Fall of a Sparrow

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The day was laden with a blistering heat when Oliver learned of his mother’s death... that day was the end of summer. That day was when Wren appeared to him. Now completely estranged from his father, Oliver is a boy on the precipice of manhood, spending his time away at school. Wren is a natural presence in his life, an apparitional companion. When Oliver suddenly gets summoned home, he is told that his mother's murderer has been caught. Reuniting with his father and step-mother, neighbors, and old school friends (particularly the beautiful Adeline), Oliver begins to feel that justice has finally prevailed. However, during the murder trial, he begins to see visions of his mother's violent past, and he learns that the man convicted is being framed. Oliver and Adeline, then, resolve to unravel the web of lies that obscures the past and prove the man innocent. Stumbling along the line of sanity and madness, Oliver must navigate love, prejudice, cruelty, and loss for the sake of truth.

Mystery / Horror
Kayla Martinez
Age Rating:

The Dusk

The day was laden with a blistering heat when Oliver learned of his mother’s death. The air was heavy and thick, making flaxen hair cling to his young forehead yet smiled as he approached his father’s car. His parents had left him in the care of their neighbors during a small beach trip, and ever the filial son, the boy agreed to go without complaint... thinking, as any child would, that both parents would come back ready to read Jules Verne to him later that night...

…Thinking that his father would grin and behold him with such pride as he always did, say a word or two of greeting, and suggest they get something good to eat...

Then his mother would coo gently, “Oh my I think you’ve grown taller,” or “My how sharp you look today in those trousers,” grab his small waist, and plant kisses all over his face. He’d resist, squirm in her hold, squeal and giggle happily. “I’ll kiss you as much as I’d like,” she’d scold, playfully squishing his cheeks, and she’d hold him until he fell asleep that night, warm and safe in his bed.

Oliver sprinted towards his father’s shimmering black Ford, thinking of all these things and laughing his contagious laugh, now slightly winded from the exercise. But as he reached his father sitting so still in the stopped car- lacking a coat or a hat, eyes trained ahead toward nothing- Oliver grew wary. A child is wise enough to know the power of instincts, something often lost with age. A grown man would approach Oliver’s father and would quickly feel that he’d changed, but just as quickly rationalize against that feeling. A grown man would hide his discomfort and wait. Oliver noticed his father had changed from the grinning man, and it sent pangs of uneasiness running about his heart. Unlike a grown man, the young boy Oliver held his breath, fear plain on his face. For now some unspoken, ominous thing was suspended between them, and it remained there… frozen, dense, intangible. Before Oliver’s father took a short breath, looked his son just between the eyes and let a quiet and curt “Your mother’s died” fall from his lips. Oliver blinked. He stared at his father, expecting the grin to return, expecting his mother to pop out from under the passenger seat and laugh. She’d say how silly his face looked; worried over something so ridiculous. His mother did not appear.

A sick, cold sensation began crawling in his stomach, “What?” He whispered finally. It was not the right thing to say. His father looked at him, this time in the eyes. Oliver saw no mirth there, only sorrow and an anguish too terrible to name, an anguish he did not understand. His father climbed out of the car and let it close with a terrible bang. Oliver flinched and became rooted to his place in their once grassy courtyard, now dry in the late months of summer.

“Your mother’s died, son,” The voice was not his father’s, so stony and clipped. “She’s died.” He said it again and the words forced Oliver’s panicked thoughts out into the heavy air.

“No,” he blurted. It wasn’t true. How could it be true? “Where’s mum?” Oliver demanded.

“She’s died.” His father’s voice was just as stony and getting louder.

Oliver shook his head. “Where’s mum?” He said again. The boy scrambled into the car, searched under the seats. “Where is she? Where’s mum?” He was yelling now.

“For God’s sake, Oliver, get out of the damn car!” His father yanked him out roughly.

“Where’s mum?” He pleaded, tears beginning to make their way down his cheeks.

“She’s dead!”

“Why are you saying that?”

“She’s died, Oliver.”

“No! Where is she?”

“Are you deaf, boy? She’s dead!” Oliver landed on the ground with a thump, tears now racing down his face. “She’s g-gone” His father’s stony voice wavered.

