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Boys & Girls Come Out To Play. Ch 2. The Calling

by Shnarkle 

Posted: 22 September 2009
Word Count: 1333
Summary: This pretty much follows on from chapter 1. It's in a fairly raw form, but I'm pretty happy with the general gist of events.

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The Calling
William sat on his bed and strained to hear the details of the muffled conversation downstairs, as his mother showed the doctor out. There was the usual scrape as the front door shut, and then William could hear his mother’s footsteps on the stairs at the same time as the doctor’s measured stride as he walked down their gravel driveway to his car.
The bedroom door opened and William’s mother entered and sat on the end of his bed. Laura was in her late thirties, but William thought she looked much younger. Slim, with an elfin face and long blonde hair she could still dress in the latest fashions without attracting adverse comments. William had always thought of both his parents as being, “pretty cool.” And he felt that he could tell them anything without embarrassment. All his friends at school thought their parents were old fogies, and William was delighted that his were still young at heart without having to try too hard, which would have been the most embarrassing thing possible; an ageing parent trying to be “with it” but only succeeding in making an utter fool of themselves.
William could tell that his mother was worried by the slight frown between her eyebrows. “Well, what did the doctor say?” he asked.
“He said that you’ve been having something called night terrors, Will.” Laura squeezed William’s bare foot to reassure him. “He said it’s quite common in boys of your age, and that it’ll pass with time.” she remembered having bad dreams herself as a girl, but they soon faded; indeed she hardly ever dreamed at all anymore; or at least she could never remember any when she woke each morning. “He’s given me a prescription for some very mild sleeping tablets which should stop the dreams from waking you up.”
“But mum, what about the TV? I was awake then.” William was not convinced.
His mum smiled at him, “The doctor says it’s called lucid dreaming. You think you’re awake but really you’re still asleep.”
“Mum, I’m telling you I was awake!” William used the tone of voice a child used when wrongly accused of something. “None of the channels would work; I kept pushing and pushing the buttons but all I got was snow.”
“Does the TV work properly now?” said his mother arching an amused eyebrow.
“Well, yes it does now,” William argued defensively, “But it didn’t last night.”
“Case closed, I think.” smiled his mother, “Now, as the doctor has given you the day off school, and told me that I must spoil you rotten; would you like tea, and your favourite scrambled egg on toast in bed as a treat?”
“Yes please.” muttered William, wishing the doctor had been there himself last night, and then let him say it was lucid dreaming.
“We’ll tell your father all about it when he phones from Cyprus tonight.” called his mother as she made her way downstairs.
Ben Maddox missed his family so much it hurt when he had to make these business trips abroad. He’d been in Cyprus for two days chasing a supplier for a signature, and had been told he’d finally be able to pin the man down tomorrow. If he could manage to complete the business in the morning he might just make the late afternoon flight back to the UK. He sat at the desk in his hotel room and looked at his watch; it would be 7pm at home, tea would be finished; a perfect time to call.
He punched in “Home” on his mobile and absently counted the rings, once, twice, and then there was a click as the phone was picked up. Ben was surprised not to hear Will shouting, “Hiya, big dad.” or Laura breathing, “Hello Ben darling.” Instead, after a second or two he heard a strange garbled whispering through the earpiece, like you sometimes heard during a long distance call; bleed through from other calls. But for some strange reason he felt that the eerie whispering was personally directed at him. Meant for him. “Hello..?” he said with a faint tremor in his voice. Immediately he heard a number of girls’ voices singing a sort of nursery rhyme:
“Boys and girls come out to play, once you’re here, you’re here to stay
“Skip and jump, and run and hide, forever here you will abide”
The voices seemed out of phase with each other, and there was no soul behind the words; they were just flat. Empty. Dead. And whilst they were chanting the swirling whispering became louder, more urgent, more threatening, spitting hate and bile at him.
Ben recoiled for a second; then gathering himself demanded, “Who’s that, who’s there? Don’t play games with me!”
“Gaaames!” said the voices with relish, lengthening the word in eager anticipation. “Tell William we’ll play games with him soon. Very soon.”
“How do you know William?” Ben shouted, “Who the Hell are you?”
“Hell!” they sniggered in unison, “Hell!” then the line went dead.
Ben threw the phone down on the bed as if it had burned his hand, and stared at it in horror. “What the…?” he said to himself; what the Hell was that all about. He didn’t scare easily, but he was damned scared now. He picked up the phone again and checked the call log. Sure enough the word “Home” stared back at him. So he had dialled the right number.
In a fit of panic he stabbed redial, trembling in case he heard the girls’ strange voices again.
“Hello?” Thank goodness, it was Laura.
“Laura, what the heck is going on?” he tried to keep as calm as possible.
“What do you mean, Ben?”
“Does Will have any school friends over right now?” That would be it, kids having a laugh at his expense.
“No, as a matter of fact he’s been off school today. Ben, what’s wrong; I don’t like the sound of your voice?”
Ben told her the details of the previous phone call.
“Oh God, Ben, Ben! Please come home now!” He could hear the hysteria in her voice.
“Woah, sweetie, take it easy, what’s happened?”
Ben could tell that Laura was barely able to speak she was breathing so rapidly, but she managed to blurt out, “William had a bad dream last night about three girls asking him to play with them and then he woke up and watched some TV but it wouldn’t work and…”
“Honey, honey, slow down; take some deep breaths.” Ben could feel icicles of fear gripping at his guts as his wife told her story; but he had to try to appear strong.
“…and then the girls spoke to him through the TV! Through the TV Ben! When he was awake!” Each breath was now a sob; Ben had never felt as useless as he did now, hundreds of miles away from the ones that meant more to him than life itself, and there was absolutely nothing he could do to help them; to defend them; to make them safe. Tears welled in his eyes as he said, “Where’s Will now?”
“In his room.” sobbed Laura.
“OK,” said Ben, trying to gain some control over the situation, “Don’t let him sleep in his room tonight; take him into our bed. Don’t have the TV, radio, anything on; and don’t answer the phone.” His head was spinning, but he had to make sure he’d covered everything he could to keep them safe, “I’ll get the first flight out of here in the morning; do you think your sister would agree to stay the night with you?”
“I don’t know, I’ll ask her.” said Laura rallying at Ben’s strength.
“I’ll be home as soon as I can, darling.”
Suddenly a gale of whispering broke into the line, followed by girls’ disembodied, cold, dead voices saying, “Say goodnight to William for us, won’t you?”
All Ben could hear was Laura screaming hysterically before the line snapped dead.

