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A letter came in the mail from a return address I wasn't sure existed for some time.  It still did; the address was the exact same.  The handwriting was quick and short, and the request seemed simple enough.  I put on my coat and found myself walking down the street under a thick grey sky, one hand in my pocket and the other keeping my hat from being claimed by the wind.

The buildings grew dirtier the further east I travelled.  Grime crawled up the sides of the walls from the sidewalk, and the sewer drains gurgled with yesterday's waste.  A homeless man in a tattered version of my own coat held a tin cup out to me, mumbling something about spare change.  I gave him a handful of nickels and buttons and wished him well before arriving at the old brownstone.  

The sign that had once stood in front was marred with rust and beaten up by time, all of the letters missing except for an M and a D.  

A For Sale sign hung in the window in front of a thin white curtain.

I rapped a closed fist on the door three times for good measure, and began to tap my shoe on the top concrete step before it opened.

Mr. Porter only opened it up enough to stick out a hand and his head, still marred with age and a lack of hair.  He broke a thin smile at the sight of me, and offered me a gravelly, "Welcome back."

The interior of the brownstone looked as if it had been gutted some time before my arrival, as if I'd never been the eager young boy in the waiting room.  I knew that Porter still kept his office running for a while since my last visit, but most evidence of that time was gone.  That ugly burgundy carpet had been ripped off of the ground, leaving a few stray staples behind in its wake.  Voids were on the wall where those ghastly oil paintings of flower arrangements once hung, and all that remained of the waiting room chairs were a few broken legs at the bottom of the stairs.

"I got your letter," I said, eyes drawn down the empty hallway.  You could once hear children's laughter at the end, before they'd run to the front door with a piece of a handful of candies.  "You said you had something for me."

"Yes," Porter said from behind.  I looked over my shoulder to see him cowering near the front door, where the old coat rack once stood.  He scratched the side of his face, grating his leathery skin with a shake.  He'd always had that tick.  "Come with me, will you?"

He took small steps through the waiting room and I followed behind him, reluctantly reacquainting myself with the old place.  I couldn't say I followed up on Porter after my last visit; but I was aware at the time that he was getting to the age of retirement.  The building was a lot of work for one man, no matter how many blonde assistants he would have on rotation for the front desk.  They would always offer you a smile when you first came in, ringing a bell that once hung above the door.

"He'll be right with you, if you would take a seat."

She had been sitting in the waiting room for a long time, digging her nails into the leather of my wallet and finding some comfort in the sound her feet made brushing against the carpet.  Her eyes did not stay in one place for long, instead choosing to dart to a new position on the carmine wall every moment.

"Relax," I breathed.


Porter stepped into one of the four rooms he once worked out of; I couldn't help but peek in the other three while he began to go through a few discarded boxes on the floor.  The boxes were all that there was left, save for an antique scale that I was sure I once stood on as a boy.  

The first was as vacant as the rest of the building and smelled musty, not worth the time to look closer.  The second was home to the old front desk in pieces.  The drawers lay on the ground in shards, and the chair for the blonde was white with dust.  One poster still hung on the grimy wall; an old depiction of our digestive system that was dustier than it was paper.  

She died in the third room.

It was as empty as the first room, but even without the light I could see a stain on the linoleum.

She sat on the table with her legs spread-eagle, her bare behind crinkling the tissue-thin paper underneath her.  The stirrups squeaked under her weight as they flickered under the fluorescent tube of light above us.  I couldn't look at it; it hurt my eyes and hurt my head.  Her knees quivered as Porter hummed an unfamiliar tune to himself at the counter, opening drawers as he closed others.

"Are you sure about this?" I asked her.

"I can't."  That had been the answer for the week prior, since we found out the real story of what was going on in the depths of the womb.  I can't.


"Here we go.  Where are you?"

I shifted down the hall until I was standing in his doorway.  He stood in the dim light, holding two worn manila folders in his wrinkled hands.

"Your records, and hers.  I know you'll need yours if you need medical assistance in the future.  Hers are for whatever you see fit to do."  The folders were in my hands without me realizing it, mostly because my limbs were numbed by the memories.  "I'm deeply sorry.  You know that.  I always have been."

Back then the walls were painted with a fresh coat of eggshell paint every six months, to keep the place looking bright.  It matched the color of the lab coat Porter was wearing.  He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves before pushing his glasses further up his nose.

