Today’s prompt calls for a story starting with a ransom note, which gave me an idea for a passage, if not a whole story. I always try to depict fear as accurately as I can. It stems, I think, from the moments of utter panic I go through as a mother. The thing is, no matter how I write it, it never feels real enough.
“YOU’LL GET YOUR BOY BACK FOR £100,000. NO POLICE OR HE DIES. WAIT FOR OUR CALL”
The note was on the floor, in the hall, when I got home. I look around and call for Mike, irate. This kind of jokes are unacceptable. I get no answer. I call again. I check the living room, my keys still on my hand, then the kitchen.
I call his name up the stairs, dropping my handbag on the floor. I run upstairs, an empty pressure at the back of my throat. His room is empty. Our room is empty. So are the bathroom and the spare room.
I stand still in the landing, counting days on my fingers, trying to keep my brain from unraveling. It’s twenty third. Did Mike have something after school today?
My heart is starting to pound as I get back downstairs and fish my phone out of my handbag. Nothing on the calendar. I call John. Mike is not with him. I tell him about the note. He reacts like I did, it must be a joke, except that he doesn’t sound confident. “Maybe he’s at the park” he said. That gives me some temporary relief and keeps my nerves in check as I leave the house and walk, trying hard not to run, to the park. There are a few kids there, some are Mike’s friends. No, they haven’t seen him. No, they swear, Miss, we don’t know where he is. The empty pressure is tightening at the back of my throat and tears are rising to my eyes.
I check the convenience store as I call John back. He’s on his way.
In the middle of the street, I stare at the note that I have kept balled up in my fist. I read the letters over and over again, convinced something will tell me that this is all wrong, this is not true. The sound of my heart inside of my body makes it impossible to think. I feel sick. My mouth is dry. I want to scream, but I can’t. No voice comes out.
Where are you? Where are you? Where are you?
John finds me still standing there. My hands are shaking when I give him the piece of paper. He calls the police.
“Wait,” I say with enthusiasm “he’s probably back now.” My brain holds on to the idea that we have just crossed paths when I was looking for him. I run through the rooms again, in the same order, but this time I look inside wardrobes and under beds.
I run back downstairs and look again. John follows me. I am vaguely aware he is speaking to me but I can’t make out what he is saying.
“We need to go to the police station.” He says grabbing me by the shoulders.
“No, no, what if Mike needs me? What if he calls for me?” I cry. “What if he needs his mother? I need to be here.” My whole body shakes, my mouth feels bitter and all I can think of is “where are you?”
“He’s not here.” John’s voice breaks. I vomit on the floor.
PS: It wasn’t impossible to write and I can’t tell how effective it is, but I can’t say I found it easy to write either. This is every parent’s worse nightmare and I don’t even want to write about it, but I still wanted to carry out the exercise. I do feel a bit sick and teary, I won’t lie. I need a glass of wine I think!