WARNING: This book has an age restriction of 18, and is not recommended for sensitive readers.
TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains strong elements of substance abuse, violence, and sexual assault.
The little boy stood awkwardly in the middle of the study, glaring as his father clawed at his new friend’s clothes. The young lady had been his best friend from the very first day she had come to live with them, about two weeks ago, and he loved spending time with her very much. She was his friend and now his father wanted her only for himself.
“What about your son, Zayne?” She asked, eyes wide and halting his hungry movements with her outstretched palm.
His father pulled his lips away from her neck and snapped his eyes in the direction of the confused little boy. He shrugged, “what about him?”
Her eyes remained on the boy’s startled little face as she said, “we can’t, not in front of him.”
The young boy’s father was quickly becoming annoyed and groaned into the woman’s hair in disapproval. “GET OUT! AND STAY OUT!” He ordered too harshly, slamming an angry, clenched fist onto the table beside him.
Something flickered in the innocent little boy’s face as he lingered for a moment longer. Hesitation? Fear? His powder-blue eyes scanned the young woman’s face for any signs of disapproval. She had been his friend, not his father’s.
Her sweet voice rang out, trembling, but reassuring, “it’s fine Liam, we are just going to play a game, I will come and find you as soon as we are finished playing, okay?”
Unconvinced and reluctant to leave, the boy retreated slowly while his father ripped his friend’s blouse wide open, sending buttons scattering violently across the floor. There was nothing he could do, and it seemed like his friend wanted to partake in the game they were about to play.
She must not know his father very well. Liam couldn’t think of any other reason his new friend might want to stay and play with him. Didn’t she know that he never played nicely? That he liked hurting people?
Liam didn’t want his father to hurt his new friend, so he stayed outside the door and waited. Listened to their strange, ragged sounds and prayed that she would still want to be his friend after she was done playing with his father.
“Come on now darling, there is nothing to be afraid of. I have already checked under your bed, and in the closet. Twice. You saw for yourself there is nothing there,” my mommy’s soothing voice murmured.
It was well past my bedtime, but I was not ready to be left alone in the darkness of my room. Not yet.
“Daddy says you have to learn how to sleep in your own bed,” she tried again, placing her hand lovingly on my chest and depositing a gentle kiss onto my brow. I tried to mumble something in protest, but she stopped me short, “Liam, you are almost eight years old. You are a big boy now. You need to sleep in your own big boy bed. By yourself.”
I stared back at her with large, pleading, puppy eyes, hoping that she would change her mind and instead of leaving, crawl in next to me.
But my hopes shattered when my father burst into the room a second later. The door swung open harshly and hit the opposite wall with a loud bang. Daddy’s face, as usual, was stern and void of any emotion.
“Get out!” He barked angrily at mommy with rage and annoyance pulling his face into a crumpled, wrinkled mess. I could see my mother’s face going pale, which, of course, did nothing to soothe my unease. With my eyes, I begged her. Begged her to stay. I knew I couldn’t risk uttering the words in front of him and had to communicate my distress some other way.
Please, please, please, I begged with my eyes, please stay. She squeezed my hand and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry”, to me before she reluctantly got up and walked out, leaving me to deal with not only the darkness but also my furious father alone.
I swallowed the lump in the back of my throat and felt my palms start to sweat, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I’ll behave,” I quickly said, tears already starting to well up in my eyes.
He hated it. To see me cry. I knew it, but I couldn’t stop myself. I willed the tears to go back, to disappear, but they wouldn’t listen. The more I tried to fight them, the more tears came spewing out.
Father stared down at me with a scorching, hate-filled gaze. I felt it burning into me, branding my soul with his wicked, unspoken words, weakling, cry-baby, wuss.
When he couldn’t stand the sight of me anymore, he finally snapped and yelled out, “YOU BETTER START PULLING YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!” His index finger was pointing savagely at me, “YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A MAN! START ACTING LIKE ONE!”
