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To finish is also a painful thing

Hourglass Sketch: Photo Credits: Rebecca Rentz.

To start something new and not finish is a painful thing, said Mrs. Winter, her pencil poised above thick, sand-creamy paper.

No such compunctions for Mr. Winter, though, who at that very moment had given up on sawing through the log for the artist’s stool for Mrs. Winter. A ready-made stool would do just as well, and not create half as much work or dust, said Mr. Winter, his gecko hands folded in front of him. He walked through the puddles of half-finished projects he had left in his den, and sought out the fireplace to smoke a pipe. He could wait a few more days (or weeks, or months or years) to meet Mrs. Winter with her new stool.

Mrs. Winter sketched out an hourglass, then added a leak— sand trickling, grain by grain, out of the bowl above into the bowl below, and from the bowl below on to the floor. That’s my life, said, Mrs. Winter, folding her gecko hands in turn, lonely blood flowing out on the cold, waiting snow. She kept sketching, and forgot about lunch.

Mr. Winter fell into a nap by the fireside.

When it was time for dinner, Mrs. Winter got up, tried to stretch out the cricks from her back and shoulders, felt them rise into her head, become an ache. Her sketch was done, the very first draft of her painting.

Getting fitted with a gecko’s limbs was a small price to pay to live longer, to climb out of any disaster, to finish everything that had seen a start.

But just then, the ground beneath her feet shook, the pens on her table rattled, the water in her glass sloshed out, the glass rolled over and smashed on the floor.

Downstairs, the large head of a stag Mr. Winter had hunted many decades ago dropped on his head and knocked him out. He never knew what got him.

Mrs. Winter felt every blow, heard each pot and pan in the kitchen crash, absorbed the thud of something heavy, a tree or a pole, as it flattened her garage, felt the table and then the roof plummet on her, beating her to slow but conscious pulp.

To finish is also a painful thing, said Mrs. Winter, blood dripping on her hourglass sketch with its penciled black-and-white blood. She closed her eyes, and presumably joined Mr. Winter for the first time in years.


A to Z Stories of Life and Death

A to Z Stories of Life and Death

If you’re intrigued by this piece, you can find more of my work in A to Z Stories of Life and Death.

———Fiction authors, take a look at the

Rule of Three Blogfest

The Rule of Three is a month-long fiction blogfest,

The Rule of Three at Renaissance

a month-long shared-world fiction extravaganza starting 5th October— with some great prizes, and of course, a lot of exposure and constructive feedback for your writing. This is one Blogfest fiction authors ought not to miss. Go ahead and sign up!

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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  • I’m so glad you’re finally venturing into the fantasy realm! It’s nice and cozy here, though you’ll have to share the space with dragons and unicorns and gecko limbs. 😀 well done, as usual!

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks for the visit and the comment, Nutschell. I let my stories lead me by the nose where they will, and this time they seem to have led me to fantasy 🙂

  • Damyanti says:

    Hooking you is no mean feat, Priya 🙂

    Just left you a comment on your blog. Keep well.

  • Priya says:

    I hope you explore the post-human bit some more, Damyanti. I am hooked, I admit.

  • Damyanti says:

    Hannah, thanks :). I’m glad I’m given the opportunity to share it.

  • I love your writing! I’m so glad you share it with us all.

  • Damyanti, and anyone else: this was at the back of my mind when i was reading this story. I think it’s a nice compliment to the piece:
    Birches by Bill Morrissey

    Hope you like

    • Damyanti says:

      The story is not about marriage, but in some ways it is.

      Thanks Stuart…and it amazes me how when a story leaves me it takes on a life of its own, and becomes a part of my readers’ ‘imaginative interpretation’…

  • Arlee Bird says:

    This story really resonated with me. Separate lives, distant dreams, fading ambitions–wow! Life can be tedious and sad in so many ways.

    Tossing It Out

  • Really different for you. i loved the fantasy of it all. Yes, I’m curious as well as to knowing more about Gecko hands. Enjoyed this Damyanti.

    • Damyanti says:

      I explained the gecko part above, in my comment to Michael. I’m spreading out into fantasy/ scifi…I suppose I’m in search of my genre, cos can never quite fit myself into one. Sometimes I think I’m not even trying.

      Am glad you liked it 🙂

  • K.C. Woolf says:

    What a wonderful winter story!

    I couldn’t help wondering: are you okay now you’ve let your A to Z book out of your hands?

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks KC. Your question intrigues me.

      I guess I’ve always been ok, or never been ok depending on which way you look at it.

      On the surface, I’m pretty normal. Under it, I have all these people in my head, human and not, that make me quite ‘not ok’….the A to Z ebook has helped, but not quite 🙂

  • That was neat, but I was kinda pulled out of it by the references to gecko hands. What were those supposed to be out of curiosity?

    • Damyanti says:

      The characters are posthuman, Michael. The modifications of their limbs increased their abilities (in ways I have yet to explore), but did not make them immortal or immune to harm.

  • That one is awesome. Made me kinda sad though.

  • Elisa says:

    WOW! You are so talented. That ending is epic. I got chills as well. Nicely done!

    • Damyanti says:

      Elisa, thanks…you’re super-talented, much more than me. I couldn’t stop laughing at your blog, and I think it is easier to bring on the chills than genuine bely laughs.

  • These two are in two way different places in terms of attitude, yet they end up in the same spot eventually. Kinda makes me think what’s the point in driving oneself to distraction.

    • Damyanti says:

      Yes, Joy. This story is inspired by my own tendency to drive myself to distraction…I do have some of Mrs. Winter in me. Now to find the Mr. Winter part.

  • mish says:

    I love it *claps* ! You’ve done a great job … a real ‘out-of-the-box’ response to the picture prompt ! (the hourglass pic … am I right ?)

  • This is at once chilling and fantastic. I absolutely love it. I’m still musing over it, and I like the idea of her putting part of herself down on paper before being spent.