Beast by David Kavanagh

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
The lives of three teenage friends living in San Francisco is turned upside down when one of them reveals their plan to commit suicide.

I am yet to submit this for an English Lit assessment, so feedback would be great!

Submitted: September 08, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 08, 2012





By David Kavanagh

There is some crude language in this story.


Before the 8:30 bell shattered my soul with its screaming commencement of yet another week I could have confidently testified to the fact that there is nothing worse in this entire world than 12th grade maths on a Monday morning. By the time I had drudged in, sat down and began attempts to hike away into the land of Nod behind the propped up tent of a textbook that I had pegged down to protect me from Mr B’s anecdotes about a grocer with too many watermelons, I would have shamelessly admitted my mistake. Instead, I would say, there is nothing worse in this entire world than 12th grade maths on a Monday morning except for 12th grade maths on a Monday morning with a hangover. Now, as luck would have it, I found myself in those exact circumstances, furiously rubbing my temple as if finger to skin friction was going to burn away the grogginess. Adding to this, Bengie seemed to be wagging again, Colt had already been sent to the back for writing cusses on the desk and the classroom was beginning to look less like a classroom and more like the sweltering heat haze of the Tanzanian Savannah. As my eyes began to drag themselves into my sweat-stained cheeks, I grasped the side of the sand coloured Cherokee and let my nine year old feet thud into the dirt with a childhood desire to explore unknown lands. By that time, the whiteboard had already started its steady transformation. Fading into grey, expanding in stature and growing a snaking trunk guarded by two enormous ivory tusks, the whiteboard gracefully pushed its way through a tiny forest of golden tussocks, guided by the great African sun.
“Help me down Arvs!” called Bengie and I turned to take his hand.
“I thought you were wagging again, man”
Landing next to me, Bengie kept hold of my hand and dragged me across the road to where both his and my own parents were crouched, clutching their over-priced cameras and sun hats.
“Look” said our guide as he extended his tanned arms, “he’s over there”.
My gaze followed the path of his finger and landed on the beast which had made its way to a shallow waterhole 100 yards away. With a collective curiosity, the guide urged us to follow as we began to trace the elephant’s heavy prints to a closer vantage point. All the while my heart panted excitedly, seemingly thirsty for a sip of some exotic and unordinary sight. What was revealed instead was, as I would later reflect in my Monday maths class, as magnificent as it was heart-breaking. By the side of the waterhole, half-way submerged in the murky water, a large grey carcass lay quietly; the beast’s fallen brother. Behind the carcass, families of wildflowers reached up towards the orange skies where the hot orb, the elephant’s natural guide, unhurriedly fell into the plains. The beast was left alone. In this moment of tragic discovery, my thoughts had returned to Grace Cathedral and the deafening silence of the car-ride there. I, then, had been just like the beast, dazed and empty as the sun began climbing down the Golden Gate into the harbour waters, mirroring the gentle descent of Gran’s casket into the ground. I, like the beast, had felt alone. Drawn from my memories by the gasps of my parents, I watched as the grey giant extended its trunk and encircled the tusk of his brother. There it would stand for hours, mourning and remembering and waiting for something. We had left before it had let its companion go.
“Mr Berman, I asked you a question! Where on Earth are you?”
“What?” I sighed.

