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Mother

Fyn16

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Hello everyone,

I've decided to post a writing project I did back in 2014 here, for the perusal of anyone interested. The assignment, our final, was to create a short story. The goal was 10 pages, but I went over that just a bit  :lol  . Regardless, I got some positive reviews from my classmates and aced the project, so I figured I'd share it with you guys! Take note: the story would probably receive a T rating by fanfiction.net standards due to a single, graphic scene.


Mother

Daniel woke up to the warm, soft fleece of his blanket pressed against his nose, filling his waking world with a familiar, comforting scent that he’d come to know well. Mother had told him that this blanket had been with him ever since he’d been a baby, and as far as he could remember, it had never left his side. Tattered as it was, the scrap of fabric had held up nicely for the past sixteen years, and down here, it was almost like a companion.

He yawned and rolled over, not sure he was quite ready to get up yet. The clock beside his cot read 7:06- not too early, but probably early enough to let himself adjust to the day still. Gritting his teeth, he stretched, groaning as his muscles released their built-up tension, and immediately froze as a dull throb began to build up in his right calf.
“Dammit,” he hissed, recognizing the onset of a Charlie Horse immediately. Slowly he lifted his back off the cot, doing his best to massage the tense muscle. As expected, it was no use, and he lay back down, immobilized as he waited for the pain to subside. All in all, not the best way to start one’s sixteenth birthday.

As the pain dulled, his breathing returned to normal, and Daniel simply stared up at the ceiling above him. it was hard to believe he’d spent sixteen years in this shelter now. Sixteen years, and the only thing he’d ever known about the outside world was what Mother had told him. Books were informative too, but Mother often reminded him that after the Reckoning, the world had become a much different place than the one his literature depicted. He smiled as he remembered his young, naive curiosity he’d experienced as a young child about the outside world. Once, he’d almost made it up the shelter stairs and out the door, but (thankfully, now that he knew about the dangers outside) Mother had intervened. Catching him before he could leave his place of sanctuary.

Daniel lit a match, taking care to keep the flame burning (he was only allowed one a day) and lit his bedside lamp. The warm light flickered along the walls of the shelter, and Daniel shivered a bit, in excitement. Turning sixteen was an accomplishment. He was one step closer now to becoming an adult. Mother had promised him that, one day, he could join her in her brief expeditions to the outside world. Every birthday, he posed the question, and each time he did, he was refused. Perhaps this year would be different.

“Daniel, are you awake? I’m coming down.”

Daniel fixed his eyes on the door at the top of the stairs as it slowly cracked open. Apparently Mother was awake too. Good.

Bearing a wide smile, Mother made her way down the stairs, pulling up a chair and landing a kiss on Daniel’s forehead before sitting down opposite him.

“Sixteen years,” she said, shaking her head and brushing her dark brown hair back as she smiled at her son, “sixteen years already. I swear it seems like only yesterday you were born.”

Squirming on his elbows, Daniel inched himself upright. “Good morning, Mother. Did you go outside today?”

Mother frowned. “I did, Daniel, and-”

“Well, I was wondering-” Daniel stopped, realizing he’d interrupted her. Mother nodded at him and he continued. “I was wondering if, perhaps, I could at least see what it looks like… you know… out there.”

Mother’s face turned ashen almost instantly, and she drew back slightly.

“Daniel, I thought I told you never to ask me that.”

“I know,” Daniel sighed, “but I’m ready now! I’ve been ready! I do my exercises every day, just like you told me to, and I’ve read every book down here. I know what it’s like outside.”

Mother shook her head. “You have no idea what it’s like out there, Daniel. The things I’ve told you about- the things I’ve seen… words don’t do them justice. One day you’ll be ready, but today-”
“Mother, I’m sixteen!” Daniel said, raising his voice, “I’m almost an adult now. Don’t I even have the right to look?”

Startled by her son’s change in tone, Mother shut her mouth, looking down as she drummed her fingers together.

“We’ll discuss this later,” she whispered, “for now- I was going to ask if you wanted me to make a cake.”

