Photo Flash: Transference
Sunday, May 11, 2008, 7:08 PM

Once a week, the girls at Writer's Retreat come up with a short story known as a flash based only on a photo.


Title: Transference
Word Count: 597

"When something becomes unbearable enough that it affects your performance, you must have a place in your mind to retreat to,” Daren said.

He turned the volume up on the video taped interrogation until it drowned out the sounds of Shaine’s harsh breathing, until blackness bit at the edges in her mind, until bile rose in her throat. Her fists clenched and she jerked her head to the side.

His fingers were warm around her wrist. The shock of it made her bolt from her chair. “Don’t touch me.” Her knees buckled and she held to the chair’s back with all her strength. “You’re sick.”

A wrenching pop tore her attention from Daren to the TV screen again, and she saw the Chinese man had dislocated the joint at Eric’s shoulder. Keening her distress, Shaine sank beside the chair at Eric’s scream.

“It doesn’t get much worse than this,” Daren said. “But even if it did, you have to learn how to delay the reaction you’re displaying now.”

She ignored him. He wasn’t worth acknowledging. Fuck his reactions and opinions. Eric. Eric.

“Your profile indicates a love of nature. You were raised next to The Finger Lakes. There are a lot of hills there. Trees in abundance. Smooth running water. A sense of peace only nature can offer.”

She shook her head at Eric’s pain and anguish. At Daren’s intrusion.

“You start there, Shaine. At the base of the mountain where the water flows silent and smooth. Remember the scent of the water and the moss growing on rocks, feel how the air currents are both warm and cool, how the sunlight on water can be lulling. Hold the image in your mind until it becomes real. You can’t do anything about Eric’s suffering, but you can do something about your own.”

She found her voice, although it came out gruff, the syllables broken. “How can you say that? You people don’t know the first thing about peace. You murder it.”

He didn’t flinch under her stare. “Sometimes peace is achieved only after great suffering.” He paused, and then, “Someone has to suffer first, so that others don’t.”

Shaine pictured the rocky wall just past the backyard of the house where she and Eric grew up. He’d caught his first crayfish there; she’d caught her first leech. It was their playground of obstacles. Water to splash into, rocks to hop over, tree branches to swing from and sometimes, to fall down from.

Her fingers tightened around the leg of the chair. “Imagination will never make me forget what you’ve done, or what you people are capable of.”

“Of course not. But sometimes imagination can save your life.”

Shaine still heard the choked sounds Eric made. His pain created a frightening sense of urgency deep inside of her, an adrenalin rush she had to fight against. She couldn't fall apart, couldn't run the risk of Daren thinking she was going to fail at what he wanted her to do; couldn't risk Eric's life further. She didn't know how much longer she could bear it, though.

Why did compassion have to have a price? It hurt too much. How could she rationalize distancing herself from Eric's suffering? And if she did manage to do it, would that mean she was one step closer to becoming who Daren was? She didn’t want to survive or use her imagination in reaction to her brother’s suffering, not if it meant becoming like them. And it was unnerving how the memory of Little Meadow Creek intruded now. Sobbing, she bent over to let her fingers dangle in the water.

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