My whole life is stuck in a routine others seem to benefit from, whereas I only suffer. Day after day, it’s the same thing;
Don’t burden other people.
No one suspected a thing – My lie must have been pretty deceiving. But I could only hope that one day – hopefully one day soon – someone would figure it out, and save me. That day came close, so close that I could taste it, could feel it within my reach, but I messed up. I messed up, and forgot my routine.
Step 1 of the routine; Smile.
I didn’t want to be here, in this long hallway, waiting just outside the apartment door. Voices were muffled inside, making it difficult to make out the words that were spoken. But I knew the situation; My alcoholic of a father was talking to my sick mother. He had shown up somewhat sober so I hoped they would be able to talk normally. Possibly, for the last time. Outside, dark gray storm clouds were brewing, making the hallway dark and almost haunting. I leaned against the wall, looking straight ahead at the front door, waiting patiently. Mother was very sick, and she’s had some close calls before, ending up in hospitals with me by her bedside and Father passed out in the waiting room. But I like to believe that she’s strong, and can come back from anything. The sudden shattering of glass startled me, causing me to jump at the sound. Both of my parents’ voices had been silenced, forcing time to slow down. I stared. And stared. The only other sound I heard was of my heart, pounding loudly in my ears like a drum. Then, the door creaked open slowly and my father stepped into the hall, his face drained of all blood. It looked like he had seen a ghost. Father closed the door slowly before looking ahead at me, his dull, dark brown eyes widening slightly, “Son…” he whispered, straightening out of his sulk before facing the dead-end of the hall, “We need to talk. Walk with me.” And so began my usual routine. I looked at him and smiled.
Step 2; Don’t Complain.
The two of us walked in silence down the empty hall, the rotten floor creaking with every step. I waited patiently for Father to say something, doing my best to hide my usual limp. Don’t ask why I limped, I just did. I couldn’t find anything wrong with my leg over the months that it’s been hurting this badly. Of course, I never complained about it. That was part of my routine. Father let out a long sigh – I could still smell the alcohol in his breath – before glancing at me, “I have some bad news.” Uh oh… My smile waivered but I refused to let it fall, “Oh?” I asked, putting my hands behind my back, “What happened?” He stopped but I continued on. “Your mother…is dead.” I gasped. However, it wasn’t just from the shock. The news had come as a surprise – one I prayed would never reach my ears – but, it had distracted me and, with my left foot, stepped incorrectly, causing a sharp, blinding pain to shoot up my leg that made my vision blur. My knees shook and I wobbled before dropping to a squatting position, one hand positioned on the floor to keep me steady. “Are you alright?!” Father asked, the panic in his voice as clear as a siren. That was the first time he’s ever asked a question like that. Blinking the forming tears away, I looked back at him, a pained smile stretched across my face, threatening to break, “I’m okay.”
Step 3; Don’t Burden Other People.
There was a look of fear and panic in Father’s eyes as he rushed forward, crouching next to me, “You don’t look okay,” he argued, looking me up and down, his eyes resting on the hand that had instinctively grabbed my aching, left calf. Father went to feel the calf, the fear now replaced with genuine concern for his son, “How long has this been hurting?” Even the slightest touch made me want to scream, to at least punch something, but, instead, I remained still, knowing very well that I was on the verge of breaking down and crying like a child. I couldn’t burden him, no matter how concerned he was. At least I could trust in my abilities enough to continue hiding the limp in front of my father. Brushing his hand away, I rose to my feet, careful to not stumble as I usually did, “It’s not hurting,” I told him, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Then why did you fall?” he questioned, rising to his feet as well. I continued walking, refusing to look him in the eyes. Eye contact was something I usually had to avoid when I knew my gaze would deceive me. “I tripped. You know how clumsy I can be,” I responded. The tone of his voice changed dramatically, now laced with annoyance and anger, “You can speak without the attitude,” he growled, “And you’re hardly reacting to the news of your mother’s death. Do you not care or something?” I could hear his large footsteps behind me, but I didn’t turn around. Something told me not to. Then, I opened my mouth, “You must be drunk right now to actually think I don’t care. But you’re always drunk anyways, so what does it matter? You can’t even notice the obvious.” It was at that exact same moment that we stopped in our tracks – Father because he’s never heard me say something like that before, and me because I had just broken steps 3 and 4. I had stupidly burdened him with my words and spoke out of line. The situation was now a dangerous one; If Father had a type of weapon with him, legitimate or not, he would react rashly, resorting to violence without a second thought. Now was the time to look back at him. Slowly and cautiously, I turned my head as he began to speak; “How dare you speak to me like that…” he hissed. In his hand was a jagged, broken piece of porcelain like that of a fancy vase, the purple flower design on one side confirming my assumptions. However, the tip was bloodied, as if it had already been used as a weapon, as an instrument…for killing.
