"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


The Dark Path

"Henry."  Adam spoke softly.  His son didn't stir.  He reached over and gently shook the boy's shoulder.

"Henry, wake up.  Come on, boy, you said you wanted to see the sunrise."

Henry groaned and rolled over in his sleeping bag.  Adam chuckled.

"I know, I know, but you ain't changing your mind now.  Up and at 'em, son."

Henry turned back to his dad, rubbing his eyes.  He sat up as his dad pulled the warmth of the sleeping bag away from him.

"Dang, Dad, it's so cold!"

"I know, son, here.  Get dressed fast."  He tossed some clothes to his son and stepped out of the tent.

Henry was soon by his father's side.  Adam had a pack on his back and a flashlight in hand.  The pale beam of the light illuminated the wisps of breath that met the cold air.  Adam grunted at his boy, and they began the trek into the woods.  They didn't say much as they traveled.  Henry knew better than to complain about the distance.  He trudged along silently.

Adam led them to a small clearing.  The trees parted and a copse of rocks was ahead.  Henry looked above them and gasped at the brilliant landscape of stars above them.


Adam chuckled.  "Pretty amazing, huh?"

Henry just nodded his head, turning around slowly trying to take it all in.  They found a large flat rock.  Adam set his pack down, unzipped it, and pulled out a small blanket.  He unfurled it on the rock and motioned to his son to sit.  He dug into the bag again and pulled out a baggie with muffins in it and two juice boxes.  He and his son sat quietly, eating their breakfast and watching the night.

"Pretty soon now, you'll see a little glow start right there."  Adam pointed to the horizon.

Henry nodded.  They waited.  The stars shined, their brightness unfading.  Henry grew restless.  He stood up and stretched.  Adam shined the light on his watch.  He furrowed his brow and held the watch to his ear.  He looked at it again, tapped it a few times.  He shook his head.

"Well, boy, I gotta apologize to you.  I think there's something wrong with my watch.  I woke you up too soon.  Dang, we're gonna sleep well tonight.  You just wait, though, it will all be worth it.  I remember the first time I saw the sunrise.  My dad took me to this very same spot.  I'll never forget.  You'll see."

Henry grunted at his dad.  He stooped down and picked up a rock and threw it into the woods.  He shuffled his feet.  He picked up another and threw it.

"Hey, Dad, shine the light over there, 'k?"

Embarrassed by his mistake, Adam was happy to oblige.  Had to keep the boy interested in something.  He shined the light from rock to rock, giving Henry a little target practice.  The boy had a good arm and pretty good aim.  He was hitting even the farthest rocks after a few tries.

"Hmph.  Good job, son."

Henry smiled in the dark at the rare compliment.

Henry had hit every rock in the copse, and there was still no glimmer at the edge of the horizon.  Adam felt a twinge of unease.  He went to his son and placed his hand on his shoulder.

"Dang, boy, I think I really screwed this up.  Let's get back to the camp."

Henry sighed in relief and nodded his assent.  They traipsed back through the woods in silence.

Adam heard a buzz of activity as they reached the edge of the campground.  Well, people were certainly awake, that was for sure.  Alarm bells fought through his confusion.  He strode into camp and approached the couple next to their site.

"Hey, what's going on?" he asked.

The wife was crying.  The husband paced back and forth, running his fingers through his hair.

"I don't know.  Nobody knows, damn it.  They're not telling us anything.  Not a damn thing."

He motioned to the radio on the picnic table.  Adam sat down to listen.  It didn't make any sense.

"Riots in downtown Los Angeles..."  "Fires burning in Chicago..."  "Angry crowds showing up in front of the Capitol..."

The pieces fell into place the longer he listened.  His watch was working just fine after all.  The president finally came on with a prepared statement.

"There is no reason to believe that this is a terrorist attack."

Then what the hell was it?

"Dear God in heaven, Henry, it's the end of the world.  Kneel down, boy.  Kneel down and pray.  You keep praying, boy.  Dear God in heaven, save our souls."


"Jimmy, what are you doing?"

He jumped, nearly dropping the orb in his hands.  He regained his grip and let out a soft sigh of relief.  His lip trembled and he looked down at the ground.  His mother came to his side.

"Oh, honey, don't you remember how I told you to hold that?  You always have to hold it from the bottom.  Look, your thumb is blocking the sun.  You know they can't live long without that."

She adjusted the globe and demonstrated the proper grip.

"It's time to get ready for school.  Put it back.  Be careful this time.  The last one you broke made a terrible mess I had to clean up."

Jimmy carefully returned the orb to its stand.  He waved good-bye to the scurrying little bugs.  He imagined one of them waving back to him.  He ran out of the room.

"Hey, Mom, what's for breakfast?"

Prompt:  A boy and his father awaken early to watch the sunrise from their mountain campsite, but they begin to panic when the sky remains dark long into the afternoon.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Debra Erfert said...

You are a lady who's seen one too many Twilight Zones. (giggles) Creepy beyond belief.

Anonymous said...

That IS a great ending. :)

Wendy Jones

Shelli said...

Debra -- Ah, yes, I loved The Twilight Zone! I guess it shows. *grins*

Wendy -- Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Wow Shelli. I mean seriously. Well done!!!!!!

Adam Byatt said...

You have created a natural, yet awkward, relationship between father and son. I love the ending, such a great surreal twist at the end.

Anonymous said...

Ooh I like it! Well done!

Nikki~Down syndrome Storyteller said...

That was really great, Shelli--very well done!

Chris Chartrand said...

your dialogue is very natural with believable dialect. And a very fun ending. I enjoyed it.

Shelli said...

Thank Nikki!

Chris -- Dialogue is something I'm working on, so I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!

Shelli said...

And thank you Karen, Adam and John! (I think my earlier comment didn't go through. Sorry!)

Walt said...

That was a fun read. I like the interaction between father and son while throwing rocks to keep occupied.

Thanks for sharing

Shelli said...

Walt, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for dropping by.

NewToWritingGirl said...

I loved that ending. It reminded me of my favourite scene from Men In Black when the alien's playing with the marbles that are the solar system. Great take on the prompt.

Christine Mattice said...

What a great story and well-written. You created a believable world and the ending was a real surprise. I didn't see it coming.

Shelli said...

Thanks, Christine! I appreciate your comments.

Shelli said...

NewToWritingGirl -- your comment just showed up. Sorry, Blogger was weird. :S Thanks for your comment. I actually came up with the ending before anything else and knew I had to do this prompt! It was fun. I had forgotten that scene in MIB. I'll have to watch it again. (Any excuse, right?)

Renee said...

You had my attention through the whole story....made me feel a bit strange...great ending!!

Shelli said...

Thanks, Renee. This one was really fun for me.