Cut Apart

A 1,200 Words Short Story

Miranda was in bed after her last day of work, and it wasn’t voluntary. She was fired for unnamed reasons. People were uncomfortable with the way she acted, warm one minute and cold another. It was frustrating that people couldn’t connect with her unscrupulous personality. Her extreme emotions were unfathomable. That should’ve been okay. Maybe she had to change — go on mood stabilizers, and get therapy. Her warm comforter didn’t care about her mood swings. It cared about nothing, because it didn’t have feelings. That made Miranda a little sad.

She didn’t care what other people thought. Making herself accountable to them terrified her. It was too much pressure.

The door opened. April’s footsteps drummed through the hallway, matching Miranda’s beating heart. The motivation to get up from bed appeared out of thin air. She put on some clothes, looking at the empty bed she wanted someone to fill. April was the one she wanted.

Miranda walked into their living room and sat down with a bowl of cereal in her lap. She munched away, thinking about the day she moved in with a stranger. She was in love with that stranger now, April. There were questions asked, answers given by text, and meetings over coffee. Dragging her luggage up a flight and across the threshold she would share with April.

And April was there that day in a long pleated skirt with a blue t-shirt. That’s when it happened. Miranda tried to fight the images flooding her brain, but after a while, she didn’t want to anymore. Her fantasies were too much to ignore try as she might. Miranda wanted to feel the touch of those pretty red lips against her skin — against her own. She wanted to kiss April against a wall until she couldn’t breathe — until she didn’t feel alone anymore — until she didn’t feel bad anymore.

April was in a towel, still pearly with moisture, standing in the hallway before her. She wanted April more than anything, and nothing else was left in her life.

“Hey, Miranda.”

“Hey.”

“Going out tonight?”

“I could be convinced.”

April took Miranda’s hand and pulled her up.

Those hints, signs that all hope wasn’t lost kept Miranda trying. Those little moments of connection were enough.

April flashed her brilliant smile. “I need a night out in the stars. Music would be nice.”

“You mean that club down the block?” They lived in a loft somewhere in the warehouse district. Clubs were all around. They just had to pick.


The black silk was smooth and cool against Miranda’s skin. Music raged through the room and people danced in frenzy. The room was warm — the air electric. There they were, dancing the lonely night away. The music drove a relentless beat to escape the confines of mundanity. To forget everything wrong with the world and live free.

The fierce thrumming waxed and waned from this track to the next. They were up against the bar for drinks. April looked pretty, her green dress playing off her blonde strands.

In the colored lights, Miranda was interested in the love, the beauty that evaded her. And there it was. The chance she’d wanted. Drinks and drinks numbed her fears, and her loathsome worries dissipated for just long enough. They’d been talking about work, the trouble with guys, the politics of ignorance — of the familiar, and the impermanence of it all.

Miranda used the desire, the locked away need. She took April around the waist away from the crowded bar. They walked to an empty spot along the wall. The music rocked them back and forth. April turned Miranda’s head. The music was too loud to speak, so just April’s lips moved to words. Miranda swore that the words were obvious and true. April leaned in. Miranda couldn’t believe it was going to happen. After all these months waiting, they were going to kiss. Miranda leaned in and found April’s soft lips teasing of cream and strawberry.

Miranda saw shock in April’s eyes. Then a hint of sadness flowed over, turning them dark. It was obvious to Miranda. April didn’t feel the same way, and things would never be the same again. There’d always be the frustrating question between them. You like me? Can I like you? There’d always be awkwardness between them — something ephemeral — something visible in the distance but blurry, indecipherable.

Miranda ran through the pressing crowd. She stood in line hurting and paralyzed into avoidance. Rejection stung, but it wasn’t minor. Her whole world was imploding in on itself. There was nothing she could do, except stand there and watch it happen. The gaping hole at her center grew and grew. She wanted it to stop. She wanted it to end.

Or she didn’t want to feel it happen. Her throat cried out for tears. She was gasping with the pain at her heart. They had names for that. It was sadness but for her, grief of a loved one lost. The possibility of loving April was dead. She mourned in line outside the bathroom, wanting an anesthetic to wipe away her woes and diminish her hurt. It was minutes away at the end of a razor.

