This story was written for Cracked Flash Fiction, a challenge where you are given the first sentence and 300 words to write a story.
“Seriously? You expect me to go in there?”
“You threw the ball in there, you can go and get it out of her garden.”
“They say the gnomes in the garden are alive,” the taller one said.
“I heard that the old woman hunts at night to feed,” the fatter one said with all the authority of a nine-year-old.
“What does she hunt?” the youngest asked. The tips of red gnome hats could be seen sticking up through the tall grass.
“My mum says naughty boys,” the tallest said. “And then she feeds the leftovers to the gnomes!”
“But what does she need the toys for?”
The woman stared at the three boys from behind a white lace curtain.
“To attract the nightmares, isn’t that right,” the woman said to the cat on her lap. She could not go outside now. In the daylight people were always scared of her scarred face and arms and her limp. Simple people, surely, but they still needed a bogey monster hunter.
The moon was high when she stole out of her door and picked up the discarded cricket ball. She could feel the nightmares clinging to it through her fingertips and walked in the direction of the boy’s house.
The monster was at the window when she arrived. It lunged at her, but she sent an arrow through its heart and it fell without a cry. She dragged it back to her house where the gnomes were already waiting.
At his bedroom window the youngest boy sat with a mouth open in surprise and horror and the tingle of adventure.
The next day her gnomes brought the woman a note that had been left at the gate. On it a child had scribbled ‘thank you’, accompanied by a few kisses.