There was a knock at the door of Joshua's new house that sent him running down the stairs in excitement. Looking out the peephole, he saw the same girl he'd seen walking up his driveway from his bedroom window only moments before. As he flung open the door almost violently in excitement, the look on the girl's face changed to an expression of shock and fear. He stared at her, not realizing that the overly excited expression on his face made him look like a madman. The girl opened her mouth to speak.

"Hey... uh..." she started, trailing off as she stared in concern at the almost panting boy in the doorway. "Are you alright?" she asked him, now with a hint of fear in her voice.

"Y-yeah!" Josh stammered out, puzzled as to why she asked the question. 

"Okay..." she responded, unconvinced. "Well, uh... I'm Serah, and as cliché as it is, my mother sent me over here to borrow a couple cups of sugar." She expected a response, maybe some laughter, but the boy just stood there staring at her. Though it made her uncomfortable, she continued. "Do you have any?" she asked, half expecting him to lunge at her with a knife hidden behind his back. 

"Oh!" Josh responded, shaking his head at his own awkward behavior. "Of course. I'll get it for you right away!" He rushed off into the kitchen, almost breaking into a full sprint. This only made the girl more skeptical of his sanity. 

Just as she was having second thoughts and turning to leave, he returned at the door with two plastic bags full of sugar. "Here ya go!" He smiled as he thrust the bags in her face. "Oh, and uh, it's not cliche since you're asking for two cups instead of one," he chuckled out, surprised when she didn't laugh back. She slowly took the bags, her eyes wide with what he could only presume was fear. He tried reexplaining. "Get it? One cup of sugar would be cliché since that's what it always is in the stories, and you asked for two!" He stared at her, waiting for a response. "That's the joke..." he spoke out softly, his heart sinking as she continued to stare in silence.

"Okay! Well, I'm going to go now. It was nice meeting you," she blurted out before turning away, walking fast down the driveway while still clutching the two bags.

"My name's Joshua!" he yelled out to her, not sure if she could hear him, or would even be interested in his name at this point.

Josh shut the door and rushed back upstairs to his bedroom. Looking out of his window, he saw just what he expected to see. The girl, Serah, had tossed the bags of sugar into the nearest dumpster and was practically running back to her house next door. Josh turned away from the window and brought his palm up, slapping it against his face as he cursed aloud. "Damn it!" He gritted his teeth in frustration. "Why can't I just talk to people like a normal human being? It's no wonder why she thought I was nuts!" he thought to himself as he felt the familiar feeling of tears gathering in his eyes.

The sixteen year old hadn't been able to properly socialize with anybody for as long as he could remember, and it had done wonders to his psyche. As he sat on the edge of his bed, vision blurred by his tears, he thought of all the times he had tried to reach out to somebody, anybody, in hopes of making a new friend. Every time he'd either be shut down or, in the best cases, ignored. He longed to be able to express himself, to be able to hold a conversation longer than five minutes with someone other than his parents. He thought about them, out celebrating their new house, enjoying their ten year anniversary at what was probably the fanciest restaurant in town.

"They'd be better off without me," he thought to himself as he stood up, droplets of water hitting the carpet around his feet. He turned towards his bookshelf and grabbed the first book he could find, flinging it behind him in a rage. It wasn't until he heard the "clink!" of the book hitting something behind him that he remembered what he had been doing before he saw Serah come up to his door. The entire encounter had taken his mind off of his new treasure.

He turned around to see the lamp, now knocked over and resting sideways on his desk. The moment he had laid eyes on it while exploring the attic of his new home, he knew it was special. "If it didn't hold some sort of spiritual energy, it must at least have a lot of monetary value. Worst case, I can keep it as a replica of the Genie's lamp from Aladdin, since it looks so similar," he'd thought to himself with a chuckle as he first inspected it. Upon looking at it now however, he wasn't so sure that it could make a fitting replica. It seemed much paler than he remembered, now almost snow white even in the dark room. Almost completely forgetting about the upsetting event that took place only moments ago, he walked over to his desk and picked the lamp up, placing it in its proper upright position.

Josh sat at his desk for hours, rubbing the lamp on every possible spot, both with his hands and a variety of materials he thought might have some sort of spiritual energy, such as the old flannel shirt his grandfather had handed down to him before passing away, but it was all fruitless. The teenager sighed as he heard the engine of his parent's car pull up and into his driveway, disappointed in himself for making no progress after spending nearly all day experimenting with the lamp.

"Joshua, you home?" his father shouted loudly from downstairs as soon as he had entered the house.

"Yeah! What do you want?" Josh shouted back, annoyed at his father's unending insistence on checking up on him far too frequently.

"Get down here!" the man shouted back, his tone sounding a bit more authoritative now. Josh pulled himself out of the chair and rushed downstairs, eager to get whatever redundant conversation his father had in store for him out of the way so he could return to experimenting with the lamp.

"What is it?" Josh asked upon reaching the foot of the stairs. His father stared at him, placing his hands on his hips and tapping his foot. The look on his face said it all. "What did I do?" Josh asked, hoping the punishment for whatever he did wouldn't be too strict.

His father spoke up. "You really don't know? Come on Joshua, stop playing dumb! You scared that poor girl next-door half to death, and on her birthday no less! Her parent's called us about it in the middle of dinner. Now why on Earth would you do something like that?" he questioned.

"D-dad it was an accident I swear! I didn't mean to!" Josh choked out, upset at having to relive the memory.

Upon hearing his son's voice crack, Joshua's father's expression turned angrier. "Stop sniffling boy! You're not going to be able to pout your way out of this one. You're gonna have to find a way to patch things up with that girl and her family as soon as possible!"

Just then Joshua's mom came inside carrying a single shopping bag. The mist forming in Joshua's eyes ceased upon seeing it. "Hey, what did you get me?" he asked excitedly, trying to ignore his father's words.  

She rolled her eyes before responding. "I didn't get you any treats. I got you something better!" she responded with an over-exaggerated sense of confidence as she pulled out a duster from the bag. "This place needs to be dusted badly, so I'll expect you to start tomorrow. Got it? It's about time we start getting you caught up on all your chores," she stated firmly. 

The false hope his mother had given him with her idea of a joke send Joshua over the edge. "Are you joking? We just got moved in here. Can't I relax for even a day without either of you bossing me around? I'm not your house maid, you lazy pieces of-" Josh began to snap at his parents before his father cut him off.

