Day 2 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Your character in yesterday’s post is justified (…at least to some extent), make us trust their goal is positive.
Erin: “How did your Christmas go,” Rosa asked sipping at some sort of brown liquor in her glass.
Leah stirred her coke, the ice cubes clinked on the sides of the glass. “Same old, same old.”
“What did they say now?” Leah could see all of the day’s happenings in Rosa’s eyes. Her mom asking her if she fell off of her diet. Her sister trying to convince her she would be happier if she found the right guy. Her dad presenting a few job options she could consider “if she wanted a career change.”
“Pretty much that my sister is doing everything right, and therefore I am not,” she pulled her straw out of her glass and pushed it back through the layer of ice.
“Your sister can take her 20’s housewife life and go back to Kansas,” Rosa said pouring her straight liquor into Leah’s glass. She could see her own control spilling out and over the rim.
“No,” she pulled the glass away and her friend’s drink poured straight onto the bar.
“You need to loosen up,” she insisted grabbing a small bar napkin and soaking up as much as she could. “If I were you I wouldn’t be calling my mom every day trying to get my family’s approval. I would cut them off,” she slurred the last few words and asked the bartender to top her off again.
The bar erupted as the glass ball dropped on the screen. Leah clinked her friend’s new drink and took 3 long sips. The alcohol felt warm entering her system and she felt warm around Rosa. Around her the whiskey felt safe, and around her whatever came of the night and of her life seemed fine. “You’re right, this year I will finally drink more and talk to my family less.”
Shannon: “You need to break out of your shell,” was the constant critique running through my head for the past few years of my life. I could never seem to meet enough new people, go to enough strange places, or test out enough out-of-the-norm activities. After all of my efforts to please my critics and better myself, I came to one conclusion: I miss my shell. This last year I spent so much time trying to break free from my shell that I left it so far behind I started feeling like I might never get it back. Sure, changing things up once in a while feels great, but I don’t want to lose my comfort zone again just to explore a new one. That’s why my New Year’s Resolution is to spend more time in my shell. I want to spend more time with the people I already love, more time in the places that bring me peace, and more of my days doing the activities that make me smile. Life is too short to spend free time not doing exactly what I enjoy most. So if anyone ever needs me, there’s a good chance they’ll find me happily in my comfy, cozy shell.
Day two built off of the simplicity of day one. Share your stories in the comments, and we’ll be back tomorrow!
Behind me the young man moaned lamely, twitching and mumbling some prayer that wouldn’t do him any good. There was a bitter taste destroying someone left in your mouth. In the distance a line of broken trees clawed their way toward the dying sun like so many corpses. As I watched the ghost of a sun fell away and the skyline deepened from dull russets to deep reds. Watching the world die, as it did every night, I brought out my silver lighter and lit up a smoke and took a long drag. The smoke curled up, sparkling in the darkness, tinging the air with the sweet smell of tobacco. Relaxing, I leaned back on my motorcycle, to clean the dried blood from my fingernails with my favorite curved blade. Slipping the dagger back into my belt I listened to the comforting screeches of ravens, black as night, circling my victim. They yearned to pick the flesh from his bones but wouldn’t dare touch him without my permission.
After a few more calming puffs I crushed the cigarette into the ground; the frosty mist dissipated before my eyes. Bending down I reached for my bag, which was slumped against a petrified tree, and threw it over my shoulder forcefully. Feeling my supplies digging into my back I did a quick inventory as the pitiful wailing continued; a small kit of polished silver instruments, a burly rusted cleaver, couple packs of smokes, a small jar of nails, my shiny set of knives, a few lengths of chain and my lucky hammer. Eyeing the man bleeding under the scorched night sky, bones sticking out at odd angles, I could almost feel sorry for him. But he knew what he’d done.
Turning towards my bike, her chrome chassis shining in the dim light, a loud gurgle called back to me. When he coughed I could hear the blood dribble down his chin and his breath wheeze against the broken ribs painfully. “Pl-” he tried to plead. I turned, dropped the canvas strap of my bag to my knee and started towards the brute. With every step I took he squirmed and attempted to protect himself with any limbs he could move; he was petrified of what I was going to do.
As I came to stand over him he squealed and tried, again, to speak. The vocalization that came this time sounded as though he was drinking a milkshake, though he was really choking on his own blood and bile. “Please don’t leave me,” he begged through split lips and chipped teeth spilling over with sludgy blood. The body before me reeked of rancid gore and urine. Hot rage at this piece of crap asking for help ripped through my veins; I lashed out at his stomache with my steel-toed boot and walked away. His screaming was soon drowned out by the engine revving into the lonely night.
