Scarlet Red Ladder Rungs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young boy suffers from self harm.
Before you read, and make judgements, and have questions, know that I am a former self harmer. If you have questions, come to me. If you are ignorant on the subject, I will inform you. If you are wrong, I will correct you. This piece shows a little insight on to who I am, what I've been through, how sometimes I feel.
Last words: don't judge.

I sit in a corner by myself on the floor. I have my back to the rest of the room because I want to be alone. My index finger and thumb are wrapped around my left wrist. I know by now to be careful my forearm doesn't show because my straight, parallel cuts that look like scarlet red ladder rungs scare people away. Not that I care much for people, but it's nice not getting glares and wide eyes in the hallway.

I'm not crazy, I think to myself, just a little emotionally unstable and sad. I am okay.

As I get braver, I slide my sleeve up a few inches to reveal four neat, parallel cuts. No cicatrix has yet grown over them, and if I stretch my wrist the wrong way, they will break and bleed more.

The thought makes me smile. To bleed more.

I've been told I'm sick by my therapist. Well, mentally ill, but I know what it means. Sick. Psycho. My parents tell me it's not okay to have these problems because I'm a guy. “Mental illnesses are for girls,” my mom's words echo in my head and I shudder. Her complete ignorance is unnerving. And her generation is supposed to be running the world. That idea terrifies me to no end. No wonder the world is such a perilous place to be.

My index finger slides across the raised marks on my skin. The one second closest to the end of my wrist is the longest and I can also tell it's the deepest. It's an interesting shade of red and it's swelled more than the others. I can feel my pulse there. Ba bum. Ba bum. Ba bum.

I take deeper breaths because this exercise calms me. It's relaxing to think of this. When everyone left, when every thought turned to ash, when everywhere became a place of dread, anxiety and hate... my blood was an escape.

At first fingernail scratches sufficed. So I grew my nails out like a girl would. They were sharp and pointy and I'd scratch the outside of my arm. Just enough to leave a tiny red scratch for a few days. Not deep enough to even bleed. It didn't matter, because it made me okay, easier to handle my problems. I could still wear short sleeves and no one would notice.

That didn't last very long; only a few months. Then I started getting worse. Sadder for longer, angrier at more atrocities, smiling at fewer things. People started to notice. One day, in a fit of hysteria, I tore up one of my mom's razors and took out the blades. They were small, and fragile, and almost broke in my hand. It didn't bother me.

All they did was increase the depth of the scratches. Now they bled, but very little. Not enough to scar. Enough for someone to notice, however, so I bought a bunch of bracelets to cover them up. No one noticed, which made me happy. I didn't want people to know I was going crazy in my own skin. That lasted longer. Six months, probably, maybe seven. It lasted more than all summer, and I was okay. I wasn't happy, but it was easier to fake it. I smiled often. I was nicer to my friends and I even had a girlfriend or two. I can't clearly remember now. It feels like so long ago. A distant dream visited as a child.

Then it got worse. Everything did. I refused to eat, and I started to cut my arm. At first it was really close to my elbow. All the cuts were bunched up, and not very deep, but deeper than the scratches by a lot. I could still wear short sleeves and no one would notice. Just in case, I wore hoodies everyday.

From then on, it just got more horrendous. Deeper and lower, deeper and lower, until the whole process started to control my life. I started keeping myself sane to cut instead of cutting to keep myself sane. But I was okay. At least, that's what I told myself.

Before I knew it, my whole body was covered in cicatrix, scar tissue and wounds. I had to find other places, other ways to harm myself. I'd burn my wounds with lighters I stole from my dad. I'd cut my legs. I could only cut my left arm because my right hand was dominant. But I could cut both legs, my stomach, and I even bought real blades.

And then we swam. In gym. No one knew until that day in gym because no one cared enough to pay attention. We were given swim trunks. The bottom of my legs, arms, and stomach were exposed. All my skin covered in scar tissue, cicatrix and fresh wounds from only days before. I was vulnerable.

The teacher called my parents. I was exempt from gym. All hell broke loose.

My parents freaked out. They sent me to therapy. They wouldn't let me out of the house. They told all of my family and friends. My friends stopped talking to me and told everyone else about my problems. Everyone thinks I'm a freak.

So I sit here and go over my wounds with my fingers, all alone, with no one to talk to, addicted to the pain; the blood; the itching when they're healing; the scars and making new ones.

I am okay.