"Watch your mouth!" the man barked out, face red with anger at both his son's laziness and disrespect. "You're gonna do what she says and that's that! No more complaints! When I was your age, I already had a job! Now all you 16 year-olds do is sit around all on your phones all day and then complain when you're asked to contribute to the world, even just a little bit! I know you're a sensitive kid Joshua, but there comes a time where you need to man up and stop acting like a spoiled brat!"

His father's shouts were too much for him. Shaking and staring at the ground with his hand clenched in a fist, Joshua quickly turned around and stormed upstairs to his room, slamming the door shut and locking it. He leaned with his back against the door, tears streaming down his face as he looked around the room, his chest heaving from his heavy breathing. He paced over to the desk, clutching the snow white lamp by its handle, staring at it as he gritted his teeth, his face redder than it had been all day. In one swift motion, Josh spun around, chucking the lamp at the wall, and watching through watery eyes as it shattered into pieces. That's when he heard the voice.

"You're a sensitive young man, Joshua." The voice was deep and raspy, but the most concerning thing about it was where it came from. It seemed to be resonating from inside Joshua's own mind. At first Josh looked around the room, trying to find the source, refusing to believe that it was in fact inside of his head.

He hesitantly spoke out in response. "Who said that?" Joshua's voice was shaky, both due to his current level of anxiety as well as now worrying about whether or not he was developing schizophrenia.

"My name is Ciravu," the voice hissed from inside of his head. He clutched his ears trying to silence it, but to no avail. "Sir... ah...voo?" Josh sounded out the name before crying out. "W-what do you want from me?"

The voice inside of his head chuckled. "It's not about what I want, Joshua. It's about what you want. You summoned me here when you released me from my prison," stated Ciravu.

"Your... prison?" questioned Josh, looking at the remains of the white lamp as they disintegrated in front of his eyes.

"Yes," the raspy voice said matter-of-factly. "I'm what you would call, a genie, of sorts. I'll grant you three wishes. However, there are a couple catches."

"What are they?" Josh replied reluctantly, still questioning his sanity as he stood in his room apparently talking to a magical voice inside of his head. He wondered what his parents would think if they were to hear him talking to himself when they came upstairs for the night.

His thoughts were cut off as the snake-like voice answered his question. "The first catch: There are two rules when it comes to what wishes you can choose. First rule: They cannot involve me. You do not control me. Got it?"

"Yes! Yes! I understand!" Josh shouted in response, desperate to drown out the voice.

"This is a favor done purely out of the kindness of my heart." The voice continued as it boomed with laughter inside of the teen's head, causing Josh to cry out in discomfort once more. Ciravu continued. "The second rule: They cannot involve time travel. This rule only exists as a precaution to prevent you, or anyone else I serve, from going back in time to prevent my birth."

"Your birth?" Josh choked out in response. Though he feared whatever had worked its way inside of his head, if it really existed at all, he was genuinely curious as to how such a thing could be born into this world.

"Yes..." Ciravu hissed out softly. "It was nothing like traditional human birth by any means, if that's what you're thinking. I was created solely out of human desire. More specifically, envy. Thousands upon thousands of years of pent up emotion finally manifested itself into a form of energy. That energy is what has burrowed its way into your mind at this point in time. That energy is what you released from the lamp, and now that energy is here to do what it was made to do: fulfill human desires."

Josh stared, wide eyed in shock as he listened intently. "So I'm not crazy?" the boy spoke out, hardly able to contain his joy.

"No. You show no signs of being delusional at this point in time. However, that can change, which brings me to the second catch: For each wish you make, I will initiate a test for you to prove whether or not you're worthy of getting your wish granted. The difficulty of the test will depend on the severity of the wish. For example, if you were to wish for a sandwich, I would ask you 'To what food group does bread belong?'"

"Since the wish was simple, so was the test," Josh thought to himself.

"Smart kid," Ciravu responded to Joshua's surprise.

"Wait, how'd you know what I was thinking?" Josh asked, but as soon as the words left his mouth he understood the stupidity of his own question.

"I don't need to hear your words, only your thoughts," Ciravu clarified. "I'm not a person. Think of me as... just another part of you."

"So I am talking to myself," Joshua joked dryly. The thought made Joshua's head spin before he shook his head clear and spoke up. "Alright, I know what I want for my first wish," he said with absolute certainty, surprising Ciravu with his sudden boldness.

"What is it?" the now intrigued voice hissed out.

"I..." Josh began to speak before stopping himself, realizing he didn't have to talk out loud anymore. He began talking to the voice with his thoughts instead. "I want to be accepted immediately and unconditionally by everyone."

"Ahh, acceptance. Great choice." Ciravu's voice whispered out with a genuine tone. "I wasn't wrong when I said you were one of the smart ones."

"Thanks, but... can it be done?" Josh questioned.

"Of course," stated Ciravu, "if you pass the test." He hissed out the last word with a hint of glee in his tone.

Joshua's lips curled into a slight frown. "What is it? It can't be that hard. It's not like I asked for superpowers or something," he questioned silently, hoping to hear the voice ask him a simple "yes"or "no" question.

"Hmm." Ciravu hummed quizzically before erupting with a thunderous chuckle. "I've got just the thing for you, my friend. In order to be granted true, unwithering acceptance from everyone you encounter in your lifetime, you must understand acceptance in its entirety." The voice hissed out with glee as he took joy in the creative process of coming up with a test, before speaking up once more. "You must understand every level of acceptance possible, ranging from unconditional love to burning hatred. Then, and only then, will you understand and deserve the full potential of your wish."

The whole idea made Josh uneasy. "Burning hatred? What, are you going to have me take some sort of advanced, 100 page test on the human psyche?" he questioned, half joking but completely unsure of what to expect.

"No," Ciravu's voice boomed out. At this point Josh was wondering whether or not it was possible for the entity to cause him permanent hearing damage. Ciravu continued after a moment of what Josh assumed was a dramatic pause. "You're going to spend one week in an alternate dimension. You'll experience first hand what going through every level of acceptance feels like. At first, everyone will love you unconditionally. However, as the days go by, the level of acceptance people have for you will slowly but surely decline. Think of it as a very long, realistic dream."

"I'm not sure I want to go through with this," Josh thought with a sense of fear, knowing the last thing he'd want would be to become out-casted by quite literally everyone he met, even if it was only for a few days.

"It's too late," Ciravu's voice boomed, now louder than ever. "Your wish has already been made. The test will now commence!"

