Classic Horror Literary Fiction Mystery Historical child neglect childhood Murder death abuse neglect child

The Last Child

By Angela Yuriko Smith
Apr 20, 2019 · 468 words · 2 minutes

Feb 2019 image 04

Art by From Pixabay .  

From the author: Written for the Women of Horror prompt challenge in February 2019. Read the original at Nina D’Arcangela’s Spreading the Writer’s Word blog here:

She was always the last child to leave the school.

At first, she would beg to stay and help the teachers, but something about her didn’t sit right. Her dirty, tangled hair and taped up glasses made her ugly. She had a desperate quality about her, like a starving puppy. She always stood a little too close for comfort and talked a little more than was necessary. The teachers found excuses to send her home.

In later years, she began to misbehave. She would start fights on the playground, vandalize the bathrooms and smart off in class. Whatever she did, she always got caught. The teachers gossiped about how stupid and troublesome she was as they sipped tea in their lounge.

“It’s like she wants to stay for detention,” they’d say. Then they would move on to her dirty clothes and her broken tooth. “She used to be such a good student,” someone would reminisce. “What happened to her?”

They were right, of course. She did used to be a good student, and she did want to stay for detention. She arrived before the custodian unlocked the doors in the morning, every morning. She stayed until he shooed her home. She never missed a day in 4 and a half grades—and then she missed the rest of them.

She would have been pleased to know that she became every teacher's favorite student after the fact. They named the gymnasium for her and celebrated her birthday every year with a pep rally. “She used to be such a good student,” someone would reminisce. “How could that have happened to her?”

But something about her still didn’t sit right. With no place else to go, she of course came back to wander the only safe place she knew. She would stand a little too close for comfort, creating cold spots and shivers. She tried to help after class, but again, no one appreciated her efforts. The teachers found excuses to go home.

Eventually, the school closed. No one wanted to teach there. No one wanted to be students there. Rumors grew faster than children and turned just as vicious. Tales were spread about a murderous custodian, a sadistic principal, a teacher who practiced the dark arts… seeking answers, they buried the truth.

The truth is she stays there still, alone. There is no custodian, principal or teacher—evil or otherwise—to keep her company. She trails down the empty halls, humming to herself and making minute dust devils spin on the cracked tile. She doesn’t notice the emptiness because for her it has always been that way. She stays at school, not because anything holds her there, but because she has no where else she wants to be.

She was always the last child to leave the school.

This story originally appeared in Spreading the Writer's Word.

Angela Yuriko Smith

...dark, speculative fiction and poetry.