Nothing sharp and nothing that could be used as a weapon was the rule. She could have crayons, pencils, pens, even marker pens–red and blue. But she had to have special permission to keep her little flashlight, the shiny metal silver one her dad had given her before he died.
She used it when she had to walk home in the dark. And it was always dark by the time she got out of school, now. But she only lived two blocks away, and there were streetlights…when they didn’t flicker and go out.
Which they usually did.
They always came back on after she got to her door.
She thought that was weird. Her mom said it was just what streetlights did sometimes.
The problem was the boys. They always came jumping out, scaring her, when she passed their house–three of them, two older ones and Brian who sat behind her in her third grade class. They’d jump out of the bushes that lined their yard, then run around her, making ugly, creepy laughs, shoving her, pinching her, teasing her about when she’d wet her pants the first day of school.
It happened almost every night, and, every night, she’d run as fast as she could to get away. They’d catch her, anyway, sometimes forcing her into the prickly bushes, and then she’d have to just hunker down and wait until they quit. The quieter she kept, the quicker they left. But, last night, they’d torn her favorite dress.
They were getting meaner. So, tonight, if they came, she was going to do what dad had told her to if she ever needed help. She was going to push the button on the flashlight three times.
Taking it out of her coat pocket and turning it on, she left school, the door banging shut and locking behind her. When she got near the corner, she stopped, took a big breath, then, gritting her teeth, marched on, hoping that, maybe tonight, the boys wouldn’t be there.
But they were.
As soon as she turned the corner, they jumped out of the bushes, yelling and laughing and poking at her.
Fumbling, she tried to find the little button, but one of the boys pushed her. She stumbled and fell, her flashlight rolling away in the grass by the curb. She scrambled after it, and the boys started making wee-wee sounds.
Her hands closed around it. She felt the button beneath her thumbs…pressed it one time, two times, three.
The lights went out all over the street.
Except for her flashlight. It glowed, streaks of lightning and sparks flying off it.
She hung on, even though it felt like a snake in her hands, cold–ice cold–and writhing.
She heard the boys scream. Something crackled and snapped. There was a strong smell she didn’t like. Then everything got too quiet.
She sobbed. But she hung on to her flashlight.
Laying very still, she waited. The smell was awful, but she didn’t dare move. Not yet. Not until she was sure they were gone. She wet her pants–couldn’t help it. She was shaking all over.
“It’s okay, Tracy. You’re safe. Go on home,” came a whisper–her dad’s voice. She cried out, happy and terrified, both. She got up and ran.
The street lights came back on once she made it to her door.
Originally created because of Amy Knepper’s writing prompt on the G+ Writer’s Discussion Group community.