“Cracked and Broken” by Shawna Borman

There’s a crack in the wall and no one agrees on how it got there. Papa says the foundation shifted, but the wall didn’t want to go with it so it split right down the middle. Bubba keeps telling me the wall’s getting ready to drop the ceiling on my head. He likes messing with me, though, so I don’t believe him. Out of all the excuses, I think Mama’s is the closest. She believes Satan did it to punish us for not appreciating everything the Lord provides.

I don’t know about the Lord, but I’ve seen the wisps.

They look like little tendrils of smoke and they like to get inside things and break ‘em. They have tiny needle teeth that can gnaw through anything and their smoky bodies let ‘em fit almost anywhere.

That’s how they do it.

They did it to Mama’s favorite vase. There was a little nick in the rim and one of those wisps chewed at it until it became a crack, then one day, the whole thing shattered. I got blamed because I was the one who found it and Mama wasn’t broken yet.

A year later, not long after Mama started seeing things, I saw two of ‘em squirming their way into a hole in the wall where a nail used to hold up a picture of us all. The next day, there was about twenty of ‘em squeezed inside there munching away. A week later, it was cracked from floor to ceiling.

I’d tell Papa, but I’m afraid he’d make me start taking Mama’s meds.

He says Mama’s crazy and would blame little red men with pitchforks if he let her. He tells me not to worry about what she says. And Bubba just laughs when I try to talk to him. “You been drinking the cuckoo juice?” he asks, then frog punches me in the thigh before I can come up with something smart to say.

I can’t tell anyone.

If I told Mama, she’d get mad because I don’t agree with why the wisps cracked the wall. She says it’s for the Lord, but I think they just like destroying things. Isn’t that what smoke does? It gets inside everything until you can’t get rid of its presence and end up throwing stuff away. It ruins things, just like the wisps.

Sometimes, I think they got inside Mama’s head and broke her brain. Then again, maybe that’s where they come from. Maybe her broken brain gave birth to smoky little thoughts that got a mind of their own and started breaking everything because they’re broken—because she’s broken. What if they’re just doing the things she wants to do but can’t? What if she wants everything to be broken like her?

I don’t like thinking about it, but I can’t help it. I wish I was still oblivious, like Bubba and Papa. I sometimes wonder if the wisps got inside Papa and Bubba’s heads and made it where they couldn’t see what was happening. But the thoughts that scare me the most are the ones where I think maybe the wisps got in my head. Maybe I can see them because they’ve already broken my brain.

Maybe they came from me.

I don’t want to destroy anything, though. I swear. I just want everything to be better. I don’t want Papa to hide medicine in Mama’s food. I don’t want Mama to be broken. I don’t want Bubba to move away. Why can’t the wisps keep us all together? It was all I ever wanted…

But not this way.

One night, I woke up to a wisp floating across my chest. It grinned at me with those needle teeth, then jumped right up my nose. I tried to blow it out, but it was too late. I could feel it chewing away at my brain. I ran into Bubba’s room, but all I found was a blood-soaked bed. The same thing happened in Mama and Papa’s room.

I called the police and tried to explain what happened, but everyone says I killed my family. They locked me away in a padded room. Nothing was physically wrong with me they said. They couldn’t explain my nosebleeds. I was put on the same meds Mama was on and I never saw the wisps again.

A few years later, our house was torn down. The construction folks found bodies in the walls. Mama, Papa, Bubba, and many more. The others were too old for me to have put ‘em there, though. Apparently, the wisps are bloodthirsty critters. Maybe the house had ‘em before we moved in. Maybe a few of our own got mixed in with the ones already there. I don’t know. I just know this wisp inside me will take me home sooner or later. It’s still munching. Slowly. I can feel it gnawing its way down to my heart. Don’t worry Mama, Papa, Bubba. I’ll be home soon.


Shawna Borman holds an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. Though she dabbles in all genres, her true love is horror. Whether dealing with your average socially awkward serial killer or an angel/demon/mortal hybrid entering the terrible teens, Shawna is most at ease visiting with the voices in her head. She resides in Texas with her father.

6 thoughts on ““Cracked and Broken” by Shawna Borman

  1. Nice, cleanly executed horror. I’ll have something appearing later in this series and this was a great piece to kick things off. Well done.

  2. Succinct but powerful. Good use of vernacular and effective description. I like this concept and the metaphor of the small cracks leading to the final big break.

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