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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man goes through a violent trauma that makes him question his life and the choices he makes.

Submitted: August 16, 2015

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Submitted: August 16, 2015



The hot water cascaded over him as he stood, eyes pressed tightly shut, head down, allowing the shower to run. The back of his head where the freshly removed stitches used to be felt raw under the heat but he didn't care. It felt good. It felt better than the dull throb he constantly suffered since the incident. He was tired of the throb. 


A lot had happened in a short amount of time and he was having trouble piecing it all together, a side effect the doctor had told him was a possibility. However, the memory of tonight would most likely be vividly etched in his psyche for a long while, if he had wanted it to or not. The crumpled, bloody heap as he had glimpsed it last flashed in his mind's eye just as suddenly as he involuntarily thought of it, and his eyes popped open immediately. 


He turned the cold water down some to make the shower even hotter as his body was getting acclimated to the already high temperature, and craned his neck to stretch out some of the soreness he felt in it. He thought back to that night at the hospital and fuzzy images erratically floated in and out of his mind's eye.


...Looking down to see his shirt covered in blood...Being rushed through the halls as people talked about him loudly above him...Hearing the doctor tell his nurse that they couldn't give him pain meds or more blood because of the alcohol in his system...His mother wailing, holding on to her brother as his uncle stoically struggled to hold her upright...




He woke up to two uniformed police officers explaining to his mother that they were there to just ask him a few questions, assuring her that he was not being arrested. Too weak to say anything, he wordlessly watched the exchange. The stress and lack of sleep in his mother's face was obvious, and his heart grew heavy with guilt. He knew that his life wasn't easy for her to deal with. He could not help but look away from her hurriedly, focusing on the sunlight streaming through window by his hospital bed instead.


Someone had called a doctor in and as he looked up at the man's approach, he was suddenly blinded by a white hot and violent pain that made him sharply gasp and squeeze his eyes shut. The source of the agony was the back of his head, but he felt the room spinning and bile rise in his throat, disorienting him momentarily. As he fought to regain his composure, he was mildly aware of a disagreement going on nearby, but was forced to give all his attention to maintaining consciousness.


Breathing deeply, he managed to slow the spinning enough to open his eyes, making eye contact with the police officer who was looking back at him visibly upset from across the room. Wordlessly, he followed his partner who was already halfway out the door. His anxious mother was looking at the doctor with appreciation in her eyes before he could no longer fight the spinning, and allowed himself to succumb to the quiet darkness that had been threatening to overtake him this whole while...




The bathroom was filling up with thick steam, but he turned the cold water down once more. The shower was now uncomfortably hot, but he liked it. It felt as if he were trying to burn away some of his regrets.




When he awoke once more, the room was empty except for his father sitting in the uncomfortable chair in the corner. Monitors and machines filled the room with gradual beeps and low hums, but apart from that, the world seemed to be at rest. He was bathed in halogen light, but saw that the sky was dark outside. He realized that he did not know how long he had been there, and the thought was disconcerting. Shaking off the feeling, he looked down and noticed that his arms were connected to small tubes and his eyes followed them to see bags of fluid hanging by his bedside, slowly being emptied into his body. He felt a pleasant and fuzzy laziness, as if he had grossly overslept, and his eyelids felt heavier than usual.


He turned his head back toward his father, who he had noticed was dozing upright in his chair, still in his work clothes. He must have come straight to the hospital to let mom go home for a bit. If he were honest, he preferred that his dad be there over his mom. He could deal with his father's anger over his mother's anguish. It was a selfish thought, and he hated himself for feeling that way.


“I'm glad you're alive at least,” the groggy voice broke him out of his reverie. Even though the statement was almost casual, he could sense the quiet anger behind the words of his father. He made no reply, and could not bring himself to look at the man.


He heard a heavy sigh and the quiet crack of his father's knees as he got up out of his chair to stand by the bed. He snuck a glance over at his father, who wasn't looking at him, but was rather nodding towards the hanging bags which he was currently studying attentively.


“You lost a lot of blood and they could finally give you something for the pain. Your blood alcohol level was too high for them to do it before. They also gave you 27 stitches in the back of your head. Don't touch it.” His hand stopped as it had been making it's way up to where the gaping hole had been the night before, bringing it back down to rest on the dull white sheets.


“The police will be back to question you too,” his voice sounded more tired than before, as if he had aged ten years in a moment. “Be ready for that.”