Daniel’s eyes lit up in spite of himself. He wanted answers, he wanted the truth, but Mother’s words were enticing to say the least. Cake was a luxury, Mother had often reminded him, that he’d most likely never have. Baking one required a great deal of resources, so he’d had to resort to simply looking at pictures of them in his books and imagining what they’d taste like. This was a devilishly effective tactic on Mother’s part, and he had to admit- it was working. Even better, this cake provided an opportunity- a distraction for Mother. From what he’d read, cakes took time, and if Mother was focused on baking one, perhaps he could slip past for just one look outside.

“I’d love a cake,” he said with a wan smile, “if it’s not too much trouble that is.”

Mother lifted her head and smiled at Daniel. Her old son was back. “Of course not, dear.”

“And Mother-” Daniel added as she turned and headed for the stairs.

“Yes, Daniel?”

“I’m sorry I yelled,” Daniel said, “it was rude of me. But would you please consider what I said anyway?”

Mother closed her eyes briefly, rubbing her temples. “I’ll think about it, Daniel. Go ahead and do your exercises; I’ll bring your cake down later.”

And without another word, she departed, leaving Daniel alone once more. Letting out a quiet sigh, Daniel rolled off his bed and started on his daily exercises- push-ups and sit-ups. His mind should’ve been focused on his routine, but the thought of the outside world was back again, tempting him like the sirens he’d used to read about in his books on Greek mythology. A set of stairs and a door were all that separated him from a completely new, wide-open world. How hard could it really be to slip out for a few seconds and gain a peek while Mother baked her cake?
Daniel rolled to his feet, walking over to the stairway. He found that his steps were muffled; he was tiptoeing almost unintentionally. Gingerly, he placed his hand on the railing and gazed up. Farther away, he could hear his mother moving about. Now wasn’t the time. When the movement stopped, he’d make his move.

So today’s the day, is that it?

Turning around, Daniel immediately recognized the voice of Blanket, his ever-present sleep aid and guide. Mother had told him once to stop being silly- that inanimate objects like blankets couldn’t talk. She’d even gone as far as to call him an imaginary friend, but Daniel knew the truth. The scrap of fabric was capable of so much more than even Mother realized.

The surface is really tantalizing, isn’t it?

Tantalizing. A big word. Daniel liked big words.

“It is,” he whispered. “I think I’m going to do it today- just a quick look.”

It’s a dangerous world out there, Blanket pointed out, Mother won’t let you go for a reason, you know.

“Mother doesn’t know how ready I am,” Daniel retorted. “And besides- it’s not like I’ll be in danger.”

You seem awfully sure of yourself. Why don’t we talk about this before you rush into something rash. You always liked talking to me before.

Daniel shrugged, “well, I wasn’t sixteen years old before. Why do we still have these chats? Mother says I should just outgrow you and move on.”

And yet here you are. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

“Wonder what?”

The blanket’s tone suddenly became chillingly calculating. Ever wonder if Mother really knows what she’s talking about? I mean clearly she doesn’t know you’re ready to go topside. Some of the heroes in your stories were far younger than you when they made their big accomplishments. Maybe she’ll never let you go up the stairs. Ever think of that?

“No,” Daniel shook his head, grabbing tighter on the railing, “don’t say that.”

Don’t pretend you’re not thinking about it.

Daniel shivered. Blanket had a good point; it was one of the things that kept him up at night- the constant wonder of why he was really down here after all this time. Generally he could quell this anxiety by reminding himself that Mother knew best, but now… now he wasn’t so sure.

“What are you trying to say?” he asked finally.

I propose we go up there; if for no other reason than to find out the truth.

Taking in his surroundings, Daniel thought about the question. The cot, the lamp, his four walls, piles of books in every corner- these things were familiar to him, and each exuded some sort of comfort. Upstairs, it’d be a different story. Even if only temporarily, he’d be saying goodbye to every shred of familiarity and comfort he’d gotten used to all these years. The call of truth was strong, but was it really enough to tear him away from his childhood? Daniel paced over to Blanket, picking him up and draping him over his shoulder.

“Okay,” he said at last, “we’re doing this.”