"Here we go."


"I know," I sighed, tucking the folders underneath my arm.

She bled a lot.  At first we thought it was expected.  Porter, surgical gloves still on, held a compress to the wound on her lower half as she held onto my hand.  My concerns grew as her grip gradually began to loosen.

"Maybe we should call for help," I suggested.

"We can stop the bleeding," he insisted.

Her eyelids fluttered like cold butterfly wings as blood continued to rhythmically drip onto the linoleum floor, pooling at Porter's loafers.  I held her hand tighter, as much as she couldn't feel it.


"I'm sad to see the old place go," he said, eyeing the environment, "but it's time to move on, isn't it?"

She spoke in whispers, words barely making it past her lips.  Her blood seeped through Porter's shirt as his efforts began to withdraw.  "Maybe this was a bad idea."

"Maybe it is," I offered.
this started with following #ScreamPrompts' current prompt (the worst place to hear "welcome back"), but I'm not submitting it there because I kind of ran away with the story and didn't meet the word count requirement. Still, I think this is what I needed to get out of a writing slump. I feel the same way about it as I do about Fable.

Feedback appreciated.

EDIT: because this is getting more of a response than I expected, I see it fit to say that I identify as being pro-choice. BUT I didn't intend to swing either way with this; I simply wrote what came to mind.

a wonderful little feature: [link]

featured at [link] and [link] and [link] thanks to `KathrynODriscoll

one more feature: [link]

EDIT 2/4/2013: I gave this a very good read-through and a number of edits with the help of `KathrynODriscoll (she's awesome!).

---

new york, i love you, but you're bringing me down
Add a Comment:
 
:icontrueshinken:
The title is a bit too blunt, I think. Something more subtle would allow the reader to piece together the information on his own, which creates a better experience, in my opinion. A blunt title should increase impact, but in this case it actually lessens it.

The narrative is pretty much flawless, well done. Pacing is specially good, which is rare in short stories since it's so subtle.

I like the way you approach the issue, the vibe of numbness your word selection transmits fits the overall theme really well. You managed a good balance between using adjectives and not using them. The reader gets enough information to get a clear picture, but still gets room for imagination and speculation.

One thing I did not like is your use of tenses. It's all over the place. Sometimes you use present, sometimes you use past. It's confusing and inconsistent. You should stick to one tense, in my humble opinion.

I like how you use italics to distinguish between different time frames, but this also makes the issue about tenses more obvious.

Overall, I like it, but it could be even better.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
7 out of 8 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconshehrozeameen:
This is before I write my critique - and the most honest statement that I can ever make about any work that I have read so far:

Holy... Mother... of... Fuck...

NOW, onward to the critique:

Your vision on this work was spot on; to such an extent that I am disappointed that you didn't put this on #ScreamPrompts; THIS is what a good story is made of.

And honestly, the film noir approach was perfect - the lack of a name for the protagonist, with the porter simply known as porter, and the victim known just that... it has a universality to it. That's a rarity here on dA, and the only other works that I've read which come close to such a perfection can quite literally be counted on my fingertips.

Your technique - its grammatically correct, but its approach was what kicked perfectly. I was honestly breathing heavily after I finished reading this, and right now, I am in an indescribable state of horror and awe - the former was the purpose of this story, and the latter because I did not once think that I'd be reading something THIS good which did NOT come into #ScreamPrompts.

That bias is what made me write the initial four words in ellipses - this work was really really good. Believe me, on that. Its universal, and it is a truth that we have to accept - put to perfection.

BUT you did an injustice by not putting it in scream-prompts. A part of me wants to cut marks for that, but then I decided "why should your work suffer? You put in so much effort to it, it deserves to be treated like a work worth reading and worth thinking about." and it is worth thinking about.

On a side note, relax, and cheer up; you have a really good chance of getting into scream-prompt. Don't try harder - believe a little more.

Regards, the critic.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
8 out of 8 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

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:iconintroverted-ghost:
introverted-ghost Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014   Writer
I quite enjoyed this piece. However, I do feel that the title was a bit too blunt. It provided an end to the story before it had really begun. 
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:iconasterlia:
Asterlia Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2014  Student General Artist
This is great and very powerful writing! I thought the plot was especially interesting because the chances of dying from an abortion are unlikely and even lower than dying from complications of giving birth, so I liked how your story gave a glimpse of the possibilities of what could happen. 

