Insomnia

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, a cold chill running through my body while I’m left gasping for air, struggling to catch my breath. On nights like these, I always think to go to the kitchen, grab a snack, maybe even get some work done to prep myself for tomorrow’s meeting. I never manage to do any of those things though. I’ve never even been able to get out of bed until the sun’s begun to rise. Is it due to laziness? I’ve never been the lazy type. I waste time entertaining potential reasons, only to avoid accepting the truth. I’m too scared to move.

Time to officially start the day, I thought, hitting the button to silence my alarm clock. I hadn’t gotten any real sleep. I’d been laying awake since three in the morning. I turned my body, planting my feet on the hardwood floor while stretching my arms. After standing up. I looked around my room. It’s changed a lot over this past year. Gone was the twin sized bed tucked away in the left corner underneath the single room window, replaced with a queen-sized bed in the top center.

My girlfriend, Catherine, hated the way it used to look. She constantly made passive aggressive comments about my apartment. After months of wearing me down, new pieces of furniture eventually transformed my apartment into a place I could just barely recognize. With its minimalist design, most people would’ve called it boring the way it was. White walls, generic white furniture, nothing to give off any sense of personality. She’d often joked that I was living as though I were on the lam. Now, those plain white walls were the only thing that made me feel at home.

I followed the same morning routine that I’d created over the years. It was nothing different from what you’d expect from a twenty-eight-year old office worker. After getting dressed, I looked at myself in the full body mirror hung on the wall next to my bedroom door and couldn’t help but smile. After years of studying, my efforts paid off. Two weeks ago, I began working as financial advisor for a big shot asset managing company. Truthfully, I never expected to make it this far.

I stepped out into the hall, taking a small sigh of relief. Naturally, nothing out of the ordinary. I walked through the hall over to the open-concept living room, subconsciously surveying the apartment along the way to make sure nothing’s changed.

As I planned my first meal of the day, I heard a sound just around the corner. It was quiet at first, someone attempting to open the front door. Then, the sound changed from a jiggling doorknob to a loud bashing against the wooden door. Unsure of what to expect, I reached for the knife block set on the counter, gripping one of the thirteen handles. I held my breath as the ramming continued.

Crash!

The door flew open, hitting the nearby wall.

“God Dammit!” A familiar female voice blurted out loudly, instantaneously causing me to let my guard down, releasing the knife handle. The aggravated voice belonged to the short-haired blonde, Catherine.

“There you are,” Catherine shouted as she came around the corner to find me standing there, “What the hell Kevin?! Why didn’t you come and open the door?!”

I hastily came back with, “That would defeat the purpose of the key I gave you. Why didn’t you try using that?”

Wrong answer, I derived from her evolving look of fury.

“I did! I’ve been telling you to get that damned door fixed for weeks now! You know what? Just forget it,” she said with a frustrated sigh, following up with, “Did you eat yet?”

I shook my head saying, “I was just about to get something.”

She lifted her hand and dropped a plastic bag onto the counter. It was full of food from my favourite diner.

“I thought we might have breakfast together. We haven’t seen each other much since you started your new job,” she said as she carried the bag over to my dining room table, bringing out the food along with some cheap plastic cutlery.

Catherine and I had known each other since middle school, where we’d constantly get on each other’s nerves. It was the talk of the school when people found out we’d started dating. Lately though, it feels like we’re constantly at each other’s throats for some reason.

Sitting across from each other, we both quietly ate our breakfast. She’d bought my favourite, French toast with scrambled eggs. For herself, a basic fruit salad.

“Look Kev,” she started, putting her fork down before continuing, “I understand that you’ve been under a lot of stress since you got your new job but lately, you’ve been so spacey. It’s becoming a serious problem,” she picked her cellphone, holding it in my face with the front facing camera turned on before commenting, “I mean, have you even looked in a mirror recently? You look like shit.”

There was no arguing that point. The dark circles under my eyes were becoming more noticeable each day. Still, it would be too hard to explain exactly what’s been wrong with me lately. I haven’t even figured it out for myself yet. I decided it best to just go along with the excuse she presented.

“I’m sorry Cat. This job turned out to be tougher than I’d expected. That’s no excuse though. We haven’t been on the same page lately and I need to fix that,” I spoke clearly.

