#FridayFlash: The Killing Song

The Killing Song

by Tony Noland

As he was waiting, the boy sang the Killing Song to himself. It always made him feel better. It was a quiet song, with no drum solos or fuckin awesome guitar. It was quiet, and it was just his own voice. He didn’t sing out loud, of course, even though Daddy wasn’t home. He never sang out loud because that made Daddy angry. It was just his own voice where Daddy couldn't hear.

The real Killing Song had a lady's voice. He knew deep down in his soles that when he died, she would be there, and she would be nice. He only heard the Killing Song once, the time he messed with the fuckin stereo with peanut butter on his fingers. He was playing with the buttons, turning the volume up and down and changing the station. Daddy came into the living room and smacked him so hard he hit his head and knocked over the CD case when he fell. The goddamn mess made Daddy even madder and Daddy kicked him where the sun don't shine and he threw up cause it hurt so bad.

And even though he thought Daddy would get really mad at the throwup on the floor and especially on the CDs, he didn't. Daddy just stood there, looking down at him. He wasn't even yelling. He was just watching, which was kind of scary by itself. Any time the boy remembered the Killing Song, it was always mixed in with that terrible pain in his belly, because as he lay on the floor throwing up and throwing up, even where there wasn't any more throwup in him, the lady sang and sang on the radio, like an angel.

It was so different than regular music like on KDRJ ninety two seven the home of classic rock. It was just a lady singing about killing and it was beautiful. Some regular songs sang about killing and death, but he had always gotten the impression that the angel of death was a scary man with tattoos who used to be in the fuckin army. It was hard to tell exactly, though, because the people in regular songs always screamed and shouted and it was hard to understand them. But the Killing Song lady was clear and sweet.

He wasn’t sure he heard them all exactly right, but in the repeated part the lady was happy, peacefully happy about being killed. The boy liked that. The things around him in the real world were always so confusing and scary. When Daddy said, "I'm gonna kill you", he didn't mean really kill kill, he meant hit or use the belt. To really kill kill was to make somebody die. The Killing Song made him realize that it didn't have to be scary. It didn't have to be bad. It could be gently, nicely, softly.

From then on, whenever Daddy got mad and hurtful, even really hurtful, the Killing Song would be there for the boy. He knew that if he were to die, he wouldn't have to hurt anymore. And that would be really great.

Last night was bad. Super bad. He didn’t mean to break the lamp. His back and legs ached from the belt. It was thinking about last night that made him decide that it was time to die. He was scared when he took the red pills from the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. Daddy saved them for parties, and he called them magic beans. The boy knew he needed to be brave. If it didn't work and he wasn't dead when Daddy came home, then Daddy would fly into a rage about them, and that would be super bad all over again. He was so scared about that, he almost fell climbing down.

He knew the pills would kill him because at a party once he overheard one of Daddy's friends say that they should give one to the kid. Since there were no kids at the party, he knew they were talking about him. He made himself small in his closet and stayed very quiet so they would forget about him. He was afraid of the man who wanted him to take one of the red pills. One of the other men said, no, it would kill the kid, so in the end they didn't give him any.

The other man had said that even one would kill him. He didn't dare be still alive when Daddy came home, so to be absolutely sure about it, he took ten of them, one after the other with little sips of water. The pills were small.

One thing he didn't expect was the burst of pain in his belly. It was so bad it made the Killing Song spring into his head. It was like he was punched and it made him want to throw up. He didn't cry. Only babies cried. But he clenched his jaws so he wouldn't throw up cause the throwup would have all the pills in it and they had to stay in his stomach to kill him. He got even more scared. He thought this would be a softly kind of dying - was that not true? He felt like somebody was grabbing his stomach and twisting it from the inside. Twist, twist, twist, four, five, six but on lucky number seven it wasn't so bad and by number fourteen or fifteen the twists weren't hardly bad at all. And he didn't have to throw up anymore. He felt very tired and floaty and strange.

