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This Place

A Story

By Dean F. HardyPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 6 min read
Top Story - January 2023
This Place
Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash


Black. A glassy reflection to it that made him think of beached whales, slick with oil after a tanker spill. He blew smoke down into it and watched it swirl and linger like a fog. Slowly, it faded and the features of his face reappeared in disjointed form, fragmented in the rippled liquid. Fragmented, he thought. Pulled apart. The liquid settled further and his face came into clear view within it. Broken. He pulled on his cigarette, exhaled and brought the coffee to his lips.

The heat of it forced his body to shudder in the morning cold. He winced and chased it with another drag of his cigarette.

"Scorched Earth," he breathed.

He turned to look around the grounds. The trees were browned and naked. The concrete pavement was loose and uneven and grey. The sky mirrored what it looked upon.

The others stood in twos and threes and did so in silence, smoking and sipping their coffees. Their backs facing the fences, turned away from the outside world and whatever waited for them there. Whether this was a conscious or subconscious act, Atticus did not know.

He killed the end of his cigarette and let it fall into his cup and listened to the feint sizzle. He looked around once more, at the trees and the concrete and the faces and the looming sky, above them all. The faces looked beyond him, into the past.

Fragmented, he thought again. Broken.



She woke to the noise of hard rain falling. In these parts, winter swallowed the concept of time and darkness became the light. Arching shadows of the street stretched across the bedroom wall and she watched the rain run its shape over them. She reached out instinctively beside her and felt for him. The cold sheets, burnt her touch.

She retreated her arm and coiled it around her goosefleshed breasts, embraced herself and tried to forget.



The air felt full and heavy. It left a taste of metal on the tongue. He looked to the window. The sky foreshadowed a beautiful chaos. Nimbostratus formations, dense and powerful and violent, collided like the tectonic plates they towered over. He recalled camping with his Father as a boy.

The sky moved like a great wave, an entire ocean pushing down upon them as if the sky itself was falling. Thunder echoed and roared through the valleys whilst he sought protection beneath his Father's arms and behind fastened eyes, he prayed that he would save them.

"It's alright, Son. You're safe," he whispered.

"What is it Papa?"

The mountain quaked and all around them the trees bowed and submitted to the majesty of the Universe as the heavens opened before them. He felt his Father's forearms forge their way through him, his fingers chiseling into his flesh. He knew then that he was safe and he sobbed.

"Papa, what is it ?" he cried. "Pa-"

"Atticus. Atticus, what is it ? Atticus, are you listening ?" she said.

He withdrew his attention from the window and from the past, "Yes, Dr.Crenshaw. I'm sorry, I was-"

"Someplace else," she interjected. "What was on your mind ?"

"God's fury," he breathed.

She sat back across the desk and allowed contemplation to settle into silence. She watched his face return slowly to the present. His eyes, were acrylic and spoke a language of their own. His face was hardened and aged beyond its natural years. She imagined men were intimidated by such a face and that women feared it.

She had seen it in many of her patients but none so much as him. Guilt had eroded his face like wind through rock. He held her gaze and his eyes told her, that that would be all for the day. She feared for him and before that fear took hold of her expression, she sat forward and attempted a half smile.

He stood and left.

She turned and faced the window and watched as the remaining fragment of light faded into its counterpart.

"Goodbye, Atticus," she whispered.



She waited until the dark became total before she arose from bed. She staggered down the stairs and made her way through the house, switching on the living room radio, the living room television, the kitchen radio and the dining room television.

She made her way back to the staircase as framed faces of what once was smiled to her, frozen in the past. She returned to the bedroom and left the door ajar and listened from the bed, to the hollow sounds of electronic strangers drift throughout the house.

She lay there and pretended to hear them playing the gameshows. Shouting questions at the screen for Jeopardy! Atticus teasing Susie as she fawned over Allen Ludden and his opening line on Password Plus+. "Hi, Doll!" he would grin through the screen and their daughter would tint crimson and melt both their hearts. The show would end and the three of them would play together in the quiet of the evening.

