Just a heads up, this short story contains violence (and snot – people seemed to be upset about the bodily fluids). so if you’re not sure it’s your thing, you can always go read Why I’m Still Single instead. There’s nothing disturbing there, except my own social awkwardness.
Enough of that, now on to A World of Hurt…
“Oh…no… you didn’t…oh…” Her tone like she’d just walked in on a toddler spreading peanut butter on the walls.
Except what I’d just done was shoot her husband. She sat, stunned, looking at me and I waited for it – the wave of rage that would come after the shock. Her fury at what I’d done, what I’d taken from her; her dawning realization she’d be next. I stuck that gun right in her face and watched for it… and her shocked face softened… tenderness. I rubbed the sweat away from my eyes and looked again. She shook her head and said, “Oh baby, you’ve just unleashed a world of hurt.”
“Are you threatening me bitch? ‘Cause you’re about to die!” She started crying then, still looking at me, like I was a companion in her grief, not the cause of it. Fuck. So I shot her. I didn’t mean to… well I did and I didn’t. She fucked me up, looking at me like that. I felt like I’d just been split in two. Part of me wanted to just shut that face up, blow apart that look in her eyes. But part of me was held by it. No one had ever looked at me like that.
So my body made the decision my brain couldn’t. Reflex took over. I don’t even remember hearing the gun go off. Just her eyes… and her hair whipping around her face as she fell backwards.
That’s when the retching started. I puked. I didn’t just puke – I was doubled over, dropped to my knees heaving myself inside out. Then the grief – her grief, and the rage and the horror I had expected her to feel. It came screaming out of me with each new wave. Not just her grief, but the panic and anger her husband had felt in the moments before I shot him – powerless, unable to help himself or his wife.
Every horrific feeling I’d ever put on anybody’s face, wave after wave of it hit me. Blurred together in wracking sobs and vomit. I felt EVERYTHING, I finally felt everything. Not just what I’d done, but every one of my own hurts, rages, violations, betrayals. A world of hurt I though I had long since mastered, shoved away for good. Wave after wave it came crashing though me. I thought I was going to die from it. Unrelenting, washing away everything else, nothing but pain. Howling pain.
I felt it all. And then it was gone… all of it. Empty and drained. Too weak to even roll out of my own vomit, face pressed to the ground, I knelt there in the blood and the puke and sweat and the snot. My chest burned, rasping and coughing. And the emptiness was even more shocking than the pain. There was nothing, just NOTHING…
Breath shuddering into my belly, I managed to roll onto my back, my legs screaming as they finally straightened out. Totally spent, totally empty, my back on cold pavement. The stars… there were stars. I can’t remember the last time I’d noticed them. Little points of light in all that darkness. The darkness, and the stars… I felt tears sliding into my sweat-soaked hair. I was crying… I was crying because those stupid stars, those stupid little stars, were beautiful.
And then another great flood, that emptiness filled. I was so grateful for those stars, for just being stars, thought my chest would burst for the beauty of it. And peace. I felt peace. I thought peace was just some empty fruitcake word, but there it was. Just peace, and love for those little stars. All that rage and pain were gone, I lay there feeling quiet and full.
She’d looked into my eyes, and it set me free. She looked into my eyes, and I shot her.
14 thoughts on “A World of Hurt (fiction)”
Um. Context please?
What came before this scene? What comes after? When will the narrator be able to bathe next? Will the blood ever wash off? Has the narrator found grace in the stars and the look experienced before shooting her? I expect these are questions you are not intending to answer but successfully encourage your reader to ask.
I haven’t shot anyone so I don’t have any experience to guide me as to how long the narrator spent experiencing all that followed after the shooting. Maybe not important.
I can’t help but think it a shame the narrator didn’t find gratitude, quite, peace and fullness before shooting the husband and wife.
Violence on at least two levels.
Thanks so much GB! Great questions, and you’re right, it’s not for me to answer. I just tell part of the story, what happens to it next is everybody else’s story.
I’m curious about what you mean by violence on at least two levels, can you expound on that?
And I agree, it’s “a shame the narrator didn’t find gratitude, quiet, peace and fullness before shooting the husband and wife.” It always is.
I also agree that “it’s a shame the narrator didn’t find gratitude, quiet, peace and fullness before shooting the husband and wife,” and thus, “unleashing a world of hurt.” I have an acquaintance who has an ancestor whose family was rounded up by Russian militia. They were lined up to be executed because of their faith. They were pacifists. When the gunmen aimed at his mother she forgave and blessed them. That’s like the look the wife in the story gives the narrator before she gets shot. The words of forgiveness and blessing, and the look given by the wife in Valerie story are both pivotal points – an invitation to choose.
Whoah! The beginning is strong because it’s unusual, and the piece continues in unexpected directions, keeping it interesting. Is there more that you want us to know about the character that gets shot? (Even though the narrator doesn’t know.) What else does the narrator notice about the stars – not just them being stupid and little – and the darkness?