He lay on the carpet and sang to himself. He got dizzy and sleepy and he sang over and over as he waited to die. The lady from the Killing Song joined him and she smiled as she touched him, strumming his face with her fingers.... filling his life with the words....killing me softly with this song, killing me softly... with these words... killing my whole life... with this song.... killing me softly.... with this song...

Everything got all sparkly, then darkened... cold, then hot, and then very cold again. And as the room got quieter and quieter, he sang the Killing Song. La la de dah, la de la dahhh…

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Started reading to figure out what the Killing Song was, then stayed out of the charm of the awkward swearing. It's so clear he doesn't know what the words mean and is trying to place them in usage like an adult would. Stuff like that gives the whole work character.

  2. Wow. This is amazing. Excellent writing. I have chills.

    And the story is powerful. I was equally divided between wanting to do harm to the "father" and wanting to pick up that poor kid and run.

    Horrifying, magnificent piece.

  3. A real gut puncher, Tony. Excellent thought process going on of a kid trying to escape.

  4. I'm with Laura, a punch in the gut, great perspective and voice Tony, you got into this kids psyche and shared his pain very vividly..

  5. Thanks for reading, and for the comments, everyone. It's always a risk (for me, anyway) to tell a story from a kid's perspective. I find it to be a hard voice to do properly.

    As for the subject matter here... well, I'm just glad it's fiction.

  6. It's fiction done with skill but I didn't like it. It's like using a Mercedes in a demolition derby race.


  7. It certainly isn't a comfortable read, but it is very well written.

    It really rings true, which is pretty sad, because somewhere in the world there are children living through things like this.

    Most of them wouldn't find a way out though. I'm not sure which is worse.

    Well done.

  8. Slushpilehero, WA_side: Thanks for the readings & the comments!

    Carrie: I didn't quite understand the metaphor you used about the Mercedes, but I appreciate your being honest about what you thought of the story.

  9. Whoa! What a terrific piece. So sad, but very very moving. Then when I realized what the killing song was... just shivers.

    Excellent work, Tony. Just excellent.

  10. This is the second heavy piece I've read first thing in the morning today!
    I'll echo John about the use of the swearing.
    I'm glad the killing song turned out to be that one - one of my all-time favourites. At least the poor boy managed to get some beauty in his life :(

  11. Owch. A lot of power in this piece. It's like a sledgehammer.

    I agree with John, the awkward swearing really makes this child's voice.

  12. Great handling of difficult subject matter. The narration was spot on and created that air of a child who, while still a child, has been exposed to too much of the adult world.

  13. The pacing of this was simply wonderful. The point at which you bring all the repetitions together into the reveal that he'd taken the pills simply stunning.

    The only thing I'm unclear about it the age of the boy and how that relates to his voice and language? I couldn't quite place his age.

    But supremely well told tale

    marc nash

  14. Ok, your blog is a little scary. My word verification is 'Cries'.

    That seems entirely too appropriate for a piece as well written and depressing as this.

  15. It takes guts to do this kind of piece. Here's to ya Tony.

  16. Wow. Yes, it's dark, but so well observed and so well written that I don't mind. I feel freaked out, but admire you for doing it. I'd rather have my guts punched by a beautifully made glove than by something cobbled together any day.

    I loved the detail that he couldn't even think of the radio station name without the jingle.

  17. Shudder...I felt the tension built throughout, wondering if "the kid" or the father would suffer his demise. I do agree that I wasn't sure of his age. If he's a teenager, which he seems to be, then dealing with this subject and your concern about children would be addressed.

  18. Wow. Dark is right. Interesting voice. Nice job.

  19. You said somewhere that this came from your files? That file was alphabetized under "d", eh?

    It was a blow to one's breath, but you wrote it in such a way that, while difficult to read, it still made it a very good one.

  20. Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. How old is this kid? I have an image in mind, but I don't want to impose that on you.

    This is a heavy piece of work for a reader.

