Photo courtesy of Ashwin Rao (via The Angry Hourglass "Flash Frenzy" Competition Round 23)
Shades of Laughter
Em watches her skip and sway through the darkened corridor and into the sunlight. Soph giggles, swishing the white skirt of her new dress around her knees, put on especially to go play in, so it creates its own breeze. She begged so hard Em had to let her, just this once. She said she would be careful not to get it dirty. Em knew she’d try, at least. “Don’t go too far!” she warned, as Soph gambolled into the street, all limbs and laughter. Em hears it echo along the walls, as she stands there, though it has long since faded, out and away. She had been just behind her, just those couple of minutes. Too many; too long.
Em watches Soph skip in laughter to darkness, unknowing. She cannot stop herself seeing, the moment playing on restless repeat. She sees without seeing the invisible hand of the perpetrator who took Soph, smiling; wrestled her off into the dark of perpetual, oblivious oblivion. The street had been silent when she stepped over the doorstep; no Soph, not even as a speck in the distance. She had known, then, though she had asked around the neighbours; called friends and casual acquaintances. No one had seen her or heard a sound. Perhaps the unseen assailant had silenced Soph somehow or other. Still, Em fancies she can hear as Soph’s laugh fades to nothing, as she is dragged off into the distance.
Em knows how it ends now, has seen it for herself. It does not, cannot - has not - helped her. She sees the ragged remnants of the white dress, once pristine, now dirt covered; hem blackened by grit and mud on the slab before her. It bears the bloody stains of the struggle she was not there to see, though she bears witness to it now, silent observer. She knows Soph fought to keep her dress clean – that she tried to the end. The bruised body tells its tale, though the stare is sightless blank. Her patent shoes are missing, likewise socks; a toe nail torn away. She should have been – was – just behind her. Too long; too late.
Another Angry Hourglass "Flash Frenzy" entry. Something about the image of the girl skipping through the doorway kept coming back to me, which possibly led to the formatting and eventual idea for how this story should be told this week. Unusually, no spec fic element either. Straight, sober fiction for this week's effort.