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Authors: Francette Phal

Stain

BOOK: Stain
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STAIN

Francette Phal

All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher.

WARNING: This book contains graphic content which may not be suitable for sensitive readers.

 

 

Are you born with your demons? Sentient beings created from the very second of your inception. Or are they produced through experiences, molded and fed by time, dormant but vigorously flourishing inside the dark catacombs of your repressed memories until they become too much to ignore? Enlighten me, because my demons have become my neighbors. They’ve landed like pilgrims inside the New World of my being, settled there long before I knew their intention. They’ve consummated with my fear to create fictitious children that feel like relatives. They’re thriving in my bones, their lineage carved so deeply into the fibers of my being, nothing can uproot them now.   -Aylee Bennett

 

 

 

Chapter 1

Maddox

 

Before…

 

“Maddox…wake up.” I’m not sleeping. I don’t really sleep well anymore.

“Max…” I open my eyes and stare into darkness. My night-light burned out last week. I forgot to tell my mom to get me a new one. I wasn’t scared of the dark or anything, not like Noah is, but I’ve gotten used to having it on. We live with a monster.

I blink a few times to get my eyes to adjust before sitting up. It’s not pitch-black. The little bit of muted gray moonlight filtering through the curtains in my room lets me see Noah standing next to my bed. He looks scared, and I’m instantly on alert.

“Did he do something?” I brace myself for an answer I don’t want to hear but already know. If the monster preyed on my brother, it was only a matter of time before he came for me. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s always worked.

He shakes his head. “No, I haven’t seen him since…dinner.”

The pause shows he’s reliving what happened at dinner. Our mother took most of our father’s beatings. Tonight, it’d been bad. The worst in a long time. She’d needed to go to a hospital. Our father ended up calling the family doctor instead. Dr. Houston has treated all of us on various occasions. Our father pays him a lot of money to keep his mouth shut.

“What’s the matter then?”

“Didn’t you hear it?”

I stare blankly at him. “Hear what?”

POP!

POP!

POP!

The three rapid pops are muffled but clear enough that we hear it down the hall from our parents’ room. Sounds like fireworks, but we’re not stupid enough to actually believe that’s what they are. Sliding my blanket off, I swing my legs over the bed and hop off. It could be Mom. The thought causes my heart to lurch painfully against my chest. I hope it’s not her. She’s dealt with enough for the night. But hope is a luxury that has never benefited anyone in this family. I know, with dreaded certainty, that he’s done something to her. Sidestepping Noah, I rush to the other side of my bedroom. I kneel down in front of my dresser and pull open the last drawer. Removing the drawer completely, I place it next to me and reach inside the empty space. There’s a short, loose floorboard farther back, but still within my reach. My fingernails scrape the floor in an effort to get it to open. I’m a little anxious, so it takes me a few tries before I finally catch the opening. Setting the plank aside, my hand plunges inside the small opening. Cold metal greets my palm and fingertips as I pull it up to view.

“You have a gun? Where’d you get that?” Noah exclaims. He’s hovering over me, standing just to my left shoulder, close enough that I can feel his warmth on my back.

“A friend,” I say, my eyes locked on the weapon I’m holding. I got it from a kid at school two weeks ago. Five hundred dollars it cost me. I’d intended on saving that money to give to Mom so we could get the fuck out of this hellhole, but self-preservation pushed me to get the gun. I could protect Noah and Mom. That had been the only thought running through my mind when I’d bought it. It’s a .45. I don’t know what that means, but I’m both terrified and exhilarated having it in my hand. The weight is oddly comforting. I feel instantly powerful. Invincible.

“What are you going to do with it?” He’s dogging my footsteps as I make my way out of my room and step into the hallway. It’s brighter here than it is in my bedroom, but not by much. The light located directly over the staircase—straight down the hall—is on. It’s the only source of light. The green, worn-out carpet eats up the sound of my bare footsteps, but I’m not trying to be silent. I’m not trying to be careful. I might regret it later. He’ll probably beat me into the ground for being out of bed this late at night, for interfering into matters he would say weren’t my concern, but if he’s hitting her again, I have to do something. I won’t be a pussy like I was earlier tonight. I should’ve stood up to him when he’d started yelling. I should’ve done more than just sit in my chair and listen to him rage. Mom received his violence because she’d dared to put her foot down. For just a small second she’d grown a backbone and told him off. And in those small seconds I’d been so proud of her, and so in awe of her courage I’d wanted so badly to stand at her side and provide her the strength I know she needed. I wouldn’t have done much. I’m only twelve and barely weigh anything. But at least we would’ve stood in solidarity. I’d done it before. I don’t know why I hadn’t tonight. Even when his Hiroshima-sized rage detonated, obliterating my mother in the process, I knew I should’ve done something. I would fix that now. If he was hitting her…I’ll kill him.