  21. I know exactly how old he is and I have a clear picture of him in my mind. I'm very sad for him and this story brought me to tears. And I want his father dead. Very depressing. Fantastic writing.

  22. This was really uncomfortable for me to read, not because of the swearing but just because of the share magnitude of pain. Wow.

  23. Well, I know how old he is because I know how the kid feels - even the pain in the gut. At about half-way through I figured out what the song was and instantly it played in my mind like a soundtrack, until the volume came up at the end. Terrible, but beautiful at the same time. I too was particularly struck by how the boy used the song to reason through his madness. Good work.

  24. Hi Tony,

    When I was reading the story I was trying to figure out what the killing song was. At first I thought this tale took place in an alternative universe to have a woman singing a song about killing. And then I thought of the “Killing me softly, with his song”...before I read it at the end of the story. I remember as a child being mystified about that song. Why was this man killing this poor woman? It made no sense to me when I was younger that it was a metaphor.

    Thanks for sharing, Tony.

  25. Another wow for you, Tony. How sad for a child to be so hopeless that he'll take the "magic beans" to escape. Yeah, I'm pissed at the father, too, but I suspect that he'll be punched in the gut in a different way.


  26. Pardon the pun, but that opening sentence was a killer Tony. Although it was hard to read, as any piece about children suffering is, (because even though it's a fictional story, it's all too real), this is so well-told. The images you evoke are simply chilling.
    As for his age - I don't think he could be anywhere near teen-age because he had to climb up to get the pills and was afraid of falling. That tells us he's got to be at least less than 10. Am I right Tony?

    This is one of your best.

  27. Really enjoyed the darkness of this and agree with the child's voice. The swearing comes across in a learned way. Really nicely done. Was a little thrown by what I assume is the Slayer reference, but aside from that I loved it.

  28. Thanks for all the comments about the quality of the workmanship. The subject matter is unpleasant, but I'm glad you thought the writing itself was good.

    Cynthia, Shannon, Cecilia: I think hope was what drove the kid to do it - hope for a better existence with the singing lady. What's desperately sad is that there was no hope in this world, and such a thin hope for the next is all he had, even if his faith in it is what gave him the strength to go on.

    Mark, James That song also confused me when I was a kid. I thought this story might resonate more with some readers than with others, beyond simple recoiling at the cruelty of it.

    JohnnyDistracts: Slayer? I know they're a band, but I don't think I've ever heard them. What line are your referring to?

  29. Amazing piece Tony!

    I was wondering if the Killing Song was telling the kid to kill his father, but you surprised me.

    I too was a bit confused because of the swearing. Of course the kid was repeating what he heard adults say so often, but at first I wondered about his age.

    It's a very touching story and I don't mind at all that it's heavy. Stories like this must be told.

  30. Excellent, Tony! Touching, heartfelt and not a little depressing. I think you've captured your MC's POV beautifully. Poor lad.

  31. Oops - sorry, I have no idea how the comment windows got mixed up... here is my comment for "The Killing Song."

  32. *shiver*

    That was hardcore. Well-written and powerful. Poor kid. I'd love to get my hands on Daddy's neck.

  33. Brilliant piece. Very sad, but an excellent read. Well done.

  34. Thanks for reading, everyone. Nancy, I hope it was a good shiver!

    Jodi: Thanks for your detailed comment - it came through via e.mail, though posted to the other piece.

    Your insights into it reaffirm the value of an editorial eye!

  35. About mid-way through this I realized what the song was and was immensely saddened that such a beautiful song should provide the kind of comfort the kid was taking in it.

    I think you nailed the child's voice. As I read it, it was clear this was a small child, so I couldn't imagine how he might (as I initially thought) kill his father.

    And then you took the harder, and more honest, route.

    Very well written - and very painful.

    Very well done.

  36. Punch in the gut is right. You certainly know how to capture a reader and their emotions. I think that was the Mercedes analogy above: you're so good at it that it sometimes feels a shame that the stories are dark.


