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There Is No Way This Turns out Well: A Short Story

A Short Story

A couple weeks ago I did a writing exercise, just something to keep my skills sharp, and I shared it with the HP community. This, then, is the short story borne from that exercise. I hope you enjoy it.

Tucked into the woods

Tucked into the woods

The Encounter

I remember thinking, there’s no way this turns out well.

Have you ever experienced that? You’re suddenly faced with a situation, a decision, a fork in the friggin’ road, you take a moment to ponder, your neurons engage, your options flash by in a millisecond, the computer between your ears comes to a conclusion, and that conclusion is nope, no way this turns out well no matter what the hell I do.

That’s where I was two months ago, a knock at the door, me on my second cup of tea of the night, turn the tv off, get up off the couch, open the door and there she was, breathtaking, a catch-of-the-breath beauty, raven hair flowing over her shoulders, green eyes illuminated by the porch light, her exhales pluming in the nighttime cold, maybe five-six, maybe one-twenty, hard to tell with the bulky clothing, holding a manilla envelope in her left hand.

She didn’t raise her head enough to look directly at me, choosing instead to keep her head bowed, raising only her gaze, an odd gesture I thought at the time.

And my first thought, the aforementioned there’s no way this turns out well.

Such a strange thing to think, faced with loveliness, nothing out of the ordinary happening outside, nothing at all to trigger that thought, and yet there it was, harkening back to the cave man, hunter-gatherer of yesteryear, trusting instincts fueled by life and death experiences, fight or flight, choose right or become a meal for others.

There’s no way this turns out well.

I should have listened to that voice.

there-is-no-way-this-turns-out-well-a-short-story

What I Should Have Done

I should have closed the damned door right then. It would have been so easy to do, a simple movement of my arm, right to left, gently close and latch it, forever shutting her out from my life. I knew it then. I know it now.

Instead, I sought answers in those guarded eyes, answers to my uneasiness.

“May I help you?”

Her answer pierced my heart.

“I need help!”

That’s where it should have ended. Pull out the phone, call 911, let the cops handle it. No visit, middle of the night, to my cabin, two-hundred yards off the main road, unseeable from the road, couldn’t be anything other than trouble. I knew that, deep in the marrow of my bones, some animalistic switch in my brain, turned on, saying flight is always the best option when faced with the unknown, tell her to wait outside while I call for help, do it now while there’s still time to embrace safety.

“Come in, let’s warm you up by the woodstove, you can tell me what the problem is.”

The interior lights showed her to be thirty, give or take a year or two, maybe ten years my junior. I pulled a chair from the table, set it near the wood stove, took her parka, told her to have a seat.

Still no direct gaze from her as she quietly shook from the cold just escaped.

“I need help!”

“Is someone chasing you?”

A shake of her head.

“Let me get you something warm to drink and you can tell me all about it. Hot chocolate all right with you?”

A nod, hugging herself, looking at the floor.

No one chasing her, but she needs help. Middle of the woods, Cascade Mountain foothills, late March, colder than a witch’s tit, no reason for her to be where she was, no reason for me to give a damn, but she needs help.

I live where I live for a reason. I don’t want this shit in my life. Quite simply, I just want to be left alone, thank you very much, is that too damned much to ask?

But she needs help!

How Do You Say No to That?

I wasn’t raised that way. You don’t refuse to help someone who genuinely needs it, and she needed it in the worse way.

I handed her the steaming mug.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

Another shiver from the cold. The outside seemed to grow quieter, as though we were in a space vacuum, no sound possible.

“I’m going to die.” Almost a whisper, like a wisp of wind gently caressing my face. The hair rose on the back of my neck. My arms tingled. Flight or fight, it came down to that, I don’t know how I knew, but I knew, one moment from the millions we live, one moment, one decision, flight or fight, forever altering the course of a life.

“Is someone threatening you? Who is it? Where is this person now? Give me something to work with and maybe I can help.”

