It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault… Is it?
“Grant, get in my office, now!” A beep followed the angry voice that distorted from the walkie talkie clipped to the waistline of Grant’s pants.
“Oh, you’re gonna get it now!” Jack grinned at Grant, who countered with a disgusted face, being as this was a regular occurrence.
“Yeah, whatever. Just wait ’til the day I lay it back into him.” Grant rose from his knees where broken down cardboard boxes laid around him.
Zenall—the company Grant worked for—always had to make a huge deal about every new season, using one-fourth of the store for temporary items. For Grant, it was such a hassle. As soon as he thought he had all the new locations memorized it was time to change.
Grant made his way past all the customer-less aisles, coworkers were setting the merchandise that later consumers would purchase.
The aisles were to be stocked full before the store opened. Not that it was a challenge, but the CEO demanded too much from them. New seasons called for new schedules. Instead of waking up early in the morning and coming in at around four, their internal clocks were forced to adjust to starting at ten at night.
Grant passed by the locked entrance doors and glanced outside. The sun was nowhere in sight, although the moon sent weak threads of light. He sighed. Not even an hour had passed since he arrived for his shift.
Being day one of the new schedule shift took a toll on everyone’s mental health. Many people were transfixed into quick turning moods, especially management.
Jack didn’t seem to mind the shift. His schedule seemed odd to most, including Grant. Even before the schedule change, he woke up at six in the evening and would do who knows what until work started.
Being a stocker wasn’t too demanding for Grant. Nor was shifting schedules; this had been his tenth time being around for a season change, after all. His breaking point neared its limit for other reasons.
“Yeah, what do you need?” Grant topped the staircase and hollered before the chipped brick wall that surrounded the office door was in sight.
“You’re being too slow. We need you to pick up the pace.” Henry responded once Grant came into view, a pen twirled between his fingers.
“Am I not at the same pace as everyone else? I see no difference between me and the other workers.” Grant’s eyes danced between the scuffed desk and the office chair that had stuffing falling from the armrests.
The manager raised his eyebrow. “Is that so?”
Grant looked directly into his eyes and wore an apathetic face. “You’re making my time even slower. Thanks for nothing. I’ll be going back now..”
The manager’s face snarled into one that resembled a pig, his nose accented as his eyes grew downward. He slammed his hands to his desk and Grant cocked his head to the side, acknowledging the thump even from halfway down the stairs.
Everyday at work played out the same. What choice did he have though? Without this job there would be no way of paying rent.
He often wondered what it would be like to leave. Would living in his car as he searched for his next source of income be that bad? Although another part of him didn’t want to be looked down on by society if finding his next job would take too long.
That wasn’t the only thing stopping him. Without him at the house, he would feel guilty not being a servant to his parents. He felt he owed his parents all of the labor that had been forced upon him. He felt that until recently, that is.
For the past few weeks Grant had been thinking if all his abuse was justified.
Getting older brought in new ideas. His thoughts of being worthy enough to have freedom grew everyday. Of course, he did still have his bad days.
Grant made sideway glances to his other coworkers as he passed by. No smiles, no greetings, just eyes locking on for acknowledgement.
“What’d he want this time?” Jack asked.
“Oh you know, the same thing as last week. Why doesn’t he just fire me? At least then I would have no choice but to look for something new. ”
“You know he can’t afford to do that. We could basically get away with anything, they are really hurting on employees,” Jack laughed as he continued placing boxes of inflatable tubes onto a shelf.
“I guess. I do really need to get out of here though. Not just jobwise, I just want to start over somewhere else. I’m so tired of everything man.” Grant looked down at the box in his hands. An inflatable smiling sun that was used to sit on in the water. Is this really all my life will be? He stared at the sun beaming back at him.
What a joke.
He heard coworkers always talk about their plans in the future and climbing the corporate ladder at Zenall. He couldn’t relate at all. Oh how he wished his life could be so simple.
Jack never let on to his future goals though. Maybe that’s why he was one of the few he didn’t mind talking to. They both rarely shared anything about their lives. They worked, had few conversations, and went home.
