The Silence Curse – Short Story Pt 1

Bullets fly everywhere, a swarm of deadly mosquitoes. The shrieks and sobs add to the music of the flesh-tearing lead balls. Amidst the chaos, a young toddler crouches. Her yellow, spring dress is soiled. The soot on her face lends her a deathlike pallor. Adults jump over and run around her, as if the girl were a rock in the road.

“Tabitha! Tabitha!”

The girl’s head snaps from side to side, searching, but all she sees are running legs. “Mama!” The girl staggers to her feet. She takes a gulp of air, but only inhales smoke. Coughing, she squints, searching for the arms that mean safety. “Mama!”

There! The bottom of a silk dress. The gems have fallen off and no one would suspect it had once been white, but the girl knows that dress. She struggles through the sea of legs.

“No, Tabitha!” The woman’s shrill voice matches the pitch of the whining bullets. “Tabitha, run!”

The girl pays no heed. Suddenly the legs clear and the girl stops to stare. Her mother’s hair, usually done up in a regal way atop her head, has come undone. She is missing one of her cream-white elbow-length gloves. Blood trickles from her mouth. Two men wearing masks, hold her by the elbows, dragging her back. She hangs limply in their arms, devoid of hope, staring with tear-filled eyes at the little girl in the yellow dress.

 One of the masked men walks up to the girl, crouching to look her in the eye. “What’s your name, little girl?”

His eyes are black—dark and deep like obsidian.

“Don’t say anything!” the woman yells, suddenly jumping to life and trying to run forward. “Never say anything to anyone!” More masked man lunge upon her and she is taken away.

“What’s your name?” the man insists.

The girl looks up at the man. Her mouth opens, then snaps shut, almost against her will. She opens it again. It closes once more. Her mother’s words reverberate painfully in her head. Don’t say anything. Never say anything to anyone.

The man growls underneath his mask. He strikes the girl across the face. The girl goes flying back, crashing into the ground. The sky is red. A man runs toward them. The masked man curses. He takes his gun and points at the girl.

The sound of the shot is deafening.


I bolted upright.

“Only a dream,” I breathed to myself in relief. Still, my hands shook as if I were that poor Tabitha. I could taste the smoke in the back of my mouth. Shakily, I stood from my bed to fetch a glass of water. As I drank, my nerves stilled, but the memory of the nightmare grew even more vivid. It had been in another language, but I had understood it as if I had been speaking it my whole life. I took another sip of water. Had I watched a WWII documentary recently?

I glanced at the time: 5AM. My mouth went dry. It was my first day of school…ever. Mom didn’t have time to homeschool me anymore, since she’d gotten her dream job as a costume designer. But I think that was just her excuse to get me to hang out with other kids my age. She always said I was too lonely for a child.  

Too nervous to go back to sleep, I began getting ready. I must have tried on every single outfit in my closet, but finally I grabbed my backpack (after triple checking that I had everything) and raced down to the kitchen.

Mom was just coming out of her room. She was dressed in exercise clothes, her black hair barely tamed by a headband. For a moment, she looked just like the woman from my dream, Tabitha’s mother. If not for her black hair, they might have been twins. I frowned at the pounding of my heart. It had been a dream, of course I would project my mother into it.

“Ready for school, flower?” Mom asked, as she began preparing my lunch. I nodded, bouncing on my toes impatiently—we were going to be late! “You’ll be fine,” Mom assured me. “I’ll be right there with you.”

Horrifying visions of Mom walking into the school and introducing herself to each and every one of my classmates filled my mind.

“Don’t worry, I won’t even get out of the car,” Mom, making full use of her ability to read my mind, said with a chuckle.

I managed a weak giggle, but it was hard to laugh when a horde of butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach.

In the car, I couldn’t keep still. My fingers drummed against my bouncing leg. My breathing and heartrate were competing to see who could be the fastest.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked, taking her eyes off the road to glance at me.

“I just don’t understand why I’m so scared,” I said. There was silence as Mom waited for me to elaborate. My thoughts flitted back to my nightmare. “I dreamed that I was this kid named Tabitha. Ninjas kidnapped my mother.”

The car jerked out of the road. Shakily, Mom righted the wheel. “Sorry…I saw a…turtle.”

It was a bad pretext, even for her. I raised my eyebrows. “There’s no turtle.”

Mom cleared her throat. “You must have missed it.”

“I don’t think so…”

“Oh, look! Your new school,” Mom exclaimed with obvious relief.

The butterflies, which had settled down, stirred into a frenzy. They must have invited scorpions and eels to the party, because my stomach did not feel good. I squeezed my eyes shut. I was going to school, not the Supreme Court.

“Hey, you’ll be fine.” Mom patted my hand.

“Thanks.” My voice was a squeak.

It was impossible to put it off. Grabbing my backpack, I headed into the building, trying to look like a superstar strolling into her mansion—long strides, lifted chin—rather than a delinquent skulking into his hideout

The hallways were packed. Middle scholars, yelling to be heard, elbowed their way through the crowd. The traffic jam wasn’t helped by those groups who had decided to stop in the middle of the hallway to hold their conversations. The shrill voices reminded me of the panicked yells from my dream, sending an utterly unreasonable shiver of fear up my spine. But…it had just been so real.

Somehow, I managed to wade through the sea of bodies and into the classroom without being crushed. The room was empty, save for a girl texting in the back. I chose a seat more towards the middle, wondering if I should attempt to start a conversation. My classmates began to file in. They stood around the desks in groups of two or three and the occasional seven. Some sent me friendly smiles, but none approached to talk. I rummaged through my backpack, trying to pretend I was perfectly happy to be ignored.

When the bell ran, there was a collective groan. I sighed in relief.

“Good morning, class!” The teacher clapped her hands together, as if she was genuinely excited to be stuck in a closed area with thirty middle scholars for the rest of the year. “My name is Ms. Yongpeter, but you can just call me Ms. Y. Welcome to 7th grade. I know a lot of you know each other from last year, but we have a couple new students. Could they please stand up?”

It took me a second to realize that that included me. I hopped to my feet two seconds after the other two had stood. Someone laughed. I was sure it was directed at me. The other new students introduced themselves smoothly and easily. Ryan was a football player and ready to beat everybody on the field. Ellie loved reading and was available for tutoring. Then it was my turn.

I exhaled, imagining the butterflies and eels flying out of my stomach. Then I smiled, prepared to tell my classmates about how I had traveled to seven different countries—that was bound to impress them—and how I was planning on being the next president. But when I opened my mouth, no sound came out. My tongue was heavy. The back of my mouth tasted metallic. I felt everyone’s eyes on me, but I couldn’t see. My vision had blurred, as if I was wearing wrong prescription glasses. I put my hand on my desk to steady myself.

“What’s your name?” Ms. Y asked, but her voice was faint, like an echo.

More pressing were the words resounding painfully in my head. They were in that language—the one I somehow understood, the one from my dream. Don’t say anything. Never say anything to anyone.


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