I consider myself to be very lucky. I grew up with two loving parents, an older sister, named Amelia, who always gave wise advice, and one younger brother, named Andrew. My sister was always calm, and acted as a third parent to me. Being the middle child, that was always something important in my childhood. While my mom and dad where arguing, or showering all of their attention on the baby of the family, I could always count on Amelia.
She was wise, positive, and treated all of us the same, favoring no sibling over the other. For that, I will always respect her. Andrew on the other hand, was different to say the least. To add to the constant attention they were giving him, my parents would always be by his side whenever he awoke, screaming in the night during one of his night terror episodes. I could understand why they were so gentle, and sheltering with him. My sister always told me that when I had a nightmare, I was welcome to come sleep in her room, which I did often. She was always so brave, and for that I admired her. When I was sixteen, I wanted to be like her. Amelia was a role-model wherever she went.
Amelia, and I went together like peas and carrots, or so my parents would say. Andrew on the other hand, wasn't as agreeable. Bonding with him was a hopeless endeavor. Even attempting to urge a conversation was difficult with my brother. Each time I sought to do anything with him, I was back to square one.
I gave up after a while, and just made do with Amelia, which was fine by my standards. When I asked Amelia about Andrew, she provided vague answers to my questions. "Andrew is a little bit different than you Jonah," she would inform me. She often spoke of how his conditions required extra care, and attention from my parents. Coming from her, I knew she was honest about what she said, the vagueness of her answers troubled me still.
As I gained knowledge from Amelia, I grew ever more curious about Andrew's frequent issues. I was unsettled when they first began around the March after his fourth birthday. I naturally assumed that his problems would gradually cease with age, just as mine had, but they only seemed to grow worse. My parent's universe revolved around Andrew. I know that they were trying their hardest to keep his childhood safe, and happy, but as time dragged on, I began noticing signs of stress, and sleep deprivation emanating from my parents. I mentioned this to Amelia, and she had noticed it too. She told me not to worry. She said that mom and dad were tired because they spent a lot of their time tending to him. Again I trusted Amelia. I knew she was smarter than I was, and she never led me into falsehood, or deceit.
As Andrew's problems worsened, mom and dad grew more frustrated and impatient with him. Some nights, instead of rushing to his aid, like they always did, Amelia would head down to take their place at his bedside. I figured that I wouldn't question them, as I know I would seek a break if I had a child wake me from my slumber, late into every night. My sister was perfect for the job right from the beginning. She calmed Andrew in half the time it took my parents.
During the seldom occurrence in which I would have a nightmare, I crawled up the stairs to Amelia's room, and met her halfway down the steps, on the way to my brother's room. I continued on to the room and carried out my usual routine of laying out my pillow and blankets on the old mattress beside her bed. Finally, when his wails ceased, Amelia came thumping up the steps to the room. When she entered and closed the door, she outstretched her arms like a bird, and yawned. When she sat back down on her bed, questions began swimming in my curious mind.
"Hey, Amelia," I croaked. She raised an eyebrow, indicating she was listening. I continued, "What happens when you go to calm Andrew?" She frowned, and began to speak.
"He has dreams, or rather, hallucinations," she replied. I was about to ask her what she meant when she continued. "Andrew sees frightening visions that his mind thinks are real, but aren't," she finished. That was plenty enough for my exhausted curiosity. I thanked her and went to sleep.
As Amelia went to calm Andrew every night, I began noticing similar alters in her. Similar to those of which happened to my parents. Concerned, I brought it up in conversation with her. She nodded her head and told me that she was beginning to feel increasingly impatient with him, just as mom and dad had. I sympathized towards her, and also Andrew. The people he counted on to remain sane, were slowly tiring out. I rejected the inevitable thought that I would soon take Amelia's place.
The time came soon, sooner than I would have originally desired. Amelia was headed to a party with her friends, and my parents needed to pick up a prescription for Andrew. As if the pills would help. Amelia was supposed to return home before eleven thirty at night. However, when the clock presented eleven twenty five, I knew Amelia wasn't going to make it home. I would have to attend to my brother myself. The time of his usual outbursts drew near. Time seemed to drag on for centuries, as I stood outside his door, awaiting his screams of terror.
I was afraid when I first heard sheets rustling from within the room, for I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before his screaming would erupt, filling the silence of the night. A scream almost sounded from me as Andrew burst into terrified howls. I was ill-prepared and hardly ready for this, I had barely been able to small talk with the boy, and now I was going to calm one of his fits. The reality seemed unreal to me, and when my hand grasped the doorknob, my body was shaking violently. I told myself that Amelia would have told me to be brave, had she been present. With that, I swung the door open and rushed to my brother's side.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Andrew was kicking, digging his heels into the soft mattress, and screaming bloody murder. Gazing at him viciously clawing at his flesh, and sinking his teeth into his arms, I knew now that I had to forget my fears and help my brother. I began my attempts by shouting his name. When that didn't work I resulted to physical contact. My hands wrapped around his head and twisted it so his eyes were now staring into mine. His eyes displayed not anger, but pure terror. I shouted again, this time even louder. "Andrew!" I howled. His kicking slowed and eventually stopped altogether. Still gazing into my eyes, he spoke the first words that I had heard from him in a long time.
"Jonah?" he questioned. His voice was shaky, and hoarse. I waited until his breathing slowed to reply.
"Yes, Jonah," I replied. Releasing my vice grip on his head, I stared upon him. His flesh was torn from his violent scratching, and his arms were covered in bite marks. For the first time, I saw my brother for what he really was. I pitied him. I would have hated to suffer every night as he did. Looking up at me, I could see dark rings under his eyes, making me pity him all the more. Halting my speech before I could deliver it he spoke two words to me.
"Dead Eyes," he wheezed. He looked away, and his breathing intensified. "Dead Eyes," he exclaimed, speaking louder this time. I attempted to calm him by reassuring him, but he didn't look at me. Impatient, and eager to conclude the experience, I followed his eyes to his closet doors. Picking up the flashlight residing on his bed-stand I shone it at the door. As if on cue, the doors began shaking violently.
I had seen enough. I bolted for the door, hoping to reach the phone to dial 911. Hopelessly confused, I yanked at the mysteriously now locked door. Eventually I gave up and swiveled back to face the shuddering closet doors. Well, if whatever awaited me behind that door was tormenting my brother, I was going to end it. Sudden anger flowed through me as I violently swung the doors open. God, why? Inside, my brother, my precious baby brother's mangled, half-eaten corpse, sprawled out on the closet floor. I vomited unto the floor. Hot tears were now streaming out of my eyes. My mouth filled with their salty taste.
Confused, and demolished, I turned to see my brother sound asleep in bed. Curiosity was a burden to me, for I had to know how Andrew was dead, but alive somehow. I sprinted over to his bed, silently wishing that it was all just a nightmare. In denial, I yanked the covers from over his head. There lie a man I had never seen before, the arms crossed by his chest, were devoid of any visible flesh. A wide, sickening, toothy grin inched its way across the man's face. He looked at me, and I stared into his dead eyes.