“You’re lying!” And then he was running. Maybe if he ran fast enough, he might reach the end of this nightmare. He might wake in his mother’s arms. Instead, he found his feet carrying him towards his neighbors’ mansion. The golden rays of summer were disappearing below the horizon. The lilac blue of dusk was settling in on the forest that spanned the distance between his neighbors’ house and his own. The night was pursuing him, and he needed light to chase it away. The flickering candlelight pouring out of the mansion windows would have to do.

Oliver knew the house, the best way would be through the kitchen door; it was always unlocked. He stumbled, exhausted, through the kitchen. Martha, the cook, with her ruddy cheeks and warm smile, asked him what was wrong, what he was doing there, but he did not hear her. The boy stumbled into the dining room, eyes unfocused. Hands still gripping their silverware, Oliver’s neighbors, the Johnsons, could do nothing but gape at him.

Suddenly another wave of terror came surging in Oliver, and he pleaded, “Where is my mother? Where is she?” The Johnsons’ eyes bulged so far out of their heads one might have thought they’d fall out. There was a long stretch of silence. That heavy silence, again.

Finally, Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, “I-I’m so sorry, dear boy. I… heard the news on the telephone.” It was curt, cold — like his father’s voice. Even worse, there was a sense of discomfort seeping through. Mr. Johnson, though, was never a man who exuded a sense of kindness. He was always hard, practical. Although only in the early years of adulthood, he had the graying hairs and stress lines to throw one off. He walked with great stride and purpose, and always looked as though he had just tasted something bitter. “Oliver?” It was that same hard voice he had always known, but now steeped in some sort of pity that softened the edge. Oliver, perhaps, disliked this more.

He turned to Mrs. Johnson (who never went by any other name), the string of pearls ever-present on her neck, “Where’s my mother?” He pleaded. She stared at him fearfully, red-stained lips pinched in a tight line. “I’m so sorry dear… like Mr. Johnson said…” But Oliver had already moved on, turned his weary eyes away. She was no good, he realized.

“Where is she?” He asked. John always knew the answers, didn’t he? He read so often, all those stacks of books in his room. Wouldn’t he know? He always knew. The wiry child, only a year his senior, was ahead of everyone in school. He took every chance to demonstrate this too. But now the boy, fearful as his mother, only shook his head and forced his eyes towards the pile of uneaten peas on his plate. Oliver didn’t accept it, tugged on his shirt and asked again, “Where’s my mum? Where is she?”

John slapped his hand away, “I don’t know, Oliver!”

“John!” Mary pushed her brother back into his seat. “Stop it!” Mary, Oliver’s age and beautiful like her mother, pale hair, paler skin, and rosy-cheeked, turned to her friend with sad eyes. Envied by all the girls in school, she was quite set on marrying Oliver as soon as she was old enough and had made a point of telling him so. Often. “I’m so sorry, Oliver.” He could tell she meant it, too. Yet he couldn’t accept it, not even from Mary. Why? She was kind and pretty. She reached out to put her hand on his shoulder, but he stepped away, betrayed and confused at himself.

Desperately, defeatedly he turned to Adeline… Adeline. And she stared at him with her wide eyes as the others had. As always, though, she was different from those that preceded her. Dark eyes, almost black, not blue. Eyes from her mother, now buried beneath the dry grass of a faraway land that no one knew the name of. Adeline did not know her mother, but she remembered her father calling her beautiful with those still-lovesick eyes. She remembered her father from a long boat ride to England, a place so much grayer than the sunbathed country falling farther and farther away in her memory. Her father was a blurry, white shape in those flashes of the past. He was Captain Peter Johnson, standing regal in a golden frame, carefully hung in the hallway of her guardians’ home. Adeline had peered into that one window of her past more times than she could count. She could never see herself in his face, his eyes. Her skin was dark, and her face was her mother’s. This was something that earned her little mercy from her family, or from the residents of the country town. She was younger than Oliver, only eight. But she knew pain, that deep anguish that eludes proper description. For Oliver, now, it was an arrow to the heart, fresh and bleeding a bright red. For Adeline it was a black hole, a lack of something that had existed in the innermost part of her for as long as she could remember. To be missing a father, to lose a mother, to be handed the father like a miracle only for him to slip quietly away, sand in an hourglass, was cause for a constant sort of ache. So when Oliver looked into the dark pools of her eyes, he saw himself there. And he stilled. He saw that same truthful darkness in her as he had in the others, but it was a gentle darkness, her large dark eyes with stars twinkling in their inky expanse. He did not want to accept it, but she was a clear night, the light and the darkness found oneness in her. And so he embraced her. He wept in her arms, and his tears became one with hers. The four rivers fell into convergence down their small limbs, down their hands, gripping tightly. The tears went on until Oliver’s father finally came to collect his son. Oliver was pried away from Adeline with screeching wails and slurred protests. Adeline could say nothing, only continued to weep for Oliver and his mother. His kind mother…