"NO!!!" Josh awoke with a scream, bolting upright in a bed. He was covered in a cold sweat as he panted nervously. He was really reconsidering his sanity now as his eyes darted around the room. It was, his room. "Was I dreaming?" he thought to himself. Then, remembering that demon could be listening in, he tried speaking to it again from inside his own mind. "Hello?" he questioned. There was silence. "Are you messing with me? This isn't funny!" he internally exclaimed, his agitated face turning a little red. When he didn't hear any response, he gave up on trying to cantact the mystical force. He wondered whether or not the being inside of his mind had ever really existed at all. "No..." he shook his head for doubting himself. "It had to be real. There's no way a dream could be that vivid," he thought out loud. "Then again, schizophrenia does seem like the more logical conclusion," he sighed out.

Looking over at his bedside clock, he saw it read "6:05 A.M." This confused Josh. "Six in the morning and I'm not tired? Maybe I just fell asleep early last night," he thought as he shrugged it off. 

Walking out of his bedroom, he saw his parents were still sleeping in their room next door. However, he knew they'd be up shortly. Being early birds, they set their alarm clock for 6:30 even on the weekend. The thought of it gave him a headache.

After doing all of his usual morning routine, excluding breakfast since he was feeling a little nauseous after last nights events, Josh returned to his room. He looked at his desk, then at the spot where he'd thrown the lamp. There was nothing. With a sigh of disappointment, he plopped himself down on his bed. He was confused, pondering what was real and what wasn't when his vision fell upon his phone. He grabbed it off the nightstand and turned on the power, perplexed at how he went a whole day without using it.

That was when his mom knocked on the door. As Josh looked up from the phone, he saw her walking in while holding the duster she had tried giving him yesterday. Glancing at his clock, he was surprised to see half an hour had passed since he'd woken up. Josh spoke up in a pleading tone. "Listen, I'm sorry for throwing a tantrum last night, but I just don't feel like dusting right now."

He was surprised when he heard the soothing tone in his mother's voice. "It's okay honey. I actually came in here to tell you I'm sorry for last night as well. The joke was in bad taste. You don't have to dust anymore. Oh, and your father's sorry as well. He's downstairs making you your favorite breakfast."

"French toast with bacon?" Josh questioned.

"Yes," replied his mother.

"Extra crispy?" Josh pressed further.

"Yes," his mother said with a smile as she reached down to gently scratch his head. 

Eyeing the duster still clutched in his mother's hand, Joshua's curiosity was piqued. "If I don't have to dust anymore, why'd you bring the duster?" he questioned.

"Oh! I just figured I'd dust the house, starting with your room while you're downstairs enjoying your breakfast," she replied back with a smile.

"Alright." Josh beamed back, smiling. "Thanks mom!" before pocketing his phone and rushing downstairs.

Immediately upon stepping onto the first floor, the teen could smell and even taste the intoxicating aroma of his favorite meat being fried up in a skillet. He heard it crackle as it cooked, causing his mouth to water. His dad must have heard him because he turned his head sideways, calling out to Josh with a chipper, and unusually upbeat tone. "Hey champ! Your mother and I are sorry about how we treated you last night. I thought it'd be a good idea to make you a well deserved breakfast in hopes you can forgive us for our latest mistake!" Though his words would have been taken as sarcastic in any other context, his tone sounded completely genuine. This made Josh raise an eyebrow in disbelief. The man flipped the bacon onto a plate next to the already prepared French toast, seasoning it as he spoke up. "This is still your favorite, right?" he questioned curiously as he turned, setting the plate on the table in front of his wide eyed son.

"Yeah..." Josh said before looking up his dad. Though there was nothing sinister about the smiling man in front of him, or quite frankly anything that had happened since he'd woken up, Josh felt uneasy. The words of the faceless entity echoed through his mind. "You're going to spend one week in an alternate dimension... At first, everyone will love you unconditionally. However, as the days go by, the level of acceptance people have for you will slowly but surely decline."

While skeptical of how logical the idea of being taken to an alternate dimension really was, Josh was still an open minded kid. With some internal debate, he decided to test his theory. "Hey, dad..." Josh quietly spoke up between bites of his French toast.

"Yes, son?" his father responded gleefully. Josh paused, working up the nerve to say what he had planned to.

"Your cooking tastes like shit," the boy spat out with complete seriousness in his voice, knowing his father would normally never be okay with him swearing. If he really was in some kind of alternate dimension, his father wouldn't bat an eyelash, he'd figured.

There was a moment of silence as his father stared into his coffee mug, swirling it around before speaking up in a hoarse voice. "I'm sorry Joshua. I really try to be the best parent I can be but it gets hard sometimes. I just want you to understand how much your mother and I love you. That'll never change." Looking over at his father, Josh could see that he had his head down in shame. Though the man looked to be in a relatively distraught state, his current level of sadness came no where close to the intense feeling of dread welling up inside of his son.

Joshua spoke in a shaky voice. "So you... love me... unconditionally?" he choked out, his head spinning as he fully realized what was going on.

"Yes, my son." His father responded back glumly. "Always."

The words bounced around in Joshua's mind as he contemplated what they meant. His rational side was screaming at him that any parent would unconditionally love their child. His gut, however, was telling him that the reaction, or lack thereof, that his father had to his cursing was proof enough that this wasn't real. Despite the food going down easy, Josh had a sudden urge to vomit as he ran upstairs to the bathroom and emptied his stomach into the toilet. He began to sob. "Oh no! Oh no, this can't be happening! How is this even possible?!" he cried. Suddenly he heard the door creak open and looked over to see his father standing in the doorway.

"Are you okay? Don't tell me my horrible cooking actually made you sick! I'm so sorry Joshua. Let me get you some medicine!" the man blurted out before rushing downstairs and quickly returning. "Here, take this," he cooed to his seemingly sick son as he held out the plastic bottle.

"No dad. No. I'm fine," Josh choked out between the chunks raising up in his throat. "I just need to lay down," he cried out weakly before taking his father's hand, thanking his him, whoever he was, as he helped Josh into his bed. Before Josh knew it, his vision faded to black.

He woke up with a start once more, this time wondering if he was back in the real world. Glancing at the clock, he saw it read "6:00 A.M." before he lept out of bed and sped into his parents room. He was convinced that he was still in the alternate universe but hoping that it wasn't the case.

He knew if what the genie had said was true and he was in fact still stuck in this foreign place, he would still be able to get away with just about anything since it was day 2. He stared at his parents's sleeping bodies as he contemplated what to do. Without hesitation, he grabbed the T.V. remote, raised the volume to one hundred percent, and plugged his ears as he watched the raw static emanating from the television startle them both awake.

