The man with a thousand cuts

By Accipiter G. Goshawk

*WARNING* This short story contains mild violence of both a physical and psycological nature. If this isn’t your cup of tea, I’d advise you not to read this story and go do something else. I personally enjoy knitting.

It had all started one day during recess. He was six years old and constantly smiling with a toothless mouth. He had just finished playing with the big red ball and was taking it back to the toy shed, when Greta Johnson came up to him.

“Hey! You’re fat!” she said, brandishing a small butter knife with a pink kitty handle.

“What? No-no I’m not…,” he answered, looking down at himself in confusion.

“Yes you are! Fat, fatty, fat! And ugly!” and she quickly slashed him on the arm once, drawing blood with her little toy knife.

He had cried and the teacher had come running. She’d scolded Greta for her jeering and bullying and she’d accompanied him to the rest room. There, he had climbed shivering into cot and she’d covered him with a blanket.

“It’s ok. I know what Greta said hurt. Don’t worry, these things never last. Ignore her and it will all be better,” she had said kindly.

However she hadn’t bandaged the nasty gash; small drops of blood kept falling down his arm, all the way from school back to his house.

He’d walked in the door, holding out his cut for the whole family to see. Mother and father had hugged him; his sister had taken time off from her studies to play with him.

But nobody noticed the angry slash on his arm, nor the blood that kept dripping to the floor and that was staining the white throw rug. At first he had tried to show them, to explain, to tell them what Greta had done; but after having comforted him they moved away to take care of other things and he was left alone.

That night he had trouble sleeping. A nightmarish vision of his classmate emerged from the shadows, waving her little plastic knife at him. Calling him fat.

The next morning all was forgotten. He leapt out of bed as he always had: happy and excited to be off to school. He wolfed down his breakfast, kissed his parents and was out of the door in a flash, blood still dripping on his pants and sneakers.

At school, everything was fine. Greta had completely forgotten about yesterday and was being very nice to him. At lunchtime, she even shared her carrot sticks with him. The day was wonderful and any memory of yesterday was blown away by the cool autumn breeze.

Four months later, Thomas –his best friend– attacked him with a shard of glass. The day before, he had told him his most important secret; Thomas had agreed to tell nobody, upon pain of loss of friendship.

They had been in the middle of lunch, when his best friend had kicked him in the stomach and stabbed him in the back. “Kirk loves Annabelle!” he’d screamed at the top of his lungs, amidst the jeers of the whole school. On the ground, Kirk had bled out, as the deep wound on his back added a river to the trickle coming from his arm. The pain had been unbearable and the look on Annabelle’s face had made it worse.

Later that day she had come up to him and had stuck a small needle into his chest.

“I really don’t like you Kirk. You could never be my boyfriend.”

That night he cried himself to sleep, soaking his pillow in tears and his cover in crimson.

Life progressed in leaps and bounds and soon Kirk was in high school. Throughout the years more cuts and wounds added themselves to the tapestry of his body, but he forgot most of them. He didn’t even see the small rivulets flowing from his arms and legs any more, but resolutely trudged onwards.

Cold professors shoved ice picks into his lungs as they humiliated him for poor academic performances and friends crisscrossed small welts of red on his hands as they informed him of his antisocial behaviour. One day he met Zoe, the first love of his life. They had wonderful three-month relationship. For a while, the blood seemed to stop flowing from Kirk’s wounds.

Then she broke up with him. Worse, she told him she was seeing Jeremy, the head of the swim team. She had stared him straight in the face with her dazzling blue eyes as she’d hammered a stake through his heart, while Jeremy pulled it out from the other side.

It had taken him a very long time to recover. Nevertheless, sometime afterwards he was once again walking the school corridors, ignoring most everyone. Particularly Zoe and her new boyfriend.

Other girlfriends came and went. Some left no marks on his body. On the contrary, their fond memories knit some of his wounds together, and for a while he bled less. Others reached into his chest with their bare hands and mercilessly clawed at his heart, until it was torn beyond recognition.

As life went on, Kirk went from massacre to massacre, receiving wounds that he would forget shortly after. He graduated from University, moved to another city and found a job. His boss was mostly nice, as were his colleagues. From time to time, a hurtful comment would be accompanied by a small jab with a letter opener.