“Appa...I'm sorry. I-”


“Don't tell me. I don't need to hear it,” his father tonelessly interjected. “Amma is the one you need to beg for forgiveness. You're killing her. You know her blood pressure and you still do this. She fainted when we got the call. We thought that this was finally how...” His dad trailed off, leaving him feeling worse than if the man had shouted obscenities at him, even struck him like back when he was a child.


“Maybe this is what needed to happen for you to learn,” his father continued. “Maybe now you'll know. I'm going to talk to the doctors and see when I can take you home.”




He stood still for a few more moments allowing the near scalding water to hit his face, and then reached out and turned the tap off. He grabbed his towel, wrapped it around himself, and got out of the shower to stand in front of the mirror. Leaning over the sink, he attempted to wipe the fog off the mirror in front of him, but it made little difference. He cracked the bathroom door open slightly to let some of the steam out and waited.




After speaking to his father, the doctors monitored him, followed concussion procedures, checked for any signs of long term brain damage, and released him the following day. The doctor told him that he would experience headaches and pain for a little while, some temporary memory loss, and have an obvious scar for life, but he had escaped this ordeal relatively unscathed. The young nurse had told him that he was lucky, and he had never believed anything more.


His father had left early that morning to get some sleep before he had to go to work again and his mother had not come back. He assumed that his father had told her that he was fine and would be returning home shortly.


With prescriptions for pain medication and instructions to come back in a week and a half to two weeks for a checkup and to have his stitches removed, he walked out of the hospital 48 hours after he had been admitted. He exited through the front doors to see his mom's brother's car waiting for him, and he wordlessly got in. He expected an angry lecture as usual, but was surprised that his uncle went the whole length of the car ride without speaking. Arriving at the apartment building he lived in with his parents, he murmured his thanks and got out of the car. If his uncle had acknowledged it, he didn't notice.


Riding up the elevator, he frantically ran through scenarios in his mind of how he would speak to his mother. This had been the moment he was dreading the most. Speaking to the police, seeing his friends again, having to explain what happened to his close extended family; all of it meant nothing in light of what he had to face now.


The elevator opened and he felt his feet move down the hallway to stand in front of his door. He inserted his keys into the lock, thinking that the whole process was louder than he remembered, and swung the door open. He closed it behind him, removed his shoes, and turned to walk toward the living room where he knew he would find his mother.


There she sat. Her eyes were red, raw from crying, and the dark circles under them were so deep that it gave her face an almost hollow expression. He thought she may have been wearing the same clothes that she had worn yesterday when he had woken up to her in the hospital, but he wasn't sure. The wireless house phone lay beside her on the couch, as if she had expected another call with more dark news. He knew that she probably hadn't eaten much since she had answered that first ominous phone call two nights ago, and his guilt multiplied ten-fold. His mind had gone blank, all practiced scenarios having escaped his memory, and he stood still, watching her.




She looked up at him and silently stood from her seat. She crossed the room in a few slow steps to stand in front of him. He looked down at her unsure. He watched as her eyes welled up with tears, one growing heavy and running down her cheek. He couldn't bring himself to say anything. Without a word, she slapped him across the face. He held her as she began to loudly cry anew.




As the steam dissipated, he wiped the mirror clean once more. This time, his reflection clearly appeared where his hand had just been, and he stared at it. He thought he looked different, but couldn't say exactly how. He remained almost statuesque until he realized that the dull throb in his head was returning, and opened the top drawer, pulling out the bottle of pills. He popped one dry and waited for the relief of the heavy pain medication to arrive.




The first week out of the hospital, he had stayed diligent. As he held his crying mother, he had told himself that he needed to do better; be better. He had spent that week at home, being fed and using the time to recover physically. The most difficult part was ignoring the people he felt were like family to him before the incident.


His phone battery had died when he was in the hospital that first night, and he wasn't able to plug it into charge until he was finally home. Once he did, the messages poured in. The word had spread that he had been hospitalized, and people he hadn't spoken to in months were trying to get a hold of him, if nothing more than to find out what happened so they could be the primary source of the gossip. Girls that hadn't given him the time of day before were messaging him saying how much they cared, guys who he had met maybe once or twice were telling him to get in touch if and when he felt he needed to retaliate, and the few people he was actually close to were genuinely reaching out to see if they could come and check up on him. He deleted all of it.


