Years later, when it was all said and done, some blamed his parents " they should have seen this coming " the gossipers whispered " I don't understand why they didn't get the poor boy help." those that said such things, of course, firmly believed that they had happy children, healthy both mentally and physically and chose to ignore the anything that might suggest otherwise. Others blamed the boy, they lectured their children on how selfish he was. They nodded, like good children do. Though part of them did, and always would understand the boy's choice. After all how many times had they been tempted to do the same?

The changes in him were too slight to be noticed at first. He daydreamed, but daydreaming is normal. He would lie on his bed for hours dreaming of adventures in far off lands. His parents would tell his to do his homework and he did. He would be invited to a party and he would go. Perfectly normal.

He was a master at telling jokes. He was known for it within his social circles. He could make anyone laugh. He was the life of every party. The boy had even made the principal laugh once. Humor was second nature to him. It came natural. It was his gift and he was loved for it .

Then this jokes came less often. And sometimes, when he did tell jokes the punch-line only made sense to him. A private joke with himself. It was odd. Just a little off. But he was a teenager, it was just a phase. His parents said "he'll be back to normal in not time." It was not a phase

One day, for the first time in his life, he came home from school late. It was dusk when he got home. His parents, already worried, saw that his face , arms and legs were bruised. His shirt was on backwards and his belt was missing. He stared at his feet and explained that it was 'just a fight'. Then he went to his room and did not come out for a long time. And his parents were proud to have raised such an honest boy.

Looking back his parents said that he began to watch the news at night. The headlines would flash across his face. War. Murder. Hate. "He would watch the TV" his mother said, "but his eyes would get unfocused. I don't know like he was looking at something else, something very far away. I don't know what he saw but it always made him smile"

The jokes stopped. In their place came a distant look that began to take prominence over all his expressions. He could sit and stare at nothing for hours. Content. He stopped going out. Stopped caring about school. He stayed in bed for longer and longer. Smiling at the white ceiling. His parents worried, but were convinced it was a phase. He would snap out of it soon, and why shouldn't he? He was a perfectly normal kid.

He did not snap out of it. And one day he did not get out of bed at all. His parents shook him, yelled and pleaded with him, but he just stared at the ceiling smiling his content smile.

They took him to the emergency room, convinced some strange illness had taken their boy. They doctors were stumped. They poked prodded and scanned. But after many expensive tests they conculded that there was nothing medically wrong with him. He was sent to the psychiatric ward. It soon became apparent that he was going to be a long term case.

He was put in an institution. His parents visited every day. The mother tried to be strong, but it wore her down. One day she could not help but cry. He heard and turned to her. "Don't cry mom" he said, "it is much better were I am. " She begged and pleaded with him "You have so much to live for son, come back to reality." He smiled sadly "You don't live in reality mom. The hate that lives there, mom, is not reality. It is a sick and twisted fantasy" then he smiled to himself settled into his pillow and sighed. "This is reality."

His mother continued to cry. Everyday she cried at his bed and help his limp hand. The content smile began to fade. It was replaced by a sad frown. One day he got up and left. No one tried to stop him. There was no reason, he did not seem like a mental patient, he seemed perfectly normal.

His parents came to visit the next day. They found a neatly made bed and a note that simple read, "I am so sorry" they never saw him again.

His parents tried everything to find him. They hired detectives, made TV commercials pleading with the public for help. After a few months the police were forced to call off the search, there wasn't a trace of him any where, and the boy had turned eighteen. A month after the police gave up the search, his family received a postcard. "I am alright." he wrote " Please don't try and find me. I am so sorry" they received the same words every day for the rest of their lives.

Long after his parents had died and his friends had forgotten him, two hikers stumbled across a small cabin. An old man say in a rocking chair on the porch. They wondered at his distance from civilization but he seemed normal enough. They smiled and yelled hello. He turned and waved back, and then they disappeared back into the forest. The old man sighed, his eyes blanked, he grinned at he forest, and he was happy.

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