By Sam Wilson
This story was the joint runner-up of Right Now’s Fiction Competition, judged by Anna Funder and Tony Birch. Read the shortlist here.
The composer of a hit song, now a music producer, discovers that his song is being used to torture prisoners suspected of terrorism in a secret facility. He has a friend that was killed in the September 11 attacks. He contacts Amnesty International to see what he can do to stop them using his music. After appearing on several major news programs where he talks about his outrage at these acts, he comes home to find his wife has left him. While he is thinking about his potentially costly divorce, he receives his royalty cheque in the mail.
A woman who was injured slightly in the Bali bombings, and who has never been interviewed or called to testify, finds herself being called a liar at a party after she tells someone her story. Because she never told anyone she was there, there is no one at the party to back her up. She walks out into the night.
A man who regards himself as having a keen political mind finds everyone impossible to talk to after a major national tragedy. He is driven to despair over the ensuing hysteria. After getting into a drunken argument with his best friend in a bar over the subject, and on his way home alone, he stumbles and falls into the path of a car. Everyone he is close to believes it to be a suicide.
After her son is killed in a robbery while working in a convenience store, a woman travels to Australia to collect his body and retrace his final moments. She discovers he was living with a girlfriend at the time. When she also sees the flat screen television they purchased together she laments that this is what he was working in the convenience store for. She returns home with her son’s remains, without a word to the girlfriend.
A serial killer films his victims while killing them. After a time the reader discovers they are reading the story from the killer’s perspective; it was so hard to tell because he is also watching the murders from the outside.
A serial killer, no matter how obvious he thinks he’s being, cannot seem to have his actions recognised by the police. He becomes obsessed with reading the papers every time he murders a new victim. He decides to escalate his crimes by targeting journalists.
A serial killer is caught only one kill in, by dumb luck. Both the police and himself are unsure what the consequences would have been otherwise.
A young man, frustrated in love, kills the object of his affection when they are in class together. Then, without knowing why, he kills as many other people in the class as he can, before turning the gun on himself.
A doctor, rendered a deaf-mute from being tortured in his home country of Iraq, emigrates to Australia to leave his past behind him. A social worker decides that his symptoms are psychosomatic, and badgers him into heavy medication. One day, in a stupour, he is hit by a car while crossing the street. As a result of other tests, Doctors confirm that he is a deaf-mute as a result of brain damage, and that the condition is permanent. Unable to come off his medication unassisted, the social worker, unapologetic, suggests he go into a closed facility to wean himself off. He kills himself.
A woman finds herself in a violent relationship with a man. Her friends, a group of university graduates and intellectuals, shun her when, after repeated violent episodes, she does not leave him. Several years later they learn that he has killed her. One of the intellectuals writes a novel based on the incident.
A woman, recovering from her past abuse at the hands of her father, becomes a volunteer at a refugee drop in centre. Seeing her relationship with her father in some of the relationships between the refugees she meets, she encourages some of the women to leave their families. Some of the families do not come back to the centre. After an investigation by the head of the centre, she is expelled.
A television writer, appalled by news of terrorist suspects being tortured by his country, pitches a television series about an American soldier being captured and tortured, and the psychological effects on him and his family. A television producer hears of this, and instead turns it into a thriller, where the audience waits to find out if this has turned the soldier into a terrorist. The writer, defeated and rueful, does not give up the business like he thinks he should, and instead turns to drink.
A woman who is a previous victim of violence, moves to another city, into an apartment on her own. On her way home one night—an action that always terrifies her—she finds a stray kitten that she takes home with her. The bond she forms with the cat brings her a great deal of healing and comfort. She comes home one day to find her home burgled and her cat with its neck wrung. She has a breakdown.
An eighteen year old woman marries her high school boyfriend after falling pregnant. Despite misgivings from both families they keep the baby, which is born healthy. The husband obtains a six month contract on an oil rig near Port Hedland laying piping. He is blown off the rig during a tropical storm and his body is never recovered. Although she never finds out who it is, a rumour is spread around town that he has actually abandoned her. She sees into the future, envisioning the rumour never truly dying, and, with her widow’s compensation, moves to Sydney with her young child.
A young art student moves into a sharehouse after leaving his family in the country. Overwhelmed by the new experience, he spends most of his time in his studio or his bedroom, only venturing out at night. After a series of negative encounters, he retreats to his studio more and more often, painting darker and darker figures. After missing most of his classes, he is put on academic probation, and his teacher asks to come to his studio. Finding a mess of canvases painted with dark figures, the teacher becomes afraid for herself and for the sanity of her student. Afraid she is going to call his parents, the student attacks his teacher instinctively, and ends up killing her accidentally. He stands in his studio with her blood on his hands.
A young man thinks obsessively about committing violent acts on his friends, on his family, on his classmates, on his teachers, on his work mates. He waits, and he waits, until the right day comes along.
A young politics student is influenced to join the Marxists at his university by a girl he has a crush on. He finds himself gradually enmeshed into the lives of the others in the collective. He slowly rises in the ranks due to his keen observational mind, and his skills at oration. He and the girl start sleeping together. Lying in bed she confides in him her misgivings about the party. He tells his leaders, who expel her after a series of interviews. He rejects her despite her pleas for forgiveness. He is taken aside by one of his tutors for bullying the other students during tutorials. He drops the class in disgust, and eventually drops out of university. At a rally he attacks a policeman, and is arrested. When he is in holding his bravado drops away, and he becomes terrified. He calls the girl, but he is rejected. When he is bailed out, he denies any moments of weakness, and folds himself in deeper with the Marxists.
A young man hopes his obsessive thoughts about committing violent acts on everyone around him is just a passing phase, a blip in his thought processes. He waits, alone in his house, hoping that it will pass.
A woman in her late twenties does not know how to make love, nor does she particularly care. She thinks this sets her apart, but, after a one night stand with a Russian gentleman, she realises, slowly, that this thing that she thinks has been getting in her way all her life, is in fact a lie. Later she discovers the Russian has gone back to his country, and, drunk one night, gotten into a fight with a taxi driver while he was driving, and the car has run off the road. This episode has left him with permanent disabilities, and it is after this that he has contacted her, a year later, asking after her. She deletes the email.
Sam Wilson is a Melbourne writer and theatre director. She has written for Arts Hub, Beat magazine, and her poetry has been published in fourWtwenty and the University of Newcastle’s Mascara Literary Review. She won New York Public Radio program Studio 360’s Short short story competition with her piece The Fourth Dog. She has also co-written five of SNAFU Theatre’s productions, including 2013’s Ten Months in a Cold Town, and the critically acclaimed Murder at Warrabah House.