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So this story was a joint one. I came up with the characters, and my partner Olivia came up with the two settings. I wrote the majority of the story using those elements. Like the Keanu Reeves one I just posted, this was a kind of on the spot story, not something with weeks of planning behind it or anything.
 
 
The Suicide Trees

The bathroom was pale with the morning light coming in through the frosted window. Billy stood with her arm over the sink, and a razor blade in her hand. A red line ran up her arm, too shallow to draw much blood. A practice cut.

She had tried so hard to make it through this existence as best as she could. Her cheeks ached from the constant smiling, but she was not happy. A countless number of pills circulated through her system. Pills for depression, ADD, OCD, hyperactivity, vitamin supplements, pain meds, yet nothing got rid of this void inside her. Her life was on repeat. Though the people changed, she was always doing the same thing for them. All she did was organize. Organize rooms, photos, papers, trash. Forever organizing other people’s shit. It was her only real talent, besides faking happiness.

Billy took a deep breath as she readied the blade, again. This time she would make the cut. None of this wimpy scraping stuff, either. She would hit the vein and bleed out.

A swipe of her hand, and the deed was done.

She watched for a moment as her the crimson liquid began to leak out of her arm and flow into the sink. With a shaking hand, she readied the blade over her other arm, then looked up in the mirror for the last time, making a sudden, last-minute realization.

“Oh shit…” she whispered to the mirror. “I don’t want to die.”

With a crash, she fell to the ground.


Thomas sat down on the love seat, bottle of whiskey in hand, and looked at the papers spread out all on the coffee table. They were all records he had been keeping of Billy Wieser, a woman he had been asked to follow around by a client. She was cute; a bubbly kind of girl. Blonde hair, big eyes, a great smile. He had been following her for months now, gathering as much information as he could. He knew her friends, hangouts, likes, dislikes, anything he could get without approaching her. Of course, it helped that she had a Facebook that she updated pretty much every hour. No privacy settings or anything - her life was an open book, or so it seemed. Following her around, Thomas discovered that she wasn’t as happy a person as her profile page made her out to be. Looking through her trash he had found prescription bags and bank notes, pill containers by the handfuls and entire trash bags full of peanut shells and take out boxes. Every so often he’d come across a Ziploc bag filled with cigarette ashes. One of her OCD ticks, Thomas concluded.

But three days ago, something happened. He realized something was wrong when her status updates stopped, her last one from 10:22 p.m. Monday, where she wrote “organizing Mrs. Hernandez’s apartment tomorrow. lets hope I dont have to do any dusting!! lol”

Mrs. Hernandez was one of Billy’s dedicated customers, and Thomas had often followed Billy to her house. That Tuesday he had gone to

Mrs. Hernandez before Billy, knowing exactly when she would arrive. He wanted to get there early, worried that she was starting to suspect she was being followed. Parked cars weren’t as suspicious as the ones that followed you.

An hour passed and Billy hadn’t arrived. Thomas had seen Mrs. Hernandez shuffle out of her house a few times, which added to Thomas’s concerns. Billy was never late. Maybe she hasn’t left yet? he thought, and made the decision to head to her place. The New York traffic made it a long ride, but with the help of a few short cuts, he managed to get there just as the ambulance pulled up.

Billy had committed suicide, bled to death on the bathroom floor. Word got around fast, and in no time, messages piled up on her Facebook wall, R.I.P.s flooding the screen. Many of the mourners made note that they hadn’t seen it coming. “She was always such a happy girl!”

None of them seemed to notice that something had always been off about her perpetual happiness. She hadn’t reached out to anyone, and they saw no reason to help her.

Thomas was the only person that actually knew what she had been going through. But, by personal rule, he never approached anyone he followed. They couldn’t know of his existence to any degree. They could know nothing about him, while he could know everything about them.

But now Thomas felt the rule didn’t matter, or shouldn’t have mattered in the case of Billy Wieser. He had known what emotional turmoil she had been through. He knew that no one else noticed, since she had been master at concealing it. And he knew he was the only one that would have asked: “Are you okay?” He should have broken this rule, but he didn’t. And now Billy was dead, and it made him feel like a coward.

He let her die.

Thomas reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of sleeping pills. Without a second though, he dumped the entire thing into his mouth, took a swig of whiskey, and swallowed.


