“Jacob, listen. You need to tell me what happened.”
The boy was sitting in a corner, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He moved back and forth, to a rhythm only noticeable to him.
Richard shook his head. How were they supposed to get any information out of this kid? It wasn’t like they’d just give him some cookies and he’d spill the beans.
“Eric?” Richard pushed the button on the intercom. “Can you get us some milk and cookies please?”
All he heard in response was some static, at which the boy started to scream. Richard quickly turned off the speaker. What was going on?
“Perhaps we should try another time.”
That stupid Mrs. Fraser, the social worker. Always interfering. Stupid laws. They didn’t even trust him to be alone with the kid. Sure, it was for the protection of everyone involved. But why did they have to send 60-year old hags who thought they always knew best? Last time he checked he was the one with the badge. The fact that she looked like mother Goose, and kids felt comfortable near her wasn’t really an actual accomplishment, was it?
Not that this boy seemed impressed by her female side. He had not even looked at her once. In fact, he had not responded to anything. Except to that static noise.
“Let’s get some cookies first. We can all have a cookie, don’t you think? No harm in that. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do. If you want, we can talk another time. I would just like to ask you a few questions about what happened. When you’re ready.”
Actually, just one question. Where the fuck did the crew go? But Richard didn’t say that. He wasn’t about to scare the boy. He hadn’t even built up any rapport yet, even after spending hours in this special kids’ room. Building trust, his supervisor had told him. Right. But what was he supposed to do?
The door opened and Eric walked in, holding a tray with glasses, a jug of milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. If this didn’t work, he’d quit. He poured the boy and himself some milk. The Fraser woman would be able to fetch for herself, right?
He handed the boy a cookie. The boy looked from the cookie to him. If only he would start talking.
“It’s for you.”
The boy reached out his hand from under the blanket to take the cookie, mumbling a soft ‘thank you’.
Richard walked back to his chair. This was a breakthrough. He checked his phone. Four hours and thirty-nine minutes. Only a few words. But at least it was something. He wouldn’t quit just yet.
Eric walked over to him. “The psychologist is here. Jenny. Shall I send her in?”
Richard looked at the boy, who was carefully nibbling the cookie, never taking his eyes off him.
“Yeah. Any news on the others? Are they still unconscious?”
Eric started whispering. “No change whatsoever. They are not sure any of them will make it.”
Richard shook his head. “And no sign of the crew yet?”
“Nope. It’s still a mystery. Nobody gets how the plane could have even withstood the impact of that crash, how it could have even landed without any pilots. Anyway, I’ll send her in then.” Eric walked away, leaving the tray on the table.
Richard moved his chair closer to the boy, making sure to keep his distance. No need to scare him. But claiming the new level of trust was supposed to be a good thing. “Another lady will come soon, to talk to you. I’ll stay here all the time, and when you don’t feel right, you just let me or Mrs. Fraser know, okay?”
The boy nodded his head as he picked up the few crumbs that had fallen on his shirt and put them in his mouth.
The door opened again, and a young woman entered. She couldn’t be any older than thirty. Modestly dressed, nothing special. She carried a big box full of paper and colourful things. Her eyes sparkled and Richard felt at ease immediately. She looked real, not one of those hippies that thought everything could be talked away.
The psychologist shortly nodded at him, acknowledging his presence, and put the box on the table. Then she turned towards the boy and sat down close to him. “Hi Jacob. My name is Jenny.”
She started taking things out of the box, putting them on the table. Large pieces of paper. Pencils, markers. Even some finger paint.
“Jacob, would you mind playing a game with me? I was wondering if you’d like to come sit at the table and make a drawing with me.”
The boy hesitated. Jenny started moving around things at the table. He slowly got up and walked over to the table, looking at the things Jenny had put out.
Richard wondered if children were really all so gullible. Give them some crayons and they’d be willing to do whatever you asked them.
Jacob sat down at the table, and Jenny gave him some paper.
“Just draw whatever you’d like, Jacob.”
The boy didn’t need much persuasion. He looked through all the available materials and made a careful selection. Black. Grey. White. Brown. When he was satisfied, he sat down and started drawing. Slowly at first, using a white crayon to draw something in the middle of the page. Focussing on every detail. But as time passed he seemed to become more restless, almost as if he was angry at the paper. After a while he calmed down again, and took a black crayon, filling the paper around the white thing with blackness. He started crying, silently. But he didn’t stop colouring. After he while he stopped and sat back in the chair.
“Finished?” Jenny sounded as if nothing happened, as if this was just a regular seven-year-old.
“What did you draw?”
What kind of question was that? Couldn’t she see what it was? A lot of blackness, no wonder the boy was so quiet. He was terrified. But of what?
“It’s them.” He pointed at the white box with two legs in the middle of the page.
“Who is them?”
The boy raised his shoulders. “I don’t know. They took them away.”
“And what is this?” Jenny pointed at a part of the black area in the middle. Why didn’t she ask more about that white thing? It had sounded like the kind of information they were looking for.
“It’s the pier. Where we landed the first time, before everybody went to sleep.”
“And they were there?” Jenny pointed at the white box thing.
“No. I don’t remember. They made us go down. And then the lady with the drinks had to get out because they didn’t like her.”
“I see. It is pretty dark in your drawing. Do you remember seeing anything else?”
Jacob thought about that for a while before he took some pencils and added some shapes in a light colour. “There were these funny looking lamps. But they weren’t working. Nothing works around them.”
Richard stood up and walked over to have a better view. “Can I see what you made, Jacob?”
Jacob turned the page for Richard to see.
“Can I go now?” Jacob looked at Richard.
“Yes, Jacob. You were very helpful, thank you. I recognise these lights. It’s an abandoned pier south of Big Sur. I grew up around there. And it would fit the route of the plane. It’s not too far from San Francisco.”
Mrs. Fraser walked up to Jacob and took his hand. “Don’t worry about them. We will let them talk about all that stuff and find you a nice place to stay tonight. I’m sure you must be very tired, Jacob.”
Jacob reluctantly got up from his seat. “I was not supposed to tell you about them. They don’t want you to know. Just watch out for the dogs.”
Richard looked at the boy. “What?”
And then the lights started flickering.
Jacob instantly knew it was all over. He screamed. Loud, with long high pitches. He put his hands over his ears and shrunk back into the corner of the room, covering himself in the blanket.
When the lights stopped flickering, Mrs. Fraser walked over to Jacob and pulled him up. “We told you not to say anything.” She pointed at the bodies laying on the floor. “Look at what you made us do.”
Jacob tried not to look at Richards body. The police man had been nice to him. As he looked up to Mrs. Fraser he saw the dark purple eyes urging him to start walking. He walked around the table, careful not to step in the blood that had rushed out of Jenny’s head.
They were dead. It had all been for nothing. But someone would find them. And at least they’d have the drawing. One day they would figure it out.
This short story was written by @nobyeni for the #twentyfourhourshortstory contest organised by @mctiller (read about it here) and for the TWB Art Prompt Writing Contest #12 organised by @thewritersblock. I had originally written another story for the Art Prompt Contest, but want to work on that one more and see if i can publish it in some mainstream journal later. So perhaps walking around with the image by @vaughndemont for two weeks made me use it for the contest of @mctiller as well. Thank you for all the nice inspiration through the two prompts, which happened to all of a sudden snap together in my mind.
Here an overview of more fiction/short stories by @nobyeni.