Nowhere To Turn: A Short Story
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Two years of sleeping rough, surviving on little or nothing, with no one to turn to for aid. The only thing that has kept me alive was the eternal thirst for revenge that has numbed my heart to stone and transformed me into something inhumane. Anger surges like fire through my body at the sound of my old pet name, inflaming my heart and flowing down to my fingertips. Every nerve in my body explodes in fury and adrenaline; vengeance is so unbearably close. Then I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the crude blade of the knife.
A girl, with dark hair, hacked away at neck-length, framing her hollow face so covered in filth I hardly recognise her, stares back. I immediately think of my mother, and pain stabs into my heart as I am dragged back to the day of her murder. At first I lay, petrified, desperately trying to comprehend what was happening. Thieves were certainly not uncommon in our village, but I knew we possessed nothing truly worth stealing. I had to find her.
In his other hand was a small glistening ring. I took a sharp breath inwards as I recognised the precious object; it belonged to my father, a victim of the plague that struck many years ago. He gave my mother the ring on his deathbed. It had been the only thing we had left to remind us of him after he disappeared from our lives forever, the only true treasure we would ever possess.
Of course my mother would have put up a fight. I could not scream or cry. All emotions seemed to have left my body completely, replacing them with a monotonous pit of emptiness. I stared at him, the man who had just annihilated everything I loved and cared for in a heartbeat.
He gazed back at me, clearly determining how much of a threat I posed to him. A girl of my age was no match for a man with a knife, but if I screamed for help now, surely someone would hear me.
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A few agonising seconds passed. His only way out was through the doorway in which I now stood. My mind screamed for me to step away, allow him to escape or I would surely end up with the same fate as my mother.
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I would make him pay. I lunged.
Nowhere to Turn
Immediately, he made for the door, but my hands closed around the cloth hiding his face. Philip, who had just murdered my mother and stolen my most prized possession. A pair of dark green boxer shorts, with the elastic band so worn they fall right off. I thought it was the work of my life.
A Road to Nowhere: A thriller short story
I tried to make it stick. I changed, and it changed, and we played mental games against each other until years of relationship snapped in half like a twig. Yes, I want to do this. And then I parsed it around to This is what I want to do , which sounds the same but is absolutely not, by way of its absoluteness. We got engaged right away. A long-distance race that should end up with me changing my name Dr Starts with G! Its friends were nice, mostly. I worked hard and did well on my coursework. Things were fine for a while. I got some form of life purpose out of it. I don't know what my PhD got from me in return.
No, I do know — it got my weekends. My evenings. My holidays. I defended it when people talked trash about it, calling it things like useless or pointless or demented , and reacted with self-righteousness when other former PhD students in recovery told me it would never last.
Is that who I am? Who I want to be? Teaching, writing, doing research, lather, rinse, repeat? The teaching was my favorite. I loved teaching so much that I took twice the teaching credit requirements. And I also loved the writing — no, the writing was my favorite. Let's face it, some of us don't write a packing checklist without the hope that someone will read it and think it's a fresh and daring take.
But these things, which I enjoyed so much on their own, turned out to be terrible together — like a big gob of mayonnaise splattered onto a bowl of lentil soup. When I searched for some inner voice to tell me what to do, all I could hear, whispered softly with the conviction of a lifetime, was Not this.
Not this. When I looked in the mirror and tried to figure out who this tired-looking, confused, gray person was staring back at me, all I could see reflected in those pupils were the words Not you. Not you.
But I felt guilty about my full fellowship, the spot I had taken from someone else who would have really wanted it. I felt useless and rudderless without it, my only skill being able to argue successfully for one thing and its exact opposite.
PDF Nowhere To Turn: A Short Story
How much does that pay? So I chipped away at it some more. By the third year of fieldwork, I had figured out the answer to the question I was asking — that the true source of people's political power is the stories that they tell themselves. I had to throw out my script about political opportunity or resource mobilization or institutional veto points. I couldn't compare anything to anything else anymore. I could have started again, I could have made it work, I could have gotten excited. We separated way before the divorce was official. I started seeing other occupations. I cheated on my PhD very publicly with a full-time administrative job for a while — it wasn't passion my new lover was most unhot, and all it ever talked about was proper invoicing but it was against the rules, and new, and different.
Taking a job in billing made me feel alive and independent again. It was an act of defiance. It hardly matters that the sex was awful. Eventually, I left the country and moved across the Atlantic ocean for a while. By the time I got back to Europe, I was done. It was my fault. It felt for a while like a cataclysmic personal failure. It felt also wonderful, truly wonderful, to be free of it.
One day, I tossed them in the trash and left home naked. And I was cold, and scared, and vulnerable and free. I am wearing jeans, a black tank top, and a paddy cap.