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The Whisperers
About the Author: L. A. Wilson, Jr. was born in Norfolk, VA and grew up on the coastal plains of North Carolina. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America. His works have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Night Terrors and Detective Mystery Stories, MindWings Audio and The Edge: Tales of Suspense. He was a nominee for best PI short story of 2011 by Private Eye Writers of America.


Somewhere in Central Africa

Without warning, the skies darkened at noon. The sun was obliterated by an amorphous blackness, and grown men shrank in fear. A whisper began somewhere in the heavens drawing frightened eyes upward. Day had become night, and the whisperers descended in a smothering blanket that choked away the very air. Those who could not run fast enough closed themselves in their shanties foolishly expecting their flimsy walls to be an impediment. The whisperers found each crack and crevice.

Those who ran succumbed to the same fate as those who cowered in their homes. Searing pain inflicted by rigid jaws incited howls of agony.

Within days the whisperers had gone leaving the surviving populace to nurse its wounds. All were grateful to still be alive, but most would never be the same.

Atlanta, Georgia

Three years later

 

“What you looking at?” Ivory Roberts asked with exaggerated and contrived displeasure.

“I’m lookin’ at you,” the child responded without the slightest hint of intimidation.

“Didn’t your mama tell you that it’s rude to stare at people?”

“My mama don’t tell me much of nothin’,” the child retorted.

A twinge of embarrassment made Ivory frown. He knew it was probably true. He was casually acquainted with the boy’s mother. Most of the time she was three sheets in the wind and didn’t know whether she was coming or going. He couldn’t imagine how this boy felt. He was the product of a single parent household, and most of the time that parent was missing even when she was there.

“What’s your name anyway?” Ivory asked.

“Preston,” the boy answered. “I know yours.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah, it’s Ivory. How’d you get a name like that?”

“You’d have to ask my mama.”

“Where’s she?” Preston asked.

“Dead,” Ivory replied impassively.

“Then how am I gonna ask?”

“That’s the idea,” Ivory replied.

“Why don’t you ever go anywhere?”

Ivory’s eyes shot an unexpressed question back at Preston. It was a question he didn’t need to ask. It really wasn’t important how the boy knew, but it was true. He hadn’t ventured much farther than the front of this apartment building since his wife died. An occasional trip to the corner convenience store for some distasteful canned crap had been about as much as he could muster. He just hadn’t been aware that others noticed until now.

“What’s it to you?” He asked more harshly than he intended.

“I just figured you didn’t go anywhere ’cause you didn’t have anybody to go with,” Preston answered. “Since my mama ain’t around most of the time, I figured we could go somewhere together.”

For a moment Ivory was speechless. He felt bad that he had spoken to the boy in such a gruff manner.

“Like where?” Ivory asked.

“Like a ball game. I don’t have nobody to take me. I can get the money. I can pay my way.”

“Where you gonna get that kind of money?”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Preston retorted.

“That’s not how it works,” Ivory said.

This time his harsh tone was intentional.

“If you’ve got money, I have to know where it came from, otherwise I do the paying, plus your mama’s got to okay it.”

“She don’t care!”

“Doesn’t matter. She’s got to say it’s all right, and she’s got to say it to me.”

“You serious?” Preston asked with the beginnings of a grin fracturing his defensive mask.

“Damn straight. Are you?” Ivory shot back.

Preston’s eyes widened with sudden excitement. The kid lurking behind that posturing had escaped.

“There’s a game Thursday night, so you’d better start talking to your mama.”

“I can’t go Thursday,” Preston said with a sudden air of dejection.

“Why?”

“I go to the doctor on Thursdays,” he explained.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ivory asked.



This story appears in our MAR 2020 Issue
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Reader Discussion

29
Mar
Very intriguing!
By Susan R

29
Mar
Excellent story! I enjoyed it very much.
By Sylvia Auclair

29
Mar
You may need to expand this story to a novel. More time in Africa to make sure the whisperers do not return. What happens next in Atlanta for everyone. Good stuff.
By David Winn

29
Mar
Wonderful story, L.A. Love the final line, too.
By Bruce McAllister

30
Mar
This is a terrific story. Exciting and fascinating. Well done.
By Robert Petyo

30
Mar
A great piece of a story, once in a lifetime experience. One who starts to read it, has to finish it. Keep writing, keep creating magic.
By ZIAUL MOID KHAN

30
Mar
Fascinating story! Spellbinding! Definitely novel material, but a well written short story as well!! Bravo!
By Tina Jude

1
Apr
This was a well written, terrific story. I haven't read one this good.....in a long time. Kudos to the author
By Frances Dunn

5
Apr
Another great piece on the pages of Mystery Weekly!
By George Garnet


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