Miranda pushed the heavy door out of the way. Flickering light filled the room as the door slipped shut. Inked lines plastered the walls. Water dripped from the faucet, and everything was pale in the yellow light. Down her purse went. Out her razor blade came and everything else she needed. She never left home without.

Sitting on the counter, her hands shook from the pain of rejection. Miranda uncovered her thigh hidden under her skirt. There in the web of scars, she needed to cut, somewhere no one could see or question her. The razor felt warm against her skin as she pressed. The blade slid through her scarred skin. Pain wasn’t on her mind. The slicing blade silenced her mind, cut off her emotions.

Pounding went around the room. “People need to pee out here too.”

The door jumped in the frame, and Miranda’s razor went a little too deep. She pulled the razor. Blood spurted out of her inner thigh. Miranda clamped a hand over her gushing leg, but blood drained down between her fingers. She wrapped her oozing leg in gauze and walked out the door with a limp.

Walking through the party, she felt cold seeping down her leg. It was too dark to notice. It was like a heavy period, right? She wobbled down the street and across to their apartment — get away. She couldn’t risk another cut or running into April.

She sat in their apartment, a belt cinching her thigh. Pressure applied didn’t stop the bleed. Her body was burning, head spinning, and heart pounding. Black came in around her vision. Miranda got her phone. 9–1–1 was across her phone screen. She tried to call, and the phone clattered to the floor.

Miranda opened her eyes to the light flicking on. April screamed and ran to her. The nightmare wasn’t over yet. April panicked. Miranda bent in half and made the call. Her voice was weak. “I need help. I’m bleeding out.”

Lights and sirens, rough hands covered in latex, stitches and a needle in her arm, happy nurses and sad doctors, therapy and medication. That was what she needed — a break from reality.

A cut too deep was what she needed to find a new way forward.

Finding a way to recovery is like seeing a map. There’s no way to know if Miranda could walk the path she discovered. Only time would tell.

GK

Brass Tacks

A 1,300 word short story.

Private First Class Greg “Sully” O’Sullivan was before a screen in the cool communications room, cordoned off with a woman on the screen half a world away. They weren’t strangers but the closest two people could be. Wetness pooled in his eyes. They weren’t talking as if thousands of miles were between them.

“Kate, I can’t think of anything else. I want to be back with you.”

“Sully get your head on straight. Stay safe out there, baby.”

“What’s the matter Kate? You look different.”

“Took you that long to notice, huh?”

“Umm.”

“It’s nothing. I’m pregnant that’s all.” Kate was cool. She didn’t care half the time, and people couldn’t tell when she did.

He knew enough to guess. How they’d been getting baby clothes in the mail. The way Kate was around kids. He knew, but her words wouldn’t be enough. Nothing would be until they were together again.


PFC Sully walked to the humvees they were taking out for a drive across the scorching desert of a newly liberated Iraq. The city portion would be downright deadly. Sully was shaking with nerves, and that was status quo. It was enough that nothing had happened, yet. No one knew, but Sully didn’t show it either. He belonged there, and no one could say otherwise.

The Staff Sergeant commanding the Unit, “Rough Neck” Cochran patted Sully on the back. “Mounting up on the 50 cal. today, Sully?”

Sully didn’t have to think. In a mere matter of months, he would have a little person in his arms. And it felt alone as hell up there. A massive barrel in your hands and a tiny piece of armor around you — a target and unprotected at the same time. And the desolate streets had threats in every direction. Sully wasn’t the arrogant risk taker he once was as a young Marine.

“Not me today, Rough Neck. Give Keller the hot seat.”

“Your loss bud. Your loss.”


Sully was in the back across from the sweaty Private Vandorne. She was the only woman in the Unit. Sully was chatting it up with Rough Neck, shooting shit against a stiff breeze. The Privates weren’t buying their bullshit. The other members of their Unit followed behind in two humvees. That’s when it happened.

A IED on the street exploded. Debris flew everywhere. It was a tank shell that blew a hole in the ground. The entire block was on fire. There was no way through. The line of humvees backed up on Rough Neck’s orders. Another explosion cut off the way back. They were stuck.

Bullets flew through the air and in through the windows. The glass nicked and shattered under the barrage. They were in the crossfire from either side.

Vandorne groaned.

Rough Neck ordered everyone out.

Vandorne was hit.

