Wednesday Write-In #42

This week’s words, via CAKE.shortandsweet, were:

scrape  ::  cuddly  ::  reduction  ::  octopus  ::  plain

‘He wasn’t as cuddly with me as normal, do you know what I mean? He was sort of… fractious? Moody, nearly? That wouldn’t be like him.’

‘That’s fine. Can you take us back a little, though? To the onset of symptoms? Take your time.’

‘Sure. Yes. Well, it all started to happen when he came home, that first day. He’d been out with his friend Neil, and when I saw him that evening he had a scrape across his knee. I didn’t know what had caused it or how he’d hurt himself, but…’

‘Which friend, for the record?’

‘Neil (surname redacted).’

‘Where does Neil live?’

‘His parents have a farm about two miles up the road. Greg would often walk there and back – it’s a quiet stretch. We thought…’

‘That’s fine. So, he came home with a leg injury, and then what?’

‘A leg injury? Look, he’s eight! Scraped knees are part and parcel…’

‘Mrs. Barker? Answer the question, please.’


‘Mrs. Barker? Do you need a recess?’

‘No, no, I’m… let’s just get this done.’

‘Fine. In your own time.’

‘Right. So, Greg came home. He was limping a bit, so I brought him in and washed the knee. It looked like a scrape, that’s all. Just a tiny scrape. It was red and inflamed, but the wound looked clean and so I thought it’d be fine. Like I said, he was a bit out of sorts, but I thought he was just sore and upset, you know, from his injury. Anyway, I bandaged it up and made him eat a plain supper, just toast or something. I don’t remember.’

‘Fine. Did you have any cause for concern at all at that point?’

‘No. None. Well… He took his toy octopus with him to bed, which was a bit strange, now that I think back over it. He hadn’t been too interested in that thing for a year or so before… before…’

‘Yes, thank you, Mrs. Barker. Now, if you can, take us through what happened the next day.’

‘I… God. I woke early and went to check on Greg. There’d been a reduction in the redness around his knee, and I remember… I remember how pleased I was by that, like it was a sign he was getting better… If I’d known then what it actually meant…’

(sounds of weeping)

‘Mrs. Barker, if you need a recess, just…’

Jesus! I just want this over with! Can you stop asking me if I need a break!’

‘Mrs. Barker. Please, remain calm.’

‘Calm? Sir, if you’d seen what I have, calm would be the last thing…’

‘Mrs. Barker, I have to ask you to refrain from shouting.’


‘I’m sorry. I forget, sometimes, that it’s been tough on us all.’

‘Yes. Yes, it has. Now. We were at Day 2?’

‘Day 2. Sure. Well, Greg woke up fine, and his knee looked better. He had most of his movement back, and little pain, and he seemed… he seemed happy. Himself.’

‘When did that change?’

‘At around lunchtime. I know, because…’

‘Mrs. Barker?’

‘My…  my husband had just sat down to his meal when we heard the explosion. The first one. And so he was there… he was with me when we ran outside to check if the children were all right…’


‘Mrs. Barker, if you’re having difficulty…’

‘…but the children were gone. There was just Greg, and he was… he wasn’t my son, not any more, not then. Now, I know it had already taken him over. But all I saw then was my baby, in the centre of a ball of fire, fire that was bright and red and taller than the house. I could see his little legs and arms, and the back of his head, but there was a flame, all around him. I could feel the heat of it on my skin. I was just about to run to him when he turned, and he looked at his dad and me, and he smiled. He smiled through the fire. And then he…’

‘Mrs. Barker, could you speak up, please? For the microphone?’

‘He threw a ball of flame at his father, and I heard my husband scream in agony. And, God forgive me, I ran. I ran and left him there. I ran…’

(sounds of weeping)

‘Okay. Let’s leave it at that for today, Mrs. Barker. Thank you for your help. Let the record show that interviewing on Day One of the Invasion Inquiry concluded at 7.37pm; we’ll pick this up in the morning.’

(Recording Ends)

10 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-In #42

  1. Elaine Peters

    Great piece. What an amazing imagination you have! This interview format makes it even more chilling. My only tiny quibble is the sudden mention of checking on the children without saying Greg had gone out to play.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author


      Whoops! Sorry about that oversight. It’s funny how you can write something, and then read and read and *read* it over and over, and not pick up on a glaring omission like that. 😀

      Thank you for reading, but particularly for commenting. 🙂

  2. Tessa Sheppard

    I was captivated from the beginning. The format really raced the action along, giving the story a more intense emotional punch. Well done!

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks a lot! I’m glad you liked it. I really wasn’t sure about this piece myself – it took a lot of struggle to write! Thank you for reading, and for your kind comment. 🙂

  3. Elaine McKay

    This is all very intriguing. I did not expect it to go in the direction it did, and I really loved it for that. I like when the mother talks about the effect it has had on everyone, from that point I knew we were dealing with something extraordinary. And the fact that she runs is actually realistic but somehow shocking. She sounds riddled with guilt and pain- good characterisation. Loved it.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Ta! It’s not a perfect piece, by any means, and not one of my own favourites, but it’s great to get others’ feedback on it. It makes me appreciate it a bit more! I’m glad you liked the mother’s characterisation, and that the direction it went in took you by surprise. That’s my job done. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, and your comment.

  4. patrickprinsloo

    Highly readable piece. At first I thought it was about suspected child abuse and the related Inquisition. The invasion explains the aggressive questioning employed.

  5. Emmaleene Leahy

    Love the formatting and the use of suspence, it really keeps the pace going. Very well written as usual, well done. Really enjoyed it.


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