Day 74 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Listen to Hurt by Johnny Cash.
Shannon: “I’m here,” an aged woman appeared behind Benjamin’s screen door.
“What? You crazy witch, you came back for me,” his old bones brought him to the door slowly, but he was awe for each step.
“Hon I told you many years ago how this works. I appear when you need me. When your heart is calling for me. So why am I here again? I thought I already gave you everything you wanted,” he opened the door and she glided in. “I gave you fame” she flashed to the fireplace before he could blink, “Money,” she picked up the framed picture of him surrounded by his family. “Love,” she turned the image toward him. “Power,” she hummed. “What did you do with all of the gifts I gave you? Why are you so empty now.”
“You know my shortcomings. I hurt good things. They all leave in the end. I can’t keep them, but I always miss them.”
She sighed. “So what is your wish this time? How are you going to fix it,” she questioned.
“Can I start over? Can I go back in time to the moment where everything went wrong? Let me fix my mistakes,” he begged.
She turned to put the picture back and paused to stare at it for a while. “It doesn’t often help,” she spoke to the wall and then turned. “Most events that happen to you will happen no matter what changes you try to make. You may just relive the heartache again,” she warned as her fierce eyes analyzed him.
“It’s worth the risk,” he responded without hesitation.
“Then yes. I can send you back in time.”
Erin: “You were at the gym for seven hours,” my therapist asked.
“Correct,” I agreed.
“What were you doing at the gym,” she asked what to me sounded like a pretty dumb question for someone who claimed to be a doctor.
“Working out,” I shrugged.
“In what context. What type of workouts,” she started to make a little more sense?
“Running and lifting weights. Swapping every hour,” I clarified my typical workout routine.
“Is that regime pretty hard on your body,” she questioned.
“Yes, cardio and weights mixing can be quite the challenge,” I admitted. “But I don’t get as sore as I used to. Before one hour of intense weights would make me start to feel some tenderness. Now I have to leave because the gym is closing and I still have to wake up the next day feeling completely the same as I always do.”
“When did you start to have that kind of endurance?”
“I don’t know. The last time I felt sore was a few months after Candice’s death,” I sighed. “Ever since I don’t feel anything. If I work out enough though I should be able to get that feeling back. Or get any type of feeling back.”
Songs can be emotional, so can your writing, right?
Tears dripped soundlessly to the floor, splashing in a little puddle, as I sprawled on the old antique rocking chair. Across the room, a cheery fire roared away, yet I shivered on this mild winter night; I considered grabbing the heavy wool throw that lay across the end of the bed, but decided against it. Instead, and without opening my eyes, I picked up the glass from the side table and took a humble swig of smooth, top-shelf whisky. Trembling fingers struggled to hold the full glass as I drank the satisfying liquid fire, before a second set of fingers was suddenly clasped tightly around mine.
Painful eyes flickering open, I watched in awe as my husband held my fair, weak hands his sturdy, frosty grip. When I turned back from resting the tumbler back on the table, the blessed figure had vanished into nothingness. Though I was certain he had just been standing before me, in his dark plaid coat and sincere smile, my empty room proved my eyes were deceiving me. Even as I glanced about the room drowsily, there was an odd tugging, somewhere near oblivion, on the shattered part of my heart and soul. My consciousness slipped from my fingers as I began to drift away, toward the North Star.
But, just as my heart was taking slow, unsteady beats, I took a jolting breath and gasped for another deep breath of musky air. Wheezing hollowly, I watched in full awareness as Henry, my husband, deliberately avoided the pooled scarlet liquid, and came to stand before me. As I stared into his icy blue eyes, my breath caught in my throat seeing him again, and the words that ached to drip from my lips stayed where they were.
His hand gently grazed mine as a melancholy smile tugged at his lip, but there was none of the customary warmth to his touch; instead it was bitterly cold. But when I took a tempering breath, and nearly cried out, all he could do was look on. “But you’re gone. You can’t be here; I let you go,” I blubbered, letting the tears flow freely down my chin. Voice quivering, I continued after a hiccup, “I let you down; you needed me and I failed you.” Not a ghost of joy or contentment remained in the room as I sobbed at my late husband, the hallucination unable to mock my grief.
With him vanishing again, I looked at my drink through puffy eyes, letting my sorrow take over from the pain of losing him. I craved the sweet sadness that tasted bitter going down with the whisky; it was my fault and I was determined to punish myself enough for it. Sighing deeply, I grabbed the glass and downed half of it in one go; burning its way into my soul. As the warm numbness spread, I glimpsed a tall figure at the window, his silhouette casting stark shadows across the bed. But when he turned to gaze across the room, I could see the gaping bullet wound that landed him prematurely in heaven.
