Hush Little Baby – (writing prompt – storm, nursery rhyme) OR Oh, dear friends, be kind – I don’t write much fiction.

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The night was black, dark clouds covered what little light the moon had to offer. Violent torrents of rain poured from the sky, beating the surface of the building as if begging for refuge to escape their own raging fury. With each lightning flash, a tiny, barred window near the ceiling illuminated Heather’s hiding place with an eery glow. She used these brief moments of light to scan the small space for something, anything she might put to use to protect herself, from what she didn’t know. The room was bare, nothing but a small, overturned cot beneath the window.

Heather was scared, more than scared. She tried to remember what happened, why she was running, how she ended up crouching in the corner of the cold, darkened room. Was she hiding from the storm or something worse? Her fingernails dug sharply into the palms of her hands as she desperately tried to piece together the few memories she had. Nothing made sense.

There was a door, she darted across the room, placing her ear to the cold, metal surface. Silence. She felt her way to the handle, it wasn’t there, nothing but a thick, metal plate where it should have been. She slowly stood on her toes, trying to peer out the rectangular opening above her. There was a faint, yellow glow behind the pattern of mesh and glass, she wasn’t tall enough to see anything more.

The musty scent of old, wet wood from the weathered window panes filled the room with a sickening, yet familiar scent, for a moment she thought maybe she’d been here before. Her bones ached, her head hurt and her heart pounded. She began to count the seconds between the booming thunder and the flashes of white. A strangely comforting warmth came over her, she looked down to see her own blood dripping from her clenched fists. She loosened her fingers and examined the blood. The glistening liquid fell like tears on her stained nightshirt. It looked black in the darkness, for some reason this brought a smile to her face and she again let her fingernails pierce the wounds.

Lightening flashed through the room again, for a moment she thought she saw a glimpse of someone’s shadow peering through the door window and she began to rock. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rocked back and forth to the music of the storm. The loud cracks of thunder began to soften, giving way to a familiar tune. As the winds howled and the lightning flashed, Heather could hear nothing but a far off melody.

She soon forgot about the storm, she forgot about her fear as the music box innocence of the tune grew louder. She recognized it, someone once sang it to her. A ghostly voice from her past filled the empty room, it was a woman’s voice, a beautiful voice . . . momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring, and if that diamond ring turns to glass . . . Heather began to rock faster, her long hair making contact with the concrete wall behind her.

The booming thunder interrupts the song and the soothing voice turns to anguished screams. Heather begins to rock faster, harder and waits for the screams to stop, somehow she knows they will. The lightning flash again reveals someone at the window, she closes her eyes as the screams fade and the soothing song resumes . . . momma’s gonna by you a rocking horse . . . she lets her fingernails slide like puzzle pieces into the broken flesh of her palms.

Outside of the room, two men stand guard. One of them looks nervous, “Is she gonna be okay? Should we go in?”

The other guard glances sideways into the room and then back to his magazine. “Naw, she’ll live. Does this crap every time a storm passes through. They’ll patch her up in the morning and she’ll be back to normal.”

“Normal?” the new guard looked as though he’d be sick. “Nothing about this place is normal, gives me the creeps.”

Without looking up from his magazine, the older guard sighed, “Look, the pay’s good and as long as they stay locked up, we got no problems, relax.”

Inside the room, Heather continues to sing, she has no memory of the stormy night she killed her mother . . . and if that rocking horse does break . . . .

Crystal R. Cook

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