The Unfinished Story

The cabin smelled of ghosts. Hints of long unremembered lives, shuttered and preserved in a blanket of dust. With some difficulty, she broke the window panes free of their habitual bonds and raised them, letting sunlight and a gentle breeze sweep into the front room. In the kitchen, she found the teapot and listened to the groan of the pipes as she filled it with water before setting it on the stove.

“I see I’m not too late.”

She turned with a start and grabbed at her mother’s locket resting at her clavicle.

“Good God, Peter, you scared me. At least have the common decency to shuffle your feet or clear your throat when sneaking up on someone.”

He gave her his look — the charming crooked smile with the go-to-hell eyes. He looked awful. His beard was unkempt — just beyond the five o’clock shadow but well shy of a full face. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy, as they so often were when they met, and he swayed slightly when talking.

“You’re drunk again.”

“You’re right.” He said, winking. It was involuntary.

He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, taking a deep breath of her hair. “I’ve missed that smell.”

She could not say the same for him. He reeked of whiskey, vomit and old books. His bony arms squeezed too tightly and she wedged her thumbs down between them to pry herself loose. He stepped back, hurt and confused. She turned to face him. A million words came to mind, but none of her own. She was left with nothing to say. She turned again to watch the sun set outside the window and heard him leave the kitchen.

*    *    *

They made dispassionate love in the dark bedroom, accompanied by the squeaks of the brass bed and a symphony of crickets in the hot night air. Afterward, he held her in his arms.

“Why do you keep bringing me back here?” She asked in a soft whisper. She listened to his long pause, and realized he was actually considering telling her. Her ears pricked up when his lips parted and the heat of his breath tickled the back of her neck.

“I like hearing the things you say, when I’m not putting words in your mouth.”

It was a simple, and unsatisfying, answer. She felt her eyes well up and she blinked the tears away. She didn’t want him to feel any drops on his arm. She didn’t want him to feel anything she had to give.

Her dreams were in black-and-white. They played like a story – beginning, middle, and end – with no magic or originality. They lacked poetry. She acted her part in each. And then she woke.

A stream of morning sunlight had pierced the curtains and landed on her and seemed to compel her from the bed. His sleeping arms fell away from her as she stood and approached the vanity mirror in the corner. This was not her world. Yet it was as comfortable as a childhood home. Familiar and cozy and perfect. The lilac wallpaper was faded to almost white, but she remembered the original vibrant color. She had never seen it when it was vibrant, but she remembered it all the same. She took the brush off the vanity and began to run it through her long hair, watching him in the mirror. He slept, oblivious to her stare and her hatred.

She could let the drink take him. It would, she knew. Before too long. He would either rot on the inside, or stumble drunkenly into on-coming traffic. She hoped for the former. She prayed it would hurt. That his organs would cry out in pain. That he would lose all control of himself. That he would cry and scream and apply more liquor to dull the hurt. Hasten his demise.

To whom, though, was she praying? The question swirled in her head and she wondered if it were possible to pray that a god would die. As though he were a god. In his mind, perhaps. All things were in his mind, including his own godhood. She was losing her mind, she decided. She pulled a handful of hair out of the brush and blew it, watching the strands scatter, twist and dance on the air. She set the brush down on the vanity and turned her eyes back toward Peter.

She would not wait. His death would come, but not soon enough. Not by his own actions. He would waken, he would take her again, and then he would leave. And she would go back to her world. The world he created. He would use her here and then use her there. There was no escape from him. She would move with his every whim. Except now. Now she sat in control of her own thoughts and her own actions. He was asleep and he had no power over her. This was her opportunity. Once he was awake and she was back in her own place, she would be trapped. Forever the prisoner to his words.

She rose quietly from the vanity seat and approached the bed. He never moved or roused, even when she took the pillow and placed it over his face.

*    *    *

As the sun was lowering to the horizon again, she sat on the porch and cradled her cup of coffee. Many of her questions had been answered. She had not ceased to be when he was gone. That had been her biggest fear. The feeling of someone else’s will penetrating her mind was absent for the first time. She felt whole. She felt real.

There were still questions, of course. The world would want to know what happened to Peter. They would miss his stories. He would be remembered as a genius. His works would live on forever. Would she? She smiled at the thought. There were so many directions she could go now. For once, her story was her own. For once, she could write her own ending.

Original image by Teemu008 on Flicker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

About Jeremy Kerns

Jeremy Kerns is the mastermind behind TIMID Studios, Mellow Migrations, HipstrStash and others. He writes, makes films, draws comics and searches the world for dead pixels to prove the simulation theory. You can also find his creations on Etsy at and Redbubble at
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