“The world’s just a fucked up place” Colt laughed as he pushed open the bike shed gates, “I mean, it ain’t every day you walk in on two guys doing more than pissing.”
I laughed for some reason that I don’t understand.
“It was gross dude” he continued, “told the fags to get a room, or a bloody cubicle at least”.
“Yeah” was all I managed.
We unlatched our bikes and began heading home, entirely exhausted from what was mostly a routine day of learning but not necessarily understanding. Good on the return but not in the mornings, West San Francisco High was situated on the top of one of San Fran’s notoriously steep hillsides overlooking the entire city. That afternoon, in the state we were in, the descent was a God-send and we hurriedly rushed down to the bottom with Colt managing to flip off both a pedestrian who almost stepped in his way and a Sedan which had almost taken him out at the crossing by the deli. Colt was like that; an over-confident douchebag that you sometimes found yourself admiring. Despite his faults, we’d been best friends for almost as long as I’d known Benjamin, dating back to the pre-school years when girls were still cootie ridden and the worst pains you’d need to worry about were bruised knees or shampooed eyes.
“Do yah know where Bengie was today?” I asked, interrupting Colt’s rants about Mr B’s unfair class seating arrangements as we pulled into the park.
“No idea, he wasn’t at Suzie’s last night” he replied.
It was probably for the better. By no fault of his own Bengie wasn’t the most popular kid at these sorts of parties, preferring to sit in the corner drinking with me or even just his own thoughts. With Colt, on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had managed to get some action with every girl at that party, partly because most of them were plastered and partly because Colt had a way of telling them what they wanted to hear. Then there’s also the fact that loose characters like Colton Johns and Suzanne Cocks always seemed to be destined for each other, usually only for one night at a time. Star-crossed lovers and their one night stands, Bengie would call it.
“I’m kinda worried,” I confessed, “I haven’t heard from him since Friday.”
We stopped by a shaded bench.
“You know Bengie”, Colt said in an attempt to reassure me, “he’s always getting sick”.
“It’s weird though,” I said, and thinking, “We should visit him.”
Colt groaned with heavy exaggeration, obviously wanting to get home so he could do something productive with his life like play Call of Duty until the early hours of next morning.
“Let’s go then” I said and we turned around and left the park, our bikes sending gravel into the monastic stillness of the green summer air. 

