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Behind My Eyes
“You know sometimes I wish you weren’t so much like your father!” My mother yelled at me from upstairs. I could hear the toothbrush between her teeth. She was getting ready for work.
“Yea well sometimes I wish he was here and you were six feet under in a wooden box instead!”
The silence that followed was almost deafening. I knew that I hit her Achilles heel. I twisted the knife that was already lodged in her heart. I couldn’t handle standing there waiting for a response any longer. I checked to see if the keys to the car were on the hook by the garage door, but of course nothing. Will told me that mom was planning on hiding them from me when I got home. Something about being “too unstable” to drive myself. I figured she was so drunk last night she might’ve forgotten. Just my luck she remembered, but nothing ever goes my way anyway so what’s different now?
I threw my wallet, house keys and camera in my bookbag, put my Sennheisers over my ears and blasted some Bring Me The Horizon as I left on my skateboard for school. It was only a mile away. Even though I have my license, I don’t have a car yet, so it wasn’t unusual for me to skateboard or walk. I made it to South Langdon Street before I realized I’d forgotten my coffee. As if today hadn’t started off bad enough. So I turned around and took a shortcut on a bike path between the park and my neighborhood.
When I rode onto the driveway, I noticed Will’s car. He must’ve gotten off his flight early and driven from the airport. I’m really happy he’s back. Even though he’s only been on holiday for two weeks, it felt like he was gone forever. Will is my older brother. He’s only a few years older but he took the position of man of the house after dad passed away when I was thirteen and he was seventeen.
He was the only person who ever came to visit me at Mount Riddle, and with him being gone, it was really lonely. He would come every day around lunch and we’d play cards. Sometimes we sat on the couch watching TV in my room without talking. The silence between us was peaceful because, even though we weren’t talking, I still knew he was there for me if I needed him. Whenever I’m with Will I feel safe, and lately it seems like he’s the only one who cares about me. I wonder if mom told him I’m home. I walked through our front door and straight to the kitchen to grab my mug of Irish Brew. I’ve never really been into frilly coffee drinks. I’ve always just liked strong black coffee. I felt the steamy metal of my mug touch my icicle fingers and instantly a warm sensation filled my body. Good, it’s still hot.
“Mom, are you back already?” I heard Will’s voice coming from where I figured was his room.
“Nope, sorry bud, guess again.” I replied. Within seconds I heard the sound of size 13 feet stomping (or running I couldn’t really tell) down the stairs.
“Dill pickle!! I didn’t know you were home.” He embraced me in a hug.
“Yeah, mom came to get me yesterday. I was released at midnight.” I told him. “I missed you Will. Only being around other patients was kind of weird for me.”
“Yeah, I missed you too, Dilly.” He said, giving me a noogie. “I’ll make it up to ya. Why don’t you let me drive you to school?” He grabbed his keys.
“Thanks,” I followed him out of the house to his car.
I pulled open the door and was wrapped in a blanket of the smell of cheap cologne. I slid into the passenger seat, my Vans squeaking as they hit the worn, plastic floor mat. I had to move the seat back. I guess I was shorter the last time I was in here. I turned to reach the lever on the back of my seat and noticed the entire back of the car had been engulfed in fast food wrappers, dirty laundry, and pop cans. I couldn’t even see the backseat anymore. I inhaled the air once again this time a faint smell of fast food tickling my nostrils. Man I missed this.
The ride to school was short and quiet. Not awkward quiet, but the kind we used to share at Mt. Riddle. The good kind. I didn’t want to have to leave. It was the first time I was free in six months and I had to bombard my freedom with school. I was hoping I could stay home today, considering I didn’t get to bed until two and I had to get up at five. But lucky for me mom was in her ‘you need to get educated to make a good life for yourself’ mood. If only she thought like that for herself. Well here we go again. I walked into the sea of teenagers trying to make a name for themselves holding my breath. I thought everyone’s eyes would be on me, but everyone was so zoned into their own world that I don’t think anyone noticed me. My mom called the office this morning to tell them I’d be back. She told me to just go straight to first period. First I stopped at my locker to drop off my skateboard and Sennheisers, then I was off to Algebra two.
