I haven’t slept well in weeks. My teachers and former friends notice all the time that I look like a zombie, but sleep doesn’t do me any good.
It all started after my mother’s funeral. My stepfather murdered her in a drunken rage, stabbing her twelve times. I was out with some friends, but when I came home that night, I found them both dead in the kitchen, the floor slippery with their blood. He had slit his wrists after doing her in.
Everyone kept apologizing, as if that would make me feel better.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Will.”
“If you need anything, Will, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“We’re here for you.”
Empty promises, all of them. I guess they all went back to their lives. Meanwhile, I went to live with my aunt. She’s not really my aunt; she was my stepfather’s sister, but she was the closest “stable” environment they could find. All of my mother’s family members are drug addicts or alcoholics. How my mother came out of them as clean as she was is something I’ll never figure out.
This was just the latest in a stream of tragedies in her family, anyway. A few months ago my cousin Joseph in Chicago died. Fell off their building or something. That evening, his father was found dead with a knife in his back. I think it was called a murder, but the case was dropped because there was absolutely no evidence. His mother committed suicide soon after that.
All that had numbed me to the pain of losing people. Until I lost my mother. That’s when the dreams started.
It’s always the same. I’m in a dark place, but moving around me is something I cannot exactly see, except for a pair of great blue eyes. It talks to me about my mother, gives me nightmares about her last moments. Sometimes I’m spectating, sometimes I’m her, and sometimes I’m my stepfather, and all three positions are horrible.
So I do everything I can to avoid sleeping deeply. I have four cups of coffee every morning, and all sorts of energy drinks throughout the day. However, sometimes all of my efforts are in vain.
“Will?” a voice next to me calls out.
I’m jolted awake by the girl who sits next to me. Seems I fell asleep in my lunch again. “I’m fine,” I say groggily.
I look over to see that the girl is Ariel. She’s in three of my classes, and is always super nice to me. A word to describe this girl is colorful. Bright frilly skirts and pants, homemade tie-dye shirts, and streaks of color all over her hair so much you could barely tell what color it was originally. “Are you sure?”
“I’m fine,” I insist, a little rougher, but it gets her to leave me alone. I just had to make it through today and I’ll have the whole weekend to myself.
I come home to an empty house. My step aunt was probably either already at the clubs, or never came home from last night. I go to my room, set my bag down at the door, and pass out the second my body touches the bed.
The dream is the same. I’m in a dark fog, and I’m not alone. I can’t see whatever it is that is with me, except for its great blue eyes, each the size of both of my fists.
“Please,” I call out desperately. “I don’t want to see what happened that night. Please don’t show it to me again.
This time, the eyes stayed still, above and ahead of me, yet I still hear something large moving around me. “I only show you what’s in your heart,” a voice said. A man’s voice, dark and seductive was coming from the creature. “Your mother’s death is all you think about, and your anger toward your stepfather for taking her from you. You hate him.”
“That’s not true,” I say weakly.
“Yet it is,” the voice continued. As it went on it started circling closer. “You never liked your stepfather, and you blamed your mother for getting together with him. He treated you like an animal and she just let him. He came home drunk every night, and beat anyone who tried to get in his way, until he finally killed your mother, the last family you have. He took her from you, and didn’t even leave you the pleasure of finishing him off. You want revenge, and you’ve been avoiding me because I know that’s true. Don’t be too proud to ignore that all you want is revenge.”
He’s right. Everything he said is true. “I can help you get the revenge you need,” he offered.
“How?” I asked.
“Look into my eyes and you will know,” he said.
The eyes lowered to my level, and I just stared deep within them. All of a sudden I got another vision. It was my stepfather, with another woman, and he was holding a baby in his arms, smiling down at her. Then the man was playing with the child, a little girl, who looked familiar. Another jump showed the man leaving the girl, now ten. Another jump, and the man was with my mother, but he was looking at a picture of the same girl. Last thing I saw was the girl, now around seventeen, and I recognize her as Ariel.
The vision ended and I’m back in the fog with the eyes. “Kill the girl,” the voice says, “take away the one thing he cared about.”
Monday at school, and I’m more than ready. I sneak a gun in my backpack, and no one suspects anything. I’m sure my guardian isn’t going to miss her gun for one day. It’s all so simple; I just kill one person, and all will be fixed.
I’ve spent all weekend thinking about how I’ll do it. I’ll do it at lunch, so there will be plenty of shields and a show will be made out of it. Ariel and I have the same lunch period, and it just so happens that today she turns eighteen, so the crowd around her will make her all the more visible. I just have to make it to lunch, and it will all be over very soon.
Finally lunch arrives. I go through the line, pick up my food and sit down at my regular table as if nothing was wrong. I wait for Ariel and her friends to settle down with their lunches before heading their way.
Of course, some idiot gets in my way. It’s Jason, and he’s harassed me all my life about being poor, or smelling, or something new every time.
“Where you going, Willy?” he asks mockingly.
I lose it and point the gun at his chest. Before anyone does anything else, I pull the trigger twice. I admit I’ve wanted to do that for a long time now, but now wasn’t the time to waste on him. I now had to find Ariel in the midst of the chaos erupted.
People were running everywhere; I’ve never seen the cafeteria empty so quickly. No one seemed to have actually seen what I did, and I’m just absorbed into crowds of people trying to escape. Teachers try to figure out what happened, but soon all that’s left in the cafeteria is Jason’s still body. No one’s listening to anyone as everyone races outside, including me with the gun stowed away in my jacket.
