After reading about the September Story a Day challenge on a fellow writer’s blog, I decided that this was a better vehicle for driving my writing right now than the novella assignment I was going to work on that I mentioned in a previous post. I simply don’t have an idea strong enough for a larger project right now. This new challenge will both allow me to write (good or bad) every day for the whole month, not having to worry about how everything fits together, as well as help me hone my short storytelling. I’ve never felt like I was any good at short stories. This will let me practice.
You can find the details of the challenge here, but essentially, I will get emailed a new prompt every day. Here’s the first: “Today, write a story that features people disappearing.”This story at least partially inspired by this card my mother made and sent to me.
Nobody noticed all the butterflies. They were too busy stapling missing children flyers to all the old wooden electric poles. Every one of them was so full of paper, all overlapping, that very little of the dark wood was visible. Worried eyes filled with tears. Mothers cried silently in empty children’s rooms. Or were found wailing not so silently in the streets.
Theirs was a quiet town usually. It was one of a handful of smaller communities that had to drive half an hour to the local “big” city to go grocery shopping. There weren’t really that many children to begin with. Or butterflies. What was unusual about the place, though, was their higher than average child abduction rate. Much higher. Even that metric paled in comparison to the numbers in the last two weeks. The only two schools in town, one elementary and one middle/high school, were closed. Parents kept the few remaining children close. In most houses, the parents took shifts watching, as if they were soldiers in wartime. This was not an unreasonable response. 84 of the 113 children in their small community had disappeared.
All Sophia wanted to do was go outside and play. That was all. She rolled her eyes at her mama when she gasped, cried, shook her head, shook Sophia, yelled, then cried some more. Sophia hadn’t seen her friends in ages and all her mama would say was that they had gone away. Mama would bite her lip then check all the doors and windows. Sophia yelled, thrashed, and sobbed into her stuffed elephant when she was told to go to her room and stay there.
Forlorn, Sophia stared out her window as the light faded. She calmed as she watched the lightning bugs flickering on the edge of her yard. They danced in the branches and she wanted so much to dance with them. Her eyelids drooped and she sighed softly as sleep pulled at her.
The lawn moved. It fluttered. Pale blue, violet, yellow, and green in the twilight. A million wings rippled toward a small child’s window. Her eyes had drifted closed, fine lashes resting softly on pale pink cheeks, with just the hint of her earlier tears making them glisten.
92 of the 113 children were now missing. Eight more had disappeared in the night. Men railed at their wives who had fallen asleep. Women silently blamed husbands who wouldn’t admit to dozing. One woman, full of regret and anguish, tumbled from her front door and into the street to join the wailing throng. She had no one to blame but herself. “SOPHIA!”
Mama never noticed all the butterflies. She sobbed wordlessly, her shoulders heaving. A tiny yellow and blue butterfly flew into her hair, fluttered among the strands, tickled her ear. Not getting a response, it flew off, over the house and into the line of trees at the edge of the yard to wait for lightning bugs to dance.