Estimated reading time — 17 minutes
The long road home seemed to go on and on. The road continued to stretch in front of the vehicle endlessly. The light that shone through the branches of the tall, green trees danced across the window in random patterns, and every once and a while, obnoxiously shining in your eyes.
The surroundings were full of deep green trees forming a forest around the road. The only sound was the sound of the car’s engine as it traveled down the path. It was peaceful and left a serene feeling. Although the ride seemed like a nice one, it lacked every form of ‘nice’ from its two passengers.
The middle-aged woman behind the steering wheel had neat short brown hair that fit her complexion quite well. She wore a green v-neck T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Diamond stud earrings decorated each of her ears, which partially showed from behind her haircut. She had deep green eyes, which her shirt brought out, and the lighting seemed to make them more noticeable. There wasn’t anything significant about her appearance. She looked like any other ‘average mother’ you would see on TV shows and the like, however, the one thing that made her different than the ‘average mothers’ was the dark bags she had under her eyes. Her facial expression was gloomy and sad, although she genuinely looked like someone who smiled a lot.
She would sniffle every once and a while, and occasionally glance in the rear-view mirror to look at her son in the back seat, who was hunched over partially, with his arms held tight around his chest, and his head pressed against the cold window. The boy lacked any normal appearance, and anyone could plainly see there was something wrong with him. His messy brown hair went every which way, and the luminescent lighting brought out his pale, almost gray skin. His eyes were dark, unlike his mother’s, and he wore a white T-shirt and scrub pants that had been provided for him by the hospital. The clothes he had worn before were so shredded and bloodstained that they weren’t wearable anymore. The right side of his face bared a few cuts along with a split eyebrow. His right arm was bandaged all the way to the shoulder, which had been shredded when his right side hit the shattered glass.
His injuries appeared to be painful, when in reality he couldn’t feel anything. This was just one of the glories of being him. One of the challenges he had to face while growing up was growing up with a rare disease that caused him to be completely numb towards pain. Never before had he felt himself get hurt. He could have lost an arm and felt nothing. The other major disorder he had faced, which was the one that deemed him many insulting nicknames in the short time he attended grade school before he switched to homeschooling, was his Tourette’s Syndrome, which caused him to tick and twitch in ways he couldn’t control. He would crack his neck uncontrollably and twitch every once in a while. The kids would tease him and call him Ticci-Toby, and they mocked him with exaggerated twitching and laughing. It got so bad he had to turn to homeschooling. It was too hard for him to be in a common learning environment with seemingly every kid poking, or more like stabbing, fun at him.
Toby starred blankly out the window, his face empty of any emotion, and every few minutes his shoulder, arm, or foot would twitch. Every bump that the car tires hit would make his stomach turn.
Toby Rogers was the boy’s name and the last time Toby remembered riding in a car was when it crashed.
That’s all he thought about, unconsciously replaying everything he remembered before he blacked out, over and over again.
Toby had been the lucky one; his sister had not been so lucky. When the thought of sister came, he couldn’t help the tears that welled up in his eyes. The horrible memories replayed in his mind. Her screaming that had cut off when the front of the car was smashed in. It all went blank for a moment before Toby opened his eyes to see his sister’s body, her forehead pierced with glass shards, her hips and legs crushed under the force of the steering wheel, and her torso pushed in from the too late inflated airbag. That was the last thing he had seen of his dear older sister.
The road home continued on for what seemed like forever. It took so long to get home because his mom wanted to avoid the sight of the crash. When the surroundings gave way to a familiar neighborhood, they were both more than ready to get out of the car and step back into their own home. It was an older neighborhood with quaint little houses all next to each other. The car drove in front of a blue house with white windowpanes. They both quickly noticed the old vehicle that was parked in front of the house, and the familiar figure that stood in the driveway. Toby felt automatic anger and frustration take over him at the sight of his father. His father who wasn’t there.
His mother pulled the car up in the driveway beside him before turning off the engine and preparing to step out and face her husband.
“Why is he here?” Toby said quietly as he looked back at his mother who reached to open the car door.
“He’s your father Toby, he’s here because he wants to see you.” His mother responded in a monotone voice, trying to sound less shaky.
“Yet couldn’t drive up to the hospital to see Lyra before she died,” Toby narrowed his eyes out the window.
“He was drunk that night, honey, he couldn’t drive-”
“Yeah when is he not,” Toby pushed the door open before his mother and stumbled out onto the driveway where he met his father’s gaze before looking down at his feet with a stern expression. His mother stepped out behind him and met her husband’s eyes before walking around the car.
