Coming of Age Fantasy Speculative

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

⚠️ Reference to domestic abuse (as well as suicide/self-harm) ⚠️

“Alexandra Tamara Whitehall. You stand charged upon this indictment with unnecessary suicide upon the 18th of August last. Are you guilty or not guilty?”

Sandra Whitehall raised her head in bewilderment. Where was she? The last thing she remembered – a cliff – high, so high up – looking down at the clear, still water – thinking how ironic it was -then a single step – close your eyes, don't look down – bubbles swarming like angry bees, a sudden stinging – and then – And then?

She opened her eyes. White. White with no sense of size. An empty room or an empty world? No, not empty. There were faces. Thirteen faces. Or was it only twelve?

The question was repeated in level tones, emotionless but somehow painfully human. Sandra shivered and fingered her white hair. It had a cool, slimy feel, bunched together in thick strands. Water dripped onto the White beneath her feet.

Her head was in a whirlpool. How did she get here? Why was she here? Where was 'here'? And what were they charging her with? She looked at the faces, all thirteen – twelve? - waiting for her answer. She opened her mouth to say the only thing she could.

“Not guilty.”

Twelve faces turned away, their expressions unreadable. The thirteenth – if there was a thirteenth – remained the same, looking at her, looking away from her, and seeing it all.

Faces in front of her, drifting towards her, then away, one by one. Faces she knew. Her husband Robert, Joe, her parents, her sister Charlotte - her son. Billy. Sandra reached out a hand towards him, but he wasn't there. She choked down a sob; she wasn't going to cry in front of these people.

“The first test is complete,” came a crisp voice from nowhere. Test? She had been tested? Did she pass?

“What kind of court is this?” Sandra mumbled.

“It has many names. The Divine, The Last, The Ultimate Court, whichever you prefer.” An answer, from nowhere to nowhere. “Please relate, in your own words, your life. Take your time. What drove you to suicide?”

She looked at the ground defiantly, daring not to talk, for some reason that she didn't know. The voice repeated the question, and she found that she couldn't not answer. She wanted to speak.

“I met my husband when I was only 19. We married 2 years later. I thought I loved him. He seemed everything I wanted in a husband. The first few months were heaven. He was kind, patient, intelligent, and he loved me...” As she carried on, visions filled her head.

Robert, the first time she had seen him. Friends had joked that they were the perfect match, both albinos. Both white-haired, blue-eyed. Like twins from different mothers, they said. She had answered that albinos were more common than they thought, which they hadn't seemed to understand.

Robert returned from work, hanging his dripping raincoat on the wall, changing his wet clothes and joining her on the sofa. She sat close to him, and asked him how his day went. He answered: Just the same boring work.

He put his arm around her, saying it was a comfort to know that she would be there when he got back. They talked for a while, watched things together, settled down to read together. They each had a copy of War and Peace; They were racing each other to finish it. He was ahead of her by at least 50 pages, but she only pretended to care.

She made the dinner, talking as she did so. They planned a trip to France, the only country they had ever been to, other than England. They laughed together when she burned the food, too absorbed in their conversation to notice the frantic beeping and smoke from the oven. He said he didn't mind, and they went out to a restaurant instead.

The next morning, she woke up and he was already out of bed. Downstairs, he was making breakfast. She scolded him playfully for not letting her do it, and they laughed their way through the morning. He always told the worst jokes, but she always laughed anyway.

“And then something happened. It happened,” she said. She remembered that too...

2 weeks later. He was gone in the morning, and he didn't come back. That night she lay awake in bed, but she wasn't particularly worried. Everything would be all right in the end.

He showed up in the morning, lying on the sofa. He looked exhausted. She went to her neighbour for breakfast that morning because she didn't want to wake him. At least, that was her excuse.

When she got back a few hours later, he was up. He sat on the sofa like a marble statue, staring at nothing. She crept around him, hoping not to attract his attention. He must've been drunk; She had never seen him like this before. That was the beginning of it.

Sometimes he was out, and that was the best of times. He usually went to the pub, but occasionally it was a friend's house. If he couldn't go to either, there was always some party around to get drunk at instead.

But sometimes he was in, and that was the worst of times. He shouted at her, slammed doors, broke things – And worse. Sometimes he just sat in the living room and ignored her, and she had learned to be thankful for those days.

“It carried on like that for so long that I almost forgot was he had been like before.” She was absorbed in her narrative, no longer caring what it was for. She was reliving it, and as hard as it had been to stand at the time, it was almost pleasurable to remember.

“Then, after all that had happened, despite everything, I had – a child. We named him Billy, and he was like light to me in the dark that my life had become.” She wrestled back a tear.

The moment he had come into her life she knew he was different. There was nothing of her husband in him. How could there have been?

