The Most Powerful Tool

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
As a prisoner escapes, he faces a reality in which he no longer recognises. Questioning whether he can adjust to his new life, he faces a huge decision.

Submitted: June 29, 2016

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Submitted: June 29, 2016

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I’d forgotten what it looked like, the real world. As I clutch the gold chain around my neck, the locket filled with the remains of my prized possession, life outside the gates seemed like a fantasy. I pictured it as a heavenly bliss: people dressed all in white, soft grins plastered over their faces and gliding elegantly through the streets while harp music is played soothingly in the background. The birds, the cars, and the families, it all seems so idyllic. The realization of reality often came as a shock after I’d dreamt of the outside world. Two years is a long time to live your life in isolation, but not nearly as long as it should have been. I was sentenced to 15 years.

As I unlawfully walk free, having endured the hassle of escaping without anyone noticing, my senses overpower my mind. I can’t think straight. For the first time, I feel guilty about my physique. My muscular arms feel as though they could do more damage than this idyllic world I’ve dreamt of deserves. My newly shaven head makes me feel evermore the prisoner, a constant reminder of the day I lost it all. But I feel as though I look ironically vulnerable, a defenseless man hiding underneath my broad structure. The way I now walk, with an element of shame, attracts even more attention, makes it all the more obvious. But, in this moment, I am distracted from the seduction of these murderous thoughts. I’m busy overhearing conversations about things other than the food in the canteen, and smelling scents other than the BO of angry prisoners. I am, for once, oblivious to the thoughts. Sometimes I feel attacked, victimized by my own mind. They take over, to the point where I don’t have the ability to control them. The mind is a powerful tool that I struggle to protect myself from. Ironic, some may claim, as my previous job was to protect the rich and famous. I enjoyed protecting others. My mother always said it would be the perfect job for me, even as I was growing up. I was always bigger, broader than my classmates but my mother said it would be my caring nature and my instinct to protect that would get me the job. I loved that career, it was one of the main reasons I was so gutted when I heard the length of my sentence. I knew I’d never be allowed back into that profession. Why would they hire a criminal to protect the rich, from other criminals? When I was dressed head to toe in my uniform, it was my chance to escape. My physique, less paradoxical than when I am not in character. My mind, focused on the job instead of my own malicious thoughts. My tough exterior never failed to fool the people I met. Yet, on the inside, I was a broken man.

I walk down a street I’ve been familiar with my entire life: Foster Road. As I walk, I notice slight movement at the edge of the pavement, underneath an overgrown bush. Rats. I stand still and watch. The mother seems frantic as she leaps over the body of her deceased young. A sense of sympathy settles at the pit of my stomach. She then begins to devour the helpless infant and I realise she was the culprit. Cruel. The sympathy I once felt turns to anger and, in an outburst of animosity, I shoo the animal away with my foot. As it scurries away, I do the same. The small convenience store, about half way down the road, divides the street into two recognizable halves. Mr. Jones has owned the shop since I was young. He’s an old boy, miserable with the majority of his customers. But, for some reason, he took a liking to my younger self. Every day after school, I would visit Mr. Jones, tell him about my day and leave with a handful of free sweets. When my home life was rough, I confided in Mr. Jones. At this moment in time, my home life was rough. I needed to confide in Mr. Jones. I hadn’t seen him since years before my arrest, I doubted he’d even remember me but I went ahead and visited him anyway. As I walked through the door, the familiarity of the doorbell felt comforting. A young boy behind the counter greeted me.

‘Hi, is Mr. Jones about?’ I asked curiously.

‘Oh, I’m afraid Mr. Jones passed away about a year ago. Sorry mate.’