His father opened up his arms, expecting a hug from his wife, but she walked past him and put her arm around Toby’s shoulder and started leading him inside.
“Connie,” her husband began in a raspy voice, “What no welcome home hug, huh?”
She ignored her husband’s obnoxious words and walked past him with her son under her arm.
“Hey, he’s sixteen he can walk by himself,” his father began to follow them in. “He’s seventeen,” Connie glared back at him before opening the door to the house and stepping inside.
“Toby, why don’t we get you in your room to rest okay? I’ll come get you when dinner is ready-”
“No, I’m sixteen. I can walk by myself,” Toby said sarcastically and glared back at his father before stumbling up the small staircase and turning into his room, where he slammed the door violently.
His little room didn’t have much in it, just a small bed, a dresser, a window, and his walls had a few picture frames of his family, back when they were a family. Before his father became an alcoholic and acted violently toward the rest of his family. Toby remembered when he was arguing with his mom and he grabbed her by the hair and shoved her to the floor, and when Lyra had tried to break it up, he pushed her and she hit her back on the corner of the kitchen counter. Toby could never forgive him for what he did to his mother and sister. Never.
Toby didn’t care how much his father beat him down, he couldn’t feel it anyway, what he did care about was how he intentionally hurt the only two people he cared about. And when he was waiting in the hospital where his sister took her last breaths, the only one who didn’t rush there was his dad.
Toby stood by the window and looked out at the street. He could have sworn he saw something out of the corner of his eye, but quickly blamed it on the meds he was on.
When dinnertime had come and his mother called up to him, Toby came down the stairs and hesitantly sat down at the table across from his father, and in between his mother and an empty chair. It was quiet as his parents picked at their food but Toby refused to eat. Instead, he just watched his dad with a blank stare. His mother caught on to his staring and elbowed him slightly. Toby looked over at her slightly and then down at his uneaten food, which he still didn’t touch.
Toby laid in be, he pulled his covers over his head and stared at the window. He was tired but there was no way he would fall asleep. He couldn’t, there was too much to think about. He had been debating on whether or not to follow his mother’s directions and forgive his father, or continue holding a grudge with his boiling hatred.
He heard his door creak open and his mother padded into the room and sat on the bed next to him. She reached over and rubbed his back, which had been turned to her.
“I know it’s hard Toby, trust me, I understand, but I promise you it will get better,” she said softly.
“When is he going to leave?” Toby said with an innocent tone in his shaky voice.
Connie let her gaze fall down to her feet. ” I don’t know honey, he’s staying as far as I know,” she replied.
Toby didn’t respond. He just continued to look forward at the wall, holding his damaged arm near his chest.
After a few minutes of silence, his mother sighed before she leaned in to kiss his cheek and stood up to walk out of the room. “Good night,” she said as she closed the door.
The hours passed slowly, and Toby couldn’t quit tossing and turning. Every time he let his imagination take over, he heard the screeching of tires, the screaming of his sister, and he would uncontrollably jerk in bed. He threw off his cover, and lying on his back, he pulled his pillow over his face and cried into it. He could hear his own pitiful weeping. He would have been screaming and crying if e didn’t press his pillow over his face.
After a few seconds, he threw the pillow off his face and sat up, hunched over, holding his head and breathing roughly, tears streaming from his eyes. He couldn’t help but cry. He tried to keep it in, but he couldn’t stop the whining and whimpering as he sat there shaking. He inhaled before he stood up and walked around his bed to the window and peered out, taking deep breathes trying to calm down. He rubbed his eyes and looked out at the group of tall pine trees across the street.
He stopped suddenly, and his gaze slowly centered on something standing under the street light. He heard ringing in his ears and couldn’t look away. The figure stood beside the streetlight, about two feet shorter than it did, long arms draped at its sides as it stared up at him with non-existing eyes. The figure had no facial features to speak of. No eyes, no mouth, no nose, yet it held Toby’s hypnotized stare, seemingly peering into his very being. The ringing in his ears grew louder and louder each second he stared before suddenly it all went black.
The next morning Toby woke in his bed. He felt different. He wasn’t tired at all, and when he consciously woke up, it felt like he had been lying there awake for hours. He had no thoughts flowing through his mind. He sat up slowly and stumbled over to the wall, but when he stood he automatically felt dizzy. He stumbled to the doorway and walked down the stairs. His parents were sitting at the table, his father was tuned in to the small TV that sat on the counter top, and his mother was reading the newspaper. She quickly looked over when she felt Toby’s presence looming behind her.
