Category Archives: short story

Hear no evil

Hear no evil

Hear no evil

“Seriously, why can’t all you ‘survivors’ just shut the fuck up?  Why do you have to ruin people’s lives?  I mean, it all happened years ago, right?  So, why can’t you just get over it?  Why can’t you leave it be?  Why do you have to drag it all up, and destroy other people?”

“Steve!” Enid exclaimed.  “Don’t be so rude!”

“Oh, that’s okay, Enid.  Steve is entitled to his opinion.”

“But…”

“Enid, don’t be embarrassed.  There a lot of people out there who think and feel just like Steve.  So, Steve, do you really want to know why we ‘survivors’ speak out?  Or, are you just letting off steam?”

“Oh, I’d really like to know.  I am so sick of hearing about people having a good old whinge because they were abused as a child.  I wish you’d all go die in a hole together somewhere, you know?  You’re all a mob of sooks – wimps who can’t take a well-deserved thrashing, and now want everyone else to pay.”

“Really?  Steve, you have a daughter, right?”

“Yep.”

“And how old is she?”

“Four.”

“And you wouldn’t dream of having sex with her right?”

“Are you kidding?  She’s my daughter, for fuck’s sake!”

“True, but some people do have sex with their children, and even when the kids are younger than your daughter.  All you have to do is pick up any newspaper and you will see it is happening all the time.”

“I hadn’t really noticed.”

“Anyway, you knew my father quite well, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, that’s why I reckon you’re lying.  He wouldn’t have done any of the things you say he done.”

“Ah, but he did.  And his favourite age for young girls was six years old – not much older than your daughter.  Most of his friends have young daughters.  He would spend lots of time with their parents and, in the process, lots of time with the girl.  He would tell the parents he could mind their daughter if ever they needed time out…”

“Like he did for us?”

“Yep, just like that.  Over time, usually a few years, he would then start making the girl feel special – praise her for doing things that pleased him, giving her special treats, treating her like she was a little princess.  If they were a little older, he would play on their budding sensuality, flirt with them, tease them to make them blush, touch them ever so slightly here and there to get them used to being near him.  Talk dirty, occasionally.  I’m sure you’ve seen this happen?”

“Like he was doing with Jessie?”

“Exactly.  His favourite thing of all, was to take them away for a weekend or school holidays – camping or something similar – take them to somewhere they’d never been before.  All in the name of education, of course.”

“Didn’t he take Margaret to the city once?”

“Yes, he did.”

“That doesn’t mean he did anything.”

“True, but what if I am not lying, and he did?  How would you feel then?”

“Dunno.”

“From the way you have spoken before, Steve, it sounds like you hate me for speaking out?”

“Yeah, you killed him.”

“You are entitled to your opinion, but what if the things I am telling you are true?  How would you feel about me if I hadn’t spoken out?  If I hadn’t brought this to people’s attention, and he had continued grooming your daughter?  What if he had put his fingers in your daughter’s vagina because I hadn’t broken the silence and tried to stop him molesting other girls?  What if he progressed to raping her?  How would you feel about me then?  If I had known what he was like, but never said anything?”

“I’d be pretty pissed.”

“You would probably hate me even more than you do now.”

“But I don’t think he did what you said.”

“Go away and think about it.  Think about all the times you have seen him with your daughter, had her on his knee, tickled her under her shirt, showered with her.  Think of all the times you have seen him with other girls.  Really look at how he behaved.  The inappropriate double-entendres with prepubescent and teenage girls.  The eagerness to have young girls stay over.  The trips away with one or two girls at a time…”

“But his wife was always with him.”

“I was molested with my mother in the room.  I can guarantee it can happen in a split second and right in front of other people.  Where there is a will there’s a way, and he had perfected his methods.”

“That can’t be true.”

“Just think about it.”

“Maybe.”

“Steve, there are lots of other reasons we speak out, but the safety of those still in danger is often a major factor in the decision.  The reason it usually takes so long, apart from all the psychological damage that has to be worked through, is that most people who were abused as a child think they are the only victim.  If it’s only them, why bother?  But when others are at risk of experiencing what we’ve experienced, the matter becomes urgent.”

“I still don’t think it’s true.”

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A loss of creativity

Unable to think outside the box

Have you ever read something that you have written years after you wrote it and wondered, “Where on earth did that come from?  Did I really write that?”

That happened to me earlier tonight.  I was looking back at some of my very  early writing and while reading one short story had no recollection of writing it.  If it hadn’t been a rough draft in my own handwriting I would have thought someone else had written it.

Normally when I read stories or articles I have written I get memories of where I was sitting, what I was thinking, where the inspiration came from etc, but for this piece I have a complete blank.  Why would that be?

Anyway, going back over some of my old stuff will hopefully inspire me to write some new stories.  I have been overwhelmed by emotional issues for quite some time now, and as a result have been on medication which I believe has hindered my creativity.  Oh, I still get ideas, but instead of being sparks that last long enough to be fanned into something more substantial, these are like instantaneous flashes that die and fall away before there is any chance of moulding them into anything useful.

