Susan has always been a smart girl.

At least, that’s what everyone says about her. Maybe she’s a little tired of all the talk of her alleged perfection and her parents’ stifling expectations of her eventual career in the law and judicial field. They don’t know how much Susan longs to get away from everything—from her family, from their demands, from the pain of the secrets she’s hiding, from herself. But that desire of hers to escape and be alone carries too high a cost for Susan and throws her into a consuming isolation that takes the form of outer darkness.

Read the beginning of “Outer Darkness” below:

“When someone you love dies, you tend to think about the living in light of your loved ones’ death. Why’d they die? Why’d they die so soon? Why’d they have to die and leave the rest of us here alone?

You ask some of these questions after your dad and mom and sister drown while kayaking in the rapids of the Cache La Poudre River. But you know the answers. You stare at your younger self through the glass of Cuppa Café where 18-year-old you sits with Sandy and Mom and Dad. Younger You laughs as Dad pretends to choke on a vanilla cupcake, and Mom chides him for getting the icing all over his chin and on the table. Maybe they can’t see you, or maybe they’re not really there, or maybe this is a fever dream brought on by the news that they all drowned while kayaking in the rapids of the Cache La Poudre River.

They die because you push them away and out the door, convince them to go on a vacation in Colorado. Cabins, kayaking, rapids, isolation. The latter of which you long for yourself before the rapids decide to keep Mom and Dad and Sandy and before loneliness is all that keeps you company.”

“Outer Darkness” was published by Short Fiction Break in June 2020 as part of their summer writing contest. Written in the second person point of view, this short story prompts readers to ponder the themes of actions and consequences, regret, isolation, and the effects of both grief and the weight of perfectionism on a person’s emotional and mental state. Read it today at Short Fiction Break.

Here’s what readers are saying about “Outer Darkness.”

“What an interesting point of view, telling this in the second person. It’s almost like a separate character in the story. Chillingly distant, like a cry that no one hears, yet putting the reader right in the narrator’s shoes….A great story, devastating, well told.”

Diane Engelstad

“A really powerful, intense piece. I found the narrator’s bitter, almost self-flagellating tone powerful and I think that way in which she blames herself as well as others, is a relatable reaction to grief.”

Cal Smith

“The ending was astonishing!”

Bisan Mourad

“This is the story that…will be taken to heart by many.” 

Sally Carroll

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