Archived: Death Bed

Author: Alicia Kane (she/her)



Death Bed

By Alicia Kane

Firefly sat curled in her rickety old bed, the threadbare sheets barely enough to give any semblance of warmth. The harsh white ceiling light cast sharp shadows down onto the book she read, the rough grain of the paper making some of the words unintelligible. Her room was bare of decorations. White walls, cold wooden floorboards, a single dresser for the few clothes she owned. She glanced up from her book to the spot where her sister’s bed used to be. Scrapes on the floor left behind by the heavy furniture were still evident, untouched by time. Poor Junebug. Firefly could almost hear her sweet laughter echoing through the room now. She quickly looked back to her book, not wanting to cry. 

Five blissful minutes had passed when she heard a sound that sent her stomach dropping to the ground. The front door opened and then slammed shut. Heart hammering like a hummingbird’s wings, Firefly leapt from her bed and quickly turned her light off, allowing the nightlight plugged in under her window to illuminate the room instead. The moon shone bright through the window across from her bed, casting its judgemental glare onto her.  As Firefly heard stomping drunken footsteps approach down the hallway, she quickly hid beneath the covers, shutting her eyes and pretending to be sound asleep. Please go past. Please go past, she prayed. 

The boots in the hallway did not go past. They stopped outside her door, and she could hear him breathing. He was muttering something under his breath, an occasional slurred s cutting through the otherwise meaningless sound. Firefly heard her doorknob turn and the door slowly creaked open. She stayed perfectly still, silently pleading towards whatever god was out there to help her. 

“Firefly,” a voice whispered, and she knew from experience that if she ignored him he was more likely to hurt her. She pretended to wake up and turned over to face him. Her father.

Randy was a tall man with stringy arms and a beer belly. His dirty blonde hair hung in greasy dreadlocks, and he was only wearing his work jeans and a pair of boots. Was that crusted vomit dried onto them? Firefly tried not to look too hard, or breathe through her nose. He stank. 

“Dad?” Firefly only called him Randy, but she didn’t dare to right to his face. “What time is it? You should go to bed.”

Randy slurred an unintelligible answer and sat down on her bed next to her, setting down the bottle of liquor he’d been carrying. “Firefly,” he moaned. “Firefly, where did I go wrong?” He turned his face towards her and she saw tears streaming down his ruddy, drunken face.

Firefly’s heart broke. Randy broke her heart every day, but he was her father. When things got bad like this, she couldn’t help but remember how good he used to be. They used to be a happy family; Randy, her mother, Junebug, and Firefly. They baked and played at the park and sang together during long car rides. The fuzzy split second haze of memory soon faded, and when she came back it was just her and Randy sitting alone on her bed.

“Dad…” she whispered, hesitantly hugging him. He leaned his head on her shoulder, sobbing now, staining her old ripped up pajamas with dirt. “It’s— it’s okay, dad. We can make things better again, okay?”

Randy whimpered and groveled, wiping his nose on her shirt. She was too used to this. Firefly felt her own tears welling up, desperately wishing for the father she used to know. The father she had now was pathetic. Only a shadow of the man he once was. 

“No, no,” he cried. “I want your mother back. I want your sister.” Firefly had to bite back a comment about it being his fault that Junebug was dead. She kept one arm loosely around him in a hug, shifting her position to try and encourage him to go back to his own bed. 

“You know, you always reminded me of her. Your mother,” Randy slurred, and Firefly felt that familiar sinking feeling in her chest. She removed her arm, sat up straighter, in fight or flight mode. 

“Dad, you’re drunk, you should go to bed,” she said again, a hint of pleading entering her voice, but she knew it was too late. Randy groped her side, squeezing her, bringing her closer to him. Waves of horror, disgust, and fear washed over Firefly. If she fought back she would be punished far beyond this. That’s what happened to Junebug, after all. She clenched her eyes shut, trying to retreat deep into her own mind. She’d hide there, safe, watching from above where she couldn’t feel any of it. 


Blythe strolled down the cracked, unkempt sidewalk, taking the shortcut home. It was a bad neighborhood, so they kept their guard up. It was 1:30 AM according to their watch, maybe. The clock face was so cracked and chipped they weren’t sure if they were reading it right. The humidity was enough to make their skin damp, only adding to the sticky feeling of dried sweat. God, they couldn’t wait to get home and take a shower. They listened to the cicadas chirping in the trees as they walked under street lamps.

With a wince, Blythe reached a hand wrapped in bandages up to touch the cut above their swollen eye. They’d been punched hard enough to tear skin and it stung badly, but that night’s pull made it all worth it. They patted their front pocket just to make sure it was still there. Six hundred dollars. One hundred for each man they’d downed. Their muscles burned from the strain, but they didn’t care. Pain made them stronger. 

