For Amanda, her life had been that of a normal teenage girl until it wasn't.
It started with confusion.
One minute, she and her Father would be at the kitchen table staring blankly at her math homework, the next he would jolt, turning in his seat to look for something behind him. She'd ask what was wrong, or maybe her mother would wander in and see him staring at the wall with a strange expression and reach for him, but either way, wouldn't answer. His breathing would labor and he'd begin to shake – and then he'd relax and return from wherever he had been doing.
After the sixth or seventh time, he had said he had seen something. Eyes. Horrible eyes, watching him.
The next day, her Grandma Doris, her Father's mother, came to the house to sage it. She had her parents convinced there was an evil spirit in the house and while her Father was at work, she spent the entire day cleansing it, walking around with a smudge stick while her mother trailed after her, reading from the bible until her voice was hoarse.
It helped, and for a while, her father was fine.
Then the headaches began. They weren't normal headaches – there would be pain, her Father said, and then an overwhelming sensation of something digging into the back of his brain, something pushing into his head. After two days of this, coming and going, he went to the doctor and was told they were migraines, triggering panic attacks, likely due to stress from work. Her father was a chef at a prestigious restaurant and everyone agreed that this could be a possibility. They prescribed him pain pills and tranquilizers. When neither worked, they upped both, so whenever the headache and anxiety would come on, he would take them and just sleep through it.
Eventually, the headaches stopped and her Father's life returned to normal, their family's life returned to normal. This time, it lasted an entire month before the most disturbing symptom started.
Her Father began to hear a voice.
Not voices – just one.
He'd pause and stare off into space like he was listening, his expression going more and more disturbed until he'd be able to shake it off. He said the voice was getting louder, the fingers in his head digging deeper.
After several weeks of this, Amanda had woken in the middle of the night to her father arguing, screaming, and had gone to the kitchen to see him pacing. When he tried to brush her off she woke her mother and her parents talked for hours while she sat on the stairs out of view, listening. Her Father was being told by a voice to do things, awful things that he would not disclose. He said to her that the voice was inside of him, under his skin, making him think things, do things. It wanted him to hurt others. It had him following others, showing him which ones needed to die.
The next morning her Father went to a hospital, the funny type with padded walls.
They said he was schizophrenic, which apparently could appear at any time, though it was uncommon for symptoms to arise in the later thirties like her father. She, her mother and grandmother would go to visit him on the days he wasn't completely out of his mind. On the days he was out of his mind, completely and absolutely a mess, her mother would still go but she insisted on going alone.
After six long months, he finally returned last week.
He was a little out of it – whatever they had him on, it was heavy stuff, but he was back and talking sane and that's all that Amanda cared about. Most days he just slept, watched tv, and ate with little variety to his schedule.
When school let out for winter break and Amanda was home all the time, she sat on the couch with him, laying against his side with one of his arms slung over her shoulders. They'd watch tv or she'd read him a book, but she tried to keep an eye on him at all times.
Today though, they were being adventurous.
While her mother was at work, Amanda and her Father were riding their bikes through the park, a usual weekend activity for them before all of this had begun. They would go to the park and ride circles around it for hours, and if it was near a holiday, they'd bike around the surrounding neighborhoods to see the decorations. This close to Christmas, everything was decorated with lights, so they bundled up and rode through the neighborhoods to see the plastic Santa's and snow men.
After months of uncertainty, it was bliss doing something normal.
On a more narrow sidewalk, Amanda rode up ahead. When she didn't hear the soft pattering of her father's wheels, a baseball card on the front one, she looked back to see he had stopped back at a house and turned around to ride over to where he was.
As she approached he slowly got off his bike and walked toward the house, staring at it with an odd look on his face.
She saw her father standing in front of a small cottage, painted a vibrant blue with a pair of young apple trees growing on either side of the driveway. He was looking at the window, where a woman with her hair up in curlers, putting a plate of food onto a table for a pouty looking little girl. The woman left and her father stared at the child. Slowly he looked back to the mailbox, painted completely pink, save for a stamp of a two headed owl on the side. He touched it the stamp and she thought she saw it glisten as his fingertips fell away from it.
Amanda touched his arm to catch his attention. "Daddy?"
Her father, Arlo stilled and looked to her, lost. "Hm?"
"Are you okay?"
He stared at her for a minute before looking back to the stamp. "Fine and dandy, Mandy." He swallowed thickly. "Let's go home."
Her father had an odd look about him the rest of afternoon, a sort of anxious, concerned look. When she asked if he was alright he said in his quite, sweet way that he was just fine, but there was a look in his eye that said he was anything but.
When her mother came home, Amanda told her what had happened. Her mother wasn't happy that they had left the house without her knowing, seeing as Arlo still seemed to be getting headaches, but she moved on after checking on her husband to see that he was alright.
Afterward, as usual, Amanda helped her mother make dinner.
Before all this happened, her Father did most of the cooking - it was something he enjoyed immensely, and as her Mom was more of a microwave dinner or fast food kind of girl, she let him control the kitchen. But with Arlo as he was, she was getting back into it with Amanda's help. Neither were particularly good at cooking, but after Doris showed them several easy recipes, they had found their groove.
Her mother would cook the main meal - usually something easy, with less than five ingredients that you stirred together and stuck on the stove or in the crockpot or oven - and Amanda would make the salad or some side dish that was equally easy. While the main meal was cooking, her mother was make something else, either a drink or another side dish. Tonight they were making spaghetti, a salad, and garlic bread. After the spaghetti was done and sitting in a pan on the stove, Amanda went to rinsing off the lettuce while her mother set out to get something to cut her loaf of bread with.
Her mother stood back from the counter then, looking around. "Where's the bread knife?"