I also applaud you for not making this a personal representation of your views. It seems most people don't know how to be objective, but you did well on not directing the audience towards a certain viewpoint. I also am pro-choice, but I can still understand why some people have problems with it. Though I also think that society has no right to make that decision for women about what they can or can't do.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2014   Writer
Thank you for the great comment! :) I'm glad this comes off as objective, because nothing bothers me more than opinion-preachy pieces here.
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:iconasterlia:
Asterlia Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2014  Student General Artist
You're welcome! And same here~ 
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:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Just brutal.  Truly powerful writing.  Well done.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013   Writer
Thank you very much :aww:
Reply
:iconkreepingspawn:
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
My pleasure!
Reply
:iconbwphotographry:
BWPhotographry Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2013  Professional Photographer
So the lovely `KathrynODriscoll sent me your work to read.

So i must say i think this is the first bit of lit here on DeviantART that i have read in full because it is just gripping.
It hooks you in and makes you want to read it.
Love your work

=bmxking1000
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :D
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:iconbwphotographry:
BWPhotographry Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2013  Professional Photographer
No worrys :) :heart:
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:iconkeidream:
keidream Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013
Oh my god, this is incredible. Probably the most interesting and difficult part of reading this was that I wanted the protagonist to take some sort of revenge against Porter or even be angry with him, but the protagonist had evidently reached the place where he'd realized he needed to move on. In retrospect, though, the lack of hatred was refreshing. You moved between reality and flash-backs really well, and I love all the details in your descriptions of this place. The story unfolded discreetly... none of the seams in your writing show. This is truly amazing and captivating!
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013   Writer
Thank you very much! :aww:
Reply
:iconsgtpossum:
SgtPossum Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
Gahdamm, quit writing things that make me wish I'd thought of them.

Reminds me of a Theodore Sturgeon story, with the imaginative realist approach. Honestly I don't know what else to say, other than you may wish to touch up the beginning, as the bit about the woollen sky seems...awkwardly placed. Other than that, though, Jeezus Christy in a handbasket on the Thames with a little cat named Kitty who once had gout but now is doing pretty well other than the occasional spasm from that injury, you know the one on the pipeline, this is good stuff.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013   Writer
I could say something similar of things of yours I've read. Thank you :aww:
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:icondreamsinstatic:
dreamsinstatic Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
Your fantastic work has been featured in Friday Night Features.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013   Writer
Thank you! :)
Reply
:icondreamsinstatic:
dreamsinstatic Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013
You're welcome.
Reply
:iconbloodshotink:
BloodshotInk Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
Hey there I featured this piece here and just thought I'd let you know.

Thanks!
Reply
:iconconfidencealive:
confidenceAlive Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I enjoyed this story; actually I got quite into it. I also appreciated, as Cionie mentioned, your neutral execution of a tough subject. Well done and many kudos to you.

I must say, I'm not terribly big on the concept - it seems a little exaggerated. While I'm not a medical professional (obviously, so take it for what it's worth :P) her death just seemed a little unnecessary and too preventable.

HOWEVER

That is not nearly enough to distract from the fact that your composition, description, characters, everything else made a very fine piece - full of emotion, vivid images, and very thought-provoking. The paralleled past/present tenses were perfectly placed - and I can especially appreciate the perfect placement of those flashbacks and their usage to bring just the right details to the eye of the reader while leaving so much else vague. I used a similar method in my short story, Musikverein [link] which incidentally also ended in a death ;)

Again, well done, and I look forward to reading more of your work.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013   Writer
Thank you for a great comment again! I was intending for this to be timeless in a sense, preferrably when abortion wasn't terribly regulated and behind closed doors, making her death seem more likely at the hands of an old family doctor.
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:iconconfidencealive:
confidenceAlive Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
That does make sense, and I thought of that possibility afterward.. it certainly gives me a better perspective, but the story itself didn't come off that way but rather modern, so it didn't come into my mind as a possibility right away. All the same, I did enjoy it.
Reply
:iconstory-of-a-mind:
Story-of-a-Mind Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This story is... I am out of words. Gripping. Scary. Well written. Fascinating. Something like that.
It gave me this eerie feeling in my stomach, my bodily reaction to "how would this feel?"

