“Pistols shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out "My God they killed them all"
Here comes the story of the Hurricane!”
Abbey was proud of herself for knowing the lyrics of the man her daddy deemed “The Greatest of the Greats.” Bob Dylan was practically considered God in her house, and it wasn’t a disturbance to sing his songs as loud as you wanted to. As she showered, the sweet smells coming from the kitchen filled her nostrils. Dinner was almost ready.
“What’s on the menu tonight, Chef A La Mom?” Abbey walked into her large kitchen with wet hair and her most comfortable pajamas. Her mother was dressed in a fancy chef coat and hat. It was a tradition to pretend the dinner was at a five star restaurant in a different country every night. This particular night was Paris.
“Just your favorite! Soupe à L’oignon with sparkling grape juice for you and pinot grigio for the boys!” Abbey’s mother excitedly read off the menu items. “Oh, and don’t forget dessert—crème au caramel.”
“That sounds absolutely incredible, my sweets.” Abbey’s father waltzed in as if on cue. He gently wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed her on the cheek, then proceeded to rock her into a slow dance perfectly in step with the classic French music coming from the record player. Abbey watched and admired her parents’ romance and wondered if she would ever have such a wonderful relationship with another human. She opened the window curtains and stared at the layers of wood blocking her view of the outside world. All her life she was told it was for the better, that the barriers keeping her from going outside were for her own safety. That didn’t stop her curiosity. She wanted to know what Paris really looked like.
Abbey’s brothers, Tim and Roger, were not present when it was time to sit down and say grace. Abby’s mom tapped her fingers impatiently on the mahogany table after calling their names several times.
“Maybe they’re asleep?” Abbey wondered aloud and caressed her mother’s hand for comfort.
“Asleep or awake, it doesn’t matter. There’s no tardiness to dinner in this house. We put way too much effort into this meal for it to be taken lightly.” The tapping increased in speed. Abbey’s mother stood up abruptly just as a small door in the floor underneath a rug swung open. Tim and Roger climbed up into the living room, locking The Door underneath them with a key. They threw their large backpacks on the couch and made their way to the dining room with their heads down amidst the awkward silence. In Tim’s hand was a bottle of expensive white wine covered in dust. Abbey’s mother was frozen where she stood, her mouth wide open.
“Where the hell were you two?! You think this is a joke? You’re late to dinner and you broke the number one rule!!”
“Mom, calm down,” Tim replied in a soothing voice, “we knew it was a special meal so we wanted to contribute.” He blew the dust off the wine and sat it on the table next to the other drinks.
“I already got Pinot Grigio!! You two could have been killed out there!!! Our number one rule is to stay inside unless given permission to leave. And you never EVER leave for something so insignificant!”
“Boys, what in God’s name were you thinking?” Abbey’s father chimed in, “Risk your life for a bottle of wine?! She knows where The Door is now!”
“I’ve always known where it was.” The family swung their heads around and stared at a timid Abbey. “I’ve always known. I just never know what it’s for or where it leads to. All you guys do is tell me that it’s dangerous but you never say why. I’m tired of wondering. Why is it so dangerous? Why?!” Her shouts were followed by a moment of silence, everyone unsure of what to say.
“Ab, you know why we can’t tell you,” Roger said, “it’s dangerous and that’s all you need to know for now. When you get older, we can tell you more. You’re only 12, Abbey. If we tell you too much, you’ll be scared to sleep at night. Scared to use the bathroom by yourself. We need to wait until you’re mature enough to handle the truth. Then maybe one day you’ll get your own key to The Door.”
The tension eventually eased up and the dinner proceeded. Abbey’s mother was silent and shaky as she tried to eat her food. The humor from the boys helped the conversation to return to something less serious than what had occurred. Abbey seemed to have forgotten why she was upset before and returned to her normal self, but she looked forward to her plans for after dinner. She was finally going to get into the boys’ backpacks to see what they had kept hidden for so many years.
At sharply 9 PM every night, Abbey was locked into her room with one of the keys. Her parents did this to keep her from sneaking out, but she remembered watching a scene from a movie where someone used a bobby pin to unlock the door. Luckily, she had one lying on the floor under her bed. After the lock-in, Abbey lied in bed patiently waiting for everyone to fall asleep. Since her family members snored loudly, she could indicate when the coast was clear for her to unlock the door.
