Suffer Not the Little Children by Gary McGuigan

He found the corpse early morning.

It was around seven AM, the air was crisp, and his breath hung on the air as he and the bloodhound crunched through frosted mulch. Alastair had lived on his farm for over 50 years, situated next to a dirt road that wound around his home and continued on to join the motorway. Beyond the rear of the house, lay the wood which is where he roamed freely and mostly alone with only his furry companion faithfully trotting by his side.

Then they found her.

He had seen roadkill before; he had handled dead animals before. But a human corpse was new. Looking at her, she could have only been about seven years old. Lying amongst reeds near a small stream, her clothes had the white kiss of ice all over, and her skin was an unnatural blue shade that made him uncomfortable. Her eyes glared out like crystal balls sparkling with frost.

Then he decided.

Within an hour of finding her, he stood in his basement, in front of a neatly tucked altar. The heavy wood was long stained; pools of black wax were splashed on the table top mingling with soot and ash. The spirits of darkness preferred the living – animals or otherwise. But an innocent like this was valued higher – be they living or dead.

As he worked, he desperately hoped that the child had not met with a truly grisly end. “Then again,” he thought, “any end is grisly.”

When the time came, he lowered his voice and began reciting the scripture. Any thought for the child was wiped from his internal moral compass. He had a request and she was the offering – that was all. The sooner her spirit was absorbed, the sooner he would be reborn.

As he spoke the words a pure, white cloud escaped the girl’s lips and rose. It glowed faintly, increasing in brightness until it was pulsating like a heart then speared him in the chest.

The chill gripped him, rattling his ribcage and bowing his back. He snapped backwards, his spine curved inward unnaturally, his arms and legs becoming disjointed at the elbows and knees. An inhumane hiss escaped his lips as the final moments of the girls life replayed in his mind’s eye – the fear, the rushing water, the cold, and a final fleeting vision of a woman screaming and wading out into the water, but darkness took over and she was gone. The thoughts poured into his mind in one, violent rush, like a waterfall into a lake and then just as suddenly ceased.

His body was released and he collapsed to his knees, his skin slick with sweat. Bones popped obscenely as his back straightened. His limbs crunched and cracked back into place and he tried to catch his breath, as he shakily held onto the altar and pulled himself to his feet.

His aged, wrinkled skin began to flake and then peel, like a snake shedding. Youthful skin, younger limbs, a fresh face emerged, his chrysalis crumbled to reveal his younger self.

Ignoring the corpse, he used his foot to roll her out of the way and snuffed out the black flames of the candles. He smirked; satisfied that he had been restored to his prime because of the innocent girl that lay dead on his stone floor.

He turned around to deal with her husk, and froze.

The body was gone.

The blanket he had wrapped her in still lay on the floor in a heap. Glancing around, Alastair knelt down to lift it up, convinced that he would find her underneath the pile. As his knee touched the stone floor he felt the icy grip in his chest again, he breathed in sharply as his head snapped up and he came face to face with the glassy eyed child.

Her hand had pierced through his ribs and was gripping him in a cold vice. She was grinning at him with dead teeth and black eyes, a rotten smell emanating from her mouth. Alastair’s breath was completely lost.

He could feel the freeze in his heart and the panic in his throat, unceasing as the child smiled with a frosty glint in her eye.

She had decided.

She raised a wax covered candlestick above her head.

Gary McGuigan is thirteen years old and is usually found drawing and doodling on pieces of scrap paper. He often creates new and horrific creatures of the dark and supernatural whilst whispering gruesome tales to the cat. He is attending high school in Glasgow and hopes to put his artistic strengths towards a career in computer game design.

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