Chapter 1: Cracked Mirrors
Eyes staggered at the light of the morning. Soon the warm blackness I had fallen into shattered. The sounds of traffic fill my bedroom with anger and hurry of business men late to their dead end jobs who wasted away life and the cab drivers all too eager to make the day seem to lengthen in annoyance and rush.
“Move it you jack ass!” As if their yells will ever solve anything. I rub my eyes to the familiar morning sounds as I prepare for another day.
Long legs swoop around the bed frame to meet the cold wooden floor. Heat drained from me as I threw back the soft blankets I had wrapped in the night before. I can’t decide if I love or hate sleep. I love to be warm and away from everyday things but in the same way I wish not to miss anything. As if in the moment I blink my eye, something happens that will forever change the way I think, the way I feel, the way I am, and I missed it in the darkness of my own thought.
I brushed away my wandering mind and continued on with my daily routine. I shrug leisurely to the cracked body mirror leaning against my wall. I stared through the lines that distorted the mirror’s image of me. I remember how mad I was when it broke.
I had come home after another day of unrelenting torture from the scum of the underclass. Palace, the worst of the boys had pushed me down the second story staircase of our school again. I remember the blood that fell from my nose and the fear in my own eyes from dread that it was broken.
After about an hour in the nurse’s office I was sent back to class, with a simple “It’s only a scratch, you’ll be fine.” The whole day I wore bandages tightened around my red face and the whole day I got nothing but glares and undertone comments. As if my reputation could get any lower.
I said nothing to my parents. I knew well that they would have taken me to the emergency room again but, we can’t afford another bill. After Cassie broke her arm things have been tight around here. Bringing Cassie in wasn’t easy for us anyway, but what else could we have done? We’re the only family she has besides her drunk ass father. Once the state took her away it was either here or nowhere.
After school that day I rushed to my room and stared at myself in the mirror. Shaggy blonde hair with shades of brown reaching my eyes, hanging there to get on my nerves. Pale white skin from never going outside and light brown eyes with their odd pattern of black within the left. And this bandage, this stupid red stained rag that marked my face with the wrath of Palace. I ripped the white from my face as pain ran it’s course followed by a yelp. I looked at the broken skin above my nostrils from where the bone had ripped. My eyebrows narrowed.
“If I wasn’t so stupid as to get in his way again. If I wasn’t so stupid as to try to speak for myself. If I wasn’t so stupid I wouldn’t be here!” I yelled to myself smashing the mirror.
After that night I shut down and kept my head covered like the boy everyone expected me to be. I brushed my finger across the scar that held place above my nose through the cracked image. I sighed as nothing has changed from that day. I am still his doll to play with and I’m still stupid enough to try to fight back. Mostly, I’m still stupid to still care.
I stepped away from the mirror to finish my morning and soon headed down stairs grabbing my orange short sleeved shirt on the way. I found my way down the narrow path to the main floor of this overly crowded town house. Our main floor wasn’t much. An average size home for a two or three person family with enough room to live comfortably however, when you have six people trying to get ready in the morning it turns into an all out battle to even get a bowl of cereal. I looked at my brother who sat at the table re-reading his homework from the night before. I could see him squinting at the paper as he silently spoke the sounds to himself. Julian has always had issues with reading and writing. He says the letters seem to dance, whatever that means. I walked across the mess of scattered bills and toys to the cluttered table.
“It’s a wonder you can do anything with so much junk on the table,” I laugh grabbing a bowl on the counter. Looks clean enough. I poured the last of the cereal into my bowl and reach for the milk.
“I’m trying to think,” Julian snapped at me as he continued his mumbles. I rolled my eyes as I took a whiff of the milk, ok not good enough.
I sat taking a mouth full of my dry cereal, chewing on the stale bites. The mumbles and sounds of my brother reading got louder and louder as if he was trying to tune something out. I could see him covering his ears as he continued trying to read. I listened to him repeating the same lines over and over to himself as his blonde hair fell into his eyes that were filled with annoyance.
He had enough, “Shut up!” Julian smacked the spoon from my hand letting it hit the kitchen floor. I looked at my little brother with spite for the death of my breakfast.
“Do you have any idea how annoying you are? I’m trying to read,” he raised his voice.
“Why so you can fail the fourth grade again?” I shouted.
I froze, the world seem to freeze. A chill took over me and I couldn’t do anything about it. Not again, I thought. I felt afraid. The feeling overwhelmed my body. I could see Julian throwing a fit, I could see Cassie crying from mom trying to brush her ruby hair in the living room, and I could see the change of the world around me but it was different. As if I was seeing it through someone other than myself. My breath increased as did my heart beat. The look on Julian’s face turned too concerned as he called for someone. My air was rapid and weak, I felt like I wasn’t breathing at all. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t.
