by R.W. Van Sant
Published in the Synaptic Overload Anthology
Parents have unconditional love for their children. How strong is this bond? Is there anything a child could do before losing the love and support of their parents?
This is a flash fiction story. It came about as part of a college workshop challenge to write a short horror story of 666 words.
“You look terrible, son. Stressed out.”
“Oh,” The prisoner slunk away from the cell bars. ”Hi, Dad.”
“Are you eating well? Getting enough sleep? You know if you don’t have your health…”
“It’s a stupid cliché.” he summoned the strength to respond. (No, of course, he hadn’t been getting enough sleep.) “I’m sick of your stupid clichés.”
“Your mother is worried, she’s afraid you won’t get a good lawyer.”
“State’s giving me a public defender. They’re never any good.” Tired legs urged the inmate to his bunk, where he thudded onto the thin sleeping mat. Perhaps if he ignored him, his father would just leave him alone. All he wanted was sleep. He knew, however, that his father would never let up.
“They’re talking the death penalty, aren’t they?”
“Yes, dad. The prosecutor wants the jury to sentence me to death.” He rolled to lose himself in the light gray nothingness of the cell wall. “But if I confess, they might give me life. No chance of parole.”
“That hardly seems fair, does it?”
He knew that tone in his father’s voice. Sarcasm, he loathed it. “Lay off me!”
“That guy who shot up the mall last year, he killed ten. Some of them were kids. They gave him life. I mean, you only killed two people.”
“Yeah, only two.” (Both with a dull machete.) He turned to face his tormentor beyond the cell the bars. “Two is enough.”
“Still, I wish there was something that your mother and I could do to help. It really hurts your ma to see you locked up.”
“We both know that you’re in no position to help.” His father’s prattle was pissing him off. It was bad enough being trapped in a cell, but being forced to put up with his old man’s supportive words was just plain Hell. There was no escaping it. Neither of his parents could do anything to help him. Not that he wanted their help anyway. If his father were going to continue rambling at him, he’d just have to chase him off. A pack of cigarettes sat on the table near the toilet. Smoking had always annoyed his self-righteous old man.
“Oh, don’t do that, son. Those will shorten your life.”
The prisoner took the pack and pulled out a single white tube of parental disapproval. With a deftness born of years of practice, he flicked the lighter and sucked the flame into the end until it produced a loving glow. “What do you care?”
“Son, I do care. I have always cared.”
“Well, I don’t.” Blowing a perfect smoke ring isn’t easy, and neither is aiming one into the face of an annoying parent, but he succeeded beautifully.
“Please don’t get like that.”
“Why don’t you just leave?” He sucked down harder in defiance.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay, that’s all.”
“Well, I’m as good as I’m gonna get.” Disappointed that his father hadn’t stormed off in righteous disgust, the prisoner extinguished the half-smoked cigarette. “Why do you come, you know I’m guilty.”
“Your mother and I have made peace with that, we’ve moved on.”
“The hell you have, “The murderer stomped toward the bars. “I done killed you both, it’s been months and you ain’t moved on yet!”
“The sun is rising. I have to go.”
“Good, whatever.” Another night without sleep, damn specters sure can play hell with your sleep cycles.
“We love you, son, and your mother misses you.”
“Okay,” He yelled. “Okay, just go away!”
“Be by again tomorrow night to check on you.” The hazy apparition faded back into non-existence as the first beams of sunlight cast its light upon the wall.
“Can’t wait.” Exhausted, the haunted man climbed into bed and pulled the blankets over his head, dreading the imminent wake-up call.