Groggily, but in a hurry, his father reached his hand over to the remote and immediately shut the power off. He rubbed his tired eyes, trying to adjust them to the daylight as he barked out in anger. "What the hell are you doing?" However, as his vision adjusted to the room and his eyes fell upon Josh, his expression softened. He spoke out softly. "Listen buddy, you can't keep doing things like this. Yesterday you cursed at breakfast, and now you're just being obnoxious!" The man scratched his head as he reconsidered what he was saying. "Then again, maybe I'm being too harsh. You're just trying to have some fun pranking your parents, aren't you Joshua?"

Josh could only stare blankly at the figure sitting up in the bed in front of him. Joshua's jaw had dropped in an almost comedic fashion as he listened to his father's unrealistically upbeat, moodswing induced reasoning. He knew this man wasn't his father, at least not his real one.

That's when he heard a knock at the front door. Eager to get away from the strangeness that was occuring in his house, he rushed downstairs and flung open the door.

Standing in front of him was the girl from two days ago. His heart sank as he had feelings of deja-vu. All the emotion he had felt that day was circling its way back to him when she spoke up. "Hey are you okay? I heard something loud coming from next door and wanted to come check up on you. It sounded like a T.V." she stated with concern in her tone.

"Yeah..." Josh spoke out quietly, trying his hardest not to make the same mistake as before. "It was a T.V. I was um... uh, the remote malfunctioned!" he blurted out. His face was turning red with embarrassment, tears beginning to form in his eyes once more.

His negative thoughts were stopped dead in their tracks as he heard her speak up again. "I'm sorry about how I acted before, and I'm sorry if my parents caused any trouble. I was just..." she trailed off. Josh could tell she was deep in thought before she continued. "I was having a bad day. You see, it was my birthday and everything was going wrong. My little brother-" she explained before Josh unintentionally cut her off.

"The sugar..." he said softly, thinking out loud as he turned his gaze from the ground up to meet hers. He realized he hadn't actually made eye contact with her since they met. Her eyes resembled saphires. They were dark, but had a shine, almost a twinkle, that drew him even further into her beauty. He continued. "It's a shame you threw those bags away."

Her eyes went wide with surprise as she responded. "How-"

"I saw you from my bedroom window." He cut interrupted her again as he pointed upstairs guiltily, turning his gaze away from her once more out of embarrassment.

"Ah. I see," she said with a slight chuckle that surprised Josh, who had expected her to storm off again. She continued. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, we didn't have any sugar for the cake. My mom tried to make one without sugar. It was tragic," she joked with another dry chuckle, which got a laugh out of Josh. He blushed hoping the obnoxious sound of his laughter wouldn't turn her away. He stared at the ground for what must have been a minute, the feeling of despair returning to him as he waited for the awkward silence to end.

Reluctantly, he looked up with misty eyes, unsure of why she had become so quiet. He was greatly taken aback when he saw her covering her mouth with her hand, stifling her own laughter as she grinned. Upon their eyes meeting for the second time, she slowly lowered her hand from her mouth to speak again. "Your laugh... is so cute," she insisted as she continued smiling at him.

"Heh. Thanks," Josh responded back, unsure of how to follow up on her sudden compliment. "I like your eyes!" he blurted out.

"I like yours too," she said with a soft tone, her expression slowly changing from that of humor to something softer, though Josh couldn't figure out exactly what it was. She lowered her gaze to one of his hands, reaching out and grabbing it between hers. She held it gently as she spoke. "Um... you know how I ran off yesterday?"

"Yeah," Josh responded with a slight grimace due to the memory, though he was far too happy about a girl holding his hand to let it seriously bother him.

She continued speaking, now with an embarrassed tone. "Well, I was in such a hurry to be rude that I forgot to ask your name."

Josh smiled as he brought his other hand up to meet hers so that both of their hands were interlocked. "My name's Josh, Serah," he cooed out, feeling happier than he had in as long as he could remember.

Josh knew in the back of his mind that none of this was real. Though that knowledge brought him a sense of dread, he decided that he might as well enjoy the good times while they lasted.

Josh spent the next few days blossoming into quite the social butterfly. He would wake up at 6 o'clock, prepare for his day, eat a delicious breakfast while making heartfelt conversation with his loving parents, then spend the rest of the day hanging out with Serah at the park. He went to bed smiling, and silently thanking Ciravu for his gift. These last few days had been the happiest of his life, real or not, and he had the strange being to thank for that.

It wasn't until the middle of dinner on Wednesday night that things started to get a little odd. Well, odder, considering the circumstances. At first Josh didn't notice, but after quite some time he looked up and saw his mother staring at him. He knew the expression well.

"How about you help with the dishes after dinner, honey? Your father and I have been cooking a lot for you these last couple days. I think it's about time you started returning the kindness," she said in a mildly accusatory tone.

"Oh, of course mom!" Josh replied, still beaming with happiness over the events of the last few perfect days. "I'll finish after I'm done with this steak. It's delicious!" he said with a mouthful.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," his father grunted out suddenly. Looking up, Josh could see he had the same tired expression as his mother.

"Alright," Josh replied dejectedly. They ate the rest of the dinner in silence.

With a yawn, Josh finished washing the dishes. He walked over to his mother, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm tired. Good night mom," he spoke as he stretched. She didn't reply so he shrugged it off, too tired to think much into it. He entered his room and fell on top of his bed, exhausted as darkness overtook him.

Josh woke up relaxed, stretching as he turned towards the clock. "Six A.M." he thought out to himself. "Why Six? Does he consider it the beginning of the day?" It hadn't occurred to him until now that he'd been waking up at a preset time. Josh thought of the entity, wondering if it was watching him as he went through his day. "If you can hear me," Josh spoke aloud. "I want to thank you for letting me have this experience." There was no response.

As he walked downstairs at breakfast time he was surprised to see both of his parents sitting at the kitchen table with the stove inactive. They looked as though they were in the middle of a conversation, but they quieted down as Josh came near. Puzzled, Josh asked "Hey, what's up? Why's there no breakfast?" to which his father responded "There'll be breakfast, but you're gonna make it. We're done waiting on you." As Josh stared blankly in shock, he could tell by the stern expression on his father's face that he was completely serious.

It wasn't until this moment that Josh remembered why he was sent here. "This isn't a vacation. It's a test," he thought to himself, "and the fun part's over." Josh started up the stove before fumbling through the cabinets to find out where his parents kept the pans. He asked them for help several times as he struggled during the cooking process. His parents would only shrug and sip their coffee as they silently stared.

Josh set the plates of food down in front of his parents. Upon seeing the mostly blackened concoction of eggs and spices set in front of him, Joshua's father spoke up in a grim tone. "You'd better be more careful from now on Joshua." To Josh, the words sounded more like a threat than cooking advice. "Make them again, and this time, don't mess up."

