Happily Ever After

“… and they lived happily ever after,” We chorused together. I was leaning against the bedhead with my daughter Priscilla curled in my lap. Thor was rocking in the chair near the fireplace, smoking a pipe and listening to the fairy tale with pleasure. These days everyone believes in fairy tales. All of them fall for the good triumphs over evil and the “happily ever after’s.” I knew better though. Happy endings didn’t exist in our world.
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It was that night- the night I stopped believing. We had heard of the attacks on nearby towns but had hoped, prayed, that they would pass over our small, insignificant even, town. But I was wrong. We all were.
That night, the Vikings came.
We awoke to the screaming of our neighbours as the Vikings burnt and killed; to the glowing fire embers, as the sky outside our window turned orange; to a world of panic, pain and chaos. Gloria, my sister had started screaming. Mother picked her up, comforting her and, pale as a ghost, hugged us fiercely “I love you both so very much,” she sobbed, tears streaming freely down her face. “I love you too mama,” I managed to whisper, my throat constricting as I tried hard not to cry.
Father had opened the hidden trapdoor and was beckoning to us urgently. We knew we didn’t have much time but still we clung to each other, delaying the inevitable. Finally mother handed me Gloria and, clutching her tightly I started descending into the too small cellar. Mother blew us one last kiss before closing the door, leaving us in total darkness.
We heard, as the door to our house was bashed brutally down. We heard the rough, gruff voices of the murderers coming to kill my parents and we heard the screams and shouts as our parents first tried to reason with them, failed and were killed. We heard, as they ransacked our house, taking everything we held dear. Gloria was sobbing quietly into my shoulder, her shoulders shaking. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t, not yet. I had to be strong, if only for Gloria. Sometimes, I thought to myself, its worse to not be able to help, than to be helpless to do so.
We waited, in total silence, wondering whether they would come back in. We waited. It must have been a couple of hours we waited; straining our ears to listen for every sound, to make sure the Vikings had really gone.
It must have been past dawn when I was sure they had left. Gloria had fallen into an uneasy sleep, tossing and turning occasionally. I stumbled up the stairs and opened the trapdoor, shielding my eyes against the sudden light. As my eyes adjusted, I slumped against the wall in horror. The harsh daylight kept no secrets. The extent of the damage was clear. It was then, finally, that I allowed myself to cry.

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