Sunday Photo Fiction – Torture

35 11 November 24th 2013

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

If you’d like to submit your own flash fiction story based on the photo, click here.

I place the pen against my mouth and close my eyes, trying to pull the threads of my emotions into a straight, logical line that I can write about. I find that they’re all connected into a tangled web, not very flattering to my intelligence or my conscience. My lips quiver next to the plastic, and moisture gathers at the corner of my eyes.

It’s my lack of guilt that makes me guilty. We were all stood in a line together, eyes down, whilst they assessed us. I was the person next to you, not the one who chose you. Not the one who dragged you out of the line. Not the one who directly caused those screams that triggered never-melting ice to grow in our spines.

I can’t be dishonest about the sleepless nights in the cells, where I didn’t feel bad for you because I was too busy thanking God it wasn’t me.I don’t kid myself that a lifetime of this is worse than what you went through.


Friday Fictioneers – Everything Is Breakable.

dismantled keyboard

This photograph belongs to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and if you wish to take part in Friday Fictioneers, head to her blog. Just a warning, my contribution is quite dark this week.

Andrew felt his girlfriend’s hand tightly grip his own as they followed their guide past groups of eclectic objects. She claimed they should spend more time together, but perhaps she’d hoped for something more romantic.

“This is a keyboard they found in his apartment,” the guide began. “He liked to take things apart.”

After seeing broken clocks, torn books and smashed ornaments, they were taken to an eerily dark room. The walls were saturated with bloody images of unrecognizable humans.

The guide gestured to a photograph.

“This was his first victim.” The guide paused. “He liked to take things apart.”

The Killer Question – Part Eleven

See the first letter here.

I have to pull over shortly before I reach the prison. My hands leave sweat marks on the wheel. I rub them on the rough fabric of the seats and try to keep my breathing even. I can’t decide if I’m glad the road is quiet or not. On the one hand, it means I don’t have to worry about curious passers-by. On the other, the silence means the only thing I can hear is the ringing in my ears. The worst thing of all is the way the fear makes my gut clench.

What am I afraid of? Him? A little, I guess, but security at the prison is tighter than it’s ever been, and the interview will be closely monitored. Am I scared of what he’ll say? He’s just a damaged man, what he says doesn’t matter, especially not now. Those letters, what was I thinking? They’ve invalidated everything I’ve worked for. Even if my supervisors don’t find out, how can I hold my head high while knowing this research is useless? This interview is a sham. I’m only here because my main supervisor thought it would be a good idea. I was too nervous to think of an excuse.

My mother was so proud when I told her I was going to become a PhD student. “We’re going to have a Dr Atkinson in the family!” She was ecstatic. I stayed over at her home last night. She knew something wasn’t right, but I told her I was just tired after the long drive from Exeter. I couldn’t rest in that place, I never can. It’s so different from our old house, but I’m still scared that if you peel back the wallpaper, you’ll find the same dirty kitchen, the same stains on the walls, and then you’ll hear the shouts, the crashes, and the screams…

My father was never a pleasant man, and the arrest was not surprising. Despite the violence we had endured, my mother made sure we visited regularly. She couldn’t just cut loose like I very much wanted her to. I have to lay my head against the steering wheel as I recall that last visit. They called it the worst prison riot in history. There was a well-publicized enquiry. Gross negligence and failure from the prison staff, ill-thought out policies and procedures were to blame. Heads rolled and the media vultures feasted on the carcasses for weeks.

All I remember were the sirens, enough to make a young, foolish girl so hysterical she runs into the arms of trouble.

I start the car. These memories will be painted over.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Cold Hands


Copyright – Alastair Forbes

This flash fiction was written in response to a prompt from Alastair’s Photo Fiction blog.

All that’s left of them are bones buried under the battlefield. Those, and the sibilant whispers that echo through the corridors of my home. I washed the blade so carefully, sluicing off the evidence of combat until no sticky, scarlet drops tarnished the steel. I see my face reflected in its surface, and I know that something still contaminates this sword. Something that will not be washed, polished or buffered away. Perhaps the blood penetrated below the surface, and that is from where it speaks.

“You could be us,” they hiss. “You looked into our eyes as you killed us and we saw that you knew. You knew that the sword in our belly could as easily have pierced yours. That Death would have collected you as swiftly, would have opened His arms as wide, and would have swallowed your life as easily as He swallowed ours. From His land we watched you revel in your victory. One day, you will feel our cold hand on your shoulder and you will know that we are equals…”

The Library Book Project – 8 October 2008

To read more about this project, click here.

I look at the images blu-tacked to the blackboard and all of a sudden, my body seems to rebel. Not visibly, but my chest feels like it’s caving in, my guts tighten and contract, and there’s a buzzing sensation in my legs that precedes numbness. The pictures depict a happy bride and groom, glowing with love that’s pure and guilt-free. Something I’ve thrown away. My teacher blathers on about how we all must keep ourselves pure and worthy, so we can marry the right kind of man.

They say that priesthood holders can discern the truth, so do they know the truth about me? When they see me in the corridors between classes, are they disgusted because they know how I’ve dirtied myself? They still smile and nod their heads at me, but is it out of pity? I try not to think about it as I walk around the building on a Sunday. Sometimes I can really pretend that I’m still the same person that I was. I kid myself that I’m still whole.

But I’m not. I can’t even confess to the little things. I lied to my parents about going to the library. Well, not completely, I still went sometimes. But most of the time I was going to his house. We were often alone in his room, just like they always warned that you shouldn’t. I reasoned it was okay. None of my friends obey all the rules, and they seem happy. I could control myself, after all. We were alone so many times before that one afternoon, nothing happened, and I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Everything was fine, until it wasn’t.

I didn’t really feel all that I’d changed, but I know that I must be different, somehow. They say it’s almost as bad as murder.

Looking at the library book I borrowed last reminds me of the fibs. I end up crying into the pages.