“Oh, where are you thinking of? I know of a place where you could live, it’s real far from here though.”
Although, if there was one thing Jack always brought up about his life, it was this. Grant had always been confused why Jack was so fixated on this place.
Grant looked over at Jack with a bit of a smile starting to form. “Oh yeah? Where?”
“I knew you were going to say that. You always bring up that place as if you are the spokesperson of that tiny village,” Grant laughed. “What are there, five people who live there?”
“Around twenty-some, actually…For real though, they have an empty trailer for sale. It’s extremely cheap. If you’re interested just let me know.”
Jack’s father lived in Lyros, he always said whenever he would visit there it was like jumping off into the unknown. Apparently, it felt like another planet. Whenever Grant would ask why he didn’t live there, his answer never changed. “The small town life isn’t for me. People get too personal.”
“You know, my dad is still looking for more help. He always tells me if you can find someone, he will pay your rent. That is, if you will work for him. The job isn’t hard at all. You’ll just need 2,000 ramas to purchase the trailer.”
Grant had this thought many times before. Jack always tried to sell him this trailer, hyping it up by adding different details each time.
2,000 ramas was a steal. Did Grant want to be in a middle sized city working for a company and spend time with a family that didn’t care about him, or work in a tight knit small village where they might actually appreciate him?
“Come on, you said you want to get out of Tonim, right? Join the trailer park village. Do it. You’d enjoy it,” Jack said.
“Grant! Get back in my office!” The walkie sounded off, vibrating Grant’s leg through his pants.
Grant let out a heavy sigh. There was no option anymore was there? Everyday, more and more, he could feel life draining from his body. Whatever the consequence waited ahead, he would face them.
“I guess today is the day I’m laying it into him. Fine, I’ll try out your dear Lyros now.” A slight smile formed on his face. “Is there a way I can get a hold of you after you get off?”
“Yeah, just stop by the apartment three blocks to the east. It’s next to that gas station that sells the firewood in the front. Eastern Rail is the name of the apartment complex. I’ll wait out in front of one of the doors when I get off at six.”
“Thanks man, I can’t imagine Lyros being worse than my current living condition. I’m kind of excited. Kind of.”
Jack waved him off and chuckled as Grant dropped his walkie from his belt to the floor, creating a loud echo. His other coworkers paid no mind to it.
Grant glanced about the store as he reached the doors. Nope, there was no way he was going to miss this place.
The warm night air surrounded him, wrapping him, like the comfort from a hug he hadn’t gotten since he was a small child. He had to hurry home if he wanted to prepare everything before his parents went to sleep.
He opened the door to his rusted maroon car and entered the dust filled interior. The car gave a few roars before it started up and Grant took off.
Grant hesitated to go in his house as he sat in his torn up couch-like cushion of a seat inside his car. His relationship with his parents wasn’t the best and he tried to spend as much time away from them as possible. The clock in his car struck midnight. His parents would still be up for another hour, at least.
He had to do it before they went to bed. If he were to wake them up, he might end up dead. His father had a gun hidden away under their bed. Their mental state changed after that incident happened. Being seen as an intruder in his home was something he tried to avoid. Grant always made it a priority to tell them when he would be home to avoid instilling fear.
He inserted the key and unlocked the door. The door creaked as he slowly opened the side door that led to the kitchen.
“I’m home,” Grant said as soon as the door moved forward.
“Why the hell are you home right now?” His mother asked.
“Uh, well, turns out I wasn’t on the schedule for tonight… So I worked a bit to give them a head start and left.”
There was no response. Just the sound of laughter coming from the television. Grant sighed. He passed through the kitchen with dishes laying around the counter by the sink. A chef’s knife lied atop the stack of dirty plates. Why couldn’t they just place the dishes in the sink? But Grant already knew the answer to that.
All cleaning, all chores, everything was placed on Grant. If they left the dishes in the sink, he may not have noticed that there were dishes to be done. He didn’t even get a taste of whatever they ate earlier either. Not that this was his parents fault.
