Nightfall had enveloped the quiet town of Kalbury. Countless litres of gasoline had drowned the once beautiful Thompson home and brightened the night sky with searing hot flames. The burning temperature rose rapidly. Mr. Thompson coughed and coughed and coughed, unable to free himself from the debris. The smoke seeped in, invading his lungs in an instant. His cries for help fell on deaf ears. Suddenly, just before the smoke blinded his good eye, Mr. Thompson saw him.

          “Oh! Jackie-boy! Jackie my beautiful boy! Get me the fuck out of ‘ere. I beg ya, please. Jackie!”

Sitting by the grimy grey sofa, coated in a deeply embedded stench of cheap whiskey and cigarettes, was Jackie. Little Jack Thompson. The boy carried a pair of lifeless eyes as he leered at the desperate old man. He had all the power in the world to save him. Instead, he remained silent and still.

***

 

As a child, Jackie didn’t speak much. To put it more accurately, no one ever heard him speak. A house filled to the brim with family never heard him shed a single tear or even scream in fright as a baby. Diana, Jackie’s mother, nagged and nagged her husband on many occasions to take her boy to Earl Grove Children’s Hospital, worried to death of her child’s unusual quiet, unfeeling nature.

          “He ain’t mine for fucks sake! What do I care about a retard that don’t even belong to me? 

“Please. Please… sweetie, dear. He’s part of our family!” Diana pleaded.

          “Don’t you dare say that. He may carry my name, but that’s all he’ll ever ‘ave. He’s nothing more than a damn dog th–”

“That’s enough! Goddammit John you inconsiderate monster. He may not be yours to begin with, but he’s yours now. Do you hear me? I said do you hear me?”

Mr. Thompson grumbled angrily and finally gave in.

‘D. Takeett’ it read on the man’s white coat badge.

“Mr and Mrs Thompson, your boy suffers from a very unique condition known as ‘dissociative personality disorder’. Jackson has the potential to develop multiple identities or in some very rare cases, one very powerful personality, a split personality. He’ll suffer from memory impairment, often carried out by blackouts. I cannot stress enough your boy be put into a regular routine of therapy to keep this disorder at bay. This way, he can be monitored and medicated. Mr Thompson! Are you even listening to me? I’m telling you, your boy, he’s very si–”

          “Yer, I heard ya. I think you’re a fucking quack out to get my hard earned money on some condition that probably doesn’t exist.” Mr Thompson scoffed.

“But Mr Thompson, I strongly urge you-”

          “If you say another word, you’ll ‘ave a fucking blackout of your own!’

Mr Thompson ruled the family with an iron boot known as the absolution of fear. Under his indefinite decree, the family discarded the good doctor’s warnings, and lived on to raise Jackie as they saw fit. Throughout Jackie’s childhood, the professed ‘special child’ was home-schooled so he wasn’t your average kid running around playfully around the streets of Kalbury like the other kids his age. No, he was already a prisoner in his own home at the young age of 7. Back when he was younger, the streets only let out occasional whispers. Nowadays, it became a norm to gossip outwardly on the streets without a care.

“That boy is dangerous…” they said.

          “Stay away from him,” the others said.

It was a regular day at the Thompson household. Diana was outside flinging the array of garments onto the creaking clothesline while the twin sisters Molly and Mary, had gone to attend their very first day at primary school. They were his real children. They were loved dearly. They were given anything and everything they could ever ask for. If they could conjure it up in their heads, it was theirs. Mr. Thompson was at his usual spot. A crinkled cigarette shoved in the minuscule hole peering into what’s left of his decayed teeth, lounging on the sofa, jabbing violently at the remote.

          “This damn fucking hunk o’ scrap! It ain’t ever working, I’m the only one that ever fucking works around ‘ere!”

The old man’s severing screech echoed across the entire household. In the kitchen, Jackie was in the middle of carefully and effortlessly opening the backyard door. Jackson didn’t want him to hear. At this very moment, and for the next eight hours, it was only the two of them; an unlikely pair. The sound of the door lock clicked open and that in itself, was more than enough for Mr. Thompson to halt his living room rampage.

          “Jackie! Jackie-boy! Get the fuck over ‘ere!”

Jackie fixed his eyes towards the door, the door leading to freedom. The beautiful outside. Until an enormous shadow formed behind him, casting a large pool of darkness over the sunshine that looked like heaven, fear immediately overwhelmed his little body. The darkness, the incomprehensible terror before him, it attacked the seven-year-old boy all at once.

          “What did I tell you, boy…”

“I-I-I… wanted to go outsi–”

          “Outside? To do what? Play? Yer not like the other kids ‘member?”

Mr Thompson let out a sinister laugh as he returned to his nest by the television static. Jackie waited patiently until the wretched man had definitely returned to the living room. He then soaked in the fresh autumn breeze. Playful laughter coming from the other side of the fence reached his ears. Atop the fence, he witnessed some of the neighbour kids playing in their very own sandbox. Returning to his own barren backyard, it created a sense of distraught for Jackie when thrown into comparison of the two play areas. Until he discovered something beside the huge oak tree. An anthill. He sat there whistling whilst observing their fort of dirt. He sat there for hours on end, until the night had devoured the sunshine. During his hours of observation, he had made little barricades out of scraps and sticks around the anthill to protect them from harm before going to bed.

***

 

The following morning finally came. The sun came up and the little boy stretched his drowsiness out and awoke. He was excited to see how his little critter friends were doing.

          “What in seven hells is that stinkin’ smell?” Mr Thompson bellowed.