Now that I can acknowledge my lack of creativity and the possible cause of it, I hope to formulate a plan to get me back into some kind of writing routine.  I miss writing, a lot, and I really want to get back on track – I’m just not sure how to do that yet.

So, while I’m trying my best to get some kind of story down, you will probably see a few more contributions from my unbelievably talented young cousin, Lucinda.

Fire

The following is a guest post by my 11-year-old cousin, Lucinda Cubbard.  Please feel free to leave some feedback for her in the comments section below.

Nobody guessed that it would happen.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was enjoying listening to the Old Gum telling stories of ancient times.  It was always great fun to listen to him.  He would explain everything in great detail, and would recite his stories slowly and carefully, as if it would demolish the purpose of the tale if he were to mispronounce a word.  I usually interrupted him while he was mid-way through a sentence to ask what something meant, but he was always patient with me and didn’t seem to mind if I expressed my curiosity, unlike all the other Old Trees.

He told tales of all sorts.  Sometimes he spoke of aboriginal rituals and beliefs, and other times he tutored me on forest ways.  All in all, he’s a great tree. Today, he was telling me about how whip birds cried to each other as a way of talking.

“Truly beautiful creatures,” he rustled.  “You may think that whispering through leaves is the best way to communicate, but I’m telling you now youngster, the feathered critters are geniuses when it comes to speech.  They are also the best ones to rely on when it comes to sending messages. The tune of the bird song stays in their head you see, so it is nigh impossible that they would forget the message.  And their wings are an ideal way to travel, as it makes them faster than most animals and they can also get through places when nearly nobody else can.  As you can see, they are the ideal mes-…“

“How fast could they get over the mountains?” I asked. “Surely they can’t go any faster than a brumby.”

“Oh, they can go much faster than a brumby, youngster.”  He seemed very amused by my question.  “They can get over the mountains in about an hour or so.”

“Really?”  A small shiver from his leaves sent me an affirmative.

“So as I was saying, whip birds are the ideal messengers.  Curlews are also good messengers, but not as so.  Their strong voices can be extremely useful, but not to someone who’s a mile away.  No, if you ever have the choice between a whip bird or a curlew to take a message, choose the whip bird.  Now I’m going to catch myself some shut eye, as I suggest you do too.  I have a meeting with Boobook tonight, and it’s probably going to go on for a while. ”

And with that he dozed off.  I watched him sleep for sometime, but I quickly grew bored.  I gazed up into my leaves, seeking out the purple flowers that I was now old enough to have.  As a jacaranda, I was supposed to gain my first flowers this Summer.  It had been a week since the first of December, and I was getting worried.

“They will come with time.”  Old Gum had told me when he had once caught me searching my branches for a blossom.  Lost in thought, I kept searching my leafy branches.  Five minutes passed and still no flowers.  I gave up and examined a bellbird perched on Old Gum.  I wondered if bellbirds were as good as whipbirds at messaging.

“Go to the Ancient Holly and tell him that his flowers are the finest in the whole forest,” I said to it.  The bird cocked its head and flew off.  Shock filled me.  I hadn’t intended it to actually work.  Oh well, the flowers were quite spectacular.

Suddenly, a curlew cried its blood curdling call from somewhere in the distance.  It sounded strained and panic filled.  I squinted in the direction of its scream.  Black smoke was rising from a few trees.  Horror blossomed in my trunk as I realised what the cause of the curlew’s alarm was.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!” I yelled. “FIRE!!”

The Old Gum was instantly awoke to my shrieks.

“What?” he yawned.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!”

The black smoke was approaching us quicker than a possum gliding through the trees.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!”

I glimpsed a golden flame slithering its way towards me.  Dread drowned my heart.  No longer could I scream.  The soil around my roots was suddenly dry and acid-like smoke was filling the small clearing that I grew in.  Flames whipped my trunk, setting it ablaze.  I cringed in agony as the inferno engulfed me.  It was as if the entire world was being set alight.  Through the flames, I saw many birds soaring from the trees.  Creatures of all sorts were shooting past my trunk.  I wanted to scream for help, but my throat was drier than a rock in the Simpson Desert.  And any way, who would stop to help a mere tree when their own life was in danger?

Glancing to my left, I saw that Old Gum was also alight.  But he seemed calm.  It was as if he welcomed the thought of death.  Well, I certainly didn’t!  Pain shook my body as my branches crumbled to ash.

“Hmmmm…,”  I thought.  “It looks like I won’t be getting any flowers today!”

I was disgusted by my own black humour.  With a sickening crunch, my trunk gave way, unable to bear the heat.  I tumbled down, and for a dreadful moment, the world spun.  Round and round.  The sky was now a charcoal black, or was that the ground?

That was when I blacked out.

*   *   *

With a groan, I reluctantly opened my eyes.  I had to blink a few times because of a shining light.  When my eyes adjusted, I saw that the dazzling light was the sun.  The sun, shining through what looked like black and white bones protruding out of the ground.  I looked closer and realised with a shock that they were not bones but trees.  Burnt trees.