With two storeys, a well-kept garden and a pool out the back, Bengie had a lot more than most kids at school and yet never had anyone around apart from Colt and me. Leaning our bikes against the fence, we made our way up the paved pathway and knocked on the door, catching our breaths while we waited for Mrs Cream to invite us in.
“I’ll take you up” she began, before I reassured her that I knew the way and she chuckled at her own middle-aged forgetfulness. I chuckled along. We ascended the staircase passing black and white family photographs of the Creams awkwardly standing beside one another, hands on shoulders, and pictures of young Elijah and younger Bengie laughing on a beach too white to be Californian. Vanuatu, I assumed. The Creams loved Vanuatu. At the top of the staircase, we turned into the hallway and kept our eyes averted from Elijah’s solid stares. Opening Bengie’s door, Colt stepped inside.
“Get up, wagger” he laughed as he leaped onto the heaving mass of blankets that covered Bengie’s queen sized bed. Bengie grunted and kicked up the covers, a thin creature awaking from strange slumbers.
“Oh, hey guys” Bengie slowly muttered as he pulled the sheets from his face.
He looked terrible. His eyes were bloodshot and popped on his pale skin like bloodied lychees. His dark hazelnut hair was mangy and distorted into shapes I’d only seen in creepy paintings at the Louvre a few years back. It was an unnatural sight, to say the least. And there had only been one other instance in our 14 years of friendship in which I had ever seen Benjamin Cream as cluttered as he was then. Two months earlier.
“Dude, you look like shit” Colt chuckled.
“How are you feeling?” I asked, sitting down on the end of his bed.
Bengie looked across the room at his shut bedroom door. A poster of Megan Fox posing in a Transformers photo-shoot hung beside it.
“I need to tell you something” he whispered, his voice dry and flaky.
By this point, my mind had already concluded that there was more to Bengie’s absence at school than standard influenza. Given his state, I was more than worried. I’d seen this before.
“Yeah, sure man. What is –”
“But you have to promise not to tell anyone. Not my parents, not your parents, not anyone” he interrupted, sending my suspicions haywire, “promise me, as my friends.”
“Yeah, I promise” I said.
“I promise” Colt added quietly.
Bengie stared at us both intently for a few seconds before dropping his gaze to the cream coloured carpet that covered his bedroom floor. School textbooks and scrunched tissue papers lay scattered across its expanse.
“I’m planning to kill myself” he said, “next Sunday. At midnight.”
There was a silence that probably lasted a lot longer in my mind than it did in reality. In those infinite moments, thoughts of little Bengie handing me his blue crayon at recess flashed before my eyes. That was the day we’d first met.
“Wh- what?” was I all managed, “what are you talking about?”
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot” he continued, his gaze slowly shifting from me to Colt who was sitting wide-eyed and confused at Bengie’s study desk, “and I want to do it. I’ve tried before. But I’ve been too afraid.”
“What the hell are you talking about Bengie?!” I yelled, “When have you tried before?”
I don’t know what it was but I felt something beginning to stir within my gut, something meaty and grey with a snaking trunk and ivory tusks.
“I’ve cut” he said firmly and then pulled up the sleeve of his night-shirt to show a long line of slanted red scars crawling down his arm like leeches.
I had failed him, I thought. Why had he never told me before?
“Bengie, I –” I started, “why? What’s wrong Bengie?”
“Are you sad?” added Colt.
Bengie pulled down his sleeve again.
“There are a lot of reasons and I don’t think anyone would understand.”
“I’m your best friend, Ben!” I said loudly, slightly frustrated by my own failures. 
“I know. And I’m grateful to have you both in my life. I don’t know why, but,” he shifted uncomfortably, “I just feel alone.”
I put my arm on his shoulder. It was rising and falling with a slow drum beat of defeat.
“Look Bengie. You wouldn’t have told us if you didn’t want to talk about it, would you?” I started, “and as your friends, we care about you. You’re not going to kill yourself, we won’t let you.”
“I want too, Arvs”
“Give us a chance then, at least!” Colt sputtered, “You can’t do this, and it’s selfish”.
It was obvious Colt cared about Bengie a lot more than he usually let on. His douchebag façade was beginning to shed its first real tears.
Bengie smiled.
“You’ve seen me out there, Colt” he said, “You, you get everything because you understand it all, you and everyone else out there have it all figured out.”
“What do you mean?” Colt asked.
“I’m depressed, I can’t connect with people, my grades are dropping and life for me is basically a cycle of one thing that makes me feel like shit to another thing with a different face that has the exact same effect. I’m just a void of heaving nothingness ready to explode.”
If the situation was different, I might have called that last part melodramatic. 
“You have us” Colt said quietly.
“I’m sorry, really.”
There was a drop.
“Bengie…” I said, breaking the silence, “does this have anything to do with –”
“It does. In part.”
“It just takes time” I added, “I was the same when Gran died.”
Waking up on a Christmas morning to a phone call from the retirement home, my heart had sunk so far into darkness I thought I might never feel the sun again.
“Eli was the one person who I could really tell things too, Arvs” said Bengie, his lip starting to tremble, “and he had to go get himself killed in some God-forsaken desert in the middle of fucking no-where!” he cried brashly.
There was grief, there was anger and there was an empty gravesite in Bengie’s quivering voice. His tears sprayed like blood onto the blackened crater and upturned Humvee by the road. I gave his shoulder a squeeze.
“Oh, Bengie” I began gently.
But then Mrs Cream entered beamingly, telling us our parents had called and it was time to go home. Bengie threw her a smile and lead us downstairs. Elijah watched us go from his place on the wall.
“You don’t think he’ll do it, do you?” Colt asked me shyly as we stood by the curb of Bengie’s two storeys.
“He wouldn’t have told us if he was absolutely set on it,” I replied, “and we still have time, we won’t let him.”
And with that, we mounted our bikes and rode away towards opposite horizons.

I couldn’t sleep that night. My mind was racing, twisting and expanding; suicide and death and Afghanistan and blue crayons. I thought of Kimberley Parker from tenth grade. She’d been found hung by a tree on the school’s sports field. They’d had a ceremony, they said there’d be a crackdown on cyber-bullying; we held candles for a while and then drove on home to keep up with our Kardashians. I thought of Mr Foster, the recluse who lived down the street and had blown his own brains out near the statue of Columbus at the base of Coit Tower. His suicide note had read:

There’s nothing else left to discover.

Bengie and I talked all the time; he always told me everything, or so I had thought. But there had to be more to this. I knew Elijah was a big part of his life, I’d seen it when they laughed at our weekly joint dinners, but there had to be more for him to want to end it all. Death is a big and permanent thing and Bengie still had family and he wouldn’t do this to them. He wouldn’t do this to me.


