Monday, November 15, 2004

Darkside - A "Short" Story

This is a short story I just finished writing yesterday for my creative writing class. It will be read outloud in my class by a volunteer (The author is not allowed to read his own paper) either Tuesday or Thursday. Once that happens, I will update this post with the reactions I receive from the class. Until then, enjoy the story. It is my first real attempt at a "serious" short story, so it was a real learning experience for me.

DISCLAIMER: This story is 8 pages long when double spaced, so if you have a short attention span, please take this opportunity to set aside the next 5 minutes of your life and glue your head to your monitor so you will not get distracted while reading it. I appreciate any comments you might have since short stories are new writing territory for me, and I can use any advice I can get. I hope you enjoy it...


“Good night Anna.”

“Good night Dr. Stevens. See you in the morning.”

Anna is a good secretary - very organized, prompt, and reliable. She was the only one who didn’t make a pass at me during her interview. I do all the job interviews myself, seeing as how I’ll be working with them five days of the week, and considering how this is my own practice – Dr. Russ Stevens, Psychiatrist. That’s right, I’m a head doctor. My job is to deal with all the loonies of this world and somehow alter their self-perception to the point where they swear I’m a genius and practically throw their pocketbooks at me. I’ve always liked helping people, even if they are stark-raving mad. In fact, that just makes it more fun. I’ve always been proud of being level-headed, rational, and sober-minded, and I think that rubs off on my patients and is part of the reason my practice has been so successful.

I am 29 years old and have been told I am rather physically attractive, but I am not married nor am I looking. After having to listen to so many stories of heartbreak and ruined relationships in my six years of practice, I am of the belief that having a significant other just isn’t worth the emotional baggage.

I get into my cherry-red Porsche and drive away towards my house. I live alone in a nice neighborhood in Southern California, in a gated community. My house is big enough to comfortably have another person live in it besides myself, but not big enough to make it seem lonely or empty. I park my car in the middle of the 2-car garage, and enter the house from the adjoining door. I look at my watch. It reads 8:37 PM. I am not physically tired, just mentally tired from having to converse with so many patients today. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have such an easy job. All I have to do is listen to and talk with people. But what if I had some ball-busting-manual-laboring-type job, like a construction worker or a street monkey? Although I suppose even those jobs have their upsides…I could go on disability the minute after I break my legs from falling down an open sewer, or possibly after getting hit by a wrecking ball, and never have to work again. Ah, the tough decisions we have to make throughout our lives. I decide to grab a bite to eat, and go to bed.

As I lay in my bed, I think to myself. I think of myself as being a rather witty and smart person, always using humor to my advantage to get the best of any situation. But there’s a part deep inside of me that just feels empty, like I’m missing out on something critically important in life. I’ve been trying 29 years to fill that void with alcohol, drugs, women, work, school, anything - I’ve tried it all, and nothing has filled it for more than a few fleeting moments before it empties out and makes the void even deeper. Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it as far as I have. Sometimes I feel like I should be the one lying on the couch listening to the psychiatrist, instead of the other way around. Don’t get me wrong. I am a happy person. I enjoy life and am generally a nice person; it’s just that everyone has a dark side to them.


I wake up, drenched in my own sweat; my heart feels like it’s trying to rip itself out of my chest. I look at the clock that sits on the nightstand next to my bed; it reads 11:57 PM. I have just been disturbed from my sleep by a recurring nightmare that I have been having at least once a night, without fail, for the last eight years…

My older brother Jason and I went to a local club, the Drug N’ Chug, to celebrate my 21st birthday. It was his idea. I didn’t know at the time since we were never very close, but Jason was dropping acid and doing other dangerous drugs on a regular basis, and he brought some acid with him to the club that night. Jason and I both dropped the acid together. This particular trip, combined with all his previous brain-alterations, caused his brain to short-circuit as he freaked out at all the excitement and activity inside the club. He pulled out a knife and just began slashing at anything, and anyone, within reach. The last thing I remember before passing out was seeing my brother being restrained and beaten to submission by the club security. I don’t remember much else about that night, but I remember waking up in a hospital bed, my shirt and jeans covered in someone else’s blood, and having a nurse tell me that my brother was dead. It was at that moment that I decided I would never try to fill that void inside of me with drugs again.

The recurring dream I have been having that has just woken me up again tonight was a short reenactment of that moment, only I am the one wielding the knife. And the part that scares me the most is that I have this leftover feeling of bloodlust and rage each night I wake up from the dream, and I really enjoy the feeling, even though I know I could never do something like that in real life. I wipe the sweat off of my brow, and return to sleep.


A painful groan escapes my lips as I roll over onto my side to look at the clock. The luminous red lights say that the time is 8:13 AM. It’s too early. I roll back over onto my back, and in the process, I discover that not only am I exhausted, but my entire body is aching. I try to sit up but a sudden pang shoots through my abdominal muscles, encouraging me to stay right where I am. I place my hand on my stomach and discover I am wearing a T-shirt, even though I don’t remember putting one on when I went to bed. As I feel the shirt, I notice that it is a little damp on the front. As I lift off my covers to inspect it, I let out a scream.

The entire front of my white T-shirt is dark red, saturated with what looks like blood. Momentarily forgetting about my soreness, I quickly jump out of bed as if it had suddenly burst into flames, and discover that I am fully clothed – with a bloody T-shirt, a pair of jeans also complete with blood stains, and a pair of my old tennis shoes. I lift up my shirt to see if the blood is my own, but I have no lacerations that would constitute that amount of blood; however, I notice several bruises on my stomach, and as I inspect myself further, I find many other bruises and small cuts along the length of my body. Baffled, I try and remember what happened last night. I think back to my haunting nightmare, and wonder to myself if just this once, somehow, it hadn’t just been a dream.