My answer wasn’t really a lie. Joining such a powerful company didn’t come without its own sense of pressure. For all I knew, my recent step up the corporate ladder could be the source of my problems. Regardless, I need to fix things if I want to keep Catherine around. A coincidental glance at my watch let me know that I was running late.

“Crap! I have to get going,” I said standing up, taking the last piece of French toast to go.

Catherine followed me to the front door, waiting for a kiss goodbye as I picked up my briefcase off the floor. Pulling me back towards her, she pressed her lips against mine.

“I know I’m asking the impossible here, but try to take it easy at work today, ok?” She asked as she began pushing me out the door.

“I’ll try, but I wouldn’t bet on it happening,” I joked on my way to the elevator.

“I’ll be here to help you de-stress when you get back then. We can watch a movie or something,” she suggested.

I set one foot into opened elevator while responding, “Sounds good,” before getting in completely, the door shutting behind me.

Knowing that Catherine was in my corner made me feel a lot better. I’d always heard about that positive energy love can make you feel and at that moment, I was feeling it. Not even the daily morning commute had managed to bring me down.

I was one subway stop away from work when a loud incoming voice called out, “Hey, Kev!” while shuffling through the crowded train car.

It took a minute of wading through people but as I’d suspected, the voice belonged to my co-worker, Stan. Even though he’s barely known me for more than a week, he already loved to act like we’re best friends. He wasn’t the worst guy in the world to talk to but every now and then, I’d feel this sudden urge to want to punch him in his perfectly chiselled jaw.

“Cuttin’ it close today, aren’t ya Kev? Better not make a habit of this,” Stan joked after closing our distance.

“Isn’t this around your regular time getting to the office?” I replied wittily.

Stan gestured two finger guns towards me, responding, “You got me! Just keeping you on your toes bud.” The train’s shaking as it pulled into the station nearly caused Stan to fall over afterwards, much to my own amusement.

Exiting the station, our office building was in clear sight across the street. Thanks to the short walk, I didn’t have to listen to much of Stan’s obnoxious small talk. Not even a minute after stepping foot into the building, he disappeared from my side, latching onto a bigger social group.

My office was all the way up on the twenty-second floor. The view was amazing, not that I ever had time to enjoy it. Almost immediately after sitting down at my desk, a pile of documents was brought in and piled on top of it. By noon, I was already feeling exhausted.

“How’s our youngest advisor doing today?” a voice by the door asked. The husky voice belonged to Rudolf Greyson, the company’s unlikeable owner.

“I’m doing my best sir,” I replied casually, looking up from my desk.

Dissatisfied with my answer, Rudolf sternly stated, “We took a gamble bringing on someone as young and inexperienced as you. If your “best” fails to meet our standards, I can assure you that you’ll need to think up some new career choices.”

Biting my tongue, I muttered a frustrated, “Yes sir.”

Carrying a smug expression, Rudolf promptly left my office. Is he serious? As if I wasn’t under enough stress, his generic threats weren’t helping. Stan warned me about my new jerk of an employer though so at least I wasn’t being singled out. Following shortly after Rudolf’s exit, Stan peeked his head into my office.

“Heyyyyy buddy. The big man didn’t make you cry, did he?” he asked jokingly, making a pouty face.

“Obviously not,” I picked up a paperclip and threw it towards him, Stan dodging it reactively.

Stan strutted into my office, returning the paperclip to me before planting firmly on my desk. “Wanna grab lunch?” he asked, his eyelashes fluttering.

“Cut it out man. I can’t imagine how many girls have shivered after hearing those words from your mouth.” I retorted, setting my pen down on my desk.

“When it’s said using this angelic voice, girls do a lot more than just shiver,” Stan replied, following up on his gross statement with a wink. I instinctively made a disgusted face, proceeding to stand up and leave.

As much as I preferred to distance myself from Stan’s ever-inflating ego, I couldn’t deny the fact that Stan was my only friend here, a valuable resource in this place. Deep, deep down, I could tell that he was a good guy. At least, that’s what I’d tell myself whenever I felt the urge to deck him.

Recently, Stan and I headed over to a newly opened café close to a nearby shopping mall. As we ate our meals, I caught Stan staring at me a few times, inspecting my face.

“Something up?” I inquired, trying to disguise my irritated tone.

