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Welcome to Story Time Saturday!

These are flash fiction stories. My word count goal is no more than 1,000 words each story. I’ll show you the prompt, the story, and a teaser graphic.

Here is this week’s:

“The Watchers”

“Stay out of the woods,” Mom said. That was three days ago. I really should have listened, but I thought I knew better. Kids were disappearing. Every. Single. Day. I figured I was smarter.

The cage bars squeak as I adjust my position. My butt hurts from my seat on the concrete. I stretch out my legs.

“Moving around won’t free you.” The masculine voice, thin with a slight edge to it, cuts through the darkness. It belongs to Joe, a kid I babysit from time to time.

I yawn and ask, “And what will?”

“Nothing. No one has broken free yet. You should give up the struggle.” His heavy sigh crosses the room. “We’re not the first ones. I bet we won’t be her last.”

Joe disappeared about a week ago. I remember the search for him. When I left to run an errand for Mom, the police were expanding their hunt. He’s the only kid I’ve seen since I’ve been in this place. I know there are others. Every now and then, I hear their voices reaching out of the shadows.

“When she comes back, we need to try to escape,” I say to Joe.

“Meg, you don’t get it. Once you enter her woods, you don’t leave. Not in one piece.”

“That’s just a dumb rumor.” Actually, it’s a story some kids on our block have told for years. Just urban legend, nothing more. “Joe, I’m not giving up. You can’t either.”

What we need is a plan, and every escape plan needs a weapon. I remember the thick barrette in my hair. The scroll design has a piece sticking out like a pin. I remove it and examine the construction. It’s not flimsy. Maybe I can make it work. I scrape it against the floor and then check the edge. It feels a little sharp. I scrap it some more. Yes! It’s getting sharper. Perfect.

Time twists and stretches, but I have no idea whether it’s day or night. Has it been seconds, minutes, or even hours since I fashioned my weapon? A sliver of light shines beneath the door. It scrapes against the concrete, crashing open and flooding the room in a bluish light. Her slow, uneven shuffle—like someone with a bad leg—comes near.

“Which one shall it be, today?” Her voice crackles. “Maybe the boy? He’s nice and plump. Yes, he’ll do.”

“No!” I shout. “Take me instead.”

“You’re volunteering?” She turns to me. “You are a very stupid girl.”

“Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. Open the door and see,” I tease.

Her gnarled fingers grasp the cage door. When she yanks it open, I lunge for her and plunge the sharpened barrette into her neck.

“You wretched girl,” she howls while clasping a hand to the gash. Blood trickles down her arm and puddles at her feet. “You’ll pay for this!”

“You first!” I knock her legs from up under her and take the key from the belt at her waist.

“Hurry, Meg!” Joe screams.

I quickly unlock his cage door and we run for the exit.

It’s nightfall the worst time to be in the woods, but what choice do we have? Joe reaches for my hand. “Any idea of which way to go?”

A light shines up ahead. “I guess we go that way.”

Owls hoot over head. The dark ground seems to come alive beneath our feet. Small animals rustle about. The trees sway to and fro. These woods belong to her—the witch who held us captive. Anything could be lurking just waiting for us to pass by.

“So, tell me how you ended up in her castle?” I ask Joe.

“Mom sent me on an errand. I wanted a shortcut. I remember a dark shadow and then I woke up in the cage.”

“Same here,” I say. “Any idea what happened to the others?”

“From all the hollering, I would say nothing good.”

“And nothing good will happen to either of you.” The voice comes from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

I whirl around looking for the source and find no one. Joe moves closer to me. We stop moving when a shimmering image appears before us.

The vision solidifies and becomes a woman with waist-length black hair and bright green eyes. She’s dressed in a flowing, black dress trailing the ground. “My name is Avery, and you shouldn’t be in the woods. It’s not safe.”

“We know. We’re trying to get out and—”

“Away from the witch,” Joe chimes in.

The woman steps closer. “Seraphine is not a mere witch. Her powers are extremely strong. These are her woods. Anyone who enters them are doomed to a destiny worse than death.”

I place my hands on my boyish hips. “Not fair. These woods edge our neighborhood. Kids have cut through them for years on the way to town. We were all safe up until a week or so ago.”

“What happened?” she asks.

Joe shrugs and says, “No idea. All we know is kids started disappearing. She captured us as well. If it hadn’t been for Meg stabbing her, we’d still be there.”

Avery’s eyes darken slightly. “You killed Seraphine?”

“Maybe I did. I’m not sure. The only thing that mattered was getting out of there.”

“You need to come with me.” Avery waves her hand.

Joe starts forward, but I throw out my arm halting him in his tracks. “Wait! Why should we go anywhere with you?”

Avery blinks. “Killing Seraphine is not an easy task. If you did kill her, her evil sisters will seek vengeance. It will only be a matter of time before they find you. If you come with me, however, my father can protect you.”

I side-glance at Joe. If she’s telling the truth, we’re probably in great danger. “One more thing. Why was Seraphine kidnapping kids?”

“To bring back her beauty,” Avery says.

“How?” I ask.

“By eating them, of course.”

Road in dark forest

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