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FOR HIS SEVENTEENTH birthday, his mother bought him a car – a jet-black sporty sedan coupe that was popular amongst youths in his age bracket.

His Mom badly wanted the best for him. Unfortunately, her way of showing it was to convince herself that nothing was wrong with her son, that if she made him happy by giving him gifts every time, everything would be alright. But long before the gifts began coming, Alan was already on a dangerous downward spiral psychologically.

After the accident, of course, Alan didn’t return to school immediately. He needed time to heal physically, and so he’d lost a session. And when he did return to school however, he’d lost interest in education altogether. By the end of his first term doing the extra year he missed, it was pretty much apparent that Alan was not about to complete his studies anytime soon.

Not to mention that he had achieved a level of notoriety as a trouble maker in the school for routinely boycotting classes and for breaking one of the most sacrosanct regulations of any school on the planet: No student must be found with any type of controlled substances in school.

Alan often had cigarettes in his bag, and had been caught a couple of times smoking in the toilet. But even more upsetting than the offence, Alan seemed to enjoy the status of being a black sheep. He took pride in giving the school authorities and his parents a hard time, like a self-satisfied maniac.

Amongst his classmates, most of whom were younger than he was, Alan was an evil villain that shouldn’t be trifled with. They feared him just as much as they loathed him. There was something dark in his eyes that often gave them the chill when he talked with them or even looked at them.

He sat alone in the small cafeteria, playing idly with the fork in his hand rather than chop the stake with it. The edge of the cutlery sort of appealed to him in a strange way as he considered it carefully, turning it about.

He began to play with the idea of stabbing himself, or someone, with it. Yes, what if he could jab the pointy edges of the fork into someone right then; maybe someone who wasn’t in his good book?

Alan lifted his eyes slowly and looked around ominously. That was the second time where the urge to kill, to take a life, was would occur to him.

Do you want to? asked the Voice sneakily, when the thought crossed his mind.

“Well,” Alan contemplated, shaking his head back and forth slowly, “not quite. Maybe not now….I’m not sure.”

The Voice chuckled delightfully. Don’t worry, Al, we’ll get around to that soon enough. When you’re ready. Killing a man, taking a life; now that’s no joke, Alan. You have to be ready.

Alan said, “Are you real?”

For the last couple of months since he began hearing the Voice, his path had wound downhill treacherously. His drinking rate had spiraled out of control, he seemed to court the night more than day, and his circle of friends, if any, had grown thinner. Often, he’d silently wondered if the Voice was real; if everything was real, in fact. Even he sometimes shuddered to discover how twisted his mind had become.

The Voice laughed. Am I real? Tell me, Al; what d’you think?

Alan paused, thinking. “But who are you?”

There was silence, for a moment. Then the chilly answer came back.

I am you.

Are you up for some fun?

Alan smiled discretely as he sipped his drink. It was past one o’clock in the morning, and he was still sitting at the bar of a gentleman’s club mid-town. His hair was neatly shampooed and combed backwards, lending it an attractive, serpentine sheen.

Wearing a black leather jacket, a silver-encrusted crucifix and a stiff smile on his scarred face, Alan Prince cut the image of a young gang leader that didn’t fool around. And he’d indeed been notorious of late: vandalism, club brawl, drug possession. He’d been busted and jammed in the can more than once, giving his mother more things to worry about.

Presently, Alan scanned the club discretely from the shadowy part of the bar where he sat, wondering what the Voice had in mind now.

Finish your drink, Al; let’s go cause some mayhem!

Mayhem, thought Alan, smiling darkly.

He liked the sound of that.

Ten minutes later, the black car was tearing through the deserted streets at cut-throat speed, with horns blaring incessantly and a hard-metal music booming loudly in the atmosphere. The windows were wound down, and Alan enjoyed the feel of the warm night breeze rushing through the car.

Behind the wheel, he felt powerful and in charge; he made several fast turns, bumped into trash cans lining the side of the roads, nearly ran over a terrified cat, meandered through crooked alleys without braking, crashed his car in multiple places and navigated many dangerous turns while screaming in exhilaration the whole time. The tires screeched in protest, and the car skidded over a number of bumps precariously, nearly losing traction more than once.

Alan raised his head and howled like a wolf. Then he began to laugh. He was really enjoying the ride, enjoying the thrill of the moment, enjoying the panic and alarm that he saw on the faces of the few night crawlers he zoomed past. He knew he was a menace, not just to others, but to himself as well, and that was the fun of it all.

The car was doing almost twice the legal speed limit allowed on that stretch of road, yet Alan drove on wildly, flooring the pedal with ease, his inhibitions and conscience deadened by strong alcohol and ecstasy.

As Alan laughed, he saw a familiar flashing light on the roof of a car that apparently came out of nowhere behind him. He slowed down, and that was when he heard the sirens blaring. He was far ahead and could easily outrun the cops at that distance, but then, he thought to himself, still grinning, what would be the fun in that?

Alan pulled over, waiting for the police car to come up alongside him. One of the officers got out of the car looking quite upset, and marched briskly to Alan’s coupe with his hands lightly fingering the top of his service revolver around his waist. The second officer remained behind in the car, speaking in the radio and obviously giving a description of the suspect’s vehicle.

Alan kept smiling, baring his teeth as though he’d just hit a jackpot. “Good evening, Officer,” he said smugly, when the policeman came up to him. “Am I in trouble?”

The officer folded his hands across his chest and glared unkindly at the familiar, teenage driver.

Mom came to bail him at the station later that morning. Expectedly, she was distraught with grief. In the car, she broke down and wept in frustration.

“What is wrong with you, Alan?” she reprimanded him sternly, her voice breaking at the same time. “Why do you keep doing these things? D’you want to kill yourself?”

He simply stared out the window at the busy streets and the people going about their businesses that morning, ignoring her as she drove him from the station. He was pretty nifty at that already, shutting people out of his mind while communing with the Voice in his heads.

…D’you wanna kill yourself, the Voice reechoed subtly, leering. Now, that’s an idea…

Mom suddenly beat down hard on the dash with her fist, to get his attention. “Why’re you doing this to me?” she raved. “And to yourself? Tell me, Alan! What has come over you? You’ve changed so much; you’re now like your father!”

“I’m not like anyone!” he yelled.

“Yes, you are!” she fired back. “And it’s my fault, I admit it. I shouldn’t have left you with that loser.” She paused, blew her nose into a handkerchief and looked sideways at him. Her eyes were dazed and sad. “You know what, Alan; all that changes from today, because you’re coming home with me.”

“What!” he said, turning to look at her. “You’re kidding, right?”

“You bet I’m kidding,” she returned angrily, as she took a turn and continued driving down the street.

Alan seemed aghast at the notion. “I’m not coming to live with you!” he said firmly.

“Yes, you are. End of story,” she snapped.

“Dad isn’t gonna like it.”

“Like I care.”

Alan snorted, upset. “You can’t tell me what to do, Mom,” he told her, quieter now. “No one can. It’s too late for that now, you know.”

Mom froze and stared at him. She appeared very livid, taken aback by his abrasiveness, the tone of his voice and the defiant look in his cold eyes. Something had obviously changed around him. It seemed plausible, as she considered it, that Alan was under the influence of narcotics. Either that, or he had been bewitched.

Whatever it was, Samantha Prince realized right then that her once beloved son was no longer himself.

Alan was someone else.

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