I scan the sea of scrambling people until my eyes lock on Ariel’s colorful hair. She heads toward the student parking lot, and she’s alone. I run after her.
She gets in her car, and it looks like she’s praying. We’re really on the outskirts of the school’s parking lots, and there is no one around. Police have closed off all exits and probably the surrounding streets, but again, no one’s even near us.
I walk up to her window and tap the glass with the barrel of the gun. She stares at it for a second and locks eyes with me. “Get out, and don’t make a noise,” I say to her.
I back out of the way so she can get out. My gun stays pointed at her and her eyes stay pointed at the gun. I see the terror in them as she looks from the gun to me.
“Will,” she whimpers, “what’s going on?”
I raise the gun to her head. “Revenge,” I growl.
“For what?” she asks me, confusion now mixed in with the terror.
“FOR WHAT YOUR FATHER DID TO MY MOTHER AND ME!!!!” I roar. “He stabbed her twelve times!! Then the coward killed himself!!” I’m so angry I’m laughing. “He didn’t even have the decency to face me and let me kill him. And so I’m killing you. An eye for an eye; he killed the one person I cared about, and now I’m killing the one person he cared about.”
“Will, please, I’m sorry,” she pleads, “I’m sorry about your mom, but you’re not making any sense. My father left when I was a little girl; I barely even remember him. How do you know he was my father?”
“It doesn’t matter how I know, but it’s true,” I say darkly. I lower the gun to where it’s pointed at her heart.
I should do it now. Do it; end her. Just like you killed Jason. It was that easy. Why are you taking so long? Why is your hand shaking now? Do it now. Do it. Do it! DO IT!!!
But I can’t do it.
My arms drop and I slump down on my knees in front of her, feeling empty and cold. All of a sudden I no longer bought the rational I had told myself. She wasn’t responsible for my pain, I brought her into it. I’m not sad, and I’m no longer angry; I’m just empty, relieved of my pain.
“Will?” Ariel asked quietly, kneeling down in front of me. I can’t bring myself to look at her.
“I’m sorry,” I finally say.
“It’s fine,” she replies.
“No, it’s not,” I blurt. “I did this to myself. I let my hate make my decisions and you could’ve died for something that wasn’t your fault. Thanks to me, someone’s already dead for no reason. I don’t deserve to live.”
Ariel puts a hand on my shoulder. Confused, I look up at her. “I forgive you, Will,” she says sincerely.
I can’t keep her gaze. “I don’t deserve forgiveness.”
Without saying a word, she hooks her arms around mine and pulls me on my feet. All of a sudden, I hear footsteps running up behind me and a voice yelling.
“DROP THE GUN, KID!”
In an instant I reflexively turn halfway toward the cop and point my gun at him as he raises his gun to me. Before I knew it, two shots rang out, one from each of us.
For a second we just stare at one another. Then a stain begins to grow under his uniform on his left side. He staggers for another second before hitting the ground and stops moving completely, a pool of blood now forming around him.
I don’t feel anything, but wait to follow him to my death. I look down at my body for some indication that I was hit. To my surprise, I’m not. He must’ve missed completely, and for a second I’m relieved.
Then I remember what was behind me.
I look back at Ariel; the first thing noticeable was the blood stain forming right over her heart. “No,” I say in disbelief. This can’t be happening.
She staggers backward, and I catch her before she hits the ground. She coughs up blood and I know there is nothing I can do for her. “I’m sorry,” is all that comes to mind.
She coughs a few more times before finally saying something. It’s hard to tell what she said with a mouth full of blood, but I understand her words.
“I forgive you.”
After that, she coughs one more time, her eyes dim and she goes limp in my arms.
I set her gently down and stand up. I see other people start to converge on the scene. I know it doesn’t look good, but I have no intention of staying here. Not when there were plenty of bullets left in my gun. Without hesitating, I raise it to my temple and pull the trigger.
I’m in a familiar place; surrounded by a dark fog, with some creature just visible through it, except for large eyes. It was different though; the eyes were bright yellow. They were always blue, calm and seductive. This yellow was malicious, eager and more frightening.
Suddenly, looking into those eyes, one think makes sense. “You lied to me!” I yelled.
“About what?” it asked innocently.
“You lied about Ariel!” I explained. “You said if I killed her I’d be done with my pain.”
“And are you not?” it asked. “Did you not free yourself of your burdens and troubles when she died? Do you hold any anger left toward your stepfather for killing your mother?”
“You said killing her would be the end of it!”
“I never said anything of the sort,” the voice said calmly. “I presented an option that you could take. Your actions were your own doing; I didn’t manipulate you in any way.”
“Then why me?” I ask. “And why Ariel? She had nothing to do with this, and now she’s dead.”
The beast laughed evilly. “Her because I could, just to spite another. As for you, you had already given yourself to me anyway.” All of a sudden, the darkness seems to tighten around me. “The evil in your heart had all but corrupted you. And now you are mine. Forever.”
I see a huge mouth through the dark fog, large enough to swallow me whole. Dripping saliva and monstrous fangs bent backwards adorn it. I feel strange. I look down and see my hands and feet disintegrate into ashes and fly inside the mouth. Before I have time to really comprehend this all, I’m gone.
I’m now a part of the beast, as so many others are. I feel their pain as my own. Uncountable lost souls who gave into the darkness, too. Among their cries, only one other thing can be heard. The dark laugh of the beast as it hunts its next victim.