A normal teenager Dean Knight is not.
With a mental illness that threatens to take over his sanity; a sister who’s deep in her own problems; and a wasted mother who couldn’t care less about it all, Dean is left to battle real life on his own. School, bullies and medications are his realities.
Then there are also the ghosts, the hallucinations and of course – the monster.
In the middle of it all, when everything seems to lose purpose, hope comes shining down on Dean’s miserable life. Her name is Ella and for one reason or another, she actually wants to be close to Dean. With Ella’s help, the lost teenage boy decides that he could finally win a battle or two – both in real life and in his writing.
But hope is a tricky thing. And the monster seems to know that.
When secrets buried down for almost a decade come out in the open, what do you do?
No one answers when I pound again, so I try the knob. It turns and the door screeches open.
“Hello!” I call out as I poke my head in. I don’t see anyone, and I once again fight the urge to turn around and walk back out the door. Lou could be lying on the floor bleeding somewhere or convulsing from an overdose. I take a deep breath and step inside the trailer.
“Lou! Anyone home!”
The trailer is a single wide, so it isn’t very big. When you open the front door, you are in the living room, which is right next to a tiny kitchen. Down one hall is a bedroom. First, I survey the living room and kitchen and don’t see anything unusual. I walk past the kitchen toward one of the bedrooms. As I step closer to it, my heart thumps wildly. The bedroom door is closed, but I can hear muffled head-banging music, as if someone is listening to it through headphones at two hundred decibels, and I sigh with relief. I open the door. No Lou, but an MP3 player hooked to ear buds lies on the bed.
There might be a bathroom down the opposite hallway. Again, my heart thuds as I approach two doors, one on the right, a bathroom no doubt. I pause and look down. No pool of blood seeps from under the door. I grab the door handle, find it unlocked, and jerk it open. The bathroom is empty too. It’s dirtier than a public toilet at a crack house, and I feel like I want to throw up.
Quickly, I close the door. The last bedroom is all that remains. I don’t think he’s in there, but I check it anyway. As I suspect, the room is empty. This must be the master bedroom where Lou’s keepers live.
I still can’t fully shake my feeling of dread, but then I think Lou was probably just late to school, and while I was traipsing through the woods, he probably went on to school, and at this very moment, he and Ella are laughing their asses off.
I laugh a little too, but I also feel good about myself in another way. The old Dean wouldn’t have been too concerned with anyone else. I guess you could say the new Dean has learned to make a few friends. I realize how tired I really am from not only the walk but also the unbearable tension I have felt from thinking my friend is dead.
I sit on the couch―a little reluctantly because it’s pretty dirty, but then again our couch is secondhand, so I can’t be judging other people’s possessions. I think about how ridiculous I feel, and then I laugh aloud again.
I start to leave, but something outside the window catches my eye.
I stare for a long time, feeling unsure.
Lou swings from a tree outside the window; he’s hanged himself with an electrical cord.
Steve Cross’s first successful writing project was a play about a werewolf that his eighth grade English class performed. Though the play was never published, the warm fuzzy feeling from its public performance has never quite left Cross, who continues to sink his teeth into a variety of writing projects. His first publication was a haiku, followed by two middle grade novels published by POD publishers and a young adult novel published by Buck’s County Publishing.
A fanatical St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan; a lover of all kinds of YA fiction, as well as the writings of Dean Koontz and Stephen King; a fan of all kinds of music – from Abba to the Zac Brown band, Cross dreams of the day he will write a best-selling novel or sell a screenplay for seven figures, so he can retire and write more best-selling fiction. Until that day, he and his wife Jean, Missourians born and bred, will continue to toil in the field of education and live in peace with their two dogs and two cats and wait around until their daughter Megan and son-in-law Sean give them grandchildren to spoil.
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