Lenny and I are in the canteen, clearing the tables of their trays. He’s looking down, focusing on the task at hand. He’s completely engrossed in what he’s doing. Either that, or he’s trying his hardest to forget about his situation by throwing all his energy into the job. “Lenny,” I say. He looks up and sigh. “I meant what I said before. I’m really sorry about what my dad did. I’m completely against it. I just want to know that.”
I nod at him, as I empty the contents of a tray into a refuse sack. “Lenny, I’ve been thinking. What did you mean before, when you said you envied me?”
That’s something that’s been at the back of my mind since earlier on. It just briefly slipped my thoughts when I reached the realization that the man I met was not the Reaper. But, for some reason, when I was looking at me, it kind of resurfaced. I can’t understand how anyone would possibly envy me.
He looks down. “Thomas, you just know how to get along. I don’t.”
“What’re you talking about?”
“When we were in our first year of school. I saw you around the corridors. You knew how to talk to people, how to mix and socialize and make friends. You still do. You came here literally two days ago and you’ve already got a circle of friends. I don’t and I’ve been here six years.”
I release a sigh. “Look, Lenny. I don’t really know what I’m doing either, I just know how to make it look like I do. I came in here and I was shitting myself. I did what I had to do to get by, to survive in here. And as for when I was in school, in first year, the majority of people I talked to, they weren’t interested in me, or being my friend. They just wanted to be seen associating with the Mayor’s kid. That’s all there was to it. I eventually did find my feet and got in with this circle of friends. But, one of them, my best mate, he, he died last year,” I swallow. “He was one of the Reaper’s targets. And, ever since, my mates and I haven’t been the same. We’ve kind of drifted apart.”
Lenny looks down. “I’m sorry,” he says. “And now I feel even worse that I took my anger out on you. I really am sorry, Thomas.”
I nod. “Look, I’ll tell you this much. No matter how confident someone looks, I can guarantee it’s superficial in some way. Lenny, I was being severely bullied in first year, because I was the Mayor’s kid, I was automatically a snob in their eyes. With my dad having the job he’s in, there’s actually more drawbacks than there are perks. It’s not as appealing as it looks. I still have no idea what I’m doing, I just disguise it.”
“Oh,” he says. “Well, you do it well.”
“Come on,” I smirk. “Let’s get this over with and get to Free Time. You can sit with Cole, Matt and I and watch TV, if it’s not still on the blink.”
“I seriously doubt that,” he chuckles.
I haul the refuse sack out the back door and towards the bin as he runs a wet cloth over the tables.
I lie down in my bed and close my eyes. An intense sense of tiredness is washing over me. Life in here is exhausting. We’re always confined to a timetable and there’s not really a time where we can tune out and relax properly except after the lights go out. And thankfully, that’s pretty soon. I’m going to try get a good sleep tonight, because tomorrow, it’s Halloween. And I won’t be able to help but think of what the Reaper’s going to do. Who he’s going to target. I’m unsure now and not knowing makes it worse. I know now it’s not going to be Mr Blanchard, because that wasn’t the Reaper who made me choose. I’m just praying and hoping that he doesn’t target another person close to me this year. I can’t deal with possibly losing somebody else I care about.
“Lights out,” the Nurse calls. I flick off the light switch and throw myself into my bed. She flashes a quick smile as she passes by to make sure I’m in the room. “Goodnight, Thomas.” She pulls the door closed, leaving me in the pitch dark of the room. I close my eyes and roll over on my side.
“Get off her,” I scream.
The masked figure inches the blade closer and closer to her throat. “You saw what I did to Mr Blanchard. I can just as easily do it to her.”
“Tommy, what is going on?” Lucy weeps.
He brings his mouth to her ear and begins to whisper softly. “Let’s just say your boyfriend is following in his father’s footsteps.”
“Let her go,” I shout. “She’s done nothing to you and neither have I. If you’re angry with my father, go after him.”
“You’re angry at him too, aren’t you?”
I look down. “Be honest, Thomas. Aren’t you angry at him too? Wouldn’t you like to teach him a lesson? For the way he treats you and your mother? To put him in his place? To punish him for what he has done?”
