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My mother and father met in their early thirties. My father was thirty two while my mother was thirty when they got married.
My father was a manager at a local mart and my mother was a bank teller at a local bank. They married each other six months after they met. Over the years they often talked about how that was the craziest thing they ever did in their lives and I believed them because they were quite boring people.
They also spoke about how all their respective friends told them they were making a mistake. But as it turned out, it was anything but. It was father’s second marriage. The first one ended after only two years. My father and his first wife struggled having children and it affected their relationship. The adoption process was frustrating and it further strained their marriage. Eventually they separated.
Barely a year later, my father met my mother. They had two children, me and my older brother Daniel. Daniel was two years older than me and we were different.
Almost everything about us was dissimilar, I often wondered if we were really related. Daniel always had a side fringe cut for his dirty blonde hair. His eyes were blue as the ocean. He had broad shoulders, a towering height, was strong and very athletic. While I could barely kick a soccer ball without landing on my a*s, Daniel played and captained every sport that was available in middle and high school. While my room was full of action figures, comic books and p**n magazines, his room was filled with trophies, shields and medals from all his achievements in numerous sporting activities.
Unlike my iconic brother, I was quite skinny when I was growing up because I hardly ate. I hardly ate because I was always anxious. I was always anxious because I was scared of almost everything including going to school, meeting new people, exams, sports etc. I always had my black hair cropped into a crew cut and tried to wear clothes that would make me fit into the crowd. Daniel however, always wore clothes that made him stand out. Clothes that screamed for attention and he got it in spades.
I may have mentioned once or twice that I didn’t have many friends growing up, but Daniel had more friends than he knew what to do with. The guy was practically known by the whole town. This was not surprising since he talked with almost everyone. Talking was one of his gifts I guess. The guy could talk for days and his conversations were somehow always intriguing.
I already told you of my difficulties with girls when I was growing up but Daniel never had such problems. Girls would throw themselves at him like he was some big time rock star. He often had to fend them off with a stick while I died of thirst.
You would think his gifts ended at being charming, popular and athletic but I guess God gives some people with both hands. Daniel was also bright as a whip. If his report card came with a single ‘B’, he would be despondent for days on end. If we were Chinese I bet he would run a sword through his gut when he failed to get an ‘A’ because he would feel like he dishonored the family.
I was rather an average student. I wasn’t smart enough to have my report card displayed on the fridge by my mother but I also wasn’t dumb enough to lead the teachers to think I have molds in my brain. I believe this contributed to my scant amount of friends. The intelligent kids didn’t want me to be around them because I wasn’t smart enough and the dim kids hated me because I knew more than them. These obtuse kids also turned out to be my bullies. Daniel never really protected me from bullies. He often let the other kids or even his classmates rough me up because based on his reasoning, ‘it made me stronger.’ He often preached to me when we got home as I was licking my wounds about the concept of no pain no gain.
Up until today I can’t say I really gained anything from being given countless wedgies and starving because my lunch money was taken away from me. I always thought Daniel did this to get back at me for some of the pranks I pulled on him. As brothers often do, we used to prank each mercilessly. One time I stole his phone, collected dog s**t from all the dogs in the neighborhood and buried the phone in a heap of the poop. He had to dig through the turd mountain to retrieve his phone.
I also remember the time he soaked all my bed covers in water just before I came to bed and since our golden rule was that we can’t involve our parents, I had to spend the night on a wet bed.
Classic pranks like dipping someone’s hand in a jar of water while they slept or ‘is your refrigerator running’ calls, were pranks we did to each other on a weekly basis. My brother and I were very different but we loved each other. The pranks we played on each other somehow drew us closer to one another.
However, it’s when one of these pranks went horribly wrong and things fell apart for my beloved brother. I have often tried to forget the day but most nights since then I have had constant nightmares about it.
We were still in high school and it was regular week day when it happened. It was during a time when Craig and I were desperately trying to be friends with Shawn Ferguson and his crew. Shawn was by far the coolest guy in our class and being friends with him was an achievement we equated to being as significant as winning the Nobel Peace Prize. During our history lesson, the principal announced through the intercom that the police will be conducting a drug check. It was something the sheriff and the deputies often did at random due to the increased usage of drugs by teenagers in the town.
From the moment the announcement was made, I noticed Shawn was sweating bullets. Since I desperately wanted the guy’s companionship, I asked him what was wrong. I was hoping that I could help him out and we could be friends forever (probably get matching tattoos written BFF and the like). Surprisingly Shawn confided in me. He told me he had brought a bag of weed that him and his friends were going to smoke after school. He said if I helped him hide it, I can join them at the town’s rundown park which is close to where I stay.
I didn’t even smoke weed nor have any desire to, but getting a chance to hang out with Shawn was something I couldn’t pass. I thought for a moment and an idea came to me. Just a few days back I had told Daniel of my secret crush on a Marjory, a girl in my class. During lunch, him and three of his friends abducted me from the dining Hall.
They removed my shirt and spray painted on my chest the words ‘I LOVE YOU MARJORY’. They broke into Marjory’s locker where they staffed and locked me inside. When Marjory came back from lunch and found me in her locker, I was so embarrassed I nearly passed out. I also earned detention for that.
So at the time Shawn told me of his predicament, I was peeved with my brother and I thought it was the perfect time to get back at him. I told Shawn I got a place to hide his weed. I took his plastic bag and excused myself from class. The police search was still blocks away from my class so no one noticed me sneaking to my brother’s locker.