She shook her head, took a sip of the hot chocolate, finally raised her head and looked directly at me, the green eyes boring a hole into my psyche.

“I have a brain tumor. I was told at the hospital, St. Pete’s, there are only five surgeons in the world who can perform the surgery. You’re one of them. I need you to save my life.”

There it was! The impossible asked.

“If they told you that, they must have also told you I retired. I don’t do surgeries any longer. I’m terribly sorry, but I’m no longer a practicing surgeon.”

A single tear slid over a downy cheek.

“It’s growing in my brain right now. They said they can’t operate. They said it’s too dangerous. And yes, they said you retired, but I need you. I know all about Paula Stillwell. I know she died, but I don’t care. You must help me.”

there-is-no-way-this-turns-out-well-a-short-story

The Past Returns

Paula Stillwell, a name I had spent nine months trying to forget. They had said her tumor was inoperable, but they had been wrong. Everything proceeded as planned, perfect extraction of her deadly invader, me dead tired from an emotional week from hell, too little sleep, too jangled nerves, the slightest of slight movements and a nick of an artery. We stopped the bleeding, pumped new blood into her, and then the cardiac arrest. Paula died on the table. I left the hospital staff the next day, world-renowned surgeon retreated to the cabin, drank heavily for six months, dried out for three, and then this woman, and the past, returned. There simply is no such thing as outrunning the past.

She handed me the envelope she had been clutching.

“My hospital records. Please look at them.”

How could I make her understand what I went through after Paula’s death? A surgeon who doubts himself should never enter the operating room again. It’s as simple as that, a recipe for disaster, a landmine on a gentle country lane, should be permanently closed to traffic, never give the damned thing a chance to explode.

“Paula Stillwell died because of my mistake. I tried to drink myself to death afterwards, but I even failed at that. Believe me, you don’t want me raking around inside your head. You have no idea what you’re asking. I’m rusty. A surgeon needs to constantly hone his craft, and I haven’t picked up a scalpel in far too long.”

Another tear. Again, eye contact.

“Paula Stillwell was my sister! She and I had a horrible argument several months before her death. We weren’t speaking at the time of the operation. I wasn’t even there when she died, and I should have been.”

The walls seemed to shrink inward. For a thirty-second count I was afraid to breathe. I could feel my heart, a locomotive pounding in my chest.

“Then why me? I’m the one who killed your sister.”

She placed the mug on the floor, stood up, took two steps to where I was sitting, cupped my face in her hands, those damned green eyes wrapping chains around my heart.

“Because, Doctor Andres, it’s all about redemption! We are both in dire need of it.”

I should have never opened that damned door!

We’ll Leave It at That

I don’t know where this is going, but there you have it. Maybe this is Chapter One. Maybe it’s a fitting ending. We shall see, but thank you for reading.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 09, 2021:

I couldn't resist, Cynthia! Next chapter will come out next week. Thank you for your kind words.

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on June 09, 2021:

That was engaging and enjoyable. How will you resist continuing this? I know you have a few different angles to the story. Hopefully, we'll see one of them in your following chapters. Have a creative day! Cyndi

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 30, 2021:

Bill, you're welcome always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 30, 2021:

Thank you for the praise, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 30, 2021:

I appreciate that very much, MG! You made my day with that comment. Thank you!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 29, 2021:

I agree with the reservation that, I've not read O'Henry. Bill's a good story writer. Thanks.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 29, 2021:

I agree with the reservation that, I've not read O'Henry. Bill's a good story writer. Thanks.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 29, 2021:

Writing a short story is an art by itself. One can remember O'Henry the master short story writer. You have that knack of creating an interesting short story. This one was beautiful, thank you for it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 29, 2021:

Thank you Rodric! So many questions, so few answers, the key to a "mystery." Now it's my job to reveal all. It's good to have you back among us, buddy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 29, 2021:

Thank you Brenda! Chapter 2 is about half-finished. I hope I can continue to make it riveting. We shall see.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 29, 2021:

Thank you again, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 29, 2021:

I am very happy with awesome, Flourish. Thank you!

