I’ve always known that there’s something wrong with me – on a pathological level – but, it’s not me that does the bad things, it’s something else, something inside me. To say it doesn’t bother me would be a lie. I don’t like hurting people, but thankfully – more often than not – it lays dormant, lurking between my heart and stomach. It moves when it gets aggravated or when I get angry, hurting me so that I know it’s still there and that it can take me over at any time.
I first noticed in school when a kid named Johnny made fun of my shoes. My parents both worked very hard to put a roof over my families heads, and we didn’t always have money to spend on lush items like Nike runners or flash jackets. Mum always did her best around the house and often cooked dinner with what she had in the cupboards.
“A chef cooks from a recipe, my boy. A cook works with what she’s got.” It’s a favorite saying of hers.
However, that meant that we sometimes ate the same dish twice or three days in a row. My father was a factory hand and was very humble in his poverty. He was very proud and taught us to have respect and manners for other people. So, when Johnny started making fun of my second-hand shoes in front of the other children, I felt humiliated and ashamed.
I ran to the boys toilets and cried. He mocked me at every opportunity until finally, the day ended and I ran home. All that night I cried, not understanding why someone would be so cruel. During that time I felt my stomach being wrenched apart like someone took a flaming torch to my inside and then ripped them open. The pain was excruciating at first, I withered and moaned until my mother came into my bedroom. She cooed and patted a damp cloth on my feverish head; telling me that the pain was due to stress. I didn’t believe her, not when I felt it squirming out.
That night lucid dreams plagued my sleep making relive my humiliation, but shockingly my dream-self jumped on my tormentor and blackened his face until it was an unrecognizable lump of blood, flesh, and gore. A sense of relief and satisfaction washed over me, and I drifted into a more peaceful dream.
I woke in a cold sweat; remorse hit me like a tidal wave. Why I felt guilt-ridden was beyond my 12-year-old comprehension. I never committed the act of violence in my dream, so why should I feel this way?
I dressed earlier than usual and ate breakfast alone. When my mum came down, I told her I had an early assignment and wanted to be at school early. The truth was I wanted to be in school before Johnny showed up. I wasn’t looking forward to his teasing, thankfully I checked my timetable and didn’t have any classes with him that day.
By lunchtime, I had a new spring in my step, and I bounced around a corner coming face to face with Johnny and a few of his cronies. My spring sagged and then broke. Johnny started his onslaught of abuse, and the kids gathered around us – nothing like good old-fashioned bullying to get the students excited.
I stood through the abuse, winced when he struck me, but I didn’t cower. Although he hurt me physically, he didn’t get to me mentally. I didn’t feel the hotness of tears, or the emptiness in my stomach. Instead, the pit within me grew restless. It moved and shot up my chest and gripped my heart. I lost my breath when it squeezed. The pain shot through me like an electric shock, each wave numbed me further to his taunts. My head throbbed, and my heart beat so hard in my ears it drowned out the insults and laughter of the other children. Johnny’s lips sprayed spittle with every vicious remark, but I didn’t hear them. I only fought to keep control of my mind and not blackout.
When the pain finally vanished, I realized everyone had gone, and I sat alone curled up in a ball against the wall. I checked my watch, and to my horror had lost 50 minutes of time. I ran to my next class and apologized to the teacher for being late, and made a feeble excuse that another teacher made me run an errand and that’s why I was late. I don’t know if he bought it, but, he accepted it with a – I know your lying look – and gave me a few stern words.
The rest of the day passed in a daze, and at home bell, I swung my bag over my shoulder and didn’t look back. Relief embraced me with it’s cold refreshing breeze as I skipped down the streets away from my torment. But, to my dread – halfway to my sanctuary – my tormentor walked before me. I didn’t know he lived in the same direction and I felt scared that it could lead to a further cruel interaction.
My fearful thoughts were pushed to one side as the evilness squirmed again. A calmness settled over me, and my anxious thoughts subsided as the evil took control. I ran toward Johnny – the emotion of fear as alien to me as the planet Mars – he stepped off the sidewalk and into a park. Johnny was a big boy and far stronger than my puny adolescents. But that didn’t matter as I thundered into his back and pinned his face in the floor with all my weight. As he struggled and coughed out the dirt, I picked up a rock beside me and pummel the back of his head and shoulders. Any visible area wasn’t left untouched as I continued my assault. I don’t remember feeling anything at that moment. No joy or happiness, no guilt, fear or sorrow. No anger or hatred. I do remember the pain though, as my chest exploded within.
When I fell of Johnny exhausted, I was shocked to see the damage I had done. Guilt flooded my senses, and my anxiety surfaced once again. I thought about the repercussions of my actions and what they could bring. The evil squirmed again as it settled back into its lair somehow taking that guilt and dread away.
Johnny was found a few hours after my assault by an old couple walking their dog. The police later pleaded on tv for any witnesses to come forward, but none did. Johnny eventually came out of his coma but couldn’t shed any light on his attacker either. Of course, his ego couldn’t let his assault be anything but dramatic, so he started to tell people it was a bunch of guys that had jumped him. Of could I knew the truth, and I think he did too.
I caught Johnny’s eyes across the classroom a few days after he returned to school, so I turned to face him. He averted his eyes, I knew he knew, and better still I knew he was scared. Johnny never bullied me again, in fact, Johnny never bullied anyone again. I heard sometime later that he went to college and became a founding member of some charity for kids that suffered at the hand of abusers.
That was 25 years ago, and I have made some compromises with my evil along the way. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve left some horrors in my wake. The evil gets the better of me in some situations, and the results are shocking. I have to live with that, I know. But still, somehow, it takes away the guilt. Other times I’m able to leash partial control over it when it squeezes my heart and wants to take control, but not always.
I have a five-year-old boy now, and I think he has what I have, The same demon in my soul is within him too – or rather another one. I’ve noticed subtle things in his behavior that make me question it. Like pulling legs off frogs he catches in our pond or hanging his sister’s dolls by their neck with string.
Yesterday at the play park I watched him run around with a group of kids, he was happy. At one point they all huddled in the cubby house. I was wondering why it was so quiet – like any parent does – when I saw my boy being attacked by them. Naturally, I ran to his help, but before I could get there, he pushed away from the other children and pinned down one of his attackers. He rained down with his shoe on the boy’s back as he cowered against the plastic sides of the house. I thought back to Johnny. I would have put this down to kids being kids, but there was something else that confirmed it for me.
I’m a nice person when the evil leaves me alone. I have a loving wife that I cherish and adore, and no, I have never laid a finger on her. I think the evil loves her too so it’s a weight off my mind. Like I’ve said the thing inside me stays dormant most of the time unless someone goes out of their way to humiliate me. But at that moment I saw myself on top of Johnny, remembered the pain surging through my chest. I looked at my flesh and blood and saw the unburdened tears on the brink of his eyelids, the grit of his teeth. I saw the same pain.
I pulled my boy off the kid and apologized to his frantic mother. Then sat my son down in the dirt and waited for the pain to decrease. When he finally looked up, it was with my brown eyes. I could see the thing lurking in there, and I asked him why he had done what he had done. He replied.
“I didn’t do it, daddy; it was this.” And he pointed to his chest.