I woke up the next day as groggy as I had been the morning before, except this time the nausea was not a result of one too many vodka shots. I looked around my sunlit bedroom and suddenly felt like I’d aged years overnight. Standing up, I performed my routine stretch and slugged my way down the hall for a shower, weighed down by this new responsibility for a human life, Bengie’s life, which hung around my neck like an anchor and forced me to drag my feet into an uncertain future. I had considered telling my parents, I mean it was a lot for a seventeen year old to carry, but the unspoken maxims of the loyal friendship policy kept me tied to my promise.

It was 9am when Colt and I arrived at Bengie’s house and, after checking that his parent’s cars were no longer in the driveway, dashed up the entrance pathway and knocked on the door.
“Bengie!” Colt yelled excitedly, disregarding our previously made plans for a stealthy approach.
Minutes later, Bengie opened the door half-dressed and half-dead. The lychee’s had exploded on his face which was stained red and black and lacked any indication of sleep.
“Get dressed beautiful, we’re going for a ride” I said, forcing a smile through Bengie’s doorway. I must admit, it was hard acting normal when my best friend had knowingly flipped an hour-glass counting down towards his own demise.
“Thanks boys, but I don’t feel up for it” he said.
“We ditched school for you Bengie, we ain’t taking no for an answer” winked Colt.
Bengie laughed.
“You almost make it sound like that’s a sacrifice. You’re a real martyr Colt”

I decided to take the scenic route, hoping that some Holy Shot of natural beauty would re-ignite Bengie’s love for life. The cynic in me, however, thought this approach a bit cliché and let me know that we were really just taking him out for a friendly little interrogation. Heading down to the Pier, the San Franciscan rooftops were illuminated by the morning sun which sat proudly over the water. Our dive down the streets gave us a clear view of the great Golden Gate Bridge, the harbours guardian, and the hillsides and forests beyond. We didn’t talk much, for a few hours, the speed of our bikes left us suspended in a breathless limbo of city sounds. But even during the blissful blur of our morning descent, I was well aware that there would come a point in this day when each one of us would have to face something terrifying. We stopped at Pier 39 for lunch.

“So” began Bengie, as we sat down with our fish burgers and chips which were wrapped in old newspapers, “what now?”
“At your pace, man” I said. In truth, I didn’t know where to begin.
“Where do you wanna sit?” Colt asked.
We made our way over to a fairly empty pier, ignoring the looks of one elderly lady who was no doubt silently judging us for our ‘disinterest’ in education. She had no idea we were here to save a life. Sitting down, with our feet hanging over the water, we ate while listening to the gulls.
“Look,” I began, butterflies in my gut, “Bengie, I feel like you didn’t tell us everything yesterday.”
Bengie took a bite of a crab stick and then looked across at a passing tour boat, filled to the brim with tourists from all over the world.
“The thing is Arvs; there are just so many shitty things against me that I don’t know which one’s making me feel like this. There are so many things and I’m just not normal because of them. I don’t feel normal.”
“Who said you have to be normal?” Colt asked.
 Bengie shifted uneasily.
“Everyone, Colt, even you.”
A gull landed behind us, eying our food.
“About Elijah…” I began, softly.
“It’s weird,” he began, “I feel like I’ve accepted that he’s gone, and I know my dad is more than proud of his sacrifice, but I still miss him so much. He made me feel like I wouldn’t be… shunned… for what I am”
“And what’s that?” I asked.
Bengie’s gaze quickly darted at Colt’s hand and then fell into the water with a splash.
“Just not someone people like”.
“What do you mean?”
There was another pause; the lone gull was joined by another two who began circling our sun-drenched backs, searching for any scraps which we may have dropped or overlooked. And then came the explosion which sent them scattering.
“For fuck sake!” Colt cried, “just explain it to us Ben. We’re your friends!”
There was emphasis on the ‘friends’. Bengie winced.
“I can’t” he groaned as I glared at Colt with a silent threat to calm it down.
“Well this is a freaking waste of time then, isn’t it?” Colt yelled, ignoring me and standing up. “Jesus Christ, this is hard on us too Bengie, listening to you cry. Life’s a bitch to everyone, but we can’t tell her to ease up unless you grow some balls and let us help you.”
He stormed off. Bengie broke. I squeezed his shoulder, feeling like that was all I could ever do.
“Don’t worry about him, you know how he is” I said, as Bengie dropped in to lean on me, “and you don’t have to talk about it right now, Bengie. “It’s just, Colt and I… you mean a lot to us… and your family. And nothing you say can change that.”
“Yeah. Thanks Arvs. You’re always there for me.”
Obviously not, I thought, as I remembered the scars etched on Bengie’s arm.


