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Five Souths to North

Short story By: jmurch
Literary fiction

I wrote this story for my college creative writing class. The next day my house burned, but I found out a few weeks later I had received an A. It is bittersweet because my family lost so much that day, but we did not lose each other. We all made it out alive. However, I dropped out of school because it was more important to take care of my family. It has been only weeks since the fire. I hope you enjoy this story. I think it may be the strongest showing of talent by me beyond art. I hope so anyway. For me, it is always going to take me back to the day before the fire and the memories of what had been. Perhaps, like the story, I have to find my north again. Maybe it won't take as long as the main character, Elizabeth...This story is based on an exercise from the Art of Fiction.

Submitted:Oct 21, 2012    Reads: 500    Comments: 28    Likes: 15   


Sixty-four years is a long time to not see the world in the color of love. Did it ever exist, she often wondered? She had felt contained; she had been a tormented prisoner from within. When she first learned of the news, yes, she had felt sorrow achingly bite her heart for a moment, but it had been such a long time to feel the chains of life burdens covering her soul. She had once been a woman of grace and passion, yet she could not remember those days outside of the color black. "Sixty-four years…," time whispered to her elderly ears which no longer carried the same surround sound of her youth. Her senses only carried the skeleton of youthful power which once was but no longer here. The control of another exerted its imprisoning force even now only moments later. Her back ached fresh of laundry and kitchen duties. Much was required of a woman she had been so reminded all of her life. He held wealth, but since the death of a child he demanded nothing less than servitude. Her life of eighty-three years had left her arthritic and every tendon screaming in pain; it always sang the song in the painful pitch of the banshee.

A few days ago the ambulance had come, and she had still felt the hole in her soul. However, it now seemed to carry less weight on her heart. She had already begun to feel freedom as it tasted the dry flesh of once beautiful lips. Her heart no longer knew what to do with this…this free feel opening up the curtains of a soul dulled by years of torment. She had spent these sixty plus years knowing not freedom but crying endless tears of a trapped prey caught in a spider's web. As the news of finality had come just moments before, she remembered her freedom. She felt she needed to carry the actions of loss for the eyes of others, but she was truly beginning to embrace the comfort of the loss more. She did not believe she could perform on cue anymore. It was time to open her to life once again.

Elizabeth had once been the most eligible woman of her home town, but she had the destitute soul of the fatherless always staining her soul. Daddy had left her mother while she had been young. Daddy had traded for a "younger, better model." She had learned at this early age how men could be pigs. At least, this is what her mama had always said. Mama had tried to pass on this terrible life lesson. Was it a lesson, or was it a lie? Either way she never minded the words of that woman, had she? Mama had known the ways of men and so did Daddy. He knew it well because he played the game so damn well.

She could barely conjure up his image these many years later. She had so craved a father. He was an empty pit in her heart, and he was the fog-filled void of what never was in her mind beyond the memory of a tiny little girl. She had never stopped feeling the desire to fill the gap of her scorned mind. Her spirit still bled beneath this scar. It was hard to move beyond the need for fulfillment.

When the messenger had come, she had gasped. He, perhaps, mistook this as a gesture of a broken heart, but she had breathed a release of forty-eight years. He had left her room like a pouty child after being disciplined. She gave herself a moment to crack a smile at his civilized belief he express a strong air of sympathy. Even now as she gazed out the window of this civilized purgatory of healing, she felt the sun looked so amazing in its yellow brightness. Her world sang a sudden rainbow of Technicolor. She knew the vision of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the 1939 masterpiece from MGM. She could see vibrant life in the trees surrounding the parking lot of the facility. Cars gleamed in the parking lot in front of her eyes like the world suddenly carried a new coat of paint shining everything anew.

"I don't think I am in Kansas anymore," she quietly whispered. A beautiful eastern bluebird fluttered past the window as she gazed forward to the landscape before her eyes. If a passerby looked deep into her eyes, would the pupils reflect green as they once did during her youth? It seemed to respond to her voice. She felt as if she could dance in a Degas painting of youthful dancers preparing for the ballet. She looked to the sky, and saw the vibrant blue pointing to her horizon. After all, she knew she could go forward. The oxygen enriched breathing of her lungs began to remind her of her long forgotten life. Her nose picked up the smells of the surrounding building. She could smell illness, yes, but she smelled a bacon cheeseburger as its aroma waffled through an air conditioned draft. She could smell the aroma of flowers in its abundance within the shiny waxed floors of sterile cleanliness. It was magnificent.