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Comments by other Members

Pat M at 23:03 on 22 September 2009  Report this post
Well, move over Stephen King!

This was an excellent idea to include the parents, but I think it is going to be a young adult / even adult read.

All his friends at school thought their parents were old fogies, and William was delighted that his were still young at heart without having to try too hard, which would have been the most embarrassing thing possible; an ageing parent trying to be “with it” but only succeeding in making an utter fool of themselves.

Prob just me, but this jars a bit and I'm not sure why. maybe just detracting a bit from the main point of the paragraph, ie his own parents.
Good description of Laura, but do we really say "dress hair"? don't know!

“Hello Ben darling.”
Apparently, always should have a comma before someone says someone's name, ie Hello, Ben darling,
or so I'm told!

Same with "But, Mum...." and "through the TV, Ben " (Don't know if there are any exceptions to that rule!)

Totally brilliant last line. More please ASAP !!

It is now 11pm and I have to go to bed and hope I don't have nightmares! Goodnight!


Issy at 10:22 on 23 September 2009  Report this post
Yes, totally agree with Pat's comments. I didn't have a clue howyou were going to continue the suspense but here it is.

Unusual too, that the parents are experiencing it - whatever it is - mre usual in children' s works to have the adults out of it, but this is fine, though as Pat says, brings the age group up to YA.