As I look up, I realize we’ve transitioned from the forest to my kitchen. Dad is slumped in the chair, his chest rising and falling every few seconds with shallow breaths. He’s sleeping soundly. “You know where he keeps it, Thomas. Go get it,” he whispers.
“No,” I swallow.
“You know you want to,” he taunts. “And right now, you can.”
“No,” I repeat, looking forward at my dad in his slumber.
He touches his hand of mine and folds my hand over the cool metal. I look to it in my hand. It feels surreal to actually have it encompassed in my hands. My dad is the only one who’s touched it before now. He said it’s for protection only and if necessary.
“It is necessary, Thomas,” he tells me. “Remember, I live in you, so I know what you’re thinking.”
“I won’t do this,” I tremble.
“Yes, you will, because you the will and the means.”
“No, I don’t have the will. I’m not a murderer.”
“You and me are the same, Thomas. We both have darkness residing in our souls. And I’ve finally brought yours to the surface. Act on it, Thomas. You know you want to. You know you’ve wanted to ever since you discovered he had it. Now’s your chance. Do it. I won’t tell anybody.”
“No,” I assert. “I’m nothing like you. I’m not a murderer.”
“Go on,” he whispers. “It’s in your hand. All you have to do is pull the trigger.”
“No,” I repeat.
“Do it,” he says.
“You know you want to, just do it.”
I swallow and look to the gun in my hand and back to my father. “No.”
“Shoot him, Thomas. Right between the eyes.”
I take in a deep breath, point the gun in line with my father’s face and pull the trigger. And for a split second, I catch a flashing glimpse of myself once again staring at my masked face in a smashed mirror.
“No, no, no, no,” I gasp. I jerk upright in the bed. My bed in the hospital. It was just a dream. But, why did it feel so real?
I throw the covers away from me and wipe my sweat glazed forehead with my forearm. I close my eyes for a brief moment.
I really am losing it. I’m one hundred percent losing it. I’m finally starting to believe that this is where I actually belong. Mum was right. I really am struggling.
“Hey,” Lucy smiles. She’s with Andrew, who’s also smiling at me. “How are you?”
I wrap my arms around her. “I’m okay, how about you?”
I turn to Andrew and greet him with a pat on the back. “Hey mate.”
“Guys,” I say. “What are you doing here? It’s.. It’s Halloween.”
Lucy nods. “Which is why we’re only going to be here for a few minutes. We need to get back home soon.”
“I understand,” I say. “Please take care of yourselves.”
Lucy places her warm hand over mine. “Don’t worry about us, we’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, mate,” Andrew says. “Just focus on getting yourself better.”
“Okay,” I say. “I will.”
Lucy’s eyebrow arches slightly. “Yeah, Luc. I’ve finally come to terms with it. I know I’ve got some problems, I know that now, I’m struggling. You and Mum and Dad were right. I need to try get better.”
She swallows. “I love you, Thomas.”
The corners of my mouth curl upwards. “I love you too.” I lean forward and lock my lips with hers. “Come on, get a room,” Andrew interrupts. I smile and lean backwards. “Sorry.”
“Anyway,” Lucy says. “We should go. I just wanted to see how you were. I wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer.”
I smile weakly. “It’s okay,” I say. “I’ll see you again.” Hopefully.
The thought of this possibly being the last time I’ll see one of them makes my stomach turn. I pull them both into a tight hug. “I love both you guys, so much. I just wanted you to know that.”
“See you tomorrow,” Lucy smiles. I know Lucy, and it’s a forced smile. She’s trying to show that she’s not afraid. But I know, that beneath it, she’s terrified.
Cole, Lenny, Matt and I venture into the lounge and take a seat on the floor. All the furniture has been pushed aside, apart from the coffee table, on which, bowlfuls of crisps and sweets are sitting. The Nurse is slotting a DVD into its player. Tonight, our schedule is being slightly disrupted to watch a horror movie. I think the majority of the group voted for Scream, so that’s what was rented. This is how we’re celebrating Halloween. I’m looking forward to it, because I’m unaccustomed to ever celebrating it. But, at the same time, it feels really odd. And selfish on my part. It doesn’t feel right for me to be sitting here, enjoying the thrill of a movie, while my friends, family members and neighbors are enduring the terror of Halloween night as a resident of Eventide.