What do you do when you cant find a fitting publication for your photo story? Turn it into a creative writing challenge for your friend of course!
The Challenge to the writer, Write a short story inspired by the images in one week. The story must be 1,000-1,500 words and can take any narrative.
"At The End Of The Night" written by John Lesteberg
The clack-clack of her shoes echoed through the alley. Pausing briefly, she considered the small growth of weeds, a dull green against the desiccated brownish-grey exterior that dominated the surroundings; a brief sign that maybe everything wasn’t dying. She smirked and tucked her head against a sudden gust of wind.
“We’re all dying, but some of us are just more ready to accept it.” Smiling to herself, she walked into the apartment around the corner. No security lock, no cameras to see the comings and goings of the residents. The lack of security belied the belief that there was no safety. She’d never felt safer.
She paused at the second-floor landing. Subtle noises came from the hallways leading off through the door. Pressing herself to the window, she rested and listened. A loud television, children laughing, drunken singing that would surely turn to fighting in the not too distant future, she ignored it all. At the end of the night, it was best to make peace with yourself. In the long dark hours before the dawn, you were the only company you had. She’d learned this, more than once. Sometimes the hard way, sometimes the harder way, there was no easy way to learn of loneliness, betrayal. Unavoidable loss.
She climbed, slowly. Clack. Clack. Her shoes like toy guns on the stairs. Cresting the stair to the landing of the fourth floor, she was hit suddenly by a down-to-the-bone weariness. More than simply being tired, tired she was used to. Hustling to make a living in the city was never easy. And recently, well recently it had been even more of a struggle.
Already cynical, something seemed to have snapped, leading to no more patience for dealing with the idiocy, unrelenting sexual harassment, and general disgusting nature of the society in which she found herself. More and more, she felt trapped. “You look like a beautiful, porcelain doll,” he’d said. Balding pate, shiny with sweat, stinking of smoke, he’d leered over at her from two tables away.
Looking up over her Caesar salad, she’d smiled thinly, before tucking back in. Generally, if you ignored them, they went away. Generally. Finishing her salad, leaving money on the table, she wrapped her coat around herself tightly and left. With teeth three sizes too big, the stinking man wiped chicken grease on his shirt before grasping at her. “I’ll be seeing you around I hope, dolly! Har! Har! Har!”
Calmly she avoided the grotesque display of humanity, grabbing his wrist when it got too close. Bending it back just enough to make him realize not everything was his to touch; she smiled, like a scar across her face. “I sincerely hope not.” Walking to the door of the café, she refused to look back. Nothing to see there anyway.
Walking into her bathroom, she eased the switch up, washing the room in luminescence, a dull hum. It was late. Later then she had hoped it would be. Tomorrow was a long day, as they all tended to be. But tonight, tonight had been good. It wouldn’t hurt to bathe in the afterglow for a while. As she dropped her thin overcoat on the floor, it landed with a thud, whether the weight had been in the coat, or on her shoulders remained to be seen. It was late.
In the dusky pre-dark, a coffee date with a friend going through a divorce. A topic they had both hovered around without any finality before. But the papers were filed, court dates set. She listened as her friend wept with relief. The spouse had a drinking problem, had been caught red-handed with another. Pulled over for DWI and interstate blowjob, the camel’s back had snapped.
Commiserating that while it was the worst, perhaps it could be the best. Fresh starts for broken hearts. Plenty of fish in the sea. The usual clichéd sayings people use to try and make themselves feel less horrible. When she could no longer take it, she excused herself, leaving her friend to piece it all back together enough to survive the night.
She needed a drink. Stopping off at the C.C. Club, she ordered a Manhattan. The clock strolled past ten pm. Not quite late, but a shade past early. One drink and then she felt she would be fortified against what was coming. The red from her drink held her gaze, the bitters tinting the bourbon to a lovely shade.
Drinking quickly, but without forcing it down. The amount of time she felt she could spend amongst people was growing to be less and less. And yet, the time spent alone in the dark could be even worse…empty glass on the bar top, she tugged her coat tightly around her, straightened her hat, and walked out to Lyndale.
Somewhat hurried, she bumped into a crowd in front of the door. Art school kids trying to look incredibly interesting, and failing. Various ridiculous haircuts, shades of colors, and in one case, far too many piercings in one eyebrow, they looked like they were dressed for a play. She sniffed and walked through them.
Underneath her coat, she wore nothing. Gazing at herself in the mirror, seeing herself for how she was in that moment. The blood had dried somewhat, although still sticky-shiny enough to get everywhere if she was not careful. Slowly, it dripped down her arm. Satisfied with herself, she allowed a moment to feel proud.
Naked, she sat on the toilet, removed her shoes, and rolled down her stockings. Piling the clothing on the floor, she turned the shower on. It was going to feel so good.
On the Light rail, bumping along towards home, she relaxed for a moment. The warmth from the whiskey was sitting in her belly. She allowed that she would probably sleep well tonight, the first time in a while. She closed her eyes briefly.
Announcing its stop, the train slowed down. The pneumatic hiss of the doors opening was no disturbance to her. She didn’t sleep but withdrew into herself. Recharging her batteries for the final assault towards her abode. Three more times the train slowed, hissed, and started.
On the final deceleration, she opened her eyes. Catty-corner from her sat three thirty-something women. Dressed up in what passed for business casual, pantsuits and skirts that would not look out of place in a house of ill repute. Two of the women were engaged in conversation, but the third caught her eye and sneered. Thin and blond, they all looked like replicants. So similar it would be hard to say they weren’t all sisters.
Getting up and heading towards the door, she passed the three. The rude one muttered something under her breath. She wasn’t paying attention. In her experience, groups of girls like that only succeeded in living by tearing down those they were fearful of; those who had seen what was offered and rejected it all in place of going their own way.
Luxuriating in the shower, she made sure the blood was all down the drain. Toweling herself off, she paused briefly to spray a bleach-vinegar solution into the shower to clean and disinfect it. Finished, she bent down and pulled the knife from her coat.
Wiping it clean, she gazed at it. Awed by what it was capable of doing in her hands.
Into the living room, she opened the trunk that doubled as a coffee table. Placing the knife in its home reverently, she let the towel slip from her body. She lit some candles as she sat on the edge of the trunk.
Rubbing herself all over, she allowed the built-up ecstasy of what had transpired to wash over her.
Finally, she lay down, joyful. At the end of the night, it had been a good day. She felt a tingle of excitement for tomorrow. Quietly, she sang, “If I get murdered in the city, don’t go revengin’ in my name…”