Thomas woke up to an immense burst of pain in his side. An animalistic scream tore out of him as the fire in his side only grew. He tried to move, but found himself stuck, frozen. He couldn’t see, but he could hear. Dear God, could he hear. Amongst his screams, he heard the cries of what sounded like a sea of people. Cries for help, ear splitting screeches of men, women… a child? Amongst the panic, he heard what he could only assume were wings as some creature flew by. Thomas let out another cry as what felt like claws tore into his backside. Out of the cuts oozed a thick, hot liquid. A cruel wind blew against them, filling the cuts with dirt and debris.

The screams and scratches went on for what must have been days. Thomas had no way of knowing what was happening to him or around him. He could only add to the demonic chorus. But one day, things changed. The flapping of a million wings could be heard above, like bats leaving their cave for a hunt. Where there were once sounds of screams and wings, weeping took their place. People cried out to God, asking for forgiveness. No one seemed to understand why they were there, but their repenting came too late. Thomas would have cried, let tears roll down his cheeks by the bucket load, if he had had eyes to do so. Hell, he couldn’t even tell if he had cheeks any more.

Slowly, the cries died down. The people started to murmur to each other, and the whispers of a thousand languages began to replace the sobs.

Thomas spoke out. “Can anyone hear me?”

The person to his right began talking in very fast Chinese. All gibberish to Thomas.

“I can hear you,” said a voice to the other side of Thomas. A girl.

“Oh thank God. I understand you. What the fuck is going on?”
 
“We’re dead.” she replied.
 
“Well that much I gathered,” Thomas hissed. He had let out all of his frustrations with this fact amidst the rips and the screams. “Tell me what I don’t know.”
 
“I know we’re in Hell, but you don’t have to be a bitch about it,” the girl snapped back.
 
“I get that, but-“
 
“Let me finish, okay?” When Thomas didn’t interrupt her, she continued. “Now I can’t see, and I’m assuming you can’t either. But I think I know what’s happening. What flew above us a while ago, those were harpies. And we are trees. Suicide trees. The harpies rip into us with their claws, and we emit screams of terror from the scratches.”
 
“What the hell are you talking about?”
 
“It’s from a book. See, Dante wrote about all of this in The Inferno. We’re in the seventh circle of Hell, where those who committed suicide end up.” She took Thomas’s confused silence as a sign to continue. “He seems to have gotten a few details wrong though. For instance, we’re only supposed to talk through the cuts the harpies put in us, and those seemed to have healed up. But we’re still talking. I’m not sure how, but, well, we can, and that’s what’s important. I’m not even sure if we’re trees… Plus, in Hell you’re supposed to feel pain and anguish for eternity, but here we are discussing Hell in a relatively calm manner.”
 
“I’m too exhausted to be angry about anything anymore,” Thomas said with a sigh.
 
“It’s all very surreal, isn’t it? At least the harpies are gone, if that’s what they were. I guess they have some kind of migration schedule or something. Still, this sucks.”
 
“This more than sucks,” Thomas said, wondering how she could be so passé about the whole ordeal. “This is the fucking worst thing that anyone can possibly imagine.” At that, he fell silent, mulling over all this information in his head, unsure what to do with it. The oddest thing was that he felt okay with being in Hell. And with the harpies gone and no one to inflict constant pain on him, he had nothing to really be afraid about. He shared this sentiment with the girl.
 
“It’s odd to me, too, but I guess we just weren’t 100% right about the characteristics of Hell. Perhaps God doesn’t want us to suffer forever. I’m actually content here, and for the first time in a long time, without the help of meds.”
 
It was then that Thomas recognized the voice. He recognized the speech pattern, the upbeat rhythm that made her come across so giddy, even when she was in a foul mood. If she were in front of him, alive, in her non-tree form, he would have immediately spotted her nervous tick of pinching at her finger tips.
 
“Billy?”
 
“You… you know me?”
 
“Yeah,” Thomas said, overcome with disbelief. “Yeah, yeah I… I know you. I mean, I don’t know you know you.” He took time to decide what to say next. He didn’t want to creep out the girl he would be standing beside for eternity. “I was hired to follow you around and figure some things out about you but we never, you know, met each other. I guess I kind of knew you though, I mean, the real you, the you that no one else did and –“
 
“Wait. Stop right there,” Billy said. He could see her now, rubbing her temples as she tried to put everything together, if she had had temples, that is. “You were hired to follow me?”
 
