Writing Group: Don’t You Dare (PRIVATE)

Hello, Daredevils and Thrill Seekers!

Are your hearts racing? Do you feel those tingles along your spines? Have you got your favorite comfort item? Well, prepare yourselves, because…

This week’s Writing Group prompt is:

Don’t You Dare

Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!

This prompt provides quite the challenge. Usually, these three little words are an order, like a parent admonishing a child before the child does something naughty. Or perhaps it can be an extremely strict army sergeant working to keep new recruits in line. 

What about the games of “Chicken” or “Double Dog Dare” that you and your friends challenge one another to, adding more and more outrageous dares as the games continue? Or maybe it’s a joke that not everyone knows about. What if someone takes it a tad too far and someone gets hurt or an even more fatal outcome occurs? 

Perhaps someone takes it as an opportunity to defy the nature of the phrase, engaging in a dangerous mission while knowing the consequences? What if it turned out that the person made a good call in their decision? 

Will you heed the call or turn the other cheek? The gauntlet has been laid; all you have to do is pick it up. 

We triple dog dare you.


Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.

Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!

The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.

Rules and Guidelines

We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!

  1. Text and Formatting

    1. English only.
    2. Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
    3. Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
    4. Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
    5. Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
    6. Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
    7. No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
  2. What to Submit

    1. Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
    2. Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
    3. Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
    4. No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
    5. Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
  3. Submission Rules

    1. One submission per participant.
    2. Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
    3. Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
    4. You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
    5. Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
    6. Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
    7. You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
    8. Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.

Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.

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1 year ago

Flowers for the dead
By Blinky

Her brother’s grave had been ravaged the day after being laid to rest. His body was plucked from the ground and hung above the city plaza. A pointlessly cruel message that even dead her enemies would allow her family no peace.

He had committed no sin more significant than entering this world with the name Flores. He was a good man, a loving father, and the only politician who cared about his city. His hands were clean, but their family’s business tainted his blood.

She called for war. Her Abuelito denied her. “Don’t you dare seek vengeance, Mari. Don’t you dare bring another war to our home. I’ve worked my entire life to rip our family out of this business. You will not drag us back down into it. I will go. I will seek peace.”

He was left above the plaza too. She buried peace with him.

She called for war, and her soldiers answered with blood. Her enemies dragged her family into this pit, and so she would show them the monsters they thought were long gone. There would be no rules, and she would spare no innocent. She would not rest until every last one of her enemies swung where her loved ones did. Their mouths stuffed with marigolds.

She called for war, and her city burned. Consumed by her grief and thirst for vengeance, she torched entire neighborhoods to extinguish those who wronged her. She demanded blood and could not be sated. Not when all her enemies ate flowers. Not when her family begged for peace. She burned and burned until even her home was not safe.

She swung above the plaza too. When her family could no longer stand the monster she had become, her son could no longer recognize the mother he loved.

1 year ago

A Single Chance
by Exce, edited by LunaBear

The sea-gate buckled, great oak bars splintered, and the wings of the door swung slowly open.

Thick smoke rolled out before it was pushed aside by the prow of a ship sliding into place next to a jetty.

Not bothering with a ramp, a figure leapt off the very same prow, slamming down on the jetty. A man wearing a captain’s cloak over a simple shirt, breeches and sturdy boots.
There was a layer of black ooze covering the jetty, but as the man landed, there was a violent hiss and brilliant white light flashed for a moment as the ooze was turned into smoking residue.

“Neat trick.” The man’s hair seemed to glow, seeming to be made up from strands of crystal. The same applied to his beard, and to the visible bits of fingernail and teeth. His eyes were also aglow, but without the crystal quality to it.

There was a general commotion on the walls, shocked guards oscillating between jumping into action and trying to flee.
An older looking man appeared in the otherwise deserted, wisely evacuated, courtyard. He was wearing an officer’s uniform. Before he could get a word in edgewise, the glowing Captain raised one hand.