Sully pulled her out through the door. Cover fire went up. Sully scanned the buildings. An empty courtyard was behind them. He dragged the injured Vandorne across the pale sand, leaving droplets of red in their wake.

Vandorne was gasping for breath. Sully pulled off her helmet. He had to do a double take. Sure, his wife had brown hair. And sure they both had pale, translucent skin. They looked a little alike. Sully’s heart stirred at the similarities between the two women.

The resemblance added panic to his actions. She was shot in the shoulder. There was a pool of blood growing on the ground. Sully pulled the coagulation powder and sprinkled it down. He pressed a compression wrap on the hole in Vandorne. She cried out in agony despite fast intakes of breath. Sully saw the life drain from her eyes. The hint of light became dull and disappeared.

Sully’s throat went hard.

Rough Neck was on the radio. “Positions go.”

Their Unit was all over the block. Sully chimed in.

“Sully, you’re the closest bud.”

“Copy that.”

“Get up those stairs and show the motherfuckers the force of nature that is a United States Marine. Nail those fuckers into the ground. We’re getting hammered on the south face of this godforsaken block. Everyone over there converge on Sully.”

“Vandorne’s KIA”

Everyone was quite for a moment.

“Get up those stairs, Marine.”

Sully had a moment of seeing his flag draped coffin. His wife crying. Their child wailing. Then it was gone.

Anger took its place. Nothing would keep him from seeing his family again. A few things needed to happen. And they would happen. Anything standing in the way would burn up faced down with Sully’s sheer determination. Fancy words held no consolation for Sully. Action was the only thing that mattered.

Sully stepped away from Vandorne’s body, saying a prayer. He set his helmet straight and cocked his gun. He walked with the weight of his mission to see his wife again. His mind was clear. Action, consequence. Vindication was coming on the back of Sully. He would show everyone that his name meant something. That there was justice in the world.

He kicked down the door. Walking the building, he threw open each door and swept the rooms clean with his gun sight. He went up another flight of stairs and combed the dusty rooms. No one was there. He went up the stairs.

One room was up there. Sounds wafted through the thin door. Hushed voices and gunfire. That was the place. Sully felt the aggression building in his body like an electric charge ready to break free — the clouds before lightening struck. His muscles were strung out, ready to snap into action. His grip tightened.

Sully burst through the door. Four people were inside. The person facing him opened fire. Sully dropped his weight to the floor. As Sully opened fire, the other people turned to face him. Shots echoed around the room. The wall behind him was blasted white. A few bullets went past him, and a few went through his legs. Until the bullets stopped flying, the pain was minuscule.

Rough Neck was trying to get through. “All wrapped up. How are things on your end Sully?”

“Sully?”

The sound of boots filled Sully’s head. The cavalry was there. The medic got to him. Medicine was injected through his veins. They took him down the stairs in a litter. The fire had gone out. They loaded up Sully in the back seat. A bottle of fluids hung above his head. Sully didn’t remember much from the blood loss. He was in and out for days.

Sully woke up in a military hospital somewhere in Germany. The room was empty and stark white. The sun came in through slits in the blinds and fell across the floor.

Nothing happened for what seemed like hours. Then his wife came in, filling the room with her cool smelling perfume. Sully was the happiest person in the world for a minute there.

“Sully.”

“Where have they been hiding you away?”

“That’s what you’re going to say?”

“Get over here.”

“I was so scared, Sully.”

“It was nothing Kate.”

“There you go again.”

“This will be the last time I ever leave you.”

“Bet on it, Mister. We need you.”

The experience could’ve taken Sully away from his wife forever. In the end, it brought them together again in a tiny hospital room somewhere in Germany.

GK

Don’t be a Slave to the Writing Process

Figure out your writing process. Don’t follow one blindly.

There are methods or a “process” that a writer uses.

You’ll be questioned about process if you ever get anything published in any meaningful way. But process can’t be transplanted from writer to writer. It’s something you have to discover for yourself.

Ray Bradbury wrote about his process.¹

  1. Make lists of what he’s thinking, short one to two word phrases.
  2. Find something that has a story behind it and write a lyric poem.
  3. Keep going as lyric poem turns into prose.

Following that process doesn’t work for me.

  1. I can’t write poetry.
  2. I can’t keep lists, because I barely have enough time to write as is.

My method is wildly different.