He felt nothing doing so with the superficial friends, but his boys were another story. These are the guys he practically grew up with. They were the ones he spent all of his time around, mostly getting into trouble and creating some of their own. Some may say that they were bad influences, but they were practically family. They had each others backs through everything, including situations like this. It wasn't the first time something similar had happened, and they had dealt with it together then too.


However, he didn't want to deal with it like they usually would've this time. He wanted things to be different, if not for himself, then for his mom. For that reason, he thought he should leave some distance between him and his adopted family for awhile. Eventually, the surface level acquaintances stopped trying to message or call him, but his boys persisted. He put his phone on silent so that the constant vibration wouldn't tempt him anymore.


Three or four days after returning home, he was laying on the bed in his room when the home phone rang. He paid it no mind, assuming one of his mom's friends were calling to share random some gossip, but suddenly heard her in the other room loudly cursing in Tamil. He got up quickly, head slightly swooning, and opened the door enough to hear her screaming that the person on the other end shouldn't call anymore if they had any decency.


He walked into the living room just as she angrily hung up the phone, startling her slightly.


“Who was it, amma?” he asked in their native tongue.


She tried to fix her features, failing to do so, making the lie more unconvincing: “It was a wrong number. Are you hungry?”


He gently turned her down and walked back to his room, understanding what had actually transpired and thinking that maybe he should reach out to one of his friends before they took it upon themselves to show up at his doorstep. His mom wouldn't take too kindly to that right now.




He dried himself off and walked back to his room. He realized that the shower was so hot, that he was still sweating slightly. It was uncomfortable. Moving slowly, he closed his bedroom door behind him and he walked over to the window to rest his forehead on the cool surface, shutting his eyes once more. That felt better.




The next day, he woke up and called Sanjeevan. It barely rang before the call was picked up.


“Holy shit bro, you got mans worried out here! Been reading the obituaries just to make sure nothing went left out of no where!”


He couldn't help but laugh. Before the incident, Gee and he were rarely seen apart. It had become a running joke with all their mutual friends that if you wanted one, you had to accept the fact that you would get the other too. They had known each other since kindergarten and for all intents and purposes, they were brothers. They were just unlucky in that trouble always seemed to find them when they were together.


“Just laying low at home for a minute,” he replied. “Trying to make sure my mom's blood pressure doesn't spike to dangerous levels again.”


Apparently, Gee had tried to get in to see him the night he had been hospitalized, but had been turned away by his uncle's threats. His mom's brother had an infamous and coloured past as well, and accordingly garnered respect from all the younger guys. It was part of the reason he was never able to graciously receive any of his uncle's lectures on how he should be living. With what they all knew of how the man used to be, it always came off as terribly hypocritical. Regardless, Gee had left without putting up a fight. Since then, he had tried the home phone line a couple of times trying to gather any scrap of information he could. Every attempt had ended in his mom cursing Gee out, blaming him and the other boys for what had happened, then hanging up on him abruptly.


A couple of days before, Gee had gotten lucky in that his mother had been out of the apartment, so his father had picked up the phone. His dad had told Gee that he was alive, recovering slowly, and that he would most likely get in touch when he was ready. Gee and the boys had gotten restless waiting for him to reach out however, leading to his mother's angry outburst which he had walked in on the night before.


“Yeah, my bad. She's not my biggest fan right now, but what can I do? Your ass has been ignoring everyone.”


His mom would have hated Gee even more if she had known the extent of the story. Neither his mother or father had asked him any details of what happened that fateful night, but rather had formed a general idea of how events transpired. Open communication had never been their strong suit, and the three of them seemed to have forged an unspoken agreement that they would move on from this, carrying on as if it hadn't happened. After all, it was now in the past.


The fact was that he had been with Gee the night of the incident. The two of them had been passing a bottle back and forth by the baseball diamond at the park behind Rose Avenue Public School when all of it went into motion, and they had been separated when they scattered in opposite directions. Apparently by the time Gee had circled back to find him, a crowd had gathered and the paramedics were loading him into the ambulance.


“These guys want to see your beautiful face, bro. What should I tell them?”


“I don't know, man. Tell them what I told you. I'm laying low for a minute still,” he replied, knowing that it wouldn't be enough.


“You know how much trouble I went through to keep these guys from not just showing up there? They just want to see you and make sure you're good. No bullshit. I'll make sure to have you home at a decent time and everything.”


Showing his face for a little bit wouldn't hurt. After all, they were family. He made plans with Gee to see them early the following week.