No one noticing me in the hallways made sense because everyone else was going through their day as usual. But in a small class of thirty, someone is going to notice I’m back. There’s no way to avoid it. I know that as soon as I walk through that door all eyes will be on me and there will be whispers. But I have to go to class, so I threw my hood over my head and walked in. Big shock. I felt the air around me thicken, and the only sounds in the room were barely audible whispers. I didn’t need to look to see if everyone was staring because I knew they were. I quickly made my way to the last desk in the very back of the classroom. Don’t they have something more interesting to do than to worry about me. I’m not that exciting. Everyone was already quite when Mrs. Prowler entered.
“Okay class today is the day. I trust all of you have studied very hard for this.” Her shrill voice projected across the whole room like a football coach’s would when he’d yell at his team during a play.
I had no clue what she was talking about until I noticed her writing ‘Midterm Formulas and Equations’ on the board followed by various x’s and y’s. Oh joy, mom made me come back on midterm day. Mrs. Prowler grabbed what I figured to be the test packets off of her short desk, and waddled around the room handing them to each person.
“Take one pass them down,” she repeated as she handed a pile to each row. Gross. I’d gotten my test and attempted to see if I remembered how to do anything, but eventually I gave up. What even is this? Is this even math? I’m pretty sure math is supposed to be numbers not letters. I got up and walked up to her desk. I cleared my throat before speaking.
“Um Mrs. Prowler I uh well I um just got back today and I uh don’t think I’m ready to take um the test. I mean I uh did miss six months and I uh don’t know how to do any of this.” She looked up at me with a blank expression, making me nervous. I felt my hands become clammy as if I’d been holding onto the bar of a really fast roller coaster for the last ten minutes. I realized then that I’d been cracking my knuckles; it was an old nervous habit that I shared with Dad.
“Mr. Smith should you’ve known you were going to be gone you should have asked for the work you were going to miss so that you could keep up with the class. Because you didn’t ask, I can’t make an exception for you. You should’ve been responsible and talked to me before your leave so that you could study in your absence. Actions come with consequences Mr. Smith and now because you weren’t keeping up with your studies you will most likely do bad on the mid-term. You can’t blame me or ask me for pity for something you did to yourself.” She replied in her shrill voice. What’s her deal.
“Um excuse me, but I didn’t know my parents were going to ship me off to some asylum. And I surely didn’t know how long I’d be there. So I don’t understand why you can’t just give me a few weeks to catch up so I don’t miserably fail.” I started to reply. I heard my voice raising and I wasn’t so nervous anymore I was actually irritated now.
“Well I will call your mother and ask her about it, and talk to the office to see what I can do. I don’t normally give one student more opportunities than the others but we’ll see what your mother says. Until then Mr. Smith please return to your seat and do what you can. And I don’t want to hear another word out of you.” She said rigidly and settled back into her seat grading papers. No wonder her name is Prowler I thought she was going to bite my head off. I’d made it back to my seat only to realize that I forgot my test at Prowler’s desk. I looked up about to go get it, but she was already halfway back to me.
“Mr. Smith it seems you’ve forgotten your test up at my desk. Pay attention to your actions next time. Here you go.” She said handing me the ugly green test booklet. Old Hag.
As she was walking away I could smell her perfume following her across the room. I’ve smelt this before fresh cut tulips, wintergreen mints, and a slight hint of mothballs. I just can’t remember where. Next thing I knew my thoughts were overcoming me.
I’m in an all white room with mint green bed sheets. I can hear heels clicking down the linoleum floor in the distance. The clicks were getting louder and closer together. I looked down, I’m in yellow scrubs. I’ve always hated the color yellow everybody says yellow is a happy color, but every time I see it all I can think about is the water that comes out of a sink when you haven’t used it for longer than a year. I also notice a bracelet on my left wrist ‘Patient Dylan Smith, Age 16, Room 209 Mt. Riddle’ was written in pale blue ink. The clicking stopped and it took me a moment to realize it was one of the nurses.
“Hey sweetie how’s today been for you? It’s lunchtime in the cafeteria and they’re serving meatloaf, your favorite.” She said nicely with a smile. Not like really nice, but a business like almost fake kind of nice.
“Today’s been okay. And thanks Gladice I’ll be down in a minute.” I replied.
“Do you want me to take that for you?” She asked pointing to an envelope on my table. I turned to meet her gaze. It’s the letter I wrote to dad. I’d addressed it to what used to be his P.O. box. I don’t know if mom is still paying for it or if someone else owns it now. I don’t care though I write to him every week,
“Oh yeah can you put that in the mail for me?” I hesitated when handing it to her. This was really special to me.