I gasped, a hand was placed on my face. I turn to see Gramps looking into my eyes. My vision crossed as I returned to reality. Ever since I was little I seemed to have a lot of these moments. The doctors say there panic attacks but nothing was triggering them. They’re almost random and it seems the only person who can ever bring me out of them is Gramps.
Gramps moved in shortly after losing his job in Minnesota. The higher heads at the factory decided it better to bring new faces to the workforce and with that Gramps was out of luck. I felt bad for the old man. Years upon years of hard labor to be tossed aside like a rag doll doesn’t seem fair. I mean he lost everything, his job, his home, and even his sanity. Gramps has always been a little off since Grandma passed, always mumbling to himself and his weird habits that had formed since he moved in; we can’t tell if he's even on planet Earth anymore. But he ‘s still the only one who can bring me out. One time I spent an entire week in that state. Mom and Dad had to fly me to his house and I stayed there until I was fully awake again.
I continued to breathe rapidly as Gramps looked into my eyes. For the oddest reason he would always stare into my left one, as if he was searching for something that would explain why this was happening, but it never did.
“Go on now, you don’t have all day. Get on out to school boy,” His voice was shaky and reeked of old man but I did as I was told.
Fantastic school…. Just where I want to be.
Jumping right through the school day, as if I listened to a word of the mindless paid employees of the state. I walked down the crowded hallways that might as well have been empty. I listened to the calls and rumors that spread through these halls like a virus that spreads through its’ body. A hand placed on my shoulder, I froze. Oh God Palace. I winced as I turned to meet…..Greg.
I pushed him playfully, “Don’t do that man.”
Greg had been my best friend since I could remember. He was always shorter than me and because of it I would always rest my elbow on his head. It’s become more of a reach though since it seems he’s finally hit his growth spurt; junior in high school, little late. I smiled at his green eyes and short dark hair, I was more content to see it wasn’t Palace than anything.
“You know I couldn’t help it. So I hear the new Hell Rise games are coming out tonight, want to come over and play it?” Greg asked as we walked.
“You know I don’t buy into all that angels and demon shit right? And I would if I could, parents are taking us to old Ohio for a bonding trip.” I gagged in annoyance, “I don’t get why they can’t just leave me here with Gramps I’m sixteen for Christ sakes.”
“You’re not taking your Grandfather with you? I mean like what if you?” I cut him off.
“Can we not talk about it? God, and it’s been getting worse lately,” I growled crossing my arms in a huff.
“Worse? Have you tried going to the doctors?” Greg asked innocently.
“And what add another bill to our list? I’d rather just suck it up and deal with it,” I sighed leaning against the grey walls.
“Well…” Greg shrugged opening his end locker.
Laughter filled the halls, not any laughter his laughter. I looked towards the opposite end of the hallway with terror. We froze looking at him. Palace walked sluggishly with his gang of morons and brutes too stupid to pass a first grade reading test but strong enough to beat us in any battle. They walked slowly, perhaps they had not seen us… My hopes died. Palace rose his left hand and smiled a devilish grin filled with the wickedness of Hell itself. Shit.
I bolted away from the menace with Greg shortly behind me. Having longer legs helps in my run, or maybe it’s the fact this happens almost every day! I turned quickly around the corner, I could hear their footsteps getting closer. My only hope is to get outside before they can catch me, to get out and get home before my daily beat down. I could see the door just a few more feet away, I’m so close, so close.
The sounds of sneakers sleek across the tile. I glanced quickly behind not slowing my pace. Greg had fallen victim to the sharp turn and had rolled into the trap of the brutes. I growled as the boys approached him. Palace kicked him once as two of the other grunts continued running after me. I looked at my escape, I’m so close, so very close. I stopped as the two boys pass me up. I reverse my direction running at full sprint towards Palace.
I threw back my own fist as I bolted, years of rage built up in me as I hit him across his freckled face. Palace stumbled back surprised at my attack. His hand pushed back his red hair from his forehead.
I gritted my teeth, “run Greg.”
“I’m not leaving dude,” he shuttered holding his jaw.
“Now,” I yelled.
With that Greg ran towards the open outside doors, his purple shirt vanishing into the distance.
Palace grinned as the two other boy’s grabbed my arms from behind. I knew what was going to come but I wasn’t going to show fear, he only enjoys it more.
“Well runt, think you can go against the king?” Palace smiled wickedly.
