“Patrick, toss me the ball already!” I heard my brother shout.

I looked around feeling somewhat confused. I knew we were at the local town park near our house. The sun was high overhead shining brightly against the pale blue sky. I looked at my brother, Logan, who stood a few feet away from me with his hands outstretched. I looked down to find that I was holding a football.

“He looks like he doesn’t know how to throw it,” I heard my sister, Lillian, say and I turned to see her standing next to mom and dad.  My sister was dressed in a black t-shirt and black jeans.  I wondered why she was dressed all in black.  Lillian usually never wore that much dark color together.  My sister’s hair was blowing lightly in the wind as she regarded me disinterestedly.

My parents were sitting at the picnic table. Nancy, my mom, and my dad, Devin, were looking at me, smiling. My mother had blond hair and blue eyes like me. Today she was wearing a blue dress and her long blond hair was pulled back loosely. My dad was tall and had brown hair and green eyes, just like my brother and sister. In fact, Logan and my dad looked similar to each other and sometimes had the same mannerisms. My dad was smiling at me, but his expression was blank. I also noticed that mom’s expression seemed to be blank.

I continued to look around, puzzled about why I was in the park. We lived in the tiny town of Oak Grove, North Carolina. I was in eleventh grade at Oak Grove High School, my sister was in the twelfth grade and my brother was enrolled at the University of North Carolina in his freshman year of college.

“Come on and throw me the ball already!” Logan shouted as I moved my hands to throw the football at him.  My brother was dressed similarly to me, wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans.  His unruly brown hair blew wildly about in the wind, which had started to pick up.

Logan caught the ball with ease, grinning at me. My brother had played football throughout high school and he was what I would have classified as a jock, though he had started to change his attitude during his senior year of high school. Mostly because dad made him quit the team to help out around the house after mom died. I froze, holding the football tightly, as I remembered my mother’s death.

I turned slowly, my eyes landing on mom, who was still sitting at the picnic table. The sky began to rapidly darken casting my parents in gloominess.  Deep, twisting black shadows bloomed from edge of the park, heading toward where mom and dad were sitting at the table.

“Mom?” I called out as the darkness covered my parents and converged on Lillian.

“Patrick,” I heard mom reply but I couldn’t see her face as the entire park was covered in the twisting darkness.

“Mom!” I yelled again as I heard thunder loudly boom.  Lightning cut across the sky, illuminating the darkness briefly in an eerie bluish light.  Lillian and Logan were running towards me and then the darkness covered the park again.

“Lil’!  Logan!” I yelled out, fear gripping me.  My brother and sister were lost as I tried to walk in the darkness.  The wind suddenly picked up and I felt tiny bits of leaves, twigs and sticks fly at me like I was stuck in a whirlwind.

“Where are you?” I screamed but my voice was lost over the shrieking wind. I called out for dad, my brother and sister, but no one responded. The only sound I could hear was the raging wind. I felt sticks and small pebbles pelt my skin, stinging and cutting. I opened my eyes against the wind but I couldn’t see anything, only darkness.

Lightning cut across the sky again, illuminating the park.  I stumbled across a small bush and found myself falling.  The next moment I was in my bedroom at home.  I looked around the bedroom, bewildered as to what was going on.

“Hello?” I called out heading slowly toward the bedroom door.  I turned my doorknob and the door creaked open.  I looked out into the hallway.  The house was still, the silence almost deafening.  I moved out into the hallway.  I suddenly felt myself sinking.  I looked down at the floor and to my horror, the hardwood flooring was giving way, turning to a murky, tar looking substance.

“What the Hell?” I asked myself as I tried to move my shoes from the murky mess.  The lights in the hallway flickered on and grew unnaturally bright.  A sizzling sounded as the lights began to explode from the head of the staircase, heading towards me.  Fear gripped me as the lights nearest me exploded, the glass fixtures hitting the floor violently.  The wall lights next to me grew so bright that I squinted.  An electric sizzle made a popping sound as I suddenly felt someone tightly grab my hand.

“Patrick,” I heard Lillian call out.

The wall lights beside me imploded as the hallway floor sucked me downwards, pulling me into darkness.  I blinked seeing light along the edges of the darkness.  I wondered where I was as I stumbled along in the dark.  The wind from earlier began to howl again, blowing so hard over me that my t-shirt billowed.  The grip on my hand became tighter as the screaming whirlwind raged around me. The dark began to slowly give way to daylight.  I felt myself heading towards that bright light slowly. As I walked toward the bright light I left the howling wind behind and everything began to grow calmer.

“Patrick, wake up please,” I heard my sister say again.

I was heading for the light and it was growing intensely bright now.

