Behind the Tale
"Under the Blade" is a story I wrote back during my time at Ball State University about a father who will do anything to save his daughter. As a flash fiction piece, the tale is short and to the point. Consider it more of a series of vignettes than the longer sort of narrative you would expect from a novel or conventional short story.
The story has appeared in Down in the Dirt, as well as in the anthology Echo. It was also selected by the editors of Down in the Dirt to be feature in the anthology Ink in My Blood.
Read the story as a regular web page or in the blog format. Either way, I hope you enjoy! And many thanks for reading.
"Under the Blade"
Originally published by Scars Publishing; Echoes Anthology; Ink in My Blood Anthology (Editors' Pick)
© 2009 - 2018 C.M. HUMPHRIES, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Their silk shirts under expensive jackets, vests—their tacky and pricey dress shoes. They’re the epitome of American success.
In their American dream they’ve never been self-effacing, I guessed, yet as I pointed the barrel at all of them, I was as good as God. I knew their type: ruthless S.O.B.s who’ve back-stabbed and cheated to the point that someone else cried in defeat. Look at them, humbled and kneeling, pleading for mercy underneath disgusting phlegm-filled sobs. Should I have pitied them? No. If not for them—if not for those greedy, undermining power gluttons—I would have never been in that forsaken bank. If not for them, I would be depositing funds rather than withdrawing with force.
“Sit down,” I commanded the clients. They scurried around like moles above ground. I fell into recollection.
My day started like any other: boring, routine, and uninviting. Of course, if my day had remained mediocre, I would have nothing to say right now, nothing to do. There’s a fair chance I would’ve contemplated suicide, but due to my daughter, I would have never tried. Nevertheless, my day twisted for the worst. Daylight became demonic.
Young, blonde, and beautiful, my daughter ambled into my room, tears in her eyes. Her grandmother, who had just brought her back from the doctor, slipped me a medical report. As I read the document, my daughter—her body soaked with nervous perspiration—rushed into my arms, embracing me. Conclusion: my daughter’s kidneys were failing and they said it might’ve been my fault. $54,875 could save her. I had a mere $11,000 in my savings; next to nothing in my checking account. That day I met the ass-end of life, or as some say, someone took a dump on my life.
Black gloves, a black ski mask, and a pistol. Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Don’s Guns. I kept my purchases separate to avoid suspicion. The sad part was that I had no idea how to fire a gun. It didn’t matter. There was no other way to obtain almost $55,000—to save my daughter’s life. Her name was Emily and her life was my own. She was my soul. She was like the light at the end of the tunnel. Emily was like the blood that ran through my veins; without her, I would cease to exist.
Incognito, I stood in front of what I would have called yuppies had it been the 1980s. At the sight of my pistol, those rich bastards were like hamsters fighting to escape a closed cage. Some of them might have been overcharging surgeons and doctors. My blood ran hot at the notion.
If they tried to escape, I would catch them—perhaps kill them. I’d shoot the doctors four or five times.
“How much do you want?” a teller asked, stealing my attention from the yuppies. “All of it?”
I watched as his shaky left hand snuck underneath the counter and felt for the panic button. “Press it and you’ll be responsible for two deaths,” I warned. The crowd behind me moaned, those self-centered pricks. “Shut up back there!”
The teller was shaking. I replied, “$54,875.”
He looked at me like I was the insane one. No, all those medical people were the crazies. Pricing life like they owned it. God, I wanted to kill every last one of them, but if I did, I would’ve had the same problem, though without a solution. “That’s all I want,” I said. “Make it $55,000 even. That’s easier. Don’t make me hurt anyone.”
Once the teller handed me a bag with all the cash, I fired a few rounds into the ceiling and departed.
Four months flew by, during which I paid off Emily’s life.
Now, a little girl sits with her grandmother, talking to me through a private phone on the other side of a bullet-proof pane. I want to hold her.
Tears streaming down her face, Emily says, “I love you.” She knows Daddy was bad, but can appreciate his motive.
“They can have the money back,” I whisper to her, assuming that she understands. The surgery had already been performed on the both of us.
The Elementals by Michael McDowell
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.