Before I drove away, though, I lit up another fag and gazed at one of the pitch ravens wheeling impatiently overhead. As though we’d spoken the tiny flock descended on the body amid inhuman, guttural shrieks of terror. Between the birds arose a victory cheer as they ripped his flesh from bone.
The wind whipped my long hair in a tangled mess as I rode through the dark lands in the dark. All through the night I didn’t meet a single soul until I crossed into the city. Brightly lit bars and hotels flashed neon to attract lost souls and empty hearts. But I coasted into the darkened lot of my favorite watering hole gently and relieved my steed of her heavy burden. Walking up to the door I knocked loudly and a hush fell on the occupants.
Beside the door hung a muddy, once-ornate mirror with more chips than reflective surface. When I stepped before it a tall woman in a patched leather coat glared back at me. The scar across my eye nearly glowed silver in the lone electric lightbulb. Here and there splatters of a sickly red substance clung to the woman’s clothing and hair but she didn’t seem to care; she wanted to look tough. “It’s me!” I bellowed in my deepest voice.
By the time Joseph, the barkeep, got to the door I was about ready to put my favorite hammer through someone’s eye socket. I strode past him before he’d even fully unlatched the door and threw him a dirty look before joining a flashy blonde in five inch heels in the booth in the back. Ali’s nose was planted firmly in her phone checking out a particularly scrawny killer on a hog when I snatched it from her fingers. “Screw you, Tara,” she spat as I fumbled with the flimsy piece of metal and glass.
Sneering at her I slid the phone back and unbuckled my bag. Jo brought ‘round a straight vodka with an irritated sigh towards my bloody bag on his bench before he went back to cleaning the filthy counter. When I pulled out my phone, a chipped and beaten metal box, Ali gasped. On the drive home I’d sent a message back to the Den, where I work, that I’d left the guy for dead and hadn’t extracted any useful information for the client. The Den took people who’d run afoul of the law and gave us licenses as contract killers for wealthy clients.
I’d been found guilty of killing a guy for getting handsy, so my punishment had been turning off the emotional part of me or I would’ve gone insane. Ali had been for me through the tough but she didn’t get it. “Tara, you need to actually kill them sometimes,” she huffed in her cute little way. Glancing around she lowered her voice, “The Den’ll get rid of you if you don’t start delivering,” concern spread from her eyes. Gently she touched my hand, careful not to touch the dried blood splotches, and looked up into my scarred face.
“They wouldn’t dare,” I growled, taking a long swig of fiery alcohol.
Fixing her hair, Ali talked in the voice of reason I always needed, “You are supposed to kill them personally. Them’s the rules. I won’t bail you out again.” Packing up her belongings she shot me a convincing look.
Another mouthful of vodka and I sighed, “Fine. I swear, by the binding promise of the sacred New Year’s Resolution, that I will kill people more often.” Even if it was the end of July I got a smug smile outta her as she sauntered out into the blinding light of night.
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The blaring alarm needled my ears as I rolled around uncomfortably in my rubbery bed. I slap my hand down on the table, missing the alarm and knocking over my plastic night lamp. Tumbling up, slouching as I made my way to the bathroom. A familiar tired face greeted me, heavy lidded eyes and straggly thin beard barely that’s worth mentioning.
Undressing, I step into the shower and turn the tap. Nothing. The cold apartment air bites at me as I try turning the tap back and forth. Stepping out and putting on my bathrobes, I walk back to the kitchen and look at the pile of letters splayed across the counter. “Due return deposit”, “Late fee” “Please pay now.” I looked away, instead picking up my old phone and listening to saved messages.
“You have 5 new messages!” The electronic voice chirped.
“New message!” – “Hey, It’s me. Li-listen…that um, get rich quick scheme didn’t do so well and I’m out of luck right now. I was wo-wondering if you had some spare ch-change? An-anything for a friend? Gi-give me a call back wh-when you get the chance.”
“New message!” – “This the Royal United Bank of America reunited. You currently have several late fees stacking up and you must pay them by the end of the month or you shall face legal repercussions. We advise you to comply with our terms and talk with us about finding a way to pay your debts to us. Thank you. Have a nice day.”
“New Message!” – “This is Hydro America East. We have turned off the water to your home because of late fees. Please pay the late fines to continue having our services. Thank you.”
“New Message!” – “You had a lot of nerve showing your face back at my place Ronald. You know I can’t get dragged into this! I can’t help you through all your problems. Solve it your self!”
“New Message!” – “I have job for you. We’ve met in prison before, you might not remember me. Alex. My boss heard you’ve been robbing small joints just out of town. We can help you with that. Give me a call back with this number.”
I blankly look at the phone in disbelief. Alex? Could it be him again?
I look up at the calendar. December 31st New year’s. I take a glass out my cabinet and pour whisky, leaning on the counter. I would have preferred some ice. This wasn’t hard choice really. What choice did I have left?
