Roy stared at his reflection in the mirror, and wondered why it had to be today. He realized nothing good ever came of putting things off, but he wished he could have just a little more time. He wore a mesh suit, plates on his chest and torso, and shin and arm guards. He didn’t need any of it though; he could fight this battle in just regular clothes and still come out on top. Somehow that made him feel worse. Acid built in his throat. God, what is wrong with me?
“Roy,” his mother said, peering into the bathroom. “It’s time.”
She had dressed specially for the occasion. She wore makeup and peacock feathers in her hair to match her blue dress.
“Gun or knife?” she asked, like this was a perfectly normal thing to say.
“Mom, I can’t kill him.” Roy tried to make his voice sound as determined as possible, but it wobbled a little bit on the last couple words.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you can. He’s a monster.”
Bumps raised on Roy’s arms. He’d been afraid of Sparky, ‘the monster’, until he was ten, but that was before he realized that the monster under his bed was as afraid as he was. And all he really wanted was someone who wouldn’t scream murder and try to kill him.
She peered into his eyes, trying to get him to look at her. He did, and could only focus on her sparkly, blue eyelids. “Now, gun or knife?”
Roy shook his head. “Gun,” he said finally.
He and his mother left the room, and walked into his. His father, his two little sisters, their cousins and aunts and uncles were seated in chairs facing the bed. A net hung from the ceiling to the ground between the bed and the chairs, protecting the viewers if something went wrong.
Roy couldn’t look at any of his family members. His mother touched his shoulder in support and then left, pulling back the net to join the others. Uncle Joe was the only one not seated. He stood in front of the bed, waiting for Roy to come forward.
His heart thumped against his chest as he reluctantly walked the short distance to his uncle. He was having trouble not dropping the gun his hands were so sweaty.
His uncle had black paint on his hands. It smelled like coal though, not paint. He painted two horizontal stripes on Roy’s cheeks, then a vertical one on his forehead.
Roy shook the whole time. Please don’t make me do this, he wanted to scream. He wanted to grab Sparky from under the bed and run away with him. He imagined himself pushing past his uncle, pulling away from the cold paint and his cold hands, and crawling under the bed. He would stay there forever and no one would come for him, because after all, it was his battle to fight, and if that was how he chose to fight it, so be it.
He barely registered his uncle walking past him to go sit down and it was minutes before he realized that they were waiting. He looked at them then. His littlest sister was eating chocolate and it was smeared all over her face. She smiled at him widely when he met her eyes. She shouldn’t be here. Neither of his sisters should be here. They’re going to be scarred for life.
“Come on, honey,” his mother said, urging him on. “Any time now.”
“Take them out,” he said suddenly, in a tone that surprised even himself. “Everyone. Get out.”
His mother raised her eyebrows. “No one’s going to get hurt,” she laughed. “You don’t need to – “
“Someone is going to get hurt!” Roy spat at her. “Sparky is going to get hurt!”
“Sparky?” Her tone was condescending. “You named it?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I named him.”
She inhaled sharply. For once, she was at a loss for words.