The Resting Place

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt



This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

CW: Mention of blood

A light flickers and I open my eyes. I’m nowhere. Drowning in white. I roll onto my knees and cough.

Streetlamps stretch into the fog, and I stagger to my feet, stumbling towards the light. A man leans against the closest streetlamp, and I freeze. I look at his shoes.

Boots. Heavy black boots, with scuffed toes and worn yellow stitching, frayed laces tied in a clumsy bow.

The pressure in my chest eases, and I run towards him. He turns. His face is blank. A featureless circle of pink.

I gasp and stumble, clawing at the ground, the gravel biting into the soft skin on my palms as I try to run. Away. Away from the faceless man.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.


A light flickers and I open my eyes. I’m somewhere. It’s daylight. I’m lying on my back, the pale sky stretching above me. The fog is thick, and it clings to me, damp, cold, heavy.

“That’s quite the entrance.”

I scramble to my feet. A man smiles at me. He’s wearing a white shirt and a trilby hat at a jaunty angle. One hand twists his wedding ring. The other hand doffs his hat in greeting.

I blink.

Wedding ring hand. Twisting hand. Doffing hand. Three hands. But I can only ever focus on two at once.

“Where are we?” My voice is croaky, and I cough.

He crosses his arms and rubs the back of his neck. I swallow, the incongruence nauseating.

“Your final resting place,” he says.

A pair of shoes run through the fog. Red, sparkly, strappy. And high. Impossibly high heels. A hint of a sparkling red dress splashing about the creamy legs and then, nothing.

My skin prickles. The hair on my neck stands on end. I sway. He rests his hand on the small of my back and chuckles.

“It’s a lot to take in at first.” His eyes are warm. Kind. Intelligent.

“I, just—” I just don’t have the words.

He nods. “We all felt the same when we arrived.”

“I don’t understand,” I whisper.

He fiddles with his wedding ring and crosses his arms. I pull at my neck. I can’t breathe.

“I’m John,” he says.

My heart pounds.

“And your name?” I hear him asking.

His voice is tinny, faint, in the background. Think. Who am I?

“I’m… I’m… Ali—”

It’s hard to say.

“Give it time,” he says. “It’ll come.” He points to the path. “Walk with me?”

I shake my head. This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.


A light flickers and I open my eyes. I’m in a park. The sky is clear, and pockets of fog hover under the trees.

I turn, and he’s there. Twisting his ring, doffing his hat. Watching me with his big, sad eyes. He feels familiar. Somehow.

“What is this place?” I ask.

He rests his hand on my shoulder and folds his arms. “Whatever you want it to be.”

“What does that mean?”

“Walk with me?”

I pause. Familiar. And nod.

We walk towards a grassy knoll. Couples are scattered over the field, lounging on red and white checkered picnic blankets, wicker baskets at their feet. It’s idyllic.

A black-haired man and a lady in a blue sundress lie on the blanket closest to us. I look at the other blankets and stiffen.

“They’re all the same?”

He nods.

“Why are they there?” A thought itches in my mind, one I can’t quite scratch.

John leans in. “It’s the same question,” he whispers.

I stare at him. His words settle in my stomach, sending a tingle of apprehension crawling across my spine.

“They're there because they're all the same.” He sighs. “They never change.” 

“It looks lovely,” I say.

His blur of incongruences stops, and he grips my elbow, his eyes wide, lips parted. “Do you want to stay?”

“No,” I say.

He kicks at the ground. “This way.”

We walk around the corner and stop in front of a house. A pulsing mass of glass and steel. I look at it, but my eyes can’t focus.

Every window seems attached to every wall. When I shift my gaze, the building shifts. Walls and windows morph, the glass and steel writhing. I look away.

The house next to it is the same. And the one next to it. And to that. A cluster of stuttering buildings.

John doesn’t seem disoriented and points, running his hands through his hair. “There’s the same view out every window.”

I close my eyes. And try to ignore the niggle in my mind. The itching intensifies. An uncomfortable truth builds.

We walk in silence. A crowd stands next to the path. They face us as we approach, and I freeze. Panic rises and I stumble into John.

“Keep going,” he whispers, poking my back.

Each person in the group has a single feature on their face. A bulbous nose. Red pursed lips. A set of black hairy eyebrows. A single mole.

John grabs my hand and I close my eyes, letting him guide me.

“We’re past them now,” he says gently.

“Their faces.” My breath comes in short bursts. I’m struggling to control the fear.

“The single features," he says. "They're harmless.” He nods at the shoes running in the distance, the creamy legs kicking up splashes of fog. “Sometimes, they don't even fully develop.”

Pressure builds inside me. My hands tingle. The niggle grows.