Having used the sick day card with my parents, I had no other choice but to go to school the following day. Admittedly, I was worried about how Bengie might have taken Colt’s outburst as new doubts would likely be eating away at him like some carnivorous sort of tumour. And while it’s a given that Colt wasn’t good at handling other people’s problems, living by the mantra that one could blow away any kind of tragedy with a half-bag of goon or a quickie behind the bike racks, this time he’d gone too far and I had my mind set on confronting him about it. I did, anyway, until I first caught a glimpse of him that morning, a hooded figure hobbling down the hallway with his face practically glued to the floor.
“Dude, what happened to you?” I asked as Colt struggled to lift his gaze and meet mine.
His right eye was gone. In its place bulged a throbbing blue and black balloon, a bruise that began just under his eyebrow and trickled down his cheek like an oil-polluted glacier.
“Ran into a door,” he grinned, “fucking bad, hey?”
“Bull,” I continued, “did you get hit?”
He chuckled, wheezed and patted my shoulder with his fist.
“Nah man, now let’s get to class.”

The day went by particularly slowly, a sluggish blur of under-paid old farts ranting away about Civil War and MLK (and a quick overview of Harvey Milk) and evolution in my science class.
“I’m sure you’ve all heard of Mr Charles Darwin”, Mrs Gracey had said, “survival of the fittest and all that kind of shit?”
She probably didn’t say “shit”, but my mind was far gone by that point, trekking through pre-school with Bengie.

When the bell rang for lunch, I met Colt in the cafeteria and watched as he swiped an extra Choc milk from Suzanne’s lunch tray. It’s funny how he treated his ‘other’ friends, the characters who I would prefer to avoid in fear of being pressured into doing something cool like getting lung cancer or attaining a criminal record to limit my career options in the future. He didn’t really seem to care about them, and they didn’t really seem to care that he didn’t care.
“But seriously Colton,” I began, as we carried our trays to the back corner of the hall, “what really happened to your face? I mean, somehow you managed to get even uglier.”
“F off” he laughed as we sat, “just wasn’t watching where I was going.”
While it wasn’t hard to imagine given Colt’s overall clumsiness, I still didn’t believe the story.
“Right” I nodded, realising I wouldn’t get anywhere with this particular line of questioning.
We dug away at the sludge on our trays, occasionally cracking a joke or bad attempts at them. It was weird without Bengie there, it didn’t feel right. The notion that if we didn’t pick up our game he might never join us again hung over our heads.
“What was up with you yesterday?” I asked suddenly, my anger and fear rising up again like acid in my gut. Colt looked at the clock.
“I just don’t know how to handle this crap anymore” he said slowly as he got up to leave, “but I’m sorry,” he added quickly, with a shy frown I had never seen before. And then, as if planned, the bell screamed.

