We Will Love Each Other: A Terror in Three Parts (Part 1)

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Summary

Only think about me, only look at me and never turn away, and you will love me. We will love each other.

Genre:
Thriller / Horror
Author:
props
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
22
Rating:
4.7 7 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Part 1 Chapter 1

I have been asked more than a few times in my life what comes to mind first when I think of my father, and each time I’ve lied. In my younger years, these lies were glowing, alive with every carefully memorized adjective I’d unearthed to describe him (a diligent man, a proficient individual, an exemplary father), pronouncing them like they were objects with sharp edges, liable to slice my mouth open if I mishandled them. Later in life, past my time in private school and into the frenzy of my cocaine years, I came up with different lies, ones that somewhat benefited the tender beginnings of my career as a musician: “I’m only skilled at the piano because if I missed a single note, he would crack me over the head with his cane.” “Most nights, I wasn’t allowed to eat dinner until I’d successfully performed whatever symphony I was learning that week.” “He used to lock me in a room with only a piano for the whole weekend.”

When that was all over and I stood on trial, thin and ragged and not entirely certain where exactly I’d made the incision between reality and advantageous fiction, I devised a new story; the one I am the least proud of. A tearful, pain-soaked account of stolen boyhood, of endless nights after the divorce when he’d called me into his bed, divulging on nightmares, skin upon skin upon bastardized skin, of him shaking some part of me loose, some vital function in my brain that might have worked, that would have worked, but that had been lost to the touch of his hand. It did little to ease my sentencing.

Now, if he arises in conversation, I raise my hand up like I am terrifically exhausted and say nothing. He has since asked that I remove his last name from mine and extinguished all contact between us. He has elected to go on living as though he never had a son, which I suppose is easy enough. Not everyone has sons. It is perfectly viable for a person to go their whole life without ever having a son, and to slip into such a life could be as simple as deciding to never have one in the first place. But everyone has a father. I had one, and now I am missing one. It is a part of me torn away, numbed and torn away, almost surgically. The removal of a wisdom tooth. A procedure which takes, and leaves nothing in place but a hole in the gum, one which bleeds and gapes and becomes clogged with food and spit and cotton balls, one which throbs in pain just constant enough to remind you that what was once there, what is supposed to be there, is now gone.

What comes to mind first when I think of my father, what I never say, is his walk.

A stumbling, half-stepping lurch, a constant pattern (BUHN-duh-dUHN, dun, dun, BUHN) against polished mahogany hardwood, the accompanying click of his cane (bohn, bohn, bohn), the weight of his finely made shoes. Then, I can picture it: the rickety steps forward, the jerky gait of a toy robot with water spilt somewhere in its circuits, the occasional wavering that could be easily avoided if he could refuse his pride and lean more heavily on his cane, but he wouldn’t and there were several times I was sure he would fall over. He never did. He placed every bit of pressure that his ankles, which had once been shattered into impossible fragments of bone, could withstand, and then some more on suspicion of their legitimacy. Still, they never folded beneath him. He was still going BUHN-duh-dUHN, dun, dun, BUHN, and bohn, bohn, bohn when he came to my hearing, but only the first one. I have not seen him since.

These memories are not made out of words. They are sounds and sights, tinged at times with a faint whiff of warm cologne, the sharpness of floor polish. They have no substance beyond what unreasonable part of me chooses to preserve them, to protect them and never let me forget them. Sometimes, I think my subconscious brain is at war with my consciousness. I think it resents me.

He named me Arion. A name taken from Greek mythology, a deity who sometimes took the shape of a horse, a hero and a pioneer of musical innovation. From the moment he named me that, his expectations for me, his hopes, would be slowly strangled at my small hand - Arion, the Greek deity, would never howl and cry the way I did, would never have to be fed or, worse, changed. In the years since, I’ve come to believe that this first taste of disappointment, the first time I would fail to meet his standards, was the reason he would never call me by the name he gave me. From the moment I first spat up on him, my name was partially amputated - I became simply Ari. And though I was no longer Arion, I would become a classical pianist, famous, praised worldwide for my dedication, or I feared he would decide I was unworthy of even “Ari”, and I would be left with no name at all.

I showed no special talent as a child. No early indication that I could fulfill the legacy he’d intended for me, none of the savant-level skill that often comes with being a child prodigy. To make up for it, he said, I would have to work hard. I did.

There were deserts of time in my childhood in which I could do nothing but play the piano. I would be pried away from it only for homework and school, but was otherwise attached to the glossy black seat, the worn keys which knew my touch better than anyone else’s. Other things, pointless things, were driven so far to the back of my mind that they momentarily ceased to exist, and I spent days without eating, without sleeping, playing quietly to the silent hugeness of my father’s house at night so I wouldn’t wake him. I played until my fingers wore down to mere bones wrapped with skin, which was thinning in places and calloused in others, and I reflect now that I may have dropped dead had Dan not forced my father to take me to see a psychiatrist.