After learning from his mistakes and carefully preparing breakfast for his parents once more, Josh heard a knock at the door. Immediately, he knew who it was. As he walked towards the door and gripped the handle, and overwhelming sense of dread took over Joshua. He didn't want to see what Serah would be acting like today. He wasn't sure whether or not he could take it. He had been used to his parents giving him attitude, but from the only beacon of light in his life, he knew it would be much more impactful. With a deep breath, he opened the door.

Standing in front of him was a man in a police uniform. "Hello young man," the man spoke out in a bold voice. "Are your parents home?"

After being told to wait in his room, Josh found himself playing on his phone for about 30 minutes before his father entered the room with the policeman behind him. "Son," the officer spoke up. "We got a call from your neighbors earlier today complaining about a loud noise coming from a T.V. in this household. Your father said it was you, pulling some sort of prank?" The man questioned with an unimpressed look on his face.

"That was three days ago, and it wasn't a prank it was..." Josh trailed off as he objected, unsure of how to explain his reasoning to a stranger without sounding insane.

"Regardless, we're going to need to bring you downtown for a few days for disturbing the peace," the man said gruffly.

"You're going to put me in jail," Josh cried out. "for disturbing the peace?! Are you nuts? I'm a teenager! You can't-" Josh was cutoff by his father's sudden outburst.

"You're going and that's that Joshua! You've been an unruly child for far too long, and it's time you were properly punished for it." As Josh stared at his father in disbelief, he swore he saw the corners of his mouth curl into a smile.

Josh spent the rest of the rest of the night in a cell. He was extremely relieved that it only held one occupant at a time. After seeing hearing enough about how bad prison life is from the media, he could hardly imagine what the grown inmates would have done to him in this twisted reality. Though the unmoving, almost enraged expressions of the guards watching him through the bars greatly unnerved him, he was eventually able to fall asleep.

Josh awoke on the rigid bed, still in his cell. Though the room didn't contain a clock, he could tell it was six in the morning. He knew his parents would wake up in half an hour and hopefully, they'd come to pick him up. As he waited, he noticed the guards from before were still positioned outside of his cell, staring at him. Their faces had grown a bit red, their eyes now burning with some sort of unexplainable hatred. One guard reached out to prematurely open the door of his cell, only to be hesitantly stopped by another. Despite never meeting any of these men before in his life, Josh knew why they hated him. It was Friday morning, and that meant he had the two most agonizing days of all remaining.

It was only a short while before he saw his red faced father storm into the building. He walked up to the front desk and within minutes the door to Joshua's cell was yanked open. Josh perked up and quickly walked over to hug his father, crying out "Oh God dad, I was so scared thank G-" when his father's hand suddenly came up, smacking him across the face.

"Next time you do something stupid to get yourself thrown into prison, I'll have your head on a stick instead!" his father hissed out. Josh was shaking as he turned away from his father, tears falling onto the concrete floor. Josh looked up, scanning around the room as he wondered why none of the officers had interjected with his violent action and threat. Josh saw that all of the officers had their eyes focused on him, some smirking in approval of his father's words.

"I-I'm sorry, D-dad," Josh stammered out.

"Don't speak without permission!" his dad barked out.

His father drove undoubtedly fast on the way home, having no regard for any of the speed limit signs. Luckily, the traffic was sparce since it was still early in the morning. Josh didn't say speak up again, even as he periodically glanced at the rear view mirror and saw his mother's unblinking eyes staring at him.

Upon pulling up to the house, his father spoke up in a loud, calm and eerily relaxed voice. "Go upstairs to your bedroom. I'll be up when I'm ready."

Josh knew that there was something sinister in his tone. Still, he followed orders to avoid any immediate danger. Stepping out of the car, Josh looked over at Serah's house, wondering if he'd be able to avoid her for the rest of the week. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move on the second floor of the house. Looking up, he saw that a curtain in one of the upstairs bedrooms was swaying after being pulled shut.

Josh spent the majority of the day lying on the bed in his room. At first he was too scared to move around as he thought about how quickly his father had turned violent. After a few hours however, he was finally able to calm down enough to grab his phone off the nightstand. He had used it so rarely the past week that he was surprised it didn't have dust covering the screen. Upon turning it on, he saw it the time read "5:55 P.M." He had planned to pull up his favorite gaming app. until he noticed a small white number in the corner of the screen. It was his phone's inbox, and until then, he'd never had a reason to touch it. He opened it up and saw twenty-four unread messages, all of which were from Serah.

He brought his palm up, slapping it against his face, wincing as it touched his bruise. He shook his head, thinking aloud. "Jeeze... I completely forgot that she put her number into my phone. She must feel so ignored..." He opened up the first message, half-expecting to see walls of text bashing him, following the tradition of everything else that happened today. He was surprised, however, to see the pleasant words typed out in the first message. "I hope you're doing okay. I had a great time today."

At the bottom of the screen, he saw that the message was labeled "Monday, 8:30 P.M."

"Damn it," he cursed under his breath as he thought out loud. "Who knows how long she's been waiting for a response from me." He spoke with a sense of disappointment in himself as he opened the next message. "It's okay if you don't want to talk right now, hun. I'll catch you tomorrow. Be sure to get your beauty sleep! ;)"

He smiled as he remembered why he liked her so much. It wasn't just her immense beauty, it was also her patience and understanding. He wondered how much of it was due to Ciravu's modifications.

His train of thought was cut off as he heard his door creak open. For a split second, his spirits lifted. After being cooped up in his room all day, he was finally going to be allowed downstairs just in time for supper. That was until he saw the long kitchen knife that his father was holding tightly in his hand.

Josh froze as he stared at his father with wide eyes. He could hear his heart thudding in his chest before his father spoke up slowly. "You should come downstairs now. I need some help with something out back."

Though he had anticipated the upcoming negative mood-swing of everyone in this alternate universe, he would never have dreamed anyone would attempt to seriously hurt him, especially not his own flesh and blood. He silently pleaded to Ciravu, begging for him to lessen the harshness of his sick test as he slowly stood out of bed. 

Josh took his time slowly moving across the room towards the door, his eyes never leaving the glimmering knife still clutched in his father's hand as he stood just outside of the room.

"Hurry up Joshua. I don't have all day," the man hissed between gritted teeth, tapping his foot impatiently. His eyes were burning with an intense passion the likes of which Josh had never seen before.

With his heart pounding, Josh continued inching towards the door. He knew he couldn't follow his father downstairs. Thinking fast,  Josh turned towards his closet and spoke. "Alright, I'll be down in a moment. I just need to take a quick shower first. I didn't get to take one this morning since I was locked up," he said as he reached into the closet, picking up a shirt by the hanger.

