! Content warning: physical violence, bullying, profanity, and losing a loved one !
I still remember how it felt. Rage boiling inside me and rising to the surface. Every inch of me buzzing and alive, anger pumping my body with adrenaline. It felt as though my insides were on fire. A deep ache fueled by years of torment had been replaced with a vengeful exhilaration.
I picked myself off of the concrete, ignoring the pain in my jaw and my stomach from where they punched me. I wiped my nose and it stung. I cringed when I saw the blood on my sleeve.
“Hey!” I forced myself into a standing position and limped toward the group of assholes whose faces I knew too well ever since I was a sophomore. I was now a junior. There was the big one with long hair, the one with crooked teeth who ironically never stopped smiling, and the small one with thick arms and cracked fists. The small one was good at punching. I told my dad about them long ago. He just got angry and told me to “man up.” I would run upstairs as soon as I got back from school to cover up the bruises they left. Otherwise, my father would blow up at me and demand to know why I wasn’t taking better care of myself. He would call me pathetic.
Sometimes I got lucky and didn’t see my tormentors for a while, but then they would come back the next day and find me before I could escape into class or leave school in the afternoon. I would see them in hallways, lurking outside on the premises, or sometimes even on my route home. They must have seen something in me to latch onto and drain until there was almost nothing left. Almost.
“Hey!” I yelled, louder this time. Their heads turned. First, they looked surprised at my outburst. Then Crooked-Smile beamed at me.
“What do you think you’re doing? We make the rules, bitch. You don’t get to speak. And we all know what happens when you break the rules.” The other two snickered. They started to slowly walk toward me. After that, there was a brief silence. A breeze picked up dust and carried it into the air. Little saplings quivered in the dirt.
Then they started running. My feet instinctively raised a little in panic but I cemented them on the ground, firmly standing in place. I was sick of running away. Sick of giving these bastards the satisfaction. They were a few feet away now. I screamed and hurled myself at the short one, hitting him as hard as I could in the face. He stumbled backward, yelling and grasping at his mouth. “You little shit, you’re going to pay for that!” The tall one sneered, looking down at me with rage. He rushed toward me and knocked me backward onto the ground. My head slammed into the pavement, knocking out my vision. I blinked and blinked but all I could see was black. I tried to move my limbs but nothing was happening. I tried to scream but couldn’t move my mouth or make a sound. I just existed in space. Then, a wave of exhaustion swept over me and I finally gave up, letting the blackness take me.
I opened my eyes. Above me was a high ceiling and around me, dark shadows were streaked up the walls. A hazy candlelit glow illuminated a bed in the center of the room. On the white sheets lay bushels of rosemary. I walked closer and moved my glance up toward the front of the bed where the corpse’s face was visible. It was my face.
I gasped and jumped away from the shroud. This was it. I had lost my mind. I rubbed my eyes and moaned, sure this couldn’t be real. But no matter what I did, there he was. There I was.
The door at the entrance creaked open. In came my father. He walked quickly toward me and I cried out, “Dad!” but he walked right past me, not meeting my eyes or acknowledging my presence. He bent over the bed and whispered, “Poor child, poor child.” Then he turned away and whimpered into his hands. I fell to my knees and screamed at him, hoping he would hear me. But, just as in life, he didn’t notice.
Explanation of Project
For my Second Project (apologies for it being so late), I wrote a flash fiction story that I titled “Invisible.” I named it this because the main character’s father did nothing to help his son for years while his son was being bullied even though the father knew it was going on, and he failed to notice or care how the torment was affecting his son physically and mentally. Instead of showing his son compassion, he left his son to his own devices to “take care of himself.” But it wasn’t exactly a fair fight; it was his son against three aggressors. The boy was invisible in his own house and he was invisible in death, detached from his body and unable to be heard or seen by anyone.
This story was inspired by the poem “After Death” by Christina Rossetti. In “Invisible,” we see a possible version of events–how the person died and what their relation is to the man who visits them in death. The story ends with where the poem “After Death” begins: with a corpse in a shroud and their spirit secretly listening to the man as he says “Poor child, poor child” and cries. The spirit knows that the man didn’t show them that love and care when they were alive, and thinks to themself:
He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold.
I wrote this piece reflecting on what I took away from “After Death:” the message that some people only appreciate others when they are gone. Many people who are cruel and heartless toward others wouldn’t behave that way if they knew the people they were tormenting or neglecting to care about were going to die the next day. These kinds of people treat certain others as if they don’t matter because they don’t value or appreciate the time or individuality of those people. The father in “Invisible” may not have even loved his son seeing how coldly he treated him, but he certainly felt devastated when his son passed away and he was left alone. The finality of death makes us realize how much we need certain people in our life.
In general, I think often when someone passes away, we wish we could tell them so many things we didn’t have the courage to when they were with us. Or sometimes we just wish we could tell them things we didn’t feel we said enough. There are always regrets, just try to remember that if you tried to be a good person to them that’s the best you could have done. You will always be able to nitpick at your actions and words and tell yourself that you could have done or said more. There are a number of ways you can make yourself feel guilty or beat yourself up, but the truth is you shouldn’t. It’s impossible to be a perfect person, and we all make mistakes. If you did what you felt was right, that is most often enough. Though, of course, make sure to let your friends and family know you love them and care about them. Even though it can be hard to open up, it’s always worth it to let someone know that they are important to you. Nothing bad can come out of that. Personally, I’ve often found it difficult to be emotional around others, but when you open up and are accepted by your friends and vice versa, it is the best feeling in the world.