You are a little soul,
Carrying around a corpse.
He was seated near the windows of his bedroom, gazing at the starry night, enamouring its boisterous calmness. There is something so vivid, so lucidly fantastical, about the stillness of the night. Gushes of sounds hushed periodically, revealing our thoughts, our actions, and us. The night sure does reveal us all.
Happy eighteenth birthday, he said to himself, continuing to sink in the darkness, as the clock struck twelve. And, just then, the door behind him opened.
“Happy birthday!” exclaimed his parents. He turned back to face his parents with a rather huge gift wrapped parcel. His mother hugged him and kissed his forehead, “May you receive everything you wish for.” Then, his father hugged him and said, “Look what we have for you here!” He stared at the parcel. “Why do you not find out?” and his mother handed him a knife with red ribbons tied around its greater thickness. A sudden flash of angst swept him, the reason was unexplainable. He rose to pierce through the parcel.
There they were. His want for years. His very own gaming console with his most sought after game. He hugged his parents, saying how happy he was and how fortunate he was to have them. But, somewhere, deep down, those were mere words to him.
After the birthday cake was tasted, his parents settled for the night. Then, he faced the gaming devices he received. Approaching them, he drew his hands out, and felt its exterior. Want for years. And now, he finally had it. His hands felt every part of it, savouring its corners, its curves, and its texture. The next moment, his eyes met the cover art of his coveted game.
It’s about time, he said.
The game started. It was of the first person shooter form. His favourite genre. The first level required him to rescue some hostages, and search for evidences. And, the game was known for the immersive experience it provides to its players, with believable screams, people, and case scenarios.
Hazing what separates us from them.
The latter levels were not much dissimilar. There, sure, was an interesting underlying plot, but that seemed to arrest the least of his attention. Motive did not matter to him. It never did. He played the game the entire day on his birthday, and had already completed seventy-six levels by the time it was two in the morning, the next day.
He was never the popular student in school, the popular member in the gang, the popular kid in the family. And, somehow, the thought of being so, eased him. There was a certain comfort in accepting the discomfort. There always is. The alluring acquiescence.
So, it was two in the morning, when he withdrew his headphones, and turned off his console. Stretching out his arms, his vision rested on the cold bed. Wanting for contact. And so, he proceeded to lie on it, concentrating on his deep breaths and faint sighs. Just then, he heard various kinds of screams, screams of different voices, squeals of different people. A sudden sweep of terror flashed through him.
And then, the sounds stopped. All at once.
I knew I should not have played that entire game at a stretch. Those voices are going to haunt me for a long, long time. Or will they?
With that, he retired for the night.
He was woken up by the afternoon sun, guiding his vision to the streak of luminescence by his side. He rose and noticed that his gaming console was actually on, with the game on pause. Ah, why am I always so tired and lazy?
He rose to wash his face, and he could not recognize the person in the mirror. He shrugged off the agitation that sensation gave him. Then, he unlocked the door of his bedroom. Still. Quiet.
He could not sense any movement, and somehow, he felt like he was on a mission. An undercover agent, trying to search for clues of presence. He proceeded to the refrigerator in the kitchen, for a carton of milk. Something eerie caught the corner of his eye, whilst opening the cupboard above for a box of cereal. The same angst. He turned in order to face the thing in question.
It was the opened door to his parents’ bedroom. It was the knob of the opened door. It was the red stain on the knob.
He rushed towards the door, only to enter into the room which, he could not believe, existed like it seemed to be. For there, on the wooden floor drenched with thick, dried blood, lied his parents. With their legs skinned hastily. And, the knife with red ribbons, was seated neatly on the bed, right at the centre, with two hearts on its either side. He slowly approached them, and noticed that their hands were held together. Kneeling down, in order to face their faces, he closed their opened, hollowed, eyes.
The uneasiness in him was no more. Nor was there any other emotion. Everything was so concrete for him. What was he looking for? What are we all looking for? Just then, he heard footsteps behind him, and the person whom he sensed, knocked him down with what seemed to be the grip of a handgun.
He woke up, only to find himself on a meagre hospital bed, a nurse by his side, and some doctors occasionally glancing at him and discussing, at a distance. “Wh”, he cleared his throat, “Where are my parents? What happened to them?” The nurse coldly rested her vision on him and responded, “Yes, they died. They were dead long before the police received an alert from your neighbours. Are you feeling alright? I hope you have not received further hallucinations.” He could not comprehend her, “What do you mean? What hallucinations do you speak of?”
“Well, I understand that you are under severe treatment. It is not uncommon for people suffering from schizophrenia to have hallucinations and haze what separates us from them.” What separates us from them. His life was playing in a loop. “Who ‘them’ do you speak of?” He was met with a cold stare, “Those who form your accepted reality.” “Wait, what do you mean? Are you of the opinion that”, and he stopped speaking, when it dawned upon him.
“He has not attended school for years, what do we do in order to help him?” his father asked. “How about making him accept himself and come to terms with the reality that all of us share?” Different doctors. Same old story.
Flash back to days ago, or months? Or was it years? “We should buy him that game, maybe he will be more responsive”, his mother suggested. He played the same game, every day, every month, for two years. The same levels on repeat. “I order you to shut down the game and go to sleep at once” his father shouted. “It is two in the bloody morning, and look at you.” He did not respond. “You are a disgrace. Why were you even born?” He gave his father a blank, peculiar stare, who left his room due to uneasiness.
So, he approached the kitchen when they were in their bedroom, and carefully tied the ribbons to the knife. “Son, what are you doing, I am so sorry, I did not mean to hurt you like that, you are hallucinating, and this is not your dream son! We are your parents, and we love you very, very much!” His father begged him, as he proceeded to stab him in his stomach. “And what will you do with a broken family”, he asked his mother. Then, he carved out their hearts, washing them clean, and placing them on the bed. Not so soon, he said, and then he started peeling off their skin.
And then, he slept. And resumed playing, for a month, until the neighbours complained of a foul smell from the apartment.
“I will miss you, mom, dad.” Just then, he saw his parents approach him. The nurse and the doctors were gone. The entire floor, empty. He hugged his parents, saying how happy he was and how fortunate he was to have them.
But, somewhere, deep down, those were mere words to him, weren’t they?