I felt my heart sink and my neck suddenly didn’t feel strong enough to support my head. I thanked the young boy and left the shop abruptly, the doorbell sounding more sinister than when I first walked through the door. Standing outside, I paced around the shop front with my hands resting on the top of my head. I took a few deep breaths and looked up at the ever-darkening, clear sky. I thought about the last time I spoke to Mr. Jones. It was after an argument between Amy and I, about 4 years ago. We had both had too much to drink and Mr. Jones was the only person I felt I could approach, given my mental state. I had just been carelessly thrown back into reality. I’d never felt so distant from the real world. The first familiarity I wanted to find had been ripped from my life. I felt a strong sense of bereavement. Something I had previously caused the people I love. It wasn’t until now that I could relate to that feeling I once created. But now I felt worse than ever about it. Never in my life had I felt lower than I did at this moment. I decided, maybe it was time I let the thoughts win.

I made my way down to Faqueza Bridge, the bridge in our city where many suicidal people finally find peace. It’s an ironically tranquil place. I’ve only been there once before; when Amy died. Many people described her death as a ‘blessing’, they said she deserved it. But they didn’t know her like I did. They judged her by the ‘violent’, ‘uncontrollable’ reputation she was so wrongly designated. They didn’t know here like I did. She wasn’t who they thought she was. I promise. The night after she died, I remember looking over the water, feeling the traffic rushing past behind me. Everyone is used to seeing people contemplating the end on Faqueza, so no one took notice. As the darkness approached, the city lights began to shine. I examined every glow of light, every star in the sky, and realized I couldn’t leave my then-month-old daughter behind. After all, she was Amy’s month old daughter too. A sudden longing to hold our sleeping child in my arms, kiss her forehead and tell her we would be okay, just the two of us, is what persuaded me to walk home instead of taking the leap that night. Every day, I reminded little Evie that her mother was watching over her. Amy didn’t always express her love for our child, but I know that, underneath the sadness and frustration, she cared for Evie. To the world, Amy was fierce. But to me, Amy was my first love. My only love. Head over heels, I blocked out any bad traits she may have possessed. To me, she was perfect. When we were together, her naturally shy nature was a contrast to the confidence I held. We always tried to calm each other’s anger when we sensed an outburst approaching. She was better at calming me, than I was at calming her. Sometimes she would lash out, and I’d feel guilty about letting her get to that state. But I never dreamt of hurting Amy in return. In my eyes, she was as delicate as an angel’s wings. Her long brown hair and powder blue eyes matched this angelic perception perfectly. She knew exactly how to deal with my emotions, but evidently not her own. Postpartum depression is a killer. Amy couldn’t control her crying episodes, or her changes in sleeping patterns, meaning her energy levels remained low. She involuntarily turned to feeling constantly anxious. Heroin became her sanctuary, calmed her down to a bewildered yet ironically innocent state.  Heroin killed my child’s mother.

Here I am, two years later, stood with my robust forearms resting on the railing along the edge of Faqueza. The presence of déjà vu feels remarkably welcoming. Transported back to a time when I had responsibility, a job and a family. Now; nothing. The harsh current of the water below seems to calm as I glare down at it, as though it’s welcoming me gently to its depths. I become oblivious to the late night traffic behind me, they are oblivious to me too. Mesmerized by the reflection of the moon, the city lights and the ever-moving shine from passing headlights on the water, I am transfixed in a world of my own. For once, I am at one with the thoughts. We are on the same side of this battle, with the same unpleasant intentions. I feel ready to do it. I am ready to do it.

‘Brett!’

For a moment, I freeze. Somebody, who knows me by my façade, has seen what’s underneath. I’m too scared to turn around and match a face to this mysterious voice. Meanwhile, a feeling of shame runs intensely through my veins.

‘Brett Peterson! Is that you?’ screams the voice from the other side of the road. Slowly, I look back over my shoulder, keeping the rest of my body’s position locked. John Master. An old school friend of mine. Due to the fast paced headlights, I could vaguely see John approaching me, something I taught him to do myself when we were in secondary school.

He stood by my side for the next hour. Now approaching 10pm, the traffic had slowed and the noise on the bridge had significantly decreased. All my attention, was on John. John was here for the same reason I was. I made a feeble attempt at persuading him not to do it, not to jump.

‘John, listen, you can’t do this. You’ve come so far since we last spoke. I remember back in the day when you couldn’t even look me in the eye, let alone start a conversation. You’ve gotten so much better since then John, and it’s onwards and upwards from here. Please, sleep on the thought and you’ll realize how much better you feel in the morning.’ I tried so desperately to help John. Ironic, considering I was at the same low point in my life.