He came into the world quietly. He knew he shouldn't cry. He only cried when they took him away from her, and quieted the moment he was back with her. She cried then, holding him to her. Life would be different now.

Growing up, he had the same experience as a child with only one parent would. His father avoided or ignored him, and he quickly learnt how to deal with it. He didn't even know that it wasn't what every boy's father did.

His mother tried to give him enough love for both of them. Whatever he needed, he was given.

And then he grew up. He grew up fast. He moved away, because the house wouldn't hold him anymore. Sandra hadn't known how to feel about it.

He struggled with making enough money to support himself, so it was a big surprise when he got married. Sandra was hurt that he hadn't told her before; He only did when she met them together on the street and asked for an introduction.

She spent more time out of the house than she had before. Since Billy moved out, her husband had become worse.

Sandra choked on tears that she hadn't realised were flowing. “Then Billy died. It was the same as hundreds of other deaths in the city – But it wasn't really, because it was Billy. He didn't see the car coming.” The faces of the jury were unemotionally sympathetic; She got the feeling that it was as close to real emotion as they could get. It helped.

The unknown voice boomed – or whispered, it was all the same in the white emptiness, “The second test is complete."

There was silence. She looked at the White where she stood, water still dripping from her, but the White wasn't wet. The water seemed to evaporate as it touched the 'ground'. She watched the drip, hypnotized.

The voice spoke again. “You have lied.” It jolted her out of her trance. The voice didn't seem surprised at her lies. It had known as she was saying them, she thought. That had been the test, to see if she would lie and when. Who was it who had said that lies could be just as revealing as the truth?

“Now tell us again. From the beginning, the truth. As they say in your courts, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The voice seemed faintly amused – if it could be amused.

She began again, careful to say the truth this time, not daring to miss anything out.

“The night it all changed. We argued. I remember every word we said.” Once again, visions swamped her, but this time the gaps were all accounted for...

Robert, can't we have children?” That was the beginning of it. A single casual comment.

I thought we'd talked about this before. We couldn't afford it. You know we couldn't,” his voice drifted to her from where he sat on the sofa. He wasn't paying attention, forging through War and Peace.

Surely you could earn more.” She wanted children.

He put down the book as she walked in and sat next to him. “How?”

How should I know?"

You suggested it,” he said. “It doesn't matter anyway. I don't want children.”


To begin with, they would tire me out, we don't have enough room, I wouldn't be there for them most of the day.”

I could look after them.” She was indignant.

You?” he laughed, taking her hand. She drew it away. “You would spoil the child.”

I still want one.”

We're not having children.”

We are.”

It carried on. And on, and on. They argued for hours. She was adamant; She was going to have the child, whether he liked it or not. She almost threatened him with it. But he was equally adamant. They couldn't support a child, they couldn't look after it properly, so many other issues.

She didn't give in, and eventually they went to bed, both exhausted.

The next day, she wouldn't let it rest. She needed a child. She nagged him all day, trying to draw him into another argument. He tried to ignore her, but she got on his nerves.

Over days she wore him down. Every morning he woke up, exhausted from the previous day's attacks. Every day she carried on in the same way. She didn't leave him alone for a moment, intent beyond all reason to get her own way.

Still he wouldn't give in. He stayed out of her way for the next week, leaving the house early to visit friends, but finding that even that held no respite. He took to drink.

Now she avoided him in his worst moments, scared of what he had become. 

He would've been a quiet drunk if she hadn't decided that her battle still needed fighting. She chose his quieter times to attack him. With the right care, he could've been cured before it became serious, but she wouldn't let that happen. She paved his way down the spiral, the only road that would now take him.

"And then I found that I was pregnant..."

She had won the battle, and if it was not won directly (or legitimately, she had to admit), then at least it was won in some way. She would have a child, and he couldn't stop it now. There was no thought of abortion; He was too worn out to argue anymore.

She stopped attacking him, but he was too far gone to realise it. The damage was irreversible, but she didn't care. Now that she was going to have a child, she didn't need a husband.

"Then Billy came..." Sandra said. She didn't want to go over it, the real story, but she had no choice.

She had wanted a child so badly.

When he came, she could see he was different. He wasn't like her husband.

She stopped, struggling to continue. "I... I didn't love him. Somehow I just... Couldn't." She tried to explain.

He was a beautiful baby. She had tried to love him for it.

His skin was tanned, his hair blond. His eyes were beautifully dark, mysterious. He'd grown up like that, never showing what he felt. It made mothering hard.

She would always give him what he wanted, scared that neglect would make him realise that he wasn't really loved. There was no such thing as overdoing love, she thought. Until he was 13.

Then, she reasoned, a little neglect never hurt anyone, only knowing unconsciously her real reason for neglecting him.

"I expect you don't want the whole story... Is that enough?" Sandra asked. The voice - it must've belonged to the thirteenth head (although she sill wasn't sure if it existed) - said "Yes." She noticed that they didn't ask for her feelings this time.

