Fear, focus, and the future. Here, C.M. Humphries writes about whatever.
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"All Things Beautiful" is one of my personal favorites from my short story collection No-Injury Policy. It's a tale about a young boy who is locked in his bedroom while his family disappears. Keep reading below for an excerpt of the the story, or read the original here.
"All Things Beautiful"
excerpt from No-Injury Policy (2012, Chase County Publishing)
© 2011 - 2018 C.M. Humphries, All Rights Reserved.
They shoved the boy in his bedroom and locked the door.
At eleven years old, the boy was still skittish when it came to being alone, and even more timid when it came to dealing with other people. Outside of the room, he’d play with his sister Joan in the vast hallways, ones so eloquently decorated they might’ve belonged to an art museum.
In fact, the entire house might’ve contained more paintings than any art galleria in Chase County, but the boy had only been to one, when he was nine. Like most activities in his life, the visits to museums, amusement parks, and zoos only occurred once or twice. Even his family trips to the library were short-lived, although the boy learned to read at an accelerated rate according to the librarians.
His parents, though possessing the accumulative self-depth of a ghost at times, used to be so proud of him – their little Devon. Soon, they stopped spending time with him and stopped addressing him by anything other than, “Damn it, boy!”
Only one person still spent time with him: His sister Joan. So when his parents were away or at work, and when the butler was preoccupied, Devon played with his sister in the upstairs hallways.
The game started off as hide n’ seek and ended in a chase. “I found you,” Joan would say. “You’re so ugly I could spot you in a swamp!”
It was inevitable that their heavy steps would call the attention of their parents or the butler. That’s when their playtime ended.
On the last day Devon and Joan played, they swore not to chase and to be quiet. A brittle silence raised the hairs on Devon’s arms when he noticed his sister was already hushed. Almost against herself, she said, “All right. I’ll count and you go hide first.”
Devon, having hidden in every other room on the third floor, decided to try something new. He cracked open his bedroom door only enough to slide in and thumb it shut.
Devon felt safe in the company of silence. He glanced around at his room.
One corner of the wall was laced with a small library, since his parents now prohibited further library visits. Another wall shared space with a small closet, which held very few articles of clothing on the hangers. The wall across from the closet was home to an antiquated armoire lined with a snowdrift of dust that served as a wintry domicile for random stationary.
Devon stared at his twin bed next. It was nothing more than a car-shaped frame with a broken backboard, but he never found anything except comfort from it. He slid underneath the bed, where dust bunnies cluttered in fear, and he waited to be found.
Although being a good hider was an award of the game, being found was fulfilling. It meant someone searched for you. It meant you were wanted.
He waited for such satisfaction. No footsteps echoed across the hallways. No small shadows slipped under the door. He’d won.
After what felt like an eternity of waiting, Devon scooted out from underneath the bed and tiptoed for the door. He contemplated turning the handle, when suddenly, he heard footsteps outside. He crouched down and fought a snicker as he listened. A shadow swayed in the light seeping through the cracks of the door. Before long, there were multiple shapes. His parents were searching for him too! Then, he had the perfect idea: He would pop out of the room and scare them.
Devon rushed to his feet and reached for the handle, but before he could perform his little scare, it turned on its own and clicked. One look at the doorknob and Devon knew something was wrong. Someone had faced the lock towards the hallway so it couldn’t be unlocked from the inside. He fidgeted with the door and screamed out, “Hey, I’m locked in! This isn’t funny, Joanie. Let me out!”
A few minutes passed and Devon knew he was stuck. “Mom? Dad?” he tried to yell, but his voice was too hoarse.
The boy flopped to the ground and placed his head between his knees. He wished he could’ve cried, but his parents prohibited such behavior.
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The Elementals by Michael McDowell
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