The Final Measure

[ they knew – - she k n e w ] by Irina Székely

She could feel the weight of it in her bag; the mass of it somehow increased by its power over lives, its potential for misery. He wanted her to carry it to the bus station for him, and on to the drop point. He would take her to the place and be with her the whole way.
        ‘Women are less conspicuous,’ he said, ‘and you look so innocent.’
        So she hung it in the crook of her arm and followed him from the motel room. He swaggered in the same way that had caused her to hook up with him at the train station, all those weeks ago. He had seen the reason she was there: crumpled clothes, one small bag, the fear in her eyes – a wife on the run.
        ‘Come,’ he had said, offering his hand, lifting her up, ‘travel with me. I know my way around.’
        At first, she was surprised at the fierceness of the love making – his gratification felt like theft. That empty feeling that had become as much as she could expect. But this man had bound her to him somehow, hypnotized her perhaps. She hoped it bound him to her; she was banking on it.
        ‘It takes time for me to trust anyone’, he had said, ‘I carry packages for a drug cartel: pick up, drop off, that’s all. It’s not dangerous, you just have to be careful.’ She had watched him place the package in her bag and cover it with her coat. He said it was vacuum sealed so the dogs could not smell it.
        He bought the tickets and they waited at the edge of the road for the bus. She ran her eyes up and down his long legs and marvelled at her newly discovered daring. A crowd gathered around them: mothers with children, old people with plastic bags, more people than could be seated on the bus. There would be strap hangers for sure.
        When the bus pulled up, he made way for the women and children, the old people, and then ushered her forward to the head of the throng that would be standing. The crowd edged down the aisle behind her, but somehow he got held up at the door. He was helping everyone on and looked like he would be the last to board. She put her bag between her legs and stood on her toes to see him. The doors hissed closed and the bus pulled out from the kerb before she realized he was not on board.
        She called his name, yelled to the driver to wait, but the engine drowned out her protest. The bus sidled into the centre lane and picked up speed. Through the back window, she saw him running towards a side street, punching a number into his mobile phone.
        She felt the crush of people hemming her in, cutting off all hope of escape, chaining her to the bag sandwiched between her legs. Her animal whimper, the final measure of her ultimate foolishness.
I have finally gone beyond self-harm, she thought, I have become a weapon.
        As if they could read thoughts, those close by turned to face her, realization and panic blooming on their faces. She took one last look around at the people as they were, but would never be again. She saw the digital signal leaping from his mobile, up to the nearest phone tower and down to the waiting detonator circuit, sealed within the package in her bag.


This story is grim, it will not uplift you, but it is a tale of our times. It is not for the genteel who seek a happy ending. It is a story of any place, but most definitely of our time.

“The Final Measure” is a collaboration with Irina Székely using her photograph [ they knew – - she k n e w ] . Despite the grim nature of this story she was gracious and allowed me to use her photograph at the head of my story. Thank you Irina, I hope you find the art in my story.

I find her photograph evocative and mysterious, and I have no idea how it could have inspired “The Final Measure”. But that’s what came up and so here it is.

I apologize for the severity of this story, but this is what happens when we cannot escape the daily news, when we cannot summon enough joy to drown out the misery makers of this world.

And a special thanks to Jan Timmons for correcting a little spelling error in my description which was so embarrassing, but could have been worse :-[ I am forever grateful.

I had the image below at the head of the story until I discovered that Irina and Silviu Székely had returned to RedBubble and now Irina has allowed me to display her photograph.

To reveal art and conceal the artist,
is art’s aim.

Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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  • LBrammer
    LBrammerover 4 years ago

    Have you ever thought of becoming a writer Rhoufi??? Your writing is up there with your city scapes…..amazing. :-)

  • Oh Linda, that you should have to read this! And thank you so much for your comment – I really appreciate it, really. And yes, I think about it all the time and I am trying. I have much more writing than appears here. I limit the pieces on RB to under ~800 words. Like I say on my home page: “I believe that photography and visual art are just different forms of story telling.” They work in different ways, but they can achieve the same thing.

