Reading Time: 2 minutes

He held the stick firmly, fingers crisscrossed near the center. It would sturdy his grip and give him authority over the flames that were sputtering but then roaring again when he shifted the burning wood. The embers flickered red and orange, warning him of the approaching danger, the moment when the spirit would shed its burning cloak and look for an innocent boy to possess.

The other boys had fed him stories and eye-witnessed accounts of screeching demons and wailing ghosts who had taken hold of normal people, acting quickly before they were dragged to the bowels of hell or forced to hang from the tree limbs for centuries.

The boy’s father had laughed and rubbished the claims. He had been cremating dead bodies for fifteen years now but had never seen or heard a ghost or been possessed by any monstrous entity. The only noises he had heard were crackling skin and exploding bones. They had been music to his ears, the mark of a job well done. Half-burnt or slowly sizzling corpses were never a welcome sight.

So to empty the boy of his fears, the man had begun taking him to the cremation ground every Sunday. There was no better way to acquaint him with death and show him that it was nothing but a depressing and boring affair. Bodies were brought one after the other. Some were small, some larger, yet each one was reduced to almost the same amount of dust and ash.

This was the boy’s seventh and though the previous six had not misbehaved, there was no guarantee of what could happen. As smoke blew into his face, the boy shifted the brown shawl on his shoulders, fastening it tightly around his nose and mouth. The warm fabric had covered the dead woman whose burning body he now tended to.

It was customary to remove any cloth or fabric and pass it on to the poor and needy before feeding the bodies to hungry fires. The boy had kept the shawl aside for himself. It was soft and warm and just the right size. His father had gently nodded his approval.

The fire was dying down. The worst had hopefully passed. This made the boy smile, relax, and turn his back towards the smoldering heap. He would tell his father that he was no longer afraid.

A loud pop and a gentle hiss made the boy stop in his tracks. He felt a hard tug and the shawl came loose from his face. The voice behind his ear was soft but raspy. There was no mistaking what it said.

‘Give me my shawl back.’

Submit your writing.

Hungry to read?

Looking for variety?

MASTICADORESINDIA has what you need!

Click the image to know more.

Go on! Check out my Short Stories Books – Free on Kindle Unlimited
Woman's cracked abstract face with fire streaks
Two smiling potato faces on a couch on a
Shadow of vines on a brick wall

36 Comments on “The Dead Woman’s Shawl – Flash Fiction Story

  1. Poor kid… Reminds me of the tagline for the move Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” I suppose that’s what we get for letting our guard down. I love this stuff, Terveen. I grew up a huge fan of horror, fantasy and sci-fi, and your tales fit right in. Well done! *tips cap* 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Mike. That tagline is awesome. I’m a huge fan of horror, sci-fi and the supernatural. Love scaring myself. I appreciate the huge compliment. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Jeff. There’s something about death that is forever haunting and inviting. A big question mark hangs… 🙂

  2. This is great. I have always wondered what it would be like to have that job. I am always telling myself, “wait for it, wait for it when I read your work. I know something is coming to surprise me. Entertaining piece and on a subject most of us have probably that about. Loved that ending!!! Hugs, Joni

    • Thank you so much, Joni. The dead definitely have a grip over the living. I hope you have a great week ahead and keep writing! 🙂

  3. This woman is on fire and she’s still cold? She’s gonna need more than that shawl. She might need to shake that kid down for his pants and socks too. “There was no better way to acquaint him with death and show him that it was nothing but a depressing and boring affair.” It’s so true. One of the most terrifying things about death is just how normal it is.

    • ‘This woman is on fire and she’s still cold’
      Haha! I like how you put that, Tony. It’s really true that death is as normal as normal gets. But still we’re so afraid of it. Probably the ‘unknown after’ is the scary part…if there even is one. Thanks a lot for your wise words. 🙂

  4. I’m glad that currently this is morning. I’m used to such sudden since I started reading your stories.
    Again, I was reading this post on reddit & someone in the comment section said that, ” Don’t assume death is permanent or that this is your first or last time being conscious. There are no assurances when you’re not the one in control.”

    • Death is a subject that has many theories and conspiracies wrapped around it. I guess one will never really know. And those who claim that they do know…well…good for them. I hope they are putting their knowledge and awareness to good use. Thanks for sharing this, Tanishq. 🙂

  5. The way you have managed to keep a sinister atmosphere throughout the story is simply amazing!

  6. Wow, that is really haunting. I believe it resonates with a lot of us. When we were young, we heard these voices. I always thought my real parents would come to get me so that I could get away–when they came, they would speak to me softly and we would fly away as quietly as we could. However when I eventually realized how I resembled my parents and no way I could be somebody else’s child, I was sooooo disappointed. I love haunting voices but at the same time I am also afraid of them.

    • Haoyan, when I read your words I really wish that you had had a happier childhood. Parents don’t realize the damage they can inflict upon a child. Imagine hoping that your real parents were elsewhere and you were waiting for them to arrive. Haunting voices often originate from our minds. Thank you so much for your sharing. I appreciate it. 🙂

      • Thank you for your comment. I wish I could spin my childhood into a tragicomedy somehow. I am still thinking and can’t come up with a good scheme. LOL. Or I probably can write about the bitter and comical acrimony between my parents. I want to make it comical and readable–I am still searching for a way to do it.

It Ain't Right Till You Comment. Go Ahead!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: