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Chapter 2: A Dark Side
Sam loved walking through the city. It was a unique place that was always busy and full of such diversity. You could be as loud as you wanted and no one would care. He could be invisible. These walks always gave him time to think. Time to reflect on the goals and matters at hand and time to reflect on how to repair the cracks in his inner walls before anything else seeped through.
On the outside, Sam appeared to be your average everyday young man. He did not have any strange personality ticks or social abnormalities. If you met him in a bar, you would forget that you even spoke to him. You could describe him as a carbon copy of every other guy you have ever met but cannot remember. He liked it that way.
For years, he tried to remain relatively invisible and not draw attention to himself. The anonymity allowed him to keep laying brick and mortar on that wall. Just as all of us have, there were secrets behind that wall. However, these were not your average everyday secrets. There were no narcissistic tendencies or strange sexual fetishes behind the wall. It hid no deeply seated racism or overabundant amounts of ego-driven desires.
What was behind this wall was something that was far different. It was a thing that desperately wanted to escape. It needed to be seen and heard far more than Sam was able to keep it in. Sam used the strolls through the city to seal those cracks. It was time well spent to see to it that he remained in control of that secret. If there were ever even a small crack left unattended, then that secret could get out, and the whole world would know that Sam was not well.
He was not well at all.
Sam grew up poor. Not just your average poor. The type of poor that makes people bitter. The type of poor that numbs itself with drugs and alcohol. The type poor that surrounds itself with violence and disregard for what is morally and socially right. It brought home a father that was always drunk. The man drank so much that you could smell the alcohol in his sweat every morning. The two-bedroom house that they lived in stunk of the sweaty old alcoholic. The smell permeated every wall of the section 8 home.
If it were not for the benefits they received, Sam would have been homeless and an orphan before he was six years old. His piece of shit father was abusive all the way across the board. He would destroy Sam verbally, emotionally and physically every chance he got. Sam was his punching bag; a chained dog that would get beaten every time he whimpered. If he ever showed any emotion or sense of self-worth, this man would take it from him with foot and fist. Then he would break his spirit even further with a verbal barrage that would test the will of even the strongest drill sergeant. Sam only had one option in life. Take it.
His mother was even worse. She long ago swapped her soul for the soul of a woman who hated everything, including her son. To her, he was the reason she wound up in this mess. He was the reason she was poor and with Sam’s shit stain of a father. She would lecture him for hours on end about how crappy her life was and how she wished he would just die so she could be free. This woman was obsessed with her situation and making sure that Sam was acutely aware of how worthless he was. She would take every opportunity to tell him how much he was like his father. Then she would let that self-fueled anger turn into flying fists and feet. Beating Sam was like a sport for her.
His mother and father fought like cats and dogs. They would scream, cuss, and destroy. They would beat each other, and when they finished, they would beat Sam. He hated them with anger that boiled in the back of his throat like tar over a black fire every time he even thought of them. It is likely that few have ever felt that kind of anger. Sam wished he never had. He wanted to hurt them and show them that he was stronger than they were. He was the superior person. He wanted to show them the true power of a chained dog. They needed to feel justice. These shitty people trained him to do this. Keep it in. Do not speak. Just stew in the anger with no outlet. No way to let it go.
Beating Sam was not the only way they showed their dominance over him. Beyond the demeaning and humiliating verbal abuse, and soul-scarring emotional torment that they exerted upon him, there was the box. The box was little more than a shipping crate that his shithead father converted to hold his tools. The box was reinforced to keep it sturdy, but it only held tools for a brief amount of time. The pawnshop would empty it less than a month after its construction. His parents found no trouble finding a use for it. After any given amount of verbal and physical pounding, Sam got thrown in the box.
At two feet wide, eighteen inches tall and five feet long, this box was smaller than a coffin. Dirt and rust with various nuts and old nails filled the bottom of the box. They would lock the top and leave him for hours, sometimes days. The long hours in the box would not pass by quickly. The roaches that came in and out of the box were very curious and seemed to explore everything. As if being trapped in this small confined space was not bad enough, there was no water, nor food, nor bathroom breaks.
This was torture. This was Hell.
The only relief that Sam ever got was at school. He was able to escape the torment of his captors for at least eight hours. Truthfully, it wasn’t too much of a reprieve. He was poor, and that made him a target. Everything about him made him a target. His shabby clothing and shaggy appearance were a constant point of attack for the more fortunate students that attended his school. It was always the kids that knew the joys of financial and social privilege that launched the attacks. He would listen to the endless procession of taunts the other students flung at him from hallways and schoolyards. He was the topic of conversation for the kids that got picked on when they needed to feel better about themselves. However, at least, it was not as bad as what he endured at home.
The girls in his school were unapproachable. He simply did not exist in their eyes. Sam didn’t have the nerve to bother talking to them. He learned from his parents that he was not worth a damn. That seemed to follow suit with what his biology teacher said about women genetically seeking strength, safety, and comfort in a mate. He could offer none of the three. Besides, even if he did manage to muster up the gall to speak to a member of the opposite sex, he did not have the patience to deal with the bitchy “McCunty” attitude they all developed towards him. After a long day of ridicule by his peers and being ignored by the girls, he would head home to the place he hated most of all. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
He hated his life. He hated himself. Breathing was not worth the effort it required.
As if this was not bad enough, Sam was required to see a therapist twice a week. The court ordered it, and it was paid for by the state. Therapy was the only thing his parents let him do on his own. It kept the government benefits flowing into the house. He had no choice. His sessions became mandatory after his family received a visit from a social worker. The worker could see that things were not right and that Sam was miserable. She could find no way to prove that there was abuse in the home. The parents were amazing actors and Sam was far too terrified to speak up about what was going on in the house.
Mrs. Winters was a kind but stern woman who had seen it all. As a social worker, she could read the lies on people’s faces and was good at finding ways to help children. She pulled Sam aside for a private conversation with the tormented young boy; prodding Sam for the real info on what was happening in that poor excuse for a family home. He would not say a word about what his parents were doing to him. He avoided that portion of the conversation altogether. He did, however, mention that he was having the worst dreams. The kind that would make him sweat profusely. Often he would wake up with his sheets so soaked in sweat that he would think he pissed his pants. A couple of times it scared him so bad that he did.
Mrs. Winters saw this as a legitimate opportunity to get him some help. She often said to her fellow social workers that sometimes the best medicine for an ailing heart was an open ear. She could not have been more right.
Sam was referred to a therapist. His therapist was a young man, in his early thirties. Magnificently talented, but still paying his dues by doing social work until he saved enough money and accolades to start his practice. His name was Dr. Steven Wallace, and he took a keen interest in this young man from such a broken home. Sam would do everything he could to stay in Dr. Wallace’s office and keep the conversation going. He was the one person Sam could open up to and the only person he would tell about his dreams. Dr. Wallace was also the only one that was allowed to see what was lurking deep inside of Sam. He was the one that laid the first bricks in the wall.
Over the years that he visited Dr. Wallace, Sam described in detail how horrifying, and real his dreams were. He talked at great length about a fiery place that reeked of sulfur and ash. He talked about the black sludge that trapped him there and about the thing that he would fear every time he was there.
He described it as a monster that he knew lived there, but he could not see. It would speak to him, but he could never understand it. It would torment him by binding him to massive plates of rock and smoldering stone while showing him horrific images of people suffering. Images that would sear into his mind, and stay there. He thought that this was what crazy people saw. He believed it to be his dark side and he called it by the word that would be on his tongue when he awoke from the dream.
Malice tormented him every time he fell asleep. There was no escape.
Dr. Wallace attributed the dreams to the rough life that Sam was experiencing. Though he never said a word about the violence at home, he carried all the telltale traits of a severely abused child. This, in turn, carried with it all the troubles of mental illness. The dreams were Sam’s way of coping with the darkness that surrounded him. At least, that is what the good doctor thought at first.
If only he were right.
By the age of 15, Sam slipped into a state of full-blown depression. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. No silver linings to any cloud. There was only darkness.
The abuse at home reached an all-time high. The bullying at school persisted and grew throughout the years, and there was no end in sight. The dreams became far more vivid and violent. All he wanted was out. By this time, there were two failed suicide attempts. The scars on his wrist were a sign of one. He cut them the wrong way and did not have the guts to go deep enough. They only bled for about 10 minutes.
The second was a botched hanging. He decided not to go through with it at the last minute but slipped off the chair. After just seconds of struggling, the cord broke loose of its anchor and Sam came crashing down on his ass. He couldn’t even get it right if he wanted to. It seemed for a while that Sam's fate was to remain in Hell.
A breath of fresh air came to him one night in the form of a lung full of smoke. Sam’s house was set ablaze. He was the only survivor. Though never confirmed, the authorities believed that his drunk ass father passed out with a cigarette in his hand. Incredibly groggy, Sam awoke in the hallway only feet from the front door. He didn’t have a clue how he made it there, but he was happy to be alive. There was not a single effort from him to help save his parents from the fire. As he arduously made his way to the door, he could faintly hear his mother scream in agony, and then the screaming stopped. A light ignited at the end of the tunnel once more, and it was a bright orange. Sam stumbled outside and collapsed on the ground.
Sam spent the next three years in juvenile homes and therapy. Eventually, Sam began to smile, and the wall he was building grew thick and strong. He was able to bury the demons of his past, at least somewhat. Upon his eighteenth birthday, they released him from custody and began a life of independence anew.