Submitted: May 13, 2012

© Copyright 2022 emilyleffler. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



This is powerful, and I won't judge you- so it's ok :) I like the words you chose and the summary was well done. Once again, I can't help but feel the POWER coming frm your words, they overwhelm me! Great job, though :)

Mon, May 14th, 2012 12:36am


I am also an ex-cutter. and I know how this feels... I could relate really well to the process, and how people feel about. Really emotional writing, I love it.

Mon, May 14th, 2012 1:19am

Scarlett Rae

I’m not here to act like I know anything about this subject… anything about you, but I’m not here to judge either. The message about constructive criticism on your profile is what attracted me to your writing because I agree. “KMU” is about the most annoying comment ever and I’d rather the person not comment at all unless they’re actually going to act like they’ve read my work and put thought into a comment.

Anyway, about your writing… Deathstix was right in saying this is powerful with excellent word choice. I felt as if I was stepping into someone’s mind and the progression of the story was intriguing. I like your style with the use of short, clipped phrases - it feels more like the natural way someone would tell a story.

I found that final line interesting. Not sure if it’s hopeful or ironic or just up for interpretation.

Thanks for sharing!

Mon, May 14th, 2012 3:06am


An Intense piece, Honestly, I have heard about this condition but wasn't completely aware of it. I hope you are fine and it seems that writing helps you in unleashing those hidden emotions inside you as this was very powerful and intense... Liked it :)

Mon, May 14th, 2012 4:04am


its very painful when i read these kind of things but i guess you are guilty deep inside for people noticing you be like that and its not right thing to stay away from you. but still you have friends here on booksie you can share you feelings through your poems or articles ..anything.we are here :)

Mon, May 14th, 2012 5:25am


wow! it really is great! its beautiful
i liked it ;)

Mon, May 14th, 2012 5:41am

Nicky Xander

WoW really deep stuff very emotional. Love the way you use the narrative which makes the reader question their own happiness or purpose and then end with a very ambiguous statement. I honestly can't find anything to say about it that's bad. Well done ;)

Mon, May 14th, 2012 10:17am


A very moving piece. Strong images and thoughts bounce around, hitting the reader hard in the face. What you describe here, I think many youths can relate to. I certainly can.
The fact that you have been through the same thing, makes this piece even more believable and real. There is no reason to doubt your words.
Personally I found a few phrasings a bit "heavy", some excessive words that slow down the overall rapid pace.
Nothing major, just a little detail, a tiny flaw if you will, in an otherwise good piece.
If you want details on what I noticed, leave a comment on my profile and I'll get back to you. If not, I just recommend you read through with a very critical eye, as if it was not your own text.
Thank you for telling me about this. It was a pleasure to read!
- Springsun.

Mon, May 14th, 2012 10:49am

Jean Lagace

I am really impress. This is serious stuff. A very good piece that has an horror fascination quality.It is believable. And well written. BRAVO!

Mon, May 14th, 2012 1:42pm


This is so powerful, and stunning.
I have managed to keep this condition quite minimal; every month or two, never straying from the same spot, so to see the condition written about in such detail... It's sad, but awe-inspiring.
The last paragraph almost brought me to tears; it was just so powerful.
Great work!

Mon, May 14th, 2012 3:50pm


This is so sad. Powerful and amazing, but sad. I feel so sorry for him, and I really don't like his mum at the moment :/

Mon, May 14th, 2012 6:00pm

Miss A

' When everyone left, when every thought turned to ash, when everywhere became a place of dread, anxiety and hate… my blood was an escape. '
My favorite lines of your write-up. Very emotionally strong stuff.
And I also liked how you ended it with ' I am okay' . Well written.

Mon, May 14th, 2012 10:24pm


This is very sad deary. You are very talented in writing. Its wonderful and amazing. You really show great detail and emotion.

I dont think its right to cut, but I understand some things you just cant help. I wish you the best.


Tue, May 15th, 2012 12:39am


very powerful piece.. and sad at the same time.. well-written and emotional..
i felt sorry for the guy.. it's a sad story after all.. i understand some of the things that was mentioned here.. i know how painful it is.. i understand people who have conditions like this, because i have a friend who suffered from this condition, too.. it's really heart-breaking..
thanks for sharing this.