But overall, Kirk was ok.

In the end, it was his romantic relationships that slowly caused him to lose hope. All the people he had fallen in love with had eventually added his or her handiwork to the horrific wounds that now marked his heart. These cuts were the hardest to forget and the only ones Kirk tried to block. Once, in a desperate attempt at stemming the blood and stopping the pain, he had shoved a whole wad of cotton balls into his chest. The result had been less than satisfactory and soon he had forgotten once more.

Then, he met Mira.

He had needed to buy a suit for a friend’s wedding and the only shop was on the other side of the city, near a park by the lakeside. He entered the shop and immediately become lost in a daze, as countless suits thrust themselves at his broken body, demanding to be tried on.

“Hello. Can I help you?”

Startled, he turned around to find a small woman beaming up at him. She smelled like violets and her eyes were the colour of pine honey. She was dressed in loose fitting clothing that floated in an enthusiastic cloud underneath the brown wisps of her delicate hair.

“I-yes. I’m looking for a suit?” he murmured bashfully.

“Yes, I imagined,” she said warmly, “How about we try this one?”

He had scuttled over to the booth, gingerly holding the suit in his mangled arms. With a little effort, he managed to put it on and looking at himself in the mirror, he even found himself rather fetching.

“What-what do you think?” he said, exiting the booth and striking a pose.

Mira’s hand flew to her mouth to hold back a horrified scream.

“Good gods! You poor man! Who did this to you?” she whispered, gently caressing his wounded arm.

“Who did what to me?” he asked confusedly.

“Well, this,” she said, gently taking of the jacket and pulling up his sleeves to revel the countless cuts.

“I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about,” he said apologetically.

She stared at him. Then understanding appeared in her eyes.

“Of course. Please, could you humour me and step this way?”

Uncertain, Kirk followed the little clerk into a back room where a large ornate mirror was leaning against a wall.

“Now, I need you to take off all your clothes and go stand in front of the mirror. Don’t worry, I won’t peek,” she said briskly and bustled off to front of the store.

Hesitantly, Kirk obeyed.

His shirt came off and he almost fainted, as a thousand cuts, gashes and welts appeared before his eyes. Blood trickled to the floor and he turned to look at the trail of red that followed his every step. In the centre of his chest was a large gaping hole, and now he could see his heart beating raggedly.  Removing his pants, socks and underwear revealed more untended wounds, all delivering his life, drop by drop, to the floor.

He collapsed, sobbing wildly as every repressed memory came back to haunt him.

Then, he felt a kind hand on his head and the scent of violets fill the room.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered gently, cradling his head in her lap, “but now you can finally start to heal.”

It took a long time. That same day, she helped him stitch up and bandage the more grievous of his wounds. For the smaller ones she gave him a salve and instructed him to inspect himself carefully when he got home.

“Any mirror should work now,” she had said encouragingly as he had left the shop.

After that he often returned to Mira’s shop and the sweet woman helped him tend to of his endless cuts. Soon scars formed, and after a year no more blood trickled from Kirk’s body.

Once he had come back with a new cut and she had been angry. She had sat him down and asked him to tell her exactly how he had received it.

“Kirk love,” she said tersely as she kissed him later that evening, “You need to learn to protect yourself. People are going to keep trying to hurt you. I think it’s time you fought back.”

So, the next day he bought a sword.

One month later, Loris came up to him brandishing a steak knife. He was angry that Kirk had forgotten to file the Fergusson report. Snarling, he thrust forward, trying to stab his colleague in the face.

This time, Kirk was ready.

With and easy sweep of his arm, he brought his sword upwards, deflecting Loris’ knife and sending it clattering to the ground.

Then the tip of Kirk’s blade had trailed downward and had rested lightly on his colleague’s collarbone.

A long pause followed.

“I’m sorry I upset you Loris,” Kirk said with a smile. “I’ll see what can be done. Have a nice day!”

The sword flashed and Loris winced.

Kirk chuckled and harmlessly sheathed the blade.

That day he walked out of the office smiling. No blood stained the floor and Kirk’s clothes were unblemished as he walked to meet Mira. His sword shone by his side and he hummed softly as his countless scars seemed to fade in the afternoon sun.-

Revised on the 2nd of July 2020.

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