A short story – Cicada Song
This short story was written in response to a writing prompt about “story endings”. The challenge was either and open ending or plot twist. I have no clue why my fingertips led me down a dark path, but this story contains violence and a couple swear words. (I held back as much as I could!) The story has no connections to reality or experiences, just entertainment. Thanks for reading Cicada Song.
Breathing equals sure death.
The bedframe rattles from my trembling. Crisp night air pours into my open window and the refreshing pine scent contrasts my current hell. If I don’t calm down, he’ll find me under the bed tucked behind Mom’s old wedding dress.
Who’s out there?
The screams echo through my head: Mom’s screech of shock and fear, and then Dad’s. I’ve never heard Dad scream. Heavy steps, thumps, and the sound of scrambles to escape give me hope that they got away. On the other side of my door.
Silence. Worse than the screams.
My head spins because minutes earlier I was having the best dream, and then it was interrupted by banging and hollering. Instinct kicked in.
I try to stretch my cramped leg twisted around old high school yearbooks, and my hair gets caught in the bedsprings. Don’t move. What about Madison? I didn’t hear her scream. I hope she’s hiding, too.
Thumps return. As I jerk my head down, a chunk of hair stays attached to the bed.
Cries – is that Mom?
Dad’s moan of defeat.
If anyone stands outside my door, they’ll surely hear my heart pounding as it echoes off of the wood floors and reverberates in my head.
My cramped leg jerks uncontrollably and I kick the box of old photos. It sounds like a bomb exploding. I freeze.
I inch out from underneath the bed straining to hear any movement. A deafening clang drops me to my knees as I bump my nightstand. It’s possible I might die from fear before I even face the intruder in the hallway.
Pressing my ear against the door, I’m distracted by the cicadas calling outside my window – cheering me on. The cicada songs bring peace and courage. I turn my doorknob and ease the door open.
I squint and hold up my hands defensively waiting for the attack, but nothing happens. The hallway is dark and silent.
Maddie’s room is down the hall – quiet. The darkness swallows me. My life has changed; I can feel it. Panic surges and common sense exits my seventeen-year-old brain.
“Mom! Dad!” I fumble for the light switch and trip on something.
A foot. A freaking foot!
Where is the light switch? I lunge for the light and illuminate a nightmare.
“Dad?” He lay motionless on the carpet surrounded by blood. His hands reach halfway into Maddie’s room and the carpet is tracked with bloody footprints.
“Dad!” I rock him back and forth on my lap. Glassy eyes stare up at me.
Pushing open Maddie’s door, I flip on the light and immediately feel throat-punched. “Mom!”
Mom lay face down next to Maddie’s bed; her nightgown drenched with blood.
Holding my chest and gasping for air, tears blind me. I’m afraid to touch her, because I don’t want confirmation.
Crawling to her side, I lay my hand on her cold arm. Mom doesn’t move. I throw up.
“Maddie!” I leap up to see her empty bed. Where is my sister?
A blood splattered open window paints the scene. I run to the opening and cool, night air pours over me. The roof of the garage is outside Maddie’s window and the dog kennel just below. The trail of bloody footprints leads to the forest.
The cicadas sing. The forest is dark. Somebody stole Maddie.
I’m not sure what shock is, but I can tell you it feels flu-like with shaking chills, clouded brain, nausea, and the inability to move. The police continually ask me questions. I don’t know the answers.
“Does your sister or parents have any enemies?”
“Did you hear anything suspicious earlier in the night?”
“What time exactly did you hear the first screams?”
I lose a chunk of time between calling 911 and when the police arrive. I awoke to lights and shouting voices as I curled up on the floor next to Dad’s dead body. Now, I sit in the back of an ambulance covered in blankets as the entire town of Brandt arrives one at a time by SUV, pickup truck, and minivan to help.
Police officers prevent people from running into the woods to search for Maddie.
Sergeant Masters raises his hands. “Everyone listen up! This is a crime scene and Maddie Hill has been kidnapped. You can’t charge into the forest with your shotguns cocked or you’ll get yourself killed.”
“But, Sarge! Someone has to catch that bastard!” Tom Harridy owns a dairy farm down the road. “He killed Bud and Cindy and has to pay.” Tom glances over to me with pity in his eyes.
“Tom, I understand your anger, but we can’t risk hurting Maddie.” Sergeant Masters looks to all the concerned faces. “Let the police do their job.”
A rumble went through the crowd and their shotguns lower. The policemen huddle together to talk strategy.
