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#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Beneath that pious exterior

As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Beneath that pious exterior..

Given by : Paul Ruddock, fellow writer, and blog friend.

A to Z Challenge: B for Beneath the pious exterior..

A to Z Challenge: B for Beneath that pious exterior..

               Give me a sense of your history, she said, weighing the hatchet in her right hand, shifting it to the other, as if trying to decide which was the stronger for the job, the one that would not tremble, make less of a mess. Her head came no higher than my chest, and I’m not a tall man. 

               I don’t have one, I smiled at her, willing her to see reason.

              Beneath that pious exterior, you gotta have something, Father.

              She swung the hatchet now, in slow, lazy, arcs. She wasn’t looking at my face, but below, below my middle. If not for my hands tied behind my back, I would have drawn my cassock closer.

              This year will be a hard winter, may the Lord save us. I drew my legs together on the straw, trying to look as chatty and unthreatening as possible.

               She watched me, like a bird with large yellow eyes, her head swerving, this way and that. She watched me from behind her hair, from behind her torn sleeves when she wiped her face. The air in the barn smelled of her, of blood and meat and wool shavings and steaming dung, of life, too much life, too attached to this earth. Behind the barn, the woods trilled with life, roosting birds calling to their mates, the hiss of breeze caressing leaves, an occasional coyote setting off on its night’s walk with a bark, a drawn-out whinesong.

              I longed to join them.

              I did not hurt anyone. That is one fact I knew about myself, as sure as I was born, as sure as I would die. I was not the one who hurt your brother, I wanted to add, but didn’t. Words had lost their use now, I saw that in those half-hidden, shaded eyes.

             Ah, come now, give me something else. You’ve heard my confessions often enough. Your turn now.

             She swung the hatchet at the pile of firewood, splitting a branch in neat halves. She’d studied more than music and sewing in the last dozen years, but she hadn’t learned much about me, nor about tying knots I couldn’t wriggle out of.


By the time I was done, the hatchet was wiped, and shining once again. Technically I hadn’t hurt either of them. You don’t hurt once you’re dead. I rolled up my cassock. This one would have to go.

              Her bones and pieces of her insides littered the pen, where the Middle Whites, the Large Black and the Large White had begun to work on her, and her clothes. Their large rolling bodies shoving each other, they snouted and snuffled into the bloodied mud.

             Rest well, my child. I eased myself out through the gap in the fence at the back. Excited, high-pitched screams rent the air.


Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? What emotions did this story raise in you?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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