“I must warn you, Commander, don’t you dare and resist. I am of a mind to accept a bloodless surrender and handover of power.”
The man gave a noise somewhere between disbelief and horror. “Brightbeard is offering to show mercy? Excuse me if I do not fall to one knee, crying with relief.” Shoulders sagging with a sigh, he opened his mouth to speak again.

A loud, deep twang of wood shaking under the impact of a heavy bowstring cut him off.

Glowing eyes rising, Brightbeard swung around his arm. Fingers splayed, a blinding line of light cut through the air towards the keep. There was a gout of flames, before the liquified bolt-tip hit the cobbles with a shower of sparks.

Qaulas Medirach slowly lowered his hand as, behind him, heavy ramps slammed onto the jetty. “Well, I am not one to ask twice. Make your peace Commander.”

1 year ago

by Lavorther

I sighed, drumming on the edge of my laptop with my thumbs.

“Sounds like it’s going well.” Looking up, I wasn’t surprised to find her lounging on the couch, lazily tapping at her phone.

“Took you long enough to show up. I have less than 24 hours left for this prompt.”

“And that’s my problem… how, exactly?”

I glanced at the empty document in front of me. “Come on, don’t be like that. You’re supposed to be my muse. We had a deal: you provide the ideas and I write them.”

She rolled her eyes and put her phone down, finally looking at me. “You know that’s not how this works.”

“Well, it was fun while it lasted…”

In the blink of an eye she’d crossed the room, slammed my laptop shut, and was up in my face.

“See, that’s your freaking problem! You keep complaining and asking me for ideas, but you’re ready to throw in the towel at the first hint of resistance. I thought this was your new writing outlet? How many stories did you write for these prompts anyway?”

“T-two? Three, I guess, but I didn’t post-”

“And you’re already giving up?” She laughed. “Pathetic.”

“I mean, if you’re not going to cooperate…”

“Did it ever cross your mind that you need to put in some work, too? That you might need to actually earn my help?”

I swallowed. “I just thought that if I found the right thing, perhaps it might get easier, you know?”

“Newsflash: writing is hard. But don’t you dare give up on it again. You keep bouncing off projects and ideas, just stick with something for crying out loud!”

“Okay okay, fine. No need to yell.” I took a deep breath and opened my laptop again. “Thanks for the pep talk, I guess?”

“You’re welcome.” She grinned and returned to the couch.

“Though that still leaves me without an idea for this prompt.”

She sighed. “I guess… you could write about me?”

“I thought you didn’t do ideas?”

“You can have that one for free,” she said with a wink.

jesse fisher
jesse fisher
1 year ago

When the bottle cracks
By Jesse Fisher

This emotion…I must keep it down. A clenched fist, grinding teeth, a twitch of the eye. It is not the time to let it out. Ignore the others and just focus on the task at hand. This should be easy, just let them go and I’ll be alone again. Then I can relax and let the emotion smolder and let itself die.

“I don’t know if you noticed…”

Yes I NOTICED, I see it every day because I”m here and taking care of stuff while you are off elsewhere. How could I not NOTICE, I’ll take care of it once you’re gone because YOU’LL leave it to me anyway.

“Are you even listening to me? When did you get to be so rude?”

When did you not take the hint that I’m agitated from this? I mean have to be shaking right now, surely you must notice that, oh great noticer of things. No keep your emotions in check, they will just move on after a bit. I know this game, is it even a game or am I just trying to justify my thinking.

“You know you just live in this room and never see the world.”

Ignore… “You know if you got all the things figured out why are you wasting time here?”

“What do you mean ‘wasting time’?”

“If you are this perfect person then why are you telling me this stuff if you think I’m too dumb to notice it?”

“I never said that…”

“No you implied it, and don’t you dare tell me otherwise.”

1 year ago

In Defiance of Fate
By Giovanna J. Fuller

“Aethra, don’t do it!”