"No. You're coming downstairs now," his father said in a low voice between gritted teeth.

Josh let the shirt fall to the floor as he clutched the hanger in his hand. Suddenly he spun around, flinging the metal object directly towards the face of his father before rushing towards the door. 

Joshua's father cried out in pain as the metal object made contact with his eye, dropping the knife and reaching up to shield the pain filled socket. Josh could make out a droplet of blood sliding down his father's face as he slammed the door shut and locked the door. Before he had time to feel bad, however, the door started shaking violently as his father pounded against it. "God damn it you ungrateful waste of human life, open this door or so help me I'll take my time tearing you apart." The man screamed out in a tone of pure rage, one that Josh had never heard before.

Unsure of how long the door would hold out, Josh grabbed his bed and started dragging it towards the door. Though his muscles ached as he struggled to pull it across the room, the adrenaline pumping through his veins allowed him to prop it up, leaning it against the wooden door. He gasped and panted for air as he moved over to his nightstand, clutching and dragging it towards the door as well. Though the makeshift barricade appeared to be doing a good job of keeping the crazed man out, Josh started to sob in fear. "Why are you doing this?" Josh screamed out at his father, or whatever was pretending to be him, in a vain attempt to get him to stop.

After a few more minutes of pounding, followed by plenty of anger induced curses on his father's apart, Josh finally saw the door stop shaking as the pounding ceased. Josh waited in the room in silence for a few minutes before he heard the loud noise of his phone vibrating on the floor. He quickly clutched it, covering it with his hands to drown out the noise. He didn't need anything getting his father's attention right now. Looking down at the phone, he saw it read "New text message!" He immediately shut off and pocketed the device, listening carefully for the sound of footsteps in the hall. There was silence.

Josh remained tense, but as the hours passed by, he started to relax. Glancing down at his clock on the floor, he saw it read "10:25 P.M." Only then did he realize how tired he was. He finally allowed his heavy breathing to stop as he curled up into a ball on the floor, taking smaller, more relaxed breaths. That's when he heard it.

From across the room, he heard a scratching sound. It was incredibly faint, and his heart raced while he wondered how long it had been there. The sound reminded him of nails on a chalkboard, only much quieter. His eyes darted around the room as he tried to find the source. He slowly got up to his feet once more, quietly moving around the room. He first checked the window, all those stories of a monster scratching on the other side flashed into his mind as he separated the blinds. There was nothing there. Josh made his way to the closet, his fearful, sleep deprived mind imagining it was a monster coming from the attic door built into his ceiling. After everything that monster Ciravu had put him through, he wouldn't have been surprised if the devil himself came charging down at him. No, that wasn't where the sound was coming from.

Slowly Josh moved himself towards his bedroom door. Looking over the barricade, he was proud of himself for being able to find a way to escape that madman. As he stood there listening, he noticed that the noise sounded louder where he now stood. Carefully leaning forward, pressing his head against an exposed part of the door, he could feel the feint vibration of whatever was scratching against the other side. He finally realized what it was. He recognized the sound of a knife colliding with wood from all those times he'd helped his mother chop vegetables in the kitchen.

"D-dad?" Josh choked out, almost in a whisper.

The noise stopped.

Josh stood there in silence, his jaw dropped as a sense of horror overwhelmed him. How long had his father been standing out there, patiently carving at the door without saying a word?

From beyond the door, Josh suddenly heard a low, hoarse whisper. "Let... me... in!" At this point, Josh could hardly recognize his father's horrific voice.

That's when the doorknob started wiggling again, the door shaking as the man continued to ram into it.

"Leave me alone!" Josh shouted as tears resumed streaming down his face. He backed himself up into the corner where his bed used to be, curling into a ball, hugging his knees as he sobbed, shouting out "Go away!!!" as the door continued to shake.

He was surprised when he heard the voice of his mother, calling to him over the noise of the shaking door. "Just come out and take your punishment, honey. Your father and I have long since grown tired of these hiding games. Sometimes you've just got to accept that this is the way things are and own up to your mistakes," she spoke out in a soothing but impatient tone. 

Joshua's breathing turned shallow as he listened to her voice. She didn't sound like some demon out of a horror movie. The woman outside sounded just like his mother. He found himself contemplating whether or not this was all real. He wondered whether or not he'd just gone crazy and imagined Ciravu, and had been delusional the whole time.

His mother continued speaking from beyond the door. "Please, Joshua. Just open up. Your punishment won't be that bad if you just own up to it. The longer you draw it out the worse it will be. It's really not that bad if you think about it," she said in a soft, pleading voice. "Everyone dies."

Josh broke out into tears, his mind all but snapping as he screamed, "You're not my mother!"

"That's right!" his mother responded in a patronizing tone. "We're disowning you Joshua. We never wanted you." The words resonating from behind the door caused Joshua to cover his ears as he rocked back and fourth on the floor.

"You were the biggest damn mistake I've ever made, Joshua. Now I'm going to fix it," his father grunted out between slams into the door, "and I'm going to enjoy every moment of it," he stated with a low, faintly audible chuckle.

Josh stared blankly at the door with blurred vision as he began humming to himself to drown out the noise. It was a coping mechanism that he'd discovered at an early age due to his parents' constant bickering. Between the humming and the tight grip he had on his ears, he was finally able to drown out the all the noise flooding into the room. Even as he saw the door repeatedly shaking, and saw one of the hinges bust off the door, he was able to find comfort in his own thoughts. He thought of the time he'd spent with Serah only days earlier, even of the times he'd spent arguing with his parents as an unhappy child. At least then, times were peaceful. As his muscles untensed and his fatigued body relaxed, darkness slowly overtook him.

Suddenly waking up, Josh didn't bother looking down at the clock as he made his way over to the door. He knew he only had half an hour until the alarm clock in his parents' room went off. He quickly pulled the objects in the barricade away from the door, being careful to make as little noise as possible. He found this much more difficult than the previous night due to his muscles still being loose from sleeping, not to mention the loss of adrenaline. When all the objects were pulled away from the almost completely unhinged door, he reached for the locked knob and paused. What if his parents had stayed up all night waiting for him to open it? What if they were standing out there, silently waiting for him? The minutes ticked by as sweat accumulated in his hand. The sound of his heart beating in his chest only made him more nervous as he finally unlocked the knob and twisted it, slowly pulling the door open.

