Homework: In the Sandbox

Homework: In the Sandbox

I’m still working my way through Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass, having taken some breaks along the way. Today I followed instructions in Chapter 6 about taking a story in unexpected ways. The prompt I used was “child raking in a sandbox next to his nanny”. The initial result of my free writing session is below:

Merton’s nanny, who was just called Nanny because his parents never used her given name, was reading a tabloid and making her way through a boston creme donut.  It was one of the half dozen she’d brought with her that day, which was less than usual. Merton, intent on what he was doing in his sandbox, didn’t need to look to know that chocolate icing crusted the corners of her mouth and at least a bead of creme filling had escaped to rest on her expansive bosom.  The chiild had asked, just once if he might also have a donut but Nanny had rebuffed him. Stating that the sugar would only make him hyper and less likely to take his nap like a good boy. “It’s for your own good, sweetie” she’d concluded. For Merton, it was just another resentment among so many others and he reminded himself, “Today this farce ends.”

He was putting the final touches on a design he’d drawn in the smoothed sand.  He’d lingered a bit, savoring the anticipation, smoothing and raking the same patch of 2 foot by 2 foot sand several times.  The third time he’d done it, the activity had elicited a chuckle from Nanny

“Oh, Merton, such a sweet simple child.  Someday you’ll make a fine gardener or perhaps a groundskeeper at a golf course.” Her tone was not kind, making a lie of the smile on her face. “Won’t your parents be so proud.”

Merton glowered to himself, facing away from her, heard her dig into her donut box again and begin to loudly chew yet another gigantic mouthful of pastry, complete with lip smacking and a kind of moaning roan that drove Merton batty.

He sat back and surveyed his work.  The glyph was complex, with swirls and loops surrounding an eye. He took a deep breath and reached into right side pocket of his blue and yellow plaid cargo shorts.  His fingers closed on a smooth object about the size and shape of a chunky toddler’s crayon.

“Nanny, Nanny!” He exclaimed in a high-pitched warble. “Lookit what I drawed!”

Nanny sighed, putting her tabloid down and licking remnants of her last bite off the corners of her mouth.  “Alright, Mertie, what did you draw for Nanny? A car or a kitty cat?”

She shuffled over to where the boy sat.  He purposefully shielded the drawing from view so she’d have to come close.  Once she’d crouched beside him on the grass, her face screwed up in concentration.  “Oh, my, that’s… interesting. What’s it supposed to be?”

With a flash of movement, Merton’s hand emerged from his pocket and the hard, smooth tube in his small fist snicked out a sharp blade. He thrust it upward and across, efficiently slitting Nanny’s throat before she could bleat another word. Her face barely had time to register surprise. Blood flowed quickly over her chest and onto the figure on the sand as she slumped over beside it.  The glyph began to glow and pulse. There was a sound like sucking and gulping as the blood was drawn into the sand.

With haste, Merton drew out a birthday candle and a lighter.  He placed the candle in the center of the eye’s pupil and lit it.  The light spread outward as if a thousand such had been lit. Merton stood back a few feet and watched. The glyph seemed to lift up from the sand and shift until it faced him.  The light from it rendered all else in the yard dark and unseeable. The Eye was at his own eye level now and next to it appeared another and then more features appeared. A broad nose like a wedge of iron, a wide mouth like a line of grout between two large corner stones.  A voice, not so much a sound as a sick feeling in the pit of Merton’s stomach, issued forth from this face.  

“Ittt isss welll you have maddde contaacttt, acolyte. Weee thoughtt you lossttt.”

“Yes, Master.  I had an unfortunate placement.” Merton gestured at the small body he occupied. 

“Thissss willl doooo…” Intoned the stomach lurching voice.

“Master?!” Merton’s brow wrinkled in consternation.  “What can I do as a child? It is my wish to pursue your glory, how can I do so in this guise?”

“Itt issss asss I wishhhh itt tooo beee.  Doo nott quesstionnn my wissdom, acolyte.” There was a sharp pain in this sentence and it was all Merton could do not to double over.  “Youuu will awaitt furtherrr instructionnnsss.”

“But what about this?” Merton gestured to the voluminous, blood-covered corpse. 

“Trussttt, use thisss guissse, waitttt…” The voice trailed off as the figure faded from his view, taking with it the light.  

Merton sank to his knees and sobbed.  This is not what he had expected. He had assumed he’d be going home today.  But nonetheless, he served the Master and the Master had told him to wait. Fine. Now to ‘use this guise’ as he had been told.  He recovered himself and stashed the switchblade, candle and lighter in a secret space he’d created in the garden wall, using a simple spell of concealment.  He made sure no traces of the glyph remained, then mussed his hair and smeared blood on himself elaborately.  

Walking over to the north side of the small back yard, where he knew Mrs. Clift would be sitting in her sewing room, likely with the window open a little, and began to wail.

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