I knew Daniel’s locker combination by heart. I hid the bag in his locker thinking that he would probably get a slap on the wrist punishment. I was young, I was ignorant and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but really that is no excuse. When the bag of weed was found in his locker, Daniel was expelled.
My mother cried and begged the judge not to send him to prison because the authorities really wanted to make an example out of Daniel. But eventually the judge settled on giving him community service. My father was livid with my brother. At night they argued so loudly that my father eventually slapped Daniel. This was strange because our parents had never hit either one of us before, even when we did the most stupid of things. The slap must have shocked Daniel and it even angered him enough to strike back. My father fell on his back because as I said, my brother was quite strong. Being struck by him was like being punched by the fist of a spinached up Popeye.
Daniel tried to apologize but when my father got up, he bellowed for him to get out of his house and never come back. My mother, who had been defending Daniel the whole time, couldn’t fight for her eldest son anymore after what he did. That was the last time Daniel stayed in my parents’ home.
I felt horrible. I had created this whole mess and to think I also didn’t get to hang out with Shawn, made me feel more pathetic. Shawn didn’t even thank me for saving his a*s and he barely spoke with me for the rest of my high school life.
As for Daniel, life got much worse. I stayed in touch with him after he was chased away from home. Since he had many friends in town, he found someone who could accommodate him. But the guy who took him in was a lowlife who lived in the armpit of town. He lived in the side of town where your watch could get stolen if you drive by the neighborhood and stick your arm out the window for a split second. That side of town was rife with robbers, drug dealers, murders, prostitutes and… probably witches.
However, this was the best accommodation Daniel could get because all his other wealthier friends still lived with their parents and they were reluctant to take in someone who was just expelled for possessing a bag of weed. Daniel had never done drugs before. That was what he was trying to tell my father when their argument turned into a boxing match. But after he moved in with his downtown friend, his life changed. My brother got hooked on every kind of drug he could get and that pushed him further down the hill.
I saw my brother on daily basis because most nights I would sneak out of the house and bring him food since he barely had any supplies at his new home. Every night I risked my life as I cycled through that dangerous part of town to bring him food but I knew I had to. I owed my brother that much and more.
One night I swore to him that if there is ever anything he wants, he should never hesitant to ask me.
I was often worried of how every time I arrived at Daniel’s house, his roommate would be knocked out cold. Daniel himself would be looking ragged. He was losing weight, his hair was constantly disheveled, his eyes would be red and his arms were always covered with scars and marks of needle injections.
We would talk for hours and he would tell me stories that happen in his new neighborhood. He would talk about the increment of gangs in the town. He was always convinced that demons were possessing people in the town which led to the high levels of gang violence. I often thought this was the gabbling of a junkie but nowadays I know I should have paid more attention.
On one particular night my brother told me he was planning on joining a gang. I ardently argued with him not to do it but he told me he had no choice. No one would hire him in town because rumors spread like wildfire in a small town and everyone knew of his expulsion. As if I didn’t feel bad before, this only increased the guilt drilling through my gut. My prank was ruining my brother’s life and I wasn’t even man enough to tell him the truth.
Every day I visited him, I would swear to tell him only to chicken out and end up giving him all my allowance money hoping it would fix the damage I had caused. As the days went by, he told me he had joined a gang and his babblings about demons increased. I barely paid attention to him because I often thought the drugs were talking not my brother.
He did seem to have a bit more money at the time. He had bought a couch and television for their house. He had also bought a very nice car, a red Ford Ranger. I was happy for him. It seemed like he had found a way to get back on his feet in a way. For a while I thought things would be okay.
But one day in the dead of night my parents got a call. My mother’s shrieking is what woke me up. I would never forget the horrible sound of her crying. From the time I ran downstairs to find her wailing on the kitchen floor as my father tried to console her to hearing of what happened to my brother, it’s a moment that has haunted my dreams for eons.
My brother had been shot dead in a gang fight in downtown. My parents almost broke up. My mother wouldn’t speak with my father for quite sometime because she blamed him for Daniel’s death. But I assume they stayed together for my sake.
As for me, I was sick for days. Grief mixed with guilt is a deadly combination that almost drove me to suicide. The counselling helped a bit but the guilt never really died. For years I have dreamt of Daniel’s body lying in his coffin, sometimes he would open his eyes and say two words that would twist my intestines.
Sometimes I saw his bloodied body with a chest ripped open by bullet holes. He would come into my room and remind me of my promise to always help him. He would cry out that he is in hell and I should help him. His cries would go on throughout the night and sometimes during the day.
As the years went by, the delusions and the dreams subsided but never stopped.
I have never told anyone even my former therapist that I planted the weed in Daniel’s locker. I thought I would have to die with this secret or at the very least try to tell someone I loved and trusted deeply, Rebecca maybe.
This is why I didn’t kill Bathym. I had to find out what the demon knew about Daniel. I owed my brother so much. I had ruined his life at such a young age and I just wanted to make it right. He could have been a famous athlete, football player, swimmer, lawyer, doctor or even a heart surgeon. He could have had a family, a wife, kids and grandchildren but because of me, he never had those things.
In fact he is dead and probably burning in hell all because I took a prank too far and I wanted to be friends with someone I don’t even care about nowadays. If my brother was in hell and I could help him, I had to try.
I just hoped this damn demon knew a way I can help Daniel.
As I drove the van, I was so consumed with my thoughts I didn’t immediately notice that someone was now seated next to me in the passenger seat. The humanoid figure beside me was all black and smelled just awful.