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Big Brother

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My little brother, Michael, has been having night terrors. Maybe for two or three years now. They all have to do with our little brother, Eric. He is older than Michael but younger than I am, and he is mute. Not once has Eric talked, and after some extensive research, we found out that his vocal cords not only don't work, but they ripped when he was in the womb. Regardless of what happened, he is physically incapable of making sound.

Maybe that's what spooked Michael. Maybe that's what wakes Michael up night after night, screaming out for our father, wanting protection from... something, from his pretend fears. Disregarding what that something is, our father got fed up with it quickly and put Michael in my room. Michael was given a buzzer. If he was ever to be afraid, he would press it. The light would come on in the closet. If he pressed it again, the light would turn off, and if he didn't within five minutes, the overhead light would come on, waking me to come to his side and help him.

Often the waiting wasn't enough. He would come to my bedside in the state of an alcoholic, drunk from the night and stumbling over his fears. "Big brother, there's something in my head," he would say. I was a little creeped out at first, but apparently "something in his head" was what he referred to his night terrors as to his therapist. It was supposed to calm him, make him remember that it was all in his head.

Whenever he woke me up, no matter how groggy I would be, I would comfort him. I would tell him that it wasn't real. I would reassure him. I would tell him that I could always protect him. I could always protect him from the real and fake.

One month was particularly bad. He would wake up three times a night most nights. The lack of sleep started getting to my head around week three, and I started complaining about it to Eric over breakfast. I mean, he couldn't talk, so he couldn't tell Michael anything. I didn't want Michael to hear my complaints. I love him to death. I don't want him thinking I hate him for his waking me up.

Eric never even seemed to listen. He just sat there, eating his cereal, sometimes watching my mouth move. We know he isn't deaf, but sometimes he acts like he is.

The fourth week was the worst. I was already sleeping poorly because I had the flu, and it would get up to five times a night that he would wake me up.

On day five, he said something to me that terrified me. The words still hold grasp onto my brain for the terrifying events that followed.

I was half asleep and I hear him click the buzzer. I hope that he doesn't get up, but I brace myself to be woken.

I feel a tap on my shoulder. I roll over, my eyes painfully swollen from the flu. I can barely make out shapes.

"Big brother, there's something in my bed."

I thought I might've misheard him, but my eyes snap open as he grabs my hand and he starts taking me to his bed. I didn't mishear.

As I approach the bed, even through the dim glow of the closet light, I can see that he was correct.

There is definitely something in his bed.

I try to adjust my eyes, attempting to process what it could possibly be. It's jagged, but slightly human in shape.

My eyes fully adjust, and I can finally see what's in Michael's bed.

It's Michael.

His chest is torn open and- I can't describe it. I can't possibly describe what was there. His entire body disfigured. His body is burned into my mind.

After the initial shock, my brain starts pumping adrenalin. I can't take my eyes away until I think one particular thought.

What got me out of bed?

I turn, and the overhead light turns on after the buzzer was not clicked. I get a full look at what got me up.

It's Eric.

He's grinning an expecting grin, like he wants a reward. His face is painted red and his teeth are tainted with flesh.

"I did it, big brother," the mute boy says, "you can sleep better now."

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