And without further ado
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The house was dirty. It always was. The boy idly stared at the peeling eggshell colored paint on his bedroom wall with a familiar hollowness in his eyes. The ticking of insects scampering through the walls played in his ears, yet the boy paid the soft sounds no mind. Once, years ago, that sound frightened him more than anything in the world. He had once read a book by a famous horror author that described these ticking sounds as the “Deathwatch Bugs.” Bugs that would ratta-tat-tat their insectile heads against the walls only moments before the listener would meet their own grisly end. And once, years ago, he truly believed those prescient Deathwatch Bugs were spelling the tales of his own impending death. Of course, now he understood the truth. The boy was much too old to believe in such childish tales. He was 8 years old.
The boy simply waited. He didn’t wait in fear; that washed away long ago. Anticipation, angst, fear; these were emotions the boy knew to be useless. It was going to happen whether he liked it or not. No point in agonizing himself over it. No, at this moment he simply swung his legs back and forth on the bedside, idly ruffling his fingertips through the soft fur of the calico cat curled up in his bed sheets. Elsewhere, he knew there were children playing in the streets, enjoying the remaining daylight hours after being cooped up in that jail known as school. Bikes were pedaled with baseball cards flapping away at their spokes. The boy could almost hear the whap-whap-whap in his ears. Ropes were being jumped, songs were being sung, and rocks were being thwacked against old Louisville slugger baseball bats. The boy yearned deep down to hear those sounds again. He had heard them once, some time ago, back when he lived with his mother. Somewhere; not here of course, but somewhere, these things were happening. Somewhere, children played in innocence and with lack of inhibition. Here, in this place, and in this room, there was only a siren wailing every now and then, or maybe some guy down the street screaming that his girlfriend was a bitch. But those sounds where better than the lightning crack of gunshot that broke what semblance of silence the boy enjoyed in this room.
Now, the boy waited for a different sound. Soon, it would come. It wasn’t time yet. Now was a quiet time. Now was a peaceful time. His eyes played over the small scorched circles in the tattered and frayed carpet. He wondered if the people who lived there before often put cigarettes out on the carpet. He followed the sticky and chopped fibers from the burned holes to the edge, where the carpet stuck up along the walls, where it had been pulled out and left. His eyes meticulously lined each fiberglass strand that protruded from the edge. Chipped baseboards lined the carpet; the dark brown of the cheap wood showing through the old fading paint. The walls, in all their peeling glory, were quite the home to the yellowish tinge of old cigarette smoke and floating webs of dust and spider’s leavings. The boy smiled oddly to himself. Even the spiders didn’t like it here. The windows were double-paned, and the hollow spaces between the sheets of glass were rapidly accumulating dirt and grime from long years of condensation and lack of care. The bars outside the windows; however, were brand new. They were put there to keep the boy from running. As if running were really an option in the end.
The sound finally came. It was low at first; barely heard, much like rising bile in the boy’s throat. But it gradually became louder and louder. Rat-tat-tat-thwat-a-rat-tAt-TAT-TAT-THRAT-A-TAT-TAT, the sound screamed as it closed in down the street. The boy felt a flash of fear, but quickly suppressed it. He must not show fear, because He liked it. He fed on it. Fear in the face of Him only made it worse. The sound of cracking in the old busted muffler of the Cadillac ceased with the squealing of overused brakes in the driveway outside the boy’s dirty windows. And then, when the engine was cut, the silence returned. But this was not the silence of peace that the boy was enjoying moments earlier. Now that the Cadillac was in the driveway and He was probably walking up the sidewalk, the silence took on a sinister quality. It was palpable, and had a bitter taste. He felt the silence leering at him like an amused spectator, egging him to do something. To do anything. Run, boy. Run! That silence said to him. The boy knew he couldn’t listen to the silence either, because just like showing fear, it only made it worse. Scrunnnk! Clink-a-clink-clack….Click! The boy turned his head languidly as he listened to His keys turning the deadbolt on the front door. Creak! as the door swung open on its rusty hinges. And finally, the bellow of Him.