“Sure thing sugar. And don’t forget lunch.”
I opened my mouth to reply but the only thing coming out was the sound of a bell. I tried again and again but nothing. Then I remembered I was at school.
The bell dismissing class brought me out of my daze. I looked down; I hadn’t done a single problem on the test. I walked over and handed it to Mrs. Prowler with the best smile I could conjure. Then I was off to English. The hallways were packed as usual, but this time I wasn’t so lucky. Seems my invisibility had worn off and now I could feel that everyone was talking about me. I felt eyes on my back but I ignored them and picked up my pace. English was my favorite class so as long as I could make it there I’d be safe.
I was the first one there surprisingly even though I’d left so late from Algebra. I make my way to the desk I usually sit at and get out my leather bound journal. It was a present from my 13 birthday party the best present I’ve ever gotten. The last present I’d ever gotten from my father.
“Well look who’s back.” I heard a scruffy yet caring voice say from the front of the room. I looked up from my leather journal and notice Mr. Kingsley standing at the board writing our lesson plans for the day.
“Yeah in the flesh, I guess.” I looked down at my arm as I replied. Kingsley stifled a laugh.
“You don’t sound very excited. Aren’t you happy to be able to see your favorite teacher again?”
“Well it’s not that I’m not happy to see you again, but--well I just got home last night at midnight and I’m kind of exhausted. I was hoping my mom would let me just stay home until I was ready to come back but I guess I was wrong.” I’d just finished speaking as the other students entered the room. We had a test but unlike Prowler, Mr. Kingsley said I could wait until I was comfortable to take it so he just had me free write. I’m so calm when I write, It’s my escape from reality and I’m pretty sure It’s the only thing that’s got me through my stay at Riddle. I felt my hand moving and I heard my pen scratching the worn paper, but it felt as if no time was passing. The scratching reminded me of when I used to write stories for Will to read when he came to visit me at Riddle.
“Hey what are you writing?” Asked Gladice when she entered my room to give me my daily meds. She handed me a small, colorful, owl decorated cup with three pills in it. It was covered in owls to mask the fact that there were pills to help crazy people inside. It was to lighten the mood. My antidepressant, my anxiety pill, and the medicine the doctor prescribed to keep ‘him’ from taking over my thoughts.
“It’s nothing. Just something I’ve been working on.”
“May I read it?”
“No! No. It’s not ready yet and it’s an uhm private matter. So no.” I said pulling my journal shut and sliding it under my leg.
“That’s okay honey. I’m sorry if I offended you.” She walked away with the meds cart. All I could focus on was the sound of the wheels speaking to each other. Squeak-squeak.
All of a sudden I blinked and Mr. Kingsley was in front of me twisting the cap of an expo marker between his teeth studying my journal. I looked down only to realize I’d been writing the whole time. I’d written at least five pages while I was zoned out. I started skimming the piece and found out in the time that I was zoned out my poem about children growing up turned into a short story about a kid who thinks there are monsters living under his bed, but it turns out it was a man who eventually murdered the kid. Man I have a twisted mind when I’m not paying attention.
“You were really into that piece a minute ago. Your style has also matured since the last time I’ve read it. Have you kept up with your writing since you’ve been gone?” He asked.
“Yeah I have. Do you think I’ve gotten better?”
“Yes I know for a fact that you have matured. The way you word things, and explain details is something I didn’t develop that much until after I graduated college, and I was an English major.”
“Thank you Mr. Kingsley I really appreciate that coming from you.”
“Well we’ve still got a good twenty minutes left of class so I’ll leave you to your work. Hopefully you can finish that story with a good twist. But I want to read it when you’re done.” He said walking back to his desk. I reread my story a few times trying to think of a good plot twist to use but nothing was coming to me. This was strange because writing usually comes so easily but I was having such a hard time. Eventually it got to the point where I’d taken way too long thinking and the bell rang. I slowly made my way through the halls and up the east stairs to art class. When I got there I took my seat in the back corner as usual. I like the corner of the art room because the air vents were back there and I love to feel the cold fingers of air tickle the back of my neck.
Mrs. Vaughn handed back my old projects and told me we were working on an oil painting of what we think art really is. I drew a quick sketch in my book of two hands writing in a journal. I was working on the creases of the knuckles when I felt someone tap my shoulder.
