Negative Proof

A short story dedicated to all those whose lives have been touched by senseless and preventable gun violence

Christian Cantrell
Published in
14 min readJun 27, 2016


Note that this is a work of fiction, and not intended to portray actual events.

IfIf you don’t believe that you are one phone call, or one knock on the door, or even just one text message away from your entire world collapsing in on itself, then you — like a long-departed version of myself — suffer from an acute lack of imagination.

My call came the morning a persistently-bullied high school student entered his former elementary school with his father’s AR-15 and robbed the world not only of everything my seven-year-old daughter was, but everything she would ever be. I understood right away that my life, as I knew it, was over, but the real defeat took a little longer to set in. Despite all the national despair, the expressions of outrage, the thoughts and prayers, and the carefully crafted condemnation from all levels of government, it eventually became clear to us that nothing significant was going to change, and that Taylor’s death — no matter how desperately we tried to attach meaning to it — was entirely for nothing.

But this story is not about the invisible pins and latches that, when tripped, cause the walls around us to fall and unveil the enormous abyss over which we all hang. Rather, it is the story of a letter that I believe might have saved my life.

The fact that it was an actual physical letter turned out to be significant since any other form of communication probably wouldn’t have found me. I wasn’t checking email anymore, and I hadn’t logged into any of my social media accounts in months. My phone, when I could even find it, was seldom charged, and I often went days without opening my laptop. I’d moved out exactly six months after the memorial service and was renting a tiny addition from a nurse outside the city, leaving my wife to handle all the mail — to make sure bills got paid, to respond to the condolences that would not stop coming, to cancel subscriptions to American Girl Magazine and National Geographic Kids, etc. — but something about this particular envelope prompted her to forward it. Maybe it was the fact that it was addressed by hand in a well-honed…



Christian Cantrell
Human Parts

Creative writer and coder. Formerly Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.