Susie would stand in the middle of the room and do her best Allen Ludden impression, "Hi Doll!" and spectate as her Mother and Father attempted to guess eachothers passwords on the little hints whispered to her. Atticus would always lose, his eyes giving away too much. His drunken smirk breaking his poker face. Each time, Susie would demand: "Reset your password, Daddy!". Not even her impression of Allen Ludden could withstand the adoration she had for her Daddy. Everytime they played, the last password never changed.

Atticus would turn to Susie and lift her high, kiss her and tell her: "I love you."

The static sounds carried these memories like ghosts up the stairs and she hoped that they would stay and haunt her, just a while. Until she drifted back to sleep.



He lay in his room and listened to the storm push against the walls of this place. The windows were wired mesh inside and the bars across them were solid iron; he knew it wouldn't be enough. Nothing could stop it now.

The night seeped into the room like ink. A darkness embodied by an entity that seemed to breath black into the world itself. He was angry. He was ashamed and guilty. He was afraid. He couldn't defeat what he sealed as his fate. Lightening flashed in the black and beckoned the thunderous call of the Earth. He startled and clenched his fists and longed for his Father's grace. He prayed for his strength. He prayed for his love from a far away place. He prayed that he could hear him.

His last thoughts were of his family. The little time that they were given. The cruelty of them being taken away. The regret, that what took them were his own hands. His little Susie, his poor Marie.

Forgive me. Forgive me.

He rose to meet it. His flesh exposed, he outstretched his arms and returned the Earth's roar as the walls of this place broke and gave way.

MysteryShort Story

About the Creator

Dean F. Hardy

Writer from Dublin, Ireland.

*All work here is owned by Dean F. Hardy*

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  4. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  5. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (23)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock10 months ago

    Compelling & haunting.

  • Judey Kalchik 10 months ago

    I'm glad Lamar included the link to this in his 100th story piece! so big. So angry.

  • Brannan K.about a year ago

    That truly was great. The turn of realizing he was imprisoned was so finely done..speculating what he did to get there makes one feel that cascading darkness he watched filter slowly into his cell. Once again, excellent and moving.

  • Alina Zabout a year ago

    You make character-building look so easy! You rendered Atticus and his inner turmoil in such a compelling, tragic way. I particularly enjoyed the syntagm 'Guilt had eroded his face'. I read your interview in 'Center Stage' and was happy to discover your stories!

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Congrats on placing. Well deserve. Yay you!

  • Beth Sarahabout a year ago

    I adore this writing. Adore it. Stunning.

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Chua Yuan Hengabout a year ago

    It's great to see such a nice story here. Keep up the good work.

  • JBazabout a year ago

    Wow, you have beautiful style of writing. so visual and emotional. Terrific story and Congratulations on a Top Story

  • Loved the form , great story

  • VIDHYASAGARabout a year ago

    Really amazing content ☺️🤗☺️🤩🤩🤩

  • Stephanie J. Bradberryabout a year ago

    Excellent story. It made me remember aspects of literature I love so much. Congratulations on Top Story.

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Congrats on the Top Story.

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    Now I get to congratulation YOU on a Top Story! So well deserved. This was brilliant!

  • KJ Aartilaabout a year ago

    Oh.My.Gosh! This is such a dark,. but fabulous story which I enjoyed to the end - loved the imagery and the intense emotion.

  • Judey Kalchik about a year ago

    This slice of a troubled life was just big enough to make the reader want more. So: perfectly proportioned! This is one of my favorite sentences: "The sky mirrored what it looked upon."

  • Megabout a year ago

    I thoroughly enjoy your writing. Very descriptive and effortless to read! Can't wait to read more of your work.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a year ago

    I love your style of writing, it seems so effortless and poetic. The way you mix words to create descriptions is pure talent. I especially loved the line "His eyes were acrylic and spoke a language of their own." Awesome stuff. Loved this story!

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Amazing!!! Left a heart!!!

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    Good job!!! Nicely written.

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Beautifully written, emotional story. Well done.

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    Such anguish in this piece, you could simply feel it everywhere, clinging to you. And my word, did you have so much rich, beautiful language. You have a wonderful gift, my friend :) Loved it!

  • Wow, this was awesome! Loved the switch of POV between Atticus and Marie!

  • Sonia Heidi Unruhabout a year ago

    The descriptions are simply wonderful, especially that first paragraph! Heart-rending conclusion.

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