Author's note: This is my version of the Jeff the Killer remake, which was selected through a community challenge by votes, to become the new Jeff the Killer story to be featured on this site. The pasta that came second in the voting can be found here and was written by SiriusNightshade, and the third place was written by JZoidberg and can be found here. This is not the original story, but rather a retelling.Please enjoy!
The day Jeffrey Woods and his family arrived at their new home, the sky was overcast and the weather was muggy. The gray skies seemed to punctuate his mood. Jeff was not thrilled to be here. Their new home was beautiful though, a true example of his father’s new found success, but still, it wasn’t the home he’d known.
A week after they’d settled in, Jeff and Liu woke up early. The sky was a crisp and gorgeous blue, and although the Louisiana heat was playing its usual cruel tricks, the brothers decided that a morning bike ride to explore the area would be just the right ticket to combat the slight pangs of homesickness that they’d both been experiencing over the last week.
“I miss home,” Liu blurted out, as Jeff was smearing salsa on the microwaved burrito that would serve as his breakfast.
“Me too Liu, but I guess this is home now, so we just sort of have to make the most of it."
“I know, but all of our friends and stuff are back in New Orleans. Remember that building we’d always sneak up on top of and watch the city lights come on, I miss that,” Liu responded, sounding down.
“Yeah, and ZM Video, the owner knew us and would always let us rent R-Rated movies without our parents, and he’d always hook us up with a free video game rental if we got a few movies… yeah, I miss that too, but Liu, we have to…”
Liu interrupted, “I know, we have to make the most out of this, but still, this place just seems so fake, and mom and dad still treat us like we aren’t even here.”
“Yep, they do. I was sort of hoping the new house would improve their mood, but what can we do?”
Liu had no answer.
Jeff finished his breakfast and the two boys left the house to mount their bikes and explore around a bit more. As it turned out, the subdivision they moved into was rather close to a cluster of stores in a small shopping center.
Village Shopping Center was the name of the short row of businesses. Within these were a Pizza Hut, a Chinese restaurant, a tobacco store, a Sprint store, and, what Jeff and Liu were most excited about, a video store.
“We’ll have to get mom or dad to come down here and open up an account so we can rent movies,” Liu mentioned as Jeff flipped a box over to read the description of a horror movie.
“Shit, you’re right,” Jeff snapped, feeling a bit of frustration at this thought. He knew getting his parents to actually come down here and set up a membership would take forever, since their usual after work routine was to go off into separate rooms until they got hungry enough to come out and speak.
Jeff glanced over at the girl working behind the counter, “Maybe I can go over there and sweet talk her into giving us accounts,” he joked.
“Yeah right Jeff, one look at you and she’ll probably ban us,” Liu remarked back, a smile broad on his face.
“You doubt me little man?”
“Doubt you? The guy who’s kissed two girls and almost touched a boob, never, please go on over and lay on all the charm.”
“Whatever, I totally could have banged that girl, but her parents came home and….”
“Last time you told me that story, you said her parents were out of town and her sister came home…”
Jeff became flustered and while in the process of trying to make yet another come back, the girl behind the register removed all doubt by speaking to the boys herself.
“Hey, aren’t those your bikes?” the young woman asked, pointing towards the glass window.
Jeff and Liu looked over and saw three boys outside, two of which were riding around in circles on the Woods brother’s bikes. They would spin them around and then jump off, letting the bikes crash onto the pavement, just to stand them up and ride them again. The two boys riding the bikes were both slim in build, while a heavier boy stood on the sidewalk, drinking a Red Bull and watching.
Jeff and his brother made their way towards the doors of the video store, when the fat kid saw them coming. Jeff couldn’t hear what he said to his two friends, but he made some sort of gesture while shouting, and the other two boys dumped the bikes where they lay, and walked towards the sidewalk, directly towards the two brothers.
“Those your bikes?” one of the boys asked as Jeff and Liu entered the summer heat.
“Yeah, why are you riding them?” Liu asked sharply.
“We just saw them there man, relax, figured someone just left them out for us,” the same boy responded, as his two friends joined him on either side.
Jeff, determined to make a good start here, tried to change the course of this confrontation.
“Well, they’re ours. We just moved here about a week ago, we live over on Fairmont Avenue, a few blocks from here. We were just checking out the neighborhood.” Jeff hoped that a civil tone could turn things around, but he could tell by the insolent look on the kid’s face that this was a difficult gamble.
“Good for you, you moved somewhere,” the fat kid remarked.
“Oh yeah Troy,” the first boy spoke, “they moved into that piece of shit house with the gravel driveway. I was wondering who would move into that place.”
“Well Randy, now we know,” the big kid, apparently named Troy, replied.
Jeff, still trying to salvage the conversation, tried peaceful banter one more time. “Okay, so you’re Troy and you’re Randy, well I’m Jeff and this is my brother Liu, we just moved here from New Orleans.”
“You ain’t in New Orleans now,” the third boy, who’d just now decided to speak, remarked.
“Yeah, and who the fuck said you could call us by our names?” Randy asked, that insolent, privileged smile never leaving his face.
Jeff smiled and responded to Randy, “Well, I guess I could have called you a fucking asshole but I figured I would give you the benefit of the doubt.”
In that moment, a flare of rage replaced the smirk that had rested on Randy’s face throughout this entire exchange. The other two boys, Troy and the still unknown third member of his band, seemed to be momentarily struck silent. Perhaps they weren’t used to being stood up to.
“Oh I’m sorry, was that language too adult for you?” Jeff asked. “And you, quiet boy, we know this isn’t New Orleans,” Jeff stated to the slim kid that had reminded him of his geographical locations, “because if this was New Orleans you three would already have gotten your asses kicked for touching someone else’s shit.”
The slim kid looked back and forth at his two friends, however, Randy, clearly the leader, seemed to know what to say. “Keith, you gonna let this little bitch talk to you like that?”
