I had a son once. I had a beautiful wife, a decent job, and a big house in the country. It was a small rural town, the kind you find an hour outside any major Midwest city. I worked at the local Cub Foods. It was just down the street from our home. In the spring I’d walk the 15 minutes so I could enjoy the weather. I was the manager. My employees were decent, most of them teens.
My son had blond hair and blue eyes, taking after his mother. He was just your average five year old boy. He acted up every once and awhile, but for the most part he was a good kid. If my wife was busy, I’d take him to work with me. He’d hang out in the employee lounge, chatting with my staff. They liked him.
I don’t know how or when, but he changed. He became nasty, throwing tantrums and destroying the house for no apparent reason. Well, I suppose there was a reason: Kevin told him he should. He talked to Kevin constantly, treating him as if he were real. Catering to this imaginary child’s needs pushed me to the point where even I almost believed he was real.
He had nightmares. He sleepwalked. We researched and thought we were handling it. Then it got worse. I had brought him to work with me and left him in the lounge, per usual. I returned after a half hour and he had destroyed the room. Tables were flipped, papers were ripped and the TV had a gaping hole in the screen. I didn’t even have time to get angry before he pushed me out of his way and ran into the store. It was chaos. He knocked over displays, pushed people aside, stole their food. He cackled and shouted profanities I was pretty sure he’d never heard before. I finally caught up with him and grabbed him. He fought with a strength I didn’t think a five year old could have. After struggling for a few minutes, he fell asleep. We stayed home the rest of the day.
I’m not stupid, a half decade of horror movies told me what was going on, but this is the real world. That stuff isn’t real here, right? Mental illness was likely at fault, so we took him to a psychiatrist. He was always completely normal around doctors, almost unaware of what he’d done and why he was there. At home it was just rage and a constant insistence to go back to my work. He would never explain why, but keep asking and demanding to go to the store. The medication didn’t help.
My wife got bad bruises when our son tried to beat her up in the middle of the night. We started locking him in his room anytime he got in one of his moods. That made our nights slightly more peaceful. Slightly. There were still the screams. One night it was too quiet, so I checked in on him. He was gone. I knew where he was going.
He had made it halfway to the store before I found him. He was just walking alongside the road, without a care in the world. Until I tried to stop him. I grabbed him and demanded to know what he was doing. He fought back, hard, still insisting he had to go to the store. Always the store. He clawed at me with his tiny fingernails and bit with a mouth that still had baby teeth in it. The shadows cast by the moonlight made his eyes look pure black. Every blow hurt, not just physically but emotionally. It had been weeks and we couldn’t keep going like this. He wouldn’t stop. What happened to him? Why was this happening? And he wouldn’t stop going on and on about the stupid fucking store.
Then it happened.
Something snapped inside me. I hit him. Hard. I pinned him to the ground and hit him again.
I had to do this. What other choice did I have? I couldn’t stop, because he wouldn’t stop.
I grabbed a rock. I brought it down on his head. It dented like an egg cracked against a bowl.
I hit him again.
I couldn’t stop.
His face was gone.
The son I had raised for five years. My pride, joy, life, and future.
Just a puddle of blood and gore.
I couldn’t stop.
Then I woke up.
And I cried for what felt like hours.
So no, I’m never going to have a son. Because I already had one, who I loved so much. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t real, because, for what felt like a lifetime, he was real to me and my feelings, up until the last moment, were genuine.
And I killed him.
I’m so sorry.