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on May 28, 2021:

It turned out well! It is a great start to a good story. He is hurt about how his sister died, but will he change his heart about surgery to help this emerald-eyed beauty? Will she use her power to lead him to the operating room, her power of seduction? Can he even get credentials at a hospital to do the surgery if he wanted? Being one of a few who could perform the operation may help. So, yeah. Chapter One.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 28, 2021:

Bill,

I thought i had posted a comment, but maybe it didn't work.

In any case...a shorter comment.

Great job! I love it and I'm glad to hear you have started chapter 2.

I still haven't tackled that challenge yet.

Take care.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 28, 2021:

I agree. It's awesome.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 28, 2021:

Awesome. That's all I'm gonna say.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 28, 2021:

I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Nithya. It felt good writing a short story once again.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 27, 2021:

Hey Bill, so do I.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 27, 2021:

I was drawn into your story and was spellbound from beginning to end. Looking forward to reading the next chapter.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Denise, thanks so much! I don't know exactly when I learned repetition, or from whom, but it can be very impactful when used correctly. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and noticed its use here.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

You are very kind, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Thanks again, Devika!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

I go where my muse takes me, Zulma, and I travel when she travels. I'm waiting for her inspiration, but Chapter Two will come.

You have a great weekend too, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Once is greatly appreciated, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Twice, EK? Thank you so much. I'm so happy you enjoyed my story. You stay safe as well, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Audrey, I don't know what to say about praise like that, other than to humbly say thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

That kind of praise from you, Mr. Happy, means a great deal to me. I'll leave it at that and simply say thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

It was my pleasure, Alyssa. What good is a story if it is not shared with friends? Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Thank you, Miebakagh! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Thank you, Misbah! I am so happy you enjoyed this story. Now, on to Chapter Two!

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

I hope you do write about that event, Gyanendra. I look forward to reading about it. And thank you for the very kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

I just started Chapter Two, Marlene, so I'm committed.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

I am humbled, Dora! Thank you! It won't be a hard climb, I promise.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

I really appreciate that, Devika! Thanks so much.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on May 27, 2021:

I love your use of repetition to paint the picture that is forming in his mind. I'm always afraid of becoming redundant but you use repetition so artfully. I have to study that and see if I can't use it sometime. That had us all rivited! You are a master!

Blessings,

Denise

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 27, 2021:

Yes, I agree. And really.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 27, 2021:

Loved it!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on May 27, 2021:

Seriously, Bill? After a set-up like this, you're just going to leave us hanging?

I do hope your muse speaks up soon. We need to know how this ends.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 26, 2021:

While I read it once, its superb interesting.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 26, 2021:

Superb work, Bill. I didn't even miss a word and read it twice. I want to read more chapters. Thanks for sharing with us...

Stay safe and healthy...

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 26, 2021:

Agreed with you.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on May 26, 2021:

Riveting, suspenseful! The opening line grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. This is writing at its best. Heck - you are the best!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 26, 2021:

You should teach writing indeed. You're very good at it.

That first sentence alone: "I remember thinking, there’s no way this turns out well" has set-up conflict, right away. (People like conflict.) Second sentence, as brilliant as the first because You are engaging on a personal level with the reader: "Have you ever experienced that?" Awesome!

And then, drip-drip-drip: "you can tell me what the problem is" but then, the problem is not told to us right away. You kept-up the suspense. Continuing: "Is someone chasing you?" Still nothing. We are not told what is "wrong"; what the conflict is.