Mother shut the door quietly, then let out a sigh of relief. The illusion was getting harder and harder to maintain each day. Conditioning was effective, she’d proven that much, but despite her best efforts, curiosity was impossible to completely block. The tiny, thirty-five by forty-foot basement that her son knew as a “shelter” wouldn’t keep him contained forever. One day, he’d make his way up here and discover the truth. It was inevitable.

As she made her way to the kitchen, a familiar red journal caught her eye, and she sighed. She had a cake to bake, but- as always- science came first. Cracking open the journal and removing a pen from her pocket, she made a note:

August 4, 2035

Date marks subject’s sixteenth birthday. After sixteen years, the conditioning has not been broken. However, subject also shows increasing curiosity about the world outside. Illusion may be difficult, possibly even dangerous to continue upholding, but I will strive to do all I can.

-Sheila Baumgart


With a heavy hand, she set the journal and pen down, looking outside. There was nothing out of the ordinary outside her window, of course. Just the scenic Oregon wilderness. And why should anything be out of the ordinary? Secluded up here in the mountains, she was finally free to do what she wanted. In her younger years, Sheila had always been fascinated by Psychology, constantly reading up on the brain’s functions and human behavior. The possibility that man’s seemingly unpredictable behavior may actually be quite predictable indeed had always been intriguing, and her goal had always been to study these topics at a higher level of education. Sadly, these dreams had hardly been met. College was, and remained to this day, vastly out of her reach. Faced with a life of boredom, She’d settled down to a steady job and bought this beautiful house in the mountains.

But everything changed the day she met Daniel.

Daniel, of course, wasn’t her true son. Sheila had never married, nor had she planned to. Marriage, after all, would only complicate things. All things considered, her visit to the foster home fifteen years ago had been nothing if not successful. When she made eye contact with the smiling baby, Sheila had known then and there that she’d finally been given the chance to live the life she wanted. She needed him, and Daniel needed a mother. It was all too perfect.

Sheila made her way to the kitchen and took down her cookbook, flipping through the pages until she found the recipe she wanted. Gathering her ingredients she reflected on the past few years since Daniel had fallen under her care. The baby boy had been troublesome at first, almost escaping upstairs. Thankfully, she’d caught him before he caught a glimpse; the crisis had been averted. After that, she’d made sure that the warnings were stricter, and over time Daniel had come to be a very obedient boy. The story was simple; Daniel had been led to believe, at an early age, that the upstairs world had been destroyed long ago in the fires of a nuclear winter, or “The Reckoning,” as Sheila called it. He, of course, was one of the few children born after this cataclysm; the only hope for the future of humanity. The story had settled in nicely, and results weren’t hard to see. Daniel had come to terms with death long before other children his age, to the point that the topic never bothered him. When they spoke about it, he spoke freely, without hesitation. In all honesty, sometimes the child even scared her. She had no doubt that he could kill to survive if he had to. After all this time, Sheila had proven to herself, through Daniel, that conditioning someone to believe they lived a completely false reality was not only possible, but easy, given the proper tools. Easy, that was, except for the fact that as he’d gotten older, Daniel had also become more nosy.

Just so damn nosy.

Why? She thought to herself as he whisked eggs, sugar, and the rest of the cake mix together in her bowl. She wasn’t really sure why. Perhaps it was that despite everything he believed, all the falsehoods he took for reality, Daniel still held a spark of curiosity that, try as she might, could not be extinguished. Maybe it was all the books he’d read, or the stories she’d shared with him as a younger child. In any case, keeping him in the dark was becoming an exhausting task. Something had to be done; after all, Daniel could never be allowed to reach the surface. Such a revelation would be so shocking as to be borderline cruel. She’d thought about this for weeks, eventually buying a gun as a result. There was one answer to keeping Daniel forever in the dark, and though she often had trouble considering it, it was the only practical option. She couldn’t live forever, keeping Daniel locked away. One day he would outlast her, and on that day he’d know everything. The knowledge would probably torture him, and she couldn’t let that happen.