“When I was alive, I was a private investigator.” Thomas explained. “I got information about people for people.”
 
“Well, who hired you?”
 
Thomas was about to say “It’s confidential, ma’am. I never give away my clients.” Then he remembered: he was dead. It didn’t matter anymore.
 
“A man named Devon Miller. He didn’t tell me the exact reason though…”

“Devon Miller was one of my clients for a while. He dropped me after he though I stole something of his.”
 
“I guess that’s why he had me follow you. He must have been pretty convinced because I was going at it for months. I didn’t find anything to suspect you, though.”
 
“Then your weren’t much of a detective then, were you?” Billy said, letting out a small chuckle. It was the only laughter to be heard anywhere amongst the other voices, and it gave Thomas some hope. Of all the trees to be placed next to, he was placed beside the only one who could still laugh. “I stole his prized samurai store off his wall. It had been my grandmothers. I know because her name was inscribed on the bottom of the handle. He must have bought it from my aunt when the bitch was giving away all of grandma’s belongings, even though the sword was willed to me. Doesn’t really matter now, though, does it?”
 
“No,” replied Thomas.
 
For a while, they listened to the trees around them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Moans were heard all around of every dialect and language that had been under the sun. People prayed for forgiveness, hoping that their suffering would not be eternal. One man confessed that he had only killed himself to be closer to God. He felt betrayed.
 
“What’s your name?” Billy asked, after having grown tired of listening.
 
“Thomas.”
 
“You know, Thomas, I knew you were following me,” Billy said. “I mean, I didn’t know it was you, but I knew I was being followed. I started recognizing your car. I didn’t think much about it, I just figured we were on the same schedule. Still, it seemed odd that I would see the same person almost daily in a place like New York.”
 
“Guess I really wasn’t much of a P. I. then,” Thomas said, with a bit of a laugh, the second tree in the forest to do so. Billy laughed, too. 
 
“Nope.”
 
And again, silence came over them. The Chinese man beside Thomas was praying in hushed tones. Some of the other trees had begun conversations with their neighbors, and there were sounds of comforting all around. Billy was, again, the person to break the silence between her and Thomas. “So why’d you kill yourself?”
 
Thomas didn’t want to make eternity weird between them by saying “because you killed yourself.” An eternity of awkward silence didn’t seem all that exciting. So he was vague. “I felt like I had failed someone. They… did something bad. I could have stopped them, and I was the only person that could have stopped them, but I was scared to do it.”
 
“It’s too late now, but you shouldn’t blame yourself. It’s hard to help people sometimes. I should know. No one reached out to me.”
 
A pang of guilt shot through Thomas. But he had to know. “Is… that why you did it?”
 
“Yes. Well, sort of. My life was going by like some indistinguishable, dull blur, you know? Every day, organizing. Every day, suffocating myself with meds. I didn’t know where to go for help – my friends didn’t notice anything was wrong and I didn’t seem like the type who needed help. Doctors just kept prescribing things. Therapists were all in it for the money. I was stuck in a rut with no money to get out and no one to go to and I just… decided to end it. And then, thanks to my bipolar disorder, I got second thoughts halfway through.”
 
“You mean, you didn’t want to die?”
 
“Yup. Just as I was about to make the second cut, I realized that if I killed myself… Mrs. Hernandez would never get those papers off her desk and would never be able to sit at that type writer and write that mystery novel that’s been in her head for 40 years. And it was a great novel, let me tell you! She told me everything while I was working, knowing of course that I would never tell a soul about it. It was going to be the greatest mystery novel of all time!”
 
“Can you… tell me about it?” Thomas asked. “I… kind of became a P.I. because of detective and mystery stories.”
 
Billy began to tell him everything she could about the novel, as if she were reading it aloud to him. She had remembered every little detail that Hernandez had revealed. The story went on for hours and soon the other people began to listen. Even the ones who didn’t understand a word Billy spoke were captivated by her enthusiasm. Those who understood laughed and gasped and even got angry at all the right moments in the narrative. She inspired the other souls to begin sharing their stories, and soon, through the forest of souls trapped in trees, conversation was spreading. Though distant screams of the damned could still be heard, for a moment, in this one small section of hell, there was peace.
 

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einahsketch

April 2011

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