Failing To Fall Further From The Tree

Submitted into Contest #111 in response to: Write about a child who carries on their parent’s work or legacy in some form.... view prompt


Sad Fiction Thriller

(Content Warning: Violence, Domestic Violence, trauma) 

“So, are you going to do it or not?” Michael asked me, quivering. 

“Give me a day to think about it, please,” I replied.

“One more day, but then I need an answer. Okay?”


That extra day was nothing more than procrastination. I had to make my decision, whether I wanted it or not. Every time I thought about it, I thought about them too. How could they be gone and still stalking my thoughts every day?

Now, I am sat here, still undecided. My day is gone. Michael will surely be here at any moment. I will have to tell him something. Allow me to explain my problem to you. In my muddled and emotional state, I do not know if I will do an adequate job, but I hope you can help. You may be as indecisive as me, or perhaps you are in a position to think more clearly than I.

I’m a girl who grew up in a small village called Cranwick. I’ve always lived here. It’s not the sort of place you ever leave. Most people here are sort of institutionalised. Anybody who does leave soon returns. People born here are seldom suited for big cities or even medium-sized towns. 

I suppose you could say that Cranwick is a sort of commune, although that is not quite accurate. It is more that each person does rely on the next, even though private interests do exist. For example, we only have one little pub, one corner shop containing the post office, a greengrocer and a butcher. You can get everything you need here without needing to venture out. Life here is cyclical and involves no small amount of co-dependency. Anyone who tries to leave finds their needs cannot be met in the outside world. Anyone who comes here from the outside is usually forced out immediately. 

You can get everything you need here, except for help. Should you need a police officer, that will take at least half an hour to arrive. If medical help is required, we do have a local doctor, but you had better hope he isn’t busy. If he is busy or you need hospital urgent hospital treatment, then you should hope that your wounds are not life-threatening. 

The remoteness of the village means that any form of trouble is a macabre event. Although, this perspective might be unique to me. To others, this place is a serene haven, cut off from the brutality and chaos of the outside world. To me, it is a prison that makes me fixate on death. It is a bizarre prison since I am actually allowed to leave. I don’t want to leave, but I hate being trapped here. That is the emotional juxtaposition that confronts me every day.

Why do I hate being trapped in Cranwick? It is because of my parents. I am not currently tormented by them. I am tormented by what they did. Their legacy haunts the whole village. More so than anybody else, it haunts me. 

My parents are no longer around. They died about two years ago. My dad killed my mum and then killed himself. That’s what the cops said. I didn’t speak to them. I hid the entire time they were there. I didn’t want to talk to them.

 To be honest, it would not surprise me if the killing was the other way around. If my mum killed my dad, then that would not surprise me at all. Nor would it make it any more or less upsetting. They were both violent individuals. I know this because I experienced their violence first-hand.

I am reasonably sure that neither my elder two sisters nor I was ever registered with the authorities. None of us was born in a hospital. We never went to school. People in the local community educated us. This is not uncommon in Cranwick. Nor is it an issue, from my point of view. I am just as well educated as the next person, I think. It’s just, I never went to school or did exams. I have no qualifications, but I am still smart.

None of us ever had a bank account. Neither of my parents had bank accounts. My mum helped out at the local shop. My dad was a carpenter. 

The upshot of this is that I do not exist. Well, I do exist. I am here, now, writing this for you. But, as far as anyone knows, I do not exist. People Cranwick know I exist, and they knew about my sisters, but even so. You would never find any trace of us anywhere.

My sisters are dead. My dad killed them. I don’t think he implicitly meant to kill either of them. Not in a murderous way, despite the fact that he was a violent man. My room was in the basement, so I wasn’t there. Both times, he said it was an accident. He said that my oldest sister, Taylor, died as she slipped and hit her head on the stone floor. It was a coincidence when exactly the same thing happened to my other sister, Frances, less than a year later.

The whole community was heartbroken. The outpouring of support was genuinely moving. I don’t think anyone knew what really happened. In truth, I don’t know what really happened, even though I do. My dad killed my sisters in two separate fits of rage. His anger would regularly spike, at least a few times a week. My body is scarred from his various tempers. There are plenty of times that I could have been killed. There were occasions where he threw things, tools from his toolbox at me. 