    Thanks for commenting so quickly. Writing does not often get comments like the photographs. Hope your weekend was great.


    – Rhoufi

  • LBrammer
    LBrammerover 4 years ago

    I’m serious……Write a book and get it published………. If the publishers won’t publish then go the self publishing route. You have a gift………..I did have a great weekend thank you Rhoufi. Hope you had a great weekend too. :-)

  • robpixaday
    robpixadayover 4 years ago

    Fierce truth here. Power.
    You put humanity into the inhumane and that made it more visible, more accessible.
    Stunning and devastating.

  • Dear Robin, with all the tasks you have in front of you, you still find time to visit and to read – thank you. Putting the “humane into the inhumane”; what a perfect way of describing what I was attempting. I long for the day when this senseless, brutal carnage around the world will stop. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

    – Rhoufi

  • Victoria McGuire
    Victoria McGuireover 4 years ago

    A very powerful short, short story, Rhoufi. It has such good rhythm, excellent suspense, I resisted the temptation to let my eyes drop down to the last lines….I didn’t want to spoil (what turned out to be!) the explosive ending. You’re right about the senseless, brutal carnage…I can’t begin to imagine how some human beings can believe indiscriminate killing is justified.
    Yes, you must keep writing, and submit your stories to literary magazines, to competitions and the like, if you’re not already doing that. Nurture your gifts! V. :^))

  • Thank you V. Despite the fact that writing gets a little lost on RB and some of it is not pretty, it’s one way of publishing that the publishers can’t control. Writing is so subjective and the publishing houses are only interested in what sells. But I will keep trying.

    Thanks for reading it and leaving your lovely comment. I should have known you’d be up, you Night Owl ;—))

    – Rhoufi

  • vampvamp
    vampvampover 4 years ago

    amazing how concise you were able to make this dreaded tale….very sad but very well written rhoufi. ;]

  • Thanks VV. Yeah too sad really – I was having a bad day. Too much bad news, too much frustration with the viciousness in our world. You need to be concise with something like this, and on RB much more than 700 words doesn’t get read. Glad you called in though. I’m still looking for a new image for our collab, but just a bit busy right now. And I’m also dragging my feet on “Asteroid”. The days are too long with unrewarding stuff at the moment.

    – Rhoufi

  • vampvamp
    vampvampover 4 years ago

    hey don’t worry mate, there are no deadlines for us! i fact i ma glad you remember cause i am having a hard time keeping track! LOL feeling any better today? ;) hugs

  • Yeah, more wins than losses. And hugs do help :—))

    “i am having a hard time keeping track!” now I wonder why that would be? Amazing VV, just amazing!

    – Rhoufi

  • vampvamp
    vampvampover 4 years ago

    hahaha, you are too damn sweet! ;]

  • JanT
    JanTover 4 years ago

    Love these active verbs and your spare sentences. Without embellishment, each leads swiftly to the dramatic conclusion. (I had to read that first, just in case.) Nicely done.

  • Thank you so much, Jan. This piece floated around in my head for ages and I didn’t want to write what kept coming up. It’s pity we don’t have MynB’s photo to see because the nature of relationship between the man and the woman grew from her image. I couldn’t get anything else, but I didn’t want such a story to materialize from such a great photo. In the end I put it on paper and posted it, but MynB had left. Procrastination is not good for a writer. Thank you so much for appreciating exactly what I worked so hard to achieve. And thanks for the spelling check. I’ll laugh about it tomorrow. :—))

    – Rhoufi

  • JanT
    JanTover 4 years ago

    The photo is perfect for this.

  • I’m getting used to it; as the memory of the original inspiration fades. Thank you again.

    – Rhoufi

  • Avalone
    Avaloneover 4 years ago

    Unembellished delivery of sad reality, so well written.

  • Hi Avalone, so glad you found this, it has not had
    much attention lately (I think writing can sometimes
    be swept away in the torrent of images. I tried very
    hard with this to be distilled so that the story
    would seem larger than the word count. For its length
    it took a long time to write. Thank you for your
    visit and kind words.

    – Rhoufi

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