“Well good morning sleepy head, you’ve been sleeping forever,” she greeted him with a hesitant smile. Toby slowly looked over at the clock and noticed that it was 12:30 p.m.
“I made you breakfast but it got cold, I was going to wake you but I felt you needed sleep,” her expression fell from happy to worried as her son resisted responding to her.
“Are you all right?”
Toby stumbled over and sat by his father. He felt as if he was on idle and had no control over his actions. He was seeing everything he did, but I didn’t register in his brain properly. He reached out to his father’s arm, but his hand ended up getting slapped. His father turned to him abruptly and pushed his chair over whit his foot.
“Don’t touch me, boy!” he yelled.
His mother stood up, “Alright know that off! That is the last thing we need!”
The days went by, and things continued on as they were. Connie spent most of her time cleaning the house, and her rude husband spent most of his time ordering her around. It was just like how it used to be before the crash.
Toby never really left his room. He would sit by his bed and tremble. His mind would wonder, but his thoughts changed too fast to be remembered. He would pace around his small room like a caged animal or stare out the window. The unhealthy cycle continued.
Connie continued to be pushed around by her husband, being way too submissive to him, and Toby remained in his room.
Before he could think twice, he would begin to chew on his hands, tearing the flesh from his fingers. He would gnaw his hands until they bled. When his mother walked in on him while he was doing so, she reacted horribly. She rushed him downstairs and grabbed the first aid kit, wrapping his hands in bandages. Afterward, she demanded that he wouldn’t leave her side again.
Toby isolated himself so much that he grew to hate being around others. His memory grew glitchy as well. He’d start missing memory of minutes, hours, days, and so on. He would begin talking nonsense about things completely unrelated to the conversations he would have. He’d go off about seeing things, sharks in the sink as he washed the dishes; hearing crickets in his pillows, and seeing ghosts outside his bedroom window. His mother grew so anxious about his mental health that she decided it would be good for him to talk to a professional about what he was feeling.
Connie walked Toby into the building, holding his hand and guiding him in. She walked him up to the front desk and began talking to the lady who sat behind it.
“Mrs. Rogers?” The lady asked.
“Yes that’s me,” Connie nodded, “We’re here to see Doctor Oliver, I’m here with Toby Rogers.”
“Yes, right this way,” the lady stood and led them down a long hallway. Toby looked at the framed artwork down the halls and tuned in to the sound of the lady’s high heels on the hardwood floor.
She opened the door to a room with a table and two chairs.
“If we can get him to sit in here for a few minutes, I’ll get the doctor,” she smiled and held the door open.
Toby stumbled into the room and sat down at the table. He looked over at his mother and the lady before the door slowly shut behind them. He looked around the room before he held up his tightly bandaged hands and began to bite at the bandages to unwrap his hands, but he was interrupted as the door swung open and a young woman in a black and spotted dress with light blond hair stepped in, holding a clipboard and a pen.
“Toby?” she asked with a smile.
Toby looked up at her and nodded.
“Nice to meet you Toby, my name is Doctor Oliver.” She put her hand out for him to shake by hesitantly pulled away when she noticed his bandaged hands.
“Oh,” she smiled nervously before clearing her throat and sitting in the chair across the table form him.
“So I’m going to ask you a few questions, try to answer them as honestly as possible, okay?” she placed her clipboard down on the table. Toby nodded slowly and held his restrained hands in his lap.
“How old are you, Toby?”
“Seventeen,” he responded quietly.
She wrote that down on the paper that was clipped to the clipboard.
“What is your full name?”
“Toby Aaron Rogers.”
When is your birthday?”
“Who is your immediate family?”
Toby paused for a minute before answering her question, “My mom, my dad, and…” he stopped, “M-my sister.”
“I heard about your sister dear…I’m really sorry,” her expression faded into a sad pity-filled look.
“Do you remember anything from the crash Toby?”
Toby looked away from her. His mind went blank for a moment. He looked down at his lap, and in the surrounding area, he heard a faint ringing sound. His eyes widened and he froze in place.
“Toby?” the counselor asked.
“Toby are you listening?”
Toby felt a shiver go down his spine until he froze once again and slowly looked over out the little window through the door, where he saw it. A dark featureless figure, peering in at him. He stared, eyes widened, the ringing growing louder and louder until suddenly the loud voice of the counselor broke his trance.
