Week Twenty-Two Flash Fiction Challenge: Signs

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For the fifth time in two weeks, Isabel Perkins awakened in a cold sweat. Next to her, Chicklet, her chihuahua, made a whining noise.

She looked at the clock, sighing. It wasn’t quite five. Knowing she’d never get back to sleep, she picked Chicklet up and carried his squirming body to the kitchen’s back door.

“Do your business,” she said, pushing the resistant dog out into the cool morning air.

She waited for her coffee to brew, and tried not to revisit the dream.

It was always the same.

********

Carrying Chicklet, she walked through the doorway of her bedroom.

Except it wasn’t her room any longer.

She turned to leave, but the door had disappeared.

“Miss Isabel, I’ve been waiting…”

Turning, she saw Cindy Andrews lying in bed, staring at her. The child’s eyes, ringed in shadows, silently accused her. “I can’t wait much longer, Miss Isabel. You know that.”

Isabel felt herself grow cold inside.

Surrounded by pillows decorated with Disney princesses, the small, white face smiled at Chicklet. The dog jumped from Isabel’s arms into Cindy’s wasted ones, and she planted a kiss atop his satiny head.

She then pinned her gaze on Isabel. “You better move fast. She’s coming… I don’t have much time. You know what’s happening, Miss Isabel. Remember? The bake shop?”

Puzzled, Isabel watched Cindy point to the nightstand where a half-eaten muffin sat.

The nearby hypodermic needle gleamed in the room’s pale light.

“Mama likes her sympathy,” said the girl, her voice bitter. “Such a good mother.”

********

Isabel’s thoughts drifted to Sam. After that one bad visit when Sam had gotten angry at her ‘wild imaginings,’ things had improved.

He’d been right about Chicklet. She was surprised how much she loved the little beastie. Having a warm body in the house eased her fears. She hadn’t realized how lonely she’d been. Sam seemed satisfied now. Isabel began to breathe easier, no longer worried her boy might feel the need to send her to one of those places for old people.

The monsters under her bed had receded, and Isabel thought she’d put all that behind her.

Such a good mother.

Two weeks ago she’d been having her hair done at Bea’s. While rolling her hair, Bea murmured, “Have you heard about Cindy Andrews? Poor thing – sick like her sister was. Polly’s distraught. I don’t understand God, letting these things happen to good people. Losing her first girl had been hard enough…”

Isabel said nothing. A memory surfaced of running into the pair at Lynette’s bake shop a year ago, and the feeling she’d had at the time… a bad feeling.

And now the dream…

She let Chicklet back inside. “You’re a good boy, aren’t you, baby?” she crooned, picking him up. Her mouth grazed the top of his head, and something bitter touched her lips. Her blood ran cold when she realized what it was.

Crumbs.

Isabel, believer in signs, put the dog down and dialed 911.

_________________
Author’s Note: This story is a sequel to two previous Schuyler Falls stories, “Monsters Under the Bed” and “The Good Mother.” If you’d like to know more about Isabel and Cindy, and Cindy’s mother, Polly, the link to those stories follow: https://kateloveton.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/monsters-under-the-bed/ AND https://kateloveton.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/the-good-mother/ .

This week’s story is written in response to a challenge to write no more than 500 words about someone who walks through a door and finds herself (himself) not where she (he) expected – and there doesn’t seem a way back. You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges at Thain in Vain.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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30 Responses to Week Twenty-Two Flash Fiction Challenge: Signs

  1. The tension from part 1 to 3 continues. I can hardly breathe. I cannot imagine how this Munchausen’s by proxy happens. Too awful. Must read the rest now. 🙂

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Tess – so glad you like the quartet of stories about Polly Andrews. I like writing these little stories about this fictional town, making up odd, quirky characters with just a faint tinge of other-worldliness about them. I’ve got a few stories about a young man who gets a second chance when he meets an old black man who was most probably an angel. I like to go back and revisit that character, and from time to time will write a brief story about him. I am thinking about adding a page to my blog for the Schuyler Falls stories; right now they are spread throughout my blog. 🙂

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  4. naomiharvey says:

    You are definitely one of my favourite writers Kate. I had already read the previous two stories so when I saw this was following on, I gave a mental “oooh!” I have a fascination for all thing psychological too so i am curious to see how this pans out.