Suddenly, memories started pouring into my mind.  I remembered that there had been a fire. I grimaced at the recount of my agony of being set ablaze.

This led me to remember that I had collapsed and rolled along the ground.  But if I was on the ground, then the world would be horizontal, not vertical.  I scanned the clearing, searching for my trunk.  I noticed that the ground did seem a lot closer to me now than it had before.  Ignoring this fact, I continued to hunt for my body.  And there it was.  A lifeless log was resting against another tree.  I recognised it as mine immediately.  Sadness filled me like water into a jug.  An empty jug at that.  It took me a while to realise what tree my body was resting on.

“Old Gum!” I exclaimed.  I was surprised I could talk after my voiceless episode last night. “Old Gum! You’ve grown!”

The ancient tree smiled down at me.  His trunk and branches were now white and black.  His branches were bare, which sort of disturbed me, for I had known him for my entire life, and he always had had leaves clouding his top half.  Only now that I saw the tips of his branches did I realise how big he was. He had known I was awake, but had chosen to let me recuperate instead.

“No, Jacky, you’ve shrunk.”

I stared up at him in dismay.  It was true.  I was now nothing more than a pile of roots and a small section of trunk.  The old tree saw my misery and then said, “You should be grateful to be alive.  That fire did some serious damage to you, but still, you survived.  And anyway, now I get to see you grow up all over again!!”

© Lucinda Cubbard 2011

The Past and Present

Dear Quondam,

There are some things I need to say to you.  Words I should have said a long time ago, but never had the courage to say.  Things that have lain between us for nearly twenty years, left unsaid and festering.  Now the scab has been removed from the wound in my heart, and it is time to clean out the mess, including what has been left by these unspoken words.

I think you now know that our time together was doomed from the start.  Right from the very beginning, in fact years before we met, our future had been destroyed by the things that had been taken by force from me as a child, by someone who was meant to protect me.  I was not whole, even at our first meeting, so our feelings for each other never had a hope of blossoming into anything more than nameless, shapeless forms that were destined to remain unidentified and unexplored.

Oh, we tried to make things work, I know that, but neither of us had the knowledge, experience or skills to understand that our problems were not really ours.  The problems that we had, well ninety-nine percent of them anyway, were rooted in all the secrets I carried with me.  In all the fears I tried to keep buried, all the nightmares I never told you about, and my constant expectation that the world would end without warning if you became to close to me emotionally.

Thanks to our ignorance, when we parted I did not feel the slightest twinge of sadness and regret.  To be honest, I didn’t feel anything, not even indifference.  I just carried on and tackled the challenges that came my way to the best of my abilities.  I never regretted or begrudged our time together, but I didn’t dwell on our past or fantasise about a reunion either.

Almost two decades later I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed and confused.  All the feelings that I never identified or acknowledged are now pouring out of my inner core.  With each conversation that we have, I am not only flooded with memories, but with the unacknowledged feelings that go with them.  Did I really feel all of this at the time?  Or am I now creating fantasies of what should have been?

It is hard to know if these feelings were there in the past or not.  I would like to think that they were.  It would be nice to think that the unconscious parts of ourselves did know that we truly cared for each other, even if our conscious minds didn’t care less.

When I talk to you now, I feel like you know who I really am.  I feel as though I can tell you anything and you will not judge me, nor will you feel any differently about me after listening to what I have to say. I feel as though I can turn to you when the chips are down and that you will be there to pick me up.  I feel as though we are connected on a soul level, and that no matter what we do, that connection will only ever get stronger not weaker.  I feel like we have wasted too many years not speaking, not caring, and not listening.  I feel tempted to make up for lost time.

On the other hand, I know that things will never change.  We will never be anything more than what we are right now – but there isn’t a name for whatever we are.  We’re not lovers, but we have been.  We’re not friends, but we could have been.  We’re not family, but we should have been.

I will never recover the things that were stolen from me, I know that now, but I am learning that I can live without them.  I wish I had learnt it sooner, so that we could have benefited from an amazing opportunity to build a life together.

The final thing I want to say right now is “Thank You”, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Yours in memory,

Au Courant

They Told Me To Write

This is all I have written in the last 24 hours.  It’s not much, but it is at least something.  This piece is not finished, and as always, it is unedited.

They told me to write, so I did.  That’s how I came to be here, sitting on Death Row, waiting for them to take my life.

I can almost see you scratching your head, wondering how on earth the simple act of writing could lead to Death Row.  There’s probably a dozen different scenarios running through your mind right now, but I’ll bet you ten quid that none of them are as far-fetched as the truth.

It all started twenty years ago.  I was a witness in a trial and I had to speak the truth about my past.  Half-way through my cross-examination, my voice faltered at first, and then died completely.  I became mute, trapped inside my body, alone with my thoughts, and unable to communicate without the aid of the written word…….