Scarlett’s Worlds – A Flash Fiction Piece
Today’s flash fiction challenge, courtesy of Chuck “He Of The Luxurious Beardedness” Wendig, was… interesting. Use a RNG to combine two words into a title. The two words I RNG’d were “Scarlett” and “World.”
Two weeks ago, I wrote a flash-fic about death. This week, I did more of the same.
This story may be difficult to read if you’ve ever suffered domestic abuse. Consider this fair warning, and continue at your own discretion.
I killed my father.
I was six years old, and he beat my mother to death. I watched, my three-month-old baby sister cradled in my arms, as he hit her again and again, the sound of the cast-iron skillet ringing hollow each time it met her head.
I watched, and held my sister, because I was six years old, and I did not know what else to do.
My father left, and the sour miasma of stale alcohol left with him. When I was sure he was gone, I crept out from under the sofa, where I had wormed out a den for myself, and carried my sister to my mother. Gina was crying, her gummy mouth wide as she demanded milk long overdue. I tried to rouse my mother, but there was a pool of liquid beneath her; it looked like the red wine my father drank from time to time, but it was thicker, and sticky, and it did not smell like sweet fermented grapes.
After three long, painful days of starvation and thirst, during which even Gina ceased to cry, my father returned. He no longer smelt bad, and he seemed to have no memory of his actions. When he found my mother, cold on the grey tile floor, he sank down beside her and wept. Gina made some sound, then, and he found me half-dead from dehydration in my private den. He took us out and cradled us in his arms, and whispered that everything would be okay, that he would take care of us.
Then he called the police.
My father had been away on a business trip. He’d come back to this macabre scene. He’d found my sister and I cowering beneath the sofa. To corroborate his story, the police officers asked me what I had observed.
I should have told them. The nice men with the blue hats and sad-smiling faces, who gave me cocoa and chocolate, and found a carer for my tiny sister… I should have told them what I had seen. But I remembered my father holding us in his arms, telling me that he would take care of us. I kept silent. I was six years old, and convinced I had been mistaken.
In the years that followed, I discovered a terrible truth. A demon lived inside my father. He kept it caged most of the time; he walked and talked like a man. He smiled like a man. He laughed like a man. He taught me how to ride a bike. He taught Gina her ABCs. He bathed us and sang songs about rubber duckies with us.
But there was a key for the demon’s cell, and that key was alcohol. My father would go for weeks without a drink, and I would tell myself that all would be well. I’d whisper down to the lower bunk, in which Gina slept, and tell her that we were a real family, and that mother had been killed by an intruder.
Only, every so often, after a bad day at work, my father would stop off at the liquor store on his way home. Whisky. Rum. Vodka. Cointreau. Gin. These were the mistresses he brought home. Any other widower might have eased his way into them, pouring small measures, savouring their tastes, letting them caress his tongue. But not my father. For him, there was no point in using a glass. Where was the use in small measures when he intended to drink the entire bottle?
During those turbulent times, Gina and I would crawl beneath the sofa, practically hollow now that we were larger, and hug each other, making ourselves as small and as quiet as possible. For as long as we remained silent, the demon that took over my father remained oblivious to our presence, and we were safe.
I was seventeen, preparing for my final year in high school, readying myself for exhausting exams before finally escaping to college. One night I was upstairs in the bedroom I still shared with my sister, when I heard the screech of tyres on the driveway.
It was the only prompting I needed. My father was always a careful driver… unless he was in a hurry to get home, and reunite with one of his mistresses.
I dashed from the room, shouting for Gina. Her reply came from the kitchen, too quiet and too late. I heard my father crash through the back door, could see in my mind’s eye the half-empty bottle of gin in his hand. Gina’s screams started before I’d even reached the bottom of the stairs. Her cries of ‘please, no!’ ripped through my heart, made my own eyes fill up with tears. They were the same cries I’d heard on that night eleven years ago, when an intruder had killed my mother.
I was an animal. I did not think; I just reacted. As the demon raised the cast-iron skillet, I grabbed a carving knife from the drainer and lunged. Some tiny voice prompted me to aim for the throat. The heart is a hard target to hit, it said, protected as it is by the rib-cage.
The demon sank to the cold tile floor, blood spurting from a severed artery. And as the spark of life died away in its eyes, I was hit with a powerful realisation.
This was not the first time I had killed my father.
I’d killed him before, in the sub-Saharan deserts of Africa, when our tribe were nomadic wanderers. I’d killed him in modern-day Slovakia, when our clan lived in caves. I’d killed him on the Iberian Peninsula, and in some filthy Elizabethan alley, and on the plains where our fellow Sioux hunted bison.
We had lived these lives a thousand times, my father, the demon and I. We were born and reborn, old souls in new bodies, in an endless cycle of death.
I was seventeen, and I turned the knife on myself.