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Suffer the Little Children

by Julie2me 

Posted: 13 November 2015
Word Count: 779
Summary: Bazz, this is my revised story from the short stories group. Any comments gratefully recieved!

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“Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of the Heavens”.
The tears pricked at the back of his eyes as he reread the words.  He stepped uneasily into the confessional; it was cramped but strangely comforting, like a brief hibernation from the world outside.  Outside, where nothing was right and everything was wrong.  With one son gone and another going off the rails Mike had run out of options.  Their mother didn’t care; she was long gone.  She had carried out her threat to disappear if he didn’t continue to fund her drug habit without looking back.  The courts called it maintenance, but he knew what the money was spent on and it certainly wasn’t the children.  Two weeks after Mike was declared bankrupt the busybody next door took great pleasure in telling him she’d been seen getting into a red BMW with “That bloke with the vicious dogs”.  It took him hours to calm down his daughter and days to track down his son.
“Let us help you”, soothed the voice from the other side, “We have a retreat for the children that will give you the breathing space you need”.  They had tried this once before when the children were younger but had to collect their son, Adrian after two days.  He had suffered horrendous nightmares there and made them promise never to take him back.  But Adrian was 15 now, almost a man, old enough to look after himself and his younger sister and give his dad the rest he sorely craved.
It was the promise of a new phone that finally got Adrian there, plus the guilt trip laid on him by Father John, the weird priest who always had a white arm bandage to match his dog collar. Five days and he’d be back with his mates – that’s what Adrian told himself.  This time there were no nightmares, in fact there wasn’t much sleep.  Once the younger ones had been settled with the nightly ritual of a campfire song with Uncle John’s special hot chocolate, they didn’t stir.  It was then that the hunting games began in the forest, though he really can’t remember to this day exactly how it happened.  All he knew was that he was unexpectedly happy there – happier than he’d been since that Christmas when he was six.  He remembered the action man toy he got and that they had all eaten dinner together - him, mum and dad, his baby sister and his older brother – he still felt guilty about his brother, that’s probably why he drank so much now.
“Go on, slit it’s throat,” said Father John, as he pulled the fox cub screaming from it’s burrow, “You know you want to”.  Ignoring the animal’s cries Adrian didn’t need to be told twice and snatching the knife from Father John’s hand he plunged it into the animal’s throat.  The warm blood spattered onto his face.  Father John smiled as he smeared the blood across Adrian’s cheek and pushed his thumb into his mouth.  Adrian tasted the blood and recoiled.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Adrian – you do want to be forgiven don’t you?”   He spat the blood to the floor not knowing if this was real or if he was hallucinating again.  “Let me help you”, was the last thing he remembered hearing before he passed out. 
The excruciating pain in his left thigh woke him.  The blade he’d use to slaughter the cub now flashed before his eyes, this time soaked in his own blood.   “We’ll do it together, Adrian, let me absolve your sin and you can absolve mine.  Let me help you like I helped your brother”. Father John groaned in pleasure as his demonic eyes closed and he turned the knife on himself, slicing a chunk from his own forearm.
 “Jesus is the bread of life”, he cried, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. I have eaten your flesh Adrian, now you must eat mine.”  He pushed the flesh into Adrian’s mouth, holding it tightly closed while he gagged and swallowed.  Father John drifted into an orgasmic oblivion as Adrian staggered away to vomit. 
On hands and knees in the darkness he tried to call for help but instead heard the cries of his sister.
“I couldn’t sleep”, she sobbed “And I couldn’t find you Aidey.  I thought you had left me like mum did so I called dad on your new phone.  That was ages ago, he should be here any minute…”


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Comments by other Members

Bazz at 14:55 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
Hi Julie, first, welcome to the group, i hope you'll join some of our weekly challenges, they're great for getting the mind going and writing stories.

I think you’ve ironed out some of the small flaws in the other draft, and this works well as a very sharp piece of flash. The story is engaging, the characters feel vivid, but the ending is still a little abrupt, I’m not sure what we’re meant to make of it. Is the previous scene with father john a hallucination? I think it’s fine for the ending to be ambiguous, I’m just not sure if you mean it to be ambiguous, or that’s just how it reads?

Also you have

though he really can’t remember to this day exactly how it happened

Suggesting that Adrian’s remembering this as a story from his past. If he’s remembering all of this, shouldn’t the ending be a little clearer (having distance over time)?

i would also cut the repetition here

With one son gone and another going off the rails Mike had run out of options.  Their mother didn’t care; she was long gone.

Perhaps say "with one son no longer here"

It's an interesting story, but perhaps the end just needs to be clearer, or to have a clearer ambiguity (if that makes sense). Perhaps he hears her voice, and isn't sure himself what's real, there's blood on his hands, but he's not sure where it's from. It would be a dark but powerful ending, that leaves him in the wood, uncertain of what he's done...

I hope some of this helps. Look forward to reading more from you, hopefully in both groups :)

Julie2me at 18:29 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
Yes, I see exactly what you mean Bazz.  I'll have another look at it. 
Thanks so much for the advice.

Bazz at 18:50 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
My pleasure. I hope you get more feedback as well.

BryanW at 14:57 on 14 November 2015  Report this post
I found this very intense and, at times, evocative writing, Julie. I must admit, though, that it took me a while (and three or four readings) to understand it. I think my main problem is that I'm not good with names and the shift of main character from Mike to Adrian was part of this confusion. The bankruptcy seemed to come from nowhere and didn't have any significance. But you suggest this comes from a longer story - so this might have made a difference. Was the priest who Mike confessed to the mad Father John? This might have been made clearer if it was the case - though his manner and voice perhaps hint at it. This character, Father John, with his manic subversion of Jesus' wine and bread imperative mixed up with the idea of blood sacrifice is really powerful - especially with the horrifying and fanatic religious lunacy we see in the news.

Bazz at 16:36 on 14 November 2015  Report this post

the shift of main character from Mike to Adrian was part of this confusion

Bryan might have a point here Julie, in altering things in between drafts, the connection between father john in each scene has been lost. This is why it's good to have a fresh pair of eyes reading it!

Possibly, having two points of view in a piece of flash is a bit demanding, for a short story it's fine, but maybe you could merge them for a flash story. Adrian could start by remembering his dad's account of going to confession, thus merging the narratives...? Just a thought.

Julie2me at 10:49 on 16 November 2015  Report this post
Thank you Bazz and Bryan, I see I have a bit more work to do on this - and yes, a fresh pair of eyes is very useful.  
The bankruptcy was just to highlight that dad Mike was reallly down on his luck and had lost everything.  
I'll se what I can do and re-submit soon  smiley.
Many thanks to you both,

Dave Morehouse at 11:24 on 22 November 2015  Report this post
This story is gripping in the way I like stories to grab readers. Yes, there are ambiguities that should probably be cleaned up as Barry and Bryan have pointed out. That said, the meat and potatoes of the story are here. It takes the reader and propels them from beginning to end. Isn't that what good flash is supposed to do? 

Thanks for sharing. I have just rejoined after a lenghty hiatus. I, too, hope you wil join in some of the challenges and comaraderie here. 


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