Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This week I’m posting a story I started as an assignment for my MA in Writing. The task was to write freely for ten minutes without editing. This is tidied up a lot compared to the original, which switched POV a billion times and was full of inconsistencies, and the draft after that was helped along by the workshop group, where I discovered I tend to repeat myself!
Brothers through Fire:
‘Hey, Seth, wait up!’
I pushed my legs as fast as they could go, speeding full pelt down the hill towards the lake where my brother had already dived in a graceful arc. I grinned as his feet disappeared into the water, only noticing the tree root when it caught around my foot.
‘Woah!’ I lost my footing, tumbled head over heels, and before I knew it I lay sprawled at the edge of the lake. ‘Oww…’
I looked up and saw a twinkle in Seth’s eye, before a cascade of water drenched me from head to toe. He climbed out of the lake with a grin, but he frowned as the sun went in and I began to shiver. Flames lit his palm and warmed my skin. I smiled, but our mother screamed. Things were never the same after that.
They shoved my brother into the shed at the bottom of the garden, and through my tears I heard them hatch a plan: Keep him hidden, contained, until they could fix him. They called him a monster. I squeezed my eyes shut and stuck my hands over my ears as I buried my head under the covers. He wasn’t a monster, he didn’t need fixing, he was my brother.
I’d been sneaking food off the table since I was old enough to hate peas, so sneaking half of my dinner to the shed was easy. Seth frowned, but he let me in and we played with his fiery power until thunder rumbled and the skies split open.
I flinched as lightning flashed. ‘Will you be okay out here?’
He smiled. ‘I have my fire, and it’s not scared of water. See?’
He held his hand out into the rain, but although the flame on his palm flickered when droplets of water hit it, it didn’t go out. I nodded and ran towards the door, but froze before my mother’s shadow in the doorway.
‘You will not visit him again,’ she said, and she dragged me inside to bed.
I awoke to the flickering of flames and Seth’s thin arms around me. He scooped me up, and I buried a whimper in his loose jumper as he carried me through hallways clouded with thick smoke. Sirens wailed and blankets covered us as we stood before our house, but despite the heavy rain and strong hoses, the fire would not be stopped.
‘Mum! Dad!’ I struggled against Seth and broke free to run towards the house. My feet caught a rough stone, and I yelped as my knees skimmed the concrete. Knelt in the dirty ashes, with bloody knees, I wept.
Footsteps clattered towards me. I felt Seth’s hand on my shoulder and looked up as two bodies were hauled from the wreckage. I gasped and struggled to my feet, but he held me back and turned us away, eyes downcast. I turned my blurry eyes to the fire-fighters instead.
‘Why couldn’t you stop the fire? Why couldn’t you save them?’
Seth shuddered and clenched his hand by his side as his glassy eyes stared at our wrecked home. ‘It was too big, it got out of control too fast, right?’
They nodded hesitantly. ‘Yeah, never seen a fire like it.’
I dropped my head to cover my sniffles, and my fringe fell in front of my eyes. ‘What’re we gonna do Seth?’
He knelt beside me and slipped an arm around me, lip clenched between his teeth. ‘It’s just us now,’ he said after a long pause. ‘But don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.’
The orphanage was much bigger than our old home, and there were lots of other kids like us, but I hated it. They pulled my hair and made fun of my borrowed clothes, and I only felt safe when Seth was around to scare them off. We weren’t happy, but we were alive.
Our lives changed again the day the fire went out. Huddled together in the dark in the main play room, the other frightened orphans huffed out cold breaths as lightning split the skies. Our guardian tried with shaking fingers to light the fire, but the burnt out logs wouldn’t catch.
Seth crept forward, and I couldn’t stop him even with pleading eyes. ‘We’ll freeze if I don’t.’
Flames danced in his palm. He directed them towards the fireplace with a gleeful grin and a spark in his eyes. Both faded when he turned to face stunned, terrified, faces.
