Back to the Woods

When she wakes, she’s on the opposite end of the bed, and her bonnet—which she wears to protect her fragile curls from her plagued tossing and turning—rests on her pillow, where her head should lie.

But her pillow, the case, the sheets, and—when she peers over the edge of the bed—the carpet too, are not the same off-white they were when she fell asleep last night. They’re stained a greenish brown, and it doesn’t take her long to find the culprits. She pulls her knees to her chin, dragging her feet, caked in mud, across the bed and leaving a trail.

“Oh, God.” She sighs and tries to run her fingers through her hair, but they get tangled in something other than her usual curly knots.

Twigs. Short, skinny, broken-off twigs, tucked in her hair like stylish Bobbi pins. One by one, she plucks them out, careful not to tug too harshly on her curls.

One, two . . . five . . . eleven . . . fifteen . . .

The more she collects in her lap, the more she finds in her hair, along with leaves, dry, brittle, and crumbing when she tries to pick them, creating an even bigger mess.

After all these years, had she really gone back to the woods?

She turns her attention to her journal on her dresser. She must write this down. The pills don’t work, the alcohol. She’s graduated to sleepwalking.

But at least she’s stopped dreaming.

Yes, if one good thing can come from this, it’s a night without seeing his face lit up by the flames of that bond fire. The last time she trusted the trees to keep a secret.

That, she calls peace.

When she rises, she catches the first glimpse of herself in the mirror, and all the air escapes her lungs as if being squeezed in an invisible force’s fist, and breathing becomes a chore. She buckles to the floor, missing her bed completely, her knees popping underneath the sudden weight of her body. More than just her hair, her feet, her eyes like soulless dark pockets. On the front of her night shirt a stain, bright crimson, stretches from the bottoms of her breasts, across her stomach, past her navel and bleeds onto the elastic waistband of her pajama pants.

Blood. But no pain or sign of an open wound reveals to her that it is not her own.

“Oh, God. Oh, God.”

The pills, the alcohol, the dream she couldn’t stop dreaming until . . .

“I went back to the woods.”

Where his face still lives. The heat of the fire, his hot breath. Her screams stifled by his sticky, sweaty palm on her mouth . . .

With all her strength lost in her legs, she clings onto the fitted sheet and pulls herself onto the bed, flings back the covers hiding the evidence of what happened to her last night.

Evidence that could incriminate if anyone were to find her like this.

You know what they would think. You wanted it . . .

Things keep happening to her. The mud, the blood, the sleepwalking.  Things she hoped would stop with the pills, the alcohol.

The dream, his face, his weight, his naked skin . . .

The rock.

Bigger than her hand. Weighty. Cool as night. One side covered with moss painted with the same blood she wears until she rolls it over with her fingers for a closer look.

His face, his face . . .

He had no face. And she remembers. What happened. Not to her, but to him. When she went back to the woods. To end the dream, recurrent ever since the night he took her to that bond fire, led her deeper into the wilderness, away from the crowd, pinned her against the tree, pounded between her legs for her to let him in.

One stroke, wild-eyed bewilderment.

Two strokes, a gash as deep and as wide as this rock.

“It’s not moss.” Squishy, oozing between her fingers just as it oozed from the side of his head.

The pills, the alcohol.

His face . . . Gone.

She wonders now, will she sleep?

#1MinFiction: Cycle

I was relieved to have a boy. That he was lighter than his father. That the Missus wouldn’t abuse him like all the others I bore.

He was raised with his white half, grew up to give me commands.

When his sister was born, I tried to keep them apart. She was black like me, slept in the attic…

At night, years later, I hear the stairs creak under his heavy boot. My stomach twists in knots when she reemerges with the sun, her dress torn.


Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. Monday’s BlaPoWriMo / Black History Month-inspired prompt was the above photo of a mammy and her charge or, perhaps, a mother and her child. In that time, the lines were often blurred.


#BlaPoWriMo: Work

Work all day under
the hot sun; at night lie still—
until Master comes


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

Me Too

“Aye, baby, lemme get some of your water!”

“Come back with a better pickup line, and maybe I’ll think about it.”

Stacy tucks her water bottle under her arm, juggles her keys in her hand, closes her fingers around the small can of pepper spray on the chain, just in case he takes her comment as an invitation to follow her to the car.

