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Scarred for Life

by S. E. Linn 12 months ago in Short Story · updated 5 months ago
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By S.E.Linn

Photo Credit: Shawna Linn


June 21, 2019 – 3:30pm

She stood in front of her mirrored closet door, looked herself over with an appraising eye and satisfied, nodded. She tucked an eagle feather up into her gleaming, black hair and smoothed her red, flowing skirt with palms dampening.

This was such an important day.

In a couple of hours, her 18-year-old son, Alex would be graduating from Kamloops Senior Secondary. The first man in her entire family to finish high school. She had waited patiently and worked tirelessly for this day. And, in her entire life, she had never been so gloriously proud.

Many times, over so many hard years, this single mother had pictured her little boy grown, waiting in turn, on that commencement stage. Every hope. Every dream. Every sacrifice. For him.


She looked up, eyes bright, as he appeared in the bedroom doorway and smiled.

“So?” he said, voice deep. “Ready to go?”

She nodded, turning once. “Well? How do I look?”

“Beautiful, Momma. C’mon, we don’t want to be late.”

Her heart overflowed with pure love. She nodded and smiled.

As he turned to leave, in his cap and gown, she picked up a small, red, velvet box from her dresser.

“Alex, I have something I’ve been waiting to give you for a long time.”

Curious, he turned. “What is it?” Taking the box, he opened the lid and saw his great-grandmother’s heart-shaped, silver locket inside.

“Oh, Momma, I can’t take this. It’s your favorite.”

She pressed the heirloom into his palm and as his fingers curled around it, she smiled.

“No, you are. I want you to have it. It is meant to keep you safe in this world, and in all worlds after.”

To her, nothing on this earth meant more.

And, later that night, when swing after violent swing of a baseball bat shattered the teenager's bones and smashed open his fragile skull – this world would exist for her no more.



When he’d gotten robbed for the first time that month, Dan Jeffries thought he had done the right thing.

He’d done exactly what every other homeowner in a middle-income, Brocklehurst neighborhood would have, considering the situation.

He called the R.C.M.P, filed a police report and put up motion sensor lights.

The second time a week later? Same thing. Except he added a doorbell camera to his home security repertoire.

When it happened a third time, Dan Jeffries got mad.

Watching the cops drive away that day, licking Boston Crème off their fingers, the 40-year-old, father of three and upstanding business owner, decided that if the cops weren’t gonna do nothin’ about the recent string of B&Es in his neighborhood, then goddammit, he would!

A man has a right to defend his family! Defend his home! Defend his tools!

When he’d bought the cocaine that Friday night, he didn’t have a solid plan. All he knew was if those candy-assed, little thief bastards were comin’ back for his shop tools again, he’d be ready. And, waiting.

After the wife and kids had turned in for the night, Dan pulled out a tray, busted out a few fat rails, killed the lights, and prepared for a little rough justice.

Everyone knew that if your shit got broken into, the Kamloops cops ain’t gonna do squat. They didn’t give a flying you-know-what about his expensive tools, the long hours he’d been putting in to put food on his table, or the meth heads that were becoming a major problem in his family neighborhood.

Once in awhile, someone got busted down in Westsyde, with a bunch of missing kids’ bikes, but, for the most part, you could pretty much kiss anything that got lifted goodbye.

Piece of shit meth heads! All they got was a slap on the wrist and they were right back at it again the next day. In his neighborhood! And the damn cops didn’t care. You call that civilized? You call that justice?

So, when it happened again, Dan was going to be ready. Sometimes, as a man, you just gotta take these matters into your own damn hands!

He stroked Woody – his Louisville Slugger - and busted out another line of blow.

He just knew that at some point this night, those thieves were coming back for round four.

Graduation had completely slipped his mind.



Alex was really drunk. And, really lost.

All he remembered was leaving the Broc house party with some friends and suddenly, when he turned around, he couldn’t seem to find them. Where the hell had he put his phone? The early morning air was warm in June. Streetlights were glowing with an orange, hazy hue. Rock music was playing somewhere nearby. Maybe he should head that way? Maybe that’s where his buddies had gone.

He just needed a minute to clear his head.

What Alex didn’t realize was that he had stopped in front of the wrong house. He’d picked the wrong lawn. And, when the older man with crazy eyes came running out, bat in hand, he didn’t have a prayer. Nor the time left to make one.