Jeff knew this part. And while he wanted quite badly to sock Randy and his pals around, a real concern suddenly invaded his mind. If he and Liu got into a fight on their first week in this new neighborhood, their parents would freak. He could practically hear it now. And while things had been far from perfect in their home, even after the move, there was a peace that had fallen over the family, and Jeff, fighting his urges, decided to do his best to keep it.
Jeff looked over the three, very well dressed, very privileged looking suburban kids before them, and dismissed them. “You guys are boring, come on Liu, let them continue their play dates without us.”
Liu laughed at that and followed behind his brother towards the bikes. However, Randy and his little gang of would-be toughs would have none of that. They moved to block Jeff and his brother once again.
“Where you going pussy?” Randy asked, shoving Jeff. Jeff could tell that shove had no real conviction. Randy was trying to figure him out, seeing where his buttons were. He’d push harder eventually, but Jeff swallowed the slowly building anger within him once more.
Liu took a bit more exception to the shove.
“We’re going to your mom’s house, me and my brother saved up a couple dollars from doing chores and we hear she doesn’t charge much.”
As the words left Liu’s mouth, Randy appeared to only register a small portion of it all. Randy Hayden had grown up in Mandeville. His father was a partner at a local firm that made a lot of money, something else that Jeff would soon come to learn. Randy and his friends, while the same age as Jeff, had grown up in very different circumstances. They were used to being listened to; they were used to being feared.
In fact, Randy, the target of the insult, just stood there. It was actually Troy, the fat kid who stepped forward, fist balled, eyes squinted in anger.
“Who you talking to?” Troy shouted, and took a wild swing at Liu.
Liu, who was both in better shape and had sparred with Jeff a time or two during his time spent boxing, was able to avoid the punch, but just barely. Had that been all, it may have once again ended there. Troy was clearly taken by surprise at Liu’s speed, and actually didn’t attempt another punch. However, these were bullies, kids that ran in a pack for a reason. The skinny one, Keith, stepped around and threw a punch that connected with the left side of Liu’s face.
Jeff had seen enough. He’d been shocked at how quickly this evolved into blows, even though he’d expected it from almost the start. When he’d first met Randy and his friends, he’d been curious. From there he’d developed an annoyance with them, and slowly that annoyance had evolved into anger. However, upon seeing Liu punched, seeing the small trickle of blood form on his brother’s lower lip, upon seeing the smug look of satisfaction on Keith’s face, that anger that Jeff felt, suddenly exploded into a rage that he’d never felt before in his life.
Jeff Woods did not hesitate. He stepped forward, his feet automatically falling into the correct stance that he’d learned from the boxing classes his father once enrolled him into, and delivered a powerful right hand to Keith’s face. The skinny boy had no time to register shock or pain. The punch caught him by surprise, and his knees buckled. Keith went down to the ground in a heap of confusion and dawning fear.
Randy, the so called leader here, was almost too shocked to move. He’d had quite a lot of experience starting fights, but no real time logged in losing them. He’d never felt control of a situation slip. He was used to being in charge. So now, seeing one of his friends go down so quickly and easily, left him in a state of shock that he had no idea how to address.
Troy on the other hand seemed to have a plan, throw another punch. He moved towards Jeff deceptively faster than his weight would seem to allow, and threw two equally fast punches. Jeff however had no problem side stepping both attempts. Troy, seeming lost for actions, actually dropped his arms, as if to say, ‘gee, what do I do now?’
Jeff had the answer. He moved in, throwing three hooks to Troy’s stomach. The hefty kid’s eyes went as wide as pie pans, a fitting analogy, Jeff thought. He staggered back, clutching his throbbing stomach. Jeff wasted no time, and stepped in once more, fetching a sharp punch to the big kid’s jaw, causing Troy to promptly fall on his ass. Jeff was reminded of King Hippo from the Punch Out game he used to play. He couldn’t help but smile.
Jeff now turned his focus on Randy. He advanced on the boy, feeling something new forming inside of him. He still felt the anger, the rage actually, at the antics of these three assholes. They had the nerve to mess with their bikes; the nerve to insult two kids they’d never met before, and of course, the ultimate offense, touching his brother. However, mixed in with this rage was also a sweet, enjoyable pleasure. Not only was he kicking their asses, but he was loving every second of it. It was as though the joy of showing them up was perfectly blending with the rage he felt towards them. Together, it formed into a sadistic, controlled sense of power.
That was, until Liu stepped in front of him. “Jeff, stop, that’s enough!”
“Why stop now Liu, they wanted this,” Jeff replied in a flat voice that Liu had never heard come from his brother’s mouth.
“She’s calling the cops, look!” Liu shouted again, and this time, Jeff came back to reality long enough to listen. He glanced over at the video store clerk, and saw her on the phone, talking frantically and pointing towards the parking lot. Suddenly, Jeff’s strange sadistic haze collapsed, and he regained his former self.
“Fuck, let’s go!” he stated quickly, and he and Liu mounted their bikes and rode towards the parking lot exit.
“Yeah, you better fucking run!” Randy called behind them. Jeff and Liu paid no mind and peddled away.
A few blocks down the street they dismounted their bikes and began to walk them together. At first, neither brother spoke, then Liu broke the silence.
“Jeff, thank you for standing up for me back there, thank you.”
“Yeah, those guys were pieces of shit, they had it coming,” Jeff replied, looking down at the street as they walked.
“What... what happened? I’ve never seen you like that before?"
“Just defending myself Liu, what was I supposed to do, let them beat you up?”
“I bet they go to our school, I bet we’ll see them there, and they won’t forget this."
“Who cares? We didn’t ask to move here, we didn’t ask for any of this. Mom and dad just wanted a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, and we were along for the ride whether we liked it or not. Think I give a shit what these rich asshole kids think of us?” Jeff stated, and went back to looking at his feet.
