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Short Story: 'Breakthrough', Exploring Loss, Injury and a Second Chance

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Ann loves to write stories and poems and is always eager to meet challenges issued by other writers or herself, to exceed her comfort zone.

Let Me Out!

Blurred Points in the Dark - A Face?

Blurred Points in the Dark - A Face?


She squinted through the shutters as her mind tried to prise them apart. From the darkness, her eyes picked out blurred images beyond, points of light in a murky fog.

No! Enough! Exhausted, her body sank back into the dim confines where she lay. Her head pounded, her mind reeled.

Now and then, when her senses floated as though on cotton wool, it seemed she would break free, that she still had a connection to the world. Her fingers reached out to find the life she expected to be there beyond those shutters. How could she regain that deep familiarity that lurked in the recesses of her consciousness, that reality which refused to come into focus? Each time the fetters reclaimed her efforts. Each time the pain hammered her skull.

The Pendulum Swings

Waiting for those sudden shocks of memory was unbearable. They were ready to jump into her head when she was least prepared. They shouted at her, made her mind throb, her head whirl, so that her body convulsed with fear, chilled and alone.

Then peace and healing slumber took its place. Dreams were full of smiling husband, laughing children, romps on the beach, decorating the Christmas tree, building snowmen. Their warmth cradled her, rocked her soul so that she smiled in sleep.

Nightmares came with a swing of the pendulum. The hate, the quarrels, the shouting, all came tumbling upon her. The children’s tears wrenched her heart, their eyes held fear as they watched their lives crashing around them, watched their solid foundations being sledge-hammered into jagged, harmful pieces.

The silence would cushion her once more, the healing oblivion descend to rock her, ‘Hush little baby.’ More sleep worked upon her body until something disturbed her, pulled her into fuzzy existence.


She so wanted to break through. There had to be something which made sense, which would give her answers to this inner darkness. Then the pendulum lurched her into another nightmare.

No! I don’t want to see this! She was watching herself storm out of the house, bang the door, fight the wind to reach the car. Her fast, loyal sports car would take her away from all this horror. It revved out of the driveway, screeched away down the lane, turned onto the highway.

That wind, how it gusted! Trees bowed, tossing away long tendrils which flounced about in the fields and swooped down to brush the roof. Windscreen wipers lurched to and fro, squeaking annoyance at the buffeting of the storm. In her fury she hit the pedal, wanting to lengthen the distance of her escape.

‘I’ll show him, I’ll go far away where he can’t find me. I’ll fetch the children from school tomorrow, take them with me. Tonight? Tonight I’ll find a shelter from the storm, sleep in the car.’ Her urgent need to hide made her yank the wheel left into an unfamiliar country lane, indistinct through concave raindrops.

Nightmare flashbacks made her try to warn that woman in the car, a silent shout reaching into the past, ‘Concentrate on the road, calm down! You can’t see the way.’

The familiar tension was building. The horror wouldn’t stop. She wanted to switch off the film, cut the light, still the sound. There was no control, no power to change things as the headlights picked out a blurred verge.

The car slid, lurched, a five-bar gate rushed towards her. Shrieking, gut-wrenching metal hammered her legs, ripped her skin, before one cracked length of timber thumped through the windscreen.

Where was She?

Each time more details presented themselves, each one bringing more pain. Each time, the terror added one more piece of stark reality. If it wasn’t the crash, it was arguments, hateful words, quarreling and hurling venom.

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How had she reached this dark place? Her body ached. Muffled movement beyond the shutters made her tense.

Partial focus stabbed her eyes; a face? Her husband! No! He’d take the children away! He wouldn’t let her near them! Her life was over!

Her soul screamed. Her body crashed to earth. Faces confronted her. Could they hear her? She stretched out to touch.. what? Her reality? A warm hand touched hers. Her eyes searched, her head turned. Is this me? Is my body working? This time she heard her own gasp, the image before her re-focused. Excited blue eyes met hers. A small, urgent hand grabbed her fingers, “Mummy!”


There was an organised rush to her bedside, nurses arrived with instruments, gently herded visitors away, drew curtains round. Her head jerked left and right. Where had the children gone? Was that a dream too? Her breath became faster, her heartbeat pounded, the panic surged.

“Hush, hush,” the calm soothing tones interrupted her rebellion, “We’ll let them back in shortly. We need to check you over after your long sleep. How long? Just over two weeks. You had us worried, Kate!”

So much trampled around her head. The girls were here. He had brought them to see her. Her heart soared before her fears pulled it back. What can I tell them? Where will I go? Do I have a future? Is he angry with me? Will the girls hate me?