The time had come, and Abbey jiggled the bobby pin up and down in the key hole until she heard a click, like in the movie. The door creaked open and she had the sudden urge to run through the house like an escaped convict. Instead, she tiptoed to the chest near the windows where she knew the boys always kept their backpacks. As she crossed through the middle of their large living room, a sudden bang came from the ceiling, shaking the chandelier. Abbey froze for a minute, then continued tip toeing to the chest, telling herself it was probably just “the house adjusting.” This was something her father told her often when there were strange noises throughout the house.
Finally, Abbey stood over the chest and opened it slowly, staring at the backpacks. Jackpot. As she began to unzip one, something sharp poked through the zipper. She unzipped it completely and dumped out its contents: an axe, a gun, a knife, and a crossbow.
“Abbey, what are you doing?” Roger’s voice surprised her, causing her to whip her head around and gasp, frozen with fear. She dropped the backpack and stared at him with her eyes wide, unable to speak.
A loud bang came from the roof and knocked the chandelier out of its place, sending it crashing to the ground. Before Roger had time to get to his sister, the entire roof caved in.
Abbey froze. She stared into the red eyes and blood soaked teeth of a hungry, malevolent creature. The vile smell of rotted flesh filled her nostrils as she looked death in the eye. The creature took a step closer, closing any distance between them. A small whimper of fear escaped Abbey’s lips as she accepted her demise. The screams of her brother calling her name were quickly drowned out by the wave of shock. Her mind went blank as she directed her focus to a tiny star in the black sky above her, shining down from the hole in the ceiling. It was the first star she'd ever seen in her life. Amid the grey clouds of pollution surrounding it, this star sat up in the sky alone. It had a certain kind of peacefulness to it, the way it seemed unaffected by the chaos all around.
A magical phenomenon began to take place. Several other stars started emerging from behind the dark clouds. As they entered the sky, their brightness began to grow more and more intense. It was the most beautiful sight Abbey had ever seen. Slowly and one by one, each cloud began to evaporate into the sky. A clear black, starry sky was now visible and vivid. Abbey couldn’t take her eyes away from the amazing scenery above her. It was new, strange, and absolutely incredible to look at. How could the family have kept her from experiencing this for so long?
The stars seemed to be getting closer as their light began to beam more intensely. They’re coming down to get me. Abbey shook her head and blinked her eyes. There was no way this was actually happening. This had to be a dream. The stars got closer and closer to earth as they plummeted down from the black sky. After just a few minutes, they were in touching distance. Abbey reached up and anticipated the feeling that these stars would give her eager fingers.
Boom. A bright light flashed and blinded Abbey’s eyes as the tip of her finger met the star. In the blink of an eye, she was no longer in her house. There were no bloodthirsty monsters or stars, but a white, cloudy sky with rain droplets hitting the ground at full speed. This was the first time Abbey had seen rain. She knew what it looked like from books and videos, but she had never felt it before. It was cold and wet, but strangely did not dampen her clothing or hair. It bounced off her body like rubber. She looked down at her feet to see some bright green grass being smashed under her feet. Just like the rain, she couldn’t feel it scratching her skin. She couldn’t feel anything.
As Abbey scanned her surroundings, she noticed a group of people in the distance. It looked like they were all wearing black and holding big umbrellas. Abbey made her way over to these people hoping they would give her some answers. She didn’t remember how she got to this grassy field and was starting to get anxious. She missed her family and didn’t know where they were or if they were alive. As she got closer to group of people, she sped up her walking pace as her breathing became shallow. Beads of sweat started to trickle down her forehead and tears welled up in her eyes. She was desperate to see her family.
Abbey got close enough to see the faces of the people holding umbrellas. They were crying and standing over something. What are they crying about? Abbey got closer and closer until she was standing right behind the people.
“Hello?” Abbey whispered out behind her timid voice and heard no response.
“HELLO?” Abbey yelled. No one turned around or even flinched. They were sobbing loud, with their thick, black coats getting soaked from the pouring rain. Abbey reached out her hand and tapped one of them on the back. Just as before, they didn’t move.
Suddenly, the loud sobs began to sound like familiar voices. Abbey listened to the weeping and began to notice how similar the voices sounded to something she had heard before. She stood behind these people, wanting to know what they were crying about yet afraid to disturb them further. Their sobs sounded mangled and pained, almost as if they were being choked. It was eerie and gave Abbey chills down her spine. She couldn’t move, but knew she had to address these people sooner than later. Cautiously, Abbey began to walk around the group of crying people to see their faces.