Setting down the cake bowl, Sheila removed the shiny, polished revolver from a nearby drawer. Easily accessible, in case she had to “intervene” in the event of a breakout. She looked at it for a moment, feeling the cold, heavy metal in her hands. It felt definite, like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. This was the only way Daniel’s story could end; one day, she knew she’d find her son on the other end, and on that day, she would have no choice but to pull the trigger.
But for now, she had a cake to bake. Sheila went back to her wisk, merging all the ingredients together in a thick, sand-colored goop. Daniel would have his cake today; and then, perhaps, he could die happy and oblivious. It was the only way.



The footsteps faded away, eventually stopping altogether, and Daniel removed his ear from the door frame. Mother was almost certainly in the kitchen now, preparing the cake. He could open the door now- this would be the perfect chance. He clenched the doorknob tightly, daring himself to twist it. A whole new world was on the other side for him to experience. Just one quick twist…
Daniel slumped down, lungs heaving in his chest. Why was he such a coward all of a sudden? Why now, when his world was just a doorknob away? Perhaps even now, it was his respect for the rules. The outside world was forbidden, after all. Part of him still felt that permission was required. Dejected, he moved back down the stairs, sitting down on the edge of his cot, head in hands.

“What do I do?” he whispered to himself, thinking. Maybe it was the security that this shelter granted him; after all, deadly things like nuclear fallout and terrifying monsters roamed the lands outside the shelter. In here, had nothing to fear. Or maybe it was simply that, like it or not, this place was his home. Departing even for a moment would feel like leaving an old friend behind. All of the things he’d come to familiarize himself with… he’d be leaving them in the dust, and now, Daniel wasn’t sure he could do it.

The fleece blanket still lay on his shoulder, and Daniel clutched it tightly against his face, breathing its warm scent in. He’d get his look at the outside world today, one way or another.

Come on, Blanket whispered, farther up the stairs.

“It’s not easy,” Daniel shot back, “I’m trying!”

I’ll guide you, just like always. Come on-get back up on those feet.

Shakily, Daniel set his feet and the cold, concrete floor and stood back up.

Good. Now grab that railing. First step.

Daniel put a foot, once again, on the stairs, clutching the railing as tightly as possible.

Next one. You’ve got time; you can do this.

The steps went by, one after the other, each one as challenging as the trials of Hercules, but it wasn’t long before he made it to the top.

Now open the door.

Daniel set his shaking hand on the doorknob, grasping it with his sweat-slicked fingers.

Turn it.

This was it- no going back. With some hesitation, Daniel’s hand- and by extension the doorknob- turned, and he cracked the door slowly open, shielding his eyes from the bright light streaming in. Slowly, quietly, he stumbled into the world outside, bracing himself for the horrors beyond his door.

But when his eyes finally came into focus, Daniel nearly recoiled at the shock of what he was seeing. In front of him was a white hallway, carpet, stairs… a window graced the wall ahead of him, through which he could see live trees, and a sky, blue and certainly without the dark clouds that Mother had always told him hung over the land. This was wrong. This place was a lie. Either he was seeing things, or-

She lied to us.

No, she couldn’t have. Blanket was wrong. What reason would Mother have to lie? Behind Daniel, the door creaked shut.

Move.

There was something different in Blanket’s tone now; something new and panicked. Heart racing, Daniel’s head whipped around as he tried to find a direction to take. If Mother discovered him up here, there was no telling how angry she’d be, and now that he knew what lay beyond his place of refuge, he wasn’t sure what to think anymore. To his left was a hallway leading to what he was almost positive was the kitchen. On his left was a staircase, and just below it…

A cupboard. Get in.

Wasting no time, Daniel yanked the door open and scooted inside, holding his breath. It wasn’t long before he heard the footsteps and fell silent.



There was no denying it; she’d heard something. Sheila’s head snapped up from her baking at the sound of the creak. It was a door, she was sure of it. Her heart skipped a beat. If he’d seen even one glimpse of the world above…

Her grip on the gun tightened and she slowly, silently made her way to the stairs.

“The experiment is over,” she whispered, “and it was going so well, too. Why, oh why? Why couldn’t you just stay still?”

