A Step From Desperation

By @RijaS

A Step From Desperation

By @RijaS

A Booksplosion contest entry, this tale will leave you questioning your own sanity, as well as its main character.

Chapter 1

Spare Time

He threw his head back and let out a boisterous laugh, the kind that comes unexpectedly but is still pleasant to the ears. His hands loosened on the wheel as he kept laughing.

“Dad, it wasn’t that funny. You’re too happy about this,” the young girl beside him spoke, although, honestly, she loved seeing him like this. He was young, but an aged man. A tired man, and on the few nights he wasn’t home they usually couldn’t afford to go out, but today wasn’t his birthday and she’d insisted that they do something. Yet here they were, returning home after their reservation at the restaurant had been taken by “someone whose favor demanded to be reciprocated,” and hollering at how sorry their lives were.

In an effort to lighten the mood, they had gotten matching tattoos of her father’s choosing, and she had never regretted something so much. The idea was good: her father pushing her on the swings that had gone worn in their backyard. However, artists can have the most brilliant forms of inspiration, but without talent, their work tended to look like what their arms had become; something that looked like two giraffes smacking their heads against trees.

After the girl conveyed a couple more uncomplimentary statements of the restaurant, their staff, and the tattoo artist, the man fully let go of the wheel for a second, putting his hands on his knees to pause to breathe as he laughed.

“DAD! YOU’RE DRIVING!” He had only let go for but a second, though it wasn’t enough time for their car to beer to the left, colliding with the sedan that had been driving alongside them on the highway. The man turned to his daughter and threw his arm around her, sparing one last glance towards her.

It was a dark room; the light of each window obscured by obsidian black curtains which, among other things, made the entirety of the room feel overwhelming. But I didn’t mind, and truthfully, I never really noticed, either. With my right arm burning as if atop a lit stove, I suppose I couldn’t be blamed much for it.

I breathed in, somehow knowing that in a couple of minutes there would be a knock on the door, inviting me to come out. A floor length mirror hung on the wall opposite of me, and I stared at myself, begrudgingly running my hands through my hair (I couldn’t remember where I’d placed my brush last night).

Really, I couldn’t remember anything from yesterday. Or the day before…or the day before that. I tried to recall a memory, but it was like watching a movie that wasn’t being fast forwarded: everything a blur, and I could only catch glimpses, minuscule images that held no meaning without context.

A framed photograph lied face down on the nightstand to the left of my bed, and I picked it up.

There was a child with blond pigtails and a carefree expression seated on a swing set, and behind her was a young man—the two looked startlingly similar—with worry lines surrounding his eyes. He was timidly pushing her, as if afraid of hurting the fragile thing. But despite himself, he wasn’t grinning.

Before I could attempt at deciphering the picture, there was a knock on her door and a high-pitched voice asking me to come out. I muttered a reply—one that was barely audible— and walked over to the bathroom to get ready.

Perhaps, that marking on my arm had been simply that; as when I wiped it with water it left a black trail, the image suddenly unrecognizable. No longer was there a burn, just a low dull that reverberated throughout my entire being. Shaking my head, I figured there were worse things to worry about, and headed out.

The living room was minimalistic with hardwood floors and a dimming paint job done on the ceilings. The only ornamentation on the walls was a grey clock with pale hands. A dark couch laid on one side of the room, across from a rocking chair occupied by a large woman, hair pulled up in a tight ponytail.

When she spoke, her voice was shrill and uneven, “Hello, Karina. It’s nice to see you again. Let’s start off with what we do everyday: tell me who you are and what you remember, so I know whether today is a good or bad day for you.”

I moved to sit on the couch, but instantly, there was a shock that ran up my arm, dropping me down to the floor. A writhing mess I was. The markings had colored me clean, a picture of a man twice what I assumed to be my age looking at me with lonesome eyes. Then, he disappeared, leaving me with the woman peering at me cautiously, having not taken a single step to help

When I opened my mouth, no words came out, and I let out the breath I’d known I was holding, eerily unsurprised by the position I had found myself in.

So I got up, knotted my hands on my lap and spoke softly; my words sounding as if someone else were saying them.

“I suppose—I suppose today is a bad day.”

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