15 comments

Fiction Sad Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Jack pushed the door open, stumbling in. He drunkenly fumbled for the lights, then he gave up. What did it matter anyway?

It was dark in the apartment but even in his drunken haze he knew the way. Five steps forward and you’re in the kitchen. Five more and you’re in the lounge. Two steps left, three more forward and…

“Ouch!”

Maybe drunken steps are different. Longer maybe? Or maybe it’s the wrong apartment. Jack fumbled around, found a switch and flipped it.

The lights flickered on.

“Hmm” he mumbled. He was in the kitchen. The halos of light bounced off the stone benchtop and the appliances. They used to be clean, but no more. Dirty dishes piled up in the sink and overflowed onto the bench. The microwave, the source of so many meals lately, had its door open, inviting him to cook another ready-made meal.

She used to keep it all clean. Him well fed.

But no more.

A tear came to his eye.

He wiped it away and opened the fridge. The cool blue light in contrast to the warm yellow from the downlights. Battling for light supremacy. The fridge hummed as he rummaged. 

Soda, Sparkling water. Mineral Water. Tap water. 

So much water. Why do we have so much water?

He closed the fridge door. Water wasn’t going to help. Instead he shuffled over to the bureau, pulled out a tumbler and a bottle of whiskey. Setting them on the counter, he poured a generous amount, spilling more over the edge, and took the tumbler and bottle and headed to the couch.

The cushions sighed as he sat, the leather creaking and for the first time all day he was by himself. No doctors, no businessmen, no barflies. No one.

No one telling him they are sorry.

No one telling him there was nothing else they could do.

No one telling him why they think the Vikings should trade their quarterback.

Nothing but silence.

He thought it would be peaceful.

It wasn’t.

It was quiet but there was a faint buzzing. Jack initially thought it was the fridge. That he left it open, but a glance across the way told him it was closed.

Then he realised it wasn’t the fridge or the TV. It was the sound silence made. It made no sense that silence made a noise but he knew it was silence.

Buzzing silence.

He took a sip, put his tumbler down on the table. It thudded loudly, the sound of heavy glass on thick wood.

She would have killed him for not using a coaster. It used to irritate him that she would remind him - nag as he thought of it - to use a coaster. ‘You’ll leave water rings on the table.’

What he would give to hear her nagging one more time.

He reached for the tumbler again but froze mid-grab. Against the wall opposite him was the TV and framed photos of them. Wedding photos, posed photos, travel photos, spontaneous photos. Those were his favourite and he smiled, remembering those times.

Above them all, nailed to the wall, was the cross.

The smile was wiped away.

Jesus hung - nailed - to the cross in his crucifix pose. He’d been up there for god-knows-how-long. Always up there, watching over them. Judging them.

Judging him.

He hung there right now, judging him for his self-pity.

Jack knew what Jesus was thinking. He was thinking that it wasn’t him who was dying. It wasn’t Jack who lay in hospital. Jack was the one with his health. He had the future ahead of him. He was judging Jack for being home now.

Jack stood up, walked over to Jesus and grabbed the cross. It was heavier than it looked. Made of wood, inlaid with gold.

Fake gold most likely.

Fake gold for a fake God.

It was her grandma’s. The edges were worn, from praying when the Germans came to town in the 30s.

Jack looked at it. Held it in his hands. Weighing it.

He remembered what she said, one of the last things before she fell into unconsciousness; Jack. This is only the beginning. We will see each other again. You have to have faith.

He returned to the present. Sneered at the cross, “Fuck faith. If you were real. If God existed this wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have let it happen.”

He threw the crucifix as hard as he could against the wall. The plaster cracked, Jesus snapped off the cross and both crashed to the ground with a hollow thud.

“Fuck you,” Jack breathed. “Self-righteous prick.”

He returned to the couch and sat, elbow on the arm rest and closed his eyes. He just wanted a second. A second free from all the thoughts in his head, all the pain, the what-ifs, the bargaining, the information. 

He just wanted it all to stop.

“You know that’s my son you just smashed against the wall?”

Jack didn’t recognise the voice. And at the same time, he did.

It spoke in baritone. And it spoke in soprano. An orchestral voice that conveyed so many emotions with a single sentence.

It spoke with knowledge. And it spoke with naivety. A person of worldly experience and the innocence of a day-old baby.

It was every voice Jack had ever heard. His mothers. His fathers. His school teachers and principals, his friends, lovers, bosses, acquaintances, actors on tv, the person who said thanks when you held the door open for them 15 years ago. It was all of them.