As Sheila rounded the corner leading to the basement door, her eyes darted about the corridor, searching for any indication that Daniel had come up. The door… the basement door was just slightly ajar. Perhaps it wasn’t even Daniel’s doing, but one could never be too cautious.



Daniel sat frozen as his mother’s feet moved in front of the slats of the cupboard door. They were the only parts of her he could make out as he cowered in his dark hideaway. She was mere inches away. Part of him seemed to say that she was simply worried, and that just saying “here I am, Mother!” and walking out of the cupboard would be the best option.

But right now, he wasn’t so sure. And as she moved forward just a bit, he noticed something else. A gun. His mother was holding a gun. Of this, he was certain. Why? Surely she wasn’t going to use it on him.

Was she?

“Daniel?” he heard the creak of the basement door as his mother’s feet moved forward a bit. She was checking on him. Had to be.

“Daniel, your cake’s just about ready. I’ll-” the voice froze, and the feet disappeared down the stairs. Daniel could hear the thump of each foot as his mother raced down the staircase.

“No no no no no no!”

She’d discovered his absence, then. There was no going back now. Nowhere in the house was safe anymore; she’d almost certainly be searching for him. Daniel considered his options. Mother would be back upstairs any moment now; doubtless the cupboard would be the first thing she’d check, given its proximity to the door. He had to move again. Quickly he darted out of his hiding spot and shut the door, then took off around the corner, finding himself in what he recognized as a living room. Surrounded by a soft couch, a television, some reclining chairs and clean carpet, Daniel almost forgot the danger he was in, but the frantic crashing of Mother’s feet as she ran upstairs again got him moving once more.

“Daniel!” she called, “Daniel, I know you’re here!” Daniel took cover behind a couch, but the footsteps moved farther away, traveling upstairs. They were safe for the moment.

“Is that gun meant for me?” Daniel whispered to his blanket.

How should I know? We should act as if it is. Can’t be too cautious.

“As long as she’s in the house with us, we’re in danger,” Daniel added, “we need to think of something…” he racked his brain, thinking about all the stories he’d heard as a young child. Often characters in some of his old fairy tales found themselves in similar perilous situations, but inside a house they were generally safe. But Mother was inside, too.

That was it- the key. What if Mother could be lured outside? Then he could lock the doors and have time at least to think about what came next. It would be risky, but worth a shot. The front door wasn’t far away, after all.

Keeping careful tabs on Mother’s footsteps above him, Daniel inched toward the front door, making sure to create as little sound as possible. Fortunately, she wasn’t anywhere near the stairs, and when he managed to pry open the front door, her footsteps were faint and far away. He closed the door quietly and turned his attention to the surrounding trees and beautiful mountains around him.

“This isn’t The Reckoning,” he whispered, “it’s not what I imagined at all. Everything’s so… green.”

It’s beautiful, Blanket agreed.

“We could just go now,” Daniel said, “we could leave now and… and... “

You can’t leave her so easily, can you?

Daniel sat down on the front step, head in hands. “No, I can’t. She’s my mother, after all. What would you do?”

We have a plan. Let’s stick to it.

“Right,” Daniel nodded, getting to his feet, “okay. Here goes nothing.” Standing tall, he raised his hands, cupping them to his mouth, and yelled “Mother, Mother! It’s me, Daniel! I’m outside!”
Almost instantly, one of the windows upstairs rolled open. Daniel gasped at what he saw. He’d never seen Mother in a state like this before. Her hair was a mess, frazzled and unkempt, and she was twitching nonstop. Nevertheless, her eyes widened and she broke into a smile at the sight of her boy.

“Daniel!” she crooned, “son, what are you doing out here?”

“Mother, I don’t understand- where is The Reckoning? This place doesn’t look like the one you told me about!”

“It’s… it’s complicated, son. Just wait there and I’ll explain everything, okay? Mother’s coming for you.” The window slid closed and Mother’s silhouette disappeared. She was heading downstairs. Daniel dove to the left, sprinting for the corner of the house, and just made it as he heard the front door slam open. He pressed himself against the wall, chest heaving with intakes of breath, and peeked around the corner. Mother stood on the porch, wildly moving her head about as she tried to locate her son.

