Fiction Speculative Sad

I don’t know how I got into what I do. Don’t ask that question. 

But, I mean, who really does, you know, know what they wanted to be when they grew up? I certainly had ideas and aspirations when I was a kid. I still do. It would be nice to be the first abstract expressionist to go to space and get to paint Saturn a different shade or two. I also wanted to punch a koala in the face. Not for no reason. I guess I just never liked anything too cute.

I’m a pragmatist, you see, and a realist. A real realist. That’s not actually a thing, but when you critique everything for a living, people tend not to second guess what I have to say.

Before you judge me, or critique the critic, I just have to say, there’re a lot of people out there that benefit from my criticisms. I don’t know them all, and I certainly couldn’t give you any specific examples, but I guess I should just tell you what exactly it is that I critique, and, yeah, you can come to your own conclusions, I assume.

I’m a suicide critic. I get called to all kinds of scenes of gruesome depravity where the victim was also the perpetrator. 

You might have quite a few questions about this sort of job, like who would pay me to go around judging and writing about suicide. I don’t have the answer for that line of questioning. All I know is that every week I submit about twenty to thirty different criticisms about various suicides within my area, and within forty-eight hours I get a check.

I guess it does seem like a high number of suicides that I write about. Maybe I live in a really sad part of the country. I’m not the person to ask why it is people commit suicide, I just criticize them. 

I’ve never seen my criticisms in print. I don’t go around telling friends and family what I do. They think I write technical manuals, because that’s what I told them. No one asks any questions after you tell them you write technical jargon for a living, safe for other technical writers.

I know you probably still have a lot of questions, and I might not have all the right answers to fit each of your questions. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But the best I can do for you, if you’re still confused about what and why I review and criticize suicide, then I can give you a bit of a sample of my writing. An introductory opus, so to speak.

Time of death was announced at 23:32, and it made me wonder if numbers could be considered palindromes too.

Victim was a 37 Caucasian male that looked a decade older. Possibly from smoking too many cigarettes. Possibly from smoking meth. The medical examiner would open this guy up and see all the health problems that made this man’s gravity heavier than most. 

From the moment I saw his limp, deceased body, I knew he shot himself. It was apparent with the gaping hole in the back of his head. A closed casket suicide.

He probably didn’t have too many close loved ones, or at least he didn’t care if they saw him like this.

I don’t know why so many people use guns to shoot themselves. It’s so cliche and derivative. I’ve seen it played out too often. Sad person used a sad tool to make a sad hole no one cared to look through.

Next to the body was a Glock 22. Might have been law enforcement, or had a relative in law enforcement. Though based on the muscular yet still somehow pudgy build of the victim, I’d say he was probably a local cop. Possibly a detective who saw too much shit too many times.

The kitchen was neatly arranged and modern looking. Everything looked sleek and well put together. He had to have been married. I would guess somewhere around the ballpark of ten to fifteen years. 

They were probably high school sweethearts. She stood by him while he enlisted in the army, got shot at, enlisted in the academy, got shot at, worked his way through one rank after another collecting various striped merit badges along the way, got shot at, only to leave him because she was tired…of his lies, or his late nights, of some mistress he wasn’t hiding all too well, and so he shot himself.

It was all conjecture. Poorly thought out character assassination based on little to no information, and even less observation. 

Though the scene was too played out. Slumped over in his seat. Gun off to the side because no one can maintain their grip as they pass. A note written haphazardly so when someone found him they wouldn’t be confused as to what exactly they walked into. A crime scene where the victim and perpetrator were the same person. I’ve seen it way too often.

I don’t think I like this job.

There’s no graded system that I go off. It’s more of a description and my take on what I observe. 

It’s a bit morbid, I’ll admit. But it pays the bills. Well, not all the bills. My partner pays for a majority of our living expenses. But I’m starting to get everything together…you know, after the accident. 

It’s been a hard year. We’re in a rebuilding stage, so to speak.

I don’t think anyone gets into the business of critiquing people’s suicides without coming from a moment of crisis. Not to say that I’ve ever met another person that gets paid to do what I do.

Probably a reticent profession. 

It’s become hard to sleep. I can’t remember the last night I had a good night’s sleep. The hours are long. I rarely see my significant other. I don’t know why I do what I do.

But it helps, I think. I keep telling myself. Not with anything specific, just the coping process. 

Can you ask me another question? I feel like we’ve gone a bit off track from what you originally asked.

Why I’m here? Yes, well, I feel like the best writing comes from what we know, and this is what I know.

April 15, 2022 01:17

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Harlow Jones
22:58 Apr 23, 2022

Hi, Fred! Thank you for sharing this story. You have such an interesting concept here, and I'd love to see what you do with it. However, I felt like it was explanatory and without conflict. Often, stories are about a day that is different. If you were to apply this thinking to your suicide critic idea, then a story could be about a day on the job that's different for some reason (someone new working, the person who attempted suicide isn't dead, etc.). This helps up the stakes and provide conflict. Overall, I enjoyed how we both wrote on the ...


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Zachariah Shaw
07:27 Apr 21, 2022

Hi, Fred, I got sent a link to your story through the critic circle thing and thought I'd take a look. There's a really nice hook for a story here: individual asked to critique suicides for unknown purpose...It reeks of some sort of dystopian future or Dante's Inferno style damnation. I wonder if, perhaps, he's being punished for a crime he's committed? Or if he's punishing himself for some perceived evil he believes he has committed. I feel like the hints towards some larger narrative taking place outside the story are tantalising, but...


Fred Aiken
02:11 Apr 23, 2022

i appreciate the comments, and i will definitely make note of them in my revisions of this story. i kinda like some of the interpretations you had of what was going on, and i do kinda like the open-ended aspect of it, but i definitely intend on cleaning it up a bit and getting something more pristine, hopefully.


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Riel Rosehill
18:07 Apr 18, 2022

Hi Fred! I feel really intrigued as to why you have a lot of "Untitled" stories! This was an interesting concept, with a sort of melancholic vibe through it. It left me with quite a few questions, especially the last line - "this is what I know" Hm. Why? And those paycheques-- I feel like there is a mystery and I cannot solve it!


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