That happened to Remy just last week, in this same parking lot. Thankfully, a cop was a few spaces down, writing up a police report for a minor fender bender. He gave the creep a stern talking-to about boundaries. It might’ve made a difference had the guy been a twelve-year-old boy, but it gave Remy enough time to speed out of there before he tried anything else.

Tisha wasn’t so lucky. Her husband is still afraid to touch her. She doesn’t go to the gym at night anymore. Too risky. Men are bolder after dark. Cat-calling no longer satisfies the itch. They upgrade to touching, groping, tackling, pounding behind empty brick buildings.

They don’t even wait until a woman’s passed out now—too much like fucking a dead person, and they enjoy the chase too much, the fight.

Stacy wishes her rapist shared that sentiment.

When she’s safe inside her car, she doesn’t wait for it to settle in. She locks the doors and puts it in reverse as soon as the engine turns over. When she glances up at the rear view mirror, she sees him standing in the center of the lane, arms raised as if to say, Leaving so soon?

“Yes, getting as far away from you as possible.” She’s built up her endurance on the treadmill in the last year. Can sprint a mile in under ten minutes and maintain a steady breathing pattern. She has to keep in shape in case she has to run again. Won’t let another man catch her.


Thursday Night

“Tequila ain’t a drug,” he says. He tilts my head back, pours the shot down my throat.

I cough. “It tastes horrible!”

“The best do.” He whisks me onto the crowded dance floor, where the people barely dance. Women rhythmically arch their backs while men rub their crotches against anything female until the front of their pants become too tight.

I spot two couples stumbling toward the women’s bathroom. Nobody cares which is the boy and girl. I have the sudden urge to dunk my head in the toilet, but I keep grinding. I don’t want him to follow me.

word count: 100


moral_mondays_logoJoin Moral Mondays, a new weekly challenge to write a 100-word fable or story based on the moral/lesson provided in the prompt. This week’s moral: say no to drugs.


It Follows me like a shadow,
clings to me like my own skin,
rides my back until I break in
two — I’m a mule to the shame.

In the shower, I scrub off the
film of his semen in scalding
water until my inner thighs
blister. I feel like Jell-O. Police

will know I orgasmed. He’ll say
I wanted it — maybe I did. I see
why tribal cultures circumcise
girls — to keep us from being

whores. Carve out my clitoris
with non-sterile obsidian blade.
Wrap me in gauze, loose enough
to conceal the curve of my hips.


frapalymo#frapalymo (the German version of NaPoWriMo) is hosted by FrauPaulchen and translated from German into English by Bee at Just Fooling Around With Bee. Today’s prompt is: “ film title.”

Only Friends

Dreams are real,” he says.

I nod until he tells me he dreamt of our wedding night, how he lifted me off my feet when my dress became too heavy to dance, and we twirled around the ballroom like we were the only two people in the whole world.

I open my mouth to correct him, but my voice escapes. We are just friends — words every man hates to hear.

We’ve been friends for over two years. When will we ever be more? I know what I want — you. There’s no one else.

He’s always been in love with me. He knows my every secret, what I love and hate. To him, we fit, but my stomach bloats whenever I think of him kissing me.

I just don’t see you in that way…

I don’t tell him of my dream — the dream where I return home from the hospital, afraid to go inside alone with the possibility that my rapist still lurks in the shadows.

How many more rejections will it take before both dreams come true? I count my lives down to the day I can no longer tell him no.


Blurred Reality

I’ve been living on caffeine for the past few weeks, forcing myself to continue on with my various projects at the risk of losing sleep. I’ve managed to keep up with the A to Z Challenge so far, but I’ve neglected a lot of my favorite flash fiction challenges. Thankfully, I have a friend in Amina who can help me write a story! Here’s another one of our collaborations for your entertainment.

This one’s pretty dark, so you’ve been warned . . .


Blurred Reality

A few days have gone by, and all I’ve done is write. I’ve run out of ink so I cut myself and use my blood. My thoughts need to be heard . . . need to be read. It’s been a long time coming . . .

Brick walls.
Shattered glasses.