Hiding away in restaurants was Grant’s usual plan for dinner. Sure, his parents weren’t evil enough to not feed him, but they would hark on every fiber of his being. Criticizing him, mocking him, in a few instances, even threats would occur.
He was twenty years old, although his parents treated him like a kid. Actually, his parents treated him more like a prisoner than a member of their family. One they were forced to feed. Maybe some would prefer prison to this.
The staircase creaked as he climbed each step. What could he bring without making a ruckus alerting his parents that he was leaving? Not that he had much to bring anyway. He entered his room and glanced corner to corner. He might even be stuck in his car for a few days after leaving. He didn’t know when he would actually be welcome to stay in Lyros. WIshing Jack could make the plans work out in the next day or two was all he could hope for.
Not much had changed in his room since he was a child. He still had the same blankets, bed, dresser, and bookshelf. The only thing that really changed was the clothing he wore.
The drawing he carved into his closet door when he was only nine still remained, a character smiling, looking forward to a new adventure. Grant’s body slugged to the floor, his knees pressing against the cold, hard wood. He drew his fingers over the slightly indented wall and traced it.
Elijah also had a similar carving in his room, though Grant never dared bring himself to enter his room. He didn’t feel it was right. What right did he have barging into his brother’s room after everything that happened? Not only that, but entering the room would cause him too much pain.
The brothers each created their own characters and would pretend to be them. Running around the neighborhood, the house, and even with the local kids. In the country of Nhaja, children often played together, pretending to cast spells and catch monsters.
That was partly due to a popular comic that had swept its way around the country, perhaps even the world. Bloodline Beasts. It wasn’t created for children, but the cute designs of the mascot monsters made it hard to keep out of children’s hands.
Elijah was obsessed with a monster called Shuraek. The beast had the appearance of a purple shark with blue horns. Using its fins it could walk on land, as well as swim in the ocean. Grant remembered when they would go on trips, he always had to bring his stuffed Shuraek everywhere. He couldn’t sleep without it.
More than anything, Grant wanted to read through Bloodline Beasts with him once more. The series was nearing its end and Elijah would have loved where the story was now.
Grant smiled remembering the time Elijah chased a stray cat around claiming it as his beast. Times were much simpler then.
Grant couldn’t believe how much his parents had changed. As drastic as a human turning into a beast. He didn’t even like his parents anymore. In fact, he despised them.
He grabbed his childhood camping bag from his closet. Only a few items would be able to fit in it. He scanned the room, creating a mental list of what was most important to him.
If he remembered right, according to Jack, the last residents who lived in the trailer left all their furniture, among other things. Was this deal too good to be true? There must have been something else wrong with it. Having it out in the middle of nowhere though, this was probably the easiest way it would sell. But it was only 2,000 ramas? With all the furniture? Grant couldn’t grasp it.
He reached under his mattress and felt around. He squandered up his hidden money that he had been postponing his rent with, twenty paper bills thick, 2,000 ramas. He placed the wad of money into the side pocket of the bag.
If he combined that with his paycheck of around 1,200 he got this week, he would have a bit of spending money left over for the necessities the past owners didn’t leave.
Grant pulled on his closet door and slid it out to the side. Emptying out the inside, he tossed all his clothing onto the floor. He scattered through it, picking out all the clothes that still fit him. There wasn’t much. Four shirts and Three pairs of pants. Each of them having a unique rip or tear to them. He folded them neat enough to fit them all in the bag.
Every time he thought about going out to buy new clothes he found himself in a situation where he had a reason to use it on something else. Either his parents guilted him into giving them more money, or he used it on entertainment.
Grant pulled open the top drawer of his dresser. Socks and underwear filled the top layer and underneath were stacks of comics. These were the comics he read with Elijah. Homemade drawings and notes filled the pages; his most valuable comics. He collected every single volume. The ones hidden within his dresser, he owned duplicates of, scribble-free, of course.
He rummaged through the dresser, digging his way down and pulled them out. His hands held the frayed books that had started to fade on the covers as his hasty movements caused socks and underwear to topple to the floor.