  1. Meditate daily.
  2. Come up with ideas when inspiration strikes or meditation leads me there.
  3. Run through everything I plan to write again in a meditative state.
  4. Sit down and type very slowly. That’s as fast as I can type.

That process isn’t going to work if your lived experience is different than mine.

Writing is an individualized act.

The product is generally recognized, but there are umpteenth ways to arrive there.

You’ll have varying success with everything you try.

It speaks to how difficult writing is.

You need to discover the process that best suits you.

It’ll be a mixed bag of the processes out there that no other writer uses to the letter.

Things like this are best figured out when you try things, everything you can find within reason until something gets you writing to the best of your ability.

It’ll be something close to who you are deep inside your soul.

Maybe you’re from the meditation camp or the poetry camp.

Whatever works is your process.

Resources

  1. Bradbury, Ray. Zen in The Art of Writing (p. 11-12). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

GK

A Friend in Need of Comfort

This is short about friendship.


 

We were supposed to be friends like before — before she’d gotten serious about dating. It was apparent we wouldn’t be best friends anymore. It was hard being best friends with a girl, especially if you’re a guy. Everyone thought we were together. It didn’t matter that Claire already had a boyfriend —seeing us together was enough. It was annoying.

Claire rang the doorbell. We were going to talk face-to-face after months of texting back and forth. It had to be something big like the bf.

Claire was in a trench and jeans. Pulling her inside, I got us a bottle of wine like she’d wanted. I’d always thought her bf, Adam wasn’t good enough for her.

“Adam is remote. I have no idea what he’s thinking. The sex is great, but that’s not everything. Something is missing.”

That was a touchy spot for Claire, not getting what she wanted — wondering if it meant something.

“I don’t know what it means. He shut me out.” Her eyes were wet.

It made me angry. Why are you hurting Claire like this, Adam?

Claire kneaded her eyes and tried to smile for me. That hurt, like she stabbed me. I didn’t want her acting for me like every other man. I went and sat next to her.

“Claire. You don’t have to bottle everything up to protect me. I’m your friend. Nothing you do could hurt me.”

She looked at me with a sad smile. I put my arm around her. Claire sobbed. I kissed her hair, whispering the words she needed. Her tears quit, and she looked at me. Sadness was there, but the dread was gone. In moments like that, I wanted to kiss Claire like the world depended on it, but I wanted her friendship more than her body.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo taken by Shanon on Pixabay.

Remembering Things Lost Forever to Fate

This is a short story about an ending.


 

We walked through the garden interspersed with topiaries and dramatic lighting. It was dark. Everything was as it should be — the pyramid of latticed glass and baroque buildings ahead of us.

The grass ended with stone. A scream went through the square. My heart jumped into my throat. We froze, looking to that sound and things happening — masked men around the grounds — far away yet dangerous. I held Jack’s hand tighter. Something sailed into the hands of the masked men. Jack pulled me along. Looking over my shoulder, I saw what was thrown over — guns.

I spun my head and felt a splash of cold on my face. We sprawled on the ground as people streamed by. “Jack honey, we have to move.”

He squeezed my hand a little.

I looked at him on the ground next to me. My face drew tight, and my eyes widened. I felt the wetness splashed across my face and drew my fingers back red. Jack sucked in great breaths of air as blood trickled out from his chest. We were in the open before the pyramid.

Holding Jack head, everything around exploded with gunfire. The glass shattered and stone erupted, evading the rush of bullets. My world was the tiny bubble that contained Jack for the moments his life slipped through my fingers. “Hang on, Jack. A little longer for me? Please, Jack.”

It was too late. His hand went limp in mine, and he was gone. I went through that day again and again, pulling my hair out at what we could’ve changed. Someone grabbed me round the middle, and took me into the pyramid.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

 

Memories of Love: A Missed Opportunity

This is a short story of lost love.


 

It was a dinner party at Ben’s, a bunch of guys from Amherst together again and our girls. We were all that age — between maturity and adulting. I was the dude without a woman in tow. Everything was good being single. There wasn’t someone giving me judgmental gazes like my mother. There was hooking up and enjoying life. Everything was right with the world being alone most nights. Every so often, I had a hot girl in my bed.

