Microfiction #writephoto: Children

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt.


The little girl backed out of the nursery with a frown on her face and shook her head.

“Go on, Dawn, have a look! This is the kind of playroom children had in the olden days.”

The child shook her head again. “Don’t like it.”

Her grandmother sighed in exaggerated exasperation and rolled her eyes for the benefit of Dawn’s mother. “I don’t know why you make such a fuss of her. You should have made her go with Tony to the zoo. She only says she doesn’t like to see animals in cages. All children like zoos.”

Dawn’s mother bristled. Her mother-in-law had been spoiling for a fight since she got into the car that morning. Since she and Darren had been married, come to that.

“Museums aren’t suitable for four-year-olds.” She ploughed on relentlessly. “You spoil her. I was only telling Darren this morning—”

“Fine. Come on Dawn, let’s go and see if we can find an ice cream somewhere.”

She took the child’s hand and turned on her heel. The older woman followed, her mouth pinched and puckered as if she’d been sucking lemons. Dawn looked back, just once, and narrowed her eyes. The doll in the cot stared back, coldly.


Later, when the last visitors had left, the gift shop was closed, and the hall locked up for the night, something stirred. Two cats, the mousers, prowled cautiously around the cafeteria area and hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. Fur bristled and bushed, and they slunk back into the smooth-tiled, plastic-chaired section, leaving the upper floors to the shadows.

In the nursery, a regular creak-creak began as the rocking horse swayed into movement. And from the bed in the far corner of the room, came the faint, hiccoughing sound of a child weeping.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

49 thoughts on “Microfiction #writephoto: Children”

  1. Odd, but my rocking horse is swaying, too. I hadn’t even read yours, was checking Sue’s link and saw your story.
    News makes me think of you. Fingers crossed that you aren’t left haunted like the playroom.

    1. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Massive abstention could well let the worst case scenario in. And there are worse things than haunted rocking horses that could crawl out of the woodwork.

      1. Yes, you’ve written of a few all ready. Let’s hope the vote turns out, and doesn’t turn to the right on the way to the ballot box.

    1. There’s something really unsavoury about old toys. For years we’ve been carting around with us my mother-in-law’s ‘best’ doll ie one she never played with that’s still in its box, frock getting grimy with age, glass eyes etc. My children were all terrified of it and wouldn’t have wanted it even if they’d been allowed near it.

      1. They just weren’t as ‘cute’ in the old days, and when they age, as you say, they can become grotesque. There’s something about the lighting in Sue’s photo as well that gives the room a morbid air, definitely. When I was a child my grandparents lived in an old Vicarage, and I had a room up in the old servants corridor as my playroom. I would go up there to play and it would get colder and colder, and I would feel as though someone was watching me. I’d stand it as long as I could, then run all the way downstairs into the warmth. Sue’s photo and your story reminded me of that…

      2. How funny! Our playroom was the servant’s room on a separate corridor. I remember once being sent down to sleep as a punishment for organising high jinks at bedtime. I was petrified!

      3. When we all moved out of the big bedroom and got our own rooms, guess who got the playroom? There was a niche in the wall over the bed with the old bell system in it that we had papered over when the room was redecorated. I used to hear scratching sounds coming from inside it…

      4. I think that does have something to do with it. Or the earth upon which they stand – I think that can have an effect too. We once had a shaman come and bless the ground beneath our house – it was for sale and we couldn’t get a single viewer. Within the day we have four viewings booked.

  2. Glad to see I’m not the only one who wrote a creepy tale! I was sure everyone else would see something sweet and perfectly normal, hehhe. Nicely done, Jane.

      1. Children certainly didn’t have the dozens and dozens of toys modern kids have. They looked after them and probably didn’t play with them that much. Maybe wouldn’t have been allowed to!

  3. I knew as I read through this there was going to be something delightfully unnerving at the end and you didn’t disappoint. Loved how you composed this.

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