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

“I feel alive,” Tanya said. 

“You’re not,” assured a voice coming from overhead. 

“Hmpf,” Tanya sighed. She thought she was invincible. Her liver certainly had been tested enough.

“Wait, Dad?” Her head cocked toward the sound. 

“I am whoever you need me to be,” responded the sound. 

“Oh, that’s fucked up.” Tanya looked around. It seemed as if the place was an endless plane of white. It was dead silent, aside from her voice and the one from overhead. The temperature was pleasant–not too hot, not too cold. 

“If I’m not alive, then this is… heaven?”

“Sure,” the voice overhead crooned. “If that’s what you want it to be. This place is your homeless consciousness. It’s whatever you need it to be.”

“In that case, I need it to be the coastline of California,” she challenged. The sound of ocean waves approached almost as immediately as she said it, the foggy view of the Pacific Ocean slowly sharpening into view. 

The air shifted from a still, room-temperature ambiance to a gusty, salty wind. The California coast was her happy place. She had been to the sandy shores of Malibu on countless occasions, mainly after bad relapses. Once or twice, she had woken up in her Honda Fit in the state beach parking lot, not totally sure how she ended up there. 

She knelt down and sifted the sand through her fingers. It felt as real as ever. The sand fell from her hand and swirled around her as more sand lifted off the beach. The scene faded back to white and the beach disappeared. 

“Veruchka,” the overheard voice said. 


“Sure, if you please.”

“Your death fucked us all up, you know that, right?”

The soft nothingness of the white plane washed over her. There was no response. Nothing to respond. It was an obvious statement. How could it not be?

“I’m sorry for dying in a car accident? You know I’m just your internal dialogue, right?”

“Whatever. Doesn’t matter. You left us with Mom, and nobody to chill her out. She’s out of control.”

“You managed to take control,” the voice whispered somberly. 

Tanya smiled slightly. She had, hadn’t she? She tried to imagine her mom, sitting shiva, getting simultaneously consoled and silently judged by all her friends. She wondered how many of them had seen her Instagram post the night she did it. 

#sorrynotsorry world. getting off the shitshow. fuck you mom. 

Now it didn’t seem as clever as she had thought at the time. She had come to loathe her mom, and at the same time, desperately needed her approval–an elusive thing that always came with strings. Most of the time, her mom was a withholding, judgmental cunt. “Tanya, you don’t have the body for that skirt.” “Tanya, get a fucking job.” “No wonder nobody wants to date you, you’re a bitch.”

She would even withhold Buster, the family’s golden retriever. 

“You know the worst part, Dad? Mom likes to pit me and Nathan against one another. He hates me, and it’s her fault. She had us compete for her affection.”

“Then why didn’t you just get away from it all? Why stay?”

Tanya sat down and crossed her legs, resting her chin on her palms. “I tried, Dad. Really fucking hard. I tried so many times. I guess my MFA in Creative Writing and Masters in Film didn’t quite give me a leg up in the real world.”

“You know your mother wanted to make a life out of the theater? You’re not so unlike her.”

Tanya rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know, that’s the realization I had too. I would never let myself turn into her.”

“Is that why you…”

“No,” Tanya stopped the voice. “Kind of?”

The silence was taken over by the sound of someone peeing, and Tanya could feel herself on a cold ceramic toilet seat holding a pregnancy test under a stream of urine. 

She jumped up, throwing the test into the distance, watching as it faded into nothingness. She had to admit the truth to herself. It’s not like she didn’t already know. Saying it out loud wouldn’t change anything for the worse. 

“After I miscarried…” Her voice trailed off. “After I miscarried, I kind of just accepted that I would never have anything good. So why fucking bother, you know?” Drips of salty tears lifted out of her eyes and floated into the distance. “I saw all my friends getting married, having kids, advancing in their jobs. I just wanted one person to love me.”

“Always a wedding guest, never the bride.” The voice added.

“Yeah, it sucked.”

“And what did you do to fix it before, you know, permanently ruining things?”

“I tried to get on Millionaire Matchmaker, does that count?” she chuckled. 

“How’d your mom react to that?”

“Tanya, you’re not pretty enough to be on TV. Tanya, you’re going to get drunk and embarrass yourself in front of millions of people. Tanya, they are never going to take some unemployed sad girl.” She looked down at her body–her stomach, her thighs, her breasts. “I worked really hard to get in shape.”

“How’d you manage that, though?” The voice antagonized.

“OK, I mean, through a bit of a liquid diet.”


“And a bit of a pharmaceutical diet.”

“Yeah, I’d say,” there was sarcasm in the air.  

“Don’t fucking judge me, Dad. You weren’t there. Besides, that’s how I finally dropped like, seventy pounds. Now look at me, I’m a hottie. I almost got onto Millionaire Matchmaker. Mom got off my back for like, three seconds.” 

“So what happened? If you were such a hottie, what the fuck happened?” 

Tanya started breathing heavy. She ran after the discarded pregnancy test, but no matter how far she ran, the white nothingness remained. She collapsed onto her back, staring up–or whatever direction it was–and letting out a huge sigh. 

“Jack didn’t want me or a baby, apparently. Millionaire Matchmaker didn’t think I was good enough for a sleazy reality show. Mom was constantly pressuring me to get out of the house. Nathan hated me. All my friends had moved on. I was…stuck.”

She sat up suddenly. “Dad?” Nothing. “Dad?” She whimpered. “Great, now you’re gone too. Really, can this finally be done? I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!” She screamed into the air. As if on cue, her vision faded, her body drained of all feeling, and her mind scattered into a million specks of thought, and all traces of cognition were gone. She was no longer. 

March 27, 2023 12:51

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1 comment

Ralph Aldrich
13:41 Apr 06, 2023

Strange. She felt alive but wasn't. So what does she accomplish by cridicizing heself? I think your story is written well but I find the point a bit comfusing.


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