The indication that he was awake had brutally murdered any bright mood poor Jackie would have that entire day. Jackie however, could smell it too. Like something was burning. Rushing outside, His eyes widened, his hands clenched ferociously. The barricades of scraps and sticks were demolished beyond repair, and the anthill was blackened with ashes. Jackie dug deep into his mind trying to remember what could have happened. It was no use. The last thing he could recall was building the barricades; he couldn’t even remember how he got into bed last night. Feeling helpless, he fell to the ground, tears overflowing and drowning in the crushing realization – he was alone once again. He attacked the earth again and again with his pudgy arms until he felt something. Something painful. Lifting up the sleeves of his shirt, on both arms, were multiple bruises dyed a mixture of purple and black.
The tobacco-infested air began to infiltrate the cool and refreshing breeze. Jackie distinctly heard the flickering of the steel silver lighter and with that, quickly rolled down his sleeves to hide his bruises. Mr. Thompson left his lighter and cigarettes where he always left them, beside the table right next to the sliding door. Jackie spent the remainder of the day retracing his steps, or finding the slightest clue on what exactly happened to the anthill. His mother had gone to take Molly and Mary to their dance recital in the evening. Mr Thompson stayed behind, as much as he wanted to be there for his precious daughters’ recital, he thought best to stay home and ‘guard the boy’ as he liked to phrase it.

Seven thirty-seven. Nightfall had now enveloped the quiet town of Kalbury. Mr Thompson was at his usual spot watching television on the sofa. The sound of whistling began to sound upstairs. Jackie’s pudgy little feet started to operate and started to walk around equipped with a fifteen-litre gasoline bottle, painted scarlet with a black and yellow nozzle on the end. Jackie heaved with both of his tiny arms to carry it around. The pebble coloured carpet began to feel soggy and damp on the bottom of his feet. Eventually, Jackson made his way downstairs. The entire home’s carpet was now drenched, besides the living room. Jackie waited and waited, until Mr Thompson proceeded to do what he loves doing the most apart from making life hell. Smoking. Jackie knew all about his mother’s no smoking in the house policy. Mr Thompson detached himself from the deep groove he left on his sofa, and made his way outside. It was finally time.
With an unlit cigarette tucked safely between the cracks of his lips, Mr Thompson didn’t want anything more than for his beautiful daughters, his loving wife to return home. He didn’t want to spend a second more with that damned child. Reaching for the place where Mr Thompson always puts it, dabbing on the table repeatedly. It wasn’t there. But it was always on that table, he knew for a fact that nobody else in the home smoked.

          “That damned boy, that damned fucking boy … been playing with fire eh.”

Rushing inside with his face reddened in anger and fists clenched tight, he searched for the boy.
Mr Thompson checked upstairs.
He wasn’t there.
The kitchen.
He wasn’t there.
The garage.
He wasn’t there.

          “Where the fuck is my lighter Jackie, you… wait, what the…” Mr Thompson suddenly felt the dampness of the carpet floor. He rushed over to the living room. And there, Mr Thompson saw him. Jackie stood idle beside the grimy grey sofa and before the profanities could even escape Mr Thompson’s mouth, the flame flickered from the lighter coated in a steel grey. Jackie threw it across the room. In an instant, the scorching flames consumed the very existence of the sofa, as well as the rest of the living room. Smoke seeped through the ceiling as Mr Thompson struggled to escape, but it was far too late, ironically trapped by the hunk of scrap; the television had crushed his legs, as well as other fallen debris.

          “Wh-wh-what’re you doing Jackie-boy, get me outta here goddammit! Jackie, my boy! My… my beautiful boy! Help me! Please! I’m begging you! Jackie please!”

Jackie turned away without a word, and began to leave the man who had caused him so much pain in his young life. The man who never acknowledged him as part of the family.

          “Do you hear me Jackie?! Jackie my dear boy! Get me the fuck out of ‘ere. I beg ya, please. Jackson! Jackson!” Mr Thompson continued to bark for help.

The little boy remembered. The blackened ashes that was left of the anthill, burnt to nothing. There was no longer room for sympathy, no longer room for forgiveness. Jackie looked over his shoulder, one final look at the closest thing he had to a patriarch.

“You… are nothing more than a damn dog… barking and barking for help.” Jackie uttered, his final words to a dead man.

With that, Mr Thompson drew his final breath with his entourage of screams.

 


***

 

Time of death: eight thirty-six in the evening. Mr Thompson had inevitably perished gruesomely in the flames, with little Jackson waiting by the curb, whistling to his heart’s content, mimicking the approaching sirens. Jackie’s mother finally came home, shrieked in distraught at the sight of her home, as she burst out the car accompanied with both the fire brigade and the ambulance.

“Oh dear merciful Lord, Jackson! Jackson look at me! What happened? Tell me!”

Jackson stayed silent as the paramedics approached him to tend to his wounds. A while after the examination of the boy, the paramedic in charge signals Diana over to have a word.

“What is it? Is my boy alright?” Diana asked.

          “Mrs Thompson, your boy over there. Are you aware of the bruises… on his arms?”

“Bruises? What bruises? On my boy? How could this be? I… I… I don’t understand.”

          “Yes ma’am, he has many of them. However, that is not the most troubling thing.” The paramedic continued. “Those bruises all over his arms, ma’am, they were …”

The paramedic paused for a moment to regain himself.

          “… those bruises were evidently self inflicted ma’am.”

Mrs. Thompson’s eyes widened in fear, and now, when it was much too late, she knew.

“Oh dear God…”

Diana turned to face her sweet boy over by the curb. The whistling continued.

 

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