Despite his apparent regrets, Colt decided not to join me on my way to Bengie’s place. It was up to me again, to save Bengie’s life. Ducking past Eli, I edged my way into his darkened room. He lay, curled up and forcefully coughing, in front of his crackling TV set.
“Relax man, it’s me.”
He stopped coughing and sat up. He didn’t look too bad today, not very good either though.
“Hey Arvs” he began, “how was school?”
“Eh, lonely. It’ll be good to have you back next week.”
Bengie looked away. It was worth a try, I told myself.
“Anything good on?” I smiled, sitting down on his bed next to him and glancing at the screen.
“I don’t know, take a look”
He threw me the remote and flicking through, I interrupted Homer as he suffocated his son and turned the channel over to CNN.
“God hates America and God hates faggots” screamed a hag of a woman, the words ‘Westboro Baptist Church’ running along the caption-highway underneath her.
I rolled my eyes. Click.
“…and it looks like it’s going to be pouring down on us for the rest of the week, Diane…”
“There is one creature,” an elderly woman began enchantingly, her voice enough to keep me from surfing on, “who wanders the Malaysian rainforests separated from its much larger brothers and sisters on the African Continent. This is the Pygmy Elephant.”
At that moment, a small grey creature emerged from behind a garden of ferns in a shaded grove on screen, moving deliberately towards me as I sat, entranced, in Bengie’s home in California.
The scene on the television then changed to a shot of an African savannah, similar to the one which had seeped its way into the classroom on Monday morning. There, a group of elephants surrounded the corpse of another and formed a united front against an army of vicious-looking lions.
“As you can see, these elephants are filled with so much despair at the loss of their child that they are ready to die to defend its body. They are filled with a selfless sense of love. Agape love, if one is to put a human word to it.”
I looked over at Bengie, his eyes wide. I’m sure he was thinking of the same thing I was; Tanzania.“I miss it”, I said, over the woman’s narration.
He looked at me and nodded.
“It was a good time”, he smiled and then looking at the TV again, “can you turn it off now?”
I obliged. Bengie looked back at me and his lips began to tremble slightly.
“I - I’m so sorry for all of this,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t do this to you.”
I grabbed his shoulder but remained silent. I didn’t want to be here, on my knees again and begging as he lumbered away into oblivion, dragging my heart along behind him through the red African sands.  
“Arvod”, Bengie croaked, “did you hear me?”
He lay himself out on his bed, his mind too heavy for him to support.
“You won’t do it” I said simply, lying down next to him.
We stayed there for an eternal few minutes, gazing up at the painted ceiling in comfortable silence, searching for words inside the cracks and crevices that ran along its length. It was my turn to break the stillness.
“You deserve to be happy, Bengie. But I can’t help you if you don’t let me”.
And then he kissed me. And my thoughts shattered into red dust that circled the room with the force of a tornado. And his hands grabbed my arms which blew away in a sweltering gale. And blades of brown grass reached up and devoured us. And the ground began to vibrate with the steady jolts of a roaring stampede. And then he released me. And there was nothing but silence.
“I’m sorry” he cried and jumped under his covers which slowly began to shake and turn as if ready to implode. I sat there like an idiot, not sure what to say or what to think and after gaining some awkward composure, I pinned the violent mass of bed sheets down. He continued to thrash for a while, clawing at his wrists, exploding from the throat with grunts and sobs. And then he stopped, and all I could hear were soft whimpers of ignominy.
“Bengie…” I began unsurely.
He stopped me. “Eli is dead and Colt hates fags and I love you and I have loved you for a very long time”
I didn’t reply.
“And I know you’re not gay Arvs. And it kills me because I’ll never have you or anyone. You hate me, I know it. Everyone hates fags,” he spluttered.
“No, I don’t hate you” was all I managed.
“Yes you do, I’m a freak. Please,” he looked at me and fell away, “please just go now”.
I said no, and I was determined to stay, but I had no plan and no words.
“Arvod, I’m sorry,” Bengie continued.
“Stop saying sorry, Ben” I began, “there’s nothing to be sorry for.”
I managed a smile.
“You’re my best friend. I’ll always love you.”
Bengie calmed and breathed in deeply. What a relief it must have been to realise I wasn’t an intolerant douchebag. It was just the kiss that had caught me off guard.
“I – thank you” he sighed.
I nodded and helped him sit up.
“Is this the reason you’ve been feeling down then?” I asked. He bowed uncomfortably in affirmation. He looked scared, even now. He gawkily rubbed his goose bump-ridden arm and looked down at his feet.
“And this is why you want to die?” I asked, a note of strange indignation suddenly creeping into my voice. He could sense it.
“You don’t understand what it’s like…”
 Yes, I did. I knew it what it was like to be shunned and to feel self-doubt and to lose someone close to you, I did, but I never wanted to kill myself because of it.
“…I see people, Arvs. When I sleep I see dark figures and they yell at me.”
“They tell me I’m going to Hell. That I’m going to burn in fire for all eternity once I die. That no one will ever love you.”
“Didn’t you just hear me, Ben?”
“I know. But I don’t feel it.”
Maybe I didn’t understand after all; to hear love and to feel love was practically the same thing for me. And then I thought, for just a second, about how Colt had treated those two boys in the bathroom the other day. Persecution like that experienced by my grandfather, Papa Berman. Persecution and hateful propaganda and glaring eyes that threw him into barbed enclosures like some sort of animal.
“I’m sorry Ben” I whispered deliberately.
“Please don’t tell Colt” he replied, “I’m not sure he’d want to know.”
“Then don’t kill yourself” I blurted, and received a bewildered glance.
That was obviously a very rational move, on my behalf. Blackmailing the depressed, ‘just come out’ insecure boy so that he wouldn’t kill himself. The weirdness of this moment in time was messing with my head.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m saying” I muttered, “but… you won’t do it anymore, right?”
Bengie smiled at me and took my hand. He looked across my shoulder into the eyes of the grey beast.
“You have a good soul” he breathed.