“Think we’ll get in trouble?” Liu asked.
“For what, defending ourselves?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, they did start it,” Liu answered, and to the brother’s, the matter was closed.
However, things were far from over.
They found that the trouble they believed they’d escaped was in fact waiting for them at their front door. Jeff and Liu saw the police cars well before they arrived at their driveway. Two cop cars, both parked in front of their house. Both of them felt their stomachs drop, as they well knew why the police were there.
The brothers entered the living room, to see their parents sitting on the couch, the two cops standing up, leaning on the wall, writing in their notebooks.
“What did you two do?” Shelia practically screeched as the two boys entered the house.
Liu, younger and less centered than Jeff, began to fall on the defensive, “Some kids tried to jump us down by that video store, they were messing with our bikes, and when we went outside, they got in our faces!”
“That’s not the way we heard it!” Matt Woods interjected, his voice firm and ripe with anger and dissatisfaction.
“No dad, that’s what happened,” Jeff began to explain. “We were down at Friendly Video, looking around the store, when these three kids started riding around on our bikes. All we did was walk outside, and the kids started talking trash to us, trying to provoke a fight. When we tried to leave, one of them punched Liu.”
Finally, one of the two cops spoke. His name tag read Williamson. “Boys, we have some serious complaints about the two of you. From what eye witnesses at the shopping center say, you two started the confrontation with Randy and his friends.”
Jeff took notice at how familiar the cop’s tone was when he said Randy’s name. This was a small town after all, and there was a good chance that this cop coached Randy in little league, or drank beers with his dad. Hell, it was even possible that this cop could be an uncle to one of the bullies.
“No sir,” Jeff replied, “we didn’t start it, they did. We just wanted our bikes, we just wanted to leave. They blocked us.”
Williamson continued, as though he’d heard nothing Jeff said, “Several witnesses, including the video store clerk, say that you swung first. They say that the boys were riding your bikes, but let me ask you this, did you chain your bikes to anything, or did you just leave them outside the store?”
“What’s that matter?” Liu demanded.
“Well son, if you just left your bikes lying around in the street, you can’t exactly blame Randy and his friends for riding them, now can you? It’d be different had you secured them somehow, but you just left them there.”
“Mom, dad, you’re not buying this crap are you? You know me and Liu don’t start fights, when have we ever? These three punks messed with us, and if you can’t tell that these cops are taking their sides, then you need to open your eyes!” Jeff knew he was skating on thin ice, but that rage, it demanded some sort of satisfaction.
“Jeffrey, do not speak about these officers in that tone of voice, and do not speak to us that way either. Now, it’s pretty obvious that you two aren’t happy here, that you miss your old home, but starting fights in the street isn’t going to change anything!” Jeff’s mother snapped back.
“Listen boys, you’re lucky. None of the parents want to press charges. This will be reported as a simple scuffle between teenagers. But be advised, you’re both on notice. This is a quiet town, not like New Orleans. We don’t tolerate this sort of behavior over here. If you see Randy, Keith or Troy, I highly suggest you tell them you’re sorry. We’ll be keeping an eye on both of you, so don’t let this happen again. You don’t want to have an arrest record, do you?”
Jeff felt his anger bubble over, and he could not hold his tongue. “Who is he to you Officer Williamson? Is Randy your nephew? Is he a friend’s son? Or maybe you go over and screw his mom while you’re on duty? Which one is it Officer?”
“That’s it, both of you go to your rooms!” Matt Woods apparently found that he wasn’t a mute after all, as he ordered his sons out of the room. Jeff and Liu walked up the stairs, however, they refused to hang their heads in shame or feel any regret.
Neither of their parents spoke to them for the rest of that day. Jeff and Liu stayed upstairs, venting their shared frustration to each other. They’d been screwed over, even at their young ages, they knew that. They took some solace in the fact that they at least hadn’t been arrested or cited, but still, they saw what was really going on here.
“That cop, he was protecting Randy,” Jeff whispered to his younger brother.
“No shit,” his brother replied.
“We have to watch ourselves; we have to take care of each other. You saw it down there, even our parents didn’t stand up for us."
“Yeah, what the hell was up with that?” Liu asked.
“Imagine, their fucking image, that’s what’s up with it. All they care about is fitting in here. They want to make sure they blend in with the rest of the Stepford families. No more fighting, if we see Randy or his two fuckhead friends again, we just walk away, okay?”
“But Jeff, you can kick the shit of them, why would we walk away?” Liu asked.
“Because I can’t kick the shit out of the cops Liu, I can’t kick the shit out of mom and dad, and that’s what would get us. Fucking Randy and his pals are protected here, you and me, we’re not. So, if we see them, just avoid them, okay, please?”
Liu nodded, “I feel like a little bitch though, I owe Keith for hitting me.”
“No you don’t, I paid him back for that, and paid his fat friend too. I hope they just leave us alone now,” Jeff sighed.
Jeff and Liu didn’t hear from their parents for the rest of that day. They remained in their rooms late into the night, and finally came down to eat after they were sure their folks had gone to bed. Liu said that he felt relieved about that, but Jeff had a sinking feeling that the worst was yet to come. Jeff was correct,the next morning, when the two brothers came down stairs together to eat breakfast; their parents were already sitting at the dining room table, staring at the boys, approving of nothing they saw.
“Sit down,” Matt stated flatly.
“What’s going on?” Liu asked.
“Sit….down!” Matt stated again, anger dancing on the words.
The boys complied without further question.
Matt Woods began his diatribe, “Whatever that was yesterday, beating up some kids for touching your bikes, mouthing off at the police, disrespecting both me and your mother, that stops today!”
“We didn’t beat anyone up for touching our bikes!” Jeff blurted.
