"Charlie, sweetheart, dinner's ready!"
Charlie, a young boy, no older than 8, lit up upon hearing his mother's voice. He had been whittling away at a stick, seeming as though he knew what he was doing and for what purpose, but in actuality, he hadn't the slightest clue.
"Coming, mother!" he called, holding his stick tightly in his hand.
He jumped up from where he had been sitting on the floor, and hurried out of his room. As he ran downstairs, he hurried past his older brother, who shouted after him.
That made the young boy giggle.
Upon hearing the little boy giggling, the elder brother smiled, and began running after the small boy, hoping to catch him before he reached the kitchen.
From where the boys were, they could see their mother in the kitchen smiling as she watched them barrelling towards her. The young boy had a look of excitement etched onto his face, while his brother seemed to be overjoyed by the playful matter.
"Careful," their mother spoke. "I don't want either of you to get hurt."
At that moment, seemingly timed, a window could be heard, shattering.
It came from Charlie's room.
Immediately, the boys' mother seemed to know what was happening, and shushed the now frozen boys.
"Come along," she whispered worriedly, "we must hurry. Father is waiting for us."
At her words, the boys nodded, following the visibly frightened woman through the door leading onto their back terrace. The terrace was wet, yet it hadn't been raining.
From inside the house, footsteps and hushed voices could be heard. The boys were terrified, and their mother had to hurry.
She ushered the two around their house. They had no basement, almost nobody in this area did, but their house was held about a foot or two above the ground.
The boys grew confused as their mother kneeled down. She made sure to look as though she was searching for something in the dirt, and as she did so, she whispered to the Charlie.
"Charlie, sweetheart, I need you to hide under the house, okay?"
"No buts." Her voice was hushed, yet stern. Hurried. "Please, baby, I need you to do as I say."
Charlie nodded. He dropped his stick at his mothers side and began crawling under the house. He found a small pit, big enough only for his tiny body to curl into, and he did just that.
When he looked up, he was surprised to see his mother throw his stick towards him.
"Hold it tight," she said. "It will know what to do when it needs to. I'll see you soon, my darling angel."
With that, she stood. Charlie was worried, terrified, but before he could say anything, his mother turned, facing the way in which they had come, hiding the young boys older brother behind her.
"Jackson," he heard his mother speaking to his older brother. "Run, sweetheart. Find father."
As his brother turned and ran, another pair of feet could be seen by the hidden boy, walking towards his mother.
"The brat," a voice, one that could only be assumed to be owned by the same man who owned the unknown feet, spoke. "Where is he?"
"Do not speak of my child as such, vermin." The hidden boys mother spoke, almost spitting out the words.
"Tell me where the brat is or you will suffer the same fate as your sister."
"I will never speak, rat. If I have to face her fate, then so be it. At least I will know that my son is safe."
Only half a moment had passed, yet after the unknown man spoke that one word, mother dropped.
Blood pooled in the dirt beneath her lifeless body. Her colourless face was all too visible for the hidden boy.
It was clear.
She had died before she even touched the ground.
The unknown man moved, walking toward his mother's corpse. He kicked it out of spite, before stepping over it and continuing on.
"Follow the boy!" The unknown man shouted. "The mother is dead! The boy is our only hope of finding the little cretin!"
Five minutes of painful silence passed before new feet came scurrying into view. The person who owned said feet carelessly pushed Charlies mothers corpse under the house, unbeknownst to the fact that Charlie himself was right there to witness it.
Charlie remained still, silent, for hours. He only stared into his mother's lifeless eyes, unbelieving, unknowing if his brother was alive or dead.
When Charlie saw a different set of feet moving swiftly to the pool of dried blood that had been left by the boys dead mother, the hidden boy stiffened.
The new person knelt down.
She looked to where Charlies mother had been pretending to search for something in the dirt. Once she was sure of what she had seen, she knelt down. All she saw was the lifeless body that had been so harshly pushed beneath the house.
What happened next shocked Charlie.
The stick he had been holding oh so tight for the past several hours began to shake. It was quivering in the young boys terrified grip. Not another moment had passed before his mother's corpse was so carelessly pushed from beneath the house by an unseen force.
Charlie kept quiet.
The stick in his hand let off a soft glow, illuminating his tear stained face for the unknown woman to see. She smiled softly at him.
"Hello Charlie." Her voice was gentle. "Could you please come out from there? Your mother told me you would be down here."
"M-Mother is d-dead."
"Yes, unfortunately, she is. But, Charlie, what you don't realise is that she knew this day would come. She told me that, when this day came, you would be hidden beneath the house. She left the mark right here," the woman pointed right at where Charlie's mother had been pretending to dig, "that she said she would leave where she had hidden you."
"H-How do I know I-I can trust y-you?"
The woman pulled up her sleeve, revealing a mark on her inner wrist, before speaking. "Your mother and I have the same mark, see?"
In that moment, Charlie remembered something his mother had told him just a few months prior.
"Charlie, sweetheart, if someone tells you they want to help you, and they have this mark," his mother spoke sweetly, pulling up her sleeve to show a mark on her inner wrist, "you can trust them. If you still don't trust them, have them say our secret phrase."
"Which one, mother?" The small boy had questioned.
"Vental vo piinton, sweetheart."
The boy nodded. "Okay, mother."
"Th-The secret phrase. What is it?" Charlie spoke with next to no hesitation.
"Vental vo piinton. Love and peace." She spoke immediately.
With that, Charlie scurried out from under the house. Collapsing into the woman's arms, he began crying into her shoulder. She wrapped him up in a careful hug, gently rubbing his back, just as his mother used to do when he was sad.
"I'll take you to a safe place, okay? A place where those men can't get to you, and I promise I will explain everything later." She spoke with care lacing each of her words. Charlie nodded in response, having no words to offer.