She froze. The voices sounded familiar because she knew them all too well. Mom, Dad, Tim, and Roger stood huddled together, drying their tears and blowing their noses. She wanted to hug them, but instead she looked down to see what was in front of them.
A white coffin lay in the wet grass next to a giant whole in the ground. This was a funeral for someone, but who? Abbey reached out a shaky hand to open the coffin. Her eyes got big and her stomach dropped as she stared at her own pale, battered body. She screamed and fell to the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest and breathing in short, muffled breaths. Every memory of what happened came flooding it. I really did die. I didn’t feel it. The creatures must have killed her, but why didn’t she feel anything? There was no pain, no suffering, just bright, magical stars.
Abbey rocked back and forth, sobbing uncontrollably from the image of her own dead body. Her eyes were squeezed shut and rain droplets flowed down her face, mixing with tears. As she continued to weep, the cries from her family ceased. Abbey kept her eyes closed, afraid to look at anything else horrific. She had to know if her family was still there. After a few minutes of nothing but the sound of her own voice, Abbey peaked out from under her lids. Her family was gone.
The surface beneath her was no longer grass, but moistened sand instead. She looked up to see a large, clear blue ocean touching her face. Palm trees and thick, green brush lined the small patch of land behind her. A bright yellow sun shined down on her face, causing her to squint. That must be the sun. She still couldn’t feel things, but the tossing and turning of waves beside her gave her some comfort. She continued to lay there, becoming instantly more calm and soothed as she listened to the ocean. She shut her eyes again and began to fall asleep.
Abbey was awakened by a wet, warm feeling touching her face. She began to feel the gritty, warm sand touch her skin. As she opened her eyes, she saw a big, fluffy creature licking her face. That must be a dog, or a puppy? The dog wagged its tail quickly and continued licking her face, causing her to wake up even more. Abbey reached out a shaky, timid hand to feel the fluffy fur of this animal. With slow motions Abbey caressed the dog’s back, smoothing down its crazy fur. She jumped and pulled her hand back as the dog let out a loud bark. She placed her hand on her heart and tried to calm herself down. She worked up some courage and decided to touch the dog again. This time, it eased under her touch and began making satisfied noises. She continued petting the dog until it laid down and closed its eyes, drifting off to sleep. The corners of Abbey’s mouth turned up and she started smiling uncontrollably. This animal was so lovable and gave her indescribable happiness.
Abbey had read in a magazine before that people keep these animals as pets and give them names. She sat deep in thought, wondering what name would perfectly suit her new furry friend. Her new friend was energetic, happy, and full of life. “Star. I think I’ll call you star.”
A few days had passed since Abbey first came to the island. She walked around everywhere on the island looking for someone or something that would tell her where her family was. She desperately wanted to see them again. On this bright, sunny day, Abbey and Star were playing fetch with sticks that were washed ashore. Later on that day, they would search the island for a delicious meal for dinner. Everything was almost perfect.
“C’mon Star! Let’s go boy!”
Abbey whipped her head around and froze in shock. Her family stood in front of her, their eyes big with wonder and surprise.
“Mom!! Dad!! Brothers!!” Abbey wasted no time running into their open arms and squeezing them tightly. She sobbed with tears of happiness and they cried as well. The entire family hugged each other tightly for a few minutes with no one wanting to let go. Star squeezed his way into the middle of the huddle and wagged his tail back and forth. All the family members let go of each other to embrace the happy dog.
“How did you guys get here?! I saw you crying…I thought—“
“Don’t worry about that, honey” Abbey’s dad interrupted, “we did what we could to be with you again. All that matters is we’re together and safe again.” Abbey’s mother flashed her dad an intense look, as if willing him to not speak further.
“What’s your dog’s name?” Roger asked. Abbey stared at him for a minute, getting a flashback of the last time she saw him. She was unzipping his backpack and thinking of how much trouble she’d be in for leaving her room and snooping through his things. She pulled him into another tight hug and began crying again, overwhelmed with emotion.
“Star,” She whispered. “His name is Star.”
My name is Sarah Logan and I am emailing a request to get my short story published. I came across Short-story.me through Duotrope and loved reading a lot of the stories posted on your website. It would be an honor to have my story published and read by many of the readers who frequent your site. My story is called Abbey's Star. It is a 2,765 word action/adventure short-story.
The main theme of this story is about life after death, being seen from the eyes of a ten year old girl living in a sheltered, post-apocalyptic world. I would love for my story to spark discussion and debate among my readers, giving them a new perspective of life after death through Abbey's story.