“Shut up Jeff, this is a one way conversation!” his father barked. “That kid, Randy Hayden, his father is a partner at my firm, did you know that? Did you even think about that when you were assaulting him over your godforsaken bike?”
“You just didn’t think, did you Jeff?” Shelia added.
“How could I have known that?”
Matt continued, “Well, I’ve spent the entire morning talking to his father on the phone. His dad is willing to let it all go, but shit son, I have to deal with that at work now. Do you have any idea how much damage this could have done to me, to our family?”
Jeff felt that rage coming back, and fought with all his might to keep it stifled.
Instead, he once more tried to appeal to the two adults' parental side, “Mom, look at Liu’s face, they split his lip, can’t you see, it’s still swollen!”
Liu turned his head to better showcase the injury.
“My god Jeff, so some kid played a little rough with your brother, is that any reason to fight them? I wanted to make friends with some of the other families in this neighborhood but thanks to you... I just don’t know…”
No sooner could Jeff or his brother construct a proper defense, than their father began speaking again. “So, your mother and I have talked this through. Since there are only a couple weeks of summer vacation left, we’ve decided that Liu should spend the rest of the season at Aunt Marcy’s place. We’ve already spoken to her, and she is willing to let him come out there and stay.”
Both Jeff and Liu were floored by this decision. Both boys began to protest at the same time, but they saw the look on their parents' faces. The decision was made.
“Why can’t we both just go then?” Jeff asked, a last ditch effort to at least get away from his parents.
“Marcy doesn’t want both of you there, she says you two are too rambunctious, and frankly we agree,” Shelia answered.
And so it was, Liu was shuttled off to his Aunt’s place in Abita Springs, Louisiana, a place even smaller and duller than Mandeville, if one can believe that. Jeff watched his brother leave, and then walked back to his bedroom. He felt that rage; however, it began to feel almost... pleasant to him. He couldn’t explain it. He was furious at this turn of events, his parents had turned their backs on their own children. However, through it all, these new feelings he was experiencing weren’t all terrible. This anger for example, he could almost taste it. It felt like thick, sweet syrup, stirring around in him. Of course, he knew the extra ingredient that would complete the flavor. That satisfying joy he’d felt when he had Randy and his friends on the ropes the day prior, that mixed perfectly with the anger, to create some intoxicating product that Jeff almost craved now. He fell asleep lying on his bed thinking about that syrup, that thick, viscous that seemed to work its way into the very fabric of his soul. He wanted it, yet he knew that it was destructive, and that nothing good could come from sampling it again.
Several days passed, and tensions were high between Jeff and his parents. Without Liu around, there was nothing for him to do except sit in his room and play video games. He went outside but didn’t venture far from home. He knew if Randy and his goons showed up again, it would likely result in another fight.
For a few days, that worked well, and Jeff believed he could get through this. However, his mother changed all of that on an early Saturday morning. Jeff was awoken suddenly by sharp sunlight striking his face. He heard his mother humming, something that she rarely did. Even in his half sleeping state, he knew that humming was forced. She was doing it to wake him up, and figured the added sunlight would get things there even faster. When she noticed Jeff’s eyes cracking open, she sauntered over to his bed, and began speaking in a tone that simply oozed false joviality.
At first Jeff had refused. Could his mother be serious, did she really expect him to go over and make friends with Randy? He was still in bed when his mother stopped her incessant humming long enough to tell him to get up and get dressed. Once he learned why, he’d told her no, no way in hell. However, his mother was a shrewd manipulator, and she’d know exactly what would get the job done. She promised Jeff that if he did this for her, went over and made it work with Randy, that Liu could come home the next day. She’d sandbagged Jeff right into the corner with that one. He’d no choice but to agree.
A short time later, Jeff and his mother were pulling into Randy’s driveway. Randy’s mother answered the door.
“Hi, you must be Jeff,” she greeted.
Jeff smiled wanly and confirmed that was in fact who he was.
“Hello, I’m Shelia Woods, nice to finally meet you in person!” Jeff’s mother announced, barging past her son and extending a hand to Randy’s mother.
“Shelia, so pleased to meet you, I’m Bridgette Hayden. Sorry to hear that our boys had a little mishap the other day. You know how it is though with teenagers, hormones going crazy and all. Randy never gets into fights, but he explained to me that Jeff and his brother are still new to the area, and haven’t quite learned how we do things in Mandeville yet, isn’t that right Jeff?”
Jeff couldn’t resist a small jab, “Yeah, sorry about that Miss Hayden. Me and Liu had no idea that it was okay for your son and his friends and mess with our bikes without asking.”
“Bridgette, he gets that mouth from his father, never knows when to shut up. How about you and I go in and have some coffee and you can tell me all the great gossip around Mandeville while our boys get to know each other the right way.”
“Randy is in his room Jeff, upstairs, second door to your left. I’m sure you’ll hear the sound of his video games or something,” Bridgette stated with very little humor to her voice.
“Thank you ma’am,” Jeff answered, and entered the house.
Jeff knocked and heard Randy answer with, “Come in.”
“Hey, so, I guess you heard, our parents want us to hang out, get to know each other,” Jeff stated with little conviction.
“Yeah, that’s my mom alright, she doesn’t like drama. Honestly I think she worries too much, I mean, I’m cool if you’re cool.”
Jeff sat down on the floor next to Randy and struck up a conversation. “So, turns out your dad is my dad’s boss, he freaked out about the fight in the parking lot. He was actually worried that he’d get fired or something.”
“My dad is like, everyone’s boss. I fucking hate it. I think half the kids at my school talk to me because their parents are somehow connected to my dad’s firm.”
“Why do you hate it?” Jeff asked.
“Because it’s fake, this whole damned town is fake. You’ll figure it out as you go, but trust me; everyone who lives here is just trying to pretend they’re something else. My parents make me do all this shit, all the trophies and stuff, just so they can brag, that’s it.”