I think the para about the parents being cool does need to cut right down as it holds up the story and we were left on a knife edge on chap 1 - I did wonder about what happened in the gap - did the girls just disappear or something more dramatic?

I also think the first part would benefit from being entirely from William's vp - it does drift into Laura's from time to time which reduces the impact in my view eg "...Laura squeezed William’s bare foot to reassure him..." and "...she remembered having bad dreams herself..."

Apart from that, just a bit of general editing and I think it's there. There is a market for YA horror, and indeed children's horror, although that is a bit more restrained than this.

And now I don't know what you are going to spring on us next!

NMott at 10:24 on 23 September 2009  Report this post
“Hello Ben darling.”

Apparently, always should have a comma before someone says someone's name, ie Hello, Ben darling,
or so I'm told!

Yes, you do sometimes have commas around names, and you also sometimes have commas before -ing words.
In this example, I'm not sure if it's right, but I would have punctuated it:
"Hello Ben, darling."

Freebird at 12:13 on 23 September 2009  Report this post

I'll comment before I read the other postings, so apologies if this is a repeat of what someone else has said.

Verrrry spooky I like the nursery rhyme, especially the idea of going somewhere (hell?) and being stuck there for ever.

The change in pov from William to Dad worked fine (though it did immediately make it more of a teen read), but the earlier brief change in pov from William to Mum worked less well, when she was remembering her own dreams. It was too abrupt, and for too short a time. I think maybe you should stick with William's pov in that first section, and maybe Mum could tell him about her dreams.

Funny that Issy suggested this lucid dream theory even before she'd read it (are you feeling spooked, Issy??!)


ShellyH at 13:47 on 23 September 2009  Report this post
This is very spooky. I agree with the others about keeping it to Williams pov in the first part.
I like the second part from dad's pov, it works very well.
Looking forward to the next bit.

Shnarkle at 18:22 on 23 September 2009  Report this post

Thank you so much for all your positive comments. I do freely admit that I have a problem with this POV thing. Being a novice it's not something that comes naturally to me, and I really must concentrate more to ensure continuity.

Watch out for chapter 3 soon. It scared the living bejayzus out of me just thinking it up, so I hope it has the same effect on you guys.

I shall check my POV very carefully, although it's quite a complex chapter from that aspect. Should you detect any POV mistakes please shout at me in very bold caps!! LOL


SusieL at 20:29 on 23 September 2009  Report this post
I agree with the other comments about severely editing/losing the paragraph about the "cool" parents. I don't think children ever really spend much time thinking about their parents - certainly not in a positive light - more about how much they embarass them!

Also think the pov changes are a bit jumpy. Dad's pov is fine, but I think you need to stick to Will's pov in his scene - it kinds of takes away from the power of the scene a little othewise.

Spooky stuff, Shnarkle. I'm slightly apprehensive about going to sleep tonight after reading this, 'cos after you'd written me that little poem about spiders, we seemed to be besieged by the wretched things - and bloomin's ginormous they were too!

Issy at 00:18 on 24 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Freebird, Yes, definitely, the lucid dream stuff is awful - it's more like lucid nightmares, because it usually involves something horrid and you think you are awake but you aren't, and the hobnail boots are still coming up the stairs or you still can't get the front door open to escape.

It is an incredible relief to really wake and the birds are singing and the sun is shining and its all calm and peaceful.

I am sure this story picks up on the primeval stuff that is common to all of us and is lurking beneath the surface, which is why its so scary - the girls haven't actually done anything except appear and chant, and yet it's horrific.

Ben Yezir at 11:35 on 24 September 2009  Report this post
Hi just catching up. Basically I can't add much to the comments that have already been made, except to say that you have been hiding some serious writing talent for far too long. Great to see such passion and energy jump out of the screen. I think this is far more commercial that the Shnark (?) see I can't even remember the proper title. I would move ahead with this project and see how far you can take it.

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