And it was unfamiliar.

He opened his eyes.

The first thing he noticed was he wasn’t in his apartment anymore.

He was somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A tall oak overhung a lake that reflected the millions or billions or gazillions of stars that smeared the clear night sky above. There was no moon but it wasn’t completely dark.

A chorus of songs echoed around him. Crickets and frogs and cicadas, and the bats flying overhead. They all sang the songs of the night. Some loud. Some quiet. But they merged into one tremendous roar, like the crescendo of a symphony. 

Standing before him was a man. He was both young and old, eyes alive and eyes wrinkled. He was smiling, not of happiness but because it was his default look.

Compared to Jack’s resting bitch face, it made him feel inadequate.

The man stood before him in a three-piece, pin-stripe suit that probably cost more than his house, but also made him look humble.

Well as humble as a man in a suit can look.

He stood there in silence, and Jack knew he was waiting for Jack to say something. But Jack was trying to come to terms with how he arrived from his couch to here in the blink of an eye.

“Is this a dream?” he croaked, deciding it must be. There was no other possibility.

The man moved his head from side-to-side, like he was weighing up the right answer. Then he straightened his head and said, “Yes…”

Makes sense.

“And no.”

Jack sighed, “Where am I?”

“You don’t recognise this place?” the man said, indicating with his hand the surrounding lake like a salesman showing him his wares.

Jack shrugged, “Doesn’t look familiar.”

“It will come to you.”

“Who are you?”

“You know that as well.”

Jack thought about the first words he’d spoken. His son.

“Bullshit,” he scoffed.

“You think so?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“You’re not real,” he spat.

“I’m standing here, aren’t I?”

“In a dream.”

“You can’t see faces in dreams.”

“I-” Jack started and stopped. That was true. He decided to test it. He crossed the short space between them, his shoes brushing aside the ankle high grass, and when he was mere inches away from the man, he punched him square in the nose.

Pain shot up his wrist like lightning and the man’s head turned, his nose flattened and blood streaming out like a faucet. 

Jack shook his hand, trying to wring out the pain and it only made it worse. He cradled it against his chest for support. He’d never punched anyone before, and it hurt a lot more than he thought it would. 

“Feel better?” the man asked. 

“My wrist hurts.”

The man nodded sagely, like it was a profound thought he was considering the merit of. Blood was still flowing freely from his now-twisted nose, “Well, it proves it’s not a dream,” he said, his voice nasally. 

“Does it?”

The man nodded, wiping his nose, and just like that the blood disappeared and his nose was righted. 

“How…?” Jack started but couldn’t get the words out.

The man reached out and touched his wrist, the one that hurt, and the pain left. Just like that.

“How. How did…how?” Jack spluttered. He swallowed, eyes wide, “You are Him?”

God nodded, “I am.”

Jack punched him again. Harder. All the fury and anger that had been building up for the past three years was released in that one single punch.

And God didn’t move.

Jack punched him again and again. Yelling, screaming, releasing all that pent up hurt and anger. Everything he kept deep down within him because these last three years were not about him. 

But nothing happened. God didn’t move. The punches connected but he felt nothing. No pain, no satisfaction of seeing God with a bloody nose. Nothing.

Jack slumped to the ground, exhausted.

“So, you even deny me that,” he said between breaths. “Just like you denied me a life with her.”

God held his hand out for Jack but he just looked at it with contempt. If he couldn’t physically harm God maybe he would make him shrink with a withering stare. It didn’t work and they remained there - God with his hand out, Jack on the ground, defeated - for minutes. Maybe hours.

God exuded patience and calm which infuriated Jack even more. How could he be like this after all that goes on in this world?

“How could you?” he whispered. “How could you do this to her?”

“Take my hand, Jack,” God said quietly, though there was power in his request and Jack took it. He was hefted onto his feet and he looked God in the eyes, the eyes of cornflower and almond and hazel all swirling together. He was every man and woman he ever met. All made in His image.

“I hate that you look like us,” Jack said quietly, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow.

“Why is that?”

He hated how condescending he sounded, like when he was admonished by his father as a child for stealing a biscuit from the jar just before dinner time.

“Because it’s easier to hate you when you’re the monster in my mind. The uncaring, benevolent, all-seeing, all-powerful asshole who is taking my wife away from me when she doesn’t deserve it. Why?” His anger was back. “Why? Why did you let it happen?”