“Protect us,” I finally answer.

I lengthen my strides, practically jogging now. I’m at their bedroom door before I can fully process my next thought. The door’s closed. A slight turn of the knob and small push opens it. There is something ominous in the air, and it’s so thick it makes it hard to breath. With the gun held firmly in my sweaty grip, I enter the room cautiously. The television they’ve put on their dresser is on; it’s on mute. It flickers whitish blue images from the screen onto the walls and furniture in the room, casting shadows. There’s no other source of light. I know Noah is right behind me, but it doesn’t lessen the dread swishing in my veins. My muscles are tight, my heart isn’t racing but the beats are inconsistent, throbbing to the rhythm of fear I know all too well. Stubbornness pulls me further into the room as my eyes dart around in search of my mom, or worse—my dad. There isn’t the usual chaos. No overturn furniture. No broken fixtures. No shattered bones. No crying. It’s quiet. Chillingly quiet. I raise the gun up when my eyes land on the mattress. It’s dad. My hand is shaking so badly I have to bring up my other hand to steady my aim. I approach the queen-sized bed he’s lying on.

“Is he sleeping?” Noah asks in a whisper, forever my shadow.

I don’t know. It looks like he is. He’s on his stomach, arms at his side, face buried in the mattress. There is a 50/50 percent chance he could be drunk or high, maybe even both. But when my eyes take in the dark pool on his pillow haloing his head I’m almost sure he’s neither of those things.

Fathers are supposed to protect you. They’re supposed to be supportive and loyal. They’re supposed to raise you, love you, and cherish you in spite of the mistakes you’re bound to make. They’re supposed to teach you lessons, steer you down the right path, discipline you when you do wrong, and allow you to learn from their examples. Our dad is none of those things. He is cruel and sadistic. There was no love to be found in a man like him. A man who is more demon than flesh and blood. He preys on us, feeds off of the fear he elicits like we are his own personal supply of food. His forms of affections are exhibited through fists like battering rams on fragile bones. My mother, my brother, and myself—no one is spared. No one is above his contempt. But in my opinion, the violence is far better than the perversions he forces us to commit. In the cellar, in a room that is as cold as a tomb, beneath scorching stage lights bright enough to blind there is a bed, a camera, and at times, my twin and I. He’s stripped us of so much more than our clothes. I shake my head to get rid of the disturbing images that pop up in my mind.

I look at him, stare unblinkingly at his body lying in a dark pool of his own blood. There’s no sorrow. No happiness. Not even a sliver of hate. I feel nothing for this man who’d emptied his dick inside my mom twelve years ago and contributed to mine and Noah’s conception. He means nothing to me. He’s never meant anything to me. The fact he’s dead is a huge favor on humanity. Good fucking riddance.

“Max…?”

I lower my gun. There’s no need for it now. “He’s dead.” There’s no sense of relief with that statement. But I frown as questions suddenly flood my mind. Is this a murder/suicide? Where is Mom? Is she…dead, too?

It’s the sound of water in the silence that has me racing for the bathroom connected to their bedroom. There’s a slice of yellow-orange light beneath the door that grows wider when I open it. The running water is coming from the bathtub, and it’s filled to the brim, overflowing on the tiled floor. She’s in there, lying in the tub, the water overtaking her pale, frail body. She’s naked so I can see the rainbow of purple, green, and pale yellow bruises mapped across her skin. Her arms are on each side of the tub, and in one hand she limply holds onto a gun. The gun she more than likely used to kill that predatory fuck.

“Mom,” Noah beats me in calling her name, the distress in his voice echoing my own silent one.

“Don’t come any closer,” she warns, her voice thin. She keeps her eyes closed and her head back against the tub. “Maddox?”

“Yes, Mom?”

She sighs, says nothing for a long time before finally speaking. “You’re the oldest. I pushed you out first. Three minutes before Noah came.” She sounds strange. It’s not just the weak whisper of her voice, but there’s something about it I can’t name. It makes her sound far away. Her body is physically here but her mind isn’t. I can’t blame her. She’s had to live with that fucker far longer than we did. Fifteen years of marriage to a monster was bound to take its toll.

