Short Story: User

Art by Mark (me)

Author’s Note:

Continuing the challenge, here is my fourth short story.

Remember, these are 2k word limit, 2hr time limit with no editing or revisions. I get the prompt. The story idea comes. I bang it out on the keyboard. Then I move on to the next story prompt.

Word Count: 1964
Time Spent: 2hr

Girl fights off man.


Finally free, Leah still grumbled that her Grandmother would not let her leave. They had run out of ingredients to make dinner. Despite being 17, her grandmother did not trust her to cook the meals unsupervised. You never pay attention, she had yelled once when Leah had forgotten to stir the pot. The vegetables sunk and became one with the pot. The soup had a burnt taste. Her grandmother was sure to let her know with each spoon.

Left with no choice, her grandmother relented. “Pay attention to your surroundings!” She said, “keep your hood on, don’t talk to anyone. Don’t tell them your name.” Leah had nodded at the commands. She wondered if they had lived in a place like that on the TV, then maybe she could go out more. Maybe her parents would still be alive. “Go straight there and come back”, was her final command.

It was getting dark. The day had already been overcast and threatened to rain. They needed it for the garden in the back of the house. The sullen skies made the world look even more frightening. 

The store was in sight. It was two blocks away from their home, but the walk was long. Few lived near them. Most fled to the southwest of the country a long time ago as conditions were not too great the further north you went. The mostly abandoned houses were falling apart. On the opposite side of the street was an empty field that gave way to a concrete building that sat at the corner of the street. The back of the building had crumbled walls. Signs of a past war.

Leah crossed the street and went into the store. It was small, but it had almost everything they needed. “Anything else you need?” The clerk asked. The woman sacked the few items Leah purchased and squinted her eyes at her, “What’s your name? I haven’t seen you around here before?” Leah stiffened. Her mouth went dry. Her lips open and shut as her mummers filled the silence.  “It’s ok if you don’t tell me. I understand if you’re passing threw.” The woman said as she handed Leah the bag. Leah nodded, flicked the hood back over her head and headed for the door with haste. 

Leah crossed the street. The lights had long been dead as the city. There weren’t many cars in this area unless there were brought in from the south, or there were old. This was good for Leah, as she crossed without a second look to her surroundings. The encounter with the store clerk replayed in her mind. She could have lied. She could have made up a name. She could have told the clerk that she is often sick and never gets out. Anything would have been better than her—

A hand clutched her mouth shut, yanking her head back. Another arm snaked around her waist. The groceries fell to the cracked sidewalk, and she was lifted off her feet. Screams were left muffled into the dry, calloused hand at her mouth. Her feet swung wildly but never offset her attacker’s balance. And the only thing she hit was air.

She could smell him. His grunts filled her as he stammered backwards. Where was he taking her?

Leah felt his foot stumbled, and he began to lose his balance. His grip loosened for a split second and Leah slipped from his arms, and pushed against his body. He fell to the ground and Leah bounded for the field. 

Whatever distance she made was erased the moment she felt her hair pulled.

Her legs went out from under her. Just as quick, the man had scooped her up and began to take her back to the building. He is too big. Too strong. I have no choice, she thought. She could hear her grandmother’s words of warning. But wasn’t this just a situation to break her promise?

The man lifted her. Leah closed her eyes. She reached out with her mind and felt it respond. Her body tingled. It’s too much, she thought. 

Her eyes opened once more. She pulled at the air with her hands. The attacker’s grip loosened and his arms sprung open. Leah tossed her arms behind her as if taking off a coat. The man flew backwards into the concrete wall with a thud. A spiderweb formed against the wall and building shook.

The man fell to the ground, leaving a bloody ink blot on the wall.

Leah collapsed to the ground and watched as he slunk over. Her breathing was ragged and her legs nearly buckled as she stood. Was he dead? Leah ran from his body grabbing the fallen bag of groceries on her way.

The door slammed behind her. She stepped through to the living room and collapsed on the ground, sobbing. Her grandmother rounded the corner in the living room. Wooden spoon in hand. Whatever she had been yelling before, Leah didn’t hear her. When her grandmother touched her shoulders, Leah jumped. “Girl, what is wrong with you? What happened?” Leah looked into her grandmother’s eyes and saw concern. Something she had not seen since she was a little girl.

“A-A man attacked me on my way back from the store… I didn’t know what to do?” 

“Girl, what did you do?”

She knew. Leah didn’t need to say it because her grandmother already knew. “Oh, lord” her grandmother called out. “You stupid girl. You stupid, stupid girl!”

Leah was shocked that her grandmother would say something like this to her. She could have been killed and yet her grandmother is angry at her. What could she say to respond?

Her grandmother peered out the window. Looking out into the street. She turned to Leah and asked “Did anyone see you come here?”

Two days had passed since the incident. Leah wanted to talk to her grandmother, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. The only words exchanged between them were commands from her grandmother on what to do if anyone knocked at her door. Since Leah stayed in her room. 

