A ten-year-old shouldn't have to make a decision like this one. Fran had to do it, though.
Prompt for August 2018:
Characters sometimes have to make hard choices. Write a short story in which your protagonist
must to do something he or she truly detests or fears for the benefit of the greater good.
A pacifist who must resort to violence
A world leader who has to abdicate power to save his people
Someone who never wanted to be a parent inheriting responsibility for a child
Someone afraid of fire rescuing people from a burning building
Fran sat up in her bed screaming. A few seconds later her father, Kyle, came running into her bedroom. “What’s wrong? Did you have another bad dream?”
For several minutes, Fran just stared ahead of her. Fran didn’t even make eye contact with her father when she did finally speak. Her voice sounded shaky. “They aren’t bad dreams. I had another nightmare.”
Kyle got on the bed and scooted her over a little to sit beside her. He put his arms around her. “I’m sorry. I know you consider them nightmares. What was this one about?”
Fran looked up at her father with a scared worried look on her face. “It was like all the others. I was in a house that I have never been in before.”
“I saw the burnt man again,” Fran continued. “He was in the basement this time.”
“Everything is going to be okay.” Kyle held her tighter. “I will check into it. If he is there I will take care of it.”
Kyle looked at Fran. She still appeared scared. He sighed. “I need to talk to you about something.”
Fran slowly looked at her father. “I wanted to tell you this when you were a lot older if ever, but because of your nightmares I think I need to tell you about it now.”
“I still don’t understand why you are having all these nightmares, but I do know the burnt man in those nightmares. I’m the reason why the burnt man got burnt so badly.”
Sixteen-year-old Kyle stood in the back of a school science lab with five other students joking and kidding. Thomas Harr slammed his hands down on the table in front of them. “Did you hear what I just told you.”
All six jumped a little before they stopped talking and faced Thomas, but it’s Kyle who spoke first. “Of course, we heard you.”
“Then why aren’t you doing your experiment. Everyone else in the class is doing theirs.”
Thomas walked away as Kyle and his friends started to work on their experiment. They picked up the chemicals in front of them and stared at them. Then they looked at each other and shrugged. Kyle and his friends began looking at the other students and started copying them.
Kyle started the experiment by mixing two chemicals together. A few seconds later foam began coming out the top and it started bubbling. Thomas ran back there shouting, “I told you not to mix those two together.”
“Everyone, protect yourself,” said Thomas as he grabbed the experiment and ran away from his students as they flipped their table on their sides and got behind them. A few seconds later an explosion destroyed that lab.
“Is that why you tell me never to mess around at school?” Fran asked.
“That’s one of the reasons,” answered Kyle. “The main reason why is that I am your father, though.”
Fran looked out through their living room window. “Thought I could see the Harr house from here, but I can’t. Has he been living there ever since that explosion happened?”
“Don’t think he has.” Kyle got up and stood next to the now standing Fran. “I do think Thomas has been here for about fifteen years, though. A lot of strange things have been happening since then. Things like houses getting broken into, but the only things taken is some food or drinks.”
Kyle looked down at Fran. “Promise me something. Please promise me that you will never go to that house no matter what happens.”
“Don’t worry, I’m never going to that house or one like it ever. I still remember when happened to me when I was four.”
Four-year-old Fran gripped her father’s hand tighter as they walked toward a scary looking house. “You want us to move here?”
“I’m thinking about it. What do you think?”
“I hate it. It looks like it’s about to fall down.”
Kyle giggled. “It’s not that bad. Besides, that’s one of the reasons I’m thinking about getting it. I want to fix it up and resale it.”
“Why do you want to do that? You’re a writer, not a fixer.”
“We need a new house after our last one burned down. I haven’t been able to write since then. I’m not sure if I am ever going to write again. That’s why I might be getting this place. I need to try something new. Maybe this is it.”
Kyle looked down at his trembling daughter. “I know you are scared about this place, but please just look at it. If you still don’t like it, I won’t get it.”
Fran continued walking up to that house with her father. After they enter that house, she suddenly stopped. “I don’t like it. Let’s go.”
"This place doesn’t look too bad so far,” Kyle said as he continued. Suddenly, the house started falling.
Kyle looked at Fran. Only she wasn’t there. “Where are you?” Kyle shouted.
“I’m upstairs. I wanted to look at where my bedroom might be.”
“You need to get out of there before it’s too late. This house is falling apart.”
Fran sounded scared. “I know what is happening to this house. That’s why I can’t leave right now.” Fran looked at her surroundings. “I can move a little, but I am trapped.”
