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A Family Cycle

Posted on September 21, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Contains strong language and images.  Please remember, I want to make you go 'ewww'.


           From inside the closet I watched, biting my tongue to stay quiet and wishing I could close my eyes.  I never wanted anything more than I wanted to close my eyes that night. I’d have pulled them out with my fingers if I’d not been too scared to move.  I didn’t have to remember my mother’s words to know that I had to be quiet, fear was more than enough to let me know that.


            This wasn’t a nightmare, some monster that would go away when I wet the bed and woke myself up, disgusted because I was old enough to have more control.  It wasn’t something I could pour a cup of water on and pretend was an accident because I woke up in the night and got a drink whilst I read.


            Reading’s always good, both my parents said.  If you can’t sleep, read.  You can’t read in a dark closet, looking out through slats and too terrified to breath.  When you’re that scared you take short little breaths through your mouth, like reverse hiccoughs.


            Years later I’d learn that breathing like that lessens the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain and stimulates the release of adrenalin and other fear related hormones.  If you’re in a bad situation even your natural reflexes work against you, that’s how God likes it.


            “Don’t cry, pretty thing,” the man wearing the surgical gloves and holding a knife said. “You’re a special one.”


            My mother snivelled, a pathetic choking noise behind her gag and I hated her for not being stronger, for not being able to fight back.  She had fought back, I’d seen her open the gashes down his face and cripple him with a blow to the balls when he first burst into the bedroom.  I’d seen her break the bedside lamp over his head and seen him lay her out cold with a right hook, the splatters of her face sprayed against the walls.  She hadn't fought hard enough.


            I’d been hiding in the closet, with my flashlight.  Reading the naughty books my father kept in a shoebox on the top shelf.  I had, maybe, five pubic hairs but I knew from the boys at school that the shoebox was a treasure-trove I should explore.


            Twelve years old, hiding in my mother’s closet to read softcore porn and still wetting the bed.  There was never really much hope for me.


            The man cut the roll of electrical tape he’d used to fix her wrists to the bedstead and punched her in the back of the head again. She whimpered a little but lay still, face down in the flowery pink pillows, as he moved to the foot of the bed and taped her legs to the rails there.


            I’d seen my parents doing things like this, I knew all about the box of bondage gear they kept on the highest shelf, but this was different.  My mother wasn’t wearing the special clothes she did for those games, she looked shapeless and fat in her sweatpants and RedSox sweater and for all the whips and paddles they’d used the last time I hid in here (I snuck in when I’d already been sent to bed and knew they were downstairs drinking wine) that had looked like fun, like it was consensual.


            Mr.Cassidy, my English teacher, taught us that word the other day.  Consensual; it seems meaningless to me today.


            Consensual never had pools of blood forming on the bedsheets from the broken mass of my mother’s nose and dual split lips.  It never had the warm trickle pooling in my crotch as I sat with an open Playboy in my hands, too scared to leave the centrefold in case he heard the rustling of the pages.


            “Do you know who I am?” the man said, straddling my mother and using his knife to play with her hair.  She’d just had it fixed; we were supposed to go to my cousin’s wedding the next day. “Little pretty thing? Do you?”


            My mother tried to struggle.  He laughed and bent down to nibble at her ear, for all the world like my father when he played the same game.  I want to say he had an evil villain’s laugh, or some rodent’s snicker but he had a healthy sounding guffaw.  If you heard it in a bar you’d think it belonged to someone happy and healthy, someone who might give you some business tips and be a buddy for that shooting trip.


            He used the knife to cut away her sweater, opening the arms as well as the back so it lay like a towel underneath her.  He twanged her bra-strap but didn’t cut it.


            “I’ve something special for you to see,” he said, before rising and leaving the room.


            I sat in the closet, glad to finally drop the porno mag and looked through the slats at my parents’ bedroom.  This was my chance, this was when I could escape and go get help. This was my chance to be a hero.


            Some piss soaked through the seat of my jeans and into my shoes as the man came back into the room, carrying my two year old brother – only now waking up and screaming for all he was worth.  I went limp, my right hand falling against the empty box that had contained my father’s porn. 