Blythe decided to cut between a couple houses. As they left the safety of the street lamps, the worn down appearance of the neighborhood became apparent. Paint was peeling off the walls, shutters were barely hanging on, and the grass was overcome with weeds. Not that they could judge, their house wasn’t all that much better. They glanced through one of the windows that happened to have the blinds open, not expecting to see anything, but then did a double take. 

A small warm glow coming from under the window illuminated a scene that sent a chill down Blythe’s spine. A man, middle-aged by the look of the wrinkles and the grey hair. A girl, no more than a girl, her expression drawn with sheer misery. There was nothing wrong with the scene per se, but Blythe’s perceptive eyes took notice of the bottle of liquor sitting by the bed, and the disheveled state of his clothes. 

Blythe wasn’t unfamiliar to the appearance of the situation. Their mother was similarly drunken, often coming home late to spout cutting words before then sinking further into her stupor. They felt the urge to stay and watch for a few more moments, certain that this poor girl was going through the same things they had.

Then, it happened. The girl’s face turned from misery to distress, and they saw him draw her in closer for what was definitely a forced kiss. 

“HEY!” Blythe yelled, pounding on the window. They knew it wasn’t any of their business. They knew they had no right to step into something that could be perfectly innocent. Their heart screamed to continue banging on that window, though, and to their heart they obliged. No response from the man, but the girl flinched and looked right into their eyes. That was the only answer they needed. It wasn’t the fear or the pain that Blythe saw that made their decision, but rather the lack of anything in her eyes. That was the face of a lamb who had accepted their fate at the fangs of a wolf. 

The hair on the back of Blythe’s neck stood straight up. They punched the window once, twice, three times. The man finally seemed to notice and tried to stand before stumbling and falling to the ground. 

Blythe looked around them desperately for something to break through as the man struggled to a stand, eventually finding a large, smooth rock from the gravel surrounding the house. 

They glared at the window, hoisted their arm back, and threw. 


Firefly shrieked when the rock flew through the window, still reeling from Randy’s unwanted advances. She sat up rigidly, her eyes wide as she stared at the hole in the once whole glass. A large hand appeared and, not seeming to mind the cuts the glass gave, began to punch out the extra shards of glass still clinging to the frame. Randy gaped in shock, seeming transfixed on the rock that lay in a starkly peaceful ring of glass. Then Blythe rolled in. Firefly just stared, feeling like her heart was about to beat out of her chest. Was her life even real at this point?

Blythe stood up, their face obscured in shadow, the moonlight forming a halo around their head. Their eyes narrowed in on the man and they growled. Randy stood still in shock for a moment before he scrambled for his liquor bottle, smashing it on the ground and coming up with a new sharp weapon. Randy and Blythe faced off, circling each other in the cramped room, both of them seeming to forget that Firefly was still there. She pushed herself away into the corner as they occupied the space between her and the door.

Blythe made the first move. Years of street fighting would not fail them now. They let loose a punch, their fist connecting with Randy’s chin. He grunted and stumbled back, knocked into the wall with a heavy cracking sound. When he stood up, Firefly’s door had a large dent where his backside was. 

“Fuckin’ bitch,” he sneered, spitting before taking his own swipe. Blythe prepared and ducked just enough to avoid the worst of the damage, but they felt a cat scratch against their chest as the broken glass scraped them. Blythe saw red.

Their anger was uncontrollable. Firefly felt the shift in the air as Blythe turned deadly.


Their fist breaking bone. Randy yowled and finally fell to the floor, dropping his weapon, but Blythe didn’t bother to reach for it. They were immediately on top of him, sitting on his chest and pinning him to the floor. 

Randy was still groaning as he clutched his broken nose, but still tried to fight back, pushing Blythe’s arms away. Blythe fought dirty, spitting in his face and then kneeing him in the gut. They still saw nothing but red.

Blythe began punching. 

They punched his face over and over, not stopping when their knuckles became bloody, not stopping when chunks of gore started to fly into the air with each gruesome hit. They weren’t sure when, but Randy stopped whimpering at some point. Firefly watched in horror, unable to take her eyes off the intruder beating her father to shreds.

By the time the red dissipated from Blythe’s vision and they realized what they had done, it was far too late. Blood splatters stained the carpet and walls surrounding Randy’s body and his face was… his face was an unrecognizable mess. He might not even have a face anymore, or a skull. It was a black hole in the dark room, sucking in all light. Panting, Blythe looked at their trembling fists, back down at Randy, back at their fists, and finally, they looked up at Firefly. 

There it was again. That dead stare. There was no life or expression on her face. It was almost as if she wasn’t even there. The gravity of what Blythe had done began to set in. They had just killed a man. 

“I… I’m so sorry,” they mumbled, staggering to a stand. They realized their fists were bleeding, their own blood mixing with Randy’s. The two were left staring at each other, neither daring to make a move.