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Throughout my life I have had the greatest love of books. I read constantly. All sorts of books were to my liking. Fantasy, romance, mystery, horror, fiction, nonfiction, scientific articles, columns in the newspaper, I read anything that was written on paper. I read books in all languages, too. English (my native tongue), French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, Greek, I spoke them all. On occasion my parents would try to make me go outside and play with the other boys, but I cared not for their crude games. I was engrossed in the fantastic realms of my books. This was noted by the other children, and they assumed that I was weak and unfit to play in physical sports. For that I was an outcast at school. They teased me and called me names. Oh, how I hated them. Sometimes, if a character in a book died a particularly gruesome death, I would replace the name of the character with one of my tormentors. It gave me some satisfaction, knowing that they might meet a gruesome end like that. But it would have given me far more satisfaction to give them that gruesome end myself. They deserved it.
In my class, there was this poor, simpleton boy whom the more popular students also teased. His slowness of mind was frustrating at times, but I befriended him nonetheless, if for no reason other than that we were alike in the way that we were both teased for an aspect of our personality that we could not, or would not, change. It was common to see us standing next to each other at recess, chatting about our respective homes, or school, or girls. I defended him from verbal abuse always, and I called a teacher over if there was a risk that someone would lay a hand on my friend. At times I felt as though he was my loyal and friendly dog, for he followed me everywhere and did whatever I told him. This boy had a dog, which he loved dearly. One day, when he was perhaps ten, he went back to our classroom and found that some of the older boys at school had strung it by the neck to a ceiling beam. It was dead. My dear friend hung himself on the same beam less than a week later. I have never recovered from the sight of seeing my dear friend swinging from a rope, tied to the rafter. Though he was already dead, his leg was twitching. To see one’s best friend strung from a beam, his heart still as a graveyard, yet his leg twitching...it is a fate I would not wish upon anyone, no matter how heinous a crime they committed.
When I turned from a boy to a young man I took up writing. I wrote about anything. I even kept a journal of my life. And what a life it was! What a horrible, tortured, pathetic, undesirable existence was mine! My father--oh, how I hated the man!--was a drunk. It was often that the odious man came home after consuming what must have been several kegs of rum and perhaps half a dozen bottles of absinthe. He would often in his drunken rages hit my mother and me. When my mother would gently wake me in the morning, her pale skin was often broken by dark red gashes and blackish blue bruises. When my father was not drunk, he was genuinely kind. Even more than I hated when he was drunk, I hated that I never knew whether he was drunk until he hit me. But he was almost always drunk. When my father arrived home, I would hide in the attic with my book and read by candlelight. Sometimes I tried to run away. I usually got hungry and so returned home. After these failed escape attempts, my father always beat me badly. He also smoked. That is how his end came about. I was on one of my escape attempts when it happened. He was in the cellar--where he stored his liquor--smoking and drinking. Evidently he passed out, and the cigarette fell into a pool of alcohol. I was perhaps a mile away and I still heard the blast and saw the fireball shoot into the sky.
Both of my parents died in that fire. The memory of it still burns in my mind, clear as though it were yesterday. I had never in my life imagined that so much could be destroyed so violently and so quickly. We had been wealthy, and lived in a fairly large three story house in the country. After that night, there was nothing left. I was fourteen.
I was taken to the city, where an elderly couple adopted me. They were old enough to be my grandparents, and they did already have several children and grandchildren of their own. They were good to me. They encouraged--no, required--me to read and write as much as I had before. I did so gladly, and they were very pleased with my tendency to voraciously devour books. My adoptive father was a kind man, always with a warm smile and smiling brown eyes. He was a sagacious judge of character, always being able to tell a good man from a bad one, and always being able to see through a lie. When he first met me he said, “Hello lad. You look troubled. Recently orphaned? And a good reader too, if I’m not mistaken. A budding young writer, correct? Allayed by fears of forever being an outcast and pursued by memories of a hard life?” To that incredulously accurate description of me, I simply nodded. It was uncanny, how much the old man could tell about one’s past.
Time passed, and soon enough I moved from my adoptive parents’ house and started a life of my own. After college, I started a small law practice in the town that was once my home. Not much had changed since I’d left. The charred ruins of my parents’ house was still there, untouched.
My law office, one of three in town, flourished and I steadily became more and more wealthy. I built myself a large house just outside of town. I filled the spare rooms with books of all kinds. Soon enough I met a young woman. She was the town’s librarian. A woman of twenty-three, she shared my love of books and knowledge. We were married within six months of meeting. Within a year we were blessed by a daughter, shortly followed by a son. Our children grew and went to school. I had everything a man could possibly want. There was only one thing that I regretted: I wish I had killed my father myself.
One night, as I was sitting by the fire reading, I turned to a page that had a frighteningly familiar image on it: the page bore my father’s face. I tore the page out and, in a fit of rage, threw it in the fire. I looked at my book again. The next page also bore my father’s face. I burnt that page too. The next page I burnt for the same reason. And the next. And the next. Every page in that book bore my father’s hated face. I burnt them all. I took another book. A book of my father’s evil face, contorted with laughter. I burnt that book too.
I burnt every book in my library. Not one was spared from the flames of my hate for my father. I went to bed and slept peacefully.
The next morning I awoke and went to fetch my children for school. I looked upon my daughter and nearly fainted. Her face, once angelic and beautiful, had turned into that of my hated father. I had to destroy that face. I could not be looked at by that face! I took a hammer and bashed my daughter’s head, once, twice, three times the hammer struck her skull. She was dead. In death, my father’s image left her face, and she returned to that child’s face, no longer smiling: bloody, broken...dead. But I remembered, I didn’t have a choice. I had to destroy that face.
Then I realized that my son’s face was changed as well. Frightened, angry, I took the boy by the neck, and slammed him several times into the wall before his neck was snapped. My father’s hated visage vanished.
My wife, woken by the screams of our children, came into the room. She saw their bodies and looked at me. I was still holding the bloody hammer. She was speechless. She wouldn’t understand. She didn’t know about the face! She didn’t know I had to destroy it! She’d tell the police, and then I’d be ruined! But I couldn’t kill her, I loved her, and she didn’t have the face. But she’d tell the police, and they’d arrest me, and then if I ever saw the face again, I wouldn’t be able to destroy it. My hate for my father was stronger than my love for my wife. I bashed her skull at least forty times with the hammer.
That night, I didn’t sleep. I had killed my wife. I had loved her, and she me, but I had bashed her head in regardless. What sort of monster was I? I got up to go get a drink, and, upon passing a mirror, nearly screamed in terror. I bore that hated, laughing visage of my father. Quickly, I flew down the steps, grabbed a kitchen knife and, looking in another mirror to ensure I still had my father’s face, slit my throat.