Raising his hand to his chin, Stan suddenly asked, “Just wondering, how’ve you been?”

“Huh? I’m fine, I guess. Same as usual,” I stated swiftly.

“Really? Because you look like crap,” He boldly argued, taking a sip of coffee.

“Lunch with you is always a pleasure Stan.” I commented with a clearly fake smile, resorting to sarcasm.

Laughing a bit, he continued, “I’m serious Kev, I haven’t seen that “starry-eyed, small town kid in the big city” look that you brought to the office when you first started, not for a while now.” He put his elbows on the table, crossing his fingers in front of his face. “That feisty blonde hasn’t been given you trouble, has she? Do I need to have a talk with her?”

My rough patch with her certainly hasn’t been helping things. There’s no way I was about to tell him that. Stan and Cat have only met a few times and it always ends the same way. Stan tries to flirt, Cat shuts him down. joking with me about it afterwards. I trust her so it’s not like I’ve ever been worried, but I’d hate to tempt fate by making Stan think there’s an opening.

“It’s nothing like that, really. I just haven’t been getting much sleep lately,” I responded with bravado, hoping to end this line of questioning.

He looked at me for a while, assessing my answer before posing the question, “Is this job too much for you?”

“Excuse me?” I questioned, expecting a different outcome.

“I said, is this job too much for you? Forget about old man Greyson’s bullshit threats or anything else that might alter your decision. Is this job more than what you think you can handle?” he asked with a unrecognizably serious tone.

The way he worded the question forced my conviction to waver. I hesitantly said, “Yes, of course.”

Sensing that my armor had been cracked, he continued, “When people decide to go into business, all they see is six figures. It sounds great but if there’s one thing you should know, it’s this: financial stability only comes at the cost of mental stability. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice one for the other, then get out while you can.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but Stan was right. If the pressure was already getting to me, there’s no way I’d make it until retirement. Giving up now would spare me a lifetime of misery.

“I won’t quit,” I stated, a grin slowly forming on my face. “Honestly, I can’t quit. I’ve already sacrificed way too much just to get here. If I don’t finish going down this path, there is no other.”

Having said my piece, I got up and left without another word. I could hear Stan calling after me, but I refused to be dragged back into that awful lecture. The entire interaction weighed heavily on me for the rest of my work day, causing it to drag on even longer than usual. I carried myself back to my apartment to find Catherine waiting for me on the living room couch. We enjoyed a movie together on her laptop and before long, it was time to sleep.

“Thanks for coming over tonight Cat, I needed this.” I said, trying not to sound too needy.

“I love you Kevin,” she said in her sweetest voice. “Get some rest.”

I stared at my alarm clock, watching the numbers instantaneously change. 1:54 AM, 2:20 AM, 3:00 AM. Another sleepless night. Giving up on sleeping for now, I managed to slide off the bed and creep over to the bedroom door without waking Catherine. I creaked it open slowly, just enough to get myself through.

After a flawless exit, I turned myself away from the door only to notice something strange about the hallway wall. Distorting the perfectly painted white wall was a dark spot. I touched the spot out of curiosity, resulting in the tip of my finger being coated as well. Blood? With the lights off, it was hard to tell exactly what I was dealing with, but it soon became clear that this wasn’t a singular anomaly. Next to it was another spot, forming a trail leading to the hallway before turning into a dragged smear along the latter half of the wall. The liquid trail ended at the living room’s entrance.

Taking a step into the room, my foot landed in a thick puddle. Even amidst the room’s darkness it was easy to make out what was in front of me. A person, lying in a puddle of what I was now certain was blood.

“What the fuck?!” I couldn’t help but say out loud, quieting my voice afterwards to avoid waking up Catherine.

After a moment of processing the scene, I inched towards the unmoving body. Thanks to the blanket covering everything but their ankles, it was impossible to make out any defining characters. It may have been a delay from the shock, but a revolting odor struck my senses. It was the smell of rotting flesh. This body had been lifeless, likely for a long time. The stench only became stronger as I drew closer to the corpse.

Cupping my mouth and nose with one hand, I gave the lifeless flesh an apprehensive nudge. No response, as expected. I then reached for the blanket, sheepishly uncovering them from the left side. As the left side of their face became visible, I noticed an unnerving grin on the deceased.