Step 4; Be Quiet.
It suddenly dawned on me; the reason for Mother’s rather sudden death. “You will respect me,” Father declared, bringing the stained porcelain back. Without thinking, I started running away – Idiotically, towards the dead-end. But what else could I have done? Tried to run past him towards an actual exit? My leg was on fire, and running only made it worse. It’s sad to think that, even if my life was in jeopardy, I wouldn’t be able to escape the danger quick enough. Was it because I never said anything about my pain? Never saying a thing and losing the possibly of figuring it out, the possibly of taking care of it? A warm breath struck against my neck, alerting me to my brutal father’s presence, his loud steps masking my own as he minimized the distance between us. As the dead-end came closer and closer, with no chance of escape, I was positive I was doomed. Until I saw the rusted sign on the front of a door in the corner to the right, just against the wall. The sign read; Janitor’s Closet.
It was a sign that seemed like it was written by an angel. With hope now fueling my drive, I blocked out the increasing pain and sped up, just as Father’s tool of choice whizzed past my back, just barely missing me. Nearing the door, I crossed my fingers and prayed that the door was unlocked. Somehow, as if God had heard me, the door was unlocked. I threw it open and rushed inside, slamming it shut before quickly locking it. Heavy fists slammed against the door and I took careful steps back, panting for breath as I bumped into the metal shelves behind me. Father’s words weren’t really words anymore, just grunts and roar-like sounds. With a shaky sigh, I sat down on an upside down, plastic crate, resting my arms on my knees. There was no way I could call for help; The apartment complex was nearly empty since it was in such a bad part of town and I had left my phone in the apartment. I let out another sigh and was about to put my forehead against my arms when I suddenly choked. There was a building pressure behind my eyes, filling my head. I looked down at my hands to see that they were shaking uncontrollably. What was wrong? What was happening to me? It must be…shock. Yes, shock; Shock from the constant, intense pain I had just put my leg through, shock from Mother’s death, shock from being so viciously attacked by Father. That’s what I decided. I took a shaky breath only to choke again, this time, sending blood onto the dirty, concrete floor. My thoughts jumbled into one big mess, making it impossible to think clearly. The pressure in my head became so strong, I thought it would burst. And, I think it did, because there were multiple ripping noises and I could only stare in horror as blood dripped into my hands and onto the floor.
I had to follow Step 4, I absolutely had to be quiet.
I have to . . .
Then, I let out the most blood curdling scream ever as something tore in my neck, causing blood to spurt everywhere, dyeing everything crimson.
Step 5; Smile.