John grabs my arm and pulls me along the path. “Brace yourself,” he says.

“Why?” I say.

And then a wave of guilt hits me.

“Keep going,” John says. “Don’t get stuck here.”

We stagger past a group of middle-aged women, sitting in a circle, knitting. They sit impassive, their needles clacking, but the weight of emotion radiating off them squeezes the air out of my lungs.

One woman looks at us and stands. She raises a knitting needle, pointing it at me.

“You,” she says, her voice dripping with venom. “You will be the death of me.”

The guilt is overwhelming, and I bend over, clutching my stomach. John pushes me forward.

The woman points at John. “And you, son. You let her.”

“Move,” John yells. “Keep going.”

We stagger through the guilt, our arms entwined, dragging each other forward. We pass them and the emotion recedes.

“Who was that?”

“The toxic mother-in-laws,” John says, wiping his face and twisting his ring.

He’s dodging the question.

“She recognised us?”

He kicks at the ground. “Maybe a version of us. It’s complicated.”

“And the guilt?” My stomach twists at the memory. “Where did that come from?”

He shrugs. “Them. Their creator. It’s all the same in the end.”

Their creator. The words ripple through my body. The itching intensifies. The truth grows.

On the side of the path lies a knife. It’s large, with an ornate pattern carved into the handle. I bend to examine it and a pull snaps through my body.

“It shouldn’t be this way,” I whisper.

John stiffens. “Oh.”


He folds his arms. “It’s you.”

I shake my head. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.


A light flickers, and I open my eyes. I’m by the duck pond in the Kawarau gardens. The sun is setting in the crisp blue sky. Tendrils of fog drift over the water.

John stands beside me, throwing bread to the ducks. He tears a piece off and hurls it into the water.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.


The ducks paddle on the water, diving for the bread and snapping back to equilibrium.

“You’re upset,” I say.

John pauses, and his incongruences condense into a single movement. He twists his wedding ring. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“We’re flawed.”

"We are. But that's not why we're here." He sighs. “Our story isn't finished, but our creator has discarded their work.”

I stare at him.

“We come here to create our own endings. Our own stories.”

My mouth is dry, and I swallow. A pull vibrates through my body.

He turns to face me. “You feel the pull?”

I nod.

He pinches a piece of bread and tosses it into the pond. “Not everyone feels that.”

“Do you?” My chest is tight. I don’t want to ask, but I do.

He ignores the question. “That’s your creator. Reaching out to you. Reconnecting.”

“Do you feel it, too?”

He pauses and then he’s throwing bread in the pond, twisting his wedding ring, breaking off a piece of bread, rubbing his chin. I close my eyes.

“Yes,” he says.

The pull sharpens and the fog clears. The shoes. The lovers. The mother-in-law. The knife.

John tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. The gesture is intimate, and I gasp. He’s still.

“I had to make an impossible choice once,” he says.

“What happened?” The pull quivers. I’m getting close.

“Nothing. I couldn't choose.” He scuffs his toe on the wood. “That’s why I’m here.”

The pull snaps tight. This isn’t where I’m suppo—

I stop.

“I know what I have to do,” I whisper.

His lip trembles. His words are soft, and I can barely hear them. “Then do it.”

I rest my hand on John’s arm. His shirt is soft under my fingers.

“Come with me.” My throat is tight, and my breath catches. “Please, just come with me.”

“I can’t.” He shakes his head and nods. “I can't make that choice.”

The pull slackens. It's harder than I thought. I draw him to me. He smells of cinnamon and citrus. His lips touch mine.

I know exactly how it’s suppo—


Alison strode into the abandoned carpark, her heels clacking on the concrete. Red. Strappy. Impossibly high. Two streetlamps cast a feeble glow, flickering in the early morning fog.

John leant against the far wall, flanked by a dumpster, and fiddling with his wedding ring. He looked up as she approached.

“You came,” he whispered.

Her gaze fell to his shoes. Heavy black boots, with scuffed toes and worn yellow stitching, frayed laces tied in a clumsy bow.

She wiped her palms on her dress. “Of course.”


She shrugged. “I chose you.”

He shook his head. She traced her fingers over his cheek. His skin was soft. She would be strong.

She rested her hand on his arm and the light caught the sparkles in her dress. The wheels had been set in motion. His mother couldn't come between them now.

His lips brushed her ear. “You shouldn’t have.” His voice cracked.

Alison froze.

John slammed into her, knocking the air out of her lungs. Pain erupted through her back, and she cried out, collapsing onto the ground.

He crouched beside her, a knife in his hand, blood dripping off the blade onto the ornate handle.

“I’m sorry, my darling,” he whispered. “It was my only choice.”