“He’s been out for three days, Lilly. The doctors said he could wake up at any moment though,” I heard my brother say.

My brother’s voice was low and he sounded tired, where Lillian’s voice was frantic and bordered on frightened. Where am I? I wondered as I stepped across the threshold of the bright light. My eyes snapped open and I was staring at a bright florescent row of lights above my head. I heard beeping coming from machines beside me. I was wearing a stiff, scratchy, white hospital gown. I was taped to several devices and there was an aching in my arm. I looked down to see I had an IV tube stuck in my arm.

“Logan! He’s awake!” I heard my sister cry. I saw her above me and then she was hugging me tightly.

“Ouch!” I cried out softly as she bumped the IV tube in my arm.

My voice was dry and raspy. Lillian continued to hug me tightly as she began to sob deeply. I looked around her to see my brother standing next me, a grim expression on his face. Logan’s eyes were red-rimmed and wet looking with held in tears.  His clothing wrinkled. As I continued to look at him and he looked at me, I started having bits and pieces of things pop into my mind. Sort of like when someone takes a jigsaw puzzle and scatters it on the floor haphazardly.

“I didn’t think you were going to wake up,” Lillian whispered into my ear.

“What happened? Why am I here?” I asked my voice still raspy.

Logan stared at me his expression surprised. Lillian moved back from me to look at me and then she looked at Logan.

“You don’t remember?” she asked.

My sister’s eyes were red rimmed as well and she looked like she hadn’t slept well in a few days.

“Why am I in the hospital? Why are you guys crying?” I asked again.

I moved to sit up in the bed and I struggled. I felt something around my head and my hand shot up quickly to feel what was on it. I could feel some sort of gauze wrapped around my head.

“The doctor said that he could have temporary loss of memory,” Logan said his voice cracking slightly.

“I remember some things,” I replied looking directly at Logan.

My brother’s expression was stoic as he asked, “What do you remember exactly?”

“I’m going to get the doctor,” Lillian replied her expression troubled.

She jumped from the bed and was out the door quickly. I turned back to Logan.

“I remember mom’s death. I remember Diana,” I replied shivering.

Logan noticed my reaction as he came to sit down next me on the bed. My brother was wearing a red sweat shirt that said NCSU on it. His jeans looked wrinkled. He had dark circles under his eyes. I shivered again, remembering Diana in detail. Diana had seduced our father, marrying her way into our family directly after the death of our mother. As cold as our reception to our new stepmother had been, Diana’s reaction to us was just as icy. Eventually she had begun to abuse my brother, sister and I almost daily, with her punishments bordering on demented at times.

“Do you remember anything from recently? Like the last few days?” Logan asked putting his hand on mine.

I moved my hand from his as a look passed between us. Logan’s eyes shifted from mine quickly.

“I don’t remember a lot. I remember dad coming home and I heard a loud banging noise so I went to go see what had happened and then I don’t remember anything,” I replied.

Scenes were fitting back together again in my mind, becoming a bigger picture. My brother’s eyes met with mine again, the tears in his eyes threatening to spill over onto his cheeks at any moment. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on, why Logan and Lillian were so upset, why I was in the hospital.

“See, he’s awake!” I heard Lillian say and my brother and I turned to see her and a doctor appear at the doorway.

“I’m glad he’s awake,” the doctor said coming into the room.

“I’m Dr. Acefield,” the doctor said looking directly at me.

Dr. Acefield was an older, shorter man. He had dark hair speckled with gray that was balding on top. His skin was pale and somewhat wrinkled. His bright brown eyes radiated warmth as he began to check my blood pressure and run me through other little tests to ensure I was in good health.

“Everything looks good,” Dr. Acefield said looking from Lillian to Logan and then back to me.

“When can you release him?” Lillian asked her eyes staring pointedly as the doctor.

“I’d like to keep him overnight just for observation and if everything continues to check out, I can release him into the adult’s care,” Dr. Acefield replied.

“So dad’s here?” I asked wondering where our father was.

Even though my father and I were not on speaking terms at the moment, I would have expected him to be right by my side like my brother and sister. Lillian choked back a sob as Logan’s mouth twisted in a frown at my question. Dr. Acefield gave me an odd expression.

“Patrick, do you remember what happened to your father?” he asked me slowly.

I was trying to remember but I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember the past few days at all. I had no idea why I was in the hospital. I had no idea why my brother and sister were so upset. I slowly shook my head, looking at Dr. Acefield.

“Is that normal, Dr.? He can’t remember?” Logan asked Dr. Acefield.