“Boo,” the seemingly dead stranger said, their eyes still closed.

I fell backwards, muffling my fear-filled yell with my hands. Laughing maniacally, the corpse lifted its back off the ground, tossing the blanket aside before turning its head to face me.

“That was too satisfying! It was totally worth all the blood loss,” The reanimated man claimed, holding his bloody arms up as more continued to drip from his numerous scars. “What’s the matter Kev? You remember me, don’t you?” Once he was up on his feet, the room began to feel cold as everything became lost in a thick haze. “I know it’s been a while but I’m sure there’s no way you’d ever forget meeeee.”

I made a loud gulp as I swallowed. A good look at his face let me know exactly who he was. No, it wasn’t his face, it was the ligature marks around his neck. Those were the marks I left after mercilessly strangling someone, my best friend.

“Jay…why are you here?” I asked, looking up as he loomed over me.

“Revenge.” He answered coldly.

With a snap, there was a constricting feeling around my throat. Following that, I was forcefully pulled into the air. Jay smirked as a rope appeared as if from nowhere in his hand, leading upwards towards my neck. This was a noose designed just for me. I began gasping for air, grabbing at the tightened rope. The harder I struggled, the tighter I could feel the rope coil around me. I couldn’t resist it much longer. Everything was beginning to feel hazy. The only sound I was able to hear was the sound of my own choking but soon, even that was drowned out by the eerie silence of near-death. The sensation of not feeling anything was terrifying, yet oddly comforting.

Everything went black.

“Wakey, wakey. We aren’t done yet Kevin,” a familiar voice stated in a playful tone.

I’d barely started to regain feeling in my body before feeling a sharp, open palmed slap to the face. The reacting jolt my body went through made it clear that I was no longer hanging. Instead, I found my hands and legs to be completely bound to one of my dining room chairs.

I coughed and gasped while attempting to catch my breath, weakly asking, “I’m…alive?”

“Watching you die like that, I realized how easy I was letting you off,” Jay explained, his tone suddenly shifting to a deeper pitch. “For everything you’ve done, you deserve to suffer for as long as possible.”

Everything I’ve done. There was no need for him to say anymore than that. He wanted to take it all away from me. The life that was meant to be his.

“Fuck you.” I said calmly.

Jay smirked, delighted by my response. “You wouldn’t be the same Kevin I knew if this was enough to break you.” He turned his back to me, gesturing a wave as his body began to disappear. “We’ll be spending a lot more time together soon, so I’ll let you go for now. I’m sure you’ll be busy cleaning for quite a while and it’s almost morning,” his voice echoed in my head.

The ropes bounding me to my chair disappeared along with him. I would’ve dismissed the entire sequence as a dream, if not for all the blood on my floors. I needed to clean all of this up before Catherine wakes up and sees it. There would be no way to explain. Grabbing a clean cloth from the kitchen, I got down on the floor and began wiping. 

This blood belongs to Jay. He and I grew up together. Back then, I’m sure he would’ve described us as best friends. I’m sure no one else saw us like that though. In the eyes of everyone else, I was just one of his followers, a sidekick doomed to walk in his shadow. Catherine loved to revise history, but even she looked down on me back in the day. It was only after Jay died that the two of us began to even get along properly.

Soon after I finished wiping up all the blood, I immediately felt sick. Rushing over to the bathroom, I couldn’t hold myself back from throwing up. I’d done what I could to get rid of the smell Jay left behind but it still lingered within the strong smell of air freshener Id finished washing my face and brushing my teeth before looking at myself in the mirror. This life is mine.

I returned to my room, the sun already coming in through my window. After spending my night wrapped within a living nightmare, I was dreading work now, more than ever. I laid next to Catherine, watching her as she slept.

As if she could feel my gaze, Catherine’s eyes opened. “When did you wake up?” she asked, nuzzling up against me.

“Just a little while ago. I’m still feeling pretty tired though,” I said with a chuckle, attempting to sound sincere.

Sitting up, she leaned over to give me a good morning kiss before commenting, “You must not have slept well then, your eyes are looking heavy. Maybe you should try seeing if you could get today off?”

“You know I can’t do that,” I lashed out, getting up. “I need to start getting ready now.”