His mother wondered afterwards if her son had had one loving thought of her in those last few moments.

He hadn’t.

In fact, the last thing that went through Alex’s bright, young mind, as he turned to run away, was a solid wood, Louisville slugger.

Alex Cross never had a conscious thought again.


She felt nothing as she looked down upon the lifeless body of her only child. Bloodied and bruised. Broken. There was nothing to feel anymore. She heard the beeping of hospital machines. She understood what the doctors told her. He was never going to be the same. And, neither would she.

Her heart was gone. Her love. Her life. There was nothing anymore. No empathy. No pain.

But, as she bent to kiss her son’s bandaged cheek there was left, this one thing.

Pure. Unbridled. Rage.

She reached for the locket that was still around his neck.

She closed her eyes, lifted her anguished face to the sky, opened her soul and screamed.


And, through the dense fog, he heard.


September 2020

Sitting there, in remand, awaiting his trial, Dan Jeffries was feeling pretty optimistic about things. It’d been touch and go for a while there. But, against the odds, the kid he’d batted was still alive. Barely, but as his lawyer said, as long as the Native kid kept on breathing, he’d be out in five – Time served.

Luckily, this was Canada. Cut a head off on a Greyhound bus and you were out in 18 months. Take that crazy Merritt asshole. Killed his three little kids in cold blood and gets to go for Grandes?

If it were Texas, Dan knew he’d have been in a whole lot more legal trouble. Luckily, it wasn’t. Canada was way more civilized.

Compared to all the crazy psychos out there? Dan figured he wasn’t that bad. No prior convictions. No record. God, it was just an error in judgement. Should be out in a jiffy.

So, when “the needle pain” started in his arm, Dan didn’t know what to think. At first, it seemed as though something was biting him. He looked down and rubbed the tender flesh on his right forearm. He could see nothing there. The biting intensified. It felt like a tiny invisible sewing machine needle was running back and forth over his skin. His flesh began to rise angrily. But, only in that one spot. He felt a little sick. Clammy. And chalked it up to a flu bug or something. Maybe a spider got him.

He decided to go to bed early. Hopefully, in the morning everything would be just fine.

But, when he woke up several hours later, it wasn’t.

The needling pain had stopped, but when he rubbed his forearm, it was slimy. And, wet.


When he turned on the light in his cell, Dan Jeffries could not believe what he saw. A fresh, black, tribal tattoo of an eagle’s feather was somehow on his forearm. Six inches long.

As he stared in disbelief, Dan realized that the pain was beginning again. This time on the back of his left calf.

As it intensified, his heart started to pound.

He screamed for the guards.


As the days passed, the needling pain got worse and worse. The prison doctor had given him sleep medication to knock him out, but every time Dan awoke, another tattoo had appeared on a new part of his body.

Each tattoo was larger and more detailed than the one before. He writhed in agony for days only to watch the emergence of a completely shaded tribal backpiece.

It was an old medicine woman with a feather headdress and what looked like skulls lying at her feet. He recognized a bear claw, an eagle feather, a lone wolf. Looking over his shoulder he saw a wild horse rearing up, and pawing the air. More skulls and death.

Every time a new tattoo emerged, the pain would temporarily fade, only to begin again somewhere else on his body. But, each time the tiny needles punched through his skin, they went faster and faster until he wanted to scream.

When, from exhaustion, he finally slept, Dan dreamed of beating drums, wild beasts and rivers running from dark, unknown eyes. The relentless pain of a thousand little stings was slowly driving him mad.

In a short time, Dan stopped wanting to see. He'd forgotten who he used to be.

For now, every inch of his skin was scarred for life.

Tattoos now covered his body and face that told horrific tales that were not of his choosing. Images of violence. Death. Demons. Murder. The dead eyes of lost children. Torture and unbearable pain.

Before he completely lost his mind to the horror and pain, in those last seconds, Dan thought desperately of his sons, opened his eyes, and as he looked at every inch of his tattooed face and body in his closet mirror he screamed,

Why are you doing this? One brain-dead kid is not the end of the world!

The last thing he heard before madness took him was a voice that whispered,

“It is to me. Consider it time served.”


Short Story

About the author

S. E. Linn

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