Jeff smiled, “I know how you feel. My dad had me in boxing class a year ago, because some co-worker of his had a brother that worked at the place or something. As soon as that guy quit though, I was out of that gym the next week.”
“I wish it was that easy,” Randy responded, “I hate playing baseball, but my dad will sure have me out there again next summer, and the summer afterwards. It’s like, he knows I hate it, but wants to make sure I’m out there with his stupid company name on the back of my jersey.”
“Randy, why did you and your friends fuck with our bikes the other day?”
“I told you, this town is fake, and boring as shit. There is nothing to do here. We have to find stuff to do. I mean, there are only so many times you can go hang out at the video store, or ride the dirt paths in the woods. All the girls here are stuck up, all the stores close early, there’s no mall and the movie theatre is across town. We were just bored man, so, sorry for that I guess.”
“It’s cool,” Jeff replied, “I guess I’m sorry for too. Things went too far.”
“You mean the fight?” Randy asked, “That shit was actually cool. Those guys, Keith and Troy, they just leech on because of my dad. It’s like I told you, I’m pretty sure their parents make them hang out with me.”
The afternoon went on, and Jeff soon forgot that this was a mandatory arrangement. He actually started to find himself liking Randy, sure, their first encounter was a little sketchy, but he was coming around to the guy, finding that he wasn’t so bad once his idiot friends were removed from the equation.
About an hour later, things took a new turn. Jeff heard the twin pops of two car doors shutting in near unison, and then heard the engine start up. He dropped the game controller and peered out of Randy’s bedroom window, just in time to see his mother and Randy’s mother backing out of the driveway.
“Our parents are leaving,” Jeff said.
“About time, I figured my mom would eventually talk your mom into going shopping, or going to get coffee, or something like that.”
Jeff heard Randy pause the game.
“Hey Jeff, come down stairs, I want to show you some cool stuff,” Randy invited, and Jeff followed.
Randy led Jeff out to the garage. It was hot in there, with the main door shut. The garage was well kept though, and Jeff observed stacks of magazines underneath a work bench, as well as tools and various other utility items stacked about.
Standing in the small, closed in garage, with the late summer heat lingering about, Jeff began to feel a bit uneasy. Despite the fact that he and Randy had seemed to bond over the last few hours, Jeff couldn’t ignore a sense that things were different now that the adults were gone.
“What did you want to show me?” Jeff asked.
“Hold on, let me get it,” Randy replied, moving the magazines out to reveal a small, red box.
Jeff watched as Randy removed the box and opened it.
“Check it out, my dad’s flare gun,” Randy announced, and waved the red, tubular gun about.
“Woah, be careful with that!” Jeff shouted, more out of shock than real concern.
“It’s fine dude, don’t be a pussy, it’s not even loaded,” Randy said. However, Jeff watched as he fished one of the flares out of a back compartment. Randy then continued to fiddle with the flare gun, popping it open and loading a flare. “Now it’s loaded,” he announced. “My dad showed me how to use this last year when we went out boating. Sometimes I take it out back and shoot flares at the trees. But, maybe this time I don’t need a tree.”
The change in Randy’s voice and demeanor was impossible to ignore.
“Okay, well cool gun. Let’s get back in the house though, it’s hot out here, plus, I’m getting hungry, what do you have to eat?”
However, as Jeff turned to walk through the small door leading back into the house, his path was suddenly blocked by two more familiar faces.
“Where you going Jeffey?” the fat kid, Troy, blurted out, as he and Keith stepped forward into the garage.
“Took you two assholes long enough to get here, I’ve had to babysit this faggot all day,” Randy shouted, a wicked joy was present in his words.
“Sorry Randy, but Keith here had to mow his front yard before his parents would let him come out,” Troy said, a sheepish tone to his voice.
“It’s cool, we’re here now,” Keith said.
“What the fuck is going on?” Jeff asked, staring at Randy. He noticed that Randy still had the flare gun in his hands.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on Jeff; you owe Keith and Troy an apology for what you did. You sucker punched them, and then ran away. You didn’t even have the balls to fight them fair, so now, you’re going to pay them what you owe!"
“I’m not going to fight you, okay, I’m done with that shit,” Jeff replied as he glanced about the room for an exit.
“You’re right about that, you’re not going to fight. You’re going to stand there and let my boys get their licks in. Then I get mine, and when that’s done, you get the fuck out of my house. I’ll tell my mom that you got sick and walked home, and after that, if you see us again, you better walk the other way.”
“I’m not going to stand here and get hit by you or your friends, so just let me go home, how about that. I’ll tell my mom that we’re cool and everyone wins, okay?” Jeff asked.
Randy then raised the flare gun towards Jeff. “No, you stay pussy; you stay and take your licks.”
Jeff felt that sensation once more, that sick, rich dark matter that swirled about inside of him. He could taste it now, it was heaven. In his mind, he imagined himself diving into it, swimming in it, letting it swallow him whole. He looked around and the sensation only grew. He saw Randy, standing there holding the flare gun. It was limp in his hands though, and the hammer was not cocked back. Jeff knew that Randy had no intention of firing it. He looked over at Keith, skinny and pathetic, a kid born to follow. Troy, fat and sweaty, breathing a bit heavy from his walk over, and of course, in the middle of it all, Jeff himself. He felt that pleasure begin to mix with the rage, forming the perfect product. He tried to avoid sampling it; he knew that only regret could come from indulging in it. However, when it was placed so close, when the aroma and the promise of that sweet savory flavor was only inches away, Jeff found that he could no more to stand against it than a ship in the ocean could stand against a typhoon.
Jeff began to smile.
“Why are you smiling at me, you queer for me or something?” Randy asked, a slight nervous tinge in his voice.
“Am I smiling Randy? I guess it’s because I’m just having so much fun,” Jeff announced, and suddenly lunged towards the unprepared kid holding the flare gun.