A bitter taste invaded her dry mouth, a little water was passed over her flaked lips, a cool flannel applied to her brow. Normal things, reality creeping up at last. Hope peeked up above the bedclothes. The darkness was slipping away, taking with it the fears, the helplessness, the isolation. She moved her hand to her face, felt the skin, looked at her fingers. She felt bandages, a soreness within, then held her breath as the dream was broken. Her legs, what state were they in? She dragged up courage enough to ask,

“My legs?”

“Both are broken and you’ll need lots of physio but in time you’ll be ok.”

Relief flooded all her senses. Tears threatened to roll. Joy dared to surface.

“I’m afraid you’ve also injured your face so be prepared for what you’ll find in the mirror. It will mend.”

Oh! Did she look grotesque? Would the girls be frightened? Would that final straw make Tom go his own way? This carousel of emotions was lurching and dipping, making her soul retch.

Light through the Shutters

Light through the Shutters

Fear and Hope

The shutters were finally parted, thrown back, though remained a dark threat to reclaimed reality. She understood where she was, why she was here. Worst was the memory of what had brought her here. That black cloud of past anger hung over her hope. The cold chill of lost love gripped her heart.

Terrified that her family would be gone, she gave the nod for the curtains to be drawn back. Three faces returned her gaze. Three sombre stares.

The girls burst out of their waiting restraint, rushed to her side and hugged her as firmly as they were allowed. They smiled through tears, then drew away to sit down.

Tom moved slowly to her side. “What did you think you were.......”

The question died along with its annoyed tone. He took her hand. His eyes searched her face; worry and fear were etched on his own. Her hand felt strong fingers lift it to his cheek, to his lips. His eyes closed as he frowned his pain.

Her whole life came down to this. Her life-breath was suspended as she waited, waited for the words of rebuke, the ‘sorry but I can’t take anymore’ speech. The memory of that hell hole behind the shutters was raw; the thought of returning was crushing her, for that’s what would happen if he left her.

“I’m s....,” a finger stopped her saying any more.

“You have to rest. They won’t let me stay any longer. We’ll be back tomorrow.” His smile was strained, his eyes haunted.

Would he Come Back?

She watched their backs fade into time. The medication kicked in and she slipped back into darkness, an unfamiliar, soft darkness with images of her girls on the misty walls, a welcome lift among her blurred thoughts.

The next day, her strength slowly emerged. Her vision was clear, her mind within the reality she had craved whilst in that prison. The shutters had not returned; nor had Tom with her girls.

Then visitors trickled in. Her eyes pierced the ward doors, willing her family to step through. The waiting brought a pain worse than her body doled out. Then he was there.

He had roses, red roses. Wasn’t that a good sign? She didn’t dare hope. He laid them gently in front of her, then took her hand once more, kissed her cheek and whispered,

“Don’t ever scare me like that again. Don’t ever leave me like that again. I never want us to argue like that again. We’ll talk, we’ll sort it out, we’ll find a way to start all over. When you’re better I’m taking you away; just the two of us. Now I know I can’t live without you. Now I know our love can’t be thrown away in a storm. I want you home soon.”


Shattering the Shutters

Sunshine flooded the room. All she could see was Tom and his smile, all she could feel was his warmth, his passion, his pain. Everything she had cherished had been put at risk through their selfishness, but no more.

The sombre shutters splintered into a huge sky of blue, sprinkled with red roses, with daffodils, with magnolia petals in the breeze. The trees spread out their canopies of comfort and cool refreshing shade. They caressed her cheeks and shimmered in dapples of sunlight. They stroked her face, erased the scars, reached deep down into her heart where grew the strong roots of love.

Such joy had never existed; such bursting, flowing, gushing exuberance. Two cherished girls bestowed hugs to crush her bones, hugs to mend all scars. Cheshire cat smiles were her gifts, soft touches the curled ribbons, giggles the bows on top.

She bathed in the gentle, soothing emotions while she could. How long would they last? Hard reality was creeping back to extinguish her joy. That empty, blank prison behind the shutters beckoned once more.

Sharing the Joy

No! They’d work together, help each other. It would be hard but maybe they’d get through this. She knew how much she needed the life they used to share. She no longer wanted to throw it away. “I want you home soon,” Tom’s words echoed in her thoughts.

The joy of sharing, the joy of trying, the joy of talking would take main stage. She did not want those shutters to enclose her again. Now, keeping them open for ever, she hoped, was the joy of life and love.


Take a good look at the first photo; do you see anything there?

I would like to challenge you to write a story or poem around that image.

It's one of those photos taken by mistake but the result spooked me a little. The rest I leave up to you.


My thanks to Chris (cam8510) for advising me on this story which was written originally for a short story competition.