The young woman stared down into the casam that led to the bowels of the earth. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from it. The horrible, intrusive thoughts kept her in place while her survival instinct was screaming at her to step away. The pit called to her, enticing her to take that final step forward and slip into the abyss. It would be so quick. Just one, last decision and she would be gone. The idealization of her final moments alive were blocked by the pounding of her heart. She didn’t want to do this. She didn’t want it to be this way. She didn’t-

Footsteps against the cold stone of the wall’s pathway brought her attention back to her surroundings.

“Don’t come any closer.”

The king knelt before his successor, pleading. “Ae, let’s talk. Just come back down and we can-” Aethra pulled the gemstone from her pocket, the sight of it silenced him.

“All of our troubles stem from this.” She raised it high so that it caught the sun’s light. Red and blue, but never purple, rays reflected off its shiny edges.

The girl’s mentor slowly rose. “You would deprive our people of our birthright? The power promised to us by the ancients, you would kill yourself and take the crystal with you?”

“A king who rules with absolute power is no monarch…she is a monster.” Aethra looked at him one last time, as though to memorize his features for the future. “Tell them I’m sorry. If there was any other way, I-” She stopped herself. “It is a fitting end. Goodbye.”


Her fingers tightened around the crystal and she stepped forward.



Last edited 1 year ago by Tale Foundry
Calliope Rannis
Calliope Rannis
1 year ago

An Unexpectedly Sticky Friend (Nyx’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis

Nyx finished packing her supplies and stood, looking out towards the rising dawn.

The forest had been a fun change of scenery. But she was definitely looking forward to urban life again, despite the dangers of her work.

She stepped forwards, and –

“H-Hey! You’re already leaving?”

Nyx turned back to find her new half-hag friend, freshly awake and confused. “I’m not much of a goodbyes person,” she said apologetically. “And I’ve got a long way to go, so I should-”

“You could have told me dear!” Louise replied with exasperation. “I would have started packing up earlier!”

“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t – wait, why are YOU packing?”

As Nyx said this, Louise was already rushing across the camp, piling up bottles and bugs. “To go with you, of course!” She called back matter-of-factly.

Nyx blinked. “Uh-um-what do you-erm, I mean, why? Like, thank you for saving my ass with all those witches and everything, but you don’t need to escort me out…”

Her words did not seem to slow down her friend’s bustling manner. “I said I was going with you, silly! Not escorting you, that’s completely different!”

Wait, GOING going? As in, all the way to –

Nyx walked up to Louise, clasping her shoulders with her hands to keep her in place. “You really, really shouldn’t be doing that. My life is – well, it’s dangerous. Especially for you.”

Louise looked up at her, affronted. “You think this forest is safer than your buildings?”

“No-no, I don’t. But, this forest is your life, and has your dangers. And the city has my life, and my dangers. It’s different, and it could get you in big trouble.”

“Hmm!” Louise looked thoughtful for a moment, before a sly grin crawled up her face. “Well, if I do get in trouble, then I suppose you will have to protect me then, won’t you?”

Nyx’s cheeks reddened. “Err, I don’t know if I-”

“After all, I did that for you. It’s a fair exchange dear!” Her grin widened.

Nyx tilted her head resignedly, and smiled. “Fine then! But don’t say I didn’t warn you.“

Last edited 1 year ago by Calliope Rannis
1 year ago

By Hemming Sebastian Bane

The little red hut sat on a lonely hill. The two trees beside it stretched towards the dark dismal sky, bottles tied to its branches swaying in the wind. Lightning flashed as Rot approached the hut. This was it. This was the house her mother had lived in. This was where she was born. The hut seemed to inhale as the red-headed inquisitor approached the door and knocked.

Rot had hoped for an older woman who would call her by a different name. She had hoped for an embrace she could finally collapse into. She had hoped for a long stay that she could tell Tobias about when she returned. Instead, a bloodshot eye peered between the door and its frame. It looked up at Rot and immediately slammed the door.

Rot sniffed. Something smelled off in the hut. The inquisitor drew her trusty tomahawk and kicked the door. With a crack of splintered wood, the door toppled in with a loud crack. Thunder boomed as Rot stood in the doorway. The woman in the hut cowered in the back corner, her ten wings covering herself from harm. The hut’s room glowed with a light that humans mistook as holy. But Rot wasn’t human. She knew what this thing was. And it certainly had taken her mother.

