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(A short story of 3913 words)

Cuckoo Spawn


by Gill Hollands

A young girl goes missing; by nightfall the operation to find her is called off, but one friend cannot rest and what she finds will chill you to the bone...

The house was like Grand Central, a constant flow of bodies, tea making, subdued chatter that clanged in my head. I was sitting next to Sue, both sipping hot chocolate, exhausted, when the bell rang again. I felt the tension zap through her, as it did every time. Her red eyes full of dread and hope, scanned each newcomer. With every disappointment, she sagged a little further, her smile wavering. I ached with her.

This time, the caller was in uniform. I shivered, despite the hot chocolate. The room fell silent. Coughing, he turned to Sue.

‘I’m sorry Mrs James, it’s too dark out there now.’ My surprised eyes flicked to the window. Where had the day gone? ‘ We’re going to have to call it a night.’
Sue gaped up at him. Her hand felt like ice as I touched it.

‘But she’s only eight-‘ She choked on a sob. I rubbed her arm.

The policeman placed a kind hand on her shoulder.

‘We still hope she might find her way back on her own. We’ll start up again at first light. Of course, if you hear anything…’

Tears leaking down her grey cheeks, Sue gave a nod. The policeman retreated, probably as worn as we. Sue seemed to become suddenly aware of her surroundings. Draining her mug, she switched on the lights, frowning around the room.

‘Where’s Molly?’ Sue’s elder daughter had been out with the search parties all day. The neighbours stared around, scratching heads.

‘She was with me and Edna for a while. Then she said she had an idea and went off…’

‘Went off!’ The strain cracked in Sue’s voice. Poor girl, she had been through so much, and now this.

‘It’s alright Ma, I’m here.’ Molly emerged from the kitchen. Her jeans were splattered with mud, her long hair in wet snakes around her drawn face. Sue fell into her arms. Molly met my eyes over her shoulder, flicked back toward the kitchen. What was she trying to tell me?

‘I think we should thank all these kind people for their time today and let them go home, eh, Ma?’

Nodding, the weary neighbours gathered their coats and with sympathetic touches, filed out into the drizzle. Should I go too? I hovered in the kitchen doorway, not wanting to be in the way. With Molly in her clutches, Sue seemed oblivious to my presence.

‘C’mon, Ma, you’re worn out. How about you climb into bed and try a nap? Linda’s here too. We’ll be here to watch out for her…’


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