Grudges Come Back to Haunt Us

This is for last week’s prompt to the 52 week writing challenge, “a story about justice being done.” I’d struggled with this at first because I felt like justice was such a loaded and complicated term, but I think I captured that feeling pretty well here. Warning: there is profanity and violence in this story. Proceed with caution!

Kieran sat on the hard bench, stifled by the collar of his button up shirt and stiff blazer. Neither of those things compared to the cuffs around his wrists though. The cold metal chafed his vulnerable skin, and the raw red welts made him see the blood on his hands from that night.

***

            He hadn’t meant for things to get out of hand. He just wanted an explanation for why the man he’d considered his best friend for so long would betray him that way. It’d been five years since the night Kieran caught him with the woman he loved, but it still grated him to see their pictures online, happy together, smiling, taunting him.

He should have let it go. It was done and over. Nothing left to do or say from any of them. But he didn’t let go. He held onto the pain and anger and let it fester away at his soul, fueling that rage with endless bottles of Jack and Jim. Holding grudges was always Kieran’s specialty, and that night it overwhelmed him.

With breath reeking of alcohol, and a staggering step, he arrived at his former best friend’s house, banging a fist so hard against the door he splintered the area around the knocker. Kieran heard grumbling from the other side as a light went on in the dark house. They’d already been asleep. People do that at two in the morning.

The door opened and for the first time in five years, Kieran stood face to face with the man who’d stolen his girlfriend from him. “Kieran, what the hell are you doing?”

“You never told me why, Lucius. Why’d you do it?” Kieran slurred his words.

Lucius sighed. “Kieran, you’re drunk. Let me get you a cab home.”

Kieran reached out. “No, you’re gonna answer my question.” His voice rose in volume. “Why did you take her from me?”

“Kieran, please. It’s late and you’re gonna wake the neighbors.”

“Then fucking answer me,” Kieran bellowed.

Lucius put a hand out, pleading for him to quiet down. “Okay, okay, let’s talk. Come around this way.” He led Kieran to the shed on the side of the house.

“You were my best friend.” Kieran got quiet now. “And I loved her.”

“Kieran, I’m sorry. It just happened.”

“Bullshit.” Yelling again.

Lucius put a hand up again. “Look, Kieran, the truth is, you have a problem. And Mary, she couldn’t take it anymore. We tried to get you help, but look at you now. You refuse to face your problems head on.”

Kieran’s nostrils flared. “I had it under control. Until you went and took her from me.”

Lucius shook his head. “She came to me, looking for a friend to help. And I tried. But we couldn’t help you. And in the process…” He looked down, guilty.

“Yeah, in the process of wanting to help me, you abandoned me. Ran off into the sunset together.” Kieran was wobbling now, getting in close to Lucius.

Lucius reached a hand out to Kieran’s shoulder, but Kieran knocked it away. “I don’t want your pity. I don’t want anything from you.” Spit flew from his mouth now.

“Kieran, please. Calm down.” Lucius’s voice shook. “You’re gonna cause a scene and I don’t want someone to call the police on you.” He reached a hand out again, but this time Kieran grabbed it and knocked Lucius back.

Lucius stumbled against the table, but still tried to settle his comrade’s rage. “Please, Kieran. Look at yourself. You’re a mess right now. Don’t do this.”

Kieran stepped forward and grabbed his former friend’s shirt front. “You took everything from me.” His other hand came forward in a fist, full force. Bone cracked against bone, but Kieran felt nothing.

Lucius tried to cry out, but Kieran kept going, not letting the man who’d taken his life take a single breath. By the time he realized what he’d done, Lucius lay still in his arms. Kieran shook him but received no response. “Lucius? Lucius?” Nothing.

Kieran’s eyes teared up and his breath hitched. “Oh god, no. What did I do? Fuck. Shit. Fuck.”

“Lucius what’s going—?” The sleepy voice behind him stopped short. Mary stepped forward into the light. “Kieran? Where’s—?” That’s when she saw him and her hands shot up to her face. “Oh my god, Kieran. What happened? What did you do?”

Kieran let go of Lucius’s limp body, watching in horror as his former friend fell to the floor, unmoving. “Mary, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.”

She knelt down, hands shaking as she reached for her husband’s neck to check his pulse. She pulled them back instantly like she’d been bitten by a snake. Kieran ran out, not looking back at the damage he’d done.

***

            Now, he waited for his name to be called. Waited for judgment. Waited to be forced to look Mary in the eye one last time before he was found guilty of first degree murder.

“Kieran Nieto.” This was it. He took a deep breath and got up on his feet. It felt strange to stumble forward without alcohol in his system.

As he walked down the aisle to the front of the court room, he managed to catch Mary’s eye and found her gazing back, stone-faced with eyes cold and hard as ice. She had every right to hate him. He’d gone too far. Past the point of no return.

The judge’s gavel came down and Kieran swallowed down the lump in his throat. This would be quick and easy. He already knew what he wanted to do. When the moment of confession came, for the first time in his life, he did the right thing. “In the case of…” He hardly heard the rest. He was ready with his answer. “Guilty.” The word fell from his lips like a broken promise.

The next hour or so went in a flurry as he was propelled from the room to his next destination. Handled from one officer to another, he finally made his way to a secure vehicle, only to find himself alone at the end.