I remained silent, it would only encourage him more if I spoke. He’s the kind of creature who seems to love feeding off the fear of his victims. If I believed in demons he would be the first I’d suspect of being Satan’s spawn.
“Speak when your master is talking to you,” he commanded as if I were a mere dog.
I spit into his face and with that my fate was sealed.
The chill of his knuckles hit against my cheek sending red across the tile. The next several blows were to my gut, I gasped as one sent the air out from my lungs. I could taste the metallic flavor of the distinct combination of blood and spit. I gagged spitting the mixture to the floor as Palace continued to wail against me. My heart throbbed as my body bruised and scratches began to form against my skin. I soon yelped, I had bit my tongue against my pain but I could no longer hold it in. This only gave him more inspiration and thrill.
“Can’t you just do everyone a favor and end it already?” Palace barked hitting with extra force.
My breath became rapid and I could feel my pulse across my body. Soon I found silence, everything throbbed but I could feel nothing, I could see nothing, nor do anything. I was there but I wasn’t there. I think I’m in pain but I don’t know if I really am. I stood knees bent and body shaking with a wide expression and open jaw.
The silence broke with a whisper, “Come…” My vision blurs and soon I found the pain I had once had. Confusion added to my thoughts. What just happened and what did I hear if I had heard anything at all? Did I just have a panic attack? If so how did I get out of it?
I fell to the floor as the boys had grown bored with me. Oww…. I could feel myself choking from my own pain as I lay across the tiled floor of the empty hallway. Only listening to my heavy breathing and the questions that rattled through my head.
“How am I going to hide this one?” I coughed wiping the blood from my lips.
The car door closes as I sat with my black jacket hood shading my battered face. I was only hoping I could hide it from mom long enough to get this family bonding trip over. The whole idea was stupid, there is nothing in Ohio and yet Mom couldn’t seem more thrilled about seeing what wonders there are in nowhere. I leaned against the window of the car crossing my arms in annoyance. It was obvious I didn’t want to be here. Cassie sat in the middle seat combing her rag doll’s string hair as she sings softly to the trash we call pop music that played on the radio. Julian sat doodling in his journal trying to block out Cassie’s below average singing voice. I growled under my breath turning to face the glare of my mother.
“What are you doing?” She questioned in her usual mom voice.
“What?” I asked.
“Put on your seatbelt and take down your hood, it may be cold outside but in here it’s warm as the sun.” She reached pulling down my hood showing my annoyed tattered face.
“Dominic,” she shouted in surprise.
Dad looked behind as he continued driving down the busy New York stretch. “What happen son?”
“Just a little fight that’s all…” I sighed as they learned my secret.
“You don’t get these kind of marks from a little fight.” Dad spat glancing between me and the road.
“Who did this sweetie? We can talk to your principal and we can-“I cut her off.
“Can we leave it? I’m fine,” I snapped.
Dad turned to me, his face red “You do not yell at your mother. Now you are going to tell us who is doing this to you and- “I stopped listening as I stared out the windshield in total fear.
I tried to scream, I tried to yell but no words could come from my mouth only a small squeal. Tears filled my eyes as the world slowed. Dad turned as I pointed towards the oncoming traffic. I could hear the scream from my mother and soon followed by Julian and Cassie’s.
I still remained frozen in a state of shock and yet my body didn’t listen to my mind. It was as if I didn’t have to think to react. My mind’s only thought was to pretend it wasn’t happening and to shut down but my body had other plans.
I jumped to my left covering Cassie and Julian as the sounds of metal against metal screamed into my ears. I bit my lip as we swerved and tilted right. I hung tightly against my siblings as the cries of my parents rang. I closed my eyes listening to the sounds of the events that seemed unreal and unimaginable. Tears fell from my clenched eyes as the car continued to tilt and soon it turned into a full spin. I covered Julian’s head with my hand and held Cassie against my chest. I could feel something pull against my skin on my back but, I couldn’t see what it was.
The blackness continued to spin until I couldn’t take it anymore. I could feel myself being ripped away from the back seat. I had never put on my seat belt and the pull was too much for my strength. I opened my eyes and looked at the terror filled eyes of my brother and cousin. I could feel the salty streams flowing down my face as I listened to their screams slowly slipping in my grip. The car hit something sending it right hard, I flew across crashing head first through the right side window. I screamed before the impact as I took a last look against the street. The glass scattered as I fell through the small opening. Everything hurt, I have never felt so much pain as I stared across the smog filled sky and right side of the tilted car. I could tell it was beginning towards me again. I closed my eyes as black engulfed my vision. And then nothing.