The throbbing pain was persistently growing, and he moved away from the window to massage his temple. He contemplated taking another pill but decided against it. He figured he'd need to make them last as long as possible. The doctor had been reluctant to give him another prescription. He instead pulled on some clothes, turned off the lights, and sluggishly crawled into his bed.




An old Toyota Corolla sped into the circular driveway of his building, and Gee's lanky frame emerged from the driver's seat of the car that he had never seen before. He didn't ask where he had gotten it. Gee beamed at him, giving him a crushing hug, and turned his head to evaluate the damage. He had just gotten the stitches removed that morning, so the wound was scabbed over and discoloured. Gee exhaled sharply at the sight of the injury which looked beautiful in comparison to how it had a week ago.


Lying to his mother had made him feel guiltier than usual, especially when he saw the alarm on her face as he had told her that he was going out. He tried to reassure her saying that he felt cooped up in the house, and lied telling her that he was going to go out with his cousin who was a good kid and loved by their entire extended family. She hadn't looked convinced, but he had left before she could protest. The guilt coupled with the severe headache he was experiencing made him wonder if he had made the right decision in coming out.


As they drove down Markham Road, the radio was blasting at an almost intolerable volume. It wasn't helping his headache. Gee pulled out a pack of cigarettes, put one in his mouth, and then offered him one as well. He took it. He hadn't smoked since he had gotten out of the hospital. Lighting it, he inhaled deeply and immediately felt some relief. Driving in and out of traffic, Gee eventually took the on ramp to Highway 401 at a high speed, and they made their way into the city. As he blew smoke out of the cracked window, he felt his apprehensions slowly melt away. Maybe this was what he had needed.




As he lay on his side, making sure to keep pressure off the back of his head, his phone lit up like a beacon in the darkness, seeming to illuminate the entire room in a sickly shade of blue. With some effort, he reached over to his bedside table, picked up his phone, and turned it off without seeing who it was.




They arrived in St. Jamestown and went over to the apartment building that his friends were at. He was taken aback, as he opened the door to enter, by the rowdy yells of welcome. He wasn't able to fully enter the apartment for a few minutes as he was virtually mobbed at the door. Guys slapped him on the back, shook his hand, hugged him, made the occasional joke at his expense which led to the group roaring along in laughter, or just gave him well wishing words. Most of them were the regular crew he ran with usually, but a few older guys were there as well. If he were being perfectly honest at that moment, he felt like everything was back to how it should be.


Once the group settled back down on the couches and chairs of the otherwise bare room, all eyes turned to him. They wanted to hear the full story, something he had yet to repeat, even to himself. He hadn't given it too much effort and really was experiencing difficulty in recalling some of the exact events, something he had told the police when they had come back to the hospital to interrogate him. They hadn't been happy with that, thinking he was willfully being uncooperative, something he most likely would've been even if he could remember it all.


Someone passed him a red cup and he fleetingly considered turning it down. The alcohol probably shouldn't be mixed with the pain medication that he was on, but he realized that it had been a couple of hours since he last had taken one. He had felt that that was enough time for most of it to be out of his system. One or two, he told himself, reaching for the cup.


“I actually don't remember a lot of it...” he said aloud, trailing off.


“Yo chill, I got it,” Gee piped up from where he sat across from him, exhaling thick white smoke. “We were chilling at Rose Avenue by the baseball field. Three china man ran up on us. They had baseball bats...”


As Gee continued his story, he began visualizing what had happened from his own point of view. He wasn't sure if these were actually his own memories, or if he were experiencing that phenomena of subconsciously fabricating images to fit ones own assumed narrative, a practice not unlike that which people tended to exercise the day after a night of heavy drinking. Regardless, the images were flooding back seamlessly now.


He spotted the three men, two of whom were carrying aluminum bats, before they had gotten close enough to be an immediate threat. If it had been 15 minutes later in the evening, their approach would probably have gone unnoticed in the quickly fleeting light of the setting sun.


It took him a second to register that his friends and he had gotten into a drunken altercation with some Asian guys a week prior, probably over some prideful bullshit, and that the three approaching them now looked vaguely familiar. However, there was nothing vague about the looks of hatred and steely determination on their faces.


Shit,” he murmured out loud, and Gee looked up, following his line of vision to see the three getting closer, quickening their pace as they realized that they had been spotted. Gee and he both had small knives on them. They exchanged a look and knew that the modest weapons would be useless here. They would never be able to get close enough to be effective. There was only one option: run.