My brother looked at me his expression sad as Dr. Acefield replied, “Sometimes in cases of head trauma it isn’t unusual for there to possibly be some sort of amnesia. Sometimes it’s temporary, other times it’s not.”

“But he will remember eventually, right?” my sister asked looking at me.

“Possibly. Like I said, I would like to keep him for observation tonight and then do a follow up visit a few days out,” the doctor replied.

“What happened? Why am I here? Where’s dad?” I asked feeling disoriented.

I moved to stand up but Logan quickly rushed forward and put his hand on my chest gently pushing me back down onto the uncomfortable pillow. I gave him a mean look.

“I’m good, okay? I just want to talk to dad. Where is he?” I asked again. I remembered that dad and I had a fight a few days ago and I had said some rather nasty things to him and I was regretting those words.  A deep, heavy feeling came over me as I remembered one of the last things I had told my father was that I wished he had died instead of mom.

Logan’s hand was still on my chest and I noticed that he had begun to tremble slightly. I looked up at my brother as he stared back at me. I began to feel odd.

“Dad’s not here,” Lillian said her voice low.

“Mr. Bellwood, can I talk to you privately,” Dr. Acefield said as my brother and I both turned to look at him. Logan slowly removed his hand from my chest walking over to the doctor.

“Yeah, I need coffee anyways. Lilly, you want anything?” Logan asked as he and Dr. Acefield moved toward the door.

“No, Logan, I’m fine,” Lillian replied looking sadly at me.

My sister sat down next to me on the bed as my brother and the doctor left the room. She took my hand clasping it tightly.

“You had us worried.  We thought we had lost you too,” Lillian said.

“What do you mean, ‘lost me too’?” I asked shaking my head.  Lillian glanced away, not looking me in the eyes now.

“Why am I even here? I get that I fell down and hurt myself or something, but how? Why?” I asked frustration in my voice.

“You honestly don’t remember any of it, do you?” she asked wiping tears from her eyes.

“No. And where’s dad?” I asked again growing agitated.

Lillian took a deep breath and her hand tightened around my hand as she began to sob quietly.

“What’s happened to dad?” I asked a bad feeling growing in the pit of my stomach.

My heart began to beat rapidly as the monitor that I was attached to me began to beep faster. Lillian’s hand was squeezing mine so tightly that it hurt. My eyes closed as I was suddenly in the family room at home. I was playing a video game. I heard a loud bang come from dad’s study. I heard the heart monitor beeping even louder as I saw myself walk out into the hallway.

“Patrick?” Lillian said shaking me.

My eyes were still closed as I was heading towards the study doorway in my mind.

“Dad,” I called out.

I heard myself actually call out for dad in the hospital room. I was stuck between the world in my head and the hospital room.

“Patrick?” Lillian screamed as I felt her shake me with more force.

I approached the study doors in my mind as I heard the heart monitor began to beep loudly.

“Nurse! Someone help!” I heard Lillian cry.

I could feel my sister move from the bed and then I heard her run from the room. My eyes were still closed as I approached the study door.

“Dad,” I called out again as I pushed open the study door.

And I was screaming, screaming loudly, the sound filling my head and the small hospital room. The heart monitor machine was a constant beep. Like a freight truck smashing into a wall my mind slammed all the memories into my consciousness at once. I remembered everything in an instant. I could smell the acrid smell of gun smoke and the coppery smell of blood. I remembered dad sitting in his chair and the mess on the wall behind him. I was still screaming. My eyes snapped open as I began to blink rapidly.  I saw Dr. Acefield and some other hospital staff rush into the room followed by Logan and Lillian.

“Please, we need you to leave the room,” a nurse was telling my brother and sister.

I couldn’t stop screaming. My eyes froze then, unblinking. Dr. Acefield quickly came over and began to try to calm me down.

“We need a sedative, quickly,” he yelled as another nurse ran over to my bed.

The nurse was carrying a small case with her. I noticed that her black hair was slightly curly and wild and she was wearing a brightly colored shirt. The nurse quickly pulled out a needle and some medicine and filled the vile with it. She turned to face me and my eyes widened in fear as I became even more frantic.

“Diana!” I yelled as I began to buck wildly on the bed.

“Quickly,” Dr. Acefield yelled as the nurse that I thought was Diana grabbed my arm giving me the shot of sedative.

“Let us through!” I heard Lillian yell from the doorway.

The heart monitor began to slow and my vision blurred. The nurse that looked like Diana smiled at me, winking. I shivered unable to do anything as my eyes closed quickly.

“Is he okay?” I heard Logan ask from the doorway and then I was sinking quickly into darkness, the heart monitor slowly returning to normal as I began to sleep.

I was dreaming and in the dream I was back at home. I was younger. I must have been around eleven years old. I was walking up the stairs and to my room.