Behind the Shutters

© 2015 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 09, 2015:

Exactly, Catherine. It was the face that spooked me. I suppose it's like seeing patterns in clouds. Fascinating. I was surprised, though, that only a couple of others saw a face; the subjective imposing perspective!

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on June 09, 2015:

Yes, now I see the face too. It's due to humans' pattern recognition tendencies. It might just be random dots, but our brain imposes a pattern on it.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 09, 2015:

Thanks, Catherine. Glad you liked this. In that photo I see a partial profile of a face with the light highlighting eyelids, end of nose and then the mouth; the top looks like hair and you can define shoulders. It does, as you say, also look like an unfocused view from semi-consciousness.

Great to have your comments and thanks for the votes.


Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on June 08, 2015:

What a powerful story about a second chance at life and love. The first picture looks to me like blurry points of light like a person might see when first regaining consciousness. The eyes can't quite focus yet. Voted up ++

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 03, 2015:

Phyllis: Thanks for your comments and for the link to your story. I'm glad you enjoyed mine and I'm grateful for the compliment. I've been away, hence the delay in replying.

I'll be off to read yours right now!


Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on May 27, 2015:

I am baaaack! I changed the title of my hub and quite a time editing it. I hope you and others like it.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on May 26, 2015:

I felt many emotions coming through from your story, Ann and enjoyed reading it. I like your style and the story is good - kept me focused from beginning to end.

I am taking on your challenge and will get back to you with the link as soon as I publish "Coyote the Younger learns about stars, souls, and ancestors". It may not be quite what anyone expects, but your blurry points image did inspire me to tell Coyote's story.

I will be back.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 09, 2015:

Thank you, Colleen. I'm pleased to have such comments from such a strong writer as you. Glad you liked it and that my intentions came through!


Colleen Swan from County Durham on April 09, 2015:

Hi Ann, From the first word of this story I was completely absorbed. I admire the way you use ambiguity; the reader is unsure until the end how much is a drug-induced dream, a genuine nightmare, or the truth.

Sometimes it does take a domestic horror to show the two people involved the depths of their feelings.

Thank you for a poignant read, Ann.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2015:

John, I did read yours and comment but somehow it seems to have been lost (could've been me!). I've revisited and put that right. I'm so sorry for the delay.

I've got your link here so at least I got something right!

There haven't been many responses, sadly, so I'm hoping some will arrive at a later date.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2015:

Thanks, Flourish, for your kind comment. Yes, I wouldn't like to be in that situation, ever!


John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on April 03, 2015:

Ann, I guess you got distracted or busy bu I am anxious to hear what you think of my response to this challenge. I read Mary's and it was wonderful but don't know if there have been many others.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 03, 2015:

How awful it must be to feel trapped, whether real or imagined. You captured the rising panic and the questions perfectly.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 01, 2015:

Hi, John! Thanks for letting me know and thanks for taking part. I'm off to have a look now.


John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on April 01, 2015:

Hi again Ann. Just letting you know I have completed your challenge. My hub i titled: "Tales of Murder and Suspense (Sonnets Like You've Never Seen Before)"

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Venkatachari M: Thanks for the great comment and the vote. I'm so glad you enjoyed this story - right to the end!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 31, 2015:

Thanks again, Lee! You're really boosting my morale today! Thanks for reading.


Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 30, 2015:

Very thrilling and exciting story. I couldn't leave even a word of it unread. It was so thrilling and interesting to the last bit. You have done it so well and awesome. I could feel relieved only after reading the last lines.

Voted up and awesome.

Lee Cloak on March 30, 2015:

A superb story, fantastic writing, really great stuff, thank you , voted up, Lee

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Thanks, Chris; off to look at that now.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 29, 2015:

Ann, I just published my response to your challenge. It's called "The Urn."

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 29, 2015:

Thank you, Mary. I'm glad it had some impact and I look forward to reading your response to that photo. Glad you popped in this evening.


Mary Craig from New York on March 29, 2015:

Oh Ann! This was breathtaking, from the fear in the beginning to the love and healing at the end. Your writing is superb. The chilling thoughts and the ride in that little sports car to the hospital bed and re-awakening of love.

Voted all but funny.

I'm saving that picture to see what I can come up with.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on March 27, 2015:

March 26

Dear ann,

You are always welcome. I found this hub very interesting and lovingly-perplexing.

Your Friend for Life, Kenneth

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 27, 2015:

Thanks, DJ, for your great comment and compliment. Glad you liked this.

Yes, getting angry can have terrible consequences and not all end as happily as this!

Good to see you today.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 27, 2015:

Thank you, Chris, a good part of it was due to you!

