Content Warning: This short story is pretty heavy and might be triggering as it contains assault and self harm.
It started out so innocuous so small that he didn’t even notice a change. It was a recess in second grade and a bigger kid from a few grades older pushed him down and took a ball away. Then the older kids laughed at the little kid and made fun of his skinned knees. As he lay there on the ground a small little spot of darkness slipped inside of him unnoticed, invisible to human senses.
The darkness borrowed deep down inside the boy and made itself comfortable in his brain. Snuggled up deep and hidden it waited to be fed. It knew it would be, it had time to wait, the substance would come, then it could grow strong.
Not that it had long to wait. The little boy went home that night, the school had called explaining the skinned knees. His mother cried over them, his father yelled about him being weak and needing to stand up for himself. His mother yelled back at father about being too hard on the boy, father complained she was too soft on him and they were raising a sissy. The boy just sat there trying not to cry, he knew it wouldn’t help to try and say anything. They’d just get madder, he didn’t feel tough like his father wanted, but he didn’t want his mom crying over him either. The boy went to his room after dinner. Mother and father had resorted to drinking after more yelling at each other, but the alcohol had done its work and now they were giggling and tickling each other.
The boy hid in his room and cried into his pillows and the darkness in his mind grew larger, it’s tentacles starting to stretch out into every path way down the little boy’s mind. The yelling and callous uninterested in it’s hosts’ feelings were what sustained it. This was it’s rich delicacies that let it grow strong and excrete the toxins that would fertilize the host’s mind to produce more food for it’s needs. It was a greedy thing with a hunger that couldn’t be sated, so it had to make sure it’s lair was ready for its gluttonous needs. But it was still small, it would need more.
The darkness found another cache of nourishment a few weeks later. It was a Saturday and the boy found his mother’s nail polish out in her room. It was dark red and he liked the way it looked on his pretty mother. The boy, innocently enough, thought he might look pretty with nail polish too and meticulously painted his finger nail. He was careful not wanting to leave a mess as he was afraid of getting in trouble for that. When finished he was pleased with the result and like the dark red and ran to show his parents.
The boy knew he had done wrong when his father’s face turned as red as the nail polish. His mother was roughly shoved aside as father roughly grabbed the boy and took off his belt. Mother just lay there on the ground crying as the boy’s bottom was turned raw by the lashings, tears flowing down his cheeks as father yelled at him to stop crying and to be a man for once.
For the darkness inside the boy’s head it was a feast. It gorged itself on the yelling, the pain, the tears, the shame. It lusted for more, and it’s tendrils grew further and wrapped themselves around the emotional centers of the boy’s mind and whispered to the boy, telling him just how worthless the boy was, an embarrassment to his family and everyone. Nobody really wanted the boy, he was just a nuisance after all, why else would they hurt him like this? That shame and guilt grew in the boy and the darkness devoured the morsels like candy savoring in their sweet destructive nature.
As the boy grew up so did the darkness, every time someone made fun of him or he was left out inside more and more the darkness tightened its grip. It had grown strong enough to control the boy’s actions. Fear of his father and being told to man up forced him into playing sports. He didn’t particularly like playing sports. He didn’t like being around the other boys, he didn’t like the culture, the couches. He hated being in locker rooms and seeing the disgusting hygiene of his teammates. But he endured it in silence. He played everything, football, baseball, basketball, soccer. Everything to prove to his dad that he was a man. It was all fake, he didn’t feel anymore manly playing any sport than when he wasn’t. The darkness fed on that fear, the doubt, the lies. The darkness was more and more in control, overwhelming every thought and emotion the boy had. Every triumph and moment that others found joy in when he won a game was overshadowed by the darkness. It wouldn’t allow him to feel the joy and pride in any of his accomplishments, because he hadn’t accomplished them for himself, but to please everyone else.
Sports got him into college. It was about the only time his father was ever pleased with him, not having to pay for continued education. His father talked and raved about his son going pro someday and earning millions for the family to live off of. The boy hated the thought of having to keep playing. He wanted to do something else, he wanted to create art and stories, but nobody cared about that. Once he had tried to show a poem to someone he thought was a friend, but his so-called friend just laughed and teased him that he should be with the losers and theater nerds. The boy’s father didn’t like theater, so the boy’s shame made him hide away that part of him and the darkness crackled and delighted in it’s meal.
It was in college, a party sophomore year. He had been drinking, alcohol was something he had learned about in high school. It sated the hunger of the darkness for awhile but it gorged off the shame and guilt and pain that would follow the next day so it whispered encouragement for the boy to drink more and the boy willingly obliged. This party there was another boy, smaller than the other young men, thin and wore eyeliner and had painted nails. Eyes were made at each other and our young boy thought this boy was pretty and was jealous of the painted nails. The darkness fed on the jealousy, but it wanted something more, it wanted the sweet delectable taste of hatred. It pushed that memory of being beaten for painting his own nails, of being rejected by his father. He saw the smaller boy smile at him and a moment later they were in a small room alone. The smaller boy pushed himself into the boy’s chest and kissed him. The kiss held for a moment. But the darkness didn’t want this. It didn’t want this much happiness and joy, it didn’t want the boy to reconsider what was shameful, it wanted the shame. Happiness and joy were the only things to be crushed, to marinate the negative energies that sustained it. The darkness reminded the boy that it was shameful to be like this, to have feelings and emotions. Father didn’t want a sissy, remember? What would he think if he saw the boy now. The boy roughly pushed the other away from him and punched the poor confused boy in the stomach. The darkness forced the boy’s face to contort into rage and hatred. How dare this person touch him? Hadn’t they been taught decency?