Amanda turned from the sink to look around as well, eyeing the block of wood that the knife set sat in to see the slot from the bread knife was empty, the other white and gold handles sticking out of their slots. After they searched for several minutes, they gave up and returned to preparing dinner, her mother carefully slicing the bread with another knife from the set.
When everything was done they sat down at the dinner table as a family. They talked about their day, about what they were doing tomorrow. They talked about Doris finally coming back from her cruise ship, having been gone for nearly two weeks. They made plans to see a movie after she was settled again.
Her mother, a nurse, then had to go back to work after dinner. She wouldn't be home until around four in the morning.
After dinner Amanda finished the next chapter in the book she was reading her Father, waiting for the time to come for him to take his next dosage. When that time came, she'd get him a drink, he'd pop his three different sets of pills, and then he'd curl up in his bed to the sound of whatever was playing on his bedroom television set.
Amanda would spend the rest of the night reading. Right now, she was finishing up the latest bargain buy romance her mother had handed off to her after finishing it herself. This one was another sordid tale about pirates, which Amanda always enjoyed. While she would usually be asleep before ten, it was winter break, and because of that she could stay up as late as she wanted reading, and she did exactly that.
Because she was awake, she heard her father getting back up shortly after three. The sound of him stumbling about had her pausing - his drugs usually kept him asleep until shortly before her mother had to go to work again near eleven in the morning. She closed her book and set it aside to sit up in her bed, listening.
When she heard the front door open, she threw her covers off to hurry to the window. The first thing she saw were the skyscrapers in the distance, their light choking out most of the stars. Secondly she saw her Father, dressed for bed, walking his bike to driveway before he got on it and peddled away. She gapped at the sight and spun around to grab her coat, the idea of calling her mother abandoned as she might lose track of her father.
She hurried out after him, closing the door behind her before she jumped on her own bike and rode it down their small porch, frantically peddling to try and catch up. She couldn't find him - she went up and down their street, and when there was no sign there, she branched off to their usual track.
When Amanda passed the street she and her father had taken earlier, she decided on a whim to go down there.
Arlo was standing at the mailbox again, staring at the little blue house. He moved forward then, his movements slow and heavy, his eyes wide and frightened. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and she saw him retrieve a serrated knife, the bread knife from a set that sat on their counter at home, the handle a white and gaudy gold.
She swung her leg over her bike and let it drop to the side as she called out to him. He didn't turn. He continued toward the front door. She hurried toward him, grabbing onto his shoulder to turn him toward her. He didn't look like he recognized her. He did, however, look furious at the sight of her. "Dad! What are you doing?"
His eyes narrowed, and before she could react he reached out with his free hand to grab onto her throat and throw her aside. She collided painfully back against the sidewalk and stayed there for a beat in shock. He stood over her with a sneer and she looked into his eyes and saw his pupils almost none existent, just pinpoints being choked out by ring of amber honey surrounded by dark brown. "I'm not your father, little girl." He snarled.
She stared up at him, her eyes watering. "What are you talking about!?"
He sneered at her and went to the door to pound on it.
The door was opened by the woman, who look half annoyed at the sight before she stiffened, her reaction short lived as her Father surged forward and plunged the knife into the front of her neck, ripping it across her throat before he brought the knife down into the woman's eye, grabbing onto the front of her robe as he withdrew the knife with a sickly sound to bring it down into the other.
Amanda entire body grew cold in shock as she watched her Father let the woman fall to the floor, staring down at her with a mixture of smug satisfaction and madness. It wasn't real – none of it looked or felt real to her.
It was like her mind couldn't reconcile what it was seeing and what it knew. Her Father, goofy, kind, completely honest to a fault, could barely set out mouse traps let alone harm another human being, let alone kill one.
The sound of a little girl's scream snapped Amanda from her stupor and she saw a child run to where her mother was collapsed on the ground. Her father looked down his nose at the child, his lip curling as he eyed the owl pendant that hung from the little girl's neck. He tapped the tip of the knife against his thigh before he twirled it around with a macabre grace and shifted closer to the child.
Terror, blinding terror fueled a sudden rush of adrenaline and Amanda screamed, rushing forward to jump on his back. The sudden weight knocked him off balance and he tripped over the woman's body to tumble face forward onto the ground.
He recovered quickly though and rolled them, pinning her under his back with his weight. She wrapped her arms around his neck, scrambling to wrap a leg around the arm that had the knife. Her other leg wasn't so successful and he used his free hand to reach back to grab onto her hair, pulling with all his strength until she released his neck to try and grab at his hand. He rolled, pulling her sideways until her leg lost its grip on him and she fell to the ground, crying for him to stop. He pulled himself to his feet, dragging her up by her hair. He raised the blade over his head and she saw the look of pure contempt on his face before she screamed for him to stop.
He stiffened, freezing. His pupils dilated, retracting afterward rapidly before expanding once more as his face screwed up in confusion. The hand in her hair went slack and she pulled away, stumbling back to slam into the wall, sliding down it awkwardly as she watched horror blossom on her father's features as he eyed her. "Amanda?" He asked once, then again, more concerned.
Amanda cried and asked him what he was doing.
The color drained from his face as his gaze flickered about at the scene, at the woman, at the wailing little girl – at his daughter. His breathing grew hard as he looked back to the woman on the floor, flinching violently before he slammed his palm against his forehead once, twice. She could see his eyes changing again, gaining a sharpness as he seemed to fight a battle with himself.
He began to recoil, curling into himself before he turned to grip onto the wall with his free hand. His shoulders rose before he quickly brought the knife down and opened his own throat, standing there bleeding for several seconds before he collapsed.
She kept screaming.
Comments (1)See all