I'm taking in the 'confusing' and other various comments from some that suggest lack of clarity and I will heed the feedback for future work.

Looking forward to reading your response; I know it'll be a goodie!


DJ Anderson on March 27, 2015:

A thrilling story from beginning to end.

Yes, I have been that angry, but thankfully, never

have I been subjected to the throws of an accident of this nature.

You kept the suspense going from beginning to end.

Great write!!


Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 27, 2015:

Ann, it's good to see your story up here and being enjoyed by everyone. I'll be looking closely at the photo this weekend and hopefully will have a story up by Sunday sometime. Yours truly is a beautiful story.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 27, 2015:

Thank you, Kenneth, for your kind comments.

Much appreciated.


Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on March 26, 2015:

Dear ann,

Wow. Deep, involved, and somewhat complex in places. Voted Up + Loved your style and graphics . . .roses were MY favorite.

What a superb talent you are. You need to be publishing books.

I mean that.

Have a peaceful day.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 25, 2015:

Thank you so much, Alicia. I'm glad you liked the descriptions and that the mystery came across.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 25, 2015:

Thanks, Ruby. I've read it and commented; it's a great response!


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 25, 2015:

This is a great story, Ann. The description is wonderful! I love the mystery and the tension.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 25, 2015:

My response.....

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 25, 2015:

Hi, John! I was so glad to read your comments on this little story as I wasn't totally sure of the way it went. Glad it kept you going; the 'satisfying conclusion' is what I wanted.

As for the challenge, I thought that photo could be open to many interpretations and I wanted to find out if others saw what I did! Hope you have a go; I'll look forward to reading it.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 25, 2015:

Hello Theresa! Thanks for your response; glad you liked this.

I always appreciate your support and the votes etc.

The image was a mistake, a click of the camera when I didn't intend to; I can't even remember when it was. However, rather spookily, I can see an image; I don't what to say what I can see as it might channel others' thoughts for the challenge. No response as yet though.

Lovely to see you here today. Bless you.


John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 24, 2015:

Well Ann, you have done it again! Issued another know I can't pass one up. The trouble is I have no idea what I am going to do with that.image. Oh well I am sure I'll think of something. Your story was intriguing and full of turmoil. I never really knew where it was leading so that is the sign of a successful tale, and there was a satisfying conclusion. Well done, voted up.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on March 24, 2015:

What a rollercoaster of emotions poured out here! Whew, I felt her fear while driving and throughout. Superb writing as always, Ann.

That first image is perplexing, but I think I know what it is, at least in my mind. I have never heard of the phrase, "prize them apart".

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

This should produce very interesting responses to your challenge.

Peace and blessings

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

That's a great compliment, Eric, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed this.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

Thank you, bill! Loved the comment; you had me laughing again.

You do like that 'cheeky' word, don't you? It's often applied to little mischievous boys with cheeky grins - is that you?!

'Brilliant' is my favourite word - thanks!

Ann :)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

Harishprasad: Glad I kept you 'hooked'; it's satisfying to know that it worked! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and the vote.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

Thank you, ps. Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the great comment and votes etc.

Hope all continues to improve with you and yours. I'm sending you some angels too!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

Ruby: Thank you for your kind comments and for the share.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 24, 2015:

Thanks, Frank, for such a great comment; much appreciated.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 24, 2015:

riveting to say the least -- each line made me hungry for the next. Thank you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2015:

Spine-tingling. You had me hooked from the beginning, and the hook remained in my mouth to the very end when you dragged me to the shore and left me floundering in the sand. :) Oh, how cheeky of me. LOL

Okay, I loved the story. The tension built perfectly. No surprise here since I already know you are a writer of considerable talent.

Yes, I'll say it....brilliant!


Harish Mamgain from New Delhi , India on March 24, 2015:

A vivid tale of the turmoil a woman faced, and at last she got her cherished love back. I remained hooked to the story till the end. Much enjoyed. Voted up.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 24, 2015:

Such a frightening experience, to be lost from consciousness...

quite a tale you created with a hopeful ending...I LOVE that kind of ending...we all have our struggles but we HOPE for the light at the end of the tunnel, the rainbow that will come out with a renewed promise of positive days ahead.

Voted up++++ shared

Angels are on the way to you ps

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 24, 2015:

Your story is awesome! How horrible to live in turmoil like that. I sensed a phobia not wanting to open the shutters, yet she broke free, wrecking the car. Excellent writing. Up and shared...

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 24, 2015:

This little short was rare as it was rewarding.. Don't know if I was scarred or confused.. but the results were the same.. and good writing don't get any better than this.. so you know :) Frank

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