For the second time that week, I was taken up in another storm of sleeplessness. He couldn’t have just said “no, you’ve shown me that being gay isn’t that bad in this modern world” or something like that. But then I suppose I wasn’t very strong with my case back there, being so unbalanced by the sudden intimacy with my best friend who I had known for years. Strangely, it was that fact that threw me off more than the fact that he and I shared the same appendages between the thighs, and that shoved a whole train-full of uncertainties through my nervous system that evening.

Thursday – 12:34am

When my mum jerked me awake that early morning, her face red and glossy, I knew something was wrong. When she slowly cupped me against her chest and whispered in my ear that she had some bad news, I knew that I had failed. By this point, my cries were so loud that I couldn’t hear her anymore, and I couldn’t feel her hand stroking my back. All I could picture was a casket descending into the ground and a gravestone with “Here lies Benjamin Cream who died because his supposed best friend could not handle a simple, fucking kiss” written across it in blue crayon. I just thought we had more time. She led me down the hall and told me we would go and see “him”. The car ride was riddled with brutal bumps which propelled me into the glaring headlights, passing from ahead. Their fiery glimmers transformed the world into a still and burning white prison. As I sat with my cheekbones pushed against the window, tears rolling down the ephemeral blur of houses and traffic lights that passed, little Bengie grabbed my hand and only gripped tighter when we saw the beast. I could feel the outline of his fingers in my palm and realised that Bengie had loved me before he even knew what the word meant. The car door slammed shut and my mother gripped me by the shoulders as she led me up the cobbled pathway. She was shaking uncontrollably, dripping onto my clump of black bed-hair from above. Knock. Knock. Knock. They opened the door bewildered and blue. They lead me through the hallway, past a room where two coated officers shook their heads glumly at one another, looking through the photographs that sat on the veneer drenched cabinets like vultures. Beaming grimaces hid a universe of hurt. Down another hallway, a twisting labyrinth of childhood memories. And there was his bedroom door. I entered. And there he lay, an empty bottle of pills and a tear-soaked note by his side. His black eye was pulsing its last breath. Colton Johns. Dead.

To my family and dad,
I am sorry. I shouldn’t have told you. But I couldn’t live this lie any longer.
Forgive me.

To my friends,
I am sorry. I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did.
Forgive me.

To him,
I am sorry. I love you.
Forgive me.


I sat on the dirty grey couch that had been pulled into the backyard. Bengie sat beside me. The sun was beginning its descent down the Golden Gate and into the hills beyond. Just like on Christmas, or like that hot day in the Afghan countryside, the veil had been lifted once again, and the light was making its escape through the gap in its fabric.  
All we could do was wonder. The irrational outburst. The black eye. The note.
“He told me, Bengie” I confessed, looking at the boy beside me who played with his fingers like a child. “He said he couldn’t take it anymore, the crap. He said he was sorry.”
It overwhelmed me, this thought. I broke down into the satin, hoping this guilt would vent through my tears. Bengie put his hand on my shoulder and cried with me.
“I won’t leave you, Arvod” he whimpered, and took my hand.
It was only at that exact moment, as the rays of gold lit up the sky, and the veil began to close, that I first heard the trumpets and trombones. And the great grey beast rode out of the clouds and surrounded me in his embrace.


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