Both his father and mother lay slumped against the wall. His father was clutching the largest steak knife they had. Though this made him sick to his stomach, the jug of laundry detergent his mother was clutching made him question just how sick Ciravu really was. Josh carefully tiptoed past the unconscious bodies and made his way downstairs, grabbing a loaf of bread and jug of water before pocketing the keys to his father's vehicle.

Carefully stepping outside, Josh looked around. The area seemed to be void of all life so he quickly made his way to the car and hopped inside. He was thankful that, out of all the things his parents had demanded him to do, he'd decided to get a driver's license. As he pulled out of the driveway and made his way to the outskirts of town, he was thankful to notice the lack of cars driving around this early in the morning. As he finally made his way onto the highway leading out into the countryside, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Josh wasn't allowing himself any distraction right now so he quickly turned off the power. In the back of his mind however, he wondered whether or not his parents had woken up already and called him. Finally, he made his way out into the countryside and continued driving down the road, eager to get as far away from civilization as possible.

He was driving for about twenty minutes when hunger overwhelmed him. To avoid a crash due to distraction, he slowed the car down and stopped it at the side of the road. As he reached over to the loaf of bread and shoved a piece into his food-deprived mouth, he saw that he was near a lake. Slowly, he moved the car off of the road and down under the bridge, out of sight from any future passersby.

As he finished bis fifth slice of bread, he finally shut off the car and began to relax. Taking a swig of water, Josh finally pulled out his phone. Upon opening it, he saw that it still had the two read messages from before, as well as twenty-four additional messages marked as unread.

He opened up the first few messages and re-read them, basking in the comforting feeling they brought before sighing and proceeding into the unread category. As expected, they ended up turning from friendly to sinister soon enough. Message number ten read: "Why aren't you responding? Did I do something wrong?" It was followed by message eleven, which read: "Is this because I'm eighteen? For fuck's sake Josh my birthday was only last week. I'm hardly a pedophile, especially if we only kissed." Josh could still remember the bittersweet taste of her cherry chapstick on his tongue. Though false, he knew the memory would last with him for the rest of his life. By message number eighteen, the texts became threats. "If you don't stop ignoring me right now, I'm going to hurt you Josh, and I'm not just talking about a simple breakup either." By the time he got to unread message twenty-four, it simply read: "Your heart will be mine, one way or another."

Though he didn't want to read any more, he saw he only had two messages left. With a gulp, he opened message number twenty-five.

"Are you and your father getting along? ;)" the message read. His mind raced back to the previous night, images of his shaking door and the sound of his father shouting flooded into his mind. Rather than make him fearful, this message made him grit his teeth in anger. Did she think it was funny? He saw he only had one more message left, and he thought back to only moments ago when he had first entered the countryside and felt his phone vibrate. This one was recent. Upon opening up the message, he saw it contained only two words: "Slow down."

Josh stared down at the phone in confusion for a minute before his heart rate quickened. His head immediately looked turned to check the back seat of his car, remembering all the horror movie cliche's he'd witnessed as a kid. It was empty. His eyes started scanning the surrounding area outside the car. Finally, he saw her.

Serah was standing just out from under the bridge, approximately 20 meters or so behind the car. He expected her to be carrying a knife, or possibly even a gun. Looking down at her hands however, he saw she was unarmed. Still, Josh didn't let down his guard as he quickly locked the door and began searching the car for a weapon. He didn't find anything other than an emergency medical supplies in the glove box, as well as some old candy wrappers in the back seat.

Josh jerked his head back up to see where Serah was, half-expecting her to be outside of his front window. He was relieved to find her standing in the same spot. However, her lack of movement caused his curiosity to pique. If she had followed him all the way here, why had she stopped persuing him? Was she waiting for something? Josh reluctantly came to the decision that confrontation was better than waiting with his back turned. With a deep breath, he unlocked and opened the door, stepping out of the car.

Josh stood there for a moment, staring at the statue-like girl for a moment before starting to walk over. Only when he got closer did he realize how red her face was. It looked like she'd been crying.

"Hello?" Josh called out at the halfway point, ready to turn around and run if things went south.

There was no response. Josh took another step closer when suddenly Serah broke out into a full sprint towards him. Though Josh thought he had a plan, when the time came for action his body wouldn't allow it. His legs remained frozen in shock and fear as he raised his arms up to shield his face. 

Before he knew what was happening, Josh was tackled to the ground. He soon found himself struggling for oxygen as the heavy weight on top of him pressed his face into the muddy Earth. 

"I didn't want to have to do this Josh. Why couldn't we just be happy together?" Serah cried out between sobs. Her once soft, calming voice now sounded high pitched and hysterical.

Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in the back of his left thigh as he screamed into the ground. The adrenaline pumping through his veins was enough for him to push up off the ground and roll onto his back. As Serah began to wrap her arm around his face to lock on a rear naked choke, Josh clamped his teeth down onto her wrist as hard as he could, drawing blood. Wailing, Serah let him go as she clutched her gushing limb.

After pulling himself to his feet, Josh reached back to investigate the source of his pain. Gripping the handle of something metal, he let out a blood-curdling cry as he began to pull the embedded object out of his body. Between blurry eyes, Josh could hardly make out the bloody switchblade clutched in his hand.

Joshua's world seemed to move in slow motion as adrenaline coursed through his veins. With every loud beat of his heart, he could feel blood gushing out of his wound. As he looked down at Serah's bleeding, writhing form, something inside him snapped. His mind was overwhelmed with a single, primal desire: survival.

With his remaining energy, Josh dropped himself down on top of Serah's body. He positioned himself so that his knees were pinning her arms down to the ground as she stared up at him. She screamed as his knee pressed into her arm wound. Joshua's eyes were wide with a lost, wild look as he raised the knife up and plunged it down into her chest, piercing her heart.

Serah only shook her head in pain as she coughed up blood. Even as her movement slowed and came to a complete stop, the look of pure hatred never left her lifeless face.

After minutes of heavy breathing, Josh finally pulled himself up and off of the first girl he'd ever loved. He then curled up into a ball next to her body and started sobbing uncontrollably.

Joshua laid there for what seemed like an eternity before the pain in his leg finally gathered his focus. Looking down, he saw that a small pool of blood had formed. He felt nauseous at the sight, and though his head was spinning, he knew he had to do something about the wound quickly.

Suddenly, he remembered the medicine in his car. With his body feeling even weaker than usual, Josh was hardly able to pull himself up off the ground. He slowly began limping towards his car. He finally reached the door and yanked it open, collapsing inside as he reached over to the glove-box and searched through the supplies. He cursed to himself as he realized most of the bottles were empty.