            I thought about the secrets kept in the boxes on the top shelves, about the porn and the clothes and the gun he kept saying he had to buy a proper safe for.  Keeping guns in shoeboxes in closets isn’t safe.


            “I got your baby,” the man said, smiling and bouncing my howling brother. “Smells like he shat himself.”


            My mother screamed, thrashed so hard against her bonds that she broke an ankle and dislocated a shoulder.  I didn’t learn that until later, I was seizing my moment of bravery and never mind the piss running down my legs.


            “He’s a noisy one,” the man said, bouncing my brother above his head like a friendly uncle.  I’ve since learnt that the exact word is avuncular but I don’t fucking care. “I don’t like the noisy ones.”


            My mother was still screaming as best she could, struggling against the tape as I reached the top shelf and grabbed for the gunbox, hoping the damn thing was loaded like it normally was.


            “I don’t get a safe for my guns,” my father always said, “’cos I ain’t got time to open the thing if my home needs protecting. Keep it loaded for the same reason.”


            “This your baby boy?” the man asked, peering at my mother’s frantic eyes as he held a knife to my brother’s throat. “Your special little man? I’m going to cut his throat and fuck you in the ass so hard you split in two.”


            The gun in my hand, my mother screaming and my brother in danger I dropped to the floor, hit the safety button like I’d been taught and burst out the closet, squeezing away.


            The first bullet took the man square in the chest – I know how to shoot. 


            I don’t know how not to panic.


            The second bullet tore through my brother’s head as he was falling to the floor.


            Who cares where the other three went? 


            I’m in my father’s house now, his second family. He’s old and out of jail.  He owed the man money, a lot of money, and wouldn’t pay.  My brother is dead; my mother killed herself six months later.


            Revenge is as revenge does.


            My father’s nailed to a chair; his new wife is tied face-down to her bed.  I have their new-born in my arms and I already checked the closets.





Categories: Christopher Law, Horror, Short Story

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Reply George Spelvin
5:11 PM on September 21, 2010 
Variation on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis??? It's OK,the way it is, but I'd trim out some of the repetitions of words and phrases.

The language is a little too strait-laced for a nut; it just doesn't seem out of control enough.

If you want me to go "Ewww!", better be inspired by the Marquis de Sade...
Reply C.M. Marcum
9:27 AM on September 22, 2010 
Oooh, Chris, you?re creepy. I love it.

I grew up reading my Grandpa's True Detective magazines and since then I've read many stories of murder and mayhem, true and fictional. I believe people read these kinds of stories for 2 basic reasons. (A) to gain insight into the deviant mind. (B) to find out how they get caught. Naturally, this story will go with (A) since (B) is a given: you can't kill relatives without getting caught.

And that leaves the burning question: Why kill Father? Was father abusive? Was father away when the family needed him most? Did the MC think that father was going to forget about his first family and start over with a new family, and the MC didn't like that?

Also, I think you need to describe the closet door better. One assumes that it 's got slats in it, but I still think you should say so.

As far as the writing goes--and this is strictly my opinion--I'd rearrange the story. In the beginning, I'd put everything about the closet, the pornography and bed wetting and watching his parents in the beginning. Middle: the attack and murder. End: the patricide. Just to give it some order.
Reply Christopher Law
6:12 PM on September 22, 2010 
Thanks for reading!

@ Doug - Repetition is something I know I do, I thought I'd managed to avoid it this time. I have a habit of getting caught on words and phrases that I've been trying to break since I was even shorter than I am now - if I ever get an editor I imagine I'll spend a lot of time getting hit and told there are other words in the English language.

I'm also a little nervous about how far to go with the gross out stuff, I toned this down quite a bit from the original spurt. I'll try to be braver in the future and let the de Sade influences come through. And maybe read some of his work - I've read a few biographies but none of his work.