‘You changed me Brett, you helped me through school when everyone else was afraid to even look at me. You made me feel… normal, like there was more to me than just being ‘that autistic child’. I’ve always been grateful that I met you, or else I’d have been standing here a long time ago. I often wondered where you’d be now, never thought it would be here.’ John let out a breathy, sympathetic chuckle. Then looked immediately guilty, as though he knew it was an inappropriate time to laugh. Quickly changing the subject, John continued. ‘But my girlfriend left me two weeks ago and I’ve been doubting that I’ll find anyone else. Once again, I’ve been feeling how I did before I met you. Autism overpowers any other positive traits I might have. So thanks Brett, but I think it’s time now. You get home to bed, you had a daughter a few years back, didn’t you? Go and give her a kiss from Uncle John for me.’ His innocence brought a lump to my throat.

John’s last words rang through my mind. He was so intent on ending his life, even the Gods above couldn’t stop him. He explained that he’s been thinking about it for a while, and he finally felt ready. It’s what he wanted, I could relate and I never wanted to make John feel anything but happiness the entire time I knew him. That’s why I let him go. I tried my best to talk him out of it, but his motivation was too strong to ignore. The smack of John’s body hitting the cold water below sent shivers down my spine. It was a huge reality check, but I felt oddly jealous that he’d achieved what he set out to achieve.

Hearing John struggle below, my mind transported back to the sounds of muffled screams for help. He was clearly regretting his decision and I began to panic. I felt angry, frustrated that John had led me to believe he wanted this. I let him do it, and now he had changed his mind. I realized I would soon be responsible for his death too. I wanted to call the police. I so desperately wanted to call the police. I needed help in this unfamiliar situation. But, of course, an escaped criminal couldn’t ring the police for help. I didn’t know what to do. The pace of the night dramatically quickened. The splash of the water became more intense, John’s clogged cries became more apparent. The traffic seemed to move faster, the lights of the city seemed to move violently. The world was spinning but I was still. In the centre of the chaos, the weight upon my shoulders was too heavy to handle. My mind: a whirlwind. My heart: ferociously beating at a million miles per hour. My breathing: erratic and jerky. Then, all at once, everything stopped. The world stopped spinning, the city lights stopped moving, the traffic slowed down and John’s cries fell silent. Gone.

It was in this moment, that I came to my decision.

My body felt weightless. Like a feather, I floated down to the water below. Engulfed by the waves, the pain was surprisingly subtle. A sense of relief flushed through my skeleton as I was finally where I wanted to be. Physically, John’s floating body greeted me and, gracefully, his soul did too. I thought about Amy. Where was she? Could I find her through this intense white mist?  I searched for her. I longed for her embrace, for her to tell me what I’d done was the right choice. I searched for her.

That’s when I saw her. Not Amy; Evie. I gently scooped my three-month-old daughter up in my arms. So tenderly, I was careful of the bruises I’d left on her torso when she died. I told her I was sorry. Sobbing hysterically, I felt guilty at the sight of my deceased daughter. Although now, she looked angelic. She cried at my touch, she feared her own father. She must have recognized the feel of my fingers on her skin from that afternoon. The afternoon when I was living my single-parent life and it was the two month anniversary of Amy’s death.

The sun gleamed into the lounge through the blind, as though my daughter was being summoned to the heavens. I was home alone with Evie and I lost my temper for just a single second. Just a single second was all it took. She was wailing, craving her mother’s sweet magic touch. Feeling as though she didn’t love me as much as I loved her, I tried desperately to make her stop crying for 2 hours straight. Nothing was working. I paced around the house, rocked her gently on my broad shoulder, fed her, bounced her, nothing was working. Then, with my huge hands, wrapped around her tiny torso, in an instant, I shook her tiny frail body. Gone. Within the space of 30 seconds, I had changed from a loving single father, trying his best to create a life for my daughter, to the killer of my own child, carrying a 15 year prison sentence. 


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