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Necessity – a #fridayflash

August 12, 2010

The sky cried tears of blood that day. The big rusty blotches wept down the walls of the cottage. Some said it was a sign that the world was weary, that God was angry with us, that he would finish it all. Some said it was just a freak of nature; but what is nature without God? They were all wrong; I knew it was for me.

‘Thou shalt not kill.’ That is what it says in the Bible. But what could I do when it was a choice between killing him, and protecting my children, or at least those that are left to me. God had already taken two from me before I lost my poor Margaret. She had been trying to help her father, carrying his ale to him, when she tripped on his foot and the ale spilled out. He beat her about the head: battered it until the blood ran from her nose and her mouth. I tried to pull him away, but he knocked me out of the way onto the ground. When she groaned, I thanked God that she was still alive, but groaning was all she could do after that, groaning and weeping. My beautiful daughter was no longer wholly dwelling in that shell; her spirit was with God, and he had left me with just her frail body which could do nothing. I tended what remained of her, and somehow she continued to exist.

The little ones had always feared him, but after this they were filled with terror. They crept around him like little mice around a cat, and took such care when he gave them orders; but children do make mistakes – we all do. It happened some months after he had devastated Margaret’s life, and mine with it. This time, he had forbidden Thomas to eat supper, because of a minor misdemeanour, but caught him taking some bread. There was no time for me to stop him – just one slap to the head, and Thomas was gone from me; this time, not even a living shell of Thomas was left to me. He buried my boy under a bush.

I knew what I had to do; I had to save the little ones. I could not lose any more to this monster. I had to consign my soul to eternal damnation in order for my children to live. If I took them and ran, he would come after us. He would pay spies to find us, and would not rest until we were back under his control, so that he could punish us. .

My chance soon came, and I did not hesitate: he was slumped in a beer-drenched stupor, snoring heavily. I took a pillow and pressed it over his face. He moved a little, but was too drunk to save himself. In death, his body appeared larger and uglier than ever. Most look at peace on their deathbed, but not him; he had no peace within him

It was vital that I got away before my actions were discovered. I needed to act instantly and decisively. I felt fear for the future, but this was nothing compared to the terror to which the children and I had been accustomed.

I had left Margaret in her usual corner. I could feel her eyes on me, but I don’t know how much she understood of what had occurred. She was making a low moaning sound, she was weeping, but that was her usual state. Did she realise what I had done, what I had to do? She looked weary; weary of this life, or, rather, of her limited life. I could read the pain through her eyes, and felt it in every nerve of my body. I could feel her lost spirit pleading with me. I had to do this, there was no choice. Had I stayed, they would have taken me away. She would have no one; no-one to gently unclench those twisted, cramped limbs, to wipe her brow with cooling cloths, to pour drips of liquid sustenance into her open mouth, and hold up her chin until they have found their way down; to do this slowly enough to allow her to breathe and not choke and die on the very thing that keeps her alive. It had to be this way. The little ones would have no one to give them just a chance of a future. I had to do it, for them.

I gave her beer to make it easier for her. The delay was agonising in my need for haste. As I let it trickle down her throat, I poured it too quickly, and her eyes rolled as she fought for breath. I covered her beautiful face with my hand. It didn’t take long.

I will take them far from here. We will walk away and see where God takes us. Perhaps some kind soul may pity us and will take us in, and give us a pittance in exchange for labour. We could go to the sea, to the docks, where there will be sailors far from home. We could maybe find a space in a room where other poor souls like me do what is necessary to keep their children fed. The sailors could help me sustain them.

And if not? Then I know what I have to do.


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  1. Powerful and evocative.
    Think it has some great imagery and description.
    Particularly liked
    – I tended what remained of her, and somehow she continued to exist –
    Think paragraphs 2 – 8 are the strongest

    Want to read more of your stuff.
    Will write myself a reminder (!) as short of time now.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Oh my goodness, Sue. This has taken my breath away. What incredible writing, such deep, dark emotion. This one is going to haunt me.

    Well done you! Keep them coming.

  3. This is a deep, raw piece of work that left a lump in my throat. I am still there, watching them walk away, wondering where they’ll end up, wondering if the children will survive their poor mother’s protection. Phew! Moving. Well done.

  4. yearzerowriters permalink

    Powerful stuff and I think you got the tone just right. I do wonder how she ended up marrying him though.

    Loved the implication behind the ending.

    Marc Nash

  5. Louyorks permalink

    Fantastic piece of writing, couldn’t tear my eyes from it. Well done!

  6. Dark, powerful and well written, succinct and gripping – great flash fiction!

  7. Rachel permalink

    I am going to be the fourth to say ‘Powerful’ because it is just that. It had the power to grip me and bring goose bumps to my skin. I was gob-smacked at the quality of writing and then remembered it was you – you are very good with words!

  8. Excellent, compelling, writing…. Kept me engrossed from start to the chilling finish…

    You must try to get these little ones published as short stories… a collection of short stories… have you tried?

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