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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story of a painful childhood and what came after.

Submitted: June 06, 2016

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Submitted: June 06, 2016



He held his breath, held it as long as he could, but finally he couldn't any longer, and as he helplessly sucked in the water, his panic overwhelmed him.

And just when the burning burst of that first gulp slammed him home like a brick into the back of his throat, and the build up of pain shot through his head, he felt the man pulling him upward, and in seconds he was up and out, tossed onto the bathroom floor like a useless piece of trash.

His ragged breathing filled the room, panting as he filled his lungs with air, spitting up mouthfuls of bathwater between breaths.

The man held the kitten up by its neck in front of the cowering child, and once again asked him, "you, or it?"

With a sob that he wrenched from down deep inside, the boy  pointed to the kitten, then turned his head away crying.

But the man grabbed him by the neck, and with one hand he held the tiny kitten under the water, holding it down as it quivered and jerked, flailing its tiny paws in desperation for air. With his other hand, the man forced the boy to witness the scene, forcing him close to the edge of the tub, making sure he caught every detail of the kitten's last throes of life.

He learned that day not to bring home any pets, and he learned the hard way. A hard lesson to learn, but he was, after all, only six years old, so he had a long way to go. A long, hard road to travel, the man called it "growing pains". Most people would have called it torture.

There was the time when he had yes, taken and worn the man's favorite pair of socks to school, a day when he had none of his own, and was tired of the cold from trudging through the snow leaving his feet frozen on the long walk home.

The man noticed, the man wasn't pleased. He had turned the water on again in that bathtub, but this time he filled it only to a six inch level, filled it with scalding hot water, the steam rising and fogging the room from the heat of the water's temperature.

He'd made the boy stand in it, his feet and the bottom of his legs submerged, and try as he might, he couldn't help but to let out an agonized yell of pain, and after that he just screamed and screamed.

After some time, the man jerked him out of the tub, and went on his way. In the days following, as his little feet swelled and the skin peeled away in blobs of mucous, and the blisters filled and burst, every step that he took reminded him never to take anything of the man's and use it himself.

So many more lessons were taught him, so much more pain, but he grew older and survived, and though the scars on his body were only surpassed by the scars in his mind, he lived.

The man was a survivalist, he hunted, he fished, he trapped, he killed. He began to bring the boy into the woods with him when he turned thirteen, and thus began to train him to make it alone in the wild.

He would give him a knife, a roll of fishing line and a hook, and maybe a cigarette lighter if the weather was cold, and drop him off deep in the mountains after driving all day long and into the night.

He would toss the kid a makeshift map, and then drive away and go home. The first few times, the man had come back after a few days to find him, and he did, stumbling blindly through the woods, hungry, scared, and tired.

But that was then , and this was now, and the boy was eighteen, and he was just as adept at living in the woods as the animals were if not better.

He was an expert hunter, a dead shot, an expert trapper, and a great fisherman. But even with no weapons and no tools, he could survive, even thrive.

The man had taught him the art of making snares and dead falls, and even spear traps and pit traps. He knew how to craft a bow, make arrows, flake flint into arrowheads. He could walk into the mountains with a knife and nothing more, and eventually walk out the other side the same way he went in, unafraid and unharmed.

By now the man was growing older, his body was tiring , but he had the same drive of hatred inside. He figured the boy was now just like himself, they were one and the same, cruel, mean, but survivors.

Yet he caught the boy freeing animals at times, or missing an easy shot on his prey, or loosing a fish after catching it.

These actions not only pissed him off, they puzzled and confused him, because he had no feelings inside to know why someone would do such stupid things.

The one thing he had never shared with the kid was the night he'd got rid of her, the night he'd freed them from being drug down by a woman. The kid had been only five, and was asleep then anyway, so no harm, no foul.

But the boy, he knew. It had always been there, always there in the back of his mind, the shadowy black figure of the man, holding a pillow down over his mother's face, holding it there until her kicking legs went still, and her body fell limp. He remembered. He knew.

And all of these years, the lessons taught, he had forced himself to live, willed himself to survive, and kept his goal in mind, always in mind.

And when the man showed him how to live off the land, he made himself become as good at everything as he possibly could, because he had a goal.

Today was the day to achieve that goal, and he was more than ready to do it. He'd travelled eight days back out of the wilds to reach home this time, and he paused just outside the house, standing well back in a clump of trees.

He knew the man's habits, he knew the man's quirks, knew every little detail of every movement he made throughout a day. He'd been well trained after all, a predator stalking his prey.

He set the Conibear trap just outside the back door, buried it in the patch of dead grass where the man always made his fourth step down the path.

Any moment now the man would be coming outside to smoke, and would walk the path , and he did.

The trap clanged shut with a loud snap, the man's howling yells echoed across the valley, as he rolled on the ground, trying to pry the jaws of the bear trap apart.

The kid looked on from his stance in the trees, noting that the man's ankle was surely broken. He watched as finally the man pried those jaws apart, and flung the huge trap away, then began to crawl back up the path.

He had no idea why or who would have set that thing there, all he knew was his leg was broken, and he had to get help.

The kid hunkered down now, watching with heightened interest as the man neared the back door. Just as he reached up and grasped the door's handle, the snare whipped his arm upward and pulled his whole body into the air. He swung by the arm, spinning around and around, clawed at the noose which was cutting deep in his wrist, but it held fast and dug even deeper.

If he didn't get it off quick, he was going to lose the hand, and he flicked up his lighter, burning both snare and himself, to fall with a loud squeal of pain on his side into the dirt.

He stood then, and bracing himself, he reached again for the door, wanting only to hobble through it and make his way to a phone.

The boy held the bow at full draw, waiting patiently for the man's hand to appear, and it did. Like a quick flash of light, the arrow whirred through the air to pierce its way through the man's hand, pinning it onto the door. 

He jerked in disbelief and just as he planted his other palm on the door, a second arrow flew in to pin that hand too into the wood.

Taking his time now, the kid approached the man, and the man watched him coming with anger in his eyes.

Helplessly pinned to the door, like one of the countless animals he had trapped to skin, he could only curse at the boy in protest.

And what weapon would the kid choose to end it all with? To his surprise, the kid was not holding a knife, nor a gun.

In his hands he held a pillow, a big fluffy down pillow, a pillow that he had been keeping all these years. And when the kid wrapped that pillow around his face from behind, and just before it began to suffocate the life from his body, the kid whispered into his ear, "I know".

He pulled on the ends of the pillow, wrapping it tightly around the man's head, making sure he had every inch covered, smothering him like he had done to his mom.

He mashed it into the man's face, all the while images of every moment of suffering he had endured flowed through his mind, and he squeezed on and on, tighter and tighter, and felt the life of the man drain away.

And right now, as he sat by the fire, staring into it as the evening progressed into night, he still felt the same as he had on that day long ago, the day he had discovered what happiness was, the day he had killed the man.

Thirty years later, and he still walked the same woods, lived in the same mountains he 'd walked into later that day, with a knife and his bow, and his life, and a pillow, and a kitten.

© Copyright 2019 DavidPaul. All rights reserved.

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