They came up with many names for the thing that’d gone wrong in my mind, long names with their own acronyms and their own medications and their own long lists of symptoms, their own bleak lifelong outlooks. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - which, as argued by my father as he sat with his cane leaned against his chair before the psychiatrist’s desk, made no sense - if anything, I was paying too much attention. This must have been the precise moment in which my father privately decided the psychiatrist was a quack, though he never said so directly. On the drive home, as we each silently pondered our time in that office, he said something I will never forget:

“There’s nothing wrong with you, if you ask me. You’re not sick. You’re just a perfectionist.” He paused, regarding a rainbow of school children holding hands, guiding one another through the crosswalk, before he added: “Like me.”

If I would have previously accepted the help of the psychiatrist, all possibility of that was dashed to oblivion, swallowed, by those two words. To this day, they are the highest piece of praise my father has ever given me, and so I embodied them. I was a perfectionist. I was LIKE HIM.

From then, I strove to create a balance. A perfect balance. I forged a person entirely capable of achieving the status of a world-renowned musician while upholding the life of an eleven-year-old. My hair was always washed, my fingernails cleaned, my homework done, my clothing ironed, and my piano was never deprived of the time I had free. I could almost feel my brain physically rearranging itself, recoiling into a new pattern of fissures and neurons designed for one thing: perfection. If I was a true perfectionist, I reasoned, then I would have a perfect brain, and so I gave Dan no more reason to worry. The remainder of my appointments with the psychiatrist went smoothly, intentionally so, until he adjusted his glasses and told my father he’d cured me. He was wrong; I’d cured myself.

He sent me to a private high school, non denominational but still heavy with a sense of rigidness that was indescribably Catholic. Dan joked it would be good to have no girls there to distract me from my studies. I made friends quickly and easily because I am friendly, likeable, and passably attractive given my nose. These friends, all of whom were prep school articulate and used their broad vocabularies to enhance a specific flavor of cruel humor, gave me a sorely needed opportunity to unleash contained amounts of the stress I denied feeling, veiled thinly by laughter and the insistence that we were only joking.

The first time I almost lost my friends was the day I learned not to push it too far. In the late fall of freshman year, I’d sunken in and become too comfortable with my place among them, and I thought I’d come up with a way to get a kid whose name I can’t remember away from us. This kid, a sophomore who smelled strange and probably suffered from some form of autism, had inexplicably come to believe himself to be a part of our circle. Will Cameron came up with the idea of trying to shake him by slipping out to the baseball fields during lunch, but the kid had the eyes of an eagle and was practically stepping on our heels out the door. That’s when I looked at the tall, metal cages of the baseball diamonds, hunching like they, too, would have liked to get out of the chill, and the idea was so funny in my head that I didn’t think twice about putting it to action.

“If you really want to hang out with us,” I started, and his eyes lit up. “You’ve got to prove yourself. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?”

My friends caught on quickly, and Will began to gab about how a spot in our friend group meant something, it was an honor, a privilege. I could be mistaken, but I think he went on to become a lawyer. Once he had the kid convinced, my friends turned to me with anticipation, waiting to see what I’d come up with. I nodded toward the cage furthest away from the school, tucked away by carefully managed forests, just out of view of the windows.

“Climb all the way to the top,” I said.

In his face I saw determination, a drive so stubborn, and one which I envied so deeply, that a sickly new feeling soured in my stomach and I realized that what I wanted was not to embarrass him, not to make my friends laugh, not to make him leave us alone -

What I wanted was to hurt him.

We followed the boy whose name I don’t remember through marshlands of grayish mud and clipped grass to gather in a small audience behind the baseball diamond. He eyed the chain linked metal, cold and slick with the morning’s drizzle, towering much taller above us now that we were close to it, and to me it began to seem like some sort of monster, a silent evil, waiting for the first tentative trust of a fragile human body against its bending frame. Expecting to see the same uncertainty in this boy, I looked to him with smugness, waiting for him to waive his rights to a spot in our friend group, to give up and coward himself back into the safety of the school building. I looked to him, but he was already starting to climb.

He was only a foot from the ground when he first lost his footing on the wet metal and fell back into the mud. My friends laughed, savoring the dual nature of my genius - he’d have to stop bothering us and we’d get to see him embarrass himself first! Will was saying that it wasn’t for the faint of heart and that there was no shame in not being made of the right stuff to make it to the top, and we all expected him to give up. He didn’t.

The kid climbed, inch by uncertain inch, his hands red and raw and his arms shaking with the exertion, but he climbed up higher and higher until some of us were starting to cheer him on. He was like a rat, a creature so used to worming and scraping that the climb up the slippery metal, the tips of his shoes crammed into the too-small holes, seemed a natural progression, and even Will fell silently impressed when he rounded the top of the dome and crawled, quickly with adrenaline, to perch upon the top of the cage. Our friends erupted into applause, no longer nuanced.

“Great, Ari,” Will hissed in my ear. “Now he’ll never leave us alone.”

I cleared my throat. “Okay,” I called up to him. He looked down at me, beaming, his cheeks ruddy. “Now, there’s only one thing left.”

Every face turned to me, and I took a long pause to savor the anticipation building in the air before biting back a smile, and calling:

“Jump.”

Years later, I would tell this story to Nate and he’d ask me if, at least, after the boy plunged 12 feet to the hard dirt, flailing his arms in frantic circles, fractured his shoulder, broke his ankle, after he told the dean of students that he’d jumped from the cage of his own accord, after he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, we at least maintained our end of the bargain and let him be our friend. I didn’t have to respond for the answer to be clear.

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