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Sweat and Tears

Sweat and tears

Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

There is a fresh, blank page sitting in front of me, and as I stare at it it seems to stare back.

‘It’s always so hard to get started’, I think. ‘I just wish I could get over the hump without climbing the hill. I feel like Sisyphus, every time I think I’ve gotten to the peak I roll back down to the start.’ I put my pen to the pristine white page and pause. Thinking. Agonizing over what sort of approach I will take this time. Will I be too eager? Will I lose interest? Is it going to be long enough, short enough, authentic or intelligent enough? Black ink has begun to pool where the pen’s tip is still pressed to the paper, and I watch it soak in as any answers elude me.

Still, there’s no way to break the block other than to just start writing, directionless or otherwise.


“There is a girl, sitting in a room.”

And with that first phrase, the floodgates have opened.

“She is wearing a simple dress, blue with a floral print. The room around her is nondescript and familiar. There is no door or window. There is a bed frame and mattress, a side table, and a chair, which this girl occupies. Behind this chair there is a simple floor length mirror, affixed to the wall. Above it, a clock, ticking quietly.”

Good start.

“She sits gingerly on the edge of the chair, as though ready to spring into action at the drop of a hat. Ripe with anxious energy, she keeps her back to the mirror behind her, as though it might jump up and bite her if she looks at it. Her foot is tapping, and she shifts and shuffles lightly in place. It seems like she is waiting for something. In a confined space with no entrance or exit, it is unclear what she is waiting for.”

“She twists the hem of her skirt around and around her finger, trying to place how she got it, when she last changed. To her, the dress feels old and familiar, and yet somehow untouched. She adjusts it, smooths the fabric, and then changes her mind and adjusts it again.”


I’m finally gaining a little bit of momentum. This feels good! The piece has direction, it feels like it’s moving at a good pace, and the ink is beginning to shine a deep brown. Right on track.

“She looks around at the furniture in front of her, never daring to so much as glance back towards the mirror. While the room is static and quiet, her distress continues to mount. All at once, she springs up from her perch and crosses to the bed, hungry eyes hunting the area for something. She feels like she already checked, but she just has to go looking again.”

“The bed is bare, stripped to the mattress. She pulls open the drawers of the side table and finds nothing. She knows this room must have been well furnished once, and yet has apparently been slowly stripped down to its current barren state. Nonetheless, she combs the room once more. The clock ticks on, and as she searches with her back still to the mirror the hour hand inches towards six, crawling closer. Closer. Closer—“

“The clock strikes six.”

I take a moment to crack my knuckles and shake my head, but only a moment. The ink is getting fresher and fresher, and I don’t want to waste a drop.

“A hollow, assertive tone sounds off. She freezes, halting her search. Goosebumps rise on her skin, every hair standing on end. Her breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and she will spend this next hour slightly lightheaded. Is something happening, an unseen threat activating some deep rooted fight or flight response? Or has she done this to herself, imagining danger? The clock continues to chime, unconcerned with the panic it has caused.”

“She sits back down on her chair, foot tapping wildly, head in hands as she tries and fails to steady her breathing. The clock ticks cheerfully away, and from her point of view seems to slip all too quickly towards seven. Anxiety has overwhelmed her, and it is all she can do not to faint. She stands again and crosses to the mattress, sitting gingerly on the edge. Craning her torso, twisting away from the mirror as fully as possible, she ponders her situation. Combing through her memories for a start, trying to recall what landed her in this strange experience. Wracking her imagination for an end, trying to think of how she could escape that ticking clock, as well as the mirror. Nothing comes to her, and eventually she allows herself to lay down. The anxiety has drained her energy, and in spite of the unanswered questions circling her head she is able to doze off.”

“The clock strikes seven.”

“She awakes with a start and is immediately wracked with pain and discomfort. Her unfortunate breathing and the physical toll of this new hour have rendered her dizzy and confused, struggling to think clearly. Her arms ache, sore with every little motion and tender to the touch. Her legs have fared no better, raw skin stinging against the cool air of the room. She feels like she sat on a landmine, or a dagger, and sitting up agitates her lower abdomen terribly. It’s like something is trying to claw its way out of her core, and although the pain is placed low and limited in reach it is still uniquely impossible to ignore. She cries out, and discovers that her throat was not left out of the destruction. It feels tight, raw, and she realizes it must be nearly swollen shut. She can still breathe, but just barely.”

“It is clear that the danger she sensed was very real, although unclear if she could have done anything about it. She rolls out of bed and falls to the floor on her hands and knees. The impact hurts, everything does in this hour. After a moment she comes up to a sitting position, facing away from the mirror.”