A fresh set of tears ripped their way from my soul and I nearly let the glass fall to the floor. When Henry was beside me again, steadying my drunken motions with his calming presence, I longed to let go and follow him. But he merely guided my hands to the table before clutching my fingers in his. There was still such beauty and kindness in my husband, even after I got him killed, that I couldn’t stand it. Leaning into his muscular shoulder, I whimpered, “If I could change it, go back, I wouldn’t let you save me.” I never saw him again.
Created to Write:
Steve walks up to the house. Lucille is standing at the door, looking inside. She turns to see Steve. “How is she?” Steve asks. Lucille watches his face subtly change between worry, fear, and distress.
She sighs, shaking her head, “She’s…” Lucille wipes her hands on her apron, “I’ll give you the house. Yell if you need either of us.” She goes down the steps. Steve stops her, offering a hug. Lucille accepts it. “You’re good to her, Captain,” she says. She pulls away and looks him in the eyes, “But some things we must leave to God.”
She walks away before her eyes grow watery again. Steve looks after her in shock, then turns to the house. ‘Does her grandma think…’ Steve walks up the stairs. He steps through the door. He doesn’t see Heather at first, then he notices the bedroom on the far side of the kitchen is open. he walks over and peeks through the door frame.
Heather is sitting in her wheelchair. Steve watches her for a moment and she doesn’t seem to notice him. He sees her not move an inch for almost three minutes. It makes Lucille’s words over the phone sound like an understatement. Heather isn’t just not moving around, she’s flat out stationary. Her foot doesn’t tap, her good leg doesn’t bounce, her arms are still in her lap.
This isn’t the girl Steve knows. Alarms go off in his head and he has to remain in control, or he might breakdown on the spot.
“Hey Heather,” he says. She doesn’t look up right away. But as he opens his mouth to call again, she turns her head away from the window. Steve could swear that her eyes look even more dull than the last time he saw her. “Heather…” he whispers. He steps forward and crouches in front of her.
She doesn’t cry. There isn’t any emotion on her face, though the dull blue swims with murky distress and confusion. Steve slowly reaches forward, taking her hands in his.
“Heather, talk to me, please,” Steve says softly.
“…What are you doing here?”
Steve wryly chuckles, “What am I doing here? I’m here to see you. Your grandmother told me that you were… well…” Steve pauses. “You weren’t yourself.”
Heather looks away from him, closing her eyes.
“Heather… Please let me help.”
Heather’s closed eyelids brim with unshed tears, “What if you could go back. …What if you could decide to not take the serum.”
She turns to look at him, seriously asking for something.
“If you could have a less crazy life if you never took the serum, if you could have prevented most of your hurt and pain by changing that one part of history. …Would you?”
Steve’s heart breaks in six. He slowly stands up, stooping over Heather. He picks her up, being careful with her leg. He sits on her bed, leaning against the wall. Heather curls up on his lap, letting him hold her there. She’s limp.
Steve then thinks about her question. If he refused the serum, and he didn’t have that responsibility. If he had a chance to live a long life with Peggy, to not have to deal with trauma of living in the future, fighting aliens, and robots, and maybe he could have stopped Hydra in the 50s and saved Bucky before he was too deep in as the Winter Soldier. He probably would have met Tony when he was a boy, and could have stopped the Red Room and made sure SHIELD became the organization the world needed.
“Would I take back the serum, if that meant losing you?” Steve rephrases, watching her face. “No, Heather. I still would have chosen the serum. Through everything I’ve gone through, I can say that you are one of the highlights I never would have had otherwise. You are the one person I’ve met that started outside the crazy. And I’m sorry for dragging you into it. You’ve kept your civilian self, when I felt I lost mine.”
After his answer, Heather is silent. Steve can feel her tears on his neck and down the front of his shirt. Her hands, which he figured would play with the fabric on either her shirt or his, are pinned between them. Her eyes stare ahead of her, one eye hidden as her face is half pressed to his shoulder and neck.
Steve closes his eyes, willing himself to stay strong for her.
“I would have changed my mind,” Heather says louder, but her voice still cracks in broken pieces, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I brought this upon myself.”
“He never would have gone after me if I didn’t have the serum-”
“Heather,” Steve raises his voice. He moves her so she’s sitting on his lap, but also so he can clearly look into his eyes. He tilts her chin up. “He went after you because you are close to me. It was a bonus to Red Skull that you had the serum. Would you go back and never meet me? To spare you of all this pain?”
He sees Heather’s eyes go blank at the shock of his question. He sees her try to process the question. Then her eyes brim with fresh tears. She tries to look away from him, but he keeps her chin in place.
She looks into his eyes with a guilt that stops him cold. Her silent answer is yes.