He was screaming now. “How could you do this!”

“I didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Exactly!” he spat. “Nothing at all. She suffered for three years and you sat back and did nothing!”

God remained silent, the chorus of insects continued singing their songs in the background, like the warm up before the main event. Jack saw sorrow in God’s eyes. They glistened and somehow Jack felt guilty.

“Don’t do that,” he snarled.

“Do what?”

“The whole puppy dog eyes, trying to make me feel sorry for you. This is your fault. Make my wife better.”

“I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because it is not what I do.”

“Bullshit! You’re meant to be all-powerful or some nonsense.”

“I created all this-” he made a casual waving motion, “-so people could experience life, not to handhold you through every facet of it.”

“She believed in you.”

“I know.

“Heal her.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“I told you why.”

“So, this is how you repay her faith in you?”

“You can punch me again if you want.”

His calm nature was so infuriating that Jack did want to punch him again, even if it wouldn’t do anything. He wanted to hurt him so much. To make him feel and suffer the same pain he felt. That she felt.

But it would be for naught. He couldn’t hurt this…being anymore than he could cure his wife. All he could do was stare and seethe.

After a minute’s silence, God said, “What do you hear?”

Jack listened. He heard the frog croaking by the lake, and the insects singing, a constant rhythm of cheeps and chirps all vying for the strongest voice, to be the most appealing to attract a mate. “I hear the insects singing.”

“Now try to listen to a single cricket amongst them.”

Jack shook his head, “That’s impossible.”

“This is what it is like for me, trying to listen to people’s prayers and being unable to answer them. I am not a gift-giver, I cannot give someone a PlayStation. I cannot make the star athlete catch the game winning touchdown. I cannot create food out of thin air to feed the starving, or provide homes to the homeless. I cannot cure cancer. I do not work like that.”

“Then what is the point of you? You create life and everything, then watch us like some science experiment?”

God smiled, “I exist as a coping mechanism. Someone to thank when things go their way and to blame when they don’t. I don’t help the guy catch the football, I don’t go out of my way to make someone’s life miserable. I didn’t create cancer and I cannot cure it. All exists as it does, as a natural progression of life. Humans love and hate, fight and make up. Cure disease and create their own. They are singularly responsible for all that happens. I have no hand in it.”

 “Heal her,” he said weakly. He knew it was pointless but what else was there to do? God had nothing to do with it. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “Cynthia was so loving, so caring. The most selfless person I ever met. She helped people who needed it. Continued to help them as long as she could, putting herself above others. And now…now she’s dying. Lying in a hospital bed, unconscious as we wait. What do I do? How do I live without her?”

God put a hand on Jack’s shoulder, “I don’t have those answers. The future isn’t written. You can live your life, honouring her memory. Never forgetting the time you spent together.”

“Maybe…” Jack whispered. He watched an owl silently fly out from the oak tree, disappearing against the starry backdrop. 

“Life is fleeting and it is but the first step towards something else. You have to have-”

Jack knew what he was going to say, “Don’t say it,” he groaned.

“-faith.”

“That was her favourite thing to say.”

God nodded, “There is wisdom in it.”

He snorted, “Look how well it worked out for her.”

“Like I said, this is only the beginning.”

They turned to look at the lake.

“Will I see her again?”

God was silent and just as Jack was about to repeat it, he said, “It is possible.” When he saw the look Jack gave him, he smiled, “I know. Infuriating.”

They stood in silence, looking at the lake. Jack listened to the sounds of the insects, the water lapping against the shore, the rustling of the leaves. He felt the wind running through his hair. Finally, he said, “This is where I met her.”

God nodded, “I know.”

“It’s changed since we were teenagers. That’s why I didn't recognise it. A tree is gone, the grass is shorter, the lake is smaller.”

“Perhaps your perspective has changed.”

“Maybe. Are you going to take me back?”

“When you are ready, Jack. When you are ready.”

“How can I ever be ready?”

God said nothing and Jack closed his eyes. He didn’t know how long they stood there. Time had no meaning. He thought about Cynthia, his wife, through sickness and in health until death. Death, it seems, came sooner than they could have ever imagined. It would have been their ten-year anniversary this year but she wasn’t going to make that. Ten years of joy, of adventure, of laughing, of date nights and terrible movies. Had he taken them for granted? He still cherished those moments, but how much had he forgotten? He thought they’d make new memories because they would grow old together.

Life is fleeting and life is a gift not worth wasting.

Had he wasted it?