Father stopped beating on the door, as if my scream snapped him back to reality, allowing him the chance to realize what he had just been doing. But it’s not like it matters anymore. I fell onto my hands and knees, kicking the crate aside. Somehow, I wasn’t dead – Though I felt like I should be, like my lifeless body should be sprawled out across the dirty floor, with everything around me dripping blood. However, since I was still alive, I was going to fight for a breath, for air to fill my lungs and give me life. I took a breath only to choke again, coughing out more blood that began to mix with the dirt and mold. Why was this happening to me? It couldn’t be from shock, as much as I wished it was. While trying to figure it out in my head, I almost didn’t realize the fact that I was now breathing normally when, only seconds ago, trying to breathe was killing me. My steady breathing changed to quick pants as I scrambled to my feet, slipping on the blood still on the ground and slamming against the wall in front of me. In this situation, it was only normal to start panicking, but, for some reason, I started laughing. It wasn’t like a loud, normal laugh, as if something was funny, it was more of a dark chuckle as if I was exhausted, or bored of the joke being told. Though I couldn’t understand it, I knew for a fact that this wasn’t me. I took a quick, deep breath, stopping the laughter. My vision was fading in and out, but, in the distance, I heard a voice calling for me; “Son! Open the door! Say something to me! Are you alright?!”
Was I alright? I was bleeding for some unknown reason – I don’t think I’m okay. But… Why was I laughing? Was it in disbelief? I froze, looking around the small room. What did the wounds look like? The ones that had been created from the pressure? On the wall to my right was a cracked and dirty, generic rectangle mirror. I stumbled towards it, putting one hand beside it for support. The sight I saw caused me to scream again; As if I, myself, was a porcelain doll, cracks had formed, branching out from my eyes, travelling in all directions – including under the bangs of my lite, strawberry blonde hair. At the corners of my mouth, there were cracks as well. But the cracks themselves weren’t bleeding, so what was? Then I noticed the break in my skin at the end of a longer crack that was reaching towards my mouth. Crimson oozed out of the small break, its movements making me sick to the stomach. There was a longer break on the side of my neck – it too was bleeding. Both wounds looked like the larger cracks of a porcelain doll. Still, I didn’t know why this was happening. My reflection suddenly smirked, “You don’t get it?” I couldn’t respond. Instead, I stared in shock. So, it continued, “You should’ve said something. All of those things you’ve kept inside of you built up to the point of spilling out.” There was suddenly one clear thought in my head; My mind has been broken like a dam. The rushing waters have crushed me from the inside. My reflection’s smirk became a grin as his amber eyes became bright yellow, the whites turning pitch black, “Welcome to the madness, friend~.” I stumbled away from the mirror, grabbing my head as a hammer made of pure pressure bounced around inside my skull, breaking everything that was my sanity. I was going to become insane. An insane monster. There was no doubt about it. My eyes darted to the door. If I left now, I could warn Father, and leave before someone got hurt. I didn’t want to hurt someone. Squeezing my eyes shut, I limped towards the door. The knob and lock was inches from my hand when…
A mirror shattered in my ears.
Frowning, I grabbed the doorknob, crushing it with brute force alone. It’s surprising what a little effort can do. I shoved the door open, listening to the cry my father made as the wooden door struck him, breaking off of its rusty hinges. The unsettled dust that had been stirred from breaking the door drifted away and Father gazed up at me, a look of honest terror on his face, “My son… What happened?!” he cried, “Did I do that to you?!” I said nothing, staring down at him with a blank expression. Was there something I was supposed to say? What would normally progress the conversation? He shook uncontrollably, lifting a shaky hand, “P-please… Tell me you’re alright…” Tears fell from his eyes, “Samson! Please! At least smile like you usually do..!”
Do I need to smile? How do I do that again?
Oh, wait… It’s a part of my routine; Step 5, I believe. I dropped the broken door and closed my eyes, taking a long, deep breath through my nose. Slowly, I opened my eyes, a faint, yellow glow covering the ground. Then, tilting my head to the side slightly, I smiled, feeling the cracks at the corners of my mouth stretch further and break. The warm, sticky liquid ran free, trickling down my face.
Step 6; Repeat.
The storm brewing outside was unleashed, and the power went out, every source of light flickering as they died out.
Save for one, single light, in the middle of the hall, that flickered on and off.