The parking lot seemed vast and void of beauty, yet it was beautiful. Cars glimmered in sunlight; the windows reflected all the beauty surrounding the grey of the pavement. She felt as if she could run out barefoot and peer into the reflecting image of her lost beauty and still feel happy with this thought. She saw a strong Maple tree toward the edge of the park, and she could feel the vibrant strength of its magnificence. It stood tall, and the leaves were green in the life force of summertime. Further ahead reaching to the urban horizon of her eyes, she saw a bus stop. She saw a young woman sitting on a bench waiting for her bus. She was young, but Elizabeth suspected she could share a good story. We all could, she thought. It had been so long since she had been able to share the joy of verbal expression. He….well it did not matter. That was yesterday. She could have a today carrying the wonders of the horizon in front of her. Life was not endless, but tomorrow could feel like it for a moment.

She no longer would hear the voice echo tormenting her in its cruelty throughout the house. "ELIZABETH!" the voice would shatter any solitude she might find. It would scream not more forever, she wryly smiled. She could go home and set at her dusty vanity. She could use a bit of a do over. Maybe she would let her long hair loose from its prison of tie up as well. Her whole body should taste freedom. She would no longer wear the cross of ridicule from the center of her breasts like a brand for cattle. Maybe, she would simply fill her tub with lavender bubbles. She would relax, certainly. She could feel safe. She could even call Steven without fear; he had been her childhood friend. She had never been permitted…She would be devastated if time had taken him. It had been such a long time for so many of her friends.

Her eyes blinked for a moment. The bluebird floated by again. It seemed to ask why you don't just pick up a phone. It seemed to say lift your hands up high and tell everyone you are back. There are a few still hanging in this world with you. You know this; you have always known. Elizabeth, the world needs your beauty walking the halls of womankind as it should and as it belongs.

The messenger was back. He clumsily asked like a fool, "Ma'am is there anything I can do to help you?"

"Yes, could you tell me which way is north?" she laughed even sounding a bit seductive. She chuckled even more by the confused look upon his brow. She then took a step forward ignoring the young and now dazed looking fellow, her messenger. She knew she would never go back again with so much glowing north in her horizon. She belonged there.


He was mumbling and smacking his head. Roland did not know why these days. He just wanted the voices . . . to simply "Shut-up!" He said so loudly. Hearing his voice in self-conversation no longer disturbed him.

Right now he was in front of this huge Maple tree on the edge of a parking lot. Bobby was one of the voices in his head, and he told Roland to talk to the tree. It would be his next move. Roland hoped it would carry the life force of the last move. Chess was such a fine game to play. It could be so . . . it could be so red, and you know what red means.

"Red is dead!" He laughed to his wonderful joke to himself. "Red is Righteous!" He followed up with another good one. He suddenly danced his feet like a happy clown. He was happy. Bath salts always turned his dark sorrowful mind in the frying pan of humor.

He knew trees could not talk, but he also knew Bobby eternally told him good stories. He always took him on a good path. The path led him to those lovers in the park the other day, it was a wonderful meeting. Yesterday, Bobby took him to see that teenage boy, and we know what had been on the boy's mind. It was what visions were always on these punks minds. Roland kept him clean though. Civilization couldn't stand by and allow anarchy and war in the streets. It was the proper reason the streets needed a janitor to help clean up the dirt and blood. It was what good men did. Good men led teenagers on a righteous path. It made you better men. Bobby had done well by bringing me to meet that young savage, he thought with a wry smile. We all need teaching at any cost. Even drug addicted punks.

He approached Diana. That was the trees name, Bobby told him so. He told him plain. After a small howdy-do he realized the tree was playing hard to get, and he remembered true ladies liked the gaze of a man before they would speak. I am all that…and a bag of potatoes… he thought with a sly country grin. He looked at the rough, brownish grey bark which reminded him of the welts on his side every time his daddy whooped him with the belt. Yes, his ol' man had taught him good as Roland would teach others in his lifetime. The world could thank the thankless man inside his head for this. However, he knew Bobby deserved thanks. He was changing the world one head at a time.

He saw the rough ravines of this powerful tree, and he knew this lady knew powerful the same way he did. She had weathered many storms. It was the way of the world. He too had been to battles; many of the battles were beyond his psychological thinking, to be honest. He saw some ants crawling in the surface. He noticed they were carrying a corpse. On closer inspection, he realized they were carrying a limp spider. He smirked at the thoughts of another downed bully. You boys took care of him, you boys did fine! He sent them a message from his third eye. The third eye helped him see the bad of the world so much better. He could see the bad in the spider too even as it was carried post-mortem.