I write fervently, my pale hand dragging across line after line of copper colored text, shining bright and wet against the light.

“She finally turns and glares at the mirror from the corner of her eye, her reflection out of sight. Its cold sheen seems to heighten her discomfort, as she groans and shifts in response to her new injuries. Her mind is foggy, thanks to the toll the clock is taking on her, and as she moves a distinct irritation begins cutting through the haze. How dare the mirror stare at her like this? How dare it confront her? What sort of a cocky, domineering piece of furniture is this to threaten her so? She stands slowly, swaying slightly. She’ll show this thing, this ridiculous thing! The clock ticks closer and closer to eight as she approaches the mirror, drawing her dress up over her body. She shakes it out and winds up to cover the monstrous thing with her own clothing once and for all. As she crosses to confront this beast, her reflection draws into her sight for the first time, and it stops her dead in her tracks.”


I can feel myself losing the thread slightly. Truthfully, I’m having a little trouble thinking clearly as well. But my work, my work! It shines so brightly, red ink glinting in the overhead lights.

“She stares, wide eyed and frozen, at the mottled purple and white figure facing her. At this angle, only half her body is visible, mostly her arm and part of her leg, but that is more than enough. Crescent shaped bruises pepper her arm, and as she watches, teeth marks appear and dig deeper and deeper into her flesh. Glancing down, she can see that the hour has left identical injuries on each arm, her legs matching each other as well. She looks back to the mirror. Long, thin scratches trace from the bottom of her foot, wrapping around her ankle and carving a path all the way up. Traversing her shin, crossing her knee, dragging up her thigh to connect at-“

“She looks away, shifting out of sight of her own reflection. But not before she glimpses the long, thick mark encircling her neck, which she’s certain is growing darker by the moment. She shoves her head back into her dress and once again puts her back to the mirror, searching desperately for a way to hide it. Her bleary eyes comb the barren room once again as the grip on her neck tightens and the bite marks begin to draw blood. She is running out of time. She is running out of ideas. The clock is about to strike eight.”

I’m so dizzy now, and my pen is gushing faster than I can keep up with. My vision blurs, and I can feel my center of balance shifting far too much for comfort. But I simply can’t stop now, not so close to the end! Just a little further!

“She is still searching as the blood begins to drip down her arms and onto the floor, identical tracks tracing down her legs. Finally, desperate, exhausted, she lunges toward the bed and rips the mattress off. Although she is barely able to stand herself, she somehow manages to drag the unwieldy thing across the room. With the last dregs of her energy, she stands the mattress up against the mirror, leaving smeared red handprints behind. She sinks, triumphant, and crawls back to her chair to rest. As she climbs onto the seat, bruised and bleeding steadily, the clock strikes eight.”

I try to continue, but my limp hand drops the pen, which bounces off my desk and onto the ground, and smudges the start of the next line. God damnit. God damnit! I was so close.

I slump out of my own chair and crawl my way to my own bed, crossing my cluttered, cozy room in the least efficient way possible. I rise briefly only to flop face down onto the mattress and immediately fall into a deep sleep.

I wake up, eventually. My head kind of hurts and I’m so, so thirsty. I sit up and immediately reach for the water on my bedside table, downing the entire thing in one go. I race for the closest tap and repeat the process, so desperate to quench my thirst that water spills out of the corners of my mouth and onto my chest. Hm. Nothing that won’t dry. Most things dry eventually, in my experience.

Finally satisfied and toting another full glass of water, I wander back to the center of my room. Setting the glass down on my side table, I cross my arms and take in the work on my desk.


Once again, sheets filled with dark ink give way to bright red, drip covered passages written in blood, culminating in about half a page completely saturated with the drying blood.

I sigh, and grab some cleaning supplies. A stained old rag and some peroxide will take care of this.

I got so much closer to the end this time, maybe I just need a few more rounds. Each try, the pen does bleed less and less. Man, the first draft was really a huge mess! I still have stains on the floor from it. But I’m certain that each time I try I get further, and the pen bleeds less.

I mop up the last of the ‘ink’ and settle into my chair, already fired up for another attempt.

“There is a girl, sitting in a room.”

“She is wearing a simple dress, blue with a floral print. The room around her is nondescript and familiar. There is no door or window. There is an empty bed frame, a side table, and a chair, which this girl occupies. Behind this chair there is a simple floor length mirror, affixed to the wall. Above it, a clock, ticking quietly.”

I’m bleeding less too, you know.

Credit: TechniGoth



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