Hollow Me Out And Say Goodbye

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Start your story with “Today’s the day I change.”... view prompt

6 comments

Sad Fiction

CW: mentions of physical abuse from a parental figure, some mentions of injury, self-hatred. Please don’t read if that’s something that is going to trigger you or make you uncomfortable. Your mental wellbeing is so much more important than my story. Look after yourself xx

Today’s the day I change. 

Today was the everything would change, he supposed. 

The reeking burn of rubbing alcohol and udder balm was a familiar experience to Liam by now.

Holed up in the bathroom late at night, knowing no one was awake to hear him rummaging around in the medicine cabinet, he practiced the routine with ease. The awkward bending of looking at his own back in the tiny mirror he balanced on the toilet seat, the even more awkward bending as he tried to dab each gash with the rubbing alcohol and smooth it over with the cream – all so well-rehearsed that, by now, there were no longer the devasted tears of betrayal and the why, oh, why’s whirling around in his head. Just watery eyes from the sting and thoughts asking why it had to be so difficult, not asking why it was needed in the first place. 

This time, Liam forewent gentleness as he swabbed the cuts on his back, scrubbing at the blood like it was crusted gravy on a saucepan. 

A punishment of sorts, he supposed, for what he was about to do. For what he had scolded himself for even considering for the last sixteen years. 

Liam caught his face in the mirror. 

The face of pathetic-ness, he thought.

But, he then reminded himself, also the face of someone that likely wouldn’t survive to his senior graduation if he stayed in this world of belt lashings and cracked mirrors.

And to think, the decision had relied on a dead cow of all things. 

Liam’s mistake. No one else’s. That’s what his father told him. 

Left her out in the cold, Liam had. Left her out to get her bones cracked by chill, her skin to get taughtened by frost. All Liam’s fault.

Never anyone else’s. 

Liam’s chest crackled with a laugh, bitter as burnt caramel with all the sharpness of an apple it encased. 

Countless years of dealing with his father and that was the catalyst that got his cliché escape bubbling and fizzing away in his mind.

And it really was cliché. 

He’d read about teen runaways in books – had soaked up their irritating unrealism, tried not to scoff at how fanciful they were, as if it were all such an adventure. 

His cousin had once been inspired by this so-called adventure and consequently run away for two and a half days. That was more than enough for Liam to realise that the mythical experience of running away from everything you knew portrayed in movies and books was not the way things were.

It was the reason he had always forced himself to ignore the idea up until that point. That and the thought of leaving behind Debs and Kenny and Les. The only people in the world he actually felt at ease around, let alone just the Osbourne household. 

Would they not need him?

Miss him?

But how much of a person was there really to miss? A hollowed-out teen-shaped figure who was too skinny, too quiet, too cowardly to ever be properly missed by anyone. Even his family.

Especially his family.

So, cowardice be damned.

For once, Liam was going to try to survive, rather than just hope for the best. 

Running away.

How hard could it be?

He tried his best to ignore how utterly insane that question made him feel.

After a final dab and swipe of a cut, he pulled his sweatshirt back down and made quietly for his room, dodging each creaking floorboard like they were landmines. 

From where it hung on one of his bedposts, he picked up his backpack and tipped all of his school supplies onto his bed, reminding himself as the doubt flooded in that it wasn’t likely he’d be needing any of those. 

What was his plan, again?

Get a job, he remembered. Make money. Rent somewhere. 

The part at the back of his brain screaming that he was only sixteen, that that wasimpossible, was pushed down. Drowned out by the nervous shake of Liam’s hands. 

He replaced the supplies with all he could ram into the already fraying bag – a couple of changes of clothes, his sketchbook, a battered polaroid camera, the passport he’d only used once to visit relatives in Ireland and an envelope full of cash he hid under his mattress. 

All of said cash had been made from tutoring his classmate in art last summer, despite how infuriating that might have been. Secretly, he might add. It wasn’t a lot but… it was all he had. That could be said for pretty much everything he had shoved into the backpack. 

And with the bag safely swung over one shoulder, he finally left his bedroom. 

He didn’t look back at the cracked mirror and squeaky bed, nor the pinned-up drawings on the wall and the dusty window. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he did. What he would feel. So, he just didn’t look. Didn’t feel. 

He crept down the stairs, dodging those same floorboards as before, and pushed away any thoughts of doubt that sprung into his mind. 

Liam could see the glare from the television light up the entire living room as he descended into the hallway. His dad must’ve been asleep on the sofa, he reckoned, having passed out in the middle of a random TV show. 

It was the same after every little confrontation he had with Liam – a half empty bottle of beer clasped limply in his hands to wash away any tiny dregs of guilt he had and the very belt that had flogged into Liam’s back just hours before lying loosely around his waist, innocently casual as if it wasn’t his favourite weapon.  

