[FridayFlash] Sympathy, in Three Parts



He’d been telling lies so long he’d bought into his own bullshit.  Almost.  He still had just faint enough a grasp on truth that he could see when someone was trying to shine a light.  He could detect when someone was escaping his grasp, and while he was always reluctant to let them go, most simply weren’t worth the effort of keeping.  So, he pushed them out the door, but not before dumping a carafe of blackness into their souls.  No one would ever again look at those who had left him without a pitiful or resentful eye.  He demanded the crowd’s sympathy for himself.


She’d been telling lies so long she couldn’t bring herself to do it anymore.  It was killing her.  She’d nearly forgotten what it was like to live the way she’d been designed.  But something deep within her held on.  And with every lie she told and with every lie she tried so hard to believe, it grew.  And it became fierce.  Unable to escape the blackness, she drank it in.  She used it, and it fed the beast inside her.  At last, it emerged, overtaking her weakness, and together they escaped.  They demanded sympathy from no one.


The crowd could no longer tell lies from the truth.  It looked at the portraits presented and chose the painting over the photograph.  The truth was hard to swallow, so they downed the drinkable lie.  The crowd feared the honest beast, thinking it a monster bent on tearing down their houses.  The crowd needed to lie down in comfort, even if the mattress was stuffed with lies.  And so it looked upon the beast with pity and resentment, or it didn’t look upon it at all, because the painter told them to do so.  They peddled pride, mistaking it for sympathy.

© 2010 Elizabeth Ditty

7 thoughts on “[FridayFlash] Sympathy, in Three Parts

  1. This is really interesting. I’m not sure I’m grasping it all, but I am certainly enjoying the attempt. The “drinkable lie” is perfection.

  2. I don’t know if I understand it all either. Two things throw me off: 1) “the way she’d been designed” – was she one of “his” creations? 2) Do you equate a photograph with the truth? Photographs can lie just as easily as paintings.

    Despite these questions, I like this piece very much.

  3. Ooooh, really interesting. I like it. I’m not sure I completely “get” everything, but I like that. It leaves me with a lot to think about and stretches my mind, something that I crave in writing and doesn’t happen often enough.

    It also seemed like there could be parallels, like this story could be a parable of sorts, and it’s really interesting of thinking how that could apply. The last paragraph especially had this quality. It almost made me think of propaganda, or the red pill/blue pill of The Matrix, and society at large and whether it chooses the drinkable lie.

    Very thought-provoking. Glad I came across this piece!

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone! I think with a piece like this, my specific intentions — basically, what the piece means to me — are best left unsaid. I prefer to let the reader take whatever they want from it rather than impose my own meaning upon it, if that makes sense.

    I’ve always enjoyed Flannery O’Connor’s quote: “When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.”

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