Jeff struck Randy once in the nose. Randy’s arms dropped, yet he kept hold of the flare gun. Jeff, without even needing to look, realized that Troy and Keith had actually taken a step back, instead of advancing as they should have. Jeff delivered another strong blow to Randy’s jaw, causing the boy to drop to the floor.
Jeff now turned his attention to Troy and Keith, the two tough kids that had yet to actually make so much as a move in his direction. Troy actually backed up a step and stumbled over the stack of magazines that Randy had moved earlier. Jeff took this opportunity and stepped forward, once again introducing Troy’s round belly to his fist. Troy tried to stay on his feet, but Jeff’s punches, combined with the stumble over the magazines, caused Troy to fall back, landing hard and striking his head on the concrete slab that was the garage’s floor.
Keith was actually trying to back away. However, Jeff was currently standing between him and the only exit to the garage, since the carport door was closed. Jeff took two quick steps towards the skinny kid, and felt the most intense joy at seeing Keith stagger backwards, knocking his back into the wall. That perfect blend of pleasure, control and rage had come together. Jeff felt as though he was floating above the world. Somewhere in his mind, he knew there would be hell to pay for this, but at that exact moment in time, he couldn’t care less. He didn’t care about Liu, he didn’t care about being arrested, and he didn’t care if his dad got fired. All he cared about, in that fraction of time, was hurting Keith.
Keith tried to make a run for it, hoping to squeeze through the small gap between Jeff and the door. However, Jeff clipped him a hard right hand to his face, causing Keith to stagger back again. Jeff could see that his knees were buckling, and took full advantage. He moved in, pinning Keith to the wall, and began to deliver blow after blow to the skinny kid’s stomach. Keith’s eyes became as large as saucers. Once satisfied, Jeff stepped back, and watched in demonic glee as Keith slowly slid down the wall, gasping for air.
Randy got back to his feet, but seemed to have no idea what to do.
“We done now Randy? We good, or do you and your friends need more?” Jeff mocked.
“No more, we’re cool..."
“How about you assholes?” Jeff asked.
“It was Randy’s idea…” Keith said weakly.
“Yeah man, we didn’t even want to,” Troy agreed.
The debate may have continued, but the sound of a returning car broke the tension.
“Oh shit, my mom is back!” Randy shouted, his voice cracking in a humorous way. It seemed that the previous tough guy had all but shrunk back to a scared child.
“So, we’ll just say that we were all hanging out,” Keith replied.
“No, the fucking flare gun, if she finds out that I messed with it, I’m screwed!”
“So put it back,” Jeff suggested. That sensation of rage was fading again, and he felt control returning.
“Yeah, grab the magazines, please,” Randy begged. Jeff found that he rather liked that tone, that begging, whipped dog mentality.
Jeff was paying no attention to Randy; he was down on the floor calmly gathering the magazines. He didn’t really care if Randy got in trouble or not, however, if his mother returned and found trouble, he feared that Liu may not be able to return home as promised.
Everything else happened in a flash, both literally and figuratively.
Randy, now in a panic over the trouble he’d be in if he was caught playing with the flare gun, had begun to sweat. As his hands frantically clawed over the gun, his thumbs pushed the hammer back, unintentionally. He didn’t even notice that the gun was cocked. He was turning it over in his hands, trying to quickly disarm it. He then heard the sound of keys in the front door. He knew that he had only seconds now to hide it.
Everything else happened in slow motion. The gun slipped from Randy’s sweaty hands as he’d attempted to rotate it once more. He saw it fall to the floor, seeming to float to the ground, rather than fall. Jeff, busy stacking the magazines, had only enough time to register Randy’s shocked gasp. He turned to look in the boy’s direction, just in time to see the bright red flare gun hit the floor. The gun discharged, launching a speeding ball of fire directly into Jeff’s face. Jeff felt the hot flash of heat and pain tear across the left side of his face. After the initial registry of agony, there was no more thinking. Jeff began to scream, clutching the left side of his face and rolling around on the floor. For a while he forgot everything, as he was plunged into that dark, rich syrup once more, the rage almost serving to dull the pain.
When he finally did come to a stable level of alertness, he realized he was in a hospital room. Half of his face was bandaged, he knew that much. He wanted to open his eyes and speak, let his family know he was awake, but the drugs still had a firm hold. He was awake, but not quite yet functioning. He could hear several familiar voices though.
“Is he going to be okay doctor?” Jeff’s mother asked.
“Oh yes ma’am, your son will be fine, however, he will have a lengthy road to recovery, and will need your support. The flare struck his face and caused 3rd degree burns on his left side.”
“How bad is the eye?” Jeff’s father asked.
“Hard to say at this point, he’ll need to see an optometrist for further review, but the damage appears quite severe.”
“And his face? What about his face?” Jeff’s mother asked, sounding deeply concerned.
“Well, we were able to clean and treat the injury in time, so you’ve no concern for infection or anything of that matter. We’ll want him on antibiotics for a while, and he’ll need to have the wound cleaned and dressed on a regular basis, but all in all, your son got very lucky. The damage could have been more severe.”
“Doctor,” his mother began again, “What if there is permanent damage? What do we do about that?”
“As I said, an optometrist will have to examine the eye…”
Shelia Woods interrupted the doctor, sounding more agitated then before, “You’re not listening, not the eye, his face! What do we do to correct his face?” she demanded.
“Well ma’am, we have treated his face, like I said, there shouldn’t be a risk of infection so long as you….”
She cut him off again, “Not the infection, his…. his appearance? What can we do for that?”
“Miss Woods, that’s hardly a concern at this point. Once he is healed and back on his feet, you can possibly explore plastic surgery to repair some of the damage, but honestly, right now, we can’t waste concern on how he looks. What is important is that your son is healthy. He can expect to be back home in a few days, maybe sooner.”