It continued. "This is your last test. Answer truthfully, we know when you lie. What made you commit suicide?"

Sandra thought about it. She thought about it for a long time, if time existed in that court. Finally she answered. "I don't know." There had been a vague sense of 'They'll be sorry', although there wasn't a 'They' to direct it at... There had been self-pity... Spite... But nothing definite.

The voice paused, reading her thoughts. She could feel its presence inside of her. It was warm, unintrusive, almost friendly. It confused her. Wasn't this her judge? 

"Your lies and your truth have been told," it said. "The jury will now give their verdict." Sandra jumped. They must've decided in seconds. How could she trust -

The voice interrupted. "The jury is perfectly trustworthy. They are not biased like human juries are. In fact, they are often inclined to unfounded mercy." Almost against her will, she felt reassured.

She looked at the jury. They looked back at her, twelve faces identical in their almost unemotional sympathy. They blurred and became one face. She blinked. Twelve - No, thirteen - Twelve faces still. 

She waited for the verdict, shivering, fingering her hair. She knew what was coming, but she waited anyway.

August 01, 2023 15:19

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20:46 Sep 14, 2023



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13:13 Aug 08, 2023

I love your story, its quite an extraordinary plot


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Ty Warmbrodt
04:15 Aug 08, 2023

You are very talented. Great job on this piece!


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Drew M
20:22 Aug 07, 2023

I just want to say how impressive your writing is for a 13 year old. Shoot, it’s impressive for any age. You are truly precocious - keep at it.


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Michelle Oliver
12:20 Aug 07, 2023

This was interesting I liked the two versions of the truth here. What I want you to believe and what actually happened. I am left wanting more from the ending, lots of things to ponder and think about. Thanks for sharing


12:25 Aug 07, 2023

Tell me what kind of 'more' you want, I might make a sequel! (After all, what happens after the trial?? I want to know!)


Michelle Oliver
12:41 Aug 07, 2023

Why was it an unnecessary suicide? (What actually makes a ‘necessary’ suicide?) how was she judged? What was the tipping point in her life that pushed her to her action? Who was the thirteenth face? What was the significance of her son being thirteen when she neglected him? Is there a link to the thirteenth face? Just some of the questions I pondered on reading and it’s not a bad thing to leave the reader thinking. Not every question needs an answer.


12:49 Aug 07, 2023

I'll answer 2 of those, might make a sequel to answer the others! The thirteenth face was supposed to be God. Just a vague reference, but it couldn't really be anyone else (I think). There was no significance about him being thirteen. I just picked a random age, not too young, not too old. 🙂


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Nicki Nance
02:05 Aug 06, 2023

This is a brilliant story line.


08:15 Aug 06, 2023

Thank you!


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21:06 Aug 04, 2023

I like your story very much ❤️😊This was deep and emotional in a good way. I enjoyed the narrative and the journey. The way her judgment unfolds and she ultimately judges herself as they compell her to share her truth was elegant. 💫 My favourite bits: 1. She opened her eyes. White. White with no sense of size. An empty room or an empty world? No, not empty. There were faces. Thirteen faces. Or was it only twelve? - this attempt at dissonance was a great bit of writing. 💪 2 “Then, after all that had happened, despite everything, I had – ...


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Mary Bendickson
14:08 Aug 04, 2023

Thought I had already commented on this fine story but maybe as a draft. Anyway,good job,difficult subject Thanks for liking my road trip.


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Aeris Walker
10:54 Aug 02, 2023

Hi Khadija—I like how you organized this story: The strange afterlife setting, the immediacy of beginning it in the middle of a trial, and the series of flashbacks and stories within the story. Your main character has depth, and her initial falsehoods make the truth of her life all the more interesting. Well done.


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Amany Sayed
16:44 Aug 01, 2023

I think Into The White fits better. Great story! The descriptions of the "white" or afterword or whatever are really interesting.


08:13 Aug 02, 2023

Thanks! Hope you noticed that I used the names Tamara and Charlotte (just briefly though) :)


Amany Sayed
14:18 Aug 02, 2023

I did! Made me smile.


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Joe Smallwood
23:03 Aug 02, 2023

All righty then! Interesting. Not sure I liked the ending, but the ride was fun. I know a good story when I'm thinking about how I would have handled the same idea. Actually, if I were to do a story on suicide, I'm almost certain Reedsy wouldn't accept it for publication. Thanks!


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15:21 Aug 01, 2023

Related to the prompt how? Life-changing journey = Suicide, because it ended (in other words 'changed') her life. Just thought I'd put it out there 😊


Joe Smallwood
01:01 Aug 03, 2023

Of course your story on suicide will be published. It's just that one that I would write wouldn't be.


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