@ CM - I quite like jumping into a story with action and then filling in the back story as I go along, sometimes it works better than others. Thanks for pointing out the lack of description, I tend to get caught up in events and forget that it can really help to heighten mood and effect, as well as providing a chance to just write something that reads well.

As for the father thing, it does need more explaining. I've only just started speaking to my father after twenty years or so - he's a good guy, just hates my Mum. It's a case of me assuming everyone has the same emotional baggage as me.

Good God! I listen to heavy metal, drink too much, have a fractious relationship with my parents and I'm unemployed. I also have long hair. I'm basically a walking cliche, but I'm mostly having fun :)
Reply Christopher Law
6:23 PM on September 22, 2010 
Oh yeah, forgot to say - I hated American Psycho. Easily one of the worst books I've ever forced myself to finish. I don't care for the film either. There's some good gore there but I thought the satire was ham-fisted and boring.

That said, I read it when I was in my early twenties. Maybe I'll get more from it now I'm in my next decade - that's certainly the case with a whole stack of other books.
Reply o
3:12 PM on September 23, 2010 
'I know how to shoot. I don't know how not to panic.' Good lines.

I have to agree with CM that rearranging the events would make it an easier read. And also that there should be more about dear old Dad. For the narrator to be such a nut the old man must have given him more than just twisted genes and porno mags.
Reply C.M. Marcum
7:18 PM on September 23, 2010 
Chris, I know what you mean about 'censoring' yourself. I often wonder if I go too far myself.

And how come you didn't use the word 'Mum' in your story. A little English pepper, please.
Reply Christopher Law
4:50 PM on September 24, 2010 
I avoided anything too 'English' because I originally envisioned this as being set in America, the idea of a loaded hangun in an average British home doesn't wash with our gun laws.

That might change with the expanded version I'm mulling over; if I make the father a real low-life, criminal type I can work some more detail into why the MC is such a mess - as opposed to just being a Michael Myers style random psycho - and justify the weapon.

Looks like I have an objective for tonight - the village green massacre I've been contemplating the last few days will just have to wait.

Thanks for the input - a throw-away scene I wrote because I was bored seems to have grown some legs. I'm still going to try to keep it short, I have way too many long pieces waiting for me to stop prevaricating as it is.
Reply C.M. Marcum
6:50 PM on September 24, 2010 
Oh, I see. Only us Americans shoot each other, hun? :}

Don't worry about going too long. I think Flash Fiction will flash out of style.

Most of my serious stories run 4000 to 8000 words. At some point an artist has to turn their backs on all the 'advice.'
Reply Christopher Law
3:53 PM on September 27, 2010 
Oww, slapped on the wrist and deserved it! I could have made the same point about lots of countries, and should have. Sorry. I've changed it to a British setting and the father's a career criminal, which gets around the fact that the closest most Brits get to handguns is water-pistols.

The sooner that flash happens the happier I'll be, I tend to run-up word counts at the same level - generally with as many again culled. The rewrite on this is up to 3000 or so already and I think it will clock in about 6000 once I'm done, although I might have over-egged the bad father elements this time. I'm waiting to read the finished piece before deciding how much needs to be removed or condensed.

Then I'll fret about where to make the breaks so people aren't confronted with a massive block of headache-inducing on-screen text.
Reply Jake Cesarone
5:01 PM on October 12, 2010 

I liked it; good and creepy! I kind of like how we don't really know much about the MC; we just know at the end that things went downhill fast after that fateful day. Unless this is going to be expanded into a larger work, I'd keep it just the way it is. Good job.......JC
Reply Christopher Law
5:59 PM on October 13, 2010 
I did try writing a longer version and abandoned the effort, at least for the foreseeable future. Even allowing for excessive self-criticism it is awful, I can't seem to get a grasp on this character in any more detail than here.

Oh well, win some, lose some.
Reply seb
7:24 AM on December 24, 2010 
Hi Christopher. It 's been a long time I haven't read a short story. I'm so busy with my English study at university. Well, I have no comment to make about the language since I'm still learning it. Nevertheless, I learnt new words. I enjoyed the story all the way through. Spooky and interesting story.
Well done!