A Promise to Keep

Writing Prompt
Every night of your childhood, your parents set a trap outside your home. Nothing was ever caught, until the morning of your 18th birthday.



    Most children growing up in the suburbs lived under the ruling that it was time to go home when the street lights came on. For me it was always a matter of being home before they came one. My parents didn’t like me to stay out after dark and I accepted their fear as something normal— at least until my friend pointed out how unusual it was for my parents to be afraid of the dark. Little kids were afraid of monsters in the dark, not grown adults. Adults also didn’t set traps outside the house every night— except my parents.    They never wanted to talk about the traps, but I think it was their way of keeping me from sneaking out in the middle of the night to do illicit teenage shenanigans. I’ll admit, I was tempted to break their rules, but on the other hand I was also afraid of stepping into one of their traps. Some of them look downright deadly and I’m sure they were banned in most of the states.
    “Maybe they’re hoping to catch Bigfoot,” My friend, Jake, joked as we shared a video call. It was my birthday and once again I was not allowed to go out with my friends to celebrate. I was eighteen and going to graduate in two months. The first thing I plan to do is move out. I already had the money saved and Jake was willing to be my roommate to cut down on the rent.
    “All I know is that it’s not going to matter, because in two months I’m out of here.”
    “You and me bro, we’re going to make it a point to stay out all night!” The screen jostled as Jake sat up in his chair, a large grin on his face. “And then you’re going to transform into a werewolf under the light of the moon and you’ll be like ‘Noo! This is why they wanted me to stay inside, why didn’t I listen?’ and I’ll live feed the whole thing and make millions.”
    “Before or after I maul you and eat your heart?”
    Jake shrugged, “Whatever. I’ll be a rich ghost that haunts you.”
    Before I could tease him, a large crash from outside my window interrupted me. “Did you hear that?”
    “Yeah, it’s probably one of your parents stuck in one of their own traps.”
    I frowned, “That’s not funny.”
    “Serves them right for being crazy.”
    “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” I cut the connection before he could respond and made my way down the stairs two at a time. “Mom? Dad?”
    When they didn’t reply I began to search the house room by room. It was well into the night, but they weren’t in their bedroom. I hovered at the sliding glass door in the kitchen that lead out onto the patio. I cupped my hands around my eyes and tried to see into the dark. The yard looked deserted, but I couldn’t see all the way to the back fence. Hesitantly I opened the door, my heart instantly started pounding in my chest as I toed the edge of rule breaking. “Mom? Dad?”
    I heard crickets, the leaves in the trees as a gentle breeze pushed at their boughs, but I did not hear my parents. Before my fear could crescendo out of control, I hit it with a dose of rationality. Some small creature had probably set off one of the traps. It could be anything from a wild rabbit to a neighbor’s dog. The thought of some poor dog trapped made my heart sink, the flounder as a wave of anxiety followed. If the cops were called in about the illegal traps, my parents would be in for a world of trouble.
    Yet I still wasn’t willing to break the rule that had shaped my whole life. I stepped back into the kitchen and called my mother’s cell. It went straight to voice mail. My father apparently didn’t even have his phone on him because it rang from somewhere in the living room. “Are you kidding me?” I wondered if my parents had always made a habit of disappearing during the night. What hypocrites! They probably went out even though it was my birthday!
    Fueled by a new found anger, I grabbed a flashlight and stomped outside. I had a pretty good idea where most of the traps had been set, I had been watching them do it every night for as long as I could remember.
    Rustling from the bushing against the back fence caught my attention. I stopped and flicked my flashlight over the spot, the beam passed over the heavy links of a chain. One end was staked into the ground while the other lead into the bush that appeared to be shivering under the attention of my flashlight. I checked the ground for any additional traps before cautiously moving forward. As I neared I heard a whimper and instantly crouched down to appear less threatening. I clicked my tongue at the bush while holding out my hand in hopes of luring out the trapped creature. “It’s okay. Come out.”
    The chain moved but didn’t come any closer. I waddled forward, my steps slow to gauge the reaction of the creature inside the bush. Worse case scenario, whatever was hiding from me would fly out and attack my face when I exposed their hiding spot. Quelling the fear, I grabbed one of the thin branches and pulled it aside. I caught a glimpse of blue-gray skin before a pair of large green eyes framed by limp dark hair snapped to my face. The minuscule girl squeaked and attempted to push herself further into the bush. She couldn’t have been taller than my forearm, yet there she huddled with bony fingers covering her head in a poor attempt to hide herself from me.
    “I’m not going to hurt you,” I cooed and pulled more of the branches out of the way. I saw the small paw trap caught on her foot, her blood covered in dirt and blood the color of mud. It made me both sad and angry to see— sad because the girl must have been in a lot of pain, and angry because my parents had set the trap. “Let me help you?”
    Her hand slowly came down, exposing her pointed ears that parted through her long hair. She shifted her legs and I noticed for the first that that beneath the dirt and leaves, the girl was naked. Instantly I turned my face aside while flushing with embarrassment. Even knowing that what I was currently seeing wasn’t entirely human, I still didn’t want to make the girl uncomfortable by staring at her lack of modesty. I glanced back at the clothes line hoping for a solution—that’s when she bit me.
    Needle sharp teeth pierced into my flesh and I tried to jerk away, but for such a small girl, she was strong—stronger than me. She held fast and came out of the bush on her hands and knees. From her back protruded four gossamer wings like those of a dragonfly. They beat frantically and I felt myself being pulled along. I started to scream because I couldn’t stop her. Even hanging as dead weight didn’t stop her from hauling me across the grass.
    My savior came as the chain staked into the ground. She reached the length of her leash and fell to the ground. For a split second I was free and I scrambled away from her as fast as I could manage on all fours. She twisted around, a guttural sound coming from her fanged mouth before she leaped at me. The chain cut her jump short, but her clawed fingers caught on my jeans. The material split easily under her fingers and I was lucky to pull away before she could get a good grip on my leg.
    I sprang to my feet and ran for the house. I slammed the door shut and stared out at the darkness where a pair of glowing eyes watched me. It was joined by three others pairs of malevolent gazes. A shrill voice pierced the darkness, “You were promised to us!”
    I scrambled for the phone and dialed mom’s number. When the voice mail answered my call, I started to sob.



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