“Hey, what’cha up too,” I heard Logan say from the landing at the top of the stairs.

He was shorter and his voice was high pitched. He was thirteen. Actually he had just turned thirteen. I remembered this day vividly.

“Logan’s a dork,” I heard Lillian say and she ran past me on the stairs brushing past Logan.

Lillian was so young looking. We all were. I couldn’t figure out why I was there, having a dream about this particular day.

“Wanna play video games, dork?” Logan asked me his voice going high pitched for a moment.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Lillian and I had teased him about his voice changing. My brother gave me an odd look.

“What are you laughing at geek-face?” he asked.

“You,” I replied as I turned to look back down the stairs.

Mom was standing there and she was talking to a man hidden by the front door.

“No, tell Dawn that I will not be coming back to that cursed mansion ever again,” mom said her voice angry.

“Nancy, your grandmother is sick. She doesn’t have much longer. Can’t you and Dawn come to an agreement at least?” the man pleaded.

“Absolutely not! Now leave and don’t come back,” she said hatefully, slamming the door with a loud bang.

I saw mom push her body up against the door, sighing. Tension drained from her face as she clutched her chest. The evening light streamed in through the stairway window and I could see dust motes floating around lazily. Sensing that she was being watched, mom looked up the stairs, her eyes falling directly on me.

“Patrick,” she said and then my eyes snapped open sharply.

I was greeted with the bright florescent light again. Logan was sitting beside me on the bed looking down at me. He looked older than eighteen as if he had aged overnight.

“He’s awake again, Lilly,” Logan said putting his hand on mine.

“Thank God!” Lillian exclaimed running over from the chair in the corner. My sister sat on the other side of the bed. She gave me a hug.

“I remember everything,” I replied my voice dull.

Logan’s hand tightened around mine as Lillian pulled me into an even tighter hug. I began to cry as Logan joined Lillian in the hug both of them crushing me as we all began to cry. My heart monitor began to rise and they both pulled away from me, their expression worried.

“It’s okay, Patrick. Try to remain calm. We are with you,” Lillian said her eyes flicking to the monitor.

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Logan replied.

I didn’t reply as I stopped crying. I looked around Logan to see that it was dark on the outside of the hospital window.

“How long have I actually been in here?” I asked feeling disoriented.

“About four days now,” Lillian said.

“Just relax. Don’t worry about anything,” Logan said softly.

I noticed that his hand was still around mine and he was gripping it tightly. A look passed between us as I moved my hand from his quickly. Logan frowned. My eyes shifted to Lillian who wasn’t watching us. My brother took hold of my hand again. Logan gave me a look as my face flushed slightly.

“Do you want anything to drink? Water?”  Lillian asked looking down at me.

“Water,” I said quickly and she nodded moving from the bed.

“I should let the nurse know that he’s awake anyways,” Lillian said looking at Logan.

Our brother nodded at Lillian. She hurried from the room as Logan looked at me, his eyes intense.

“Patrick…,” he began but I squeezed his hand tightly shutting him up quickly.

“I’m okay. I remember everything. Why? Why would he do that?” I asked my voice cracking.

“The police investigated and apparently there was no note. No anything. Our dad just decided to…,” Logan trailed off his voice pitching high with emotion.  He blinked rapidly as if he were trying to stubbornly fight his tears away.

“I still can’t believe what I saw. I found him. Just like I was there when mom…,” I replied as I began to cry.

Logan’s arms were around me in an instant. He tightly held me.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I should have been there,” he said.

“Would it have stopped dad?  What could you have done?” I sobbed into his chest.  Logan did not reply to my question.  Instead his grip around me tightened even more.  We were both silent for a moment before my brother began to talk again.

“I’m here now.  I’m not going back to school.  All I care about is that you and Lillian are safe,” Logan admitted as he continued to hold me.

I pulled away from him as we stared at each other.

“That’s not what you wanted. You had plans and all that stuff worked out,” I replied.

Logan shook his head, his expression grim.

“Patrick, if I don’t come back and take care of you and Lillian, they are going to put you both in child protective custody,” he said.

I shook my head, not understanding.

“You and Lillian are not eighteen. You have no adult to take care of you. I’ve already talked to some people about all this while you were in here,” he admitted.

His voice was tight, his expression sad as he continued, “I told you that I would take care of the both of you. I’ve already started the process of petitioning for custody of the both of you.”

I stared at him dumbfounded. It hit home how close I was to losing what was left of my family.

“It’s going to be a challenge. I’m going on nineteen years old.  That’s pretty young, you know, for this kind of responsibility.  I have to prove I can take care of the both of you,” he said softly.