Jeff’s dad spoke again, “Okay, thank you doctor. Can we have some time alone please; my wife and I need to speak.”
“Certainly,” the doctor replied.
“Liu, why don’t you go down to the hospital cafeteria and get yourself a snack?” Matt Woods suggested.
“But I want to be here in case Jeff wakes up,” Liu replied.
“Liu, they told us that Jeff is heavily medicated. They don’t expect him to wake up anytime tonight. So, just go, and if he does come around, we’ll have you paged,” Matt replied.
Jeff heard the door open and close as Liu exited.
His parents both let out a long shaky sigh, but Jeff was starting to believe it was not a sigh of relief, but rather one of stress.
“We’re going to have to home school him now Matt, that’s just what it’s going to be, we’re going to have to keep him home!” he heard his mother rant, her voice sounding frantic.
“What? I mean, he probably won’t be able to start school right on time, but I doubt he’ll miss a whole year!” his father responded, trying to maintain a calmer voice.
“I’m not talking about that Matt, I’m not worried about him missing a week or two of school. I mean his face Matt, you heard what the doctor said, his face is going to be…. disfigured!” Shelia argued back.
“We don’t even know the full extent of the damage yet Shelia, it could be minor, it could possibly heal, and you heard what he said, plastic surgery could be an option in time.”
“In time? What kind of time? A year, two years, and what about in the meantime? People are going to see him and they’re going to talk, is that what you want? He’s going to be a…. a pariah! You think anyone is going to want to have him around their kids?”
Jeff was hearing all of this, just letting it soak in, slowly. As his mind absorbed the words, he felt that rage return. Sick, rich, dark, that syrup of raw, primal emotion. He wanted to scream at his mother, to tell her to shut up, that he was the one lying here, half his face burned, blind in one eye, all thanks to her forcing him to go over to Randy’s house. He wanted to ask her why she left, why she went off to go shopping or have her nails done or whatever it was that she did. He wanted to know why she’d leave him alone with a kid who just days before tried to jump him and his brother. He wanted to know how she could care more about his appearance than the fact that he was lying in the hospital.
However, there was still so much more that he wanted to know as well. He wanted to know how much more his mother hated him, how much more she saw him now as a, how did she put it, a pariah. He wanted to continue to swim in the thick pool of dark hatred that was starting to form from the rage and anger. That was a new one now. Before it was anger, then it was anger mixed with pleasure. But now, now it was anger mixed with hatred. And while he certainly longed to be free of it, while he most certainly preferred the false sense of love and concern he believed he’d heard from her before, he also wanted to test it out a bit more. He also began to wonder, how well would this new recipe blend with pleasure, how would it feel?
Matt Woods began to speak again, “I just can’t believe he shot himself in the face with a flare gun. I always thought Jeff was more responsible than that.”
“Don’t even get me started on that,” Shelia replied, “I couldn’t believe it when Randy and his friends explained to the medics and police how it all happened. Randy was just trying to show Jeff around his house, and wanted to show him the collection of magazines his dad kept in the garage. You know boys; he was probably hoping that a couple of Playboys would be in there or something. Then he said Jeff found the box containing the flare gun, and just wouldn’t stop playing around with it. You should have heard those other boys Matt, they told me that they practically begged Jeff to just put it down before he got hurt, but he just had to show off. I just don’t know where we went wrong Matt. I thought us moving out here to a nice quiet neighborhood would make everyone happy. Jeff though, he just, he just wants to fight us on everything.”
And while all that came together in Jeff’s mind, he continued to swim in that black ichor of hatred and rage. The morphine drip added a nice touch of euphoria, Jeff could almost see himself, plunging into the syrupy waters of hatred, and emerging changed. Each dip brought him so much twisted pleasure. And that was when he finally understood. He could sample the pleasure now. Not because he was enjoying what was happening, but because he knew he could enjoy what was to come.
Just as the doctor had predicted, Jeff was scheduled to go home a few days later. During his time at the hospital, he never asked to see his face. It wasn’t until the last day that he finally asked for a mirror. The nurse had come in to change his bandages, as was the routine. She was a pleasant woman, she spoke to him, asked him how he was doing. He enjoyed her visits. So, on the final day, when she arrived to clean and dress his face, he asked to see himself.
“Are you sure sweetheart? Would you like me to call in your parents first?” she asked.
“No thank you,” Jeff replied, “I think I want to see it for myself first, without them standing over me.”
“I understand,” she replied honestly, without a hint of pretension.
Once the bandages were off, she handed him a small hand mirror.
“Would you like me to step out of the room?” she asked.
Jeff ignored her and looked at himself, taking stock of the damage. Sure enough, his face was a mess. The entire left side at least. The flare struck him traveling upwards, and burned a scar into his left cheek that extended to his eye. At first glance, it almost looked like he was smiling on that side. The scar was still bright red, and burn tissue spread out on either side. Once it arrived at his eye, the news did not get any better. His eye was white, just a lifeless bulb plugged into his face. He closed his right eye, and found that he could see nothing from his left eye at all. The scar continued up the left side of his forehead. The damage was less severe there however. The hair on the left side of his head was burned off, leaving a few strands to stick up here and there.
“Sorry sweetie, but I have to put clean bandages on,” she told him.
Jeff smiled, “It’s okay, there will be plenty to time for me to admire myself later.”
There was no joy from his parents on the ride home, or upon arrival. They spoke very little, and there was a tension in the car that simply wouldn’t fade out. As for Liu, he was thrilled that his brother was okay, but he didn’t know what to say concerning the damage to his face. So, after asking a few questions about the accident and the recovery, he fell silent as well.
They walked into their home at dusk and Liu asked about dinner. He suggested they let Jeff pick a place, to celebrate his return home.
“Just go to sleep, both of you boys, go to sleep,” Shelia remarked. She and her husband both retreated to their bedrooms as well, to argue or feel sorry for themselves, who knew?