Kieran looked around, confused at this breach in protocol. A sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach, and then just as suddenly, a sharp, cold pain shot into his spine.

“There’s no saving you, Kieran. You’ve been dead a long time.” He’d never heard Mary’s voice that way before. Soulless. Frozen. Venomous.

“Mary.” He gurgled as his knees buckled beneath him. “Please.”

She came around to face him. “This is your justice, Kieran.”

No, he thought as it all faded away. It’s your ghost.

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But I’m Only Human

Still playing catch up on my 52 week writing challenge, and seeing as the year is quickly coming to an end, I need to get on that. Here’s a story I wrote for the prompt “a story about anger.” I do warn there is violence and references to abuse in this story, so proceed at your own risk.

Franny picked up the pencil and set the number 2 lead point to the coarse, beige paper again. Grey smudges dotted the side of her hand and made some appearances on her nose. Her brows furrowed and she breathed hard through her nose, shallow breaths that held back the tears.

They don’t know me. They don’t matter. They’re not worth my time.

Without realizing what her fingers had formed with the pencil on paper, she drew out figures familiar in size and shape, and they started to dance. She gasped. Not again.

She threw the pencil at the wall like it had bitten her. The unshaded, faceless figures shimmied and swayed, waiting for her maestro fingers to tell them which way to go and what to do. No, no I’m not like that. I’m human. I’m only human.

The figures danced and beckoned, their nonexistent faces leering with sharp teeth in her mind’s eye, taking on the sneers of her classmates. The gaping, laughing maws of her teachers. We could teach them. Show them just what freaks we really are.

Franny’s fingers ran over the paper, searching for the invisible wires making her figures move of their own accord, and felt a jolt of electricity. It sparked the memory of the sting of the boys’ hits against her bare skin when they chased her naked out of the girls’ locker room showers, out in the open cold, in front of everyone.

Her breathing quickened and she picked up another pencil, shading in the details, giving each face the eyes, nose and mouths of all the kids and teachers who’d abused her over the past two years. With each burning memory of pain and humiliation she pressed the lead harder until the figures took on grotesque forms of real-life people. No, not people. Monsters.

We are human. They are not. Humans don’t do the things they do. Humans don’t snarl and cackle and taunt. Monsters do.

Franny started slow, curling her fingers back and forth to watch the two dimensional figures flurry back and forth. Then, she made them collide into one another. They laughed when she laughed. BAM BAM BAM. She made them smash one after another. And all the while the figures laughed. They laughed at their own pain. They laughed at their self-destruction as Franny bid them with her invisible, electric strings.

Soon, blooming roses of red paint spread across the paper, dripping from the figures’ grotesque, smiling mouths, and Franny laughed. Now who’re the freaks?

Outside, a commotion caught her attention. In the courtyard a crowd of people gathered, some crying, some screaming, calling for help, others reached out their hands trying to grab at something at the center of the mass of bodies.

Franny dropped her fingers and the figures on her paper went limp. She got up, afraid to see what was out there. She made her way to the window of the art room, pressed a hand to the glass and stood on tip toes. Someone ran in, frantic, startling Franny out of her reverie.

“What’s going on out there?” she asked the student.

“Where’s the phone?” She didn’t answer Franny’s question.

Franny pointed toward the teacher’s desk. The other student made for the phone and tried to dial, but her hands were shaking. Franny recognized this girl. It was one of the kids who hung around the others—the ones who tormented her.

“You’re one of them,” she said out loud, picking up the pencil she’d thrown earlier and walking back toward the desk where she’d left her art work.

“What?” The girl waved her off as she got a response from the other line. “Yes, please send an ambulance. Two kids are hurt. Bleeding so much.”

She paused as she listened to the other voice on the line and didn’t notice Franny return to her seat. The quiet girl put her pencil to paper again and began gliding the lead point, curving and sketching, scratching marks into the surface.

“I don’t know. They just started running at each other. Like wild animals. Wouldn’t stop. Heads crashed over and over. Please, they’re bleeding so much.” The girl on the phone sobbed.

Franny didn’t look up from her paper. “You’re one of them. You don’t say mean things. You don’t hit me. But you stand there and watch as they do.”

The girl looked to Franny again, impatient. “What are you saying?”

Franny stopped now, dropped her pencil, and stared the girl in the eye, her own glowing with rage. “You’re just as monstrous as they are!”

With that, Franny brought a finger down to the paper in front of her, slicing her nail through the thin surface, and before her eyes, the girl on the phone began to gurgle. A wide, gaping wound appeared in her neck and scarlet liquid dribbled out slow at first and then gushed out like a faucet open all the way.

The phone fell from her hand and Franny could vaguely hear the other voice talking, trying to get the girl’s attention. She calmly walked over, put the phone back on the receiver and knelt down by the girl. “You could have avoided this if you’d just told them to stop.”

The girl reached out a trembling hand, her eyes pleading for mercy. Franny had none. She walked out of the classroom and past the crowd. “I’m only human,” she kept whispering to herself over and over again.

Chaos continued behind her. Chaos she knew she’d caused. And now that she knew her power, she’d find her revenge elsewhere. It was time to go home.