“Toby!” she yelled.
Toby jumped and fell sideways out of his chair and backed up into the corner.
Doctor Oliver stood up, holding her clipboard to her chest. A surprised look in her eyes.
Toby met her eyes again, his breath hitching as he twitched.
That night Toby lay in bed. His eyes were dazed as he stared straight up at his ceiling. He could feel himself begin to doze off when he heard the scattering of footsteps down his hallway. He sat up and looked towards the doorway, his door wide open. There was no light everything was lit by the luminescent blue glow of the moon through his window, leaving a cold lighting. He stood up and slowly made his way toward the doorway when suddenly the door, which previously was wide open, slammed in his face. He gasped and fell back.
He was out of breath when he hit the ground and he began breathing heavily, his eyes wide open. He waited for a few seconds before getting back on his feet. He reached out and grasped the cold door handle with his bandaged had and it creaked open. He looked out into the dark hallway and tiptoed out of his room. The window at the end of the hallway lit up the darkness with blue moonlight as he padded his way down. He could hear footsteps rustling around him, and faint giggling followed by the pitter patter of small feet, which sounded like a child had run in front of him, giggling and running around. The hallway was a lot longer than he remembered. It seemed endless…like the ride home from the hospital. He heard the door creak in front of him.
“Mom?” he called in a shaky voice.
Suddenly a door slammed behind him and he jumped and turned around. Behind him, he heard a long eerie groan that sounded like croak right in his ear. He turned around as fast as he could and was suddenly face to face with none other than his dead sister. Her eyes were clouded white, her skin pale, the right side of her jaw dangling there by tissue and muscle, glass protruding from her forehead, black blood leaking down her face, her blonde hair pulled up in a pony-tail as it always was, and she was wearing her grey t-shirt and athlete shorts, which were dirty and spotted with blood. Her legs were bent in ways they shouldn’t be. She stood emitting a long croaking noise only an inch away from Toby’s face.
Toby yelped and fell back.
“AH!” He started to crawl backward away from her, but he was unable to break the eye contact he held with her blank, dead eyes. He dragged himself backward until he backed up into something.
He stopped for a second. Everything was dead silent except for his heavy breathing and crying. He slowly looked up to meet the blank face of a tall dark figure, the same figure that stood over him now. Behind the tall dark mass were rows of children looking to range from three to ten years old, their eyes completely black and dark black blood leaked from their eye sockets.
He screamed and stood up as fast as he could only to be tripped by dark black tendrils that wrapped around his ankle. He fell straight on his stomach and got the wind knocked out of him. He tried to scream but he couldn’t make a sound. He wheezed out before it all went black.
Toby woke with a start. He screamed out and sat up as fast as he could, completely short of breath. He wheezed out and held his chest with his bandaged hands. It was just a dream….just a dream. He lay back down on his bed and rolled over on his side. It felt like against weight had been lifted off his chest as he took in deep breaths. He stood up and padded over to his window. He saw nothing. Nobody was out there. No ghosts, no figures, nothing.
He heard the rustling and coughing of his father outside the doorway. His door was closed.
He walked over and opened it. Looking out into the hallway once again, he padded down the hallway and into the kitchen where he found his dad standing and having a smoke in their living room. Toby waited for a second and watched him from around the corner before a burning feeling started deep in his chest.
Deep boiling anger overtook him. He heard the little imaginary voices in his head.
“Do it, Do it, Do it,” they chanted.
He turned away and held his arms. He felt like he actually had control over himself, unlike he did for the past few weeks since he got home from the hospital. He actually had complete thoughts for just moments before the chanting of the little voices in his head clouded them.
“Kill him, he wasn’t there, he wasn’t there, kill him, kill him,” they continued on. Toby trembled. No. No, he wasn’t going to do it. What, was he going crazy? No. He won’t kill anyone. He can’t. He hated his father, but there was no way he was going to kill him.
That was it, the last thought he had before he fell into an idle state once again. The influence of the voices in his head was too much. He began to silently walk up behind his father. He reached over the counter to the knife in the case. He gripped it in his hand. He felt the sensation take over his chest. He let out a snicker.
“Heh… heheh… hehehehehe! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” he began laughing so hard he had to gasp for breath. His father turned around abruptly before he felt a brute force shove him to the floor. He grunted as the air was knocked out of him.
“What!” he looked up at the boy who stood over him, grasping the kitchen knife in his hand.