My phone vibrates against the porcelain tub and rattles to the floor. I don’t move to answer. It’s probably Kerry. I can’t talk to her now. I don’t want to hear her incessant complaining about Mike’s infidelity. If only she knew. I would do anything to be cheated on, to share my bed with another woman, who tangles herself in the sheets as the man I love pleasures every inch of her body with his tongue and lips as he did mine the night before. Instead, I can only taste the iron on his clammy palm from when he covered my nose and mouth, can only feel the shards of glass slice through my skin from when he thrust me through the window of the abandoned hospital building in the woods.

I lift my arm out of water. My skin is wrinkled like prunes. I wish I could trim it away, shed myself of the filth. How long have I been in this bath? An hour? Two? The water’s not even hot, not even lukewarm. I wipe away the soap suds to read what I have written. Most of the ink from the pen is faded, but the scratches are clear as day, a stark red against my pale skin. I take a corkscrew and continue my story, carving four more letters into my wrist:


I trusted him.

I trusted him as a person.

I trusted his soul.

I remember the days when he was the one who made me smile. Dinner dates, movie night and cocktails. Maybe it was my fault . . . Did I not scream loud enough? Was my “No” in whispers? When I said, “Stop,” didn’t I mean it????

Maybe it was my fault for agreeing to go out camping with him that night. It started so beautifully. We stared at the stars and watched as the clouds danced in circles around the moon. The weather was perfect, and his smell . . . Oh his smell — the woody, musky scent.

My face breaks into a smile at the happy memory, and in an instant I remember . . . I remember him choking me, and my smile, it turns into screams as I cut the side of my face. I don’t want to be beautiful. I want this pain to take me . . . to a place where I’ll never be able to return, a place where I have no trust, a place where I will never be in pain.

I sink lower into the tub, my knees at the level of my eyes. It was so tempting . . . Just to dip my nose under . . . inhale . . . let the water flood my lungs . . .

But I want to see his face when I toss the small plastic rod at his feet. I want to watch his cold blue eyes turn a steel gray when he sees those two pink lines drawn right down the center.

It’ll be just our luck if we are having a girl.

The door bell rings. I sit in this bath tub contemplating if I really want to entertain guests tonight.

What time is it anyway??

If I ignore the sounds long enough, maybe they’ll go away . . .






Who the fuck is it anyway!!!!!???!

I find the strength to get out of the tub, grab my robe and walk sluggishly down the stairs . . . Hoping by the time I get to the door, whoever is there will be gone.



“I’m coming, dammit.”

I open the door . . . and blue eyes are staring back at me . . . I can recognize those eyes anywhere. I feel all the emotion rushing through me . . .

I can’t breathe. I can’t fucking breathe.


“I was worried about you.” He speaks softly, then steps over the threshold and wraps me in his arms. “You haven’t been answering my calls.”

I extend my forearm and push him back. “You’ve got some nerve,” I sneer.

“Babe–” he starts, but stops and hangs his head. He should feel ashamed. Coming here. To do what? To gloat? To pretend my torment for the past several weeks was all in my head? Will he go so far as to say I wanted it, I asked for it, I was begging for it?

Instead he says, “You know I love you, right?”

I slam the door in his face. That kind of love is deadly, so says my bloody wrist, my scarred face.

“Babe please . . . Open the door.”

My calm breath turns into rage.

“You raped me! You raped me and you know it, and now I’m pregnant and I don’t want this child . . . I don’t want it . . . Take it away . . .”

I hear him stop breathing for a second.

“We are keeping MY child. Don’t you even think for a second you’re killing MY child.”

“Your child?” I say helplessly. I turn my back to the door and lean against it. What was I to him? An incubator? Just a surrogate? Collateral damage? He always talked about how much he wanted kids, almost to the point of obsession. I was the one who blocked it. I wouldn’t have a child out of wedlock. So he proposed. Again and again. Sometimes twice in one week. He was always in a rush. But why?

I thought my pregnancy would make him feel guilty for what he did. This couldn’t have been the way he wanted to conceive his dream family—a wife, a couple of kids, a three-story house in the suburbs—but I guess there’s always a dark secret behind every white picket fence. Would this be ours? It wouldn’t be as easy to deny him in marriage. How often would he take advantage?

My body bounces off the door as he kicks and punches it. “Just open up!” He shouts.

“Open up,” I scoff to myself, like he opened my womb. My stomach rises in my chest. I double over dizzy and start to dry heave.

