Familiar Feeling, by Alexia Zamora

Youth 1 Winner

My child was taken from me in a way of utmost brutality. He was murdered and the case closed last year, without a single clue as to who or what did this to my little boy, Gabriel. He was a sweet, pure boy who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Young and tiny, he was only seven years old, with round and rosy cheeks, a smile larger than life, adorable little dimples on each cheek. He has these huge Disney-like blue eyes, scruffy white-blonde hair, and a mini button nose, always red from allergies

He was unrecognizable after the attack. His face was swollen and bruised red and purple, and his itty bitty nose was torn up to the bone and underlying cartilage. His eye was cold and dead, yet I could still see some sort of horrified expression in it. Yes, just one eye. The other one was shoved in his mouth, but it wasn’t noticeable because it was covered in the thick red blood pouring from his mouth. Teeth were scattered around him and his brain was spilling out of his cracked cranium. It reminded me of when I dissected a pig in school once. Gabriel suffered through an immense amount of pain, for every wound was put on his body before he died. He was tortured. And of course, the more gruesome details don’t need to be shared, but I will say that even the worst, most vile killers would have night terrors after seeing such a ghastly little thing. I would know.

I received many lovely casseroles throughout that year, but the greatest gift I received was finally having the peace and quiet of living alone again. No more thundering footsteps whenever Gabriel got a “boo boo” (he was always very sensitive to pain), no more men turning me down because I’m a single mother. It’s not my fault my husband died…well…not really.

Halloween was approaching and I remember how Gabriel loved gathering candy and wearing his homemade superhero costumes. He would use cardboard boxes and paint made up superhero logos on them. I will never forget the innocent, ecstatic laugh he had while going through his candy, or his bright white smile when he found a Twix Bar. I bought Gabriel flowers that were dyed velvety black, deep purple, and vibrant orange in the spirit of Halloween. These would be taken to his grave.

On Halloween, I stroll through the enchanting forest on a trail so that the neighbors could see going to his grave. I had to visit him once and a while to let them think I’m in mourning. Colorful Autumn leaves crackle underneath my feet and the light drizzling rain covers my glasses, fogging my vision. I make it to Gabriel’s grave, squat down, and reach my hand down to touch the ground where his coffin was buried, but instead of feeling the moist grass underneath my frosty fingertips, I feel the worn, velvety interior of an empty coffin. My heart stops, my hand starts quivering and I pull my hand out of the coffin. This can’t be…

I frantically dart my eyes around the menacing forest, suddenly not so enchanting. My heart is pounds inside of my chest, about to break free from my body.  I force my quaking legs to move. I sprint, fearing for my life. I take off my glasses so that my vision isn’t foggy and blood red leaves fall down from gargantuan oak trees. Maybe I’m hallucinating, but I see the trees along my sides start to close in, almost trapping me inside the dreary woods. I quickly pant the hazy air in and out.

I finally reach the house, and the door is already open. My breathing rapidly increases, my adrenaline levels skyrocket, and my palms are sweaty. The door slams shut behind me, trapping me inside. I hear wispy giggling in my ear and the hair on my neck shoots up. I feel my eyes bulge. I don’t want to turn around, but then I feel light, little fingers tickle up my spine. I whip around, but there’s nothing there except a few droplets of crusty blood.

I hear the floorboards creek upstairs and shivers run down my spine. Creek. Creek. I look up the dappled, dark, and threatening staircase and hear the echoes of Gabriel’s laughter. “Come get me, Mommy!” he sings. “I hide, you seek!” He squeals. I’m paralyzed. The windows slam and curtains close and I realize that there’s nowhere left to run.

“I wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again.” I squeak.

He growls out, “that’s what I was thinking mommy! While my teeth were being ripped out! Two years ago! Bad mommy!” He lets out a maniacal laugh, the howl of hell. I inch closer to the staircase, and the rancid stench of death grows fouler as light and airy footsteps draw nearer.

The giggling begins again… and it gradually crescendos to a piercing and agonizing scream. “Come play with me, Mommy!” His shrill voice screeches out. ‘Fight or Flight’ mode takes over my body as I march up those stairs, ready to get rid of that demon, but before I can sneak up on it, it appears at the top at the staircase, grinning a sinister grin. “No Mommy, you were supposed to find me! You broke the rules, Mommy.” Gabriel tilts his ruptured head and widens his scratched up eye, his grin becomes a toothless smile reaching from ear to ear.  Suddenly, he speeds towards me faster than a peregrine falcon. “Time to go bye-bye, mommy!” He tries to plunge his small, shriveled up fist into my stomach. I dodge his clammy hand.

A familiar killer instinct kicks in. My eyes go wild. My teeth clench. I’m no longer scared. It’s time to get rid of this God-awful thing. He screeches as I grab his slimy, dented head into my hands and dig my long fingernails into his skull and listen to the sweet gushing and crackling sounds of my nails cracking his slimy, tender skull. He claws at my face. His rotting face nears mine and he spits into my eyes. I release his fleshy head.

I wipe the acidic spit from my burning eyes, And he’s gone. But when I look up, his  razor sharp fingernails are clawed into the ceiling and he’s hanging there like a frightened cartoon cat, except he’s not frightened. I get a good look at his eyes. Instead of fear plastered into them, it’s hate. Pure loathing and insanity.

He squeals as he flips off the ceiling and lunges at my face. He misses and I grab him and dash back through the attacking rain, sprinting all the way back to his coffin. I swing Gabriel like a baseball bat, trying to knock him unconscious by hitting his head against his grave but to no avail. I hurl the flailing demon boy inside of the musty coffin, slam the top shut, and light it all on fire. The agonizing wailing finally goes silent.

My rapid breathing slows as the adrenaline fades away. I feel a rush…a familiar feeling. Deja vu? It brings me back to two years ago.