Flash Fiction: Worn Down (659 words)

At first, silence was easier. Donnemey stood at the other side of the room, or he stood right beside her, breath too hot against her ear and it didn’t matter which. She held her silence, and there was weight to it. It was tangible on her tongue, and in her chest, and thick between her and him.

“What’s your name?” Donnemey asked.

She looked at him, didn’t blink, and didn’t say anything.

“What’s your name?” he asked again, voice raised just a little, working to be heard as if she was shouting back at him.

She didn’t breathe a word.

When Donnemey exhausted his patience and his bravado, he left her alone. The door slammed shut behind him, clapped like thunder against the tight air of the cell, then his boot heels echoed in the hall outside. For hours and days she sat against the stone wall and watched shadows crawl across the floor. She took the six steps needed to cross from the back of the cell to the front on bare feet. Her toes barely made a whisper against the floor. She sat and made no noise at all. Angry, she rammed her fist into the wall. Her knuckles cracked weakly. On impulse, she slapped her open hand against the stone and it sounded like snapping your fingers in an open field. Everything was muted.

She opened her mouth and stopped before she set a word into the silence. Sandwiched alone between the walls, she was nervous it would be too loud, or that it would make no sound at all.

“What’s your name?” Donnemey asked. He leaned against the back of the door and still managed to intrude on her space. It had taken her a long time to figure out how he did it – the exact way he turned his eyes down toward her that made her pull back – but now she just didn’t look him in the eye.

“What’s your name?”

“I can’t answer that,” she murmured. It was easier to open her mouth with him there and the first time she said it he looked like she’d hit him. He pulled back, shoulders, head, and breath. Shocked.

She smiled at him, the same familiar weight she’d attributed to the silence, back between them.

“Tell me your name,” Donnemey ordered.

She shook her head. “I can’t answer that.”

He wore out his patience. He wore out his voice, came and went, left her with the shadows and the quiet, then returned to break the silence. She repeated her phrase over and over until it didn’t sound right in her ears. It rolled off her tongue, twisted into a four strand thread. After a few weeks, none of it sounded like a word.

“What’s your name?” Donnemey asked.

“Danna,” she said.

Donnemey stared at her, eyebrows lifted, eyes wide, on the edge of a laugh. She met his eyes then, just long enough for him to see that she was almost laughing too.

“That’s not your name,” he said.

She shook her head. “No.” But it had been fat as a stone wall between them, stronger than that thread her phrase had been worn down to.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Railey,” she said.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Serran.”

It took him longer to get tired, but he did, came and went, left her alone and then filled the space between the walls with his questions. She gave him one name after another, until they started to wear thin too.

“What’s your name?”

“Tiphane.”

“What’s your name?”

“Dreya.”

“What’s your name?”

“Kleo.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rachiel.”

And some moment, the sound stopped building barriers, stopped forcing him back, stopped aiming for him at all. It wasn’t defiance anymore, just something soft to wrap herself in. She gave him her name, dropped like a hundred other lies and he stepped over it like trash.

She gave him her name, just to hear it in the silence.

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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Worn Down (659 words)

    • Names are difficult for me too. I wrote most of this piece with little markers for where the names needed to go and went back to fill them in later. I understand using Daniel more than once – it’s such a great name!

      • Daniel seems to be my name for stern businessmen. Odd, because I don’t know anyone called Daniel, certainly no businessmen! Maybe that’s why I use it.. Apparently it’s good not to be attached to your names if you intend to traditionally publish because publishers sometimes change the names of protagonists (it wasn’t you told me that, was it? Can’t remember who told me!)

  1. Ugh! I hate coming up with names for my characters… it’s one of the hardest things for me when writing something, and here you are just throwing them out like trash (just as you said), you seem to have them in excess, names to spare…
    This is a brilliant piece of writing. I got to the end and wanted more. I wanted to know why she was in the cell, I wanted to know who Donnemey was, and I wanted to know which was her real name!

    • Thank you. :) I was playing around with this idea for a scene in a novel I’m working on, so I’m glad it came across well.

      When actually naming characters, I agonize over them. When I just needed things that sounded like names for her to toss around, it was easier, but I still sat and thought about them for a long time!

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