Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Story A Week: Punished

Sara didn’t notice the marks until she was in the shower. She winced when the hot water hit them.

She flung open the shower door and crossed to the mirror, rivulets of water running onto the white tile. That’s when she first saw them: long tentacles streaking her back from shoulder to shoulder.

“Marsden! Marsden!”

His voice floated in from the kitchen. “What?”

“Come here – quick!”

He came slowly, carrying his coffee mug in one hand, the newspaper tucked under his arm. He raised his eyebrows at the scratches. “What’d you do?” Reaching out a tentative finger, he tried to touch the mark.

“Ouch! Don’t touch! It stings.”

“How’d you get those?” he asked.

Sara shrugged as she pulled her towel off the rack. “I don’t know. I just woke up this way.”

Her mind had been sorting through the possibilities. They didn’t have pets or children. Marsden cut his fingernails severely short. It was one of his peculiarities. There was no way his stubby fingers could have inflicted this much damage.

“Looks like someone laid into you with a whip.” He smiled slowly, teasingly. “You didn’t go anywhere last night after I fell asleep, did you?”

Sara wasn’t in the mood to kid around. She finished gingerly drying her body and slid into her bathrobe. It annoyed her that her back was still damp: the way the robe stuck to her skin, fibers clinging to the raw places on her skin. She picked up a comb and jerked it through her wet hair. “Don’t be an idiot. Of course I didn’t.”


Sara sighed. “Maybe I did it to myself. Got itchy in the night.” She inspected her nails -- short, perfectly filed. She clutched them in fists before Marsden had a chance to notice her hands were shaking. Thankfully he wasn’t the observant type.

He laughed. “Yeah right. You can’t even reach those places on your back. Let me see you try!”

“No,” she said. Everything to Marsden was a game, a competition. “I’m sorry I bothered you. Go back to your – whatever you were doing.”

“Breakfast,” he said. “No, but this is interesting. Let me know if you come up with an explanation.”

“I will,” she said, pushing him out the door and shutting it after him. She glanced at herself in the mirror. The noise of the bathroom fan hummed in her ears. Leaning against the counter, she pressed her hands against the cold tile. She needed the support; her legs were trembling.

The dream. It had to be the dream.

But that was impossible.

She could still see that woman’s face, eyes like two cinders, face pocked like a potato. She’d been holding a whip.

What had she said?

Sara closed her eyes, scarcely daring to remember. “For the sins you didn’t commit.” Her voice rattled, rickety with old age. “All those opportunities to do wrong and so many times you chose right.”

Sara remembered crying out in her dream, “Then why do you persecute me?”

“Because I own you,” the old woman hissed. “All your good works – all that effort – for nothing! Punishable only by death.”

Sara sat down abruptly on the closed toilet seat. The rough fleece fabric of her robe shifted on her back. The lashes burned like fire.


  1. Hmm. Must have put my stupid hat back on today. I'm ready for part two (which, hopefully, will clarify things for me).

  2. LOL! Yes, there's deep, deep meaning in there, Krista. Just kidding. Actually there *could* be. Anyone up for a guess? Don't think too hard about it. Mainly this is just a weird story and it's okay to call it that and walk away. But if you're feeling in an analytical mood.... :)

  3. "And with his stripes, we are healed."

    Do you mean religious, deep meaning? Because with Easter right behind me, I can't help thinking of someone else who was whipped for doing what was right.

    Or do you mean that sometimes it's wrong to play it safe? It could be a crime not to seize your life, embrace mistakes, love, and work for something that you really want.

    I liked it, even if I'm completely off track, and I'd like to read more.

  4. Wow, wonderful, Myrna! Your response was fun for me to read. I always like trying to find symbolism in writing and it's really fun for me to see the symbolism that other people draw from my writing (usually there's not much ... but sometimes, in weird cases like this one!)

    I actually was thinking of religious symbolism, but I didn't want to limit anyone to that. The main verse I had in my mind was:

    "...all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

    She's suffering for even her good works because the good works we attempt to do without Christ are worthless.

    Yes, I think Easter was on my mind when I wrote this, for sure. Also, I woke up one morning with scratches down my back. I guess I'd done it to myself with my nails the night before without realizing it, but it put the idea for this in my head. Anyway, enough rambling! I'm ready to put this weird story behind me!