It has been a while since I posted. New job, new schedule and I am still getting adjusted.
Anyway, here is a short story I wrote for my college publication. There was around 30 submissions and they only chose 5. I was one of the 5! 🙂
And yes, the ending was left purposely ambiguous so that anyone can relate.
It Doesn’t Work That Way
My knees buckle from exhaustion as I take a half-step backwards to steady myself. The fierce attacks from the many snarling faces have momentarily stopped and all I can think of is a nursey rhyme my mother sang to me. A rhyme meant to shield me from the evils of everything. An innocent lie told to her child. One that is meaningless now.
In this infinite white room I take a deep breath to steady my nerves and steel myself for the next attack. My strong right hand grasps the club so tight that my hands shake and my bleeding knuckles turn white. The coarse wood feels powerful beneath my soft palms. Quick strikes from the club have barely protected me thus far. In my weaker left hand I struggle to maintain a grip on the heavy rock. Its great weight has slowed my defense, yet its great weight has stopped many of the assaults. The simple Neanderthal tools are my only weapons to ward off the onslaught. They are better than a mother’s lying rhymes.
I stand alone against my aggressors in an endless alabaster plain, devoid of other shapes. The group encircling me numbers in the tens of dozens. Men, women, and children of every race and religion glare at me. They hold no cave-man weapons; their hands hang loosely at their sides. Each one heaves and rocks slightly as they breathe in unison. Every pair of eyes aimed at me. Each one wears their contempt freely on their faces. Venomous tears leak from their eyes; their teeth gnash in hopes of tearing my flesh from my bones.
Suddenly, another silently steps forward. Like most of my enemies, he is a familiar stranger. A face I cannot quite tie to a name. His stance stirs old, cloudy memories. A look in his eyes tells me I should remember him, yet I do not. I steady my shaking legs, grip my weapons even tighter, and ready myself with the defiant hopefulness of ignorance and youth.
The familiar man’s stubbled jaw line wriggles beneath his skin. Bones pop and crack. Like a finger moving beneath silk fabric, his lower jawbone presses against his cheek as it unhinges from its home. His broad chin widens further, separating into two equal halves. The skin stretches taught as his lower face doubles in size. His mouth, still clamped shut, expands into a malicious smile. A smile that places a name with the face. A coach from High School who was never satisfied no matter how much effort I gave him.
Though every attack has been the same, I am transfixed by its horror. His lips, wearing a foot-long wicked grin, begin to peel away revealing stained yellow teeth. His neck swells and writhes as something alive in his throat pushes its way upward. The top half of Coach’s face moves slowly skyward, the eyes looking towards the white, featureless heavens. The hole behind the plaque-encrusted teeth grows bigger. His neck bulges as something climbs up from the pits of hate deep within him. The twisted top of his face quickly swings back like a door being thrown open. His split bottom jaw quivers as spittle mixes with bile. Between the two pieces of his face, an immense cavern behind yellow stalagmites and stalactites threatens to swallow me.
A luminous red, angular shape erupts from the gaping maw of my former coach. A red rectangular object, shining with a fresh varnish of stomach acid emerges. In itself, it is beautiful. Its purpose however, is villainous. As it vomits forth, four other grotesquely-beautiful red shapes trail the first. They arc through the air towards me, revealing their meaning. Their truth.
Straining with fatigue, I lift my stick enough to bat away the giant red “L” as it hurls towards me. My backswing shatters the red “O” sending it flying away. A vicious uppercut with the stone in my left hand cracks the bright “S”. My weary limbs fail to stop the last two.
The bones in my nose shatter as “E” smashes into my face. Blood spurts into my eyes, into my mouth, and around the giant red letter. The flying “R” follows quickly, destroying my face even more. The red letters drop to my feet, leering up at me.
My head swims from the non-verbal assault of words. Dizziness grips me and I fall to one knee. The heavy rock in my left hand clunks to the floor. My hand now free, I wipe the blood from my eyes in time to see a woman step beside Coach. She instantly reminds me of my mother. The woman, who looks like my mother when I was a child already has her python-like mouth wide. Already I see her throat swell as she spits her ugly letters at me. I raise my empty, blood-stained left arm to shield me. The “U” and “G” strike me hard enough to shatter the bones of my forearm. I scream in pain and horror as the “L” and “Y” crash into the side of my battered face.
The club in my right hand falls helplessly beside me. My sticks and stones can longer defend me. The pain from the big, red words wracks me completely. I open my mouth to scream, to beg for mercy, to end the pain. No words come to defend me. No sticks or stones.
On hands and knees I vaguely sense the venomous circle closing in on me. The hurt from their words have caused my world to spin. I cannot tell up from down in this endless white room. All I can think to do is fall to the floor and hope the words stop assaulting me.
A little girl with braids in her hair swings her mouth wide. She reminds me of a girl I knew from elementary school. A bright and shiny “IDIOT” streaks from the hateful hole in her face. It strikes my ear hard enough to rip it from my head. “DUMBASS” flies at me from a guy who reminds me of a boss I had as a teen. It strikes the bloody mass that was my ear. The vivid letters of the word bore into the hole in my skull.
I curl into a ball on the floor. My bloody hands wrap around my head to stop the words from hurting me. I don’t fight back anymore. My weapons have fallen away. I am alone in this endless white room, yet still the words rain down on my beaten body.
“PATHETIC” crashes into my shoulder from a teacher I once had. “MORON” breaks my legs so I can’t even run away. “PITIFUL” finishes the job by severing my left foot.
Each word hammers me, taking bits of my body and soul with it. The white room becomes shaded in pink, as rivers of blood cloud my vision. My arms are useless and I lie limply on the floor as their verbal assault continues. My flesh is spongey and soft from the incessant pummeling. Words fly at me so fast I can longer tell where “WORTHLESS” ends and “SLACKER” begins. My soul is decimated, my head is crushed, and my bones are shattered. The world is spinning beyond my control. Everything is fading into a red-hued nothingness of misery and pain.
The clock-radio on the cluttered nightstand beside my bed is playing some cheerful song about young people falling in love on cloudy days. The words of the song are lost on me because the pounding in my chest is echoing in my ears. My legs are shaking as I swing them over the side of my bed. I run my trembling fingers through my damp hair and breathe deeply, trying in vain to calm myself. A sadness deep in my stomach sends a brief wave of nausea over me. Stifling the urge to run to the bathroom I stare at a dirty sock on the floor near my bare feet. I stare at the frayed edges of the small hole in the toe of the sock. I focus on the small white threads surrounding the dirt-stained bottom and repeat to myself that it was only a nightmare. The real world doesn’t work that way.