He jumped down from the bleachers as he heard yells behind him, knocking over the half-finished bottle of dark liquor and sending the empty one flying as well. Gee was the faster of the two, so sprinting away from the would be attackers, he realized that if his friend was not in front of him, that he most likely ran in a different direction. This wouldn't have been a problem if not for the fact that he heard the sounds of pursuit behind him. The attackers had chosen their target.


He ran towards the darkness of the shadows cast by the school building which was attached to the park, hoping to lose his pursuers. His mind was working furiously. If he could make it to the nearby complex of apartment buildings, they would never find him. He had spent enough of his life in these buildings to feel confident in that fact.


As he ran, his steps felt heavy and unnatural, the binge drinking taking its effect. He could still hear the chase behind him, but could not tell if they were getting closer. He knew better than to look back. He was gasping for breath, but knew that he could not stop. His chest felt tight, but he couldn't think of that now either. He had to keep running.


Hurrying around the corner of the building, he approached the fence that divided the schoolyard from the street and laboured to climb over it. The good news was that he was a mere 100 metres from the cluster of buildings that would be his sanctuary. Once he found a place of safety, he would be able to call his own people. He was so close.


Throwing his body over the fence, he landed awkwardly on the other side. Stumbling, he tried to gather his footing, but his balance was off and he fell. Hurriedly picking himself up, he silently cursed the liquor and again willed his legs into movement.


He didn't see the silver van's approach, but it sped past him and the doors slid open quickly. Two dark skinned Asian men jumped out and blocked the sidewalk in front of him. He froze. Looking past them he could see the lit path that would've taken him to safety. Now there was nothing he could do but steel himself for the fight.


He reached into his front pocket and pulled out the small knife, the adrenaline pumping in his veins, the sweat dripping off his face, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. His eyes rapidly went back and forth between the two before him, but they made no move towards him. This didn't make sense. One wasn't even looking at him, but at a point over his shoulder. He caught the eye of the other, this one casually surveying him with a confident smirk on his face.


He didn't register the footsteps approaching behind him until it was too late. He didn't have time to turn around, but heard someone half-spit out something venomous in what sounded like Vietnamese, before his entire world went black.


“...and by the time I came back around, 'nough people were standing around and the paramedics were getting ready to pull out.”


He realized vaguely that he had finished his drink and filled his cup once more at some point during his recollections, and was surprised to see that he was almost finished that one as well. The liquor was hitting him faster than he expected, but his headache was almost non-existent at this point. Feeling the familiar sensation of the alcohol taking effect, he gulped down the remnants inside his cup and reached for the closest bottle once more.


“Shit, I never thought they'd come down here and try this shit. These guys are west end mans for the most part,” his friend Dinesh said.


“For the most part.” The entire room quieted down as Thumba spoke up in their native tongue. He was older than the rest of them, belonging to the infamous generation that first grew up in Toronto. The actions of these select few was legend amongst younger Tamil guys such as themselves, a lot of whom tried to emulate them. When one of these guys came through, you showed respect; partly out of genuine reverence, but mostly out of fear.


“Word is one of the guys from the chin pack that got you lives here across the way,” Thumba continued locking eyes with him. Unnerved, he couldn't look away and tried to keep his face neutral as possible. He took another sip from his cup to give him something to do with his hands. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Gee lean forward to better hear. He didn't like where this was going.




He set the alarm for early in the morning. He needed to get down to the building's laundry room to wash his clothes before it got too crowded. He didn't want to risk too many eyes seeing his stained shirt and asking questions, or worse, reporting it. If he waited too long, chances are that his mom would find it too. It was the same reason he didn't want to risk washing it in the bathroom sink either.


After all, dried blood was difficult to get out of cotton.




They waited in the staircase. He hadn't meant to drink as much as he had, and he wondered if he'd have agreed to this had he been a drink or two less intoxicated. He could hear Thumba's cigarette burning as he smoked next to him, and he tried to push any apprehension out of his mind. He couldn't back out now and he didn't want to chance any uncertainty creeping onto his face. They were just going to send a message. That's it.


That's what Thumba had said to the group as they had listened to the older gangster. This was bigger than just an attack on him, Thumba had told his boys solemnly. This was about pride. This was about Tamils sticking up for their reputation. This wasn't revenge, it was standing up against outsiders so that they didn't think they could come at their people however they wished. It wasn't senseless; it was dutiful.