Josh began to feel cold as he found the only container that still had something to offer. It was cough syrup. Josh stared at the unopened bottle, his eyes covered in tears as he waited helplessly for death to overtake him as he bled out.

He thought back to the past week. There were many traumatic memories, sure, but even now, he felt that the good outshined the bad. There was only one thing he still didn't understand at this point. Why had he always woken up at precisely six A.M., no matter how early or late he went to bed? Suddenly it clicked to him.

Because this was his test, the days didn't go by as they normally would. When his day was over... when he fell asleep... the next day would immediately begin at the preset time. Since today was the last day, all he had to do was fall asleep and his test would be over. With new-found hope, Josh twisted open lid of the cough syrup and began to chug the bottle, hoping the sleep inducing side effect would kick in in-time.

Josh winced as he rubbed his sore leg. He began to grow dizzy as the feeling of pain intensified. He began to shudder from the cold as his vision blurred. Just as his his overworked heart began to slow, darkness overtook him.

Josh stumbled backwards, off of his feet and fell onto his bed. He looked around in a panic, but relaxed as he found himself in his room. He moved around, and was grateful to notice the pain in his leg was gone. He was just getting used to his surroundings when the loud, booming voice hissed out inside of his mind. "Welcome back."

Josh only stared blankly ahead as his brain failed to register what emotion he should be feeling at this point in time. He felt anger, sadness, happiness and most of all, relief. He wanted to shout at the voice, make him pay for the hell he'd just sent Josh through, but Josh knew it would be a useless endeavor.

Josh slowly spoke up. "Am I... really back?"

"Yes, and your wish has already been granted," Ciravu hissed out. "Congratulations on surviving, by the way," the voice chuckled out quietly.

"Alright," Josh said blankly as he sat there, staring at his door carefully. He saw it was attached to both hinges and a sigh of relief escaped his lips. "It's finally over," he said with a faint smile.

"You must be exhausted," Ciravu spoke out with a condescending tone.

"Yes, but first..." Josh trailed off as he pulled himself to his feet. Walking over to his window, he was surprised at how beautiful the sky looked in light of all that had just transpired. "First, you owe me two more wishes," Josh continued.

"Of course," the voice responded, surprised by the young man's eagerness to take another test. "What is your next wish?"

"I wish for you to never bring your presence into this world again," Josh spoke out in a determined voice.

"That is against the rules!" Ciravu hissed back at him louder than ever before, his tone revealing feelings of anger. "Your second wish is forfeit!"

Josh only continued to stare out at the horizon, a smile spreading across his lips as he heard how upset he'd made the seemingly unfazeable being.

"Very well then," Josh spoke out in a calm, collected voice. "My third and final wish is this: Erase every part of this encounter with you from my memory."

Though Ciravu had no physical form, Josh could tell that if he did, he would have been smiling as he cackled out. "Interesting wish. Tell you what, kid. I like you. I'll make the test for this one easy. Just answer one question question for me. Did you enjoy killing her?"

Joshua's mind flashed back to the moment when he sank the knife into Serah's flesh. He could practically smell the blood that came rushing out of her mouth. He remembered all the fear and anger he'd felt leading up to that moment, and how free he felt as he watched the life fade from those sapphire colored eyes.

After a long moment of silence, Joshua's reply came out clear as day. "I enjoyed it as much as you did. That's why I want to forget... rather, why I need to."

The next day, Josh woke up in his bed with a long stretch. He lazily glanced at the clock, which read: "11:20 A.M." Walking downstairs, he saw a note on the kitchen table that read "Sorry for yelling at you last night. Your father made your favorite breakfast for you as an apology. It's wrapped up in the fridge. We hope you can forgive us for being so harsh. Love, mom."

Josh smiled as he read the note, but as he did, a feint sense of deja-vu overtook him. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Somehow, Josh knew who it was even before he opened the door and saw those dark, shiny, sapphire-like eyes staring at him.

Alternate ending

Josh winced as he rubbed his sore leg. He began to grow dizzy as the feeling of pain intensified. He began to shudder from the cold as his vision blurred. Just as his his overworked heart began to slow, darkness overtook him.

He awoke in a daze, a bright white light being shown in his face. He could hear voices, but in his dazed state, he couldn't understand them. He thought he made out the image of a doctor, but the light left his vision as suddenly as it had shown up.

Josh awoke in a snow white room. Looking around, he was confused to see that it was completely void of furniture. He had never seen anything like it, and his heartrate began to increase as he realized he couldn't move. Looking down, Josh saw he was restrained by some sort of white sleeping bag. Suddenly he heard the large metal door creak open, and saw his parents enter with a man he'd never seen before. At first he thrashed around violently, screaming at them to back off, fearing that they were here to finish what they couldn't the night before. Upon seeing them in tears, however, his struggling ceased. "W... what's going on?" Josh stammered out, concerned and confused, but still on edge.

"Why'd you do it Josh? Why'd you murder that girl?" his father choked out in a weak voice. Josh could tell the man was fighting back tears.

"What're you talking about? You... you mean Serah? She attacked me first! For fucks sake she stabbed me!" Josh cried out, his eyes wide in confusion.

"Your body was clear of wounds when you entered here, son," the other man spoke out. Josh recognized him as the doctor he'd glimpsed earlier.

"What? What do you mean?" Josh continued to cry out. "She stabbed me with a knife! I'm sorry I had to stab her back, but it was self defense!" 

"There was no knife," the doctor replied calmly. "Police found the girl's body covered in bruises, especially around the neck. The autopsy revealed that she'd been strangled. If only she'd phoned the police sooner," he said softly as he shook his head.

Josh thought back to when Serah had been standing still behind his car. She wasn't on the phone, was she? No, she couldn't have been. She was... just standing there? Josh began to scream out in pain as his head throbbed in confusion.

"W...what about you trying to break into my room with a knife? I saw it in your hand the next morning while you were still asleep outside of my room!" Josh hollered out between sobs.

Joshua's father covered his face, but Josh could see a tear fall onto the floor before he spoke. "Joshua, my son... Your mother and I were out at dinner all night. When we came home, we found your door locked and thought nothing of it." Josh could hear his mom sobbing now as she turned away. "I'm so sorry we didn't call somebody to help you immediately Joshua. Maybe we could have avoided all of this."

"No! No!!! You're lying!" Josh screamed out at the top of his lungs between sobs. His head felt like it was splitting open. 

"Alright, come on. We've got paperwork to fill out," the doctor said as he ushered the parents out of the room and closed the large metal door.

Josh continued to cry out inside of his padded cell, his screams echoing throughout the dark hallway of the asylum. 

Written by ColorlessAngelz
Content is available under CC BY-SA