The streetlamp flickered, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. She'd made her choice. John had made his, too.

“This isn't how it's supposed to be,” she whispered, closing her eyes, and surrendering to the fog.

June 10, 2022 07:51

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Jun 14, 2022

A fascinating read! It starts off surreal and absurd, but it's not weird for weird's sake. Each step of the way we get a little clue, an idea that something has gone wrong, and once it clicks, it's interesting looking back at the scattered threads of plot. It kind of feels like we're moving backwards through the aftermath of a massive car crash, where everything is broken and deformed, and the survivor is disoriented. As she starts getting her footing, the car reforms, backs up, rewinds, until she understands things and is ready for the ...


Beth Jackson
02:31 Jun 16, 2022

Oh wow, thank you for your comment! It's made my day!! I'm so grateful for your insights and positivity, it's just the boost I needed today. Thank you! =)


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18:43 Jun 14, 2022

Hi Beth You’ve created a twilight zone of abandoned characters and negligent creators- I am unnerved! The characters are trying so hard to make sense if everything, it’s like they’re trapped in purgatory. The faceless single-featured people are tragic and grotesque. Fantastic to read this.


Beth Jackson
02:26 Jun 16, 2022

Thank you so much for your comments! I really appreciate it! =)


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Felice Noelle
19:37 Jun 11, 2022

Beth: The staccatto, punch, punch, punch, of sentence after sentence was very effective. I felt almost beat up by the time I had read through it both times. You were really good at building the dramatic tension. I'm not sure I completely understand it all, but that's actually probably a good thing. I like the way this unfolded and the tension was maintained throughout, no letting up, no rest, no time to recover. Good job! An unsettling read, like an incursion into insanity or the flip side of a conscience or a terrible nightmare. He...


Beth Jackson
20:28 Jun 11, 2022

Thank you so much for you comments, Felice! I’ve been wrestling with the second draft of my WIP these last couple of weeks and I got to wondering what would happen to my characters if I gave up on their story and it was never finished. This seemed like a good prompt to explore that idea, like that idle threat a parent makes to an unruly child at the supermarket - I’ll leave you behind… Thanks again, Felice, I appreciate your feedback! :-)


Felice Noelle
20:35 Jun 11, 2022

Beth: I know exactly what you mean about that idle threat. My husband's was always, "If you do that again, guys, I won't be responsible for what I'll do." I always thought it was a fairly empty, silly threat, but the boys were usually scared by it. It might be because he had a black belt in karate and he implied he might use it. Ha! Hubby was always a pushover. Maureen


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Jim Firth
10:05 Jun 10, 2022

Beth, The first parts brought to mind Danté and virgil touring through the inferno if it were painted by Picasso--with all the cubist buildings and weird faces. Then you build great tension towards the end. I like the sentence about the morphing architecture that leads to 'A cluster of stuttering buildings'--really great imagery. The part about the knitting women-- should it be radiating emotion rather than radiation emotion?


Beth Jackson
02:12 Jun 11, 2022

Thank you so much, Jim! I really appreciate your comments. Thanks for spotting that typo, you're a legend. =)


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Chris Holland
00:23 Jun 16, 2022

I can't add much more to what has already been said about this compelling story.... it drew me in. I was fascinated with the structure and the visualisation. I never ceased to be amazed at the imaginative stories that keep on coming from this community. Well done.


Beth Jackson
02:27 Jun 16, 2022

Aw, thank you Chris! I appreciate your kind comments! =)


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Seán McNicholl
23:17 Jun 15, 2022

Beth, I must have read the first few epsiodes five times before continuing on, trying to make sense of it - was it heaven, was it hell, was it purgatory? What was going on? But such a brilliant way to pull it together at the end! Fantastically written! Well done!!


Beth Jackson
02:28 Jun 16, 2022

Thank you!! I was a bit nervous it might have been too vague (and subsequently boring). I appreciate your feedback! =)


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T D Crasier
19:08 Jun 13, 2022

That was a nightmarish read. So much tension. At first I was reading it like slam poetry but towards the end I was reading it like I was being suffocated. Very effective style of writing.


Beth Jackson
02:13 Jun 14, 2022

Thank you for your comments! I really appreciate it! :-)


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Victoria Hillis
17:58 Jun 13, 2022

Excellent! One of the best short stories I have ever read


Beth Jackson
18:24 Jun 13, 2022

Thank you, Victoria! :-)


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Graham Kinross
04:25 Jun 13, 2022

The end is a real gut punch. Your writing gives it so much emotional impact. Well written. Such a great story.


Beth Jackson
08:26 Jun 13, 2022

Thank you, Graham! :-)


Graham Kinross
09:29 Jun 13, 2022

You’re welcome.


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