Turning her head towards us now, her deep blue eyes open to look at me and Noah. The right one is swollen shut but the left is open enough to focus on us. “You were the stronger one. You’ve always been the stronger one...” Her voice catches like she’s going to cry. Like she’s been crying.

Depression.

That’s what that nameless something in her voice is. It’s her depression making itself known. She’s been on a cocktail of meds since I can remember, maybe even when she was pregnant with us. Xanax, Prozac, Lexapro, Lithium, the list goes on and on. They line the medicine cabinet behind me. All on very high dosages. I’ve taken some. Not for me, but to sell. That five hundred dollars I used to buy the gun came from selling her meds to the kids at school. There was a high demand for it, so I supplied it. That included mine and Noah’s Ritalin.

“I need you to continue being the stronger one, Max. You need to protect your brother. Keep him safe…like you’ve kept him safe all this time from your…from that monster.” There’s anger beneath the tears choking her. “I’ve failed you both for so long. I let him do things to you. God, what sort of mother am I to let all those things happen to you? My sweet, sweet boys. I’m so sorry I’ve failed you...I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry…” Sobs shake her body as she brings the hand carrying the gun to her head. I frown and watch her repeatedly hit the side of her head with it.

Noah moves ahead of me, running towards her, “Mom…”

“No!”

Her yell stops him in his tracks.

“My baby...my gentle, little Noah. Don’t…don’t come near me. I don’t want to taint you any more than we already have. Sweet little lamb. I’m so sorry, my child…”

“Mom, please.” Noah’s crying. A part of me wants to tell him to grow the fuck up. But I don’t. I don’t say anything.

“…I know it’s not much...” she sniffs, her eyes and cheeks as wet as the flooded floor. “I know it will never erase the scars. But…but he won’t hurt you boys anymore. And neither will I...”

Time moves slowly and then stops. She brings the gun to her mouth, closes her lips around it, and pulls the trigger. The blast sounds like thunder. It’s so loud it shakes the air around us. I watch in horror as her head comes apart. What was inside splatters and explodes everywhere, coating and spraying everything with brain matter, shattered bones, and blood. So much blood. It paints the wall behind her. I feel some of it hit my skin. There’s a sound so clear it manages to cut through the stillness. It’s Noah. He’s in the tub with her, his head is on her naked chest. Her body is slumped over, her head too. There’s a hole in it; the bullet made a clean exit. He’s bawling. I should get him out. I should comfort him. But I do neither of those things. I leave him alone. I let him grieve and head back into the bedroom. Something in the back of my mind tells me I should be crying, too. Nothing comes, except the sudden need to pee. I walk toward the bed, hop onto it, and stand over his body.

My gun still in hand, I pull down my pajama bottoms with the other, until they gather around my knees. I grab my dick with my left hand and aim for his head, and breathe out, “Fucker,” as hot piss sprays up and down his body until I’m done. But it’s suddenly not enough. This is too good for him. She gave him too easy of an escape. Tugging my pants back on, I get a stronger grip on my gun. It’s loaded. I’ve been practicing. After school, in the forest behind the old nursing home on Felton I’ve unloaded several clips in soda cans. I slide the safety off, and grip the gun so tightly, my entire hand turns white from the strain. Arms steady, breath slow, I aim the barrel down, in the vicinity of his ass, and without much thought, I fire. And fire. And fire. And fire. The force of each shot shakes my body, but I keep my hold firm, following through with each release of the trigger. It’s not until I hear the screaming over the click-click-click that I finally stop. I’m out of bullets. The screaming…I’m screaming. There are no tears. Just a terrible scream that comes from deep inside me, shredding my throat in its escape. It takes Noah’s arms around my middle, his head resting on my back, to make me stop.

“It’s over…” he says. “He can’t hurt us anymore. It’s over, Max.”

It would be so easy to believe him. Buy into the lie he weaves so well. But that’s always been Noah’s problem. He can escape inside his fantasies. He can make his own lies sound like truths. It’s the way he’s been able to cope. Me? I’ve never been so lucky. My beliefs are firmly fixed in reality. A shitty, fucked-up reality that I’ve never been able to run from. He says it’s over. It’s just the fucking beginning. This shit is going to be with us for the rest of our lives. Our father’s evil, our mother’s suicide, it all contributes to a stain we’ll never be able to wash off. 

BOOK: Stain
10.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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