    We live in a dark world, unfortunately, and kids seeing only suicide as a way to escape is all too real. Reading something from the kid, or in this case child's point of view (I peg him about 8) help people understand why.

    That suicide is seen as an escape and way to relieve the other people in the victims life from the burden of their continued existence. It is a serious and incredibly dificult mindset to understand, but a story like this can help. Especially because it gives enough of a feel for the child's pain that the reader can feel it, but not to such depths that the reader simply can't continue on.

    I know I would have liked to have not known about it myself, but life doesn't always give you what you wish for. So I do know how much deeper his pain goes, and how well you struck that balance.

    You have talent, an intuitive sense of what works, and the diligence to study the finer points. This really is one of your better pieces. It's hard to say that because of the subject matter, but that's part of the equation too.

    I know that #FF started off as a way to hone your craft and practice different techniques. I think you've accomplished that and this story is a true example of it. I don't know what work you're doing on your novel(s), but you need to be pushing forward on it.

    You're ready.

  37. I like the feel, & the reference to the song. I think you could take out the paragraph "From then on, whenever Daddy got mad and hurtful, even really hurtful, the Killing Song would be there for the boy. He knew that if he were to die, he wouldn't have to hurt anymore. And that would be really great." The rest of the flash shows the reader, gives me the opportunity to discern what is going on in his head w/o the elaboration.

    The other sentence I'd rework is the one about the lamp. It goes without saying he didn't mean to break it. All you need say is "the lamp" & every one of us will conclude, rightfully so, that explosive dad went postal again.

    As an adult survivor of this kind of childhood, I can relate to the boy, & the song plays well as an accompaniment to his suffering. Well done.

  38. Editor's eye yes... but bungled (shaking head) user of technology. I'm glad you got them via email as i seem to have deleted them off the face of th earth.

    If you're planning to take this story futher (and I honestly believe you should) you know where to find me and my beautiful razor blade.

  39. I was so eager to learn what this "Killing Song" was... I was shocked by the answer. I shouldn't have been though, kids do that... this is a great piece. Heartbreaking, but great.

  40. Tough wrenching dismal dark painful hopeless piece of non-peace for a kid with peanut butter fingers turning knobs and dials to have. But you played the resonance Tony.

    (Uh, I can't hope for a red peanut M&M happy ending where Daddy's taken away and a kid at heart gets a chance at life-livin' instead of ... well ... how the Killing Song plays out?) ~ Absolutely*Kate

  41. Absolutely*Kate: I can't hope for a red peanut M&M happy ending

    I'm sorry, no. This isn't one of those stories with a secret happy ending. The only thing that keeps it from being pure tragedy is the strength, perhaps even the nobility of the kid's soul that let him take up arms against his sea of troubles and by opposing, end them. That, and his hope and faith that a better life waited for him elsewhere.

    It's only one thin thread in an otherwise ugly fabric, but it is there.

  42. Very well written and very dark. The people that are supposed to love you always make the most terrible monsters.

  43. I was a little confused by the voice in the story. It sounds like you were writing it from the perspective of the kid, who is maybe 7 or 8 years old based on the language. But it felt like there was a narrator outside the story who was imposing his voice on the kid. Some of the language doesn't fit with the character you've created. The swear words especially were jarring and pulled me out of the story. There is a place for profanity in creative writing, but this wasn't it.

  44. Usually, to be honest, a lot of swearing in something like this would turn me off,but I think it was a great way to show the type of environment the poor kid was in. Everything was so tragic but done so perfectly. Unbelievable writing.

  45. I was well cautioned, but, Tony, this is amazing. Painful, hurting, but amazing. I got a feel for a child about 10 or so -- one who is much older than his age, and yet much younger. And I would cheerfully take out his father. Very well written.

  46. The adult language misused and/or innocently used by the child works very well as a device to show the abuse.

    Brave topic to tackle too. I'm not surprised it's provoked such strong reactions.

  47. Whoa. I have no words! I love it. Really like the use of the Killing Song (a song I love!).


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