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

by Shnarkle 

Posted: 13 January 2010
Word Count: 1224
Summary: Continuation from first chapter

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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 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 as if to reassure him. “Apparently it’s quite common in boys of your age, and it usually passes with time. 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 unknown 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 as if 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

jim60 at 20:30 on 14 January 2010  Report this post
Hi Nick, I enjoyed reading this, very creepy and the atmosphere was quite tense.
Be interesting to see how all this plays out. Great stuff.


Punnaburra at 22:21 on 01 February 2010  Report this post
Dear Shnarkle

General - good hook. It got me.

For your consideration - you could cut out some of the 'obvious' to help improve fluidity. For example...

- The first 'he asked' - It's obvious who asks this question.

- 'William was not convinced' - We know by William's question that he was not convinced.


SarahT at 15:12 on 15 February 2010  Report this post
Hi Shnarkle,

First, apologies for being late. Have been catching up with myself recently!

Generally, this piece is well written. The only nit I would pick is with a few of the lines that 'tell' rather than 'show'. The following leapt out:

But for some unknown reason he felt that the eerie whispering was personally directed at him.
I think this should be deleted because it is tell and unnecessary as, several lines later, the voices use the name 'William', which shows the character and the reader that the whispering is getting personal. By including this line earlier on, therefore, you are reducing the power of the later reveal.

Similarly, 'and there was no soul behind the words': this is something that should be shown through the story telling.

Also 'spitting hate and bile at him': I would turn that into actual dialogue. As readers, we want to see the hate and bile, not just have to take it for granted that it is taking place!

All of which is just minor polishing. There were also a couple of points where I did not buy the logic.
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.

Speaking as someone who has kids, this did not seem real. For a start off, as far as kids are concerned, their parents are just old. Secondly, older men barely notice fashions so I am not at all convinced that this is the sort of thing that a young boy would be concerned about, unless he is a burgeoning Gok Wan or something!

Perhaps you could tweak the section, so that William makes a more general comment that his mother 'did not seem to be as old' as other mothers and that she always dressed nicely. I think you could just take out the bit about adverse comments because why would William know or understand about adverse comments unless it came from direct experience, in which case, it is probably something that you need to show through the story telling.

Also, I need more convincing that any doctor would prescribe mild sleeping tablets for a child after only one night's bad sleep, or that he would suggest that the child should stay off school. As it reads, the diagnosis seems unrealistic but convenient for the purposes of the plot, in that it is just an excuse to keep the boy off school. There are other ways around this, though. Maybe the over anxious mother could decide that the boy should have a day off, or maybe the boy has to struggle into school over tired and fretful, setting up a situation for further sub-plots and tensions to break out.

None of this is fundamental because you have a strong set up and you are proceeding at a good pace with some nice hooks.


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