Jared had never been assaulted by his father until now. For the most part, encounters lasted twenty minutes or so with some alcoholic fueled rant, and then he would help his father down the stairs into the basement. On some nights, a few hours later, Jared would go to check on him just to make sure that he wasn’t dead. And he would find his dad seated on the concrete floor tying off and shooting up. On one night, Jared recalled good Old Chucker looking up at him and smiling after he shot the remnants of the blood that was still in the syringe on the ceiling.
It was the cruelty that Jared never understood. It was not his father, he swore he gazed into the eyes of a creature. In health classes, Jared learned a little about alcoholism and drug use, but scoffed at the idea that his father, the Judge, ever fit that description. To him, it was obviously okay that his dad was doing what he did, but tonight that rationalization quivered as much as he did as his head bled through his hair.
Jared was petrified. He wasn’t going to assist this crazy monster to his den of sin. Jared had enough. He wanted his mom to find him, to see this for herself. Whether she knew it or not, Jared didn’t care; he couldn’t handle it anymore. He shuffled into the second floor bathroom and wiped his face and looked at the side of his skull above his ear. Once it stopped bleeding, he made his way upstairs to his bed. To some extent he felt relieved that finally someone would see his dad; catch him red-handed. Regardless, the thought only provided a brief respite as he began to sob and pass out from exhaustion.
The morning arrived and Jared awoke with a few seconds delay, remembering what had occurred last night. As the sleepiness subsided, every image from the debacle flashed in his mind. Jared met his day frightened, depressed and anxious. As he apprehensively headed to the kitchen, he realized that there was no mess or sign of a struggle. It was sparkling clean. His mother was convivial, Susan was grabbing some OJ, while his father strolled in, freshly shaved, dressed in a tie and quite cheery.
“Hi Jared, morning!” Mr. Sutton said.
“Good morning, Darling!” echoed his mother.
“Mornin’,” Jared mumbled.
It wasn’t unusual to see things completely turnaround the next day like a sitcom on a sound stage. But Jared thought last night was the last straw; surely, his mother would see everything. Alas, Mr. Sutton was not completely out of commission. At some point in the early hours, Charles would come to and very fastidiously mop up the disaster zone created by his previous solo missions. Charles Sutton emerged from the laundry room a half-naked staggering junkie and transformed into an upstanding man in a matter of a few hours. It baffled Jared. But it was taking its toll.
It was another awful day in high school for Jared. As he walked through the halls from class-to-class, the low hum of constant anxiety kept him agitated or depressed. What made things worse is that he was a likable kid; most people gravitated to Jared because of his gentle demeanor. He scarcely swore, was kind to everyone, and enjoyed helping people. Very often, Jared would tutor students in English classes as only a sophomore because he loved writing, or goofed around with kids from the football team to the theater club. He was a great athlete but was never arrogant and he genuinely relished in the spirit of competition. All this while he was barely holding onto his sanity on a daily basis.
After last night, something inside him was sour. It started in his belly, rose into to his esophagus and stung the back of his tongue. It was a pleasant taste, oddly acquired like black coffee. He was distracted by anger yet comforted in waves of feelings that resolution was on the horizon. Jared was eventually preoccupied with a plan he had yet to follow through with even before he knew the details. He knew something was going to happen—things had to stop.
Getting home from school, Jared got a snack, watched some TV with his sister and then started his homework. A couple of hours later his father got home. The family sat down for a nice dinner. It was so mundane and normal that it made Charles Sutton’s behavior all the more bizarre, especially juxtaposed to the reality of when he retreated to the laundry room like Gollum hours later. Jared couldn’t help looking at his father as he ate. The thought that he would be awoken once more and be forced to help his father walk around like some orderly of an asylum, enraged him. Looking at the way he chewed, the masticated salad flashing between his lips, the glistening saliva around his mouth, and the way he breathed through his nose when he smiled, all disgusted Jared. It was watching a performance; this was the dinner scene.
Under the covers, Jared stared at the ceiling. It was 9:30 pm and he was well aware that festivities wouldn’t start until at least 1:30 am or so. He tried closing his eyes, and turned over. Moments later, there was a rustling behind the walls. Dismissing it as a rodent, Jared laid quietly. Once again, it started up, but this time it sounded like a tiny pitter-patter of footsteps. Because his room was on the top floor, the attic was close by. He could hear whatever it was very clearly. It was as if he could picture its toes grip the wall studs as it jumped behind the drywall. Then it halted.
“Jared had enough.”
Th thing stopped right behind Jared’s head on the other side of the wall. Since the head of bed was lodged up against one of walls of the room, it was easy to sense the presence of some creature resting literally next to his head on the other side of the partition. Jared imagined the way the rib cage of the animal hit the wall each time it’s lungs filled with air and expanded outward.
“Bite the leg,” a slippery hiss startled Jared.
Then, the phrase, “Bite the inner thigh and tear” followed.