Horror Sad Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Warnings: Self harm, mild gore and substance abuse

“You think you can help me get over my pain? You think I haven’t been trying my whole life?” He glared up at the young woman who had no clue how the real world worked.

Instead of replying, she pulled a new bottle of bourbon from her reusable shopping bag. It was green, emblazoned with a happy planet earth. She had caught his attention.

“I have some deep hurts, too deep for the likes of you. Don’t go crying when I give you nightmares.” His eyes rested on the bottle in the crook of her arm. “I’ll play your game.”

    He held up his palms. They were lined with dirt and chapped. His nails were framed in flakes of dead skin, ending in black crescents. “These hands have been on the giving and receiving end of more pain than you can imagine. I have plenty of things I regret doing, and plenty of things I regret being done to.”

    “You have dirty hands, but that isn’t really reliable proof of pain. Just take a bath. That’s not going to win you any prizes. I’m looking for someone who really needs an out from their shitty life.” She took her time unscrewing the cap off the bottle and let it drop to the ground. “I’m not here to give you a bath.”

His mouth twisted as he sucked his bottom lip, thinking. 

    “It’s because of it. The dirt is proof. People who don’t know pain don’t be dirty like this. Look at you—clean little princess without a speck of heartache on you.” 

    She shrugged and took a long, slow drink from the bottle before she responded. “Little kids get dirty. You have to do better.” 

His hands dropped back to his lap, grimy palms facing up.

    “Why do you want to know about my pain anyways? You ain’t gonna do anything about it. This is a sick game. You’re a sick do-gooder wanting to lord about how good you are.” His eyes fixated on the Jack and she let the light catch it so it shone amber.

    “I can’t help you if I don’t believe you. I can’t believe you if you won’t be honest. I’m down here looking for one person to save from a life of pain. You can call me a do-gooder. Goodness is a matter of perspective.” She tipped the bottle again, letting a drop trickle run down her chin. 

He had a desperate look in his eyes as his world narrowed to the alcohol wetting her face. She licked her lips almost sensuously before wiping the drops away with the back of her hand. “Good stuff.”

    He licked his own lips in subconscious pantomime and pushed layers of a tattered sleeve up, exposing a forearm latticed in scars. The skin was less grimy there.

    “Here’s some pain for you. Everytime I lose something, I keep the memory in my flesh. I cut myself,” he said. “That’s a lot of memories.” He ran his fingers across one of the bigger lines.

    “It doesn’t mean your pain is worse. Lots of people have scars. How do I know you did that to yourself?” She pulled her phone out and checked the time. “What do you cut yourself with? I doubt you even have a knife.”

    “I got a knife. You gotta have a knife ‘round here. I’ll show you.” He pawed at his neck with stiff fingers and pulled at a string tied at his neck. A decent sized hunting knife in a worn black sheath was dangling at the end of it. She held her hand out, letting the liquid slosh against the glass bottle as she did.

    “Can I see it?” 

    He sucked his lip in again, thinking, before he pulled the string over his head and placed it in her hand. 

    “Now you give me the bottle like you said.”

    “I didn’t say I was giving you a bottle of Jack Daniels. I said I was going to play a game with you to help you with your pain. You know what they say about assuming.”

    “A drink sure goes a long way to help. I got arthritis from the cold nights and a good drink is all that makes it go. Drink is like medicine. I can’t afford a human doctor so I get the liquid kind.”

    She cradled the Jack in the crook of her arm and slid the knife free. The blade was hash marked with scratches. The tip was snapped off.

    “So what kind of pain made you mark your own flesh? What did you lose to make so many scars?”

    “Everything! I lost everything I ever had. Shitty parents, shitty wife took the kids, shitty job, shitty friends… I tried to make something with my life but I got backstabbed every time. Nothing left to do but cut reminders and get on with it.”

    Sitting on the greasy back step of a restaurant where everything smelled like piss, he didn’t look like he was getting on. She’d been keeping an eye on him for a while. He pretty much lived back here.

    “And cutting yourself helps?” 

    He looked at the blade in her hand and then at the ground.

    “Not like the booze does.”

    She held the bottle out and swished the contents before she handed it over to him.

    “It’s all fun and games. I knew you weren’t gonna just tease me. I knew you were gonna help.” He took a deep swig, sloshing it around in his mouth before swallowing it. He sighed, and leaned back with pleasure.

“Oops…” She dropped the sheath at his feet, the string spreading serpentine on the stained pavement. He took another swig and bent over to pick it up. She bent over too, above him, close enough for his body stink to invade her nose. 

    The knife pushed into the small hollow that hid where his shoulder and neck connected. It slid in, already familiar with this flesh—a final memory that would never scar. He fell forward on one knee, propped up by the bottle, before he collapsed. Blood and booze mingled into the cracks beneath him.

    “See? No more pain now,” she said.

April 16, 2024 02:34

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


Marisa Billions
21:23 Apr 24, 2024

Excellent. I liked the dialogue and the build up.


Show 0 replies
S. E. Foley
22:41 Apr 16, 2024

Nice. The phrase 'I'm down here...' makes one wonder where she came from. It could be a serial killer, or something more fantastical.


Show 0 replies
Alexis Araneta
15:04 Apr 16, 2024

Ooh, I winced at the end! Great flow to this story. I also love the details you use. Lovely one !


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.