I like how you accelerate the story, from the numbness at the start to to the bloody hell at the end.
I am amazed how you switch between the time lines quickly, so that in the end I can't tell if the lyric I is actually responding to the present or to what he remembers of the past. (Maybe it is.. time to move on or maybe it is... a bad ides?)

Great work.

Ps: To me the title was what actually lured me to read this. (Besides KathrynODriscoll strong recommendation) So to me, the title is perfect.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013   Writer
Thank you for a great comment! You literally got exactly what I wanted the reader to get from the ending, and that is the thing I enjoy the most from publishing my work here :)
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:iconstory-of-a-mind:
Story-of-a-Mind Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:)
Reply
:iconhadrianr:
HadrianR Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013
Powerfully written story, more than I realized when i read it first time yesterday. It lost none of its impact on second reading today.

I'm not a writer so I can't critique your story--critiques should be by your peers, your fellow writers.

Having said, I agree with all the positive comments of trueshinken, but differ on a couple things.

The title--works well, I was expecting one thing having read the title but got something completely different in the story. It made me think, I couldn't use that pre-packaged "abortionist" label to do my thinking for me, or argue against that label, either.

Tenses--with all due respect, I think trueshinken totally missed this one. The Narrator lives in both present and past and each tense is correct at the time it's used.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013   Writer
Thank you for the great comment :) I had worked a lot with this title before and after publishing, and still like the one I settled on; don't think it'll change no matter what the suggestion. There were some tense issues that I already fixed though; actually errors that needed correcting :p
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:iconhadrianr:
HadrianR Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013
Oh, right. Thanks for reminding me you can tweak your work even after it is submitted.
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:iconworldwar-tori:
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2013   General Artist
I... I... I don't even know what to say.
I will say your thoughts on abortion didn't even occur to me either. My own thoughts on it didn't even occur to me. Very well written and just... wow.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013   Writer
Thank you!! :dance:
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:iconworldwar-tori:
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013   General Artist
you're welcome!
Reply
:iconbloodshotink:
BloodshotInk Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2013
This blew my f***ing mind, and on the 27th of this month I will suggest it for a DD. WOW.
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2013   Writer
Thank you very much, and for the watch as well!! :w00t:
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:iconbloodshotink:
BloodshotInk Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013
No worries! I mentioned this piece in my journal and people seem to love it
Reply
:iconthemoormaiden:
TheMoorMaiden Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It didn't even occur to me what your thoughts on abortion might be while I was reading this, I just saw it as another wonderfully written story. It had quite a dark edge to it and for some reason it had me thinking of the 1920s, but that could just be because I'm on a bit of a 20s kick at the moment. :giggle:

There was one line that read a little awkwardly to me: mostly because my hands and mind were both numb from the memories of that place. I don't know why, but I just wasn't that keen on the way it sounded. Personally I think it would sound better if it was just: 'mostly because my hands were numb from the memories of that place.' That's just my opinion, however, and it's not something which ruins the story at all so feel free to ignore me entirely. :XD:

Other than that I enjoyed reading this. :) Great work as always!
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012   Writer
Thank you for another great comment! :dance: My goal was to have the feel of this be in a time where abortion was less than legal, so the 20s works here :P
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:iconthemoormaiden:
TheMoorMaiden Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome. :aww: Hooray! :XD:
Reply
:iconatrummiles:
AtrumMiles Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Beautiful piece, I love the ending, in particular :)
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:iconjanoera:
Janoera Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This piece struck me hard. Abortion have always been a fairly distant topic to me, since I never had loved ones or friends go through it or sit through much political debates so I tend to think about it in an abstract sense. I went from being rather indifferent regarding abortion to being appalled at the clinical, hospital like atmosphere and the situation in which the woman bled to death. You shot a bulls eye at my teary eyed emotions:)
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012   Writer
Thank you for the great comment :)
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:iconcionie:
Cionie Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional General Artist
This was well executed. With the subject of abortion being so controversial I was a bit worried that I'd find a story that merely reflected the author's strong opinions on the subject. I think you took it in a great direction, only giving us sporadic details here and there that painted a picture both warm, and yet sad.

You might get flak from some people who don't know enough to keep their opinions to themselves but as for me, I enjoyed this as a glimpse into a stranger's life, unaffected by political opinions and functioning only on experience :)
Reply
:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012   Writer
Thank you very much! :) This is a very lovely comment to wake up to this morning. While I hope not to start an ideological war with this, I hope that others see what I was trying to achieve, much like you did :aww:
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