My mum was no better. She would resort to violence for discipline before anything else. Sometimes, a thrashing from her palms would come before she ever raised her voice. On occasion, she would beat my sisters and me before we ever had the chance to even find out what we had done wrong. Other times, she would do it even though we had done nothing at all. 

You can probably see why I find it hard to believe that my sisters died in freak accidents. Surely, it should be hard for anyone to believe. Nobody ever even questioned it. My parents received a wave of sympathy whenever they left the house. I did too.

You are probably asking yourself why I didn’t do anything. Surely, I should have told somebody. I could have alerted the police, a local person of influence, maybe even the priest. You’re right. I could have. But I didn’t. Everyone here is institutionalised. I am too. I didn’t know that you were supposed to do these things because no one ever taught me.

I think I was about six or seven years old when my sister died. I don’t know for sure how old I was then. I don’t know for sure how old I am now. I do not know when my birthday is, and we never celebrated it. 

When you’re that age, you question a lot of things. You ask why the water comes out the tap cold. You ask how they make coins. You ask how curtain poles stay up. You question all of these things. You never question the things that happen to and around you. I never questioned why my sisters. I sort of always knew that it was my parents who did it. It seems strange to say, but I just accepted it as a fact of life. Even though this was the case, I never told anybody about it. Clearly, I knew it was wrong, but something inside me told me that it was normal. 

It was only as I grew up and learned more about the world that I realised the seriousness of what happened in my household. Still, I did nothing about it. It was too late, and I was scared about the consequences if I ever said anything. All I did was try and avoid the same fate as my sisters. I achieved that goal. Or rather, my parents achieved it for me by killing one another.

Being raised around brutality and hatred makes these things normal. If you are surrounded by hate, it infects you like a virus. I am full of hate because of my upbringing. I understand that it is wrong, but I hate it nonetheless. 

After my parents died, I was not sad. I was angry. I despised them for doing what they did to my sisters. If they would not have killed each other, I am sure that I would have killed them. I do not feel that such an act is beyond me. In fact, I became more and more willing to enact retribution as time went on. It was just a few months ago that they died. I think I am about 20 years old now, with years of abhorrent behaviour stitched into my soul. Their abuses have not made me a better person. 

As much as I’d like to be the opposite of them, I am not. I am just like them. I feel the same rage that they did. I abhor things that I am supposed to love. Every emotion I have descends into violent fury.

I do not want it to be this way. I want to be mild-mannered. I want to be friendly, loving, caring, nurturing. I want to help people and make their lives better. However, I am incapable of this. I am only capable of destruction. 

Foolishly, I attempted to cleanse my soul. If I outed my parents, then their legacy of a loving couple who had everything stolen from them would be destroyed. I would create a new legacy for them, one where they were evil murderers, not tragically unlucky lovers. 

The week after it happened, there was a memorial. How can you have a memorial for such people? Well, most people did not even believe their deaths to be a murder-suicide, even though it obviously was. They thought an outsider had come in, done it, and framed it as a murder-suicide. They thought this, even in the absence of any theft of property, forced entry or motive. So untouched are these people by reality that they could not see the truth. I was there to tell them the truth. 

I got up to give my eulogy. It felt as if I was looking into the eyes of everyone present, all at once. They were all dressed in black. It was a canvass of white faces against a black background. They were all staring at me, filled with pity. My sweaty fists clenched as I began to deliver my speech without the use of an aid. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming,” I began. “You are probably all very upset at Fred and Jane’s passing. You should not be. They were murderers. I know none of you believe that one murdered the other. But I am telling you, they did. They killed my sisters too.” 

There was an audible gasp amongst all present.

“That’s right!” I continued with zeal, “They killed each other, and they killed my sisters too. Maybe they didn’t murder my sisters, but they did it in an act of violence! My dad was violent towards me. I am lucky to be alive. None of you ever helped me. Either you wilfully ignored my suffering, or you are too blinkered to see. You’ve allowed abuse to happen. Shame on you all! Shame on these dead people behind me. The world is a better place without them.”

I stood down and ran away. I ran back home to the scene of the crimes and down the stairs into my basement. There, I hid for days. I only ventured upstairs for food. The doors were locked. The numerous visitors could not get in to see me.