Would he waste it now? 

Without her, could he move on with life? Create new experiences and memories for himself.

He said this was just the beginning. And he might see her again. Would she be waiting for him?

He had to believe she would. It was the strength that could get him through it all.

He opened his eyes. He was back in his apartment. It was almost dawn, rays of sun poking through the gaps in the blinds, illuminating the lounge and kitchen in a warm glow. Dust motes danced their morning dance.

Jack stood up. He had to get changed and go back to the hospital. He was about to leave when he saw the crucifix. He walked over to it, his footsteps the only sound in the eerily silent apartment. 

He picked up the crucifix. It was no longer broken. Jesus was back, nailed to the cross and Jack couldn’t help but give it a lopsided smile.

He felt his phone ringing in his pocket.

He knew who it was.

He knew what they were going to say.

He looked at the cross, “Faith huh?”

February 08, 2022 03:33

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

15 comments

Maegan Gates
02:47 Feb 18, 2022

Fell down a random rabbit hole and found this website. I’ve been reading a lot of the “top” stories, but this is the first one that I really felt. Wow. So moving. So many questions after reading, but that leaves me feeling slightly satisfied??? I like that it is still in my mind and I keep going over what the call was. Either way- her dying or her being miraculously cured, his final line fits both scenarios. Extremely unique and breathtaking. I feel a connection to the character after reading just a few paragraphs. Im blown away!

Reply

Danny G
04:19 Feb 18, 2022

Hi Meagan, Thanks for reading and your comments. They mean so much to me. I’m glad you liked it and that you found reedsy. Hopefully you’ll submit your own stories one day. Best,

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rick Van Cleave
21:22 Feb 16, 2022

I liked your story. The part where he started drinking and thinking about how his wife nagged him to use a coaster was good. It is true that the most annoying traits about a loved ones are the ones you will miss the most--when they are gone.

Reply

Danny G
23:08 Feb 16, 2022

Thanks for reading Rick. I appreciate the comments.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Zack Powell
23:00 Feb 13, 2022

This was a really, really good read, Danny. Kept my attention the whole time, and when Jack punched God, I legitimately recoiled and yelled "Whoa!" at my computer screen. So much emotion packed in fewer than 3000 words. Jack's anger was so well-written and palpable, and the conversation he had with God felt like it progressed very naturally. The constant give and take between doubt and then anger and then mutual understanding. Good stuff all around. I respect your use of an ambiguous ending. When the phone rang, I groaned and said to myself...

Reply

Danny G
11:42 Feb 14, 2022

Hi Zack, Thanks for reading and thank you for the wonderful feedback. I’m really happy to hear how much you enjoyed it and you liked the ending. Thanks for reading! All the best.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Francis Daisy
02:27 Feb 18, 2022

So much raw emotion and energy come through the page. You have some very powerful writing here. I have to admit, I was happy and relieved at the ending. Again, without hope - there is only despair. And, we all need hope - and a little bit of faith mixed with our pixie dust these days!

Reply

Danny G
04:19 Feb 18, 2022

That’s so true Francis. Thanks for reading and your kind comments. I truly appreciate them.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
John K Adams
23:48 Feb 16, 2022

This was a tough prompt to tackle. And you grabbed it by the horns. Thanks for not turning it into an atheist tract, nor a Christian one. Tough to read someone reaching that point of despair. Too many do. You got him through it. Well done.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Michelle Colpo
20:58 Feb 15, 2022

Wonderful story. You can feel Jack's pain and frustration through the words you've written. It's a story many face every day and you've encapsulated that perfectly, from the anger with God to the reality of death and dying. So much emotion packed into a short story. I look forward to reading more from you!

Reply

Danny G
21:20 Feb 15, 2022

Hi Michelle, Thank you for reading and thanks for your wonderful feedback. I’m glad you liked it and that it had the impact I was intending. Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Alice Richardson
00:48 Feb 13, 2022

A great story Danny - very insightful. I can imagine two people having this conversation, and I'm pleased you didn't have a miraculous healing for the wife just to have a happy ending.

Reply

Danny G
04:03 Feb 13, 2022

Thank you for your comments and for reading, Alice. I’m glad you liked it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Annalisa D.
22:26 Feb 08, 2022

This was a very well written story. You have some beautiful lines of description, some nice bits of humor in the beginning, and I think it's all very relatable. You captured the prompt well and created a moving story. Good job!

Reply

Danny G
23:24 Feb 08, 2022

Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply