her, but it wasn’t the most important. Still, it captured his attention. Her hair shone in the moonlight, ending in natural curls that looked for certain as if they had been spun from the finest gold. Her eyes were ebony, stark in their contrast with her fair skin. They were hollow, he noted.
Her expression was serene, though serious. Lying there, wrapped in green silk, her eyes to the ceiling, she looked as if she could be in repose, and this her wake. Perhaps it was meant to be.
She was nearly dead already.
Charlie stood over her, and leaned in, shadowing her face from the moonlight. He smiled, his deepest smile. Her eyes met his, introduced themselves to him, but she did not speak. She was around three, he reasoned.
Three is the wrong age for somberness.
“He’s coming. You better leave now,” she said. Her eyes left his, and she lay back, still, eyes open to the skylight above her.
The sound of her youthful voice startled him, despite her age. Looking closer, he could see she had been prepared for the occasion. Her perfect peach skin was coated with a fine layer of white powder. Her lips were a shocking crimson. The color added not life, but the surety of death to her visage.
“Who is coming, sweetie?” he asked. He made his voice soft and even, as Robin had taught him. She would not fear a gentle voice.
“The clown man’s coming.” She exhaled a shaky breath, that betrayed the barest tremble. “He always comes.”
Charlie shuddered, despite his determination to comfort the child. “I hate Klowns,” he said, almost absently.
She turned, saying nothing, but again her eyes spoke for her. Whether it was fear at his words, or hopefulness, he could not discern. It did not matter. She needed him.
Charlie had come to fear very little in this world, or in his, for that matter. Indeed, the very few things he still feared were that he would fail, that he would not be enough – when it mattered, when others depended on him. And, of course, clowns.
“And blondes,” his right brain reminded him. Charlie shuddered with the memory. This little girl would one day grow up to be a frighteningly beautiful specimen herself.
He would see to that.
“What’s your name, sweetie?” he asked.
“Delaney. I’m six.”
She had answered without looking. Charlie was taken aback, as he had been certain but a moment before she was a toddler. Still, when he looked closer, she appeared older, though little about her had changed. Charlie knelt beside her bed, no longer blocking her view. She glanced at him, and her eyes once again locked onto the full moon above. He gently touched her arm, which, beside her face, was the only exposed part of her body. She said nothing, but immediately lifted her forearm, and clutched her small hand in his. She lay there, her face a perfect, empty canvass. Her eyes, however, shimmered ever so slightly in the moonlight, and her small fingers gripped him with white-knuckled intensity.
“What will the Klown do to you?” Charlie asked.
Delaney turned her face to his, and two small tears fell from their balanced perch onto the silk sheets. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe this time he’ll kill me.”
“I won’t let that happen.”
Delaney began to cry in earnest. “Please?” she pleaded, shaking her head from side to side. “I don’t want him to hurt me anymore. Please make him kill me this time.”
Charlie gasped, sucking in the pain – as he had done for ages, lifetimes, eons – since the All had given him this damnable job. His own tears roiled inside, brewing in righteous anger. But he would not let them out, not yet. Before there would be tears he would go to work.
From across the room, a small clock chimed twelve times. The clock was in the incongruous shape of a pink heart, seated lovingly on a white lace-covered dresser. Delaney winced, and fixed her gaze once again on the moon. Charlie heard the doorknob to her room turn, slowly. The girl clenched her eyes shut, and squeezed Charlie’s hand, her small nails drawing blood. Charlie smiled slightly, welcoming the pain.
“I-iiiitt’s party time,” came a voice from the behind the dark crack of the door.
A pale grey hand slipped around the crease of the door. They were human hands, more or less, though capped with sallow nails that would have been at home on a dragon’s claws. The Klown pulled himself through, his face fixed in a broad, shark-toothed grin. He had narrow slits for eyes. They were the palest green, and barely visible above the round sunglasses perched on his red button nose. His skin was not white, but grey, like his hands, the color of dead skin.
His hair. Sweet Zombie freaking Jeebus.
His hair was aflame. Not in the normal orange torrent of curls he was accustomed to in his friend Jannet. These were actual, real-live Bozo-approved horizontal plumes of raging fire that emanated from the sides and back of his head.
“Aw,” the Klown said. “Ain’t we gonna have a party tonight?” He clucked his tongue disapprovingly, and stuck it out, waggling it like a serpent’s.
Charlie stood, and met the intruder eye to eye. He’d had to virtually pry the little girl’s hand out of his. “The second thing that’s going to happen tonight is that Delaney and I are gonna have a party.” Delaney’s eyes shot open, searching Charlie’s face for resolve. She slammed them shut once again against the howling intensity of the Klown’s shrill laughter. She was at least thirteen now, Charlie noted.
Years this has been going on. Years.
“And what’s the first thing that will happen, Dimple Dead Man?”
Oh goody. He knows me.
“First,” Charlie said, slipping his serpentine knife from its sheath, ‘I’m gonna cut out that damn tongue of yours and feed it to my rabbit.”
Charlie spun and lunged toward the Klown, whose eyes registered surprise, rage, and then, as Charlie’s blade reached him, fear.
It was no longer Delaney’s nightmare. Now, it was the Klown’s turn.