I liked the body fluids, too. Not so much else for me to say – I haven’t read much in the crime/ mystery/ horror genre, nor many modern parables, and maybe I haven’t shot anyone either.
I’m also curious about the violence on two levels. My take on it is that there is the physical violence of the actual murder plus the violence that was perpetrated to the murderer’s psyche, enough to cause the narrator to commit violence.
Sorry, I linked this to the wrong writing. What I wanted to say about jyanti’s response is:
Valerie’s piece that the concept of having the narrator be a murderer has been done in the crime/murder mystery genre, like the series Dexter. But usually there is more “time” to have character development so that the reader can understand why the person has acted so extremely and what experiences lead them either to redemption, complacency, sociopathy or continuous soul searching. The length of this fiction doesn’t allow for this so I think this is why I have such difficulty with it.
I think what I’m finding so fascinating about people’s responses is how they fill in the blanks, or want to. Questions about what prompted this violence, what justifies redemption, what happens next?
I don’t think I really intended it, but this piece seems to be a great leaping off point for reader introspection. how you anwer the above questions also looks at where are you at with your own process.
Maybe I should post this story again with an open thread for people to write their own prequels and sequels…
I’m so glad you mentioned the wife who got shot yjanti, I think she is the most interesting part of the piece, the whole story hinges on her.
I’m not sure how to respond to your latest writing, other than very appropriate for halloween. The quality of the writing is fine but the subject matter is disturbing. Not because of the double murder although that in itself is disturbing. I guess I’m not at the point where I can accept that bad and good it’s all the same. That the murderer is in a state that there is nothingness and she seems to be experiencing a blissful state is the disturbing part. I’m not good with that. I keep going back to the female victim’s words, “You’ve just unleashed a world of hurt.” It doesn’t end that way in your story. I guess I’m still in a place where I need some consequence and closure. That a perpetrator of violence has to live with consequence, some sense of the effect that their action has brought. I’m not about eye for an eye, or even punishment per se. I think we all live in the hell we make for ourselves and that is in most cases punishment itself. That is what lacks in your story. Maybe because it is a short story, you don’t have enough opportunity to develop the stages of the character’s redemption. But that’s what I’m most disturbed about that there is no obvious process of redemption. That is the consequence we live with.
When I originally responded in a personal email, you said there was redemption but not the kind I was expecting. I think that the short length of the fiction doesn’t allow much process or development. I can see the redemption of “finding peace and nothingness in the stars.” But for me, finding redemption takes years of self reflection. After such a dramatic act of violence in your story I’m not sure if it would be possible to reach such a level of redemption so quickly in reality. But of course this is short fiction so this might be nitpicking.
But kudos to producing such strong reactions and thought provoking.
Thanks for posting this Donna, I think it does need to be discussed. What I said in reply to your personal email was that there were in fact “consequences” and a “process” of redemption – both you have said were lacking.
I think the one very important thing I do need to say about this story is that it arose from a night of watching crime drama and wondering what it would be like if, just for once, somebody responded to violence with something other than anger and vengence (a violence of emotions rather than actions). This story came out in response to that question.
The world of hurt isn’t in the end of the story, it’s in the middle, and it is very much tied to the blissful state that follows. Read it again.
The story ends with:
“She’d looked into my eyes, and it set me free. She looked into my eyes, and I shot her.”
The only person to have seen the narrator as a fellow human being, the narrator shot. THAT is likely to prompt years of self reflection.
I just read this and my first response is, where did this come from. This is a very well written piece, though a little frightening, that leaves you to fill in the blanks as you see fit. Having read the responses up to now I see that you have all decided the story ends here. There is still room for you to fill in whatever consequence, or non consequence you think fits, but I think the last line say a it all as far as consequences.
…and maybe ’cause everyone else is saying it, I should put it out there too – I’ve never actually shot anybody either. This just came from my imagination.
Jane’s sister Megan here. She just showed me your twitter page which ended up with checking out your blog. I love your stories/ponderings. I can totally relate to them.
I just read this story and took a totally different take on it from other people. My take is that when the woman said ““Oh baby, you’ve just unleashed a world of hurt.”
it caught the shooter off guard because instead of reacting with anger and hate and violence she showed compassion.
And if she would have lived she would have experienced the world of hurt perhaps, but that is what he ended up experiencing. Then once he experienced that hurt to the depths of his being he could finally let it go. That’s how it is with feelings. We can’t deny them or bury them. We must feel them and then let them go. Once he let that hurt go he could finally open up to love.
It’s not a pretty story and no we shouldn’t all go out shooting people and yes people should face consequences for their actions but sometimes all it takes is a simple act of kindness to break the ice that certain people place around their hearts.
Thank you Megan for your beautiful comment.
The latest converation on here is about breaking up patterns, doing something different to foster change (see When Your Mind is Stuck…). What you say is a really powerful example: just responding with kindness can interrupt a pattern of coldheartedness.
I’m so pleased you could see through the snot, to the heart of this story.