He would stay like that until morning, Liam knew.

After a longer moment than Liam thought it should’ve been, he finally pulled his eyes away from the sight. He picked up his denim jacket from the coat rack and slipped it on over his sweatshirt – a battered old thing, a hand-me-down from one of his gaggle of cousins as most of his clothes were, covered with a colourful collage of thrift store pin badges and embroidered patches from a vast array of sports teams. It was the only piece of clothing he owned that he actually liked. That and the worn-out Dallas Cowboys cap that his dad had bought him when he was thirteen in an attempt to get him into football. It hadn’t worked, he still hated football with a passion, but he loved the cap nonetheless. It gave him hope that his dad actually cared. Not enough, though, to distract him from the memories of rubbing alcohol and udder balm. Nothing would get rid of that, unfortunately, especially not an old hat. But, now that he had reminded himself of it, Liam picked it up and pulled it over his head, hoping that the comfort brought from it would stop him from bailing on his idea entirely. 

Grabbing the keys from the bowl on the nearby dresser, he looked back at the house surrounding him. Damp patches, pealing wallpaper, creaking floorboards and all. A prison under the guise of a loving family home. It was a loving family home, he supposed. Just not for him. He wasn’t made to fit in. He was the lopsided screw that couldn’t be twisted into the hole quite right. 

Liam only wished he knew why. 

If it weren’t for the pitch-black sky and softly chirping crickets, Liam may have been able to kid himself that the walk from the porch to his dad’s truck was the same one he always took before school. He even started to wonder what homework he had due or whether he’d packed his lunch before the realisation hit him. Eisenhower High School was not where his journey ended today. 

Liam ignored the fact that he didn’t know where his journey ended.

“You can do this, Liam.” He told himself for probably the tenth time since the idea had arisen in his head, voice just a whisper. His bony hands desperately clutched the steering wheel from where he now sat in the front seat of the truck. 

This is itDon’t chicken out.

As he turned the key in the ignition, the rhythmic rumble of the engine began, echoing through the farm’s fields and rebounding off of the house.

Liam clenched his teeth. “Shit.”

The noise was louder than he’d been expecting. It was bound to wake someone up in the Osbourne house. Emphasis being on the ‘one’ in ‘someone’. His mom, dad, Leslie and Kenny all slept like they were in comas but Debra, on the other hand, slept so lightly that Liam often found her asleep with her eyes open. 

“Shit, shit, shit.”

Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up.

He waited. 

And waited. 

And waited

Nothing happened. 

So. This was really happening, then. 

With a relieved exhale, he started reversing out of the drive. 

“No turnin’ back now.”

October 31, 2021 16:29

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6 comments

Boutat Driss
20:15 Nov 06, 2021

well done!

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Elizabeth Napier
16:11 Nov 06, 2021

Once again, I'm a scatterbrain and didn't notice the glaringly obvious typo in the second line. "Today was the day everything would change, he supposed." was what it was supposed to say lol. Hopefully it doesn't ruin the read entirely!

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S. Thomson
19:24 Nov 01, 2021

There's a great sense of mystery built up in the opening paragraphs that I was definitely drawn in by. The slow reveal of what Liam is about to do is well done. I would be careful directly addressing cliche, as that can be a cliche in itself, and every story involves at least some cliche so it could probably go unsaid (just personal preference tho). I LOVE this metaphor: "a laugh, bitter as burnt caramel with all the sharpness of an apple it encased." It was a great seasonal addition to this story. Really great work, well done.

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Elizabeth Napier
20:36 Nov 01, 2021

Glad you enjoyed it! I get the preference about the cliche thing though! For me, I like my writing to be pretty self aware and I guess I also doubt my own ability to get things across without having to point them out, if that makes sense? Like, I'm worried people will criticise the fact that something is cliche, so I make the character aware that it is a cliche, thus getting rid of any miscommunication between myself and the reader. That's not to say I don't like or try to write subtext but sometimes my writing-anxiety gets the better of me ...

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S. Thomson
00:18 Nov 02, 2021

In that case I would say have more confidence in yourself because you are very talented. Basically everything is a cliche in some way, and in any case, avoiding cliche deliberately is also a cliche in itself, so any writer that says they never use cliches or tropes is kidding themselves. If you always worry about what will be criticised about your work then you can't create anything that is true to itself, or yourself. Write bravely, with conviction and the quality will shine through.

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Jon Casper
10:45 Nov 01, 2021

This was a great read. Thanks for sharing it. dodging each creaking floorboard like they were landmines -- Nice simile He was the lopsided screw that couldn’t be twisted into the hole quite right. -- Great line. Very nice work!

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