This story is by Arin Roberson and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Whenever a voice rose he could not help but flinch. Such sounds went straight to his heart, suffocated him, overwhelmed him—paralyzed him.
He sat at the kitchen table, his mother’s words a piercing blade in his ear, his father’s shout a sharp crack against his skull. A macabre play of domesticity, portrayed in blurs of movement in his peripheral. When silence ultimately fell, he would hum quietly to himself, for the silence was almost more terrifying.
Dad never let the silence last long.
Clawing fingers grasped at him, indenting his flesh with their strength. He was a puppet in the face of such cruelty, a rag-doll to be played with and tossed aside. He’d given up struggling long ago.
His mouth thick with blood, the floor cool beneath his face.
Do as he was told.
A tall imposing figure over him, knuckles stained with his blood.
Follow the rules.
At the very least pain was familiar.
His world had been narrowed to clenched fists.
He was worth nothing.
Mom’s gaze was condemning. Dad had been manageable before he came along, an accident to be borne.
Worthless. Extraneous. Unwanted.
The smell of fear nearly choked out the stench of blood and stale beer.
A weight dragging them down.
Escape was impossible, unobtainable. His mother’s cries were almost soothing in their cadence.
Daddy was a monster.
It lay there so innocently, a reflective silver paired with dull plastic. It was merely an object, a tool to be used.
He used it.
Moms cries turned to screams.
The knife pulled free with a loud suction noise. It would forever stay in his memory.
It was everywhere, the blood. It stained his hands, his clothes. Dad was drowning in it.
He could see his mother’s eyes, pale in contrast to her dark bruises, as his own father’s blood trickled down the curve of his nose.
He scrubbed till his skin was rubbed raw, pink and blistering from the heat of the water. He felt no cleaner. People would always see it—a permeant, clotting stain—never to be forgiven, never forgotten.
Blood is thicker than water.
No amount of water would ever wash him clean.
But he had accomplished the impossible, he had escaped. He stared at the corpse of his father, gaze fixated on the thing he had created. The master of his torment, the perpetrator of his fears was gone. It lapped at him at first, slowly flooding his veins till he was submerged—pure, unadulterated relief.
Who was the monster? Daddy..or him?