I lift my drink in a lonely toast. “This new year’s, I’m going to rob more banks.” I downed the liquid fire before dialing back Alex for potential work.
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Heather: Looking around, Heather sees the snow falling to the ground. The rooftops are covered in blankets of white and the sky is a light gray. From the porch, she can see the closest side of the picket fence for the cow pasture.
“Storms picking up,” her grandfather steps up beside her, “you coming inside?”
Heather looks at the farm a little longer. “I love this place.”
“It’s home,” Noah says, wrapping an arm around her.
“I love the people,” Heather adds, “and I can’t bear to leave them again. It’s not just home, it’s my heart.”
“…Heather, there are plenty of heroes to save the world. If you want to stay here, no should stop you. The world owes you that.”
Heather looks at her grandfather, then wraps her arms around him, “I just… I don’t want to leave again.”
“You won’t heal if you give yourself new horrors,” Noah says, “and if anyone tries to take you again, I’ll load the shotgun.”
Heather lets out a sob, relieved that at least one person understands.
“Fifteen seconds!” Josh yells from inside.
Heather breaks the hug, looking into the house. All her friends that can be in the country have gathered, her family all with party hats on. Streamers and ornaments are strung everywhere, and mistletoe is strategically placed above every doorway.
“This next year, I will ignore what the world needs me to do.” She looks at her grandpa and he nods.
“Where’s Heather?” August asks.
“Five, four, three,” everyone chants. Noah nods to the door. Heather runs inside and finds August. “two, one!”
August dips Heather, kissing her in the middle of their friends. She’s home, and no one will take that from her.
I walk into my home, closing the door silently behind me and checking around the corner to the kitchen to make sure my stepdad wasn’t there. Relieved, I make my way to the staircase, making as little sound as possible, and creep up the stairs. I look behind me one more time before my foot reaches the last step, turning my head to see a figure standing in the dim light of the hallway.
I try to step back down the stairs before he noticed me, but froze when I heard his raspy voice.
“Oh… look who finally came home.” I could see his smirk through the dark. I gulped.
“Uhh, yeah my car got covered by snow while I was at work and I my phone died so I couldn’t-”
“Enough!” I tense up. “Do you have my money?”
“Yeah… but I was hoping that maybe this time I could have a little. I worked over time last week when the power went out, so I earned a little extra you could spare…” I look at my feet, not wanting to make eye contact.
“Oh, is that so? You think that I should just give you a little extra money do you?” He steps forward.
I look anywhere but his face and press my back to the wall, nervously nodding.
“Oh yeah sure, maybe I could just give you a little more space in this fucking giant house and more food on your plate for that big ass stomach of yours!” He’s in my face now, so close that I could smell his beer tainted breath.
I squeeze my eyes shut and whisper to him, “I pay for all of that.”
“What did you say, you little slut?!” He roars in my face, making me almost want to gag.
I open my eyes and look and him, now seething. “I pay for the food, I pay the rent, and I pay for your fucking beer!!” I shout at him.
He draws back his arm and punches my straight in the jaw. I clutch my face and slide to the floor. He keeps punching me, so I throw up my hands to protect my neck.
“What,” punch. “Did I,” punch. “Tell,” kick. “You,” punch. “About talking back,” punch. “To me!”
I scream out, but the beating never slows.
“You are the reason your mother is dead and I have to pay for everything, you little slut!”
At the word slut, he takes one of the beer bottles littered on the floor and slams it down on my face. I scream and push him away, rolling on my side from the wall and onto the top of the stairs. I scramble down the steps and try to open the front door.
“Where are you going, you little slut?! You’ll just freeze to death out there!” I ignore his words as I race out the door, slamming it behind me and locking it. It will take him awhile to unlock it in his drunk state, and by then I’ll be long gone. I run in a random direction, tears streaming down my face, mixing with blood.
Before long, I hit a wall. No, not a wall, a person. He picks me up off the ground, asking me if I’m okay, pausing when he takes a good look at my face. I hear him mutter an oh my god under his breath. He picks me up, bridal style, and carries my to hell knows where. I don’t care at this point, all that I could think about was how I was going to kill myself to save me from this hell, but even that soon grew faint and I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to a softly lit room. Opening my eyes sightly, I saw that I was in someones living room on a couch. I lightly touched my face to feel it caked with dry blood and tears, swollen in more than one place.
A figure walked into the room and I immediately tensed up, causing pain everywhere. I groaned out loud and the figure looked up, surprised to see that I was awake.
“Oh, great your up!” He went into another room and came back moments later with a few ice packs. I sat up and inspected my body. I had bruises, most now purple, along my legs and arms and, I assumed, my face. Applying the ice to a few of the bruises that ached the worst, I looked up to see the man standing a few feet away, unsure of what to do.