They fit in on the floor among the other articles of clothing that scattered in splotches like abstract art. He picked out socks and underwear and tossed them into the bag as well.
Grant spent most of his time in his room when he was home, but he paid no mind to how dirty his room got. He used that as an excuse as the only way he could rebel against his parents that wouldn’t result in punishment.
As much as he hated working, he would actually rather be there. Henry’s lectures and shouting were nothing compared to his parents’ methods.
There was one final item he needed to bring. It laid atop his dresser, framed in scratched oak. A photo. He grabbed it and placed it gently at the top of the bag.
A deep sigh of satisfaction exited his mouth. He took a final look at his room, and the colorful childhood clothing painted across the floor.
He stepped lightly down the stairs hoping not to alert either of his parents on his escape. A shadow warned him of a presence within a footstep away. The faded gray shadow grew bigger and turned to solid black.
“Grant! You haven’t paid us rent yet or washed the dishes! What do you think you have been doing?!”
“Give me a break. I just got home.” He didn’t usually respond with such an attitude, but he wanted to make sure there was no way he could come back. He knew he deserved more than this life and wanted to make sure that before more doubts came to his mind that he would not be welcome to return.
“Honey, get a load of this shit,” His mother shouted and faced towards the living room. “Grant hasn’t paid rent yet this month and thinks it is okay to relax! Get to the dishes and get to work! You’re lucky you have such caring parents as us who even let you stay here with how you treat us!”
Grant looked down and walked over to the counter and placed the bag on the table. The shrill voice of his mother immediately flooded Grant with doubt about himself, but he had made up his mind already. He turned back around to retrieve his bag and found his mother opening up all the pockets.
“Oh, here is the rent money! Honey, Grant was hiding it from us!” She flipped her fingers through the bills.
Grant’s parents charged him 2,000 ramas a month to live in his prison. Close to the amount he made each month.
He lost hope for so long. He even gave up and believed all the lies they fed him for a while. He believed this was the place he belonged. This was his punishment. Escaping would only be cheating on his punishment.
From the living room, stomping shook the floor, getting closer and closer. His father came in and snatched the bag from his mother with a look of fury.
“You think you could hide this from us?!” He pushed Grant against the dirty countertop. “Do you have any idea how much you owe us for allowing you to stay here after you let your brother get stolen from us?! Even worse, Elijah is probably dead because of you!”
How many times had this been drilled into Grant’s mind. There wasn’t a single week where they didn’t use this phrase against him. Ever since it happened when he was twelve years old. The torment of being told you are the reason for everything bad in you and your parents life for eight straight years would destroy any human. Grant could have escaped his home long ago, but he believed all his punishments were justified.
The man who caused him all this pain. Grant only wished he could find him. He would end him.
That was it. Everything within Grant’s worried mind cleared up as if a helicopter was clearing away fog as it took off. A spark of thought grew, creating a storm of anger within his head.
His instincts grabbed the knife that laid upon the soiled plates and rushed forward. His father jumped back, eyes in terror.
Grant got a hold of himself and steadied the knife back to his side, pointing it out. He didn’t want to kill him, just make them pay for the broken life they put upon him. He reached around and grabbed a metal ladle from the drawer within a flash, while pointing and jabbing the knife forward in small strokes. In a swift motion, he bashed his father’s skull with the ladle. Grant kneed him in the region that would hurt him the most and managed to snag the money back and grabbed his bag as his father was left on the ground.
“You piece of shit! Get out! You are never allowed back here!” His mother shrieked as she checked on his father.
“Good. I won’t ever be back.”
The door crashed open against the plastic siding of the house causing it to rattle as he dashed out. His keys rustled as he scrambled through his pockets and ripped them out.
His mother was standing outside the door watching, like a demon cursing him a life of hell. The trees shook about as the wind grew for a gust, expelling her disgust. Grant stared back as his expression slightly turned into a smile, a smile in the face of a devil. She couldn’t have him anymore.