"They got you good, tee he!" He giggled. Bullies were always bad. The ants were simply cleaning the house. The world always needed a good cleansing. He liked their style.

He saw a gash in the bark. He wiped a tear from his eye at this thought. He thought of how terrible it was the world had injured her. Diana was so magnificent in his eyes. Her beauty was regal. He knew he could fall in love with her in her magnificent beauty; she was the elegant, supple queen. He could follow her graceful curves far above his sight carrying him to the sky like a bird beginning flight.

He moved his hands flowing across her body as he touched her curves. Mama would be so angry. Maybe this evening he could come back and share some secrets, and gaze upon her loveliness under the white glow of the moon. He knew he could show her how a lady should be treated. He could climb up to the powerful branches above, and he could gaze deeper into her soul. He could fall asleep to her loving gaze and passionate embrace. He looked above at her gorgeous green leaves. He could almost see the pulse of her life force in the flow of her leaves above. She whispered to him to come back later.

He had to go deliver a message of cleansing. I will be back, my lady. Would you like to meet my friend Bobby? He told me to come.


Instinct is the only thing she knew. Instinct had kept her safe; it kept her away from the tall two-legged creatures hunting her even now. She could smell her hunters from the east in the breeze fluffing her nose. Their smell was that of greed. Their blood laid waste to all that crossed their path in their endless pursuit of waste, war, and death. They were greedy, they always wanted more.

She had torn the throat out of one of the two-legged creatures several days ago. She had been held captive. She knew the only way to survive was to kill.

She was near their beasts; the beasts had legs round like the moon and sun. In her youth, she had never encountered such strange creatures. She only had the sun; she only had the leaves and breeze of her home. Now she had nothing but hunger. That was then, and this is now. She had only a need to survive.

It had been many sunrises since her escape from the two-legged creature. It had carried death, but she delivered it better. Now as she moved cautiously among the round legged creatures, she searched for morsels of survival. She had found the two-legged creatures wasted some to eat, but it did not carry the life-force of the fresh kill. Suddenly one of the round legged creatures roared to life. She darted off for a moment until she realized it was not coming for her; she did not want to meet death to the jaws of another. The pads of her feet screamed in days of rough travel. This new world was inhospitable. A newspaper flew up smacking her in a face. She batted it away. If she could read the black spots of communication from the two-legged creatures, she would see an article about an escaped animal.

Red eyes suddenly glowed in the dusk before her. Her heart thudded frantic within her chest. It did not move. A tiny rodent to her left did scurry by. It would not be enough food for the void she was hoping to fill. She desired flesh of substance. She sensed it would come soon enough. She was not a monster. She was simply alive.

She suddenly heard one of the two-legged creatures approaching making a high pitched whistle noise. She felt the guttural growl silent within her lungs. The hair on the back of her neck raised and her hind legs dropped simply to the need to prepare for the pounce. The creature was talking to himself and laughing to an inward joke. She smelled sickness very different on him. Her nerves sensed evil in a black aura around him.

She saw his large body approach. He carried plenty of flesh. His blood would fill a vital need. She needed to survive. He continued making the whistle sounds as she observed his body jiggling like Jello approaching her location. Every muscle and tendon tightened from within her body as she waited for him to come closer. Her eyes could read crystal clear the darkness around her. She was not always nocturnal, but everything was not normal for her at this moment. He was getting closer. Her eyes remained on him, still hungry. He was close enough. She pounced now simply as a predator in simple hunger. Life did not have wants; it simply required the need and the means to get there.

Instinct was the only thing she knew. She felt the warmth of juices, and she tasted softness of meat as her teeth tore into survival. She merely fed.


Here it stood. This building was purchased in greed. It was tall and overbearing like a parent to a child, perhaps. It was supposed to be the headquarters of a great family corporation. It would be the endless symbol of the doomed parent child relationship which it truly was. It was blackened by the pain of raising a temperamental child by a parent who lived vicariously through the loss hopes of one person's dreams. One person's own selfish desires could make even the best of hearts lose love's path.

