Friday, January 15, 2010

#fridayflash: Willpower

By Lily Mulholland

Sarah had saved the new skin for a special occasion, growing it with the obsessive care of an orchidist. Determined to keep it blemish free, she had kept her left arm encased in cotton for the past two weeks. She wanted nothing to spoil its pearlescent purity.

But today had arrived and after school Sarah locked her bedroom door. She prised up a loose floorboard, revealing a cavity housing a small black tin, from which extruded two long tails of scarlet ribbon. She grasped a tail in each hand and gently pulled up the tin from its repository. Sitting on her bed, Sarah placed a black towel across her lap and opened the tin, selecting the new scalpel she’d stolen last week from art class.

Today was the day she’d been dreading for weeks and she’d used up all her willpower just making it through the day. She’d been holding on tight, knowing release would come as soon as she could escape home. Laying her left arm upon her lap, Sarah drew the surgical steel across the milky white skin of her inner forearm, pinking pearls of blood in its wake. As the red lines began their scarlet dance, she breathed out the tension that had been consuming her for weeks.

Sarah had performed at the school concert, been showered with praise and told what a clever girl she was. ‘Such a beautiful, confident girl’, she’d heard the teachers say to her parents. ‘Oh yes, that’s our girl.’ She laughed bitterly. They knew nothing about her. And she liked it that way.

~~~~~

(Photo: Peg Essert)

30 comments:

  1. Wonderful first paragraph! I did not guess there where it would head. I thought it was a beauty thing! :)

    You've told very well here a story that is so universal: self injury! People who cut are desperate for relief from emotional pain.

    The girl is this story seems to suffer from self-hatred and no self-esteem as your last paragraph shows.

    Cautionary tale told succinctly and well.

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  2. Vivid, concise. Opening is wonderful, and the ending has bite that lingers. Nice.

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  3. Oh, terrifying Lily! So powerful. I'm not (never have been) a teenage girl and yet I feel the attraction and the release too - which is scary. This is so spare and so real. Fantastic.
    ~Simon.

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  4. I've known teens who 'cut' and while it is nothing I would ever glamorize, I love the way you give insight from the teen's perspective - with just a few short paragraphs there is a sense of understanding that is still beguiling, still intriguing. Beautiful prose, so complete in itself. Really well done.

    - DJ

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  5. Oh, sweet girl, don't do that.

    Spot on here, Lily. This is tough stuff.

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  6. Heartbreaking! I've tried to understand cutting as I've had some people in my life affected by it, but I can't say I'm any closer to understanding. Though,the character here gives me shivers, so realistic. And where did you get that scary picture??? wow, brutal.

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  7. Shuddering. Realistic angony from a teen's point of view. It made me conjure up emotions from that time period - still vivid after all this time. Spot on, Lily. Bravo!

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  8. Oh my gosh Lily, that is chilling! I'm so glad I don't have daughters!

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  9. I love the color scheme, Lily: black and white and pearl and blood. I only wonder if her laugh needs to be bitter. She's so certain and superior, she might be more inclined to pity.

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  10. oh boy, this is filled with silent emotion.
    So well writen Lily.

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  11. This is a really intense look into a very troubled mind. You've presented it respectfully here, without glorification but also with understanding. Very well done.

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  12. Powerful. Concise. Unsettling. Great story.

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  13. This is so sad and scary. I know people who "cut" it represents deep and inner angst that most of us will never know. You skirt as to her motivation and this is very descript and well written, but very very scary for me.

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  14. I agree with Sam, this was an unsettling story.

    I would like to have known a bit more about Sarah that they knew nothing about.

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  15. Whoa, absolutely chilling. It is so sad to think there are young people doing this to themselves.

    This was so well-written, but I agree with others - very unsettling. You really nailed it.

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  16. This is an interesting sentiment not often captured in literature. The comfort of being unknown, of not having your inner life available to public scrutiny, is quite real. I feel it, maybe more often than I should. For that, you touched me with this one, Lily. Right through my old skin.

    One note: in the second sentence the verb "keep" appears twice as "to keep" and "had kept." You could clean it up by changing the second clause to "she left her arm encased in cotton".

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  17. Frighteningly realistic. I like the way your story builds. It's so sad that people do this to themselves.

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  18. What a powerful, powerful story. Such sadness that doesn't really bleed out until the end. Good story!

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  19. Poor kid! Lots of powerful emotion in a compact package -- nicely done!

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  20. Wow. I had to re-read this three times.

    I've been a cutter. This wasn't exactly my experience, um duh, but pretty intense anyway. I favoured a dull blade skipping through my skin. Scarred better, felt better.

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  21. Thanks everyone for your comments this week. I knew I was taking a risk with this piece and am glad it's been well received. This was one of my knock-backs from Every Day Fiction - thanks to their critique and yours I can now see the problems with this piece. You guys are fantastic!

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  22. On the plus side, EDF publish crap like mine and every other cosy POS that gets submitted by their friends. I love that site, but the harpies that screen the stories there are weak or deluded.

    Not really thinking of submitting to EDF again...

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  23. Intense story. Read this twice, and got the same 'whoa' in my gut. You'll find a home for this... Peace, Linda

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  24. That's a disturbing but, to my eyes, accurate picture. I knew a cutter, and I have some sense of how Sarah feels.

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  25. Ouch, you have unleashed the memories...
    Very good piece

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  26. This was sharp and painful. You did an excellent job with a difficult concept. Really well done.

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  27. Brief and powerful. A point of perspective not easily told. Fantastic as always.

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  28. I thought this was great. You move a long way in a short distance. Liked the image of her growing skin specially, and the pearls of blood. Only thing that jarred was "pearlescent" as I thought that was too much, a simpler image might be better?

    Great stuff though

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  29. Insightful story. Sad that this happens, but you present the emotional state well.

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I love reading comments so please do leave one! I would also appreciate your constructive criticism - life is a learning journey and I'm enjoying learning a lot about my writing.