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I wake up to the sound of the door to my room creaking on the hinges. They come at me and pin me to the mattress that slides as the combined weight of the two men pushes it around the floor. I squirm and struggle in an attempt to break free. But it's no use: they grab my scrawny arms and one man presses them against my back. My legs kick out all around, but they've given up on trying to walk me there long ago. The other man grabs my legs after a few attempts and picks them up them in a vice-like grip. I'm being suspended by my torso and legs. I can't kick or thrash; I can't escape. So, I do what anyone would do: I scream.
I wail and screech incoherently as the eyes of one of my captors looks pleadingly at the other. The dark-eyed, short-haired man holding my feet gives the one holding my torso a contemptuous glare and I know that there's no escape. My vocalizations turn to background noise as the people plaguing my every thought comes forward, screaming as loud as ever. They're going at it again, she can't believe him. What he's become. She found them, she tells him. I can see the forbidden building in my mind. A mystical building full of creaks and groans that Polly and I were so suspicious of during our childhood.
Polly. She's with him. She's screaming, too: hurt. Blood pours down her neck from the slashes on her jaw. I'm hiding, paralyzed, as blood continues to pour from Polly and then from Mom. Tears come down my face when I realize that I'm not there anymore. I'm being carted there by people I thought that I could trust.
Paul shakes his head sadly at me from above my eye level, so I only see the bottom of his scruffy chin. "I'm so sorry, man," he apologizes. I use this moment to my advantage and try to pry my arms free, but to no avail. He just tightens his grip on my torso. Ben, the one holding my legs, is expressionless. He just wants it over. He could care less about my welfare. It's all about everyone else. Nothing about me, he thinks. Oh, how wrong he is.
They carry me out the door and through the corridor which takes us to the dreaded room that they seem to have recreated out of my nightmares: the cement walls and floor with the yellow fluorescent lights dangling from the ceiling. I can't look at the light anymore. It hurts my eyes. I close them without thinking but then, within a split second, they're open again. My mind is too frightening. It's even worse than reality, but not by much. They lower me to the ground and place me on my back. I spring up and run for the door, but I realize that it's not only locked, but in the shadows. I'm stuck.
"Look, Brenden," Paul starts. "I hate doing this to you, but we need you to do this for us." I try to sneak away from the shadows while trying to keep my eyes on Ben. His eyes shifting back and forth between the two of us means he's expecting a fight. He's sizing us up: me against the other. He expects a fight: typical Ben. Paul follows me slowly, as if approaching a wild animal. His hands are poised at me submissively, but I can see through the guise. He's bringing me into my nightmares. "You're the only one, Brenden. Just pick up the pencil." I shake my head, but, ever insistent, Paul tries another method. "Here," he leans down and picks up the sketchbook that I hurled across the room yesterday. "Please." His eyes, they're soft and sincere. They plead with me, beg me to comply. I reach for the spiral bound book and grab it. At this moment, I know that he's returned. The shackles keeping him back shatter.
"No pencil," we say. "Marker. Black. Permanent." Paul leaves the room and, within a minute, returns with a permanent marker. We cup our shaking hands and Paul drops it into them. He goes over to Ben, slumped over and leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. We open the book and can see ghosts of failed and successful ideas floating on the pages. I blink a few times and the evanescent memories fade. I turn the pages until there's one that's blank enough for me.
I move the marker across the page and stare at the line for a moment, seeing it pulse and move for a split second. I continue to create and watch the movement of the lines fuse together into some sort of an unfinished animation: looping over and over again. The beauty and raw power of the design moves fast across the page, like a cheetah almost. After reveling in the beginning of what could be a promising design, I can sense him coming closer. The darkness begins to encroach. The cheetah is destroyed and a beast formed by a few harshly drawn lines that don't move at all. It's still and dead. He loves it. Good boy, Brenden, he rewards me.
Paul walks over and looks at the page. He frowns for a split second but covers it up by suddenly smiling, saying, "Good," and turning his back on me. He goes to Ben, shaking his head. I can barely make out what he's saying over the din going on inside our head. "It's not his."
Ben looks up. "What do you mean it's not his?"
"I mean that he didn't do that. It's not his way. It doesn't seem alive."
"Then whose is it?" Ben asks, but he already knows. They look at each other in understanding. Paul's earlier feelings of triumph are crushed as he puts his head in his hands and cries. Ben looks at me ferociously and screams in frustration. Our eyes tear away from them and back to the sketchbook. We know that there's only one thing left to do, so I transfer the marker into my left hand and sign the name of the person responsible for it all: my father.