"Tell me what’s wrong." - After a third attempt we begin to get some answers: "I’m going to die.” Haha!! I mean, what more tragic/impactful answer could be given? It's a shock and at the same time, it invites more questions: "Dying?" Why is she dying? So, You keep the reader hooked. I mean ... how is this anything but great? You're hitting all the right notes in my books. I mean, I am still not very much interested in fiction but the technicalities on how to do it: fabulous!! Thank You very, very much!

Cheers! Have an awesome remainder of a week! : )

Amara from Pakistan on May 26, 2021:

Wow Bill what an intriguing write up!! Will be waiting for next part.. Thanks for sharing yours this creative piece with us..

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 26, 2021:

Hey Bill, this is an interestly short story. While you gave her all help deserves. Great read! And thanks.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on May 26, 2021:

Mr. Bill, it's an amazing story. You know how to grab the attention of the readers. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much

Stay safe and healthy

Blessings and Peace

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on May 26, 2021:

Bill,

I can't describe it in words about how I feel it after reading the story. This is simply a master craft for me to learn.

It has really happened to me right from 14th of April onwards while helping a person in dire need. Sadly lockdown is getting strickter each passing day which began from 16th of April. Fight or flight these two words have hammered my brain for days. to help him or not any further.

I must be able to write that event the way I have read the story here.

Thank you.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on May 26, 2021:

Okay, Bill, I'm going to need to see Chapter Two. I am intrigued and want more. Feed me!

Dora Weithers on May 26, 2021:

The suspense seems regularly spaced like steps going up the stairs. Only we don't know the height of the stairs. This is beyond great. You definitely got my interest.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

Jaye, I appreciate your kind words. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

We shall see, Peg! Right now I'm not sure what will happen to this, but hopefully my muse will release more information soon. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

I am happy to hear that, Nayanjyoti. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

It's catch and release, Linda, so you are safe. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! I love fishing, don't you? :) I appreciate your support.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

Thanks Sha! I was going to go very dark, but at the last minute changed direction. I'm now waiting on my muse to see where we go with this one.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

Thank you, Rosina! I am happy that you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

I am humbled by our words of praise, Sally. Thank you, and it was nice to hear from you. I hope you are well.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 26, 2021:

Hi Bill glad I got this one on time. You definitely got me reading to the end. You are talented and write with great imagination.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

I appreciate that, John! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

We shall see, Liz! I'm waiting for my muse to let me know. Thank you!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on May 26, 2021:

Excellent story, Bill. It could be the premise for a novel. Keep going with it.

Jaye

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 26, 2021:

Nicely told, Bill, with a hook to keep the reader wanting more. I hope you choose to continue the story and let us know what he decides. And how it goes for them both.

Nayanjyoti Mirdha from Tezpur on May 26, 2021:

Love the story Sir.Happy Wednesday.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 26, 2021:

Wow, Bill. No one does it like you. I'm hooked.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2021:

Bill,

You are similar to an expert fisherman who hooks a fish and expertly reals it in. Your story reminds me of the way you started your book, Resurrecting Tobias. There is no way to put down a book and let it linger when you immediately grab people's interest. This story needs to expand!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 26, 2021:

Wow, this must continue, Bill! I can't wait to see what form redemption takes. Knowing your Shadows characters and the darkness that sometimes dwells within your muse's soul, this could be sinister. I love it when you go sinister! Then again, it could go the way of "I'll show them who's not washed up!" route, too.

Can't wait to see where you go with this, my friend.

Rosina S Khan on May 26, 2021:

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Great imagination and well-crafted too. Thank you so much for the wonderful read, Bill. Happy Wednesday to you.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on May 26, 2021:

Loved the story, it hit all the right spots for me. No doubt about it Billy, you are a master of your craft.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 26, 2021:

Bill, this story was amazing and you had me hooked from that opening line. Whether you end it here or continue the story it is an excellent and riveting read. Loved it!

Liz Westwood from UK on May 26, 2021:

It's 'edge of the seat' drama in this well-crafted piece of writing. I look forward to your next installment. There has got to be one, surely?

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