Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What is in a name?

Here's a short story I wrote in 1991 and just now pulled it from the resting place I stored it for so many years. Now, I need to dust it off, and edit it once or twice and see if the story is of any interest to a magazine.

What is in a name. Evil by any other name is still evil. Case in
point. Brian, the name of our first born son, was what most people
thought of as the perfect child. Good, happy, easy to care for and
above all, loving. That word, loving, has a different meaning today
then it had five years ago. Back then it meant a son who loved his
family, and cared deeply for his sisters. It meant that I could spend
my time with him, holding him when he needed to be held, and just
loving him as I would all my children. I don't think of loving the
same today as I once did. I couldn't possibly, not after I found out
what it meant to him. How he embraced that word as if it was his own,
delivered to him from a dictionary of distorted and perverted words.
Where the meaning of nouns, adjectives, pronouns took shape from a
world of vocabulary vile and horrific descriptions.

The child, my only son, was conceived on Christmas day, 1985. As
if the act of loving conception was deliberately guided to that day
for a purpose, I, as human, could not understand or grasp. A child
of Christmas, the gift of gods, was born nine months later during
an eclipse of heaven and earth. Taking what light, soul, and love
existed that day away with the passing of the darkness. The first
scream of breath echoed a death of my wife, as her life was given
to provide a soul for one who was never born, but rather pushed
from the womb of a woman.

In time, I came to accept her death as my son's breath spilled out
into the night and I was lost to the time of his first years. Three
years passed since his, her shared births, and I had almost forgotten
the loving she had given. He had replaced that feeling with a want,
a need, to fill my hours caring for him. My other children came into
my life to feed my inspiration as I struggled to survive the loneliness
and coldness of my world as it had become. But even their love could
not survive long in a house that had become a temple for my son.

In time, as with age and eventual death, my other children became
a pawn of my son, turning their love for me into a hatred of all life
and withdrawing inward to serve a new life. I tried not to see what
had become of my family, as I tried, I lost touch of my own desires.

Another year had passed and my son had begun to develop a sense of
what life could offer, or rather what he could take away and began to
play with life. Corrupting my other children, he enjoyed the loving
that they gave him. Still, I had not seen what was happening. Not
until months later when I too became infected by his corruption. A
feeling of disgust swept through me as I lay on the bed, gasping for
breath as my wife had five years earlier, tempted to end the torment
that had i had been going through since her death. But it was not to
be, as if my son knew of my renewed strength, he straddled my attempt
to end the misery with his dictionary of perverted words that had new
meaning. Forcing me to listen as he spread his gospel through my mind
with his voice, quietly whispering his thoughts, repeating the same
sentences, never relenting until I was submissive to his needs.

He kept at it daily, feeding what was left of my mind and soul with
his thoughts, commanding me to obey, focusing on my weaknesses with
the skill of a preacher. Compelling me to listen by his voice, as I
heard the wail of a child masked behind the spirit and determination
of an adult.

I knew it would have to end. He was my son, and I still loved him,
but I couldn't take it any longer. A determination, a force of will
gave me strength as I plotted and planned on the eventual confrontation.
Not knowing the outcome, I only knew that it had to stop, that I had
to put an end to it once and for all. I decided I would wait for the
right moment and strike when he was distracted. Take control of my
destiny. Free myself of the power he had over me and my other children.

I spent the next several days waiting for my chance, but he must have
had sense my change, my unwillingness to give as easily. He had been
quiet, almost withdrawn, as I waited for the right moment. But I was
patient and waited, watching his every move with a keen sense of
parental suspicion, knowing that he would make a mistake and let his
guard down long enough for me to act. It might take a little longer
than I anticipated, but I knew it would happen soon. It always did.

The afternoon sun darkened as clouds laden with moisture passed
across the sky and filled the air with a sense of foreboding. Soon,
the first drops of rain patterned the dry surface of the cement from
our driveway with faces of imaginary creatures. Following the droplets
was the sound of thunder as it echoed off distant structures, vibrating
waves passing through the valley, touching the ears of children and
sending them indoors to escape the fury of gods. As the rumbling
crept across the house, I began to prepare knowing that my son would
be coming inside to parade his misfortune for everyone. Loud and
boisterous, he would announce his arrival expecting everyone to
stop and pay tribute. But he wouldn't expect a challenge to his
authority, and I would be waiting, watching for the right moment
when I would be there to strike.