“Well look who’s back.” He said bro punching my left shoulder. Oh god I forgot about him.
“Hey Jake.” I said slightly annoyed at the fact that he couldn’t have just left me to my thoughts until I finished my sketch. “Dude what do you want?”
“Oh touchy today are we? Well I don’t know why you’re acting so weird barely anyone has noticed you’re back. Plus didn’t you miss me?” His eyebrow raised slightly as he said the words ‘barely anyone’.
“No I didn’t miss you. To be honest I forgot you even existed when I was locked up.” My laughter fill the air. Mrs. Vaughn Shushed us. Jake took the seat next to me.
“Hey man I got you a welcome back present. Meet me at our corner at lunch okay?” He asked me. I was debating on going or not but I must’ve been taking too long because he nudged me and cleared his throat.
“Okay, okay I’ll see you there I guess.” I went back to blending my pencil marks with my finger as he walked away. I wonder what Jake is going to do. I hope it’s not another stupid prank. I finished my sketch on the final paper and was walking up to the front of the room to turn it in when, the next thing I knew I was on the floor. A piercing pain shooting from my eyes to my forehead like someone was stabbing me with a small needle. It felt like anvils were on my eyelids and it hurt everytime I blinked.
It took a minute but I regained my balance and stood back up. I hurried to turn in my painting and get out of there before everyone started to ask questions. With my head still pounding I ran to my locker to get my music. It always helped with my headaches.
But on the way there I saw Broc and Stacy. The school’s power couple. They used to be okay, and would leave me alone. But once my freshman year when mom came to get me and take me to my therapist Broc found out and started pushing me around. Calling me a freak and he broke my skateboard. Well the first skateboard I had; the one Will gave me.
On a normal day I’d avoid them at all costs but some force was compelling me to go over to them. They were standing on a landing in the middle of the staircase. I tried to turn away; to leave them alone but my feet were already moving. Go over there, show them who the real freaks are. I was standing in front of him now. Do something. They’re all watching you now.
“Oh look ,Freaks back.” He said shoving me in the shoulder. Push him back. Punch him. Do Something! The voice in my head was screaming at me.
“Buzz off Broc. I don’t care what you think anymore. Do what you want but don’t be angry just because you have to take testosterone and steroids to be manly and I don’t.” I was getting angry, I could feel the blood flowing through my body to my heart and my head was still pulsating like a heart taken out of a freshly dead corpse. Do it. Push him. He’s already in front of the stairs. You can say he fell.
What? No I can’t.
Yes you can. Just put your hands on his shoulders and push. I looked around. Back and forth. He’s right everyone is watching now. What do I do? Before I decided what to do my body started to move.
“Hey boso. This is for when you broke my skateboard and all those times you made me feel like s***.” I say and my hands start lifting to his shoulders. I took a deep breath trying to regain control of my body. My hands hit his chest, sending him violently backwards. He dropped his bookbag. Stacy shreeked. His back hit the edge of the stair and I heard a crack. I looked down at my hands returning to my sides. Everything was in slow motion. Stacy grabbed for him to save him, but no luck. He was already halfway down the stairs. Everyone was watching holding their breath; waiting to see if he’d be okay. I watched as he landed on his stomach, his legs flying up behind him and hitting the back of his head.
Oh god what did I do? Why did I do that? I turned around, and everyone’s eyes were on me. I gotta get out of here. I started to run. Not looking back. I ran to my locker and grabbed all of my stuff. I sprinted out the back door and to the parking lot.
“Hey Dylan what’s the rush?” I heard Jake’s voice from behind me.
“W-what?” I turned around.
“I saw you in the hall and you were running. What’s going on.”
“Oh uh nothing. Nothing. What were you going to give me?”
“Here you go. Just don’t open it here.” He said with a wink. I nodded, got on my skateboard, and I sped away. I put on my headphones as I was pushing myself further and further away from school. I don’t know what got into me just then but I have to get away. I know what happened. You gave in. You were weak, just weak enough that in that moment I gain control. I helped you do something you could never do on your own. You should be thankful to have me.
No I shouldn’t. You are the devil on my shoulder. That’s why I started taking the medicine; so I could escape you. I felt the wind blowing my sweatshirt away from my body. I have to go where no one will find me. I have to get away. I rode through the familiar streets. I could taste the pollen on my tongue and the smell of orchids danced in my nose. I followed the path just like he showed me so many years ago.
