This is a very special edition of A Story from 10 Words. Rachel is a friend I met at UCLA who asked me one day to write her a story. That simple prompting led to the first novel I ever completed. Rachel serves as the inspiration for the main character of that story (the prologue for which you can find here.) She is a wonderful girl and a good friend. I don’t know why her characters end up violent and scary. I honestly don’t. Though she didn’t help her cause with the words she submitted. So, without further ado, Rachel’s Story.
These were the 10 words I was given: blood, guts, hoops, fruition, amaranth, coffee, eagles, company, chip, naked
The theme was: East of Eden, Steinbeck
And the song was: Iris-Goo goo dolls
Here is the story I made from it:
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Sitting in a pool of one’s own blood and guts is as good a time as any to ponder life’s mistakes.
The sun breaks through white lace curtains to accost my face and dust particles dance before my eyes like fairies. My nose is filled with the ferric scent of spent life and I can feel all the lies I’ve told myself coming to fruition. For good or ill, it ends here.
Running my hand down my cold, naked body the days and miles of hard living flash through my mind in black and white. My skin is sweat slick and hardened from labours beyond count but I refuse to bemoan my suffering. There is no honour in hardship nor call for self-glorification. I had suffered of my own doing and I shall bear it in the same silent manner through which I earned it.
Heavy boots strike hard wood and I hear my clock ticking. My hands reach down between my legs and I feel the pool building up. A life was ripped from me only moments before and now fate is coming to claim a second. I’ll be damned if I take it lying down.
Pushing myself into a sitting position, hair clinging to my haggard face, the bed shrieks out in protest. Smoke fills my nose from a billowing fire made of blood red bricks. One at a time, that was how it was built, and, like my own life, it came to house a blazing inferno. Now here I am, left with only the blood running down my legs to keep me company, and I feel a hot fury creeping up inside of me like flames slowly eating wood.
Placing my feet on the cold hardwood floor it saps the heat from my body and I fight off a shiver that rattles my spine. I only have so many steps left and I have to make them count. The chips are down and it’s time to cash in. Have I overplayed my hand, or underplayed it? Have I sold myself short? These are the questions only a dying person asks themselves and I am not going to die. This fool of a man thought he plucked himself a rose when in fact he had laid his hands on amaranth. I am the undying and I won’t be had so easily.
The door creaks open and I can feel his eyes on me like cold death. Feral and hateful, he wants that last inch and I won’t give it. He’s going to have to come and take it. I come face to face with a mirror and have to marvel at what stares back. A bloated heliotrope wreak conveying all the beatings one woman will take to live a lie.
He’s talking now, his voice is cold and hard like his fist, telling me to get back in bed. Smoke and stale coffee waft into the room along with a heavy violence in the form of a man who uses words like I love you as an accusation. I have been guilty and I let his curse damn me. But now I hear the screams of new life and the answer is suddenly so clear. Why couldn’t I see it before?
“I’ve been lying down for too long.”
My voice is small and far away, like talking to myself at the bottom of a pool. I know he hears me but I doubt whether I spoke the words or just felt them. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
He’s furious and stomping over to me. He thinks this is going to end the same way it always has. He thinks nothing has changed. When he was striking me I had no one to blame buy myself — sometimes you have to bleed just to know you’re alive. The moment he pried that life from me though I became responsible for more than my own suffering. The game has changed.
“Did you hear me?”
He’s shouting. He places his hand on my shoulder to turn me toward him, to look into his hateful face and I can’t be happier to oblige. It’s time to rise, time to fly with the eagles.
He never thought to look at what I was holding in my hands.
I put the barrel of the shotgun just under his chin and he only has a moment to register what will come next. The snarl is gone. All the hate and violence he’s unleashed is reduced to a simpering child. But he only has a moment. By the time he could think to defend himself I have relieved him of the obligation.
“I want you to know who I am,” I say, hoping my words will follow him to hell.
His last thoughts are spread out in chunks all across the room and the blowback cakes my body in gore to match what’s coating my thighs. I drop the gun to the floor and the doctor comes rushing into the room. He looks at me and I know what he sees — a veritable pinwheel of carnage.
“What have you done?” He gasps.
“What I had to. I jumped through his hoops, bent and twisted myself in the vain attempt at being perfect, but no more. There are those that will say what I’ve done was evil, but that’s the prerogative of man — to judge the right and wrong of a life they haven’t lived. It’s only I that have to bear the burden of this choice and my conscience is clear. I haven’t done ill this day and I don’t have to be perfect anymore. ”
Looking down at my blood stained hands I can’t help but feel free.
“I don’t have to be perfect, so now maybe I can be good.”
*Several lines were borrowed from the works of John Steinbeck and The Goo Goo Dolls. I did that to honour the submission with no intention to plagiarise*
If you would like your own story, please feel free to contact me with 10 words, a theme (it can be a genre, favourite movie or book) and a song and I will write you a story as well. They are posted every Sunday.
Next Sunday (31st January) will be Framboise’s Story. Look forward to it please!