Panting and nostrils flaring, he stood next to my bed for a moment longer. His livid eyes showed me everything his words didn’t say, not this time at least. They were the same colour as mine. Blue, with just a hint of brown around the iris. Whenever he got angry, that light brown ring turned golden and almost glowed with fury.
He was a monster. Had always been and I feared him greatly. More than anything else on this earth.
With a look of utter disapproval, he shook his head and stormed out, flicking the lights off and slamming the door shut behind him.
I lay completely still in my bed, listening to his loud, heavy steps retreating down the hall. A shaky breath left my lips as I clutched the bedcovers tighter and pulled them up to my breathless chest. Fear has driven any traces of sleep away and the instant darkness enveloped my tiny space of comfort. I was terrified of the dark. Have always been.
Frantically, my eyes roamed over the space beyond my bed, trying desperately to make out all the different shapes and silhouettes scattered along the walls. In the distance, somewhere in the house, I could hear my father yelling at my mom and throwing things around.
I clamped my eyes shut tightly. Tonight, I would rather take my chances with the boogieman, than go up against the wrath of my father.
For what felt like hours, I lay in bed, shivering. Too afraid to go to sleep and even more afraid of getting up and switching the desk lamp on. Every single noise had my ears perking up and my heart beating faster. After a while, the entire house had gone quiet. Everyone peacefully in a deep slumber, unaware of the little boy alone in his bed, fighting a losing battle with the endless darkness which surrounded him.
I was alone. So alone and so afraid. Even the dog outside had stopped barking and gone still.
As I lay there taking noiseless, deliberate breaths, a scratching sound suddenly came from somewhere under my bed. I gasped and kept the last breath captive. It stayed there, caught in my lungs. I didn’t want to let go of it. I didn’t want to make any sound that might give away my position.
I listened. Intently. It’s just your imagination; it’s just your imagination, I tried to calm myself.
A loud thud against the bed planks, directly underneath my head, had my body going stiff and my heart hammering out of my tiny chest. Crippled by fear, I lay there, praying and hoping for a miracle.
For a second, I almost yelled out to my mommy but stopped myself just in time by clamping my hands tightly over my mouth and swallowing the words back down.
The soft, familiar buzzing sound of my yellow toy truck’s wheels had my eyes widening in the dark. I had kicked it under my bed earlier when Mom told me to tidy up before bedtime. It sounded like the little truck was moving from left to right, and then back left again. I sat up slowly, shaking with fear, but forcing myself to peer over the side of the bed. A too-loud squeak from my shifting broke the silence in the room and I heard a harsh gasp coming from underneath the bed.
In an instant, I leapt off the bed and ran towards my desk lamp, pushing myself as fast as my little legs could carry me. For some reason, in my tiny mind, I was convinced that the light would scare away any monsters lurking in the dark. All I needed to do, was reach the switch first before the beast got hold of my ankles and pulled me under the bed, never to be seen again.
Flicking the switch on, I spun around, clutching the lamp like an ancient sword in my shaky hands. In one swift motion, I whirled the lamp in front of me, swinging it to fight off whatever had stalked out of the darkness. The sudden brightness stung my eyes, and for a moment I struggled to adjust to the light, but I held on to that heavy metallic base as if it was my only lifeline.
Harsh, panting breaths, had my little chest heaving uncontrollably.
Frozen in terror, I stood there for a few moments longer, breathless and trying to peer into the impenetrable blackness under my bed. Weakling. Cry-baby. Wuss.
When nothing happened for what felt like forever, I finally started taking small, uneasy steps closer, never taking my eyes off that eerie darkness. A foot short of my bed, I took a deep, determined breath and crouched down slowly.
My heart was beating so fast, I could hear its echoes ringing in my ears and my stomach ached in anticipation. Ever so slowly, I peered into the creepy darkness, angling the lamp to illuminate the bed’s underbelly.
I could make out the outlines of my little toy truck. It was close enough for me to reach in and grab it, but something to my right moved, drawing my attention.
The scream I wanted to produce, somehow got stuck in my throat and all that came out was a pained shriek as I took in the pitch-black eyes staring back at me.