Jeff and Liu didn’t speak much that night. Jeff spent most of the evening staring at himself in the mirror. He kept pulling back the bandages and looking at the scars. Liu wanted to see them too, but felt that it might be imprudent to ask.
“I’m glad you’re home Jeff, I really missed you and I’m glad you’re okay,” Liu said to Jeff as he stared at himself.
“I’m not okay Liu, and neither are you. None of us are really. There is a sickness here. The only difference is, now my sickness shows on the outside as well,” Jeff replied, his voice as flat as that on an answering machine.
“What are you talking about?” Liu asked.
“One day, you’ll see it too. This is what happens though, this is what happens when it all falls down,” Jeff said, still peeking behind his bandages.
“Jeff, I don’t know what you’re trying to say,” Liu responded.
Jeff didn’t reply though, and after several moments, Liu left him alone. Liu went down to his parent’s bedroom and knocked on the door.
“What is it?” the voice of his mother asked.
“Mom, I think Jeff is acting weird, you may want to come talk to him."
“Go away Liu, leave your mother alone,” his father’s voice answered. Liu, being young, had no other ideas, so he returned to his own bedroom. He didn’t know that those would be the last words he’d ever hear his parents speak to him.
That night, Shelia and Matt Woods awoke together, both being light sleepers, it took little to bring them out of slumber. The sudden removal of their blanket, as it was snatched from the bed, did the trick just fine. They awoke to see a small light coming from the half-bath that was situated in their master bedroom. The door was cracked only slightly, and the light source was weak. They could make out a human shape, standing over their bed though.
“What, what is going on?” Shelia grumbled.
As their vision came into focus, they realized their son was standing before them. Matt reached over and flipped on the lamp next to their bed. Jeff was standing there, his bandages off, his disfigured face beaming down on them, with a long kitchen knife clutched in his right hand.
“What are you doing son?” Matt asked, his mind still trying to shake out the cobwebs of sleep.
“He’s got a knife!” Shelia screamed, grabbing at her husband’s arm. Matt kept his composure though.
“Shelia, it’s probably the painkillers, he likely got up and got disoriented, relax for Christsake.”
Jeff tilted his head to one side, still not speaking. He stared hard at his father, slowly bringing the knife up, ensuring that he saw it well.
“Son, what are you doing?” Matt asked.
“Scaring you,” Jeff replied, with no emotion in his voice.
“Matt... do something!” Shelia pleaded.
“Okay son, I realize you’ve been through a lot, but you need to go back to bed. I’m going to call the doctor in the morning and….”
Jeff moved quickly across to his father’s side of the bed, his head moving about, alternating between a normal looking young man and the deformed ghoul that had been lurking in the shadows.
“Okay son, you’ve scared me, is that what you wanted?” Matt asked, adjusting to the middle of the bed to put distance between himself and his son.
“Good, now I can start hurting you,” Jeff spoke again, with no emotion.
His father had time to utter a single syllable, most likely to ask another question, to try and reason with his son. Jeff however, gave him time to do no more than that. He lunged onto the bed, driving the knife into his father’s stomach. Matt attempted to fend Jeff off, but the wound to his midsection rendered him into shock, and his arms fell to the side. Jeff could hear his mother screaming, but paid no mind. He wanted to finish with his father first.
Removing the knife, Jeff stabbed down into his stomach three more times, quickly. His father gasped and coughed up blood, his body jerked and twitched each time the knife found its mark. After the third time, Matt Woods lay still.
Shelia had backed up against the headboard of the bed. She wanted to climb down, make a run for it, but she’d balled herself up between the headboard and the end table. In her frantic state of terror and confusion, she couldn’t figure out how to do something as simple as dismount a bed.
“Jeff…. Why, why are you doing this to us?” she asked feebly.
“Randy started it, you must have known that, but you ignored it. Liu had a busted lip, you must have seen that, but you ignored it. I was shot in the face with a flare gun, but you believed Randy, why? So you could fit in?” Jeff asked in a low, almost growling voice.
“No baby, I believed you, it was, just, your father’s job…. And we’re new here, and…. Oh God Jeff please….” his mother begged.
“Tell me about home school mom? Tell me all about how you don’t want to send me out in public because of my face. Tell me how none of the other kids will want to be my friend, and how none of their parents will want to be yours. Tell me about that mom, tell me how nice it’s going to be, you home schooling me…..”
“Jeff please, I was just stressed, I was worried about you that’s all… please I…. I love you…”
“Mom, I think you should take your own advice, you know, what you told Liu when we got home tonight. He wanted to do something nice to welcome me home, and do you remember what you told us to do instead?” Jeff asked, as he now crawled over, cornering his mother on the bed.
“What did I say?” she asked, the question coming out barely a whisper.
“Go to sleep!” Jeff snarled, and drove the knife into his mother’s chest. He stabbed her over and over again, and as he did, he finally found that perfect recipe, that heavenly blend. That rage, hate and pleasure all mixed into one perfect formula, and for a while, Jeff became lost in it all.
Jeff opened his brother’s bedroom door, not surprised to find his brother asleep. He had dozed off with headphones in, so he slept through all the shouting. That was fine with Jeff. It was easier that Liu not have to hear all of that.
Jeff sat down on his brother’s bed and nudged him slightly. It took a moment, but Liu finally opened his eyes and looked up. Jeff removed his earphones for him.
“You’re free now Liu,” he spoke softly.
“Jeff, what… what are you talking about?” Liu mumbled, still half asleep.
“You’ll see in the morning. I just wanted to let you know I love you. You’ve been my best friend, remember that, okay?”
“Thanks, I… I love you too. Now, let me go back to sleep,” Liu replied, already dozing off again.
Jeff smiled and stood up. As he left the room, he looked back at his sleeping brother one last time, before he vanished into the night.
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published December 6th, 2015