I like writing from the point of view of a child. It’s a unique kind of challenge, limiting your insight as the narrator to what a child would know.
I don’t claim to have that particular perspective mastered. I just think it’s fun. Some sentences are flowery, and some are simple. It’s not so much about the words for me. It’s more about information. In my opinion, that’s the defining characteristic of point of view. How much do you, as the narrator, know?
A child’s perspective forces you to think differently. Kids don’t see the world the way we do. They haven’t fully embraced the unspoken rules we live by as adults. As a result, things are both simpler and more complex. We fabricate subtly in situations that are, practically speaking, more or less concrete. (A lie is a lie, for example. Dress it up all you want.)
At the same time, grown-ups try to stamp out mystery where it truly belongs. Present a child with something unexplained and they’ll see the magic. Adults look for the trap doors and smoke machines.
The beautiful thing about point of view is that it can remind you of how you once saw the world, and that can help you see it differently. I like how kids see it.
There’s no prompt for this flash fiction piece. I wanted to write some good, old-fashion, no-frills horror, and this is what I came up with. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Liam knew the feeling. It started at the base of his neck, shock waves expanding simultaneously down his spine and up the back of his head. Sometimes it made his shoulders shake.
He tried to tell himself he didn’t feel anything. It was like playing pretend in reverse. Maybe if he believed it wasn’t happening, it wouldn’t. But that never worked.
First came the feeling, then the faces.
He could see them on the wall of his bedroom, crooked smiles and too-wide eyes emerging from the drywall. There were too many teeth in their mouths. Most of them just looked, an intense, hungry gaze that made his mind reel with the idea of those teeth biting hard on his calf or his arm, piercing the flesh and tearing out chunks of muscle while he screamed. He could see it. That’s what they wanted to do.
But that wasn’t the worst. The worst was when they talked.
It was never more than one or two, whispering so that only he could hear. They said they wanted him. They said he was already theirs. That it was only a matter of time. One night they would take him, and no one could save him.
They said words he wasn’t supposed to use. Words that would have made him blush or giggle if he heard a friend at school using them. He felt exposed when they used them. Naked to his soul.
He tried to tell his mother about the faces in the wall. She said they were demons. She thought everything bad that happened was because of demons.
She said he was a cursed child, and she made him recite Bible verses until his mouth was dry and he was too bored to be scared. Then she sent him to bed where the faces were waiting.
“Cursed child, you are,” one of them said. “Bitch mother says so. She can’t protect you, bitch boy. Soon. We come soon…”
He tried not to cry, but he was all alone, and nothing in the world is as scary as being all alone in the dark.
That was almost 25 years ago. One night the faces weren’t there, and then they stopped coming. It was months before he slept well, but eventually he forgot.
He grew up.
When something reminded him of those terror nights, he told himself he must have been dreaming. Or maybe it was a coping mechanism. His mom was an emotionally abusive fundamentalist who saw the devil in nearly every detail. Some of her crazy could have rubbed off. Anyway, he was just a kid then.
There weren’t any real faces in the wall.
That’s what adult Liam told his adult self. Right up until the night they came back, emerging from the textured walls of his apartment’s bedroom.
“Cursed child, such a big boy,” the unnervingly familiar voice said. “We come soon…”