This is a short piece of about 1000 words that I wrote more than a year ago. It is also the only piece of creative writing I ever did in the course of my studies at the University of Vienna (which, to be honest, is a shame). Our professor asked us to pick a song and transform it into a story. Back then, I had “Colors” by Halsey stuck in my head. I loved the lyrics and the melody and both gave me a clear picture of what kind of story I wanted to write. Please find the story below!
Trigger warning: mental health issues, drug abuse, and physical abuse. If any of these are a trigger for you, this story isn’t for you.
Dim afternoon sunlight trickled through the cracked shutters, casting bright spots on the bed. He was lying on his back, head resting on a tattered pillow. I let my eyes drift over his bare chest, pale skin stretched over jutting bones and ribs. His jawline was dotted with black stubble.
“I’m sure he loves you. After all, he’s your brother,” I told him as I snatched the half-finished joint from his fingers.
He watched me take a drag and exhale the smoke into the air. We hadn’t opened a window in hours and it was beginning to smell badly, a mixture of weed and used bedsheets.
He scratched his chin. “My family was never the loving kind. Mother was only interested in her career. I doubt she ever realized there was a life waiting for her behind the cameras.”
I lifted the joint to my lips a second time, but he yanked it out of my hand, placing it between his own lips. He inhaled deeply, filling his body with the substance. In these short moments, when his entire being was soothed by the drug, he looked completely blissful. Broken as he was, there was still beauty in him. His eyes, even though red-rimmed, were a clear blue, like one of those marbles that I had collected as a child.
“You’re staring at me again,” he said.
“What?” I hadn’t noticed; I never did.
“Fuck it, you’re still doing it! Stop it!” He launched off the bed, flipped the finished joint into a mug that served as an ashtray, and staggered across the room. He had to avoid tripping over unwashed laundry and empty containers of instant noodles. “You know I don’t like to be stared at,” he said, not looking at me.
I shifted on the bed, trying to see what he was doing. He was opening every drawer of the dresser, rummaging through them and muttering under his breath.
“I am sorry for staring at you,” I said. “I was just trying to -”
“Don’t you dare say it!” he cut me off. Again he didn’t look at me, but continued his search through the drawers. “I don’t need your pity.” He cried out in triumph, holding a fist above his head. I bent forward a little to see what he had retrieved from the drawer. I shuddered.
“I thought you weren’t taking them any longer!” I was moving to get up. I didn’t know what I was thinking of doing. He was way too strong for me to wrest the pills out of his hands, even in his present state of health.
He swirled back at me. “I wasn’t, but it’s just not working without them.” And he popped a pill in his mouth before I could say another word. A smug smile plastered onto his face, he slumped down on the bed next to me.
“I know it’s none of my business…” I began cautiously.
“Damn right it’s none of your business.” He was lying there, with his eyes closed, seeming entirely calm. But I knew that the drug would kick in soon.
“I am just…concerned.”
“Oh, you are? What about then?”
It unsettled me that he was still not looking at me. But something kept me going nonetheless. “You are on a downward spiral. You don’t eat properly, you don’t sleep. It’s just… I just wanna -“ and, without thinking, the forbidden word escaped my mouth, “- help.”
Before I could brace myself, I was hit in the face with a pillow. The impact threw me backward a few inches and I fell off the edge of the bed.
“What the hell?” Glaring up at him from the floor, I rubbed my sore elbow. His once vivid blue eyes were no longer lively, but dull and gray, and every color had vanished from his face. He was nothing more but an empty shell, and I realized he’d gone too far.
I inched backward just as he leapt off the bed and on top of me. I squirmed as the first punch hit me in the stomach and screamed as the second hurt my lowest rib. “Get off me, get off me!”
But he was in a rage. Fists flying, he kept punching me, hard. I wriggled and writhed underneath his body, but there was no escaping him. Eventually, I tried some fist-throwing myself. I was surprised when I felt a satisfying crunch under my knuckles.
“Ah!” He crawled off me, clutching his nose. “Get out! Now!” The words were muffled by his hands and the blood from his broken nose filling his mouth.
I scrambled to my feet and staggered through the room. My hand felt sore from the punch and it was shaking on the doorknob, but I managed to yank the door open.
“And don’t you ever come back! I don’t need anybody’s help!” he yelled after me.
Later that day I stood in front of the mirror in my room, inspecting all the bruises. It seemed as though every inch of my body had received its share of the punching, but one of my eyes had gotten the worst of it. I had been watching it change colors over the last few hours, and I shuddered at the current image. The skin around the eye was now blue.
I didn’t cry about the fact that he had thrown me out. It wasn’t the first time, but it would certainly be the last time. I would not allow him to lay hands on me again. It would break me, the way it had shattered my life the night I had ran away from home.
There was a picture we had taken a year ago glued to the corner of my mirror. I pulled it off, holding it in my hand as though it was something poisonous. Even back then his pupils had been dilated, his cheeks hollow, and his bright blue hair dull.
Now it was fading to grey, as was the photograph crumbling in the flames.
Powerful, little read, Sarah. Well done.