Officer Hanas sits with me layering on blankets and forcing hot chocolate down on a warm summer’s night. “Kamryn, try to think. What do you remember?”
The hot chocolate burns my tongue, and all I can think about is my burned taste buds. The chills won’t stop. It is seventy-two degrees on a July night, and I’m covered in three blankets and goosebumps.
“I remember their screams.” I choke out.
Officer Hanas shifts uncomfortably.
Maddie is alone, scared, and somewhere in the darkness. The backyard woods swallowed my sister, and I can’t sip hot chocolate to bring her back. Images of Mom and Dad . . . and the blood fill my vision and cloud my better judgment.
Shedding my blanket and still in my pajamas, I sprint into the woods. Maddie is only fourteen. She’s afraid to speak in public, go to the grocery store, or even visit relatives. She hasn’t left the house in months. How will she manage to escape a murderer when she can’t function in daily life?
Tearing into the brambles and summer overgrowth of the forest, I ignore the cries from Officer Hanas chasing after me. Neighbors scream my name.
I know this forest better than anyone, and I need to find Maddie.
The darkness swallows me and feels heavy on my shoulders. The overhead canopy chokes out the moonlight. After my eyes adjust to the blackness, I make out shadows.
“Maddie?” My booming voice startles me as it bounces off the trees. I stumble deeper into the woods with my bare feet and pajamas.
Maddie sits at her computer all day engrossed in chat rooms with a circle of friends that we have never met. She hasn’t met them either, but they suck her into their artificial world. She thinks electronic friends are an acceptable form of socialization. Maddie stays in her room for hours and Mom serves her supper by TV tray. My parents often enable her anxieties.
The cicadas are suddenly silent, and I long for their encouragement. Maddie never enters the forest and will surely get lost. If she’s still alive.
Maddie recently drew me a picture of the woods because she knew I spent hours hiking and adventuring in the forest. Her picture showed me standing alone in a clearing with wolves, bear, and crazy toothy squirrels attacking from all directions. I thought of it as an artistic expression of her fear of the forest.
“Maddie!” My breath is ragged. I pant as I sprint the trail I had forged.
A rustle up ahead makes me skid in the dirt. “Maddie?”
Behind me, I hear the approaching hollers of Officer Hanas and neighbors crashing into the forest. Up ahead, the darkness shifts.
Maybe it’s a deer.
My parents are dead. My sister is missing. Bravery/stupidity overtakes my body. I creep forward.
The brush rattles and I hear a grunt to my left with no clear visualization of – anything.
All I can think of is that I didn’t even see Maddie today. I went to school, while she huddled in her room. My parents home school Maddie citing “incapacitating agoraphobia” and that “public school causes undo stress interfering with her ability to learn.” Pure bullshit. I have always believed forcing Maddie to face her fears could cure her. I often told her so, but guilt builds because now I may never see her alive again.
The universe scares Maddie, and now she’s been yanked out of her safe haven. How scared she must be? Regret fills my heart and I wish I had supported her “differences” better.
I push the thorn bushes out of my face and ignore the poison ivy surrounding my bare ankles. Something waits ahead; I hear it breathing.
As I quietly push the wild raspberry bush aside, a clearing opens up beyond. The moonlight highlights the clear path to its center, and the cicadas remain on silent alert. The clearing strikes me as familiar.
My eyes dart to every tree surrounding the circle of wild grass. My palms sweat uncontrollably.
As I walk forward, the back of Maddie’s long, curly hair pokes above the grass. I sprint forward.
“Maddie! Are you okay?” My voice cracks.
She doesn’t move. Maybe she’s hurt?
I stop five feet from Maddie and see her blood soaked nightgown. Fighting the urge to vomit again, I inch forward. “Maddie, it’s okay, it’s me, Kamryn.”
Maddie doesn’t turn around.
She’s popped a gasket. My poor, crazy sister. The trauma has triggered a complete mental break. I reach out to touch her shoulder.
“Maddie, look at me.” My voice sounds very mom-like.
Maddie turns around slowly and her face is splattered with blood, her smile wide, and her eyes – twinkling.
The knife blade reflects the moonlight as Maddie raises it overhead. A growl escapes her beautiful, pink lips as she says, “Your turn.”
I dive into the grass just as I hear Officer Hanas holler.
Cowering in the fetal position, the cicadas start their songs again. I raise my head to see Officer Hanas standing over Maddie.
“It’s over.” He says with his pistol gripped tight and ready to fire.
“I didn’t even know my own sister.” The tears come in waves, and my feet wobble.
The cicadas sing.