Tue, May 15th, 2012 8:36am

Yume chan

Intense truly. Knowing that your condition and knowing you wrote this from experience is saddening. It saddens me to think that you went through hell to go so far as to wreck your body just to satiate the pain. I can't imagine. I know some people turn to different things to create the illusion that's its ok, to still their pain and worries even at the cost of their health, status or family and friends. I can't blame the parents for trying to help thinking that therapy is the best way. They might not understand the situation or think by doin what they do it'll help, even if it doesn't. Going back to the story, very well written with tons of emotions and pain showing in the character. I do wana point out in the first paragraph there was a sentence( believe the second last) that confused me and didn't flow well or make entire sense. Maybe a comma or fullstop would help. No other errors I could pick up. Sad ending aswell. This is a story to tell you how easily one goes from bad to worse, hopefully it'll warn people and teens out there that its just not worth it. Talk to someone fight you fears head on, but avoid the addiction as much as possible. It never ever has good endings. Thank you for making me more aware :) your very talented.

Tue, May 15th, 2012 2:46pm


my son cut for a while. i like the way you allow this to progress through the developement of cutting, although, coming from an era when cutting didn't happen, i still fail to see how it makes someone feel better. but i'm all too familiar with the unhappiness your character portrays. i thought is was well done, although i not that much of an expert of prose.

Wed, May 16th, 2012 12:33pm

Antoine Watson I

im very happy you are a former self harmer and that you no longer do that. It takes a strong person to quit an addiction especially whe pain rains heavy in life and that was your way of coping. As for the writing it was great. the imagery was amazing and i could actually invision the piece from behinning to end. It sounds more like a journel entry than a short story but i guess it correlates. I would have liked to see some quotes from the friends and family to find out what they really said and felt. But overall this was great. One of the best and vivid writings ive seen so far

Wed, May 16th, 2012 2:49pm

Kate Collins

The story is intensely moving at a certain level and i think it is really great. but, i would strongly suggest that in order to give off a more strong or intense vibe, try a more decisive ending, a kind where everything sort of adds up, you know? it leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and makes them want to read even more of your work. a loose ending leaves the reader uneasy and wondering, which isn't very advisable. But otherwise, great work! :)

Sat, May 19th, 2012 9:46am


I know by now to be careful... The entire sentence is muddled up and is not comprehensive. Do rework on it please.
Italicize the "I am okay" in 2nd paragraph. It will add more effect to it. Because the narrator is asseverating to be ok, it will make it more dramatic if the text was supplied with some effects like bold, italics etc.
As I get braver... - sounds offhand to the context. I suggest 'Collecting my bravery, I slide...'
Again, italicize - 'to bleed more.' Can you, by now, identify why I advise them? Those are the critical, or crucial points. And those places, if added more dramatic effect, will make it effective. It will have more chances of influencing the reader.
Again, italicize - Sick. Psycho.
Ba bum. Ba bum. Wonderful wordplay! I like this ruse - of showing the actual 'sound'! I may use it in my future writs!
When everyone left...blood was an escape! Oh my goodness! You are soooooooooooooooooo good... Seriosuly this is soooooo sooooo soooooooo wonderful! This is my favourite sentence that you've written so far!
Going crazy in my own skin! Haha ambiguity! Wonderful! It can mean going crazy carnally, as well as in personality! Great! Or was it not intended to be so? I don't know. Either way, it is lovely that you wrote so.
Keep sane to cut instead of cutting to keep sane! - Wow claps!
No one knew the day of because... - day of what? Sentence unclear.
I was exempt from gym. That is enough, in my opinion. Consider removing 'all of swimming.'
...told everyone else about MY problems.
Italicize the final "I'm okay."
Another magnum opus! This piece, as you yourself said, is your best. I aver you that. This, in addition to all the elements of writings, is very poignant! It will go deep within the reader's heart and start to influence them.
Ok Emily, regarding this piece I've no suggestion to make. This is, all in all, perfect!
I LOVE this writ. (Like < Love, right?)
The way you finish all the stories - an open end, where you leave no clue to the reader what will happen next; without resolving things, is ammmmmazing! I totally am for that style! You let the reader form their own conclusions. You reveal so little, yet being able to make the stories more deep. I'm OFFICIALLY, and AUTHENTICALLY, am proud to be your fan/friend/brother. This is so wonderful, sister.
To be frank, I wanted to be critical on this writing. I wanted to, yet I can't find anything to criticize! Wow... You impressed me much.
Keep writing. Keep inspiring me. Yes, this writing inspires me!
Take care :)

Sat, May 19th, 2012 3:53pm

Ian Dawn

Nice emotions mixed with you and a force that is teh truth. You cant get a better mix I love teh way you take the reader on the ride with depression and teh forces that bind.

Mon, May 28th, 2012 6:19am

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