Suddenly, another piece of that house fell. Creating a large hole next to her. She scooted over and peeked through it. Kyle could see her now. “I can see you, but I can’t get to you. The stairs have partially fallen too.”
“That hole looks big enough for you got to come through. That’s what you must do. You need to go through it. I will catch you.”
“I can’t do that. There has to be another way for me to get out of here."
Kyle held out his hands. “I know that you’re scared, but that’s what you must do.”
Shaking her head vigorously Fran woke up. Fran looked around that half dark room. “Where am I? How did I get here?”
“I have been wondering about that too,” the voice of Kyle said from behind Fran. “The last thing I remember is going to bed. I’m just not sure how long ago that was.”
Suddenly, the lights came on to reveal them being in a school science lab. The burnt male stepped into that lighted room. “I’m the one who brought you here.”
Fran didn’t look scared or shocked. She looked angry. “Why did you do that?”
Thomas smiled evilly. “You’re here because your father is the one who made me like this. Didn’t he ever tell you what he did to me.”
“Yes, he did. He also told me it was an accident. He didn’t mean to do it.”
“Mine was an accident too. I didn’t mean to kill your mother. Just wanted to make her look like me. It’s different from the fire in your house six years ago. I wanted to kill your father.”
Kyle looked shocked. “You killed my wife and tried to kill me? What else have you done because of me?”
“I used to be a scientist working with mind control and mind manipulation. When the government shut me down because they thought it was too dangerous I had no choice but to become a teacher. Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m the one who has been causing your nightmares.”
Fran was shocked. “You did what? Why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted you to come to my house. So that I could use you to get to your father. Only you never came. I had no choice but to bring you here myself.”
“That might explain the nightmares,” said Fran. “It doesn’t about why I’m here.”
Thomas smiled evilly. “You are here because of your father. I’m going to blow this place up just like he did twenty-five years ago.”
Now Kyle looked angry. “You are crazy. I can understand why you want to kill me, but why do you want to kill my daughter too?”
“You daughter has seen me. She can identify me. I have no choice but to kill her too.”
Kyle continued trying to untie himself from his chair. When Fran couldn’t do it either she slammed them down on the arms of her chair. She hid her pain on her face. Thomas didn’t see it. He had already started re-creating his experiment. Fran slammed her arms three more times, slightly harder each time until she broke the arms.
True, Fran was still tied to those arms, but her hands were now free to grab hold of the table and flip it onto its side. Sending the re-creation to the floor. Fran fell behind the table as the explosion destroyed that science lab too.
Fran looked behind her. She couldn’t see her father. “Where are you, father?”
“I’m still here. Only now I’m pinned under this table. I can’t move. Can you?”
After Fran finished untying her legs she slowly got up. “I can walk. I’ll be there in a few seconds to help you.
Kyle started shouting. “No, don’t do that. You have to get out of here while you can.”
“I know you don’t want to do it, but you must get out of here before the rest of this house fall on top of us. I can’t move, but you can.”
“You’re right. I don’t want to stay, but I must. You saved me six years ago. Now it’s my turn.”
Fran walked over to her father. She looked down at him. All she saw was his heads and just below his shoulders. Fran got on her hands and knees and looked under that table. She saw the legs of the table kept it from crushing Kyle.
Kyle looked at the opened door. “Stop trying to save me. You must get out of here.”
“You can’t help me. Besides, the table is too heavy for you to pick up.”
Fran tried to pick up the table. “Haven’t you ever heard of a mother who picked up a car to save her child.”
“You’re not a mother and this table isn’t a car. Leave me and get out of here.”
Bending down Fran grabbed the table and tried to pick it up again. She couldn’t do it. Her face showed the stress as she continued trying to lift it. It took several attempts and a few minutes to do it, but she finally did it. Another few minutes of stressing and moaning before she got it high enough to flip it away from her father.
“So, you managed to get the table off me. Now, what are you going to do? I’m a lot heavier than that table is.”
“I don’t need to lift you.” Fran bends down and grabbed her father by the collar. She started pulling him.
Kyle helped her as best that he could. His legs couldn’t move, but his arms could. He used them to scoot across the floor. “What are you going to do if you do get me out of here. You can’t drag me up the steps.”
Fran didn’t stop her dragging. “I don’t need to do that. I saw a bomb shelter down here in my nightmares. If it is here all I need to do is get you there. Then I can go and get some help once I’m sure it’s safe to do it.”
It took them almost an hour to get to the bomb shelter. They stayed in it for about an hour before Fran thought it was safe to go get some help. Getting up the basement steps was tricky because part of it fell too, but it was still partially there. Once she got upstairs, it got a lot better. It was still very messy, but she got out of there in only a few minutes.