I smiled best I could and he smiled back, relieved.
“So, uhh, my names Warner.” He seemed really nervous.
“Juliette, but my friends call me Aaron.”
“So, uhh, may I, uhh, ask what happened?” He waved his hand towards me.
“Oh.” I look down at my body.
“Y-you don’t have to answer… I was just curious, you seem to have recent bruises and cuts, but also old cuts…” He looks away.
“No, it’s ok. My stepfather is a drunk addict who beats me.” I look up at him and smile.
He looked both shocked and disgusted. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Nah its ok.” I stand up but get dizzy and start to sit back down. He runs over to help, but I only shoo him away. He steps back, looking awkward.
“No, no its not, you should tell someone, you shouldn’t be living like this!”
I give him a small smile and whisper, “It doesn’t quite work that way.”
His face grows angry. “It doesn’t work that way?! What do you mean? Your just going to sit back and let him hit you?! Obviously your not okay! Just look at yourself!”
I wince and his anger fades. “Sorry.” I hear him whisper.
“No, its okay, its just that he has a hold of something that I can’t risk loosing.” I smile again and try to stand up another time. Stumbling forward he reaches out to catch me from falling.
“Y-you should stay the night here…I mean if you don’t want to that okay, I know that you have a lot going on and-”
“Its okay I can stay.” He looks relieved, his nervousness was cute.
I didn’t want to think as I walked into the hospital. On a cafe counter, there was the date, December 31. I could have sworn it was closer to Christmas but how would I know, I skipped it this year. There was a stuffed giraffe for sale at the ‘I pity you, so to make you feel better here is a gift.’ shop. Claire would have loved a gift like that. I looked at the Giraffe while my grandma dialed in my parent’s number. The Giraffe was large enough for her to ride on or cuddle with when I went home.
I walk to the giraffe and pet it. It’s soft but the mane is rough. The price tag says its 70 dollars. I think I have 43 dollars in my jar, it’s not enough. I wrap my arms around the giraffe and I can feel my eyes burning.
“Honey we aren’t buying that.” Grandma rubs my back. “I found out the room number we should go.” I leave the giraffe and walk behind her. I chose not to talk and study the carpet instead. It looks too happy, the carpet had a mix of roses and daisies with cartoonish expressions. My hair dangles in front of my face. I don’t want it there but I don’t want to move it either. At Least thinking about it allows me to escape from my thoughts.
I barrel into my grandma when she stops in front of an elevator. “Sorry,” I mumble, breaking my secret vow of silence.
“Oh, honey it’s okay.” She sees my hair and tries to tie it up into a ponytail. I don’t struggle or move but it doesn’t work since my hair is short, and tangled.
“Bing.” The up elevator light turns green. The metal doors slide open and we step in. Finally, I am rid of the happy carpet. Now it’s just a plain navy blue. The door slides shut and I don’t even jump as we go up. Ever since Claire could jump we have been jumping in the elevator when it stops and starts. It was like a little tradition. Feeling like gravity is increasing or that we could fly was like a magical way to go from one place to another. But today she wasn’t here, so I didn’t jump.
We were alone in the elevator shaft. Grandma ran her hand through my hair for about a second before running into a really big knot. “Once we get home we are getting your hair brushed.” Grandma sounded peppy. Maybe it was going to be okay. Leaving the elevator we walked through the hallway. We passed all the people with tears in their eyes. All the people hugging for maybe the last time. All the people who were released and ready to celebrate. I hope Claire is ready to check out. Maybe we can leave as soon as we arrived. I used hand sanitizer for the fifth time feeling my dry crusty skin. I doubted it would kill all of my germs but maybe it will help someone from getting sick.
I saw Claire through the window. There were so many wires and cords surrounding her. She looked lifeless. No, I can’t think that way. She is strong. She will be okay. I used a little more hand sanitizer as I walked in. My parents hugged and greeted me with a sad smile. I knew they were trying to seem happy for me so I smiled back. It felt wrong.
I looked at Claire again and all of my thoughts came rushing. “This is all my fault,” I whispered. I ran to her side and grabbed her hand. “I did this to you. I said yes to taking an adventure to the library with you.” My throat swelled as I squeezed her hand. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t said yes to going with you, you, you would be okay.” I slowly got louder. “This is all my fault. If I had pulled you back you wouldn’t have run across the street. This is all MY fault.” I didn’t even notice my parents behind me until they tried to pull me into a hug. I wiggled away and went back to Claire. I remembered the giraffe. “I saw a giraffe I wish I could have gotten it for you.” Before the giraffe, the date. It was new years eve. I brought her hand up to my face. “It’s new years. I’ll make a resolution for you. I’ll stop saying yes to adventures.”