Assuming my prick of a boss would even allow me to stay home, I’d likely be doing exactly what Jay wants. Jay wants to pull me away from everything I’ve worked for, starting with my career. The rest of the morning with Catherine was quiet. I didn’t mean to snap at her. I wanted to take it back. The look on her face however, it frightened me. Talking to her now seemed like it could only lead to her leaving me, the last thing I wanted.

“Oof, a rough morning for the lovely couple.” Jay observed, appearing beside me as I waited for the elevator.

“That’d make you happy, wouldn’t it?” I responded with a question. “This fight only happened because of you.”

“You’re not really blaming this on me, are you Kev?” He said with a sly smile, following me into the elevator, standing right next to an unsuspecting tenant. “It might’ve sounded a bit crazy, but you could’ve told Catherine the truth about last night.”

I waited until I was alone outside to continue the conversation. “You expect me to tell her about a ghost trying to ruin my life? After last night, I’d never involve her in something as dangerous as dealing with you.”

Jay shrugged his shoulders, letting out a sigh. “I guess you’re right. Catherine learning about the ghost of her first love would be far too dangerous, for you at least.”

“Just fuck off!” I shouted angrily with my eyes shut tightly, making a slight scene outside of the train station.

There was no response. When I opened my eyes, Jay wasn’t even there anymore. The awkward stares my outburst had earned me burned. The worst reaction might’ve been the mother escaping the scene while pulling her daughter along with her, as if I were some sort of monster. The looks on their faces were stuck on my mind for the rest of my trip. Beyond embarrassment, I was frustrated with myself. This was exactly what Jay wanted. I knew that and yet I still let him get to me.

By the time I’d gotten to work, I’d freshly resolved myself to survive this ordeal. Talking to Jay was not going to work in my favour, not when he knows most of my insecurities. If he’s already decided not to kill me though, attacking me passively with his words is really all he can do. Just ignore him, I thought to myself as I worked diligently at my desk. It seemed to be working well. Aside from a bit of child-like prodding, Jay eventually grew tired went silent once more.

After a weak knock at my door, a meek voice spoke, “Um Kevin, Mr. Greyson wants to see you in his office.”

“Shit,” I muttered. “Thanks Patricia. Did he sound upset?”

Patricia made a vague expression, giving me no real answer. I thanked her for the heads up anyway, I headed to the elevator, going up another four floors. It was a short trip down the hall to Mr. Greyson’s office. I passed by Stan’s office along the way, prompting him to make various goofy and obscene gestures as I passed by. I gulped, hesitantly knocking on Mr. Greyson’s door at the end of the hall.

“Come in,” Rudolf ordered.

I entered the room, instantly spotting but trying not to react to Jay, who was standing behind the chair Mr. Greyson was seated in.

“Hurry along, take a seat,” Rudolf said, sounding typically irritated as he pointed to the chair in front of his desk.

I took my seat, keeping my eyes on my boss rather than the grinning apparition standing over him.

Mr. Greyson started with, “I’m impressed Mr. Lancer. I’m certainly impressed.”

“With what, sir?” I reluctantly questioned.

Rudolf reached into his desk, taking out a sheet of paper and sliding it across his desk towards me. “If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being made to look like an idiot.”

Still unsure, I simply gave a confused look.

Mr. Greyson violently slammed his hand down on his desk. “Damn it Kevin, answer me! Kevin? Kevin?!” As I listened to him call my name repeatedly, I watched as both his tone and expression softened.

“I’m sorry sir!” I finally shouted in a panic.

Looking at me with concern, he placed his hand on his forehead “Damn it all Kevin, you’ve been staring off into space for the last minute and a half. I was about to call someone to come and take you out of here,” He explained.

I let out a tired exhale. I quickly began apologizing, “I’m so sorry sir. I can’t really explain what happened.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that too much Mr. Lancer, you’ll have the rest of the day to figure out how to put it into words. I’m sending you home for the day,” He stated, sending me off with a slight hand wave.  “Unpaid, of course.” He cheekily added, once I’d stood up to leave.

Jay stifled his laughter, mimicking Mr. Greyson’s wave as I left through the door. There was little doubt in my mind that I’d only be coming in tomorrow to clean out my desk Today was easily becoming the worst day of my life. I heard Stan calling after me but there was nothing he could say that would make me feel even the slightest bit better. Ignoring him, I got into the elevator, getting out of the building as fast as possible.