“Toby, what are you doing?” he went to sit up and put his arms out in front of him in self-defense but before he knew it Toby was on top of him. He went to grab his neck, but his father reached out and blocked his hand by grabbing onto his wrist.
“Stop! Get off of me, you little fucker!” he yelled and with his other hand he threw an off-center punch towards Toby’s shoulder, but he didn’t stop.
The look in Toby’s eyes was not sane. It looked as if a demon had taken control of him. He yelled back and went to stab the knife into his father’s chest, but his father blocked him and grabbed onto his wrist once again. He went shove him back, but Toby kicked his feet out in front of him and landed a hard blow straight to his father’s face. His father recoiled and pulled his arms away to cuff his face, but Toby got back up and drove the knife straight into his shoulder.
His father let out a loud cry and went to pull the knife out, but before he could, Toby threw his fist straight into his face.
He began to pound his fists into his head, laughing and wheezing. He cracked his neck and grabbed the knife and ripped it out of his father’s shoulder. He drove it deep into his dad’s chest and repeatedly stabbed into his torso, blood spilling out and getting splattered everywhere. He didn’t stop until his father’s body went still. He threw the knife over to the side and leaned over his body, coughing and panting. He stared at his father’s smashed-in face and sat there twitching until a loud scream broke the silence. He looked over to see his mother standing a few feet away, covering her mouth, tears streaming down her face.
“Toby!” she screamed, “Why did you do that?” she cried.
“W-why!?” she screamed.
Toby stood up and began to back away from his father’s bloody corpse. He began to back out of the kitchen. He looked down at the blood-soaked bandages on his hands and looked up at his mother one last time before he turned and ran out of the house. He ran into the garage and slammed his hand against the control panel on the wall and pushed the button to open the garage door. Before he ran out, he noticed his father’s hatchets, which had been hanging on the tool rack above a table full of jars filled to the brim with old rusted nails and screws.
One of the hatchets was new, it had a bright orange handle and a shiny blade, and the other was old with a wooden handle and an old, dull blade. He grabbed both and looked down at the table and he saw a box of matches, and under the table was a red gasoline tank. He held both of the hatchets in one hand and grabbed to matches and gasoline before running out of the garage, down the driveway and up the street. As he approached the streetlight that he could see out his own bedroom window, he heard police sirens in the distance.
He turned around and the red and blue flashing lights came rushing down the street. Toby stood for a second before he pulled open the cap on the gasoline tank and ran down the street, spilling gasoline all over the street after him. He turned and ran into the trees. He poured the last bit of gasoline out before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a match. He struck it against the box and immediately dropped it. In an instant, flames burst around him. The fire caught on the trees and bushes around him and before he knew it, he was surrounded by fire. The silhouettes of police cars were visible through the flames as he backed away into the forest around him. He looked around but his vision was blurred, his heart was pounding, and he closed his eyes for a moment. This was it. This was the end.
Toby felt a hand on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and looked over to see a large white hand with long boney fingers resting on his shoulder. He followed the arm that was attached to the hand up to a dark, towering figure.
It appeared to be wearing a dark black suit, and its face was completely blank. It towered over Toby’s small frame as it looked down on him. Tendrils reached out from its back. Before Toby knew it, his vision blurred and he heard the sound of ringing in his ears. Everything went blank.
That was it. That was the end. That was how Toby Rogers died.
A few weeks later, Connie sat in her sister’s kitchen. His sister, Lori, sat next to her drinking a cup of coffee.
About three weeks ago, Connie lost her husband and her son, and a few weeks before, she had lost her daughter to a car crash. Since then she moved in with her sister. The police were keeping her busy, they had just finished cleaning up the case, and the story had been released two weeks ago. The focus of the world seemed to have shifted to completely new stories.
Lori switched the TV on to a news broadcast. On the TV the news reporter began introducing the new headline.
“We have breaking news! Last night there have been reported the murder of four individuals. There are no suspects yet, but the victims were a group of middle school kids who had been out in the woods late last night. The kids had been bludgeoned and stabbed to death. The investigators have discovered a weapon at the crime scene. It appears to be an old, dull-blade hatchet, as you can see here.”
The picture changed to show snapshots of the weapon exactly as it was left at the crime scene.
“Investigators have pulled the name of a possible suspect, Toby Rogers, a seventeen-year-old boy who stabbed his father to death a few weeks ago and tried to cover up his escape by setting a fire in the streets and forest area around the neighborhood. Although they believed the young boy had died in the fire, investigators suspect Rogers might still be alive, due to the fact that his body was never found.”