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the lies we tell to help us fall asleep

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When Evan is thirteen, he has a bad dream. At least, that’s what the doctor says. That’s what Rebecca says when she deigns to call the next day. It happens on his birthday and he remembers every detail because the dream doesn’t go away for a long time. At thirteen, Evan’s dad has just died, killed while protecting people from a gang that wanted to take over Wayhaven. His heroics don’t make the grief any less consuming. Rebecca takes time off of work and haunts the small apartment they share. Evan cooks and cleans and sends checks to the electric company. His father’s life insurance comes in and they move to a house outside of the city center, though Evan never sees his mother look through the classifieds or call a realtor. A month after Rook’s death, Rebecca gets dressed, writes a note for when Evan gets home from school, and leaves.

When Evan is seventeen, he has a bad dream. It’s the same dream and it comes on the same day as it has every year since the first time he’d clawed his way out of it. When he wakes up, there’s blood under his nails. His breath is ragged and he can still hear the man’s voice echoing in his head, can feel it touching him all over. He does not call his mother. He does not call the doctor. He does not take the sleeping pills they keep shoving down his throat. He gets dressed, writes a note for when the live-in nanny wakes up, and leaves.

When Evan is seventeen and three quarters, he gets arrested for beating the shit out of some guy at a bar who’d shoved his hand down a drunk girl’s pants. He’s in some nowhere town a lot like Wayhaven, where there’s a joke of a police force and where everyone looks the other way but keeps their ears to the ground for gossip. The cop tosses him in the drunk tank, clearly unsure what to do with him, and he stays there overnight until his dear, sweet mother bails him out. When they let him go, a different cop from the night before says, “Normally, we’d release you into somebody’s custody, but—” Evan sneers and walks out.

When Evan’s almost twenty, he gets shot. He gets shot because he runs with the ‘wrong crowd’ now, the people who won’t let assholes get away with doing whatever they want so long as the pigs can’t see it. He and his friends are something of a protection detail, breaking bones and leaving warnings if they’re hired for the right reasons or if they see shit going down. The woman who shoots him does so because he breaks her nose after she tries to take a kid from a front yard. The bullet gets him in his shoulder but he lives and the woman drives off and he calls the police with what information he has, hoping that the ones in this town are competent. When he hangs up, he finds the kid staring up at him. He shifts his blood-soaked hair over his shoulder and stalks off.

When Evan turns twenty, everything changes, and it does so because his shoulder doesn’t heal right. For the rest of his life, he’ll feel a dull, grinding pain whenever he overexerts his right shoulder. On his birthday, his shoulder still hurts, and when he dreams that same dream that he’s had every year since his father’s death and he’s in pain, he knows— he knows — that he’s awake.

He’s in bed. That’s how the dream always starts. His eyes open and see nothing in the dark except for the way the curtain shifts as the window slides open. The man enters the room, making no sound, and comes to stand over Evan’s inert body. When he was young, the doctor had told him that he was experiencing sleep paralysis, that it was only a dream no matter how terrifying. But he knows now, and that makes it easier than ever to shrug off the paralysis in a way he’s only done once before, on his seventeenth birthday. The man looms, shrouded in the dark, and smiles. Evan’s shoulder screams as he grits his teeth and forces his arm to move. He has a gun in the bedside table and if could just reach it


The man places a hand on Evan’s face and says, “Why don’t you relax?”


Evan shoots him.

A year later, Evan is back in Wayhaven and is, of all things, a beat cop. His arrest record had followed him, of course, so when he’d rear-ended Micky Jensen’s father, Officer Jensen, he’d quickly been hauled in and given an ultimatum. Officer Jensen, who had never liked Evan ever since he and Micky had gotten into it in primary school, had been all too pleased to threaten him with prison. A bit ridiculous, given that he’d never been arrested for anything other than assault at 17, which had been waived, had insurance at the time, and hadn’t had any outstanding warrants. Either way, Evan had taken the job. Jensen, who transferred to the big city about a year later, had never warmed up to him. The rest of the station had. When Verda gets hired, the two of them bond over science; when Tina gets assigned to be his partner, the two of them bond over the firemen. After six years, when Detective Reele retires, he’s bumped up despite his objections and becomes Detective Greene. He doesn’t have that dream anymore. One day into his tenure as detective, everything changes again.