Children Pie

by Stewart Ashton. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

It was dark. As it was the middle of the night that was no great surprise, but to Delores the lack of surprise didn’t help. Delores hated the dark. She had always hated the dark. When it was dark you heard things. Things creaked. Things crept. Things came and crunched your bones. Delores was rather attached to her bones.

‘Did you hear that?’ Delores whispered.

‘Hear what?’ Dog asked sleepily.

‘That noise.’

Dog fidgeted, annoyed that he’d been disturbed. ‘It’ll just be some monster coming to murder you,’ he said in a disinterested tone.

‘You’re not funny,’ Delores said crossly. ‘Not funny at all.’

‘In that case, I’ll cancel my spot at the comedy club and go back to sleep.’

Dolores looked worriedly up at the sickly yellow light leaking in through the newspaper covered windows and tugged the thin blanket to her chin. She wished Dog had been a dog. A dog would have barked and gone to investigate. A dog would have tried to scare the monster away. A dog would have at least been some comfort.

A cat named Dog just wasn’t the same.

Reaching her hand out into the cold night air, she scrambled around the floorboards, avoiding the bed leg that was attempting to stamp on her hand. Delores and her bed hadn’t been getting along. One day she’d given it a kick, and in retaliation, her bed had sneaked out in the middle of the night and tipped her down the stairs.

Delores had slept on the floor ever since.

Her fingers brushed the hard plastic bulk of her unicorn night light and she quickly clutched it to her. She knew she was far too old for a night light (she guessed she was about eleven or twelve, but wasn’t sure), and it no longer even worked. It was however more use than a cat named Dog. It was hard and she could throw it.