“On your feet, demon!” Rot barked.

The figure obeyed despite its own will. It lowered its wings, revealing dozens of eyes upon an androgynous human form. Its expression contorted into malice as Rot brought her tomahawk to its throat.

“Speak! What was here?” Rot said, pressing the blade into the skin.

The demon shrieked with a sound that could shake the firmament. “There… there was a woman here. A witch! Yeeeees, a witch. She! She-she-she-she was the one who summoned me.”

“Liar!” The tomahawk blade eased into the skin, molten gold blood beginning to bead against it.

“Better for a dark witch to lose her life to a demon than a werewolf.” It cackled.

With one motion, the demon’s head toppled to the floor. The work done, Rot sat down and cried.

1 year ago

Like Father, Like Daughter (Illusions of Heroes)
by Gerrit (Rattus)

Hiqir stood with his arms above his head, a feigned look of fear on his face. “Please, don’t do this! I’m innocent!” The wooden sword stabbed between his ribs and he fell to the ground, clutching his chest where the wound would have been.

As he dropped to the floor he began to laugh, a sentiment echoed by Rhiza standing only a few feet from him.

“Got you, foul beast! I’m the greatest knight in all the land!” Rhiza shouted her victory as she came to stand next to her downed father, fists on her hips. “I’m gonna be even stronger than you someday, Dad.”


Pleasant memories faded away as reality came crashing back down. Hiqir stood, hands at his side, breath coming heavy and ragged. One hand still clutched around the hilt of his sword, but he knew there was no use in swinging it.

The point of his enemy’s sword pressed against his chest, almost to the point of drawing blood. Somewhere between a rapier and a longsword, it was thin enough to pierce weak points in armour, while still thick enough to parry any oncoming blows.

Two runes had been carved at the base of the blade, evidence that this knight was of no little skill. ‘Sharpness’ and ‘Strength’, two basic runes, but impressive even still.

“Any last words, Undying?” The last word was laced with mockery. She seemed to be taking pleasure in knowing she would render his title a lie.

“I’m sorry. I wish I could have done you better, if only I’d known how. But I’ll always love you.”

“Don’t!” She spat out her words nearly the moment his were finished. “How dare you say that to me, after everything you’ve done?”

Hiqir stayed silent for a moment, searching for any words that might pacify her. He knew there were none.

“You’ve become a truly great knight, Rhiza. Even more so than myself. This will likely earn you another rune, once the Pillars learn of your triumph.” He let his sword fall to the ground, and smiled.

1 year ago

What a Terrible Night (Students of the DiamondBridge Academy universe)
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
(cw: blood)

Roselyn tapped her toe against the carpet of her mother’s mansion’s study, staring out the window to the snow-covered grounds outside.

Sam was late. Nearly twenty minutes late, which was unusual for the batfolk. She was always punctual when Roselyn invited her to provide a welcome distraction from her mother’s parties. But this party was special! Her mother’s Solstice Celebration! The perfect day to finally ask Sam for a dance! So why was she late—

With a creaking of hinges, the window flew open. In fell Sam and a pile of snow.

“Sam!” Roselyn smiled. “You’re finally here! What took you so—”



Sam tried to push herself off the floor with her left arm, then collapsed again. Roselyn couldn’t get a good look at her face in the dim lighting.

“Sam, you’re just in time for the main celebration! You can get up, right?” She reached down and grabbed Sam’s hand.

“No!” Sam yanked her arm free.

Roselyn held her hand up, frozen. She suddenly realized it was sticky. The cold air was starting to reek of blood.

“I have—” Sam propped herself against the wall, “—sprinted here, through a blizzard, in the sky, with almost no moonlight to power me—” she winced, “—and I fell on some trees, probably broke something—”

“I can fix it!” Roselyn reached for her wand. “One minute, and then we can dance—”

“I do all this, and for what?” Sam got back on her feet, her fangs catching the light. “For you to blatantly ignore me and my friends at school? For me to spend evenings like this following your every request? To be treated like a toy for your own amusement?”

