I found today’s writing prompt on Reddit: You were born with a birth mark the shape of a “9” on your wrist, one day you get in a fatal car accident. You wake up in a strange room and the first thing you notice is the 9 has changed to an 8.
This story is dark and might be triggering for those that suffer/have suffered from depression. Please don’t read further if that type of topic bothers you.
Writing Prompt: The Countdown
“And if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” I hadn’t realized I’d muttered the words until the wind snatched the last ones from my mouth.
Two years. It had been two years since the accident, and I was no closer to answers now than I was then.
I pulled my gaze from the hypnotic expanse before me to gaze down at the number that marked my inner right wrist. The number should be nine. I’d had it since birth. It had been a funny shaped birthmark that made for an interesting conversation starter and amused my friends. I used to trace the number with one finger, finding the repetitive motion soothing. But for the last two years the mark was anything but soothing.
For the number should be nine.
A glaring eight now stared back at me. It mocked me, that eight. It had from the day I woke up in a body bag in the back of an ambulance. On my way to the morgue.
Memories engulfed me. Waking up in the dark, clawing at the bag, ripping my fingernails on the zipper, struggling to breathe, the shock on the paramedics’ faces. I felt a wave of panic and pushed the memories of those first few hours away. It hadn’t been until hours later, curled up in a hospital bed, staring into space, that I realized something was different.. You know, besides waking up from being clinically dead, having completely healed from a fatal head wound.
Absently tracing the number on my wrist, it had taken several minutes for me to realize something was different. The pattern felt… wrong. Glancing down, I had to do a double take. The birthmark… the number should be nine!
To say I had freaked out would be an understatement. The doctors weren’t any help, my family and friends questioned if it had been a nine or an eight. My own mother had questioned if it had been an eight the whole time! How does she not remember?!
I understood that they were just trying to find rational explanations for something that just couldn’t be explained. I understood that, but it didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, I spiraled into a dark depression that I couldn’t pull myself out of. I knew I was depressed because that’s what the doctors told me. They kept saying I shouldn’t question this miracle. I was alive, and I should embrace life.
But I couldn’t.
What did the number mean? Was it counting down? Was it… was it the number of lives I had? Could I die seven more times before the eighth – and final – time finished me off for good? Was I meant to do something extraordinary with my eight lives? Or, was it just a coincidence that the number had changed to eight? Maybe the miracle had just been my return from the dead, completely healed. Maybe the new birthmark was just a funny result of that miracle and didn’t mean anything!
Two years. Two years these thoughts had hounded me. I barely ate. I couldn’t sleep even though I longed for it so badly I physically ached. I had lost so much weight I looked like a walking skeleton. My hair was falling out by the handfuls. I bruised so easily that just scratching an itch left purple splotches that took weeks to heal. And through it all… the number.
I finally came to the realization that I had to find out one way or another. I can’t go on any longer without knowing.
I pulled my watery gaze from my wrist. The view of the city was so beautiful tonight. Even with tears blurring my vision and despair in my heart, the lights below looked cheerful and merry.
Wind whipped past me, making me clutch the railing before me. Sixty-four floors up, the building was the tallest in the city. I probably could have chosen something a bit lower, but I needed to make absolutely sure.
I looked down into the darkness. It welcomed me, that darkness. It called to me. I climbed over the railing, mesmerized.
“I have become the abyss.”
My hoarse whisper followed me into the darkness.
I hope you enjoyed this short story! Please feel free to leave comments below. I do welcome constructive criticism in the comments, but please give me more than, “I didn’t like it”. Don’t be afraid to tell me it sucked, but tell me why you think it sucked! And, of course, if you did like it, I would like to know that too.
And if you liked this writing prompt, and feel inspired to write a short story of your own, please feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to highlight your story in a post of it’s own!
Please don’t mind the mess.
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