Short Story – The Nursery

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and not human. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in ancient times. The story is about loneliness.

*******

The wailing could be heard from the street. Distressed cries from a dozen infants and small children filled the air. Serena drifted among them, immune to the din. The nursemaids scurried and shushed as best they could only to have another child set the whole crew off .

The hourglass on the shelf marked off the time for the nurses. They shared turning it when the last grains of sand slid through. Reminding each other when feeding time was due.

Serena looked into the eyes of the child in the crib closest to her. As the child gazed into Serena’s eyes, he started whimpering.

The nursemaids scrambled to quiet him before he triggered the whole nursery. Again.

Serena moved on. The next child reacted exactly as the last eight had and burst into tears quickly. The nurses hurried over to him.

Serena reached the tenth child, a little girl, and looked into her eyes.

She expected the child to close her eyes to cry as the others had.

The usual time on the hourglass elapsed yet the child remained transfixed. They continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.

The sand ran through the hourglass at its usual rate. Serena waited. Staring into the child’s eyes.

The child stared back.

Finally, Serena stopped staring and looked. Really looked. Into the child’s eyes.

She saw it. A sadness to match her own. Profound melancholy. So deep the child did not scream or fuss.

Serena was entranced by a set of eyes that looked into hers reflecting what she felt.

“What is your name?” Serena broke the spell.

“They call me Mariana.”

“But what is your name?”

“The name they gave me is Mariana.”

“And who are you?”

“I am Iris.”

“Hello, Iris. I am Serena.”

One of the nursemaids paused at the crib. Seeing the child staring, the nurse looked briefly for the object of the child’s stare. Seeing nothing, she moved quickly to another whimpering tot.

The sand flowed through the hourglass. One of the nurses turned it over.  It began again.

Serena and Iris continued their silent conversation.

“Would you like to come with me, Iris?”

“Could we leave this place?”

“Yes.”

“Will we be together?”

“Yes.”

“I will never be lonely again?”

“We will always have each other.”

The sand ran out of the hourglass, Too late.  A nurse noticed the crumpled body in Mariana’s crib and came over to check on her.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

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