Ash waited, staring out of the window as she had done for the past five months. Would her parents ever come for her? Had they come for her and the pitchfork man scared them away? Did they know where she was? Ash knew they wouldn’t cry about her, and heaven forbid they should miss her. They would only rescue her to keep up the appearance of a loving family to the newspapers. She wasn’t even her father’s daughter, as she was reminded every day at home – was it home? Home is supposed to be a place of love, and hers wasn’t.
A tear ran down her face, making a track through the dirt and grime on her face. Her face scrunched up and, with a muffled sob, Ash buried her face in her blue dress. Amid her sorrow she heard something. A quiet murmur.
“Are you a friend?” Ash asked, the hairs of her neck standing up.
“Yes,” the soft voice replied.
“I’m Ash. What’s your name?”
“I? was… Kaima.”
“Kaima, how old are you?”
“I was twelve when I went.”
Ash was confused. Why was Kiama speaking about herself in the past tense? She was still alive…Wasn’t she?
At least she now had someone to talk to. Even though Kiama was strange, she seemed like she could be a friend. Perhaps the couple had imprisoned Kiama in another part of the attic. Her new friend might have been speaking through a wall and was hard to hear because of that.
Ash rolled over on the threadbare bed. This disgusting object was mouldy in some places, moth-eaten and rodent-nibbled in the few places that were not a threat to general health and safety laws. In short, it was a hazard that should have been mouldering in a dump, far, far away from respectable society, or any sort of dwelling.
She remembered the luxury of her lumpy mattress, and its thin doona. How she missed the feel of the woollen, itchy pillows, the way she would wake clawing at her head, instead of pawing at her whole body, desperate for a shower.
A quiet voice – Kaima’s voice! – jerked her out of her thoughts.
“I will show you.”
“Show me what?”
A body hovered in mid-air. A girl of about twelve was levitating, her thin arms by her skinny sides. She had wavy, slivery blonde hair and green eyes. Her mouth moved as she spoke.
“I am her. She was me. The pitchfork man and his wife caught me escaping. They killed me and fed me to the dragon under their property. It is hungry once more…”
Ash stifled a scream. “Is there no way to escape?”
The body of Kaima nodded. “There is one way. There is a weak panel at the back of the attic. Break it and you can escape.”
Ash hurried to the wall at the back of the attic. She ran her fingers along the door, until her fingers felt something soft.
“Push!” whispered Kaima encouragingly. Ash shoved with all her might, and stepped back in surprise, as a passage opened. Without a moment’s hesitation she leaped out the window.
She ran along the street until she reached her house. She flung the door open. Her mother stared at her for a minute and then ran towards her, wrapping her arms around her daughter, tears trickling into her chestnut hair. “My daughter, my daughter.”
By Alice Maycock
(Written as part of Expressions Media’s Express Yourself school holiday creative writing workshop.)
Visual stimulus for short story:
American Gothic (by Grant Wood)