#PromptPost :: Nursery Rhyme

Prompt: Use a line from a nursery rhyme
as a piece of dialogue in a dark narrative.

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As a side note: I discovered this jewel –> The Sweptaways – Oh My Darling Clementine while searching for lists of nursery rhymes. The whole video is amazing but the moment @ 0:59 is what I used for inspiration! Also – this particular song is a parody of sorts – and to me, that made it even darker. There is no humor in Aly’s rendition. No humor at all. 


“In a cavern, in a canyon. Excavating for a mine. Lived a miner, forty-niner and his daughter, Clementine,” her low voice crooned in the corner. Two detectives stood on the opposite side of the glass and watched as she rocked herself back and forth in a frenzy. Back and forth, she hugged her knees to her chest and laid down a rhythmn with the steady thunk of her back bumping against the drywall. The melody spun from the girl’s lips in a minor key, bouncing off the two-way glass like a music box which had been dropped and was out of tune. She wore nothing but a simple cotton dress the color of egg yolk; her hair was tied back in a braid, loose strands catching the overhead light like a chocolate candle. Scars wrapped around her knees in bright stripes of reddened flesh and a sunburn colored her nose with flushed heat. Her voice continued to carry, loud enough for the detectives to ride the dip and fall of a heavy mountain accent. “Oh, my darling, oh, my darling. Oh, my darling Clementine. You are lost and gone forever. Dreadful sorry, Clementine.”

The single door opened along the far wall but the girl never ceased rocking. She didn’t even bother to look up at the officer entering; her eyes were glued to the floor at her feet and tears left mascara stains across her burnt cheekbones.

“It’s like she’s not even there anymore,” one of the detectives mumbled. His coffee had grown cold in his hand but he gripped the cup to keep his hands from shaking. “Something flipped but no one can figure out what triggered it. When we found her, she was lucid. Sharp, even.”

The detective beside him stared resolutely through the glass, monitoring the movements of the man now enclosed with the petite girl. Her voice had quieted several levels from when she’d been alone but she continued to sing and bang her spine into the wall, even when the man dropped down into a crouch before her.

“I can’t take seeing her like this,” the second detective whispered. His hands were empty, tucked defensively into the safety of his underarms. A tremor coated his words like dust on a windowsill; he fought fear tooth and nail but this was simply too much. “Just call me when Wright is done with her.”

The first detective nodded, the smallest tinge of sympathy tugging at the corners of his mouth. He gripped the coffee cup tighter and turned back to the glass as the door shut behind the other cop and left him alone in the observation room.


“Aly? Aly, you don’t have to stop singing. Just nod if you can hear me,” Wright said, crouching in front of the frightened girl. Up close, the scars along her knees were ridged and puckered and he could see the stain of dried blood on her knuckles.

Nodding, she hummed the next few lines without looking up. Wright studied the way the girl grimaced each time her back hit the wall behind her, the tight knit of her dark eyebrows, and how she shuttered in the cool air conditioning. Goosebumps decorated her skin like a twisted connect-the-dots game and he could see the faint blue tinge under her fingernails.

“Jesus, you’re cold,” Wright mumbled. He stood and tapped the glass, asking quietly for a blanket which was promptly handed to him through the door. Approaching Aly from behind didn’t seem to scare her; she never looked up from the carpet. Taking a risk, he gently placed the blanket across her back and shoulders and stifled a relieved sigh when she allowed it. He chose to sit beside her along the wall. “Will you talk to me?”

Aly fell silent at his question, rocking harder and closing her eyes. She bit down on her bottom lip and a pained whimper cut from her throat.

“Aly, you’re safe. No one can hurt you here,” Wright cooed, keeping his hands in his lap even as they itched to embrace the girl. His heart clenched as her nails dug into the skin at her elbows, leaving whelps like pink chalk on her flesh. Even as he tried to comfort her, the sounds bubbling from her chest were of pure, unadulterated agony. “How about I ask you simple questions? Just yes or no answers. No elaborations. Baby steps, okay?”

No response.

“Would you rather be alone?”

Wright knew he wasn’t supposed to ask that question; he wasn’t even supposed to give her options. They were short on time and needed to know if there were more girls. Aly was their only lead, the only victim they’d discovered alive in over two years. Wright was just a pup, barely a year in as detective. Most of the senior cops had scoffed when the higher ups had asked him to head up the interview but they didn’t know his and Aly’s history. Even if it cost him some pride, he couldn’t push her. He couldn’t break her even further.

Aly’s rocking persisted and her eyes glazed over with an unfocused lack of energy. Wright moved to stand but caught the sway of a tiny golden cross pendant at her collar bone and felt the last bit of his resolve shatter.

“You still have my necklace,” he breathed. He hated the crack in his voice but he was overcome with so many emotions he could barely swallow. How had he not noticed the necklace before?

Aly nodded, just once, and Wright simply stopped breathing when her lips quit seeping the pained moans. He didn’t care who was on the other side of the glass as he reached slowly toward the necklace. His pulse rocketed when she leaned into him, subtly changing the angle of her rocking to give him access to her front.

“I wouldn’t let him take it,” Aly murmured, her voice thick with tears.

The door opened with a rush of cold air and expensive perfume, breaking the moment of connection. A woman stood above them and Wright recognized the haughty blonde simply by her stern ponytail and sour frown.

As the woman strolled into the room, Wright didn’t have time to tell her to get the hell out before Aly let loose a scream at the top of her lungs.


“How I missed her, how I missed her. How I missed my Clementine,” Aly whispered, alone again in the grey room. “Till I kissed her little sister and forgot my Clementine.”

Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou

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