I recently submitted the following flash fiction story to a contest hosted in one of my favorite writing forums. The story was written years ago, but I thought of it when I saw the guidelines for the contest specified that the material should cause a "ruckus". Whether emotional turmoil or physical calamity, the point was to make the reader experience something extreme. Although this story looks like a screenplay and consists of only dialogue, I hoped it packed enough punch to satisfy the judge. The competition was steep. Many talented writers submitted well written material and I was honored to have my work be considered amongst theirs (to read the other submissions check out the writer's forum on craigslist.org and look for anything entitled Ruckus Entry). To my astonishment Panic was selected as the winning entry and I wanted to share the victory with my readers.
Wishfulthinking123: I didn't always have these thoughts. I never considered myself suicidal, just...a little down. Sometimes I can't concentrate at work, like my head is in a cloud or something. Like I'm just going through the motions. [pushes hair behind ears, shifts in seat] So I sorta surf the web and screw around even though I shouldn't. That's how I found healthychat.com. It's a web site where people can get their feelings out and, I don't know … not feel so alone? That's where I met Panic_07. See, we have these usernames and we post in forums with them. I'm Wishfulthinking123.
Dr: Go on. [adjusts glasses]
Wishfulthinking123: Well, I didn't want anyone to know I was posting stuff on that site. I was afraid of what they'd think, ya know? I lived with Joe and -
Dr: Your boyfriend.
Wishfulthinking123: Yeah. And he came into the room while I was on the site once and he almost caught me. From then on I took my laptop to a coffee shop or something when I wasn’t at work.
Dr: Tell me more about Panic_07.
Wishfulthinking123: He was just a normal poster like the rest of us. [clears throat, looks down] He said he felt lonely even when he was with people. He said he had a hard time talking about it because everyone thought he was so strong and [swallow] happy.
Dr: Did you speak with him a lot?
Wishfulthinking123: Yeah, we wrote back and forth. I told him how I lived with my boyfriend and I couldn't tell him how I was feeling. He said he understood. Everyone in the forum liked him. He was so nice.
Dr: When did you know something wasn't right?
Wishfulthinking123: I didn't. No one did until it happened. I mean, we were ALL depressed so we didn't worry because he didn't say anything different from anyone else.
Wishfulthinking123: Until two days ago. [wipes tears from eyes, looks around room] I was feeling pretty awful and my boyfriend was in a bad mood so I took my laptop to a Starbucks across town. I needed to get away. I logged in and-
Dr: How many other users were logged in with you at the time?
Wishfulthinking123: Two. Panic and Nothingman. I could see Panic was logged in but he wasn't saying anything. Me and Nothingman chatted for awhile about how we hate Sundays. [breaks down sobbing, takes deep breath and composes herself] Then Panic finally said something. He said 'I have a razor'. [cries more]
Dr: Do you want to take a break?
Wishfulthinking123: I think so.
[One hour later]
Dr: Are you sure you're ready to continue?
Dr: What did you do when Panic said he had a razor?
Wishfulthinking123: I asked him why the hell he had it, what he was planning to do with it. He said he was tired of everything and that he couldn't pretend anymore. I tried to get him to talk. I didn't even think of calling the police. [shuts eyes, rests forehead on hands]
Dr: Then what.
Wishfulthinking123: He told me and Nothingman that he loved us and that he wished us well. He said he'd already begun... [starts sobbing again] and that it didn't hurt like he thought it would. He started telling us stuff like how he didn't have much money or anything like that so he never made out a will. He was saying all kinds of [hiccup] crazy stuff.
Dr: What else was he saying?
Wishfulthinking123: Me and Nothingman were trying to get him to call 911. We told him we loved him too and that we wanted him to live. Then Nothingman asked for Panic's address and he wouldn't answer. After a little while he said he wasn't answering 'cause he knew Nothingman was going to call the police, ya know? [takes deep breath] Then he just started rambling about how there was blood all over his arms and on his keyboard. Nothingman asked Panic if this was some kind of prank or a way to get attention.
Dr: What did Panic say?
Wishfulthinking123: He didn't even acknowledge us anymore. It's like he was talking to himself. He said he wasn't worried about his mom now that she was remarried and not alone anymore. He said he - he wasn't worried about his cat because his girlfriend would take care of it and that [cries, chokes back tears] that's when he said he wished he found a home for Brutus. [sobs] He never mentioned Brutus before.
Dr: Who is Brutus?
Wishfulthinking123: His [hiccup] snake. I must've ran three red lights on the way home but it still wasn't fast enough. How could I not have known? Three months on that web site and I didn't know. [takes deep, slow breaths. Tears stop and eyes become far away, voice monotone] He was sitting in his computer chair when I walked in. His face was blue. There was no pulse.
Dr: Why didn't you dial 911?
Wishfulthinking123: I did. But I hung up when they answered. He was gone. Long gone [stares into corner of room] I slapped his face and it was cold. I had nothing left, there was nothing left for me. I took his razor… and I just [starts breathing faster] I just...
Dr: What is it?
Wishfulthinking123: [gazes down at bandaged wrists] I just don't understand why I lived.