He must hear me, because his pounding grows more invigorating. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks in.

It all happens in an instant . . .

The last thing I remember are sounds… Various sounds.

The sound of my hinges giving way to his strength . . . My feet shuffling on the marble as I make a dash for the kitchen . . . Him grunting as he grabs my arms . . . Me screaming at him to let go . . .

“I’ll kill you before you kill my child. If I can’t have you then no one else will, you filthy bitch.”

This can’t be how it all ends. Me — dead and pregnant for a psychopath. I still remember how every punch to my stomach felt . . . And in my head I am actually dead . . .

I finally begin to see the light . . . Is this what death feels like???? Just as I’m about to give up, I feel the corkscrew in the pocket of my robe.

Stabbing someone, on paper, seems easy. Hollywood would have you believe you can sink a knife into human flesh, down to the handle, and the blade would smoothly glide through, like slicing softened butter. In reality, you could use all of your strength, and the blade still wouldn’t go deeper than a quarter inch.

My energy depleted from the baby, my engraved wrist, the smell of Merlot I opened but never drank, I can barely lift my arm. I make it only to his waist, and blocking his blows with one hand, I jab his thigh with the corkscrew in the other. Once, then twice. It barely scratches the surface, but it is enough to stun him, and the minute he lets me go, I sprint for the bathroom, close and lock the door behind me, and dive for my cellphone on the floor.

It’s still vibrating. Kerry’s been calling this whole time.

“Kerry, call the police. He’s going to kill me. Help me, Kerry.”

The next sounds I hear are two gun shots and Kerry knocking on the bathroom door.

“Kiera, open up!!! He’s gone.”


“Miss Kiera you, were very lucky. You could have lost the baby . . .”

I’ve been in a trance for days. My memory is foggy. I remember bright lights and beeps and people talking . . . Faces, a lot of faces. Familiar ones. Unfamiliar ones. White robes. Blue suits . . . Needles, clanking metal.

“Miss Keira, can you hear me?”

I look up at the doctor and smile.

“Yes, I can Dr. Liam. I would like an abortion please . . .”

—Amina & Nortina


“Dr. Hammond gave Grace a lobotomy yesterday.” Tish speaks nonchalantly, as if talking about the weather.

“Is she dead?” Renee asks.

“It’s like she is now.” Tish shrugs. “She won’t put up much of a fight anymore.” She reclines in the tub. The water is clear, and Renee can see Tish’s blurred naked body just beneath the surface.

“Do you think Dr. Hammond does that?”

“He’s a man in a hospital full of crazy women.” Tish sits up and writes RAPY in permanent marker on the side of the tub. Then she stands. Renee’s eyes are drawn to her perfectly round bottom.

“Are you leaving already?”

“Yes, I’m getting pruned.” She steps out, walks over and sits on the edge of Renee’s tub. “Unless you want me to stay.” She runs her fingers through Renee’s wet hair.

Renee’s eyes drift to Tish’s perky breasts, her hard brown nipples like chocolate chips she could lick.

The door behind them swings open, and Tish jumps to her feet. Dr. Hammond enters. He eyes the women, clicks his tongue in his throat. “Hmm, I thought the shock therapy was working with you two.” He writes on his clipboard and leaves the room.

Tish twists her lips. “Well, I guess we’re not cured, yet.”

Renee pulls her knees to her chin. “Will we ever be cured?”

“No,” Tish says, then submerges herself into the water between Renee’s legs.


asylumThis VisDare prompt is from a few weeks ago, but this photo was too good not to write a story to, no matter how late. As usual, I went over the 150 word limit. 😉

Daddy’s Little Girl

“Why you ain’t in school?” Pa uses the doorjamb to hold himself up.

“Spring Break.”

“You’re fat.” He slings the empty 40 toward my head. I dodge at the last second, and the glass shatters against the wall behind me. “Gonna take a leak,” he slurs then stumbles pigeon-toed through the front door of our trailer.

Will he bother to remove the flowers? Or will he soil her grave with his stream? She’s lucky she’ll never grow to learn what “Spread ’em!” actually means.

“She’s better off dead,” Becky said when we buried her. “He didn’t even know you were pregnant.”

word count: 100


© Ted Strutz
© Ted Strutz

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to ready other stories and add your own.