“The Curious Child” by Nadia Attia (Winner of October Byte Shorts Showcase)

Posted by Justine Solomons on 17 October 2018, in News, Showcase, Writers

The Curious Child by Nadia Attia

The girl’s back again. Curious little thing! Always stands a way off down the road, staring, her chubby hands clutching at her shawl. My own hand twitches at an itch, but my muscles have wasted so I can scarce lift my arm.

Huh: she’s getting braver – close enough that I can see the curls of hair about her face, wild red hair like mine. The sun’s particularly spiteful today, burning and bleaching the back of my neck. And these damn flies…

The clang of iron startles me out of slumber, but my lids are playing catch up.

CLANG! Another stone hits. I can tell the boy’s running away as his laughter gets lost on the breeze – I drink in the sweet heather and peat that it carries on its back.

She could’ve been my daughter in another life. I would’ve told her all about my adventures as the tallow burned, as we ate buttered cakes. My ashen mouth waters: a welcome relief.


She speaks!

My smile is likely hidden in my beard. A noisy crow skitters past and she’s off down the road at full pelt before I can shape the words of a reply…

Damn flies.

“Are… are you a bad man?”
I can hear the girl’s sweet voice but can’t turn my head, or shift from the thick bar that girdles my waist.

“Pa says you are. But you don’t look it.”

Am I weeping?

“What’s your name?” she asks.

The gibbet swings me around so that my shadow smothers her. I want to answer but I need to cough something chronic – there’s a flutter and tickle in my chest that’s near driving me mad. I want to tell her my name, tell her not to be afraid, thank her for brightening my long and hollow days. But as my cracked lips part, all that comes out is a beak and feathered head.

The crow explodes into the featureless grey sky.

I’m already gone.


If you're a member of Byte The Book and interested in entering our monthly short short story competition and have your story featured on our site and also get a mention in our newsletter please do get in touch at info@bytethebook.com.

The closing date for our November showcase is 31st October 2018.  Please send your entry to info@bytethebook.com and mark it November Byte Shorts. Stories should be no longer than 5,000 words (although shorter is preferred).

Due to the volume of entries we can't give feedback on all entries.

You can join Byte The Book from £36 a quarter here.

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