Unable to accept the notion that somehow I may have done the unthinkable last night without even having the slightest memory of it, I stumble out of my room into the living room, and plop myself down onto the couch. Still dressed-to-kill so to speak in my bloodied attire, I turn on the television to try and take my mind off of my worries and suspicions, not to mention my aching body.

“…walked in on mah girlfriend and I done saw her getting’ it on wit’ mah cousin, and…”
Jerry Springer, what a load of crap. I change the channel.

“…right Chet, we need to tell Bubbles that she is carrying your child…”
Soap operas. Seriously, who watches that crap and thinks up those names? Those writers need to be fired. Next channel.

“…demonstrated, this revolutionary knife can cut through shoes, bricks, telephone poles, bowling balls, and even this slab of cement! Watch how easily it *SNAP* …oops. Bill, is it supposed to do that?”
Idiots. I could sell elephant dung in bulk better than those numbskulls could sell that flimsy knife. I never realized how much daytime television really sucks. One more channel.

“…police say they have obtained the license number of the suspect’s car from a witness and are in the process of tracking him down. Witnesses describe him as being a white male, in his 20’s or 30’s, of average build and height, wearing a light-colored T-shirt and jeans. The name of the bouncer who was murdered at the Drug N’ Chug has not been released to the public yet.”
I turn the television off and set the remote down on the couch. It couldn’t be. It must be a coincidence, a horrible coincidence. My head starts to spin and I become disoriented. My head suddenly feels extremely heavy, as if my neck can no longer hold it up, and I rest it on the back of the couch. I wish I had someone to talk to.


I am awakened by a loud rapping at my front door, and I hear someone yell, “Police, open the door now!” This is not happening. I pinch myself to try and wake myself up from this dream, but the very real pain greets me as I realize that in fact, this is no dream, but is surely a real life nightmare. I am still wearing my bloody shirt and pants. I’m as good as convicted if I open the door right now. I decide my only option is to get out of sight, and quick. I run as fast as my body allows me into my room, open the closet door, squeeze in amongst my formal suits and shirts I have to wear everyday, and close the door.

Seconds later, I hear a loud crash as the wood that used to be my front door shatters. My heart races as I hear footsteps pounding their way through my house. I hear voices shouting to one another, but I am too scared and confused to make any sense out of them. Soon enough, I am able to catch the tail end of an exclamation, “…out, we will release the dog.” Oh great, just what I need - bite marks to go with my bloody clothes and bruised body. I figure I’ve been through enough today, so I open the closet door, stick my hands in the air, and surrender myself voluntarily.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand your rights?”

“Yes sir,” I replied to the officer who had placed the handcuffs on me.

“Do you know why you are being placed under arrest?”

“No sir, I do not.”

“You don’t? Well, why don’t we ask your shirt?”

“I don’t know where that blood came from.”

“Probably from the bouncer you murdered at the Drug N’ Chug last night.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know what you did.”

I didn’t. I don’t remember a single thing about last night besides the dream I had. I’ve read of people experiencing altered states of consciousness where they are awake but are unaware of their actions. But most of those people are druggies or mentally retarded or both, and I am neither. Could it be that my job is finally getting to me? After hearing so many stories of things that have gone wrong with other people’s minds, has my own mind lost its grasp on what is reality and what is fantasy? Being a construction worker doesn’t sound too bad right about now.
I arrive at the police station a short while later. After what seems like an eternity, I am brought into a small room presumably for questioning. A short and stocky man enters the room a few minutes later. He introduces himself as Lt. Perkins, and says that he will be conducting the questioning.

“Mr. Stevens, where were you last night at 2:10 AM?”

“In my bed, sleeping.”

“Is there anyone who can verify this?”

“Just myself.”

“I see. And how do you explain the blood stains on your shirt and pants?”

“I…can’t explain them. I don’t know how they got there.”

“Oh, well let me enlighten you. According to the police report and witness testimonies, you were seen at the Drug N’ Chug last night at 2:10 AM. Apparently, you drove there, parked your car in front of the club, walked up to the bouncer standing at the door, and stabbed him with a knife repeatedly. In case you don’t know where all those bruises on your body came from, you apparently took a pretty good licking from the other bouncers who were trying to restrain you, before you were able to get in your car and drive off. Fortunately for us, a witness remembered your license plate number, and we tracked you down in no time.”

“If you’re so sure I did it, why am I being questioned?”

“It’s standard procedure. If you’d like to forego the questioning and proceed right to jail, be my guest.”

And so I did. I was sent to jail for a murder I have no memory of ever committing. Some quack later diagnosed me with a neurochemical imbalance thereby supposedly explaining my altered state of consciousness. It seems like just yesterday I had everything I could ever want – A good job, a big house, lots of money, a fast car. It amazes me how fast it was all taken away from me on that infamous night. It made me think of how fleeting life is, and I started wondering if all those material things in life were really worth wasting 29 years to get when they could be taken away in an instant. I began to wonder if there was more to life than just pleasing oneself. And then it dawned on me. I remember one of my patients telling me once that she was a devout Christian and that whenever there was something wrong in her life, she would pray a certain prayer, called the Jesus Prayer, and it would fill her with hope and help her through her daily struggles. That concept has baffled me up until this point in my life, but I think I’ve finally found the thing that I’ve been searching for to fill that void in my life with…

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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