I walked. I didn’t have a destination in mind, but I just kept walking. I eventually took a turn onto a backstreet where it seemed that a lot of joggers were passing through. Needing a moment to re-evaluate, I took a seat on a nearby park bench.

“Looks like you’re havin’ a tough day, sport.” Jay observed, suddenly appearing next to me.

“You did it, didn’t you?” I interrogated, keeping my voice low to avoid attracting attention.

“Did what?” he kicked his legs playfully as he feigned ignorance.

I clutched the end of the bench with both hands. “You cost me my job,” I accused, gritting my teeth.

“It was never your job to begin with!” Jay shouted, beginning to lose his carefree composure. “That job, your life, it all belonged to me!”

Feeling as though I’d finally gotten under Jay’s skin, I chuckled. “Then I guess it’s a really good thing you weren’t around to claim any of it.”

For a moment, it looked as though I could see literal fire in his eyes as he stared at me. Then, there was nothing.

“You must be worried about going to Cat, aren’t you? She won’t be happy to hear that you lost your shot at a stable future. I know she won’t be surprised though, she always did have especially low expectations for you,” he said with a smile.

Not saying anything, I got up and began walking home. There was nothing I could come back with when I knew Jay was just telling the truth. Facing Cat after this would be difficult. With all the problems we’ve been facing since I’d gotten this job, the fact that I couldn’t even keep it in the end would only make me look like an even bigger asshole.

The usually long trip home never felt shorter than it did today. Reaching my floor, I let out a heavy sigh. Walking through the hall, I could already hear Cat’s voice in a hushed tone.

“It’s show time,” Jay announced as he followed behind me.

I planned to turn around and respond but before I could, a second, unfamiliar voice answered Cat’s in an equally hushed tone. Suspecting it might be Jay, I turned back only to witness him starting to cackle evilly. Speeding up, I walked towards the source of the voices.

What the hell? I asked myself, coming upon my already opened front door. I swung the door open, where I found Cat in the embrace of a taller, larger, male’s frame. It was Stan. I don’t know why but when I saw Cat’s tear-filled eyes as she turned to me, I completely lost it.

“Stan, you bastard!” I shouted as I flew into a rage, running at him.

“Kev, what the fu–,” before he could even finish speaking, I had Stan by the collar, punching him without restraint.

“Kevin, what the fuck are you doing?! Stop!” Cat cried, shocked by my actions.

“Really Cat? It had to be this guy?” I looked back at her, visibly hurt and angry.

Seizing the opportunity, Stan managed to break free and return the punch I delivered with even more force behind it, flooring me.

Blood running from his nose, Stan fixed his collar. “I came here looking for you, asshole. I wanted to make sure you were ok after the incident with Rudolf and to get your side of things! Y’know what though? Fuck it. Letting you go was obviously the right move. You need help.” After explaining, Stan gave me a swift kick to my side before saying goodbye to Cat and making his exit.

Cat kneeled beside me as I held my side in pain. “Stan came looking for you after you left the office. He told me what happened at work. What the hell is wrong with you Kev?”

“It wasn’t that big a deal Cat, I just spaced out for a few seconds,” I stated, staring up at the ceiling.

“I don’t just mean at work. I saw you last night, talking to yourself. I even heard you throwing up in the bathroom. Are you on drugs or something?” she asked in all seriousness.

I looked away from her, barely saying Jay’s name before cutting myself off.

Cat sighed, standing up. “I called your dad. He’ll be here tomorrow morning to take you home. Just…get better Kevin.” Cat got up to leave, struggling to properly close the door on her way out.

I laid on the floor for most of the night. All I could think about was how badly I was screwing up my own life. The few times where I’d manage to drift off to sleep, Jay made sure to wake me up with his mocking. Before I knew it, morning had come around once again. When my father arrived, he made a point of speaking as little as possible. Sitting next to him in the car, I noticed Jay sitting the backseat, seemingly enjoying the ride.

“Dad…” I finally called out, trying to initiate a conversation.

“Your mother would be so disappointed,” he blurted out, chastising me.

“Well mom has been dead for over fifteen years so that really isn’t at the top of my list of worries,” I answered, rolling my eyes as I looked out the car window.