I could see the sparkling water through the trees. Two more turns and I’d be free. I could feel the breeze from the air hitting the pond’s water. I haven’t been here in almost a year. I’m sorry. I put my skateboard back in my backpack as I walked over to the tree. I ran my fingers over the rough old bark. I can still see his name carved underneath a broken branch.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been here in awhile. Mom locked me up in a well, a special place. She said it would make me better. But it didn’t work.” I leaned against the trunk. “I did something really awful today and I just needed to get away. I don’t know where else to go.” I slid my back on the tree until I was on the ground. “I’m sorry that I’m a worthless excuse for a son, and that I’m so disappointing.” The heat was rising in my face.
“I just-I just really miss you and I, I tried as hard as I could to stay strong for you today but-but I couldn’t. I gave in. I’m sorry.” I felt tears stinging my eyes and I tasted salt. I’m not really big on the whole emotions thing but, I’ve held it in for so long that the dam that holds it in is breaking. I took out my journal and opened to inside of the front cover. I kept one of my pictures in there. The first one I ever took. It was of my dad. I can see the happiness in his eyes. It was when I’d first started to write and I wrote him a story. It was short and probably not that good but he thought it was amazing. I took it when he wasn’t looking.
I heard a small pop as one of my tears hit the picture. I held my book to my chest and I felt the warm tears running down my cheeks. I tried to calm down; taking deep breaths like the doctor told me too. You are a worthless excuse of a son, and you always disappoint everyone. I tried to get my mind off of things by writing my favorite quote from my favorite author Stephen King. “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” It was then that I remembered my special gift from Jake.
I wonder what it is. I took the small bag out of my pocket and opened it up. A very familiar scent filled my nose. I hadn’t smelled that in quite a long time. I looked down. That sly dog. Now I remember why we’re friends. The green bulbs were looking back up at me, calling me almost.. I grabbed one of the papers in the bag and rolled a quick joint before I lit it, bringing it up to my lips. I inhaled a long dragged out breath. I must’ve inhaled a little too much because I coughed. Geez it’s been a while. I let the sweet smell of pot take over me and surrendered my thoughts. I felt my heartbeat slow down. I felt calmer, and really hungry.
I decided to write more. I finished three poems and another short story, but I had to stop because the sun was starting to set and it would be dark soon. I decided to take some photos instead. I got out the camera Mom gave me. That was the only good memory I had of her. I took some pictures of the lake and the setting sun, I also got some action shots of a bird and some butterflies. Finally I took a picture of our tree It was big and strong looking. If only I could be as strong as that tree.
I got back on my skateboard and rode through the dark, empty streets in silence. School had already gotten out. Everyone was already home from work. It was just me and my thoughts. What am I gonna tell mom and Will when I get home? I’m sure the school’s already called them. I took the long way home. Through the park and past the old 7/11 that Will and I would go to in the summers after our baseball games. Mom always made us play. She said it would help us make friends and it’d be good for us to get out of the house. I could taste the blue raspberry slurpee as I passed the parking lot. I rolled into the driveway slowly taking in my last few minutes of quiet. The porch light was already on and I could tell I was in for something.
“Dylllan Jaackslon Smmith! Livving room. N-ow!” That was the first thing I heard when I walked through the door. The slur in her voice told me she was drunk. Again. Of course. When I crossed the threshold into the livingroom I said goodbye to Myself. He won’t be the same after this. She was already sitting on the couch with a wine glass filled to the brim in her hand.
“Soo do you wanna tellll me whaat happpedn at schooooll?” She said. I could smell it on her breath. She’d probably been drinking since noon or so.
“No I don’t.” I had a straight face and I was holding her stare. She took a long sip.
“Well I donn’t care whatt you want. You’ree gonna tell me why that happpened.” Her words were getting draw out more and more as she spoke. Some of them merging together. “II neeed to know sso I cann fixx it.”
“Yea? Fix it by doing what? Sitting on this couch and drinking your life away while Will is out making money for you? Going out for hours on end leaving Will to be the parent?”
