Rita Banner did more crying for her son in the weeks following the funeral than she did for Katrina, his dearly departed wife. Ryan had been so full of energy, his thirst for life so utterly unquenchable. It was once rare to never see him smiling; now it was the opposite.
He did what he had to do, nothing more. During the hours he wasn’t working, or was off for the day, he would sit in his room, silently sobbing or just staring at the opposite wall. He looked at pictures of his wife from time to time, but the pain was still fresh, and it hurt him to do so.
Rita practically forced her son to move in with her, she was scared of what might happen if she left him alone. She didn’t need to attend another funeral in the near future. Rita did her best to care for her son, talking to him to ease the pain, telling him that life goes on. His expression stayed stolid; he talked little, ate even less. His curly hair grew long and unruly, brushing against his shoulders in straggling loops. His face grew pallid from lack of color, and its haggard appearance made him seem much older than his thirty years. Eyes that once sparkled with mirth were now dead orbs that stared into their own private world of desolation and grief.
One day, while they were eating supper, Ryan looked questioningly at his mother, blinking as if coming out of a trance. “You know something, Mom?”
Rita was so surprised that he had actually spoken that she practically dropped her fork into her mashed potatoes. “What’s that?” she asked.
“I can’t see her anymore,” Ryan answered. “I used to be able to; I used to be able to see her. I can still talk with her, you know. And it’s something I like to do, very much; you know how much I miss her. But now, I can’t see her. I go to look, and I catch her out of the corner of my vision, but when I try to stare straight at her, she disappears. I can hear her, but that’s all. Isn’t that horrible?”
Rita idly moved her food around with her fork, not exactly sure of what to say. She took a deep breath, and appraised her son with a thoughtful and sincere glance. “I think you need help, Ryan. Professional help, I’ll pay for it if you like. It’s okay to grieve, but these visions are not healthy. I want you to get better, Ryan.” Her son made no reply, just looked down at his uneaten food and sighed.
Later that night, while Rita was sleeping on the couch in the living room, the steady hiss of quiet whispering woke her up. She listened intently, realizing that they were coming from the kitchen. Rita stood and slowly walked in that direction, trying not to bump into or trip over anything in the dark.
The hood light over the oven had been turned on, illuminating a small patch of light over the small kitchen table and its chairs. In one of them, his back facing toward her, was her son. As Rita moved closer, she heard the words he was saying more clearly. “I’m worried...worried that I’m forgetting you...worried that I have to be alone, without you. I need you, I love you... I would do anything for you.”
“Ryan?” his mother asked, watching as his head moved upward. She stepped onto the linoleum floor, cold against her bare feet. All she could still see of her son was the back of his head, and something that shined dully from the table. Rita noticed that it was one of her spoons, caked with a mess of drying, congealing blood that pooled underneath it in a widening circle. Something hung to the tip, something jelly-like that still quivered.
“Hi, Mom,” Ryan greeted her, rising out of his chair. “I’m glad you’re up, we’d love to include you in the conversation.” And then he turned to face her.
Rita screamed, nearly fainted, then screamed some more. Ryan had gouged out his eyeballs with the spoon; two hollow cavities ogled her from either side of his nose, blood running down his cheeks like new-fallen tears. Ravaged skin unfurled from the dark pits of his sockets like crepe paper. And he was smiling.
“I figured out how to see her, Mom. Aren’t you proud of me? She’s sitting right over there, and we’ve been talking this whole time. I’m so happy now. You can see her too, there’s really nothing to it at all.” And he grabbed the spoon, with its caked blood and quivering mass of eye jelly still stuck on its tip, and headed straight for his mother, somehow knowing where to go in all the darkness.
“RYAN, PLEASE!! NO, DON’T!!” Rita screamed as her son overtook her. The smile never left his face.