In the end, after the embarrassment of my public showing had passed, and when I was a little more stable, I did go out. I went to see my friend Michael. Michael and I have always been friends. He works in the local pub now. 

He served me my drink without much reaction, “You know everyone’s talking about you?” he asked almost indifferently. 

“I’m not surprised.”

“Is it true what you said?”

“Every word. I am not crazy. They were, but I’m not.”

Michael looked perturbed by my restating of the facts. Maybe he thought I had gone insane with my speech. The fact that, even after I said it plainly for everyone, people still held onto the idea that my parents were good, honest people tells you everything you need to know about Cranwick. 

“I’m sorry no one ever did anything,” said Michael, after a good deal of thought. “Someone should have been there to protect you.” 

“But they weren’t, so now I’m like this,” I replied as I bent my head back to swill down whiskey in a pathetic attempt to hide tears. 

From there, Michael was nothing but what a good friend should be. He spoke to me about it all and took my side whenever I needed him to. He looked after me when I was drunk that night and made sure I got to bed safely. He even stayed on the couch for days on end to make sure I was safe and okay. He made sure that I was not alone. 

Of course, such love and care is not the sort of thing that I am used to. It made me sort of uncomfortable. Quickly, I turned that feeling into aggression. I began to berate him, tell him he was stupid, snap at him whenever he made a nice comment or offered me anything. Amazingly, he didn’t leave. He stayed to look after me.

The second stage of my unfortunate reaction to this was guilt. I felt guilty for the abuse I had given him. I felt like he was going to leave at any moment. He would have been justified in running away. The feeling was one of utter terror. So, I threw myself at him. When he was on the sofa one night, I jumped on top of him and squeezed him, refusing to let go. There, on that sofa, we spent the night together. 

This was not the start of some beautiful relationship. I am not capable of that. A few days later, he did move out. By then, though, I was more stable and more willing to return to normal life. Life was far from normal, though. The spectre of what my parents did was far from gone. People dared not look at me on the streets, either through shame or awkwardness. Their legacy was still there, and I had to live in it. 

As the months passed, normality did return to a degree. Although I felt icy gazes everywhere I went, I became used to them. Michael helped me a lot, although we agreed to remain at a distance so as not to complicate things. 

Things did become complicated with him, though. A few weeks after our night on the sofa, I found out that I was pregnant.

At first, this was excellent news. This was an opportunity to right some wrongs. I could create a life and give it the chances I never got. I could correct everything that my parents did to me. My reputation as a great mother would erase from history the brutality of my past family. Michael was equally enthused and, although we were not an item, committed his future to the baby. 

I am not ready to have a baby. This became apparent after just a few days. A mouse wandered into my kitchen whilst I was cooking dinner, and I brutally executed it. I mashed its head in with a frying pan. I stabbed it with a kitchen knife and threw it out into the garden as a warning to the other mice. Motherly behaviour? No, it wasn’t that. 

After that, I was plagued with thoughts of violence. As I said, I am infected by hatred. Now my parents are gone, the legacy of their evil does not seem to disappear. It stays with me. A thought germinated from this. What if I was just as bad as them? What if this child would meet the same fate as my sisters? What if I would become bitter towards Michael and end up hurting him too? 

The baby was not a blessing and the opportunity for a new start. It was a curse here to repeat the cycle of cruelty. I could not be the one to continue the cycle. It had to stop with me.

I told Michael that I wanted to abort the baby. His eyes turned to water straight away. He did not seem to understand my reasoning. Maybe it is because he cannot see inside my head and the cruelty that I am capable of. We sat in silence for hours before Michael eventually spoke. 

“So, are you going to do it or not?” Michael asked me, quivering. 

“Give me a day to think about it, please,” I replied.

“One more day, but then I need an answer. Okay?”


The day is gone now, and I still don’t know what to do. Do I give my chance at a fresh start and create a new pure life that I can nurture? Or, do I save the world from myself and let the evil die with me? Do I have the baby and give it away? Will I be able to do it if I choose that path, or will I change my mind? I don’t know. 

September 14, 2021 19:19

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Dang, a beautiful story. My heart was. flying uP and dOwn at this story. Well done, Travis!


Travis Hitchcock
11:22 Sep 19, 2021

Hey there :) Thank you for that, I appreciate it!


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