Roselyn dropped her wand, eyes widening and watering.

Sam sighed. “I can’t talk to you right now. I’m going home. Don’t EVER invite me here again.”

She shuffled towards the window.

Roselyn stretched her hand out. “I—”

“What?” Sam hissed.

“… I’ll arrange a car for you. And a coat.”

“I’ll wait by your stupid front doors.”

Sam hopped the windowsill.

Roselyn let her tears fall.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

1 year ago

A Shiny Red Button
By MasaCur

Myrgan finished cutting open the blast door with the plasma cutter. Together, he and Rydia pried the doors apart.

Myrgan looked around the empty command center. “Well, the place looks abandoned. I guess we should see what we can find out here.” He made his way to one of the terminals and tried to boot it up.

“Oooh! Shiny!” Rydia said.

Myrgan didn’t even look over at her. “What did you find, Rydia?”

“A button! A big, shiny red one!”

Dread filled Myrgan’s soul. “Don’t touch anything!” He managed to connect to the outpost’s server, and started scanning through folders for information.

“I’m the captain; you’re just the underling. You can’t tell me what to do!”

Myrgan slapped his hand onto his helmet, right above his forehead. He jumped out of his chair and bolted to Rydia. “Stop whatever imbecilic thought is staggering through the street carnival you call a brain! We’re here to find out why the outpost was abandoned, not to engage in your every childish whim!”

Rydia stuck her tongue out. “If they didn’t want me to push the button, they shouldn’t have made it so enticing.” Her hand hovered over the big red button.

Myrgan slapped Rydia’s hand away from it. “Go find something else to do!”


“The button even says ‘Danger’ on it in big letters! Clearly this is not a button for touching!”

Rydia crossed her arms, clearly sulking. “Fine. I’ll go explore somewhere. Maybe in engineering.”

“I swear by Gorlach of the Unending Marsh, if you push any buttons that you clearly shouldn’t, I’m going to get back on our ship, and leave you here to die.”

“Well, don’t worry about it, because I clearly won’t.”

Myrgan sat back down in front of the terminal, and found the daily logs for the outpost. He started poring through the files going from newest to oldest.

Minutes later, the intercom crackled to life. “Attention. Self destruct sequence initiated. Please evacuate according to command protocols. Thirty rotational segments and counting.”

Myrgan thumped his helmet against the terminal screen with a groan.

1 year ago

No Pain, No Gain
By Marx

Matt longingly looked at the glowing red sign above the exit. It was like it was taunting him. Calling to him, not unlike a Siren. It would be so easy. It was a straight shot from where he sat. He could make it. He didn’t belong here. He could escape. He could be free of his eternal torment of the damned.

“How do these look?” Caitlyn arrived once more and lifted her foot for Matt’s benefit to show off her shoes.

He winced, realizing his escape was impossible for the time being. “They… look like the last pair…”

Caitlyn’s beautiful golden eyes narrowed in clear exasperation as she blew her light brown hair from her face. “Baaaaaaaabe, these are completely different! These are white with polka dots and the other pair were white with circular negative spaces!”

“Right… Negative… spaces… That’s… completely different, huh? Don’t know what I was thinking.” Matt sighed. “And what were the ones before that again…?”

“Those were the Swiss Cheese pattern.” Caitlyn replied, rolling her eyes. “I’m really going to need you to focus here.”

“I’m focused. I’m focused. I’m… right over here focusing up a storm.” Matt nodded, feigning as much enthusiasm as he could when he realized the danger he was in. “Okay… I would say… those are the best so far. The ones you’re wearing now.”

Caitlyn gave Matt a blank look. “The ones I’m wearing right now? Babe, they don’t even go with the dress.”

“If they weren’t an option to begin with, WHY were you asking me in the first place…?”

“Because I wanted your opinion! Ugh!” Caitlyn stomped off again down the shoe aisle.