Stepping into the hallway, I took the weapon and placed it behind
my back and drew a breath. Letting the air trap my accelerated
heartbeats in still time, I practiced the words I found in a dusty
book. Whispering them to myself and waiting. Seconds ticked away
and were replaced by minutes, still he had not exoduses from the
storm and I was becoming more worried almost forgetting what I was
waiting for. As I was about to leave my hiding place, I heard a
door slammed shut downstairs and released the trapped air from my

Loud noises followed by silence, and then more noises coming from
the kitchen. Still clutching my weapon, I waited for him to come
up stairs knowing that he would start voicing himself once he failed
to find what he was looking for in the kitchen. Following his normal
routine, he started to climb the stairs, feeding the spaces with
his voice. Loudly proclaiming his arrival to mankind, and expecting
his servants to usher from their rooms to service his needs. As he
continued to climb, his voice became more intolerable as I listened
from my hiding place. I could tell from the sound of his voice that
he was only a few steps away from the top, and I prepared myself to
confront him as soon as he stepped around the corner.

Another step brought him closer. My body began to tense as I waited
holding the weapon more tightly then before. I could feel the strain
of my task bearing on my feelings for my son, yet I was resolved to
end the torment, regardless of my inner fears. One more step to go.
A board in the flooring gave away his presence and I leaped out from
behind the corner, holding the knife in my hand, I prepared to strike
downward at the menacing form before me. As my hand clinched tightly
on the weapon I felt a sudden sharp pain come from my lower back and
gasped for a breath of air. The knife in my hand loosened slightly as I
staggered forward struggling to keep my balance. Another sharp pain,
this time in my side, and I could feel the knife blade piercing my
lungs. Tearing flesh as it was pushed further inside me until the
hilt of the blade rested against my side. Then I could feel hands
on my back as someone began to push me forward.

A rush of air escaped from my side as I tried to scream. Looking
about wildly, I turned to see my other children staring at me, smiling
as I fell forward against the wall. Then they started giggling while
holding their blood stained hands to their faces as if hiding the
laughter behind a blood shield. With the knife in my hand still, I
lurched at them falling face first onto the carpet. At the same time
I could feel the knife being pulled from my side.

Turning on my side, I could see my son holding the knife in his
hands as he studied the blood on the blade. Looking at his reflection
in the shiny blood stained blade, he began to smile broadly exposing
his missing front teeth. As he studied himself, I started to back crawl
away from him hoping to avoid death as long as possible. At least
until I could leave a message for the police to find knowing they
would have to eventually come to the house when I don't show up for
work on Monday. By then it might be to late for me, but at least I
could make sure that someone knows what I found out to late to prevent.

Licking my lips, I turned my head in time to see my daughters walk
away from their bedrooms mechanically advancing to where I lay on the
carpet. As I watched them step closer, I could feel a hand clasp my
ankle and kicked my leg instinctively trying to free myself from what
had taken hold of me. Not wanting to turn my attention away from my
approaching daughters, I kept kicking blindly with my feet until I
felt the knife penetrate my calf and I stopped and turned to see my
son holding the knife firmly in my leg with both hands. Enough air
remained in my punctured lungs for a scream to escape my throat as I
reached for the knife. Seeing my efforts to extract the knife, my
son let go momentarily allowing me to kick at him with the knife
still protruding from my calf, hitting him on the chin with the butt
of the handle and sending him backwards.

Pain shot up through my leg as I tried to stand. Crippled from
the injuries, I fell back on the carpet still kicking madly. My
second attempt to stand was more successful and I braced myself
against the wall holding my side as I did so. As if my daughters
sensed my death near. They both started to laugh loudly while clapping
their hands as if cheering for a winner in a television contest. Their
laughter distracted me from my son long enough for him to reach out
from where he lay and extract the knife from my leg. In doing so, he
let out a laugh that startled me as I felt the pang of fear mix with
the pain of my injuries and staggered backward. Holding my knife,
I swung it at my daughters as a diversion then turned with one
motion and ran at my son.

The suddenness of my attack had taken him by surprise as he stood
near the stairs staring blankly as I plunged the knife into his chest.
Looking down at the blade as it pierced his heart, he was pushed back
by the same force that drove the blade deep inside and he fell down
the stairs with a smile on his face. As he fell backwards down the
stairs, I slumped to my knees half expecting my daughters to push me
after my son. Instead, they both stopped laughing and a hushed
silence fell over the hallway as I watched my son roll down the stairs
in slow motion. Tumbling end-over-end, he continued to laugh until
he reached the bottom stair and I lost sight of him and the sound of
his laughter.

Staring down blankly, I imagined my son crawling back up the steps
holding the knife in his small hands, grinning as he crept up each
step until he was directly below me. As I continued to stare, lost
in my own thoughts, I had forgotten my two daughters behind me until
I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped at the touch. Bracing for
the pain I knew was coming, I was surprised to hear my daughter
speak for the first time in days: "It's okay daddy, he's gone now!"
was all she said. Then blackness became my day, filling my mind
with an emptiness as I slumped against the wall.

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