Writing #14: A day of Penance (fiction)

A short story in first person. Be forewarned, it’s dark.

  • “So, how are you?”
  • ‘I’ paste a smile on ‘my’ face. “Doing good, how are you?”
  • “Doing fine. How’s your day?”
  • ‘I’ tape the corners of ‘my’ mouth to maintain the smile. “Good, how’s yours?”
  • “Doing good.”
  • “Great.

The chilled metal stings my fingers. I pull my shirt over my head and stuff it into the locker, along with my boots, wallet, and other items. Slamming the door shut, I jimmie the padlock through the handle and secure the locker. I hang the key around my neck.

The austere fluorescent light shines down with harsh critique, I avoid staring at the mirrors as I shuffle towards the door. Hesitation halts my progress, a deep breath whistles through my lungs to oxygenate my dying courage. I want- no- I need this. Damn it, just take what you need for once!

“I’m sorry.” My words crackle through the silence.

  • “Did you complete that task I gave you?”
  • ‘My’ heart and brain enter panic mode “‘I’m’ sorry, ‘I’ didn’t realize…”
  • “Well, there’s no time left to do that today.”
  • SHit! “‘I’m’ really sorry about that-“
  • “Oh, that’s okay. Let’s pick that up tomorrow”
  • “Okay…”
    A sinking feeling in the pit of ‘my’ stomach accompanies the quiet voice screaming “you’ve fucked up again!”
    ‘I’ can’t seem to get that voice out of ‘my’ head…

Both hands slap the door open, my feet take me through into the dark corridor. Red shielded bulbs glow for illumination that adds further depth to the darkness. The pale walls seem to bleed. The doors are carved into the walls like recessed secrets stretching down either side of the hallway.

The silence is deafening.

I look down on my hand, a stamp beneath my knuckles glows “37” in the light. The first door says “46”, the next “42”. I keep walking down, tracking the numbers until I reach “37”.

A single window is set into the door, but it is covered. I knock on the door, eyes sinking down to my bare toes. The snick of the opened lock and the gape of the door are the only invitation necessary.

I step into complete darkness.

  • “So, who’s in charge of setting up [program W].”
  • ‘I’ begin to sweat, ‘I’ completely forgot all about that. The feeling of a thousand eyes pin to ‘my’ downturned face. Pressured, ‘I’ slowly raise ‘my’ hand.
  • “Ah, then have you completed [tasks one through fifteen]?”
  • “…It’s going well…”
  • “Good, then I’ll expect [the outcomes] on my desk in an hour.”
  • ….Bury ‘me’ now. Because ‘I’ am dead.

I kneel on the floor and allow the cold to seep into my bones. Head bowed, shoulders bent, I wait quietly. Fingers comb through my hair, and I shudder, otherwise remaining still. The fingers tighten and pull, I scramble to keep up, crawling on my hands and knees until I hit something- a wall I presume from the touch of brick.


I stretch my arms up above my head. Within seconds, a ring of steel clamps down around my wrists, keeping them suspended above my head.

  • “What the fuck are you doing?”
  • ‘I’ turn to [Tom], “Oh, hi, [Linda] and ‘I’ were just-“
  • “You don’t speak to her. You know better. No talking.”
  • Words hit hard enough to be physical blows. ‘My’ hands start to tremble. “‘I’m’ sorry, ‘I’ just wanted to say hi and-“
  • “Just. Go.”

The first strike of leather against my skin is almost painless. The second brings sensation. By the fourth strike, pain runs up my back like a trail of fire ants. Fingers clench into fists, my throat tightens as my breathing accelerates.

But my brain is busy, never ceasing. Never stopping, that Voice NEVER STOPS.

  • You know what the worst part is? Looking in the mirror and hating that face, that person.
  • Everything.
  • Hell, even devils love themselves. You… you’re another kind of fucked up.

Teeth clenched against the sting on my skin, but that is nothing compared to the memories, the words the looks the expressions aimed at me all day-

  • Loser. You are nothing and no one. 

Fire wraps around my ribcage and I scream! Tears shower down my face like rain, my fists hitting the wall until my knuckles bleed.

“I’m SORRY!”

For failing, for breaking, for letting you down. For all the shit I do wrong. 

“I’M SORRY!!!!!!!!”

Softly banging my head against the wall, my hands clench into bloody fists slamming against the walls. Guttural screams claw from my throat, shattering walls of glass.

My wrists fall from their shackles, sobbing I curl up on the floor, limbs shaking in vibrato.

Hands swoop down, turning my face from the floor. Warmth wrapping its arms around my shoulders, a palm on my chest encourages me to lean back.

Slumping to the floor, I stare up, unseeing. Buried under the weight of my failure. Clutching my raw throat, listening to that broken voice cutting hoarsely through my ears, it takes me a moment to realize


that voice is my own.

A hand covers my chanting lips, a soft gentle whisper through the darkness.

“Shhh…it’s okay. You’re going to be okay.”

Shaking my head, I shut my eyes. I tunnel into the warmth as shudders rack my frame. Somewhere someone is whispering,

I’m so sorry…

I open my eyes to a gloomy day. The clouds hang low, pregnant with desolation, mumbling discontent, spitting sparks of temper. Stifling air, nary a breeze to stir the humid air.

Traffic flows in the street. My phone weighs down my pocket. I ignore my emails, my messages. No calls, yet. Headphones tapping a rhythm and mood of serendipity.

And for a moment, briefly…peace.

“So, how are you?”

“Doing good, how are you?” PASTE ON THE SMILE.

“Doing fine. How’s your day?”

 “Good, how’s yours?” MAINTAIN THE SMILE.

“Doing good.”


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