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I recently saw the 2011 Michael Haneke film “Das weisse Band”, or “The White Ribbon”, and it thoroughly moved me. It’s been a while since I watched something on screen that was both really artistic, and (in my opinion) with something to say. The black-and-white film concentrates on a small village in pre-World War I Germany, and as unusual, disturbing events unfold, we see start to see families cracking, horror reeling and the darker side of the community. It is emblematic of that rule which is always true: violence doesn’t need to be graphic – if it happens to characters we have got to know, it affects us anyway.

Anyway, on that theme, here is a short (400 word) piece of fiction, that takes the idea and runs with it:

 

The first sign was the bloodstain in the sink. It was a long, thick, red streak, which on the chrome had dried to a murkier brown. Holly noticed it just before she went to fill up the kettle. Her immediate thoughts were of panic, as she couldn’t bear to cope with anything too grisly. Instinctively, her eyes looked toward the kitchen tiles, and sure enough, there was a regular path of deep red stains. It headed to the bathroom, and when she checked in there she was greeted by the sight of a hurriedly unpacked medicine cabinet: bandages and packets of tablets all over the floor, bottles fallen in the sink and, noticeably, one packet of plasters seemingly strewn about the little room. It looked as though Mr. Forbes had at least managed to get some plasters out and applied, anyway, as there were several sticky plastic backs in the bath, which had a copious amount of dripped blood. Holly smoothed down her nurses uniform and knelt down to pick up all the medicines. Mr. Forbes wasn’t always quite there in the head, but it was promising that if he had cut his finger or something washing up, he had had the sense to try and stop the blood. Mr. Forbes was one of Holly’s favourite people to visit; he called her a “treasure”, and was never rude or grumpy, unlike many of the others, even when he wasn’t thinking lucidly. Holly hated to think of him cutting himself and not knowing what to do, not dear Mr. Forbes.

In the kitchen, the kettle clicked off, and Holly stopped clearing up to go and make the tea. She found two clean cups in the cupboard, and mentally worked out that as she had two more people to see this morning, so she wouldn’t be able to mop the floor just yet. It was then she noticed the sharp knife on the side counter, stained red virtually all over. Oh dear, she thought, I hope he hasn’t been bleeding all night. Mr. Forbes had really had no need to try and wash up anything, as he knew Holly was coming this morning, but obviously he had not been thinking clearly. She grabbed the tea tray and headed up to his room. There was a sharp knocking and then Holly’s voice came echoing down the stairs.

“It’s me, Mr. Forbes. Holly! I’ve got your tea. Can I come in?” Without waiting, the sound of the handle turning. “Good morning, Mr-“

A little shriek, a clatter.

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