Spiralling Descent. Short Story.

I thought of this while listening to this song, you can play it in the background if you want to help enhance the reading experience, though the song is kinda depressing, the video is quite good too.

Anyway, on with the show!

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Spiralling Descent.

It happened every few months, this screaming, shrieking couple seemed to replace them. Sometimes it was over something minor, sometimes over something more important, but never the less, it always occurred. Though both were ashamed of their behaviour afterwards and always apologised, they felt that it was a small enough price to pay for the bliss they shared in between.

But this argument was different. General insults were tailored, personal. Each one using years of knowledge against the other, each seeking to hurt, to destroy. The only consolation was that they didn’t stoop to throwing items, though it came close. Very close.

When they finally finished they were both emotionally drained, Sandra was crying, Jason was shaking. The final insult, perhaps the worst one of all, had been thrown. The last taboo broken. Those hateful words that could never be taken back, that could destroy their relationship. “It’s your fault we can’t have children.” They had known for almost a year now, that both of them were incapable of producing children. Every test was done, but they were told the only way was either adoption or IVF. IVF was too expensive and adoption would take a long, long time. At the time they decided that they would wait, wait until the news had sunk in and then they could figure out what they wanted to do.

Those words were like a slap, both stopping them short. As soon as she said it, she regretted it, but they were out, free in the world to do their damage. There was nothing she could say or do to try and make it better.

“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” he looked at her for a moment, then turned and left the room. She expected to hear the door slam, to hear something but there was nothing. Only silence. It unnerved her more than if he had of gone into a rage. She needed to calm down, needed to figure out how to fix things. Carefully, Sandra splashed water on her face, then put the kettle on. She wanted something calming, something soothing. Maybe she would be able to figure out what to do. Really, the argument had been building for months, but both were too stupid to realise it. It was the only dark cloud in their relationship. They had been trying for months when they finally found out. A blow that their relationship had managed to survive, but now, now god only knew what would happen. Would he ever be able to forgive her? She didn’t really mean it after all, it was just, god help her, the cruellest thing she could think of in the moment.

She had become another person when they argued, she didn’t like the shrieking harpy she became, sure they always made up afterwards but those fights were always draining. And when they had kids? What then? They couldn’t argue like that in front of their children. She knew though that, if they were to have children the arguments would stop. They had begun a year ago, when they found out. Before that they rarely argued and it was always civilised, or at least as civilised as an argument can be.

Sandra still hadn’t heard from Jason, hadn’t heard him moving about the house. Maybe he was in bed already? She had drank her tea in the unnatural silence, afraid to break it by turning on the radio or TV. No. she needed to think. The silence was good. She drank her tea slowly, it was cold by the time she finished, but it did calm her. The tears had finally stopped, but the guilt still hung on her shoulder, heavy and sickening. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast but the thought of eating dinner or anything at all made her feel nauseous.

Finally, sighing, she stood and put her cup in the sink. It was late, she would go to bed and maybe something would occur to her in the morning. She didn’t think she would sleep but it was worth a shot.

Jason was already in bed when she went into their bedroom. He was curled under the covers and didn’t respond to her tentative whispers. She didn’t think he was asleep. She doubted he could after what she said. He had felt guiltier than she had which she had always thought ridiculous. It was nobodies fault really. Just one of those things. She changed into a nightdress in silence, normally they would chat while getting ready for bed, or in the case of their occasional arguments, the television would be on or he would read a book.

She slid beneath the covers and reached out to him. She wanted to hold someone and, though knowing it was selfish of her, she tried to bridge the gap. Her fingertips brushed against his shoulder blades. He recoiled for her touch. Shocked, she removed her hand and rolled over, trying to think of what she should do. Should she try to speak to him? Apologise? Surely the fact that he was sleeping in the bed with her was evidence that he would forgive her, if not now then eventually. Curling her legs up, she hugged them tightly and closing her eyes, tried to allow sleep to take her into oblivion, but there was nothing. Every sound seemed magnified. His breathing, though deep and regular sounded thick and mucousy. She thought he had been crying and that maybe he still was, yet the silence had taken a physical form, forcing a gap between them. Stopping her from reaching out, trying to comfort.

The fire began slowly, innocuously.

As it fed it grew larger and larger, consuming more and more. The flames licked at the wallpaper, burning through photographs, destroying countless memories. Their wedding day, when they first bought the house, a family photograph of them both with their parents., that day at the beach when Jason had proposed, Each one devoured. It spread from the kitchen to the living room, furniture so carefully chosen was now turning black, melting, shifting, burning. The floors warped and buckled, it was the shelving unit collapsing that woke her. The first real noise the fire had made besides its low crackling and hissing. Sitting up in bed she could hear the fire, smell the acrid smoke filling the room, burning her lungs. Fumes from burning plastics made her feel light-headed. She didn’t know what time it was, Jason was still beside her, either asleep or unconscious. She nudged him, then, grabbing his shoulder shook as hard as she could. It took him a moment to regain consciousness. Sandra didn’t think she would be able to drag him outside. “Jason, c’mon, we have to move, there’s a fire,” she started to speak again and was overtaken by a coughing fit. Immediately, Jason sat up, more alert than he had been before. Their door to the bedroom was closed, as they always left it, creating a barrier between them and the fire. Stepping out of bed he approached it carefully and lay his hand against the wood, it was hot to touch. Stepping back, he looked around the room, for a way out. There was the window in the bathroom, but they would get cut. There was another crash as the cabinet holding the glasses and delph fell to the floor, the glass shattering, then melting, running together. Together they went into the bathroom and, after smashing the window, Jason let Sandra through first. He had placed a towel on the ledge to try and prevent shards cutting either of them and though mostly successful, both had a few cuts by the time they got out.

Inside the house the fire moved on, burning down the last barrier between it and the bedroom, the sudden intake of fresh air caused it to move with renewed vigour, swallowing everything in its path.

Outside on the cool grass Jason and Sandra watched as the house burned, casting them in an orange glow, thick plumes of smoke rushed into the sky, billowing outwards. In the distance they could hear sirens. Both were coughing, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been.

Jason wrapped his hand around Sandra’s and together, they watched their lives burn.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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