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Something is wrong, he realizes.

Well, of course something is fucking wrong. Like the fact that his parents are arguing again. Or it’s more that his father is yelling at his mom, who at this point just cries and apologizes, over and over, like she doesn’t know it will only piss him off even more. Like she can’t hit him back. Like none of them can hit him back.

So yeah, it’s wrong, but it’s hardly unusual.

His neighbors must agree; out in the street, he and his family are alone, but he knows they see everything, watching from behind the blinds. Of course nobody will come out to at least tell his father to take this shit inside; the show’s too good. A new low for his father, maybe, but at some point people just stop caring, especially if caring earns them a black eye or slashed tires.

Still, he feels a new wave of rage as he imagines them inside their houses, watching this son of a bitch dragging his mom across the lawn, imagines their pity. Then he imagines them here, on the ground, at his mercy, as he beats the shit out of every single one of those useless fucks. Guess what, assholes, the show will be over soon enough.

He stares at the street, not quite sure why, because there’s nothing there, no people, no cars, no nothing. Something is different, he thinks, but different from what? It makes no sense, and yet he has to force himself to tear his eyes away from the spot on the curb where a car should be parked, and how the hell can he remember a car being there? Why isn’t it here?

You should thank me.

Something is very, very wrong, and it’s his fault, and nobody realizes that. Mom is still begging, and weeping, and dad yanks her hair the way he sometimes does when he wants to make sure she can’t get away, and hits her. Then hits her again.

Come on, you bastard, he begs, but who, he’s not exactly sure. Where the hell is he? He looks around again, at his parents in the middle of the lawn, at the empty street, at his brother, scared and crying, and realizes he is crying, too. Everything is in its place, except for the car. Maybe, he thinks, maybe this time he parked somewhere else. (This time?) He listens for the police sirens, but he hears nothing but the sound of the blows, and his mother’s cries, and the ringing in his ears.

You should thank me. For calling them.

Something is wrong, and suddenly, he understands.

“Get inside,” his mom manages. There’s blood on her lips and she looks at him as if she understands, too. “Get him inside.”

Surprisingly, his father stops beating her. He turns to look at him, and he fucking smiles. He fucking smiles, and there’s the tiniest spark of hope. Maybe that’s it. Maybe he’ll stop. Maybe he won’t kill her.

“You heard your mother,” his father says, and the way he says it means that he also understands what’s happening. “Take your brother inside.”

He nods, slowly. The police will never get here in time. Everybody is right where they should be right now, and this means that this time, he’s on his own. This means he can choose what happens. The right ending. He wipes his face, and when he looks at his hand, it’s red. He wipes the blood on his jeans, and grabs his brother’s hand.

“Go to our room,” he tells him once they’re inside. “Don’t leave until I tell you.”

“Your nose bleeds.”

“I know,” he says impatiently. There’s no time. There’s no redoing this. “Go.”

When he’s back outside, he’s not crying anymore and his father’s hunting knife feels strangely familiar in his hand. He stares at it for a moment, knowing this time he won’t get to hold on to it. (This time?) It doesn’t matter. Something is wrong, and only he can make this right. The police will never get here in time, but neither will an ambulance.

His mom’s eyes widen when she sees him, and even through his rage, his father finally notices that something is wrong, and he turns around. The angle is just right as he puts the blade six inches into his neck. It’s surprisingly easy when you know the right spot. It’s surprisingly easy, like he’s already done it a hundred times. He pulls the knife out and steps aside, letting his father drop to his knees, staring at him as he clutches at his neck in disbelief. Watches as his blood paints the grass red.

I think your daddy, he would’ve gone all the way.

His father dies faster than he deserves to, but he dies, and that’s what matters.

“Teddy—“

He almost jumps at the sound of his name, and when he turns to look at his mom, she doesn’t seem to find any other words. And maybe she never will, but she’s alive, and that’s what matters, too.

He lets the knife fall from his hand and waits for the rest of the future.