“I don’t want to go somewhere else. I want to say with you and Lilly,” I replied.

“I’m going to try to keep us all together. It’s going to be hard process though,” he replied hugging me again.

The door opened and Dr. Acefield stepped in followed by Lillian who was carrying a bottle of water from the vending machine. Logan quickly pulled away from me his expression slightly guilty. I looked down at the white bed sheet guiltily, suddenly remembering everything, including what we had done with each other in the past.

“Glad to see you are awake again, Mr. Bellwood,” the doctor said warmly greeting me.

“See, he’s awake and not screaming. When can he leave?” Lillian said bluntly giving me a worried look.

My sister handed me the bottle of water and I opened twisted the cap off. The water was cold in my dry mouth and made me wince slightly.

“Ms. Bellwood, I still need to keep him for another twenty four hours just to observe his condition. When he had the panic attack his blood pressure became highly unstable. That’s very dangerous,” Dr. Acefield replied looking down at Lillian.

“Which brings me to the issue about your brother’s condition and the history of heart conditions in your family,” Dr. Acefield continued.

I shook my head giving Logan a puzzled look. He frowned and looked away to Lillian.

“Heart conditions?” I asked the doctor.

“Your sister and brother mentioned that your mother died from a stroke a few years ago and that history coupled with your drastic rise in blood pressure means I’m going to need to run some more tests,” the doctor replied.

“It’s simple X-ray stuff, Squirt,” Logan said softly, calling me the nickname he had given me long ago.  I gave him a frightened look.

“It’s just some tests,” Lillian added her voice soft also.

“I’ll begin the tests in the morning and then we will see about releasing you into your brother’s care,” Dr. Acefield replied.

“Okay,” I replied still feeling frightened.

The doctor looked me over and everything seemed to be to his liking. Dr. Acefield looked at my brother and sister.

“Patrick needs some rest. I’m afraid only one of you can stay in here with him at a time,” the doctor said looking at my brother and sister.

“You stay with him and I’ll go to the waiting room,” Logan said looking at Lillian.

She nodded walking over to the chair in the corner.

“I need to talk to Dr. Acefield anyways,” Logan added heading for the door.

My brother looked back at me his expression troubled.

“Mr. Bellwood if you’ll follow me we can talk. I have another patient I have to see shortly,” the doctor replied motioning for Logan to follow him.

My brother smiled at me as he followed the doctor from the room.

“Hey, you wanna watch MTV? I found it on the channel lineup earlier?” Lillian asked me her voice straining to be bright, but failing.

“Yeah, sure, I guess,” I replied drearily. With the realization that our father had killed himself with no reason coupled with the fact that Lillian and I could possibly be sent to a foster home made everything seem surreal. I had no real passion to watch anything, enjoy anything.

Lillian flipped the television on with the small remote and found the MTV station. She turned it down really low and then she moved over to the wall and flipped the light switch off. The room was suddenly dark with just a small lamp on near my bed barely illuminating the space.

“That’s better, right?” Lillian asked coming to sit beside me on the bed.

“Yeah,” I replied.

My eyelids began to grow heavy. Lillian began to stroke my hair gently.

“I used to do this to you when you were little. It always put you to sleep,” she replied her voice distant.

“And then Logan would come along and do something to wake me up and you would get so mad,” I replied my voice low.

“Yeah, that’s Logan. Always pushing against everyone, everything,” Lillian replied sadly.

“He said he was going to try to get custody of us,” I replied.

“Yeah, he is,” she replied.

I was starting to drift asleep but I wanted to let Lillian know what I’d seen when I was having my panic attack. I felt that it was important, especially that she know.

“I saw her, you know?” I mumbled.

“Who did you see? Mommy?” she whispered.

“Diana. I saw her. She was the nurse that gave me the shot earlier,” I muttered.

Lillian gasped as her hand froze on my head. After a moment she continued to stroke my hair but I could feel her hand trembling.

“It was her. She even winked at me,” I whispered sleepily.

“Go to sleep, Patrick.  Diana is dead. I pushed her down the stairs myself,” Lillian replied her voice taking on an angry tone.

“She’s not dead. I know it,” I muttered again.

“Yes, she is. She’s buried. Gone. Dead,” Lillian replied bitterly.

“I don’t know?” I mumbled even though I’d seen Lillian push our stepmother down the stairs that day.

I could feel myself right at the edge of darkness. I was about to go into a heavy, deep sleep.

“I killed her,” Lillian said her voice dark.

“She’s dead and won’t be coming back,” she continued.

In the edge of darkness I could hear Diana’s cruel laughter as I drifted into a troubled sleep.