“Thank God she isn’t. This would’ve broken her heart. All those years of schooling for you to get fired? You’ve always been such a fucking screw-up but here, I finally thought you were becoming a man. You sure proved me wrong,” he continued, lecturing me.

I sank into my seat as I listened to my father express his disappointment in me. It was a long three hours. The familiarity of my hometown was almost frightening. I’d spent so long wishing to get away from this place and now, thanks to my own actions, I’m back. Arriving at my old house was even more nostalgic. Stepping through the front door almost felt like walking through a literal door to the past.

Hanging up his jacket, my dad instructed, “You’ll have to sleep in Champ’s room.”

“Seriously? Since when does a dog need an entire room for itself?” I asked, annoyed by the news.

“It used to be your room,” he said, walking into the kitchen. “I should’ve realized there was no way you’d make it out there.”

Reaching into the cupboard, I watched my dad pull out a package of dog food, filling the bowl on the floor. Soon after, an overweight pug jauntily descended the stairs, entering the kitchen. My dad got Champ soon after my mom died. I was happy for him at first but eventually, Champ became like the son he’d always wanted, leaving me with role of leech, despite being a child. Being jealous of a dog was certainly one of the less proud moments in my life. Not wanting to bear witness to my dad doting on a dog, I decided to check out my former room

It smells in here. Unsurprising, Champ had truly claimed this room for himself.

“Gross! Hard to believe this was ever your room,” Jay commented, holding his nose.

Sighing, I took a seat on the bed. “Maybe for you. I’ve lived this life for a long time after all.”

Sitting beside me, Jay patted my back. “Poor guy. That’s totally a good reason for killing your best friend,” he said, pretending to console me.

“Best friend? I hate you. I’ve always hated you! You lived this perfect, easy life and you totally took it for granted!” I stood up, turning to him as I ranted, “I worked just as hard as you, accomplished everything you did and yet, still, nobody ever cared! Fuck you Jay. I’m glad you’re dead. I’m glad I killed–.”

“Kevin!” My dad shouted, standing in the doorway. “All this time and you’re still worked up about Jay.”

“But dad, he–.” I tired to explain.

My dad interrupted, completely shutting me down. “Enough!”

Without saying any more, he simply walked away, eventually leaving the house. I was used to him ignoring me, but his absence was something entirely different. Between Jay, Champ and my own stirring feelings, it was another night of almost no sleep. The next morning, my dad broke the seemingly never-ending silence.

“We’re going for a ride,” He stated, not following it up with anything else.

“Kevin, it’s obvious now that I failed you in many ways as a father,” he said as we drove towards an area I was unfamiliar with.

“I can’t argue there,” I joked, waiting for a reaction.

Ignoring my passively aggressive joke, he continued, “I knew you were hurting when Jay died. You weren’t sleeping, you barely ate, it was like a part of you died. Still, I didn’t do anything to help you. I just waited for you to get over the whole thing on your own,” he reached out with hand, putting it on mine, “I wasn’t much better when your mother passed either. I was wrong.”

“Dad, where are we going?” I asked, becoming increasingly alarmed.

“This place will help you, I promise,” he answered, pulling into a parking lot. Cat was there, waiting for us.

Looking up at the sign, my fears became realized. “Dad, a fucking rehab centre?! I’m fine, I swear!”

Ignoring my pleas, he got out of the car. A few workers came around to my side, escorting me out of the car and into the rehab centre. Everything moved so quickly that it felt like a blur. Before long, I found myself in a small room with only one small window and a nearby bed.

“Welcome to your new home!” Jay exclaimed, hopping onto the bed. “Honestly, not too different from your old place, is it?”

I shook my head quickly, looking at the locked door. “I won’t be here long. I’m not crazy,” I stated confidently.

Jay laughed hysterically. “Just try telling them that. The only way you’re getting out of here is if I go away and we both know, I’m never leaving your side.”

I stared at him as the cruel reality began to dawn on me. Through the small window on the door, I could see my dad. Beside him, Catherine. Though I couldn’t hear their voices, the looks of sadness they shared told me everything. They were grieving. The Kevin they’d both loved was already dead to them.

“You’ve finally lost it all Kev. All that’s left now is that peaceful, ever-lasting rest. Don’t worry though, I’ll make sure to keep you awake for a long time to come.


 

Short Stories

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