“Daniel!” She called out once more. This time, however, her call wasn’t so much a cry as a bellow, and the animal-like howl from her diaphragm shook Daniel to the core. Something was wrong with Mother. Something terrible was happening. Absently, she wandered out towards the treeline, turning her back on Daniel and raising her gun in the air.

“Come out, Daniel!” she screeched, firing the gun. The sound cracked through the air and Daniel almost fell to his knees in shock. He’d never heard anything that loud before.

Go, while she’s distracted.

He’d almost forgotten about Blanket. Grabbing it tight, he darted out from behind the corner, sprinting for the door as quickly as possible. As soon as his feet hit the gravel path leading to the door, the crunching sound caught the attention of Mother. She whirled around, mouth drawn back in a snarl, and leveled the gun at Daniel, firing two shots. Daniel could hear the whistle and ping as the rounds ricocheted off the house next to him, but he managed to reach the door unscathed and shut it, locking it behind him. Wasting no time, he ran right, heading for the kitchen. A warm, sweet smell filled the air; he’d almost forgotten about the cake.

No time for that now. Make sure there’s no other way in.

Outside, he could see Mother racing him, running the same way he was. There had to be another door; one she knew about that he didn’t.

As he exited the kitchen he saw it- a door leading towards a backyard patio. He slammed it shut, locking it as well, but not before the crack of the gun sounded once more, piercing the window in front of him. As he locked the door he dropped, shielding his face from the flying shards which cut into his arm. The pain was sharper than anything he’d ever felt and he bit down on his lip to stop from crying. Tears streaming from his eyes, he slumped down, back against the door. Outside he heard footsteps. She was approaching.

“Mother,” he sniffed, “Mother, what’s going on? Why are you doing this to me?”

“Why have you locked me out of my own house, son?” she replied, peering in through the hole in the glass above him, “why did you have to… to ruin everything?!” Her last words were nothing more than a screech, and Daniel heard something heavy fall to the patio, most likely kicked.

“You needed me; I needed you. Don’t you see? I had to know what would happen if I told you the things I did. That’s why you were down there. You complete me, Daniel! You help me do what I’ve always wanted. In return, I gave you something you never had before- a mother. Is that so bad? Huh? Am I really such a bad person?”

“You’re not my real mother?” Daniel whispered, shaking.

There was a soft rasp as Sheila ran her hand down the door. “No, Daniel, but I came to you when you needed me. I took you away from that foster home; made you the strong boy you are today. You love me! You need me! Just like I need you!”

“Then why are you trying to kill me?” He cried, the tears flowing freely through his fingers now.

“Because it’s over, my little sweet. You ended it when you chose to leave that basement. Down there, you could have lived the rest of your life happily. But you didn’t. You came up here ,and.. and... “ she paused for a moment, and Daniel could hear a few sobs and sniffs. But when she spoke again, her voice carried the same guttural snarl he’d heard earlier.

“You came up here and ruined the entire plan! You’re a bad boy, Daniel. A bad boy. And now?
Now you’re going to be punished. Unlock the door like the good little boy I know you are, and it will all be over soon.”

“N- no,” Daniel said, scooting away from the door, “no I won’t- I can’t believe this! This is wrong; it’s… why?”

His arm was bleeding now, but Daniel hardly cared. His eyes remained fixed on the eye of his mother, still glaring through the window.

“I already told you why, Daniel. Let me in. Let me in now, or I promise you- I will find a way in.”

Daniel retreated back into the kitchen, away from the door. How had everything gone so wrong so quickly? Again, the smell of the cake flooded his mind with sweet thoughts, running counter to the sheer panic he felt. All he wanted to do now was to curl up in a corner and cry, but unlike those times when such actions protected him as a child, curling up was hardly going to make his problems go away this time.

