Tuesday, January 17, 2017

This is my first time writing a response to one of Chuck Windig's prompts. I've only written a handful of times in my life, but I hope to start getting some practice and experience. Please feel free to leave comments, critiques, questions.

My Greatest Fear. 

My body sinks into my warm, soft bed. I look forward to slipping into my red sheepskin blanket all day. It's so comfortable, the softness of the sheepskin makes me feel like I'm enveloped in a cloud. It should be my happy place. But the moment I lay down, the panic begins.

"Are you sure you saw them breathing?" I ask myself. I run the moment over and over again in my head. I placed my youngest daughter in bed next to her sister once she fell asleep. I removed all pillows from the bed.  Why did I move the pillows? They're 3 and 7, they should be well past the age where one would suffocate in their sleep. But what if the pillow moves the wrong way? What if my youngest gets stuck under her sister's pillow and can't get out? Images of her thrashing alone, terrified, and unable to escape fill my mind. I cringe and shake my head. That's why they can't sleep with pillows. That's why I carry them out of the room after my oldest falls asleep, so she doesn't reach for one if she wakes up in the middle of the night. I can't take the risk. After the pillows were gone, I took away their large comforter. I brought out the small blankets, the ones that are less likely to cover their faces. I covered each of them up and stood back to look. And I waited. I watched each of them breathe, their stomachs rising. I watched Alice until I feel like I've seen her stomach rise long enough. I turned to Eliza, watching her shoulders move slightly with each breath. They're breathing. They're breathing. They're breathing.

I tried to reassure myself with the memory. They were breathing. I saw it. Did I see it? Did I turn my head away a split second too early? What if right as I looked away Alice started to choke? What if she was struggling to breathe and I didn't see, didn't notice? I try to fight it, but I can't. I rise quietly, trying not to wake my husband. My feet hit the hardwood floor and I make my way to their room. I walk in, turning on the light, secretly hoping Alice will wake so I can bring her to sleep with me. Eliza is old enough now, old enough to be safe. But Alice, is she safe yet? I stand at the edge of the room, holding my breath. I don't want to breathe in, because if I do it could compromise what I'm seeing. What if my brain is tricking me into thinking they are breathing as I take in my own breaths? I see their chests rise. I see them taking their breaths. They are safe, they are whole, they are living.

I turn to leave, but see the window in the corner of my eye. Is it locked? I think I checked earlier, but did I really? This thought feels intrusive, irrational. Maybe I shouldn't check. But what if I don't? What if someone sneaks in because I didn't check? What if they take the girls? They would be so scared, so alone, so afraid. I take a step towards the window, unable to push the thoughts away. I lift up on it with all the strength I can muster to be sure. It's locked. Which reminds me, did I check the doors?

I walk through the house as quietly as I can, checking the doors. I turn the handle a few times, until they all feel right and secure in my hand. They are locked. We are safe. I pass by the oven and press the off button a few times, just to be sure.

But what about the dog? Was she locked in her crate? If she isn't she could get into the girls' room and accidentally smother them while they are sleeping. I check her cage once more, lifting a few ties to be sure it's secure. I make my way back to my room.

I hit the pillow, sliding into my sheep-skin blanket. So soft, so secure. I close my eyes waiting for sleep to take me.

I feel the first touches of terror. Thoughts of Alice fill my mind. She's terrified, alone, she can't fill her lungs. She's hoping I'll help her but I'm not there. I'm not there. I'm not there.

My feet hit the hardwood floor.


  1. A harsh fear to contend with! The repetition works really well in reinforcing how much of an ingrained habit this excessive-checking behaviour has become. It's a fine line between protection and over-protection, and you really capture the feeling of somebody trying hard to straddle that line. To be a mother and not a (s)mother. Ironic, given the fear of the younger child being smothered by the pillow, her sister, the dog, etc.

    Since you asked for brutal honesty, the only thing I can recommend at the moment is probably something you've heard many times before: "Show, don't tell." Specifically in relation to your comment: "My blanket is red on top, white on the bottom." It feels a bit shoe-horned in. Instead of telling the colours, can you show it somehow?

    "My fingers brush the soft sheepskin of my red and white blanket as I tug it up towards my chin."

    Or something to that effect, rather than just coming out with a random "hey, here's the colour of a thing" statement.

    Other than that, really good! I wouldn't have thought this was your first time writing for a flash fic challenge.

  2. I really wrestled with that line about the blanket and I felt like it stuck out like a sore thumb! Thank you for the suggestion.

    I really appreciate all the feedback. Anyone saying anything is incredibly valuable to me, I am going to read this quite a few times and think over what you've said. Thank you for taking the time to write!!!

  3. Wow, you did an amazing job here! Well done! xo

  4. Thanks so much L.C., I really like hearing that people read and enjoyed.