  5. W. K. Tucker says:

    I loved the this story, Kate. Immediately afterward, I had to read the two prequels.
    Chilling tales, all the more so because they are based in reality.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Kathy! The idea of someone purposely injuring their child to gain the sympathy of strangers, friends and family is chilling, isn’t it?

      Sometimes fiction can’t come close to the horrors of reality. For example, if I told you I was going to write a story about three twelve-year old girls who go to a park one night, and two of the girls premeditatedly stabbed the other nineteen times, wanting to kill her to impress some online fictional demon named Slenderman, you’d think to yourself, ‘Now that is a wild tale.’

      Instead, it is reality, and being talked about in the news.

      Reality is often more chilling than fiction. And horribly tragic.

      • W. K. Tucker says:

        Yes, I’ve heard the news reports. Horrific. So many terrible things happen every single day. But also good things–enough that I haven’t yet completely given up on humanity.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I agree, Kathy. 🙂 A lot of hard, bad things happen, but there’s also a lot of goodness – you have to be willing to see it, right?

      I always enjoy reading your comments. Thank you for stopping by to share them with me!

      • W. K. Tucker says:

        I am an eternal optimist, I suppose. I tend to see the good in people unless proven otherwise. My husband thinks I’m too trusting. But I think one’s life is happier when you envision rainbows instead of storm clouds. And if I end up getting wet sometimes– and I do–well, eventually I know I’ll find a nice warm place to ride out the storm until the sun shines again.
        And it’s my pleasure to stop by. I love your writing. 🙂

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  7. I am so glad that you decided to pick up on Isabel’s story, and by extension, Polly’s. First the bad feeling and now the dreams – it’s time for Isabel to take action, for Cindy’s sake if nothing else.

    Munchausen’s by Proxy is a complicated illness and yet you’ve covered the the subject with poise and grace. Socially, this condition is much misunderstood and it is nearly always the case that those around don’t for a second think that a parent could do such a thing to their child. Unfortunately it is more common than most people realise.

    Great work, Kate!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Heather, I know how you like the Schuyler Falls stories, and am aware of your professional knowledge of conditions like Polly’s, so I was looking forward to reading your take on the story. I’m glad you enjoyed it – and that you thought I handled things well.

      It is disconcerting and horrifying to consider that the illness is more common that we realize. It seems particularly chilling to me because it goes against what we perceive as a parent’s normal drive to protect their child.

      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

      • I thought that you handled the sensitive subject matter very well. MBP is a condition that needs to be dealt with sympathy for both the person suffering from the condition and the person (often a child) that is physically suffering because of it.

        MBP is such a complex illness and to many it seems illogical that a parent would want to willingly hurt their child. Unfortunately, the sufferer’s understanding of reality is completely different to that of someone who does not suffer from the condition.

        Greater awareness will lead to greater understanding of such mental health issues and that’s why I think it is such a good thing that you’re covering MBP as part of your Schuyler Falls series.

        Keep up the great work! ❤

  8. OllieNumberSeven says:

    chilling! I didn’t know about this condition (?) before I read this story

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Yes, it is pretty chilling. And it is a psychological condition. I am always curious about where the line is drawn between what is psychosis and what is evil. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure it out.

  9. Mark Gardner says:

    I’ve been rewatching episodes of House, M.D. And just before reading your story, I watched the munchausan episode. Creepy…

  10. Kate Loveton says:

    Thanks, Mark! 🙂

  11. Mark Baron says:

    Awesomely done! I am truly impressed!

  12. That was great!! You had me at chihauhau! And what an ending!! Does poor Cricket live! Great story, Kate!!! TiV

  13. Lucy says:

    Wow. That was intense. You got me right from the beginning to the end. I investigated several cases of Munchausen by proxy when I had a grant from the NSF. I wanted to bitch slap the mothers but I had to be impartial. That was so good, Kate. Lucy

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Lucy, I think dealing with cases like that would be very difficult. There’s something very creepy about people needing the attention and sympathy of others so much that they would harm those closest to them in order to obtain it. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I thought it was time for Isabel to step outside her comfort zone – her subconscious was urging her to do so.

  14. Great story – Munchausen’s by proxy, a great idea to wrap a story around. Loved Chicklet!

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