‘What was that?’ our guardian roared, as the fire roared to life beside her.
Seth held up his hands. ‘I was just trying to help…’
She gestured to the wide eyed orphans cowering behind her. ‘I will not have you endanger the others with your magic. Out.’
I clung to Seth as he backed away towards the door.
Our guardian shook her head, and her fiery gaze softened when she looked at me. ‘You can stay here, little one. You’re no monster.’
Seth looked at the rain splattering the window and knelt in front of me. I blinked as his hands rested on my shoulders. ‘You should stay. You’ll have a chance at a new family.’
I shook my head as hot tears, warmed by the still blazing fire, tickled my cheeks. ‘You’re my family. I’m not letting you go by yourself.’
With a sigh, our guardian gestured to the door. Seth’s fists clenched, and when I reached for his hand it was hot. He blinked and sucked in a breath as I recoiled, but his hand cooled. He led me to the exit without so much as a glance back.
Out in the street droplets of water danced off puddles, and I huddled close to Seth’s side. Always warm. I sniffled, and he raised his arm so I could tuck myself under his coat. We passed tall houses, where inside happy families laughed soundlessly and ate. I pouted. Why couldn’t that be us?
I shuffled my feet and gripped his hand tighter as a gaggle of smiling teens ran past us. Would we ever have a life like theirs? Normal? Would the lady at the orphanage keep his secret, or would we live in fear because of who he was? Would he always be alone?
‘S’not fair,’ I said around a whimper. ‘You can’t help it.’
His eyes were wide when he turned to me, but after a moment he smiled a sad smile. ‘I know, but as long as I’ve got you I don’t care.’ He glanced at the group across the street and tugged me away. ‘Come on, let’s get out of the rain.’
‘Okay.’ He made everything so simple. He’d never be alone, because I’d never leave him.
As we passed a snack stall, crowded with people huddling under its small awning, my stomach rumbled. Seth sucked in a deep breath and reached out to snatch a couple of hot sausage rolls. Head down, he dragged me away from the stall even as I stared behind us. ‘Brother…’
‘We have no choice if we want to survive. I’m sorry.’
He picked up the pace and veered left into an alleyway as a shout followed us. Left, right, left, we ran, until we emerged into a large side street. There, in the doorway of a large building, we found solace from the storm.
He lowered himself to the ground, and I scurried closer to sit beside him as he shared out our stolen pastries, still warm from his powerful hands. It was nothing compared to the meals we’d shared at home, and it wasn’t as big as the bowls of sloppy stew they served at the orphanage, but my stomach rumbled and I tore into it.
Seth laughed as, in the blink of an eye, my pastry vanished. He tore his own in half. ‘Here.’
I hesitated, but he nodded and so I accepted, eating slower this time. My eyes drifted to him. How could he be a monster? My brother, who always put me first and tucked me in when our parents were busy. They hated him, but I still missed them. I shivered as I polished off the pastry, and tears trickled down my cheeks as thunder crashed overhead.
He tugged me closer. ‘It’ll be okay, I promise.’ He hesitantly raised his hand.
My eyes widened, and I nodded. ‘Please. I’m not afraid.’
Flames danced to life on his palm. Huddled under the doorway they continued to flicker, even when the downpour turned torrential. Together, we’d be okay.
Thanks for reading!
In my mind the brothers continue their adventures and find somewhere they belong. Don’t worry, even though they’re sitting in the cold this isn’t like The Little Match Girl!
Share lines with #sunscribbles every week on Twitter, or write a short story based around one of the prompts. The prompts for October are:
*changed from Wild, because I realised I used that in July!
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts on Pinterest:
Fire rains down from the sky, destroying buildings, homes, lives. I did this, but I don’t regret it. The reward is worth the cost.
If you use one of the prompts feel free to share your story links in the comments.
See you next week, for an Author Toolbox post on fun writing exercises 🙂