“Dylan You don’t-”
“No I wasn’t done talking. Ever since dad died you’ve thrown your life away. You lost your job. You started drinking. You left every responsibility you had to Will. Well you know what? I’m tired of your damn problems. Okay? I’m tired of being ignored like you hate me. I’m tired of Will having to do what you’re supposed to be doing. He acts more like a mother than you do. I’m tired of you spending all of our money on cigarettes acompletely and utterly done with your s***.”
“Dylan I am your mmmother and you do nott speak to mmee like that. I am supppoosed to be punishing you. You pusshhed a kiddown the sttairs at school for godssake.”
“No you’re not my mother. You are Linda. Drunk, broke, delusional Linda. My mother died with dad. you’re a shell now. No emotions, no morals, and you don’t even care anymore about anyone besides your wine. Look what you’ve become. Dad would be disappointed in all of us. You don’t even care that I’ve got someone else in here telling me to do things that I would never do. But yea you can fix this can’t you? Just the way you fix everything else. Do you want me to call up the principal so you can get in his pants. Well newsflash mom being a whore doesn’t fix ANYTHING!” I could feel my heart beating in my head. I turned and looked at her. I could see the fire rising in her eyes. Here we go again.
“Whywould youu say thosethings? If we’ree playying thatgame then youu shoulldd knowwsomething.” She grabbed my arm, holding a little too tight. “I’vealways knnnown youuwere a freaak. I’vewanted tto gett youout off the housse since youu weere born. Inever wannnted you.” She said throwing me up against the wall, and punching my face. I hit with a loud thud and I felt my back crack. I fell to the floor. She started kicking me. With every hit I felt my lungs lose more air. She kicked me one last time and I felt one of my ribs crack.
I got up and look her straight in the eye “You know I would hit you back but my father taught me that real men don’t hit women. I guess I’m the only one that listens to him huh?” With that I walked away up the stairs. They creaked as I limped up one by one, trying hard to mask my pain. I knew that if I made a noise, if I grunted in pain and she heard me she’d win, and I wasn’t going to give in twice today. Will opened the door to his room.
“Hey Dyl- What happened? Are you okay?” He said grabbing my face and turning it so he could see every bruise and bump on it. “Who did this to you? Do I need to do something about it?”
“No, no I’m fine. It was some kids at school being douches. It’s fine they said they’d leave me alone.” I started moving slowly toward my room, trying to hide my limp.
“Why are you limping? We should take you to the Hospital.”
“No, I’m not limping. I don’t need to go to the Hospital.” I walked over to my room and was about to shut the door behind me when he spoke again.
“Okay, well I’m here if you need to talk okay? I love you Dilly.”
“I love you too Will.” With that I shut my door. The minute my door closed I noticed the word ‘WORTHLESS’ carved in all caps. That b****. I can’t handle this anymore I need to get away. I ran as fast as my feet would carry me to the bathroom. My feet rubbing against the worn shag carpet. I think I got some rug burn on the soles of my feet. I slammed the door behind me and locked it. Will must’ve known something was wrong because he came running out of his room and tried to open the bathroom door.
“Dylan! Dylan what’s happening?” I didn’t answer. I just started digging through the cabinets. Where is it? It’s gotta be here. I don’t think anyone would’ve moved it. I found it in the very back. It was cold. None had touched it in over seven months. I felt the tears sting my eyes as I sat in the bathtub. When I was little and it would storm my father would bring me in here where it was safe and hold me until it was over. I felt safe in here. I was sobbing now. Tears falling from my eyes like a waterfall. Nobody wants me. I’m a worthless disappointment.
Yes you are. It took you long enough to realize. Now do it. End it. You aren’t wanted anymore. I brought my arm up grabbing my little friend off the edge of the tub. I brought it to my wrist. I felt the ice cold blade hit my skin as I slide it slowly down. Blood trickled from my wound and into the tub. The world started going black and I felt tired. It will all be over soon. I was only slightly conscious. I heard the door break down.
“Dylan! Dylan! Stay with me.” I felt Will’s hand around my shoulders and, his voice got quieter as I let the darkness take over. Everything was black now, and cold. That was when I heard him.
“Dylan. What are you doing here? Look I know you missed me. I’ve missed you too, but I need you to go back. For me. Stay strong for me. You’ve never been a disappointment to me. I love you son. Always.” His voice was caring and mature. I hadn’t heard it in so long I almost didn’t recognize it. When I heard him, that’s when I knew I was too weak. I’d lost. I’d given in. That’s when I knew I let the monster win.