The smaller boy looked hurt and tears streamed down his face. The darkness delighted in this feeding on both boy’s hurt and pain. Sorrow and regret overwhelmed the boy and the darkness danced happily shoving the emotions into its gullet. The boy whispered he was sorry and fled the party. He cried for the first time in years into his pillow that night, the tears which he had learned to hold inside him from when he was eight years old least it make things worse all flowed out of him pent up for over a decade all flowed out, he felt empty and alone and the darkness loved every minute of it. It loved the guilt and shame the boy felt as the kiss. It lusted from the further guilt and shame that came with physically hitting the other boy. It got off on the pain it had caused both boys in making them feel bad for themselves and denying them any measure of joy at their meeting.
The darkness gorged so much that it dozed off for the first time in years and the boy felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time: determination. He had to make up for his actions. He found the other boy and apologized. To his surprise the other boy accepted it. It was already, the smaller boy knew that it wasn’t acceptable to everyone and should have no better. The boy reached out and they hugged, he felt the smaller boy in his muscle toned arms and looked down at the pretty face of the smaller boy who had painted himself in the makeup that the other boy had been so envious of. Would the smaller boy put makeup on him? Of course he would! They went back to the smaller boy’s room and spent the day playing with makeup and styles for the sports hero, a scene he never wanted anyone to see but took secret pleasure in. On the whole the boy thought it was the best day of his life and he felt genuine happiness for the first time since he was a child.
But the darkness was well entrenched inside the boy and wasn’t going to give up. It had been caught snoozing but it’s hunger could never be sated and it had woken up famished. It was displeased when it found the harsh bright light of happiness and joy having cracked the reinforced darkness of the boy’s mind. The boys lay in bed having made love, the smaller boy was curled up in the boy’s arms, head using the boy’s chest as a pillow. But our boy was awake and staring at the ceiling. At first his mind was ecstatic with the joy of the day and deed he had just done. But the darkness crept back in and shame started to overwhelm him again. It was wrong he had been taught. His father, his teachers, other boys, the preachers. All had said that laying with another man was evil. The darkness forced him to start hating his body, to make it feel like he had polluted himself. In his mind he was overwhelmed as the darkness launched it’s counter attack and the meager bit of light and joy that had crept in was overwhelmed.
For the boy as he lay there, his mind became the devastated battleground he felt the tears welling up on his eyelashes, covered in mascara. In the darkness he saw himself get up from the bed. It was a shadowy monstrous version of him, the version of him that had grown and fed over all those years and controlled him. It looked down at the boy in disgust, full of self-loathing and hatred. It grabbed the boy and dragged him out of bed despite his feeble struggles, all his strength from the field and weight room couldn’t help him now. The shadow was bigger than him, stronger, and meaner. It dragged him into the bathroom and locked the door. Cruelly assaulting him it mocked him, mocked his feelings, his weakness, his body. Did he really think that the sleeping boy in the other room loved him? Nobody loved him, hadn’t he learned that long ago? The darkness wasn’t going to let someone love this pathetic excuse of a failed man laying here in a bathroom crying like the sissy he had always been. The water in the tub turned on and filled with hot water. The shadow opened a full bottle of pills and forced the boy’s mouth open forcing the entire bottle down his throat as he gagged trying to plead for his life. The shadow disgusted shoved him into the filling tube and forced the boy’s head under the water. The darkness cannot know it’s hunger to ever be fully sated. In it’s frustration it can feed off a victim for decades if allowed to flourish, but if it’s threatened it will strike back and would rather kill its host along with it than let it’s host go on without it. The darkness hated that the boy had known joy and was going to make him pay. The humiliation of dying naked and alone in a bathroom of his lover only excited the darkness even more making it stronger as it gorged on it’s final feast as the boy’s life ran its course and escaped out of his body.
Just as he felt his final moments coming the door slammed open. A light shone so bright that the darkness howled and screeched in agony as this new light shattered the shadow being and drove it far away. The smaller boy emerged from the light, the joy of the day he had just spent with the strong but sad boy like himself had showed him hope and he had destroyed his own darkness and now came to save his lover. The adrenaline and power of this new found self confidence and happiness let him pull the bigger boy out of the bathtub. He cleared the pills from his dearest’s mouth and throat. The boy was breathing shallowly but still alive. His lover called 911, they had a long road to go, but they had both taken the first steps on the road towards something better.
*If you or someone you know is in danger of self harm please reach out and get help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line by Texting ‘Hello’ to 741741