Her grandmother called to her to come eat. Leah’s stomach responded with a deep growl. She hadn’t eaten or slept since the attack. If only I had stayed home, she thought, why wasn’t I paying attention? She could feel her eyes ache. They were already puffy. She had a slight headache clustered near her eyes and the well was past dry. She stood and reached for her bedroom door.

The smell from the kitchen made Leah salivate with fury. When she stepped through the archway, her grandmother turned around. Her lips parted and closed before turning around to grab a bowl. Say it. Leah wanted her grandmother to apologize, but she knew the woman was too stubborn. Leah watched as the old woman ladled the soup into the bowl. As she handed to the bowl to Leah, a loud knock rapped at the door. 

Leah and her grandmother froze in place. The next knock forced them to move.

Her grandmother dumped the soup back into the pot. She turned to Leah, grasping her by the cheeks, “Baby, hide like I told you to. Don’t make a sound or they will kill you. Can you do that?” Leah nodded. Fear replaced her hunger. 

Leah darted to the living room and slid behind the couch. Her grandmother stood and watched. Leah lifted the board covering the fireplace and crawled inside. To her left was another faux panel that gave her access to the home walls. She crawled inside and closed the panel resting behind the built-in cabinets. Leah peaked through the wood slits and the items on the glass-enclosed bookshelf kept her hidden.

Another knock at the door and Leah could feel the walls vibrate. Her grandmother disappeared from the room and answered the door. “Anne McDaniels” the voice spoke. It was a woman’s voice. Stern. “It is,” her grandmother responded, “what do you want?”

“Can we come inside?” The woman asked.

“Not as if I have a choice.”

Her grandmother entered the living room disappearing out of view as the picture frame on the shelf blocked her view. Leah moved her head up so that she could get a better angle on those that followed her grandmother.

A woman walked through first. A single braid over her shoulder. Leah shifted down. The woman wore a cloak and what looked to have been a sword without a blade on her hip. Three men, all in black, followed. One held a hand processor.

“I’m Knight Commander Orwell, does anyone else live here with you?”

“No. You took them all way,” her grandmother clenched her fist, “you took all my babies.”

“Excuse me?”

“Madam Commander,” the man with the processor interrupted, “I’ve got her file here.”

“Carry on,” the Commander said.

“This residence is home to Anne McDaniels, Joe McDaniels, deceased, Arthur McDaniels, deceased, and Delia McDaniels, deceased.”

Leah clutched her mouth. She only knew the names from pictures and stories her grandmother told her when she was young. 

“Murdered, you mean,” her grandmother spoke. The woman’s looked at Leah’s grandmother and called out to the man “What happened?”

“The report says they were stopped at a border check. The woman, Delia, tested positive. The Knight at the check—”

The woman waved her hand. She turned to the old woman, “have you seen a young girl around in this area?” Leah froze. Her grandmother was right. They were looking for her. They wanted her. And it was her fault they were here. The people who killed her parents wanted to take her away.

“I don’t go out often. I get what I need from the store and return. It’s dangerous here, and I’m an old woman.”

The woman nodded, “if you do, please let us know. This young girl is a user and has already killed someone,” Leah sucked in air and watched as the woman looked past her grandmother. Tears streamed down her face. Shut up. Shut p. Shut up.

“Madam Commander,” the man spoke again, “we have a reported sighting.”

The woman nodded and, with no further words, left.

Leah wasn’t sure how long time had passed. Her body was cramping and her hunger was back with a vengeance. She replayed in her mind the body of the man crashing against the wall. She had killed him. “Come out,” her grandmother’s voice shook her from the memory. She was happy to stretch her limbs once again.

Leah crawled out the space, using the couch to hold her weight. She looked up and could see tears falling down her grandmother’s face. She could see for the first time how old she was as the tears traversed the lines on her face. Before Leah could speak her grandmother embraced her. She squeezed so tight that Leah couldn’t breathe but she had wanted this for so long.

“I thought that if I was strong, that I could make you strong.,” Her grandmother stepped back, “this world is cruel and even crueler to you and your gifts.” Leah studied her grandmother’s face. She had so many questions.

“You’re no longer safe here,” her grandmother ran a hand through her hair, “once they test that girl, they will be back.” Leah sniffed. A warm hand cupped her face and wiped the tears. Leah knew what she was going to say. She longed for this moment, but never thought it would happen like this. “They will be back and if they test you…”

Leah understood. Her plea for freedom would now put her on the run. “I’m sorry” Leah whispered in her grandmother’s ear. Leah squeezed her grandmother back. Hoping to have her fill of her grandmother’s love, however misplaced it was. 

Fin. It is getting difficult to always be on the edge for a story and crank it out in such a time restriction. One moment you are flowing and you glance at the clock and it’s saying to “wrap it up, b.” Overall, I didn’t feel as good writing this story. While I am a day late, I was also in a mood and thus forced myself to write. But hey, I got the challenge done!

See ya next week for the next story challenge.