For the first part of this story, click here.
O is for Only God Knows
(Serial short story, part 2)
Netta stood still, her hands to her cheeks, her mouth held agape. She had no idea where Nelly had run off to. It wasn’t toward home or their momma’s work.
Her mouth felt numb after she closed it. In the gait of the walking dead, Netta made her way toward home. After a while, she changed directions, deciding she’d better talk with her momma right away, although she was terrified of what she would say, not just about Nelly, but about why they weren't in school. She could blame Nelly, but her momma knew that trick. She would never believe Nelly decided to go walk in the Baring Woods unless Netta had pushed her to.
“Shoot, it's your own fault, Nelly, for stopping at that thing and for digging it up too!” Netta said, resentment scrunching up her young face. “And then you go and run off! Just how stupid you have to be to run off on your own in these parts?”
The anger left her when she remembered what she saw moving up Nelly’s arm and onto her shoulder and back, and fear crept in the cold space left in her chest. She began to pant heavily, and took a deep breath. “Poor Nelly. My poor Nelly, what happened to you?” After a moment with her head low, she answered, “Only God knows. I surely don’t.”
Her momma saw her before Netta realized she’d made it that far. She hadn’t even heard the barking and scratching of the pups at the storefront window. Before she could think of what to say, her momma came out of the store and asked, “Where’s Nelly, Netta?” Immediately after that, with a tone of chastisement, she said, “Why aren’t you in school?” When she saw the weird expression on Netta’s face, she took a slow, nervous breath and asked, “Is that where Nelly is? Is she in school?”
Davis Monroe, the youth volunteer worker, came out and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Bennet?”
“Everything’s fine, Davis. Go on back in. I’ll be there in a little while.”
Once Davis went back inside the store, Netta blurted out, hardly taking a breath, “Nelly’s the one who decided to get it! I told her not to touch it. I even pushed her hand away, but she ignored me. Then she dug it up and held it. She wouldn’t even let me touch it before running away. And that’s when I saw something crawling all over her arm and back. I called after her, but she kept running. Since we aren’t allowed in the Baring Woods, I knew I couldn’t follow her, so I came straight to you, Momma. I would have gone to school had Nelly listened to me and not picked up that thing!”
Netta wanted to continue on with her explanation, but her mother stooped down in front of her, held her by the shoulders, and asked, “What was it she picked up, Netta?”
“It was something beautiful, and I’m sure it’s worth a lot of money, but Nelly wouldn’t hear of selling it. I figured we could pay off the house and then go on that vacation to Disneyland. Only she got greedy and ran off.”
“What did she pick up, Netta?” She asked again, holding Netta a little tighter by the arms.
“I don’t know,” Netta said, getting more scared at the concern in her mother’s voice.
“Tell me what it looked like,” Netta’s momma asked, sounding like the detective on that old TV show. Netta wanted to say it looked like Harpo Jones’ cheek when he got beat up, but thought better of it. She considered hard, and finally said, “It was round and smooth on one side, flat on the other, and looked like fake, dark red blood, but dry… I think… and swollen. I didn’t touch it. It had dark patches on it. Nelly said it wasn’t alive because it wasn’t warm like something alive. She said it wasn’t cold either, but like butter left out. You know, not hot or cold?”
“Room temperature.” Her momma said. “What happened after that? Where did she run off to?”
Nelly remembered about room temperature from her science teacher. She wondered why she hadn’t thought about that when Nelly was describing it.
“Tell me now, Netta! What was it that Nelly had and what did it do to her?” She no longer sounded like that detective. She sounded close to manic.
“Only God knows, Momma. But one thing’s for sure, it was alive!”
~ To Be Continued ~