I’ll Be Back… In Five

Writing Prompt: Your father left your family to ‘buy a pack of cigarettes.’ It’s been 15 minutes, he walks back into your house wearing metallic armour and holding a futuristic gun. He looks at you with his right eye glowing yellow and says: ‘Where’s your mum?’

Kohen wasn’t sure whether to believe his father when his father told him he’d be back in five. It had been ten already. Kohen’s mother had nipped over to the neighbour’s house to return the hedge trimmer she’d borrowed some weeks ago, and so Kohen was all alone.

Ten minutes may not seem like a particularly long time, but to Kohen, at only six years old, it seemed as if that time dragged on forever. He felt endlessly alone. And he really didn’t like to be alone. He liked it even less when his father nipped out to get some cigarettes. It was a strange thing, and happened twice a month. Always for cigarettes, though he never did bring any back, not a pack. That said, his father didn’t even smoke.

Fifteen minutes later Kohen’s father, Lochlan, came bursting through the door.

“Get you things.” Lochlan didn’t even glance at his six year old son, he was frantically searching the living room, then moved onto the kitchen, and finally made his way upstairs.

Kohen stared in wonder at the man who claimed to be his father. He wore a weathered, dusted suit of armour, metallic plate that hugged the skin. Across each shoulder he had strapped a leather belt to hold faintly glowing casings, casings that looked an awful lot like bullets. In one hand his father held a short staff that hummed as it brushed against the air. In the other, a futuristic looking gun; two barrels, one sight and a whole lot of pipework.

“Dad?” Kohen staggered over to the stairs, dismissing the now static television, casting aside his toy trucks, “Dad?” he called again, staring up at the landing as his father materialised from one of the bedrooms, “Is that really you?”

“Son…” Lochlan jumped down the stairs, his boots seeming to carry him gently through the air with a quiet hissing. He threw himself to his knees before his son, then took Kohen by the shoulders, meeting his boy’s eyes with his own.

Kohen noticed now that his father’s right eye was glowing a pale sort of yellow.

“I don’t have time to explain, but we need to go, and you need to trust me. Gather your things, some clothes, a toothbrush, a towel, whatever food you can manage…” Lochlan was watching the front door, scanning the rest of the rooms, “Christ, Kohen, where’s your mum?”

“She’s at Auntie Caroline’s.”

Caroline was their neighbour, not Kohen’s true Auntie, though he did spend an awful lot of time in her company. Play dates, with Astrid.

“I’m going to get her, okay?” Lochlan hugged his boy tight in his arms, “Stay here, and get packed.”

Kohen nodded. His father kissed him on the cheek, and then disappeared out through the back door.

Making his way into the kitchen Kohen dragged himself up onto one of the breakfast bar stools, so that he could watch his father out the window. Sure enough there was his dad, crouched low behind the neighbour’s fence, gun in had and finger on the trigger. What Kohen saw was his dad with his face pressed up against the solid wooden slats of the fence, but in truth Lochlan was looking through the fence, all thanks to that pale yellow eye.

Kohen opened a cupboard to the side of the window, obscuring his view of his father, and took out a packet of fruit loops, giving them a shake. Whatever food you can manage. He would listen to his father, even if he didn’t understand why. Fruit loops were Kohen’s favourite, and if they really did have to leave then he’d be taking them with him.

Kohen closed the cupboard, and what he saw next… it was something no six year old should ever have to witness.

Lochlan had jumped over the neighbour’s gate, and was racing toward Auntie Caroline’s house, headed for her back garden. Auntie Caroline had a conservatory round the back, a big glass box as Kohen called it. It was a lovely place to play in the summer, and on stormy winter days.

First came the sudden whip-crack of a gun firing, then came the shattering of glass.

Kohen watched, horrified as the big glass box exploded before his father’s gun. Then his father turned the gun on Auntie Caroline, who was stood defenselessly inside. Kohen averted his gaze, but he still heard the shot, and he imagined the explosion that followed, not of glass, but of…

He started to cry, slipping off of the stool and onto the floor. Just what the hell was going on? Was he safe? Was his father sane? He felt like running, but then he heard the sound of gunfire ringing in his ears once more. But for what reason this time? Was it Astrid? Or… 

Kohen, where’s your mum? 

Surely not?

He lay there, tucked into a ball underneath the kitchen’s breakfast bar, rocking gently back and forth. You need to trust me. And he did trust his father, at least he thought he did. All he could hope to do now was wait, and pray that next time the front or back door opened both his parents would return.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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