As he backed up, head spinning with different, impossible solutions to his problem, Daniel’s hand touched something sharp. Not expecting the sharp prick, he quickly drew his hand back. Something behind him had drawn blood; that much he could tell. He turned around.
On the counter behind him was a knife; a large, sharp cake knife. No doubt Mother had planned to use it for his birthday cake today.

It’s an option, Blanket said, voice cold.

“What are you saying?” Daniel was shaking now, staring down at the cold steel next to his fingers.

Look at it this way. We’ve trapped her outside- for now- but it’s time we faced the facts: she may never let you go. Even if we escape, who’s to say she won’t hunt us down?

Daniel grasped the knife’s handle, testing its balance and weight with a grim determination.

It’s the only way to be sure.

Something else on the counter caught Daniel’s attention- a small, red notebook with his name on the cover. He grabbed it, sliding it across the counter until it rested in front of him. He was almost afraid to look inside.

“I’m not acting on anything until I read this,” he said, “maybe now I’ll finally get the answers I need.”

Before Blanket had a chance to respond, he opened the notebook.

Start of Year One,

Daniel is mine. After all of these long years, I finally have a son. The foster home didn’t seem to mind turning him over to my care, and as he’s barely two, I don’t think he’ll have any recollections of the world he was born into. I can begin with a fresh slate. I’ve started the experiments today; he’s sleeping in the basement now. It’ll be a long process, but I have no doubt my work will yield results.


Daniel’s stomach was twisting itself into a knot now; with each word he felt sicker, yet he forced himself to press on.

Start of Year Five,

Eventful year. Daniel almost found his way upstairs, but I caught him before he could. A few close calls with social workers, but they were dealt with, thankfully without violence. Don’t need bodies on my hands to complicate things. Daniel believes everything. The conditioning is working beautifully. Looking forward to the years ahead.


It was all here- everything. The reason behind everything his mother had once told him about the world.

-conditioning still going strong-

-more reinforcement may be needed-

-don’t know how much longer-

-need an end of experiment solution-

-some kind of contingency plan-


Daniel slammed the book shut, throwing it across the counter. This- this was all he was to her. An experiment. Some kind of mouse to be studied as it ran through an unwinnable maze only to find that, at the end of its short life, all he’d lived for was a lie.

“I won’t die here,” he said, breathing shakily. “Not now. Not while I still have a life ahead of me.”

A bang shook through the house- the sound of Mother’s gun- followed by the sound of the back door swinging open. Daniel’s fingers tightened around the knife.

Time to make your choice, Daniel, Blanket said at last. Daniel nodded. Time indeed.



Sheila moved slowly, quietly through the house. No doubt Daniel had heard her coming. It was fine. She’d hear him long before he had a chance to make it to either of the exits.

“Terminate the sample,” she muttered, “subject has been compromised. Experiment… abort.”

Sheila paused, gun raised. From the kitchen, she could hear a sound: a soft, whimpering cry. She knew that cry, and padded softly towards it. Entering the kitchen she saw Daniel, huddled against the wall with his head and hands between his knees. He was curled up, rocking back and forth while sobbing, as he used to. Evidently some of his psychological traits hadn’t developed fully after all. Daniel looked up as she approached, then back down at his knees. He never budged an inch.

“Tired?” Sheila said as she drew nearer. She lowered the gun. The boy was no threat now.

“I think you see it now, Daniel,” Sheila said, “I think you understand why I did this. You’ve changed so much, shown me so many things; you’ve taught me, given me the chance to be someone I’ve always wanted to be. And now you see- now you know that I can’t let you go into this world. It’s so unlike anything you were prepared for. The subject must be contained, and if containment fails,” she drew back the hammer on the gun, “then the subject must be terminated.”

Sheila bent down, kneeling in front of her son as she slowly raised the gun to his head.

“I’m so sorry Daniel. I’ll make this quick, I promise.”



Now, Blanket said.



As she knelt closer, preparing to pull the trigger, Sheila suddenly felt a sharp prick, followed by a strange, unnatural coldness in her chest. The shock of this feeling forced her to draw back, and drop the gun in surprise. Looking down, she could see the cake knife protruding from her heart. There was surprisingly little pain, just the surprise of what had happened. She looked from the knife back to Daniel, who was now staring intensely at her through tear blurred eyes.