“Matt…” Laila leaned over and whispered in his ear. “I love you. And because I love you, I’m willing to help you out here. Flee. Flee and never return to this place.”

“But… she’s trying on swimsuits after this…”

Laila paused, mirroring Caitlyn’s earlier blank expression. “You are such a… teenage boy…”

“I know! But… I mean… LOOK at her!” Matt motioned to the aisle.

“Fine.” Laila crossed her arms. “Then you’ve chosen suffering.”

L. L. Marco
L. L. Marco
1 year ago


By L. L. Marco

Ajila ducked her head down as another set of footsteps rushed by their hiding place. She couldn’t see how many agents had swarmed around the abandoned building but she knew it was too much for her to handle. or rather… her eyes drifted over to her companion, sitting unusually still beside her. It wasn’t that Ajila couldn’t take them on. It was that if she unleashed her full potential, she couldn’t keep Rhian out of the crossfire. That was the one thing Ajila wouldn’t risk; she would not sacrifice her friend to save herself. So there was only one choice.

“Listen and do not argue,” Ajila whispered, placing her hands on Rhian’s shoulders. “They only want me. Shapeshift into one of them and slip out the back; they will never know the difference. You can still leave.”

Rhian’s eyes widened. She opened her mouth to speak but nearby footsteps silenced her; instead, she shook her head. Ajila’s brow furrowed; every second wasted was another moment closer to them being discovered. There wasn’t any time for this.

“I won’t leave you,” Rhian whispered. “You didn’t do anything! W-we can explain it to them… We…”

“You know that is not how this will go, Rye. Do this for me–”

Warmth. It bloomed across her lips and down her entire body as Rhian, with all the bravery she had, silenced Ajila with a kiss. Their first. Ajila was completely caught off guard. Before she could return the kiss, Rhian pulled back and her body immediately began The Shift.

Ashen skin replaced her pale flesh; her skin cracked and her form grew. It took Ajila a moment to process what was happening. Why she she looking at an exact copy of… herself.

“Prove our innocence, Ajila.” Rhian took a deep breath and then stood. It all happened so fast, but to Ajila, the moment moved like sludge. She watched, horrified, as her friend leapt from their hiding spot and straight into the enemy. The enemy that knew no difference between a shapeshifter and Ajila. Rhian looked back and mouthed one single word:


John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
1 year ago

A Long Night.
John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)

I woke with a start. My heart raced, and I rose. Sarge was looking out from our improvised foxhole. Slowly, I surveyed the surrounding terrain. The clouds were clearing, and a crescent moon shone, illuminating the ground near us.


Time seemed to slow as Sarge’s body rocked back. A cavity covering one third of his head appeared. In that moment I could make out a red angry mass of brain tissue, the surrounding white jagged fractured skull and frayed Kevlar of his helmet. A spray of blood, tissue, and fragments splattered me, and the sick, sweet smell of blood assailed my nose.

I shook my head and my heart raced. As I tried to force myself to slow my breathing, I sat up and blinked my eyes. I was back in my room, the lousy efficiency, the only thing I could afford with my VA disability.

I sat up, reached for the bottle of Jim Beam on the table next to the couch, and chugged the rest of it. It burned as I swallowed it down and waited for the oblivion it promised. My sight was blurry, and I blinked away tears.


The alcohol wasn’t working. Another night, another nightmare. If I couldn’t numb the ghosts, the half-drunk ‘whys’ would come. Why was it that Sarge died, and I didn’t? Then the mix of more flashbacks and memories of all the others I lost or couldn’t save would come.

“Not again. I can’t. I just can’t.”

I reached over; opened the drawer on the table and took my M1911 pistol out. Sliding the action open, I confirmed there was a round in the chamber and put the barrel in my mouth, the metal cool against my skin.

Someone knocked on the door. “John, are you in there? John!”

I didn’t answer and pushed the barrel deeper and aimed towards my brain.

The door opened. “It was unlocked.” Terry, the outreach peer vet, stood in the doorway. He turned towards me, “Don’t you dare.”