The boy placed his feet into the matted fibers of the tattered carpet, disregarding the itchy-scratchiness of the torn pieces under his cold toes. He slid slowly off the bed and padded his way to his bedroom door. The door handle was bitter cold as he turned it, and the boy felt that frost creep from the battered brass and into his fingers, up his arm, and slowly take command of his heart. That freeze crept around his soul and stole the gaze from his eyes, leaving his stare a blank and empty husk of what it was. The creak of his own bedroom door went unnoticed as he passed through it and made his way into the gloomy darkness of the hallway. He could instantly smell that today was going to be bad. It was a sickly-sweet smell, pungent and revolting all at once. He was doing the bad stuff again. He had learned about the bad stuff in school. He had also learned quite a bit about the bad stuff at home. It was the bad stuff that made Him this way. It was the bad stuff that made Him do the things he did. The things He was going to do. It was the bad stuff that made his mother leave. When the boy asked Him to stop doing the bad stuff once, that had earned him yet another very bad day.
“Yes, sir?” Came the feeble croak from the boy’s throat.
“What did you do in school today, boy?” He asked.
“Nothing, sir.” The boy replied and instantly saw his mistake.
The pain exploded in his face like a million sticks of dynamite going off at once. The fireworks display in his eyes rivaled even the skies of Washington D.C. on the Fourth of July. Dully, he felt the throbbing pulse his cheek, rising and falling as the skin began turning a sickly purplish color. Heat blossomed down to his chin as the swelling began running its course throughout the right side of his face.
“How the fuck do you do nothing in school, you lying piece of shit?” He said.
Suck it up, boy. This is only the beginning and you know it. The leering voice in the boy’s head said quietly. The boy took a shuddering breath, straightened his shoulder as was taught by Him and spoke.
“I’m sorry, sir. I meant that we did nothing new. We studied Geography today, sir, and we also went over a lesson in Algebra, sir. Mrs. Cogdell says there is to be a test on it on Friday, sir.” The boy replied meekly.
This time the pain ripped throughout his ribs. The wind gushed from his lungs as his stomach muscles contracted violently within his body. As his chest went through rhythmic spasms of alternately trying to suck in oxygen and retch up his lunch at the same time, the boy felt the stinging salt of tears begin to trickle down his swelling cheek. He tried to choke them back, but knew his body would refuse this simple task, as it always had in the past.
“You talk like a pussy, and you cry like one too! Great! A fucking pussy for a son!” His voice roared.
The boy lost the source of pain from there. The screaming agony rose from so many different areas that his body felt like it was tossed into a roaring inferno of flame. The stinging pierced him from every direction; a hornet’s nest loosed in rage upon his young and frail body. Pain exploded in his legs, his arms, stomach, and back. Soon, the boy knew that the blessed darkness would come. The pain would eventually destroy his mind and he would slip into that forgiving darkness where he felt nothing. Where nothing could hurt him and no one could touch him. As the sharp crack of leather from that old military issued belt pierced its way across his back, he welcomed that darkness with open arms. The boy fell unconscious.
The boy woke to the worn carpet of his bedroom, staring through a filmy liquid of his swollen eye at the small circular scorch marks of those old cigarette burns. He idly thought of how he probably wasn’t going to be in school to take that Algebra test and loosed a shaky breath into the dirty, coarse fibers. Struggling to his feet, letting the pain race its way throughout his body, his stumbled slowly, yet determinedly to his desk, where a solitary pen and notebook sat. Working his fingers around that pen, he pulled it towards the paper. A drop of blood fell from his nose and spattered upon the paper. There, with pen pressed to pad, the boy poured his soul into the words of redemption. There the balm of peace stood within his mind to be shared in his young opus. The pen moved slowly; yet determinedly, across the white page, etching the pain of his heart into the permanence of prose. And from the chaos, pain, and destruction was the boy born again.