“I’m not your experiment anymore, Mother,” Daniel whispered, choking back tears, “it’s my life now.”

Sheila opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. Instead she gasped once, then keeled over, face-first onto the floor beside her son.

The experiment is over, she thought to herself as her vision began to gray, what was it I’d observed? A marked detachment from the concept of death? How true.

How true.



Nothing had prepared Daniel for what happened when he stabbed his mother and captor. Thinking through it had hardly been difficult, especially with Blanket’s guidance, but actually going through with it- he hadn’t expected so much blood. In the stories he’d read, they never talked about the horror, the sickening warmth as the scarlet liquid flowed over his fingers, wrapped in a death-grip around the knife’s handle. No story told of the shock in the victim’s eyes, the sudden rush of adrenaline followed by the crushing wave of regret. This woman had taken him in, experimented on him his entire life; this was justice.

But it didn’t feel like it.

He clutched his blanket tightly, then pulled it away as he realized he was staining it red with the blood on his hands. For a moment he just stared- stared at the monster he’d called Mother for so many years. Regardless of everything else, she’d been his protector, the source of direction in his life. Without her, everything suddenly felt so empty.

“Blanket… did I do the right thing?”

No answer.

“Blanket?”

Still, he heard nothing. No answer; and now he finally realized that his companion, Blanket, might have been just that all along- a scrap of cloth to cling to for comfort. From where he sat, Daniel could see the forest through the kitchen window. Mother was dead, Blanket was gone; his sense of direction was lost now. Steeling himself, eyes on the trees, Daniel grabbed his blanket and folded it over his shoulder. There was only one way to go now.

Forward.




ADFan185

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That was amazing and very well written. I really enjoyed it a lot I liked the dark tones in it a lot it made the story more awesome.


Fyn16

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Whoops, forgot to respond here.  :smile

I appreciate your kind words. The darker aspects of this piece weren't in the original. I'd initially set it in a dystopian future as a government run test, in order to downplay the human cruelty aspect of Shiela. However my teacher convinced me to drop it and write the story the way I wanted to, regardless of the gritty stuff. I'm pretty proud of it.


ADFan185

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As you should be it was wonderful to read that. And you're welcome hope to see more stories from you.


DarkWolf91

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I liked this a lot! It has a very unsettling feel, and reminds me a lot of a few horror games I've watched. I really only have two minor pieces of criticism, the first regarding the Mother's name. I kind of wish you would have left it a mystery to the reader so that we could have discovered it with Daniel, in a symbolic moment of "this woman is not who she appears." Of course, you never stated that Daniel did not know this to begin with, but I felt like the pointed use of the capitalized "Mother" sort of nodded in the direction that, to him, this was her name.
The second thing, and this is more of a technical issue to me, would be his stabbing her in the heart- while this has some potential for symbolism, it's a bit impractical, and broke the illusion for me a bit. Hearts are hard to get to; there are boobs and ribs in the way, and also the need for aim and precision. I think it would have been much harder for him to achieve a mortal wound this way, and he more likely would have failed at the first attempt, giving her deadly moments to react. I think a stab to the abdomen would have served much better, though that would have added additional problems as the death would not have been immediate, and far more traumatizing.

Anyway, just a few thoughts! I really love this, and I hope to see more short stories from you :smile



Fyn16

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Thanks for the kind words and insightful review! I hadn't actually considered the point about the heart (though admittedly I was on a bit of a time constraint), and for some reason I'd never considered that cutting open humans just might be a little different than writing about dinosaurs slicing each other up, so I'm glad you made that point!

And yes, in hindsight I agree that Mother would have been a better name for her from Daniel's perspective, again something I hadn't considered at the time. Perhaps if this hadn't taken a back burner to "Fields," I might have put a bit more effort into it, but it landed the A all the same, so I suppose it worked out.

Anyway, thanks again! I really do appreciate it when someone takes the time to tell me not just that they liked my story, but how I can improve later. I always prefer learning a little something when I'm looking back on a project.