Then suddenly, the clear night was veiled by white fog. The flow stopped, and an insidious emptiness consumed Oliver’s small body. Numbness overtook his mind, and he sat like a doll in the back of his father’s car. He said nothing when his father took his hand and led him into the house. He felt nothing, and sat alone in the darkness of his bedroom- caught somewhere between sleep and reality….

Oliver sat in the field, lush and bathed in yellow sun…

He was so small… a speck of flaxen hair among tall blades of the same color…

His mother was coming, she was running to him…

Then it was night, and the gold was gone…invisible…

The rains poured down from the heavens and the ground beneath them became thick with mud, yet on she trudged…

Endlessly, ruthlessly, the aqueous bullets came down from the skies, black with storm…

Battered her… chilled her bones…froze her blood… bleached her skin a porcelain white…

He lay beyond the curtain of rain… her Oliver… her Oliver

She couldn’t reach him, her dress was so heavy… dragging her down to cool sleep…

But she couldn’t leave him… he was there alone…

So she stripped off her outerwear…. smeared the color off her face…

She trudged and still the weight dragged her under…

So she abandoned the soaked petticoats… the lace and the sun-stained fabric ripped from her hands by the deafening gales…

became less…

On she trudged… still the weight dragged her down…

So she peeled all those thin layers from her body ... abandoned it all…all of it… all of it… in the mud… worthless when her son was there just beyond her fingertips… worthless when her son was alone…



Her child…

Her son…

Her Oliver…

Would never be alone…

No! She roared in the face of all that was unholy, with a cry of her whole soul she pushed through the curtain…

and Oliver heard her….

“No!” Oliver woke up soaked down to the bone, his covers drenched in sweat. His head throbbed, and his face felt full and heavy from crying. Then he froze, blinked his eyes… once, twice, three times. Yet… still there she was. Translucent, a faint white in the moonlight, stood a girl. She looked like she was from a dream, her face was blurred, like she was watching him through a wedding veil. Though it seemed she was young as he was, wearing a child’s gown. She remained there near his bedroom window… serene, gazing at him, no matter how many times he blinked.

“Wh-who are you?” Oliver finally managed to ask.

“I…” The spirit’s voice was confident at first, then it wavered. “I don’t know.” There was an evident sadness that came with this, and Oliver’s terror mixed with pity.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered. It was all he could think to say. What an awful thing, not to know who you are.The spirit only gave a small shake of the head. “Why are you here?” Oliver squirmed under the spirit’s heavy gaze.

The girl’s face seemed to light up, “To be with you.”

“But I don’t want you to.” Oliver was quick to point out, still rather shaken.

The spirit only smiled, “Maybe not. But you need me. That’s all I know.” The spirit’s gaze diverted to the bright half moon floating outside Oliver’s window.

Oliver sighed, “What… should I call you, then?”


“What’s your name?”

“My name…” She considered this for some time, so long that Oliver had begun to think she’d forgotten. Then, finally, she seemed to gather together some sort of answer, “Wren.”

Wren? Like a bird?” Oliver clarified incredulously. The spirit nodded. Oliver giggled, “That’s a strange name.”

Wren’s eyebrows furrowed, “I think it’s nice.”

“Yes, well…” Oliver mumbled, rather embarrassed now, “I never said it wasn’t nice.” The spirit only laughed.

Oliver got out of bed and joined her at the window, “You know, Oliver’s a nice name, too.” She grinned, and the tight knots of dread in Oliver’s stomach fell away, melted into the mist that was Wren.

“Thank you.” Oliver sighed at the new peace that washed over him. It was not numbness, he knew that brand of emptiness now. It was if the child spirit, with her mere presence, had breathed liquid moonlight into him. His insides became cool, and he fell asleep looking at the trees swaying outside his window.

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