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Suffer the Little Children

by Julie2me 

Posted: 11 November 2015
Word Count: 774
Summary: Hi there, this is my first attempt at a short story which I'm thinking of extending to 1500 words and submitting to a short story publisher. I'd love to hear any feedback - especially as it's rather graphic. Also not sure if it is more suitable for a YA audience. Look forward to any comments. Many thanks.

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“Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of the Heavens”.
The tears pricked at the back of his eyes as he reread the words.  He stepped uneasily into the confessional; it was cramped but strangely comforting, like a brief hibernation from the world outside.  Outside, where nothing was right and everything was wrong.  With one son gone and another going off the rails he had run out of options.  Their mother didn’t care; she was long gone.  She had carried out her threat to disappear if he didn’t continue to fund her drug habit without looking back.  The courts call it maintenance, but he knew what the money was spent on and it certainly wasn’t the children.  Two weeks after he was declared bankrupt the busybody next door took great pleasure in telling him she’d been seen getting into a red BMW with “That bloke with the vicious dogs”.  It took him hours to calm down his daughter and days to track down his son.
“Let us help you”, soothed the voice from the other side, “We have a retreat for the children that will give you the breathing space you need”.  They had tried this once before when the children were younger but had to collect their son after two days.  He had suffered horrendous nightmares there and made them promise never to take him back.  But he was 15 now, almost a man, old enough to look after himself and his younger sister and give his dad the rest he sorely craved.
It was the promise of a new phone that finally got Jake there, plus the guilt trip laid on him by Father John, the weird priest who always had an arm bandage to match his dog collar. Five days and he’d be back with his mates – that’s what Jake told himself.  This time there were no nightmares, in fact there wasn’t much sleep.  Once the younger ones had been settled with the nightly ritual of a campfire song with Uncle John’s special hot chocolate, they didn’t stir.  It was then that the hunting games began in the forest, though he really can’t remember to this day exactly how it happened.  All he knew was that he was unexpectedly happy there – happier than he’d been since that Christmas when he was five.  He remembered the action man toy he got and that they had all eaten dinner together - him, mum and dad, his baby sister and his older brother – he still felt guilty about his brother, that’s probably why he drank so much.
“Go on, slit it’s throat,” said Father John, as he pulled the fox cub screaming from it’s burrow, “You know you want to”.  Ignoring the animal’s cries Jake didn’t need to be told twice and snatching the knife from Father John’s hand he plunged it into the animal’s throat.  The warm blood spattered onto his face.  John smiled as he smeared the blood across his cheek and pushed his thumb into Jake’s mouth.  He tasted the blood and recoiled.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Jake – you do want to be forgiven don’t you?”   He spat the blood to the floor not knowing if this was real or if he was hallucinating again. 
“Let me help you”, was the last thing he remembered hearing before he passed out. 
The excruciating pain in his left thigh woke him.  The blade he’d use to slaughter the cub flashed before his eyes, this time soaked in his own blood.  
“We’ll do it together, Jake, let me absolve your sin and you can absolve mine.  Let me help you like I helped your brother”. Father John groaned in pleasure as his demonic eyes closed and he turned the knife on himself, slicing a chunk from his own forearm.
 “Jesus is the bread of life”, he said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. I have eaten your flesh Jake, now you must eat mine.”  He pushed the flesh into Jake’s mouth, holding it tightly closed while he gagged and swallowed.  Father John drifted into an orgasmic oblivion as Jake staggered away to vomit. 
On hands and knees in the darkness he tried to call for help but instead heard the cries of his sister.
“I couldn’t sleep”, she sobbed “And I couldn’t find you Jakey.  I thought you had left me like mum did so I called dad on your new phone.  It was ages ago, he should be here any minute”


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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 14:14 on 12 November 2015  Report this post
Powerful writing Julie,
It certainly took me out of the comfort zone you portayed in the early part of the story. I was surprised that you packed so much into the number of words you used and would feel that you don't need to extend it as it was a good flash fiction piece as it stood.
Your writing skills seem to be very strong so I'm surprised to see you saying it's your first attempt at a short story. Perhaps others can offer more advice as it's not the sort of writing I'm very familiar with. Hope this helps.


Oh yeah. The title was so appropriate on a number of different levels. Very thought provoking in itself.

Bazz at 14:30 on 12 November 2015  Report this post
Hi Julie, great to see someone new posting in the group :)

The ending of this is a little abrupt, so I'm not sure if it's finished, you say you wanted to extend it, is this only the first part perhaps?
I think it's a very well written piece, tightly focused, as Alan says. I'm not sure if it's suitable for a YA audience, but then it might be just a matter of restraining a few details, but even then i don't think you could have the priest putting his finger in the boy's mouth, asking him to eat his flesh, etc. Possibly if you pitched it as a horror piece, what Darren Shan gets away with in his YA novels would surprise you...! Another thing to think of is the way not only adults behave, but children too, should Jake be so keen to kill the cub, perhaps if he was against it, a more moral angle would help balance the gore?

I liked how quickly this story got going, but the first paragraph is a little confusing. Could you name the father, as first i got confused when the points of view switched from him to Jake.

There are great details here, Father John is a lurid and fascinating character (love his bandaged arm, brilliant). Possibly the name's John and Jake are a bit too similiar though?

This is a great piece of description to set the story up at the beginning

He stepped uneasily into the confessional; it was cramped but strangely comforting, like a brief hibernation from the world outside.  Outside, where nothing was right and everything was wrong.

I agree with Alan, if this is your first attempt at a short story, it's very impressive.
Hope some of this helps, would love to read more :)

TassieDevil at 14:41 on 12 November 2015  Report this post
Me again,
As Bazz says John and Jake are too similar. Short Story Rule 1. Start names with different letters and further distinguish them by number of syllables eg John and Adrian. Makes it easier for the reader to differentiate.

Julie2me at 11:00 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
Thank you Alan and Bazz so much for your prompt and constructive feedback - extremely helpful.  
This was part of an assignment to get a short story onto one A4 side, hence the abrupt ending!  It was supposed to be an updated version of a fairy tale, as many stories are, and I chose Hansel and Gretel - which explains the brother and sister, bad mother etc.

I'll definitely change the names - think I was subconsciously using names beginning with the same letter as my own name.  Isn't it strange what comes out when you write?!!

I quite like the sound of leaving it as a flash fiction piece so think I'll try it out on that group.

Many thanks again for your help.



Bazz at 13:50 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
Hi Julie, the hansel and gretel explanation is interesting, i see a lot of contests for updated fairy tales and things like that, so i could definitely see this finding a home somewhere.

I'll take a look at the new piece in FF, your right, it might work best as a really tight piece of flash.

Annecdotist at 09:06 on 24 November 2015  Report this post
Hi Julie, like others, I think this is really impressive for your first attempt at a short story. Like them, I was also confused between the two main characters, but for me however I don’t think clearer names would be sufficient. I think the piece is too short to have two different points of view and it might be more powerful omitting both the opening and concluding paragraphs and focusing it solely on Jake.
However, I also noted that you wanted to do it as a version of Hansel and Gretel and I think that the perverted Catholicism is a good route to this. But if you want to do that, you’d probably need to be writing a much longer story so that the brother and sister link is stronger, likewise their shared sense of banishment.
Wishing you the pleasure of many more gruesome short stories!

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