Stagnation wasn’t in my vocabulary. That’s when I looked at Ben’s girl. Sonia looked familiar. Familiar like a girl you’ve been in bed with — dark hair to the middle of her back, green eyes making me wonder, and lips I remember. I could see it. How she darted looks at me and licks of a smile. She was a girl that lay in my bed — no question about it.

She was with Ben now.

I wanted her. Sometimes limits feed your hunger. I wanted a bite if not a kiss. I looked into her eyes and remembered.

It was rainy. Delicious food filled our bellies with warmth. The cab stopped outside my brownstone. The rain pelted us wet by the time we were inside. I didn’t want our usual bottle of wine. I held her wet neck, and we kissed. I carried her up the stairs to my bed with her playful squeals filling my ears. The light rain struck a beat on the windowpane and the gorgeous Sonia smelling of rain. And now we were sitting a table’s width apart, sneaking looks. I wanted her more.

It wasn’t to be. We could never be together with Ben dating her.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

Betrayal by the Things we Love Most

This is a dreamy short story.


 

The boundless ocean stretches ahead. Its jagged, mirror-like surface reflects back the pale orange sun. The boat moves at speed through gently rolling waves sending up a spray of fine mist. On every conceivable surface the salted droplets land, a coating of flaky, crumbly mineral grows. The salt covers my lips and arms with crystalline layers. My grip on the railing provides purchase against the cool wind and damp. The sun helps too. Water maids accompany me on this journey, swimming in the wake and ahead of the bow in the form of dolphins.

I peer to the upper deck, flying high above, well over the worst of the spray and wind. Perched upon this, my constant companion whom I couldn’t do without. She gazes out past the local scenery with the aid of binoculars, to some far off wonder beyond my grasp. From that outlook, another horizon is visible a bit farther than my own. She takes a more pedestrian view by carrying the eagle-eyed tool off to her side. Her other hand forms a shade visor over gleaming eyes. A shift in the oncoming rays turns Claire’s body into a silhouette of a goddess on the harsh radiating light of our life bringing sun.

She comes down from her heavenly perch, nestled upon the higher deck. The ease and grace with which she moves in nothing short of perfection. Claire is down at the deck to exchange words with me. The sweet sounds of her irresistible intonation wash over me. I hear her words, but that’s not everything. This exchange has the surprising quality to put me at ease.

Claire leads me to the deck cabin by her usual mannerisms — consisting of feather light touches on the inside of my palm and arm — knowing exactly how. The deck cabin bolsters a pendulum sort of door, swinging back and forth with the lightest of breezes. Claire pushes the door aside as I miss her contact for a brief moment, moving through the filter screen of a doorway. The door swings through on its pendulum arc.

In that instant, Claire disappears into the body of the ship. I push through the door expecting the truth of Claire behind, yet she is not to be seen in the darkened chamber. I walk through the room looking for her only to be disappointed. Claire is nowhere below or above decks. A looming dread comes over me. The rhythmic slapping of the door ends with a loud bang. I look back to see nothing — an empty wall in place of the door.

I look for an escape route from the dark, desolate chamber entombed within the ship. The transom windows are inches beyond my outstretched fingers. The blackness is held at bay by late evening light coming in. Chalk markings of an indecipherable and crude tongue graffiti the walls. Paper underfoot crumples and crunches with each step. I sink to the ground in a state befitting my current desolation.

Wetness encroaches my battlements from every front. A deep red sludge, a curse adding to my sad state. With each passing breath and moment, my heart fills with revulsion. The impending creep of the fluid sends me up and away. The red concoction comes higher, soaking into more of the paper under footing, turning it into a blood red mush. I end up tasting the fluid to verify my suspicion that this is blood from some massive creature.

The transoms let in something else, filling my prison just a bit faster. The golden amber liquid comes in by waterfall. The intense smell of liquor wafts up into my nose. The liquid flows in with the goal of drowning me as sewer rat. The onslaught goes on without a sign of relenting, intent on my destruction. There must be a method escaping my thoughts that can rid me of impending doom.

The transom is my salvation. I get myself soaked through and through grasping desperately at the window inches above my attempts. Wandering from light to light, I find a step where there is none to reach my salvation. I pull myself up with as much strength as my frame can manage, up to the deck. Halfway up, a tug on my leg slides me back. The next so forceful, my head reels up into glass transom. This, my end.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash