stranger danger

The 500 Club has yet to post a prompt for last week, and I’m already way behind, so I’ve gone to a different source for this week’s flash fiction post. (My on-writing post will publish tomorrow and then there will be another flash fiction piece on Friday, which will put me back on shed-dule.)

I’m using a prompt from the appropriate and utilitarianly named Flash Fiction, and it’s a different sort of prompt. This one is just a picture. It’s also a tad longer than my Flash Fiction is typically, stretching to about 600 words instead of the customary 500. What can I say? I was long winded today.

stranger danger

The man with the bag was scary.

Thomas ran toward his mother, his little legs pumping. He’d caught a glimpse of the man over his shoulder. He was tall and lean, and he wore a baseball cap which cast a shadow over his face. His facial features were lost in the shadow, except for his eyes. His eyes seemed to glow.

Up ahead, his mother turned and, laughing, called for him. “Come-on, buddy! Hurry up!”

Thomas threw his arms back and forth. He was wearing his new sneakers. They made him faster, carrying him away from the shadow man toward the safe embrace of his mother’s arms.

As he reached his mother, he dared to look back. The shadow man’s long gait had given him an unfair advantage. While Thomas ran as hard as he ever remembered running, the shadow man had lumbered at a leisurely pace, and yet, he was upon them. A cloud rolled across the sky and his face disappeared almost entirely, except for those eyes. And his mouth. Looking at Thomas, he spoke.

“Hey there, little man,” he said with a crooked smile. Thomas could feel his mother’s arms tighten around him. Stranger danger, he thought. Stranger danger, stranger danger, stranger danger!

Looking up to Thomas’s mother, the man smiled wider and said, “I have a grandson I reckon to be about his age. How old is he?”

Thomas’s mother loosened her grip.

Stranger!

Danger!

“He’s…uh,” she stumbled over her words. “Three!” she said, laughing. “I’m still getting used to using years instead of months.”

The man laughed with her, a deep, rolling belly laugh that sounded like Santa Clause in the cartoons.

“They grow up quick,” the shadow man said. “Like weeds.” The two adults shared a conspiratorial chuckle.

Meanwhile, Thomas was eyeing the bag in the man’s hand. Perhaps it held the secret to the shadow man. Maybe its contents would betray his motive, be it good or bad. Thomas stared at it intensely. The words on the side meant nothing to him, save for their blocky look and the dark ink in which they appeared to be stamped. The bag looked foreboding.

After a few seconds, Thomas realized all was quiet and looked up to see the man looking down at him. Stranger danger!

“Wondering what I got, little man?”

Thomas didn’t move.

“Been out shopping. Got me some pants. But…I got something else, too.” He bent down, his shadow face coming close enough to Thomas that he could smell coffee and cigarettes on his breath. He scooped a hand into the bag and snatched something with lightening speed. Showing it to Thomas’s mother, the man asked, “May I?”

Thomas’s mother smiled and the man knelt. He held out his hand, and there, in his palm, was a handful of candy. Just as Thomas saw the candy, the clouds parted and light reflecting off the foil of the candy illuminated the shadow man’s face. He had a kind smile and gentle eyes. And candy. The shadow man had candy.

Thomas smiled then, too, and took the candy.

As they walked away, Thomas stuffing the first piece of candy in his mouth, his mother asked. “Why were you so shy back there?”

“Stranger danger,” Thomas said.

She smiled and knelt beside him, bringing herself eye-level with him. “Thomas, I’m glad you remembered that, but there’s no danger if I’m there. Momma won’t let anything bad happen to you ever again.”

Thomas supposed not. After all, the shadow man had candy and his mother’s approval, which was two things more than his father had.

Perhaps all men weren’t made of shadows.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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