The buildings cast a gloom and doom shadow across the pavement. It blackened stale air already suffocated by a decision gone sour. A newspaper fluttered by. It told the news of fighting, mayhem, and death based on the whims of young men; it spoke of an escaped animal from the nearby zoo because the keeper had not done his job well. It showed the discolored decisions which carried the permanency of actions gone wrong like the purchase of this building. Grief could be carried like vermin in the city gutter and actions for good or bad always sang of consequences. It was the song of life his father, the wretched soul he'd been, always spoke of.

There was never to be an end, yet an end had arrived. It was not the one hoped for as a newborn had been placed into these once strong arms. Frailty had come with age, but so had dignity in wealth. The golden gargoyles topping the building sang of a woeful tune of misguided greed. It was the gargoyles and the gods, perhaps. They had come for payment on the misdeeds of the past. They looked for a toasted temper to gain the pound of flesh. The damn fool should have listened…should have, could have, but didn't. It seemed as if every boy felt fists flying always gave an answer. Did they?

Were the windows foggy? Was this just the blurring of tear filled eyes? It would be the last time anyone would see that. The shadow of darkness could not compete with the shrewd blackness boiling inside the heart of this fierce business competitor. Everyone would pay. The reflective glass barely mirrored the aura of hatred growing inside. A small child may have mistaken the sorrowful but angry reflection a devil. The child would probably be right.

From an inside jacket sat a flask of whiskey. It might dull the pain. She wouldn't help for damn sure. A hand stained pale white from years of wheeling and dealing reached within the inside flap for the flask of warm liquid pain reliever. It would not be long before a mouth dry with pain would open up to accept an offering of escape and the words of the drunken would soon spill forth. It was mathematically inevitable. Revenge could then come. This building could house the bricks of a self-inflicted hate filled prison. It certainly looked tall enough to carry the pain. Yes, revenge would come soon enough.

This demon was formerly human most would say; some would say this demon was still very much a member of mankind. As the whiskey soon touched almost whitened pinkish lips, a voice crushed by loss croaked out its last attempt at humanity.

"I am sorry!" The voice screamed. The voice then shifted savagely creeping in a new pace a slithering snake.

"Elizabeth…" The new voice of hatred hissed. It was time to make everybody feel the pain and the price power had made him pay. The alcohol burned black fire down the path of a throat swelled from loss.

Before you reach for the sky, allow two feet to touch the ground

This was his building this wonderful masterpiece of modern architecture. It glimmered in the look of early twentieth century, yet it was during the time of getting beyond the pillars of Rome. It was an open glass and steel masterpiece of modernism. The building in a pint size could easily be a sculpture worthy of New York's Museum of Modern Art.

It was beautiful, elegant; it held fashion and style like the kiss of the midnight lily. It made her feel as if she could dance forever. Seeing this building showed a man of stature, but it also showed a man well in tune with art and architecture.

She saw her rosy reflections stare back. She knew a woman of confidence when she stared at the beautiful portrait of a woman staring back. She looked like she owned the world. She certainly could. She was from a family of money, but no pairing would never be needed for her. The woman staring back at her in the glass pane was a woman who could carry a courtship, and a man would come to her naturally. Passion would always be real.

She heard humming. It was coming from her voice she realized. She could dance, she could drink fine wine, and the world could eat out of her hand. Her green eyes reflecting back in the rose-colored glasses of young invincibility seemed to believe this. This building went up and up carrying her eyes forever up as her heart so desired. It was like the old maple tree near the county hospital. The building conveyed the pure essence reminding her how great were the words tall, dark, and handsome. She giggled.

It looked warm, it appeared comforting. It was the epitome of power and strength. Power could keep her safe. She had never felt happier in her life. She was twenty-one and life could only go up like this building. Life was forever. She could see the reflection of a sunny sky and clouds behind her tall curved body. Was that two people dancing in the clouds, or was it the sailor kissing the girl in that old photo from Victory Day at the end of World War II? In fact, as her eyes followed the height of the building upward bound, she felt the joy of a thousand beautiful colors of nature kissing her eyes through her soul. The building went on forever, and she wanted forever. She wanted every bit of this building; she wanted to go up and away like the blue birds flying above her head this very moment. It was a sign of a great life to come.

Her daddy had left her at a very early age, but Elizabeth knew this was the right time of her life. North was up, and she so wanted to find heaven. For the first time in her young life, she could feel flowers blooming from deep in her heart. Her heart desired passionate sunlight. She felt magnificent. She took a step back away from the building. She faced south.

It would be a long time before she saw north again.


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