He had thought that it was a speech that should've been met with scoffing and disbelief. However, whether it was the free flowing alcohol and drugs, or whether they all felt a holistic pressure to conform fueled by an underlying fear of being the sole outlier to express reluctance, the group grumbled their agreement, some more enthusiastically than others. He did the same.


Now half of them waited in the silence of the 11th floor staircase of the building in which allegedly one of his attackers lived. The plan, as Thumba had outlined it, was simple: Dinesh stood at one end of the long hallway. He waited by the door that led to the staircase on the opposite side of the floor from them, where the other half of the crew lay waiting. When their target would get off the elevator, Dinesh would wait for its doors to close, then signal his boys who would rush the man. If all went accordingly, their prey would have no where to run but straight into the stairwell that he, Thumba, Sanjeevan, and some of the other guys were currently occupying.


Thumba finished the cigarette, and dropped it over the railing. He imagined it falling without obstruction for a few floors before landing somewhere on the stairs below, amongst a multitude of other used butts. He would rather focus on anything instead of the now sharp pain he felt inside his skull.


Gee cracked his knuckles beside him. They had been waiting for awhile, and there was no certainty that this guy would even come home tonight. How long were they to stay here? Maybe it would be best if he didn't show -- He suddenly focused and he felt the rest of the group tense up as well.


Beyond the closed door, he could hear commotion down the hallway. He could hear hushed voices trying to stay as quiet as possible, not quite succeeding. Several footsteps beat the ground as they ran. It was loud. It was too loud. Other residents would surely hear them...


Before he could give it another thought, the door in front of him crashed open and a dark skinned Asian man's startled face appeared. There was a moment when time seemed to stop as he stared down the man's eyes, which looked vulnerable and scared as they quickly tried to process the trap he had rushed into. He looked almost unrecognizable when compared to the comfortable, confident smirk that he sported the last time they had met. He saw fleeting recognition in the man's eyes before Thumba's fist cracked his head back, the sound of a nose breaking slightly echoed in the stairwell.


Everything sped up once more as someone struck the man from behind. The man stumbled forward, face first, and he caught him. Blood freely flowed from the man's nostrils, perhaps from his mouth as well, and he looked down at the new scarlet stain splotched on his chest. He pushed the man's body off of himself and it fell to the floor. It curled up into a ball almost instinctively, knowing what was coming. The group went to work mercilessly.


As he too stomped on the man's body, anger grew inside him. Any qualms he had felt beforehand had melted away at that moment as he grew into a rage he hadn't expected. As a few of them stopped kicking the man to look around or catch their breath, he continued. He bent down and began indiscriminately punching the body wherever he could land a blow.


After landing a few more strikes, he realized that he was the only one still attacking. He vaguely registered that some of the crew had taken off down the staircase before any potential witnesses worked up the courage to investigate the commotion, and a few others were standing by and watching him. He stopped, breathing loudly through his nose, and looked at them unseeingly.


Gee then grabbed his arm and prompted him to begin his escape. As he turned to run, he looked over his shoulder one final time at the scene. The man's blood looked bright against the cold concrete floor, a small puddle accumulating underneath him. He was no longer holding himself tightly in a ball, but rather lay there limp in a crumpled heap; unsettlingly grotesque, like a marionette that lay discarded carelessly by its puppeteer.


The burst of anger was now burnt out, and his stomach became uncomfortably tight as the stark reality of what they had just done hit him. As he bounded down the staircase with the rest of his boys, he noticed his hands out of the corner of his eye, following the railing as he made his descent. He quickly wiped the blood off of them on to his already soiled shirt.


The group spilled out the back door of the building into the night. Thumba grabbed the back of his neck almost affectionately one time before he too scattered like the rest of them. He took off in the opposite direction, following Gee's lanky frame as it ran ahead of him towards where they had parked the car hours before.


Gee looked back over his shoulder and his smile was obvious, even in the darkness of the night. He couldn't bring himself to return the smile. Instead, he tried to remember if the man's back had been gently rising and falling as he lay on the ground. As they arrived at the car, the knot inside his stomach tightened as he realized that he wasn't sure if it had been.




“No more,” he told himself for what felt like the twentieth time. His resolve was strong now, but resolve was a fickle thing. Time had a way of naturally weakening it. “Not this time.”


He thought of his mother once more as he closed his eyes, hoping to keep the unwanted memories from replaying in his mind. Rolling over, he propped his pillow up under his head for what would surely be the first of a series of restless nights.













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