Under the Influence- the Prequel

Author notes: I wrote Under the Influence, a story of adolescents in a psych ward, when I was seventeen, five years ago. This story shows the lives of each teenager and of the head doctor, Naomi Rendell, showing how each person hit the bottom and required the psych ward's services in the first place. However, it can be read independently of Under the Influence and is not necessary to read that story to understand this one.

Warning: Most chapters will have violence of some kind and/or explicit swearing and/or sexual implications of some kind and/or drug use. Remember, these are teens who are severely disturbed.

Chapter 1: Xander Blaise, age 17

A slow smile curved the corner of my lips as I stood a few feet back from the building that used to be a house for some poor bastard back in 1938 or something like that. There's a lot of places like that around here, since people are too much of a tightass to fix their houses before they fall in on their heads, and too lazy or too unimaginative or whatever to want to buy them cheap and fix them up once they turn into total shitholes that even the most stoned homeless guy wouldn't want to spend a night in. I made sure of that earlier- walked through the whole place checking that some moron hadn't decided to curl up to sleep in the chimney or some shit. About fell through a hole in the floor doing it, and some fuckin' huge rats freaked the shit out of me running right past my feet. But there wasn't anyone there, and I was good to go.

Fuckin' A.

I'd already doused the place with a gallon of gas, soaking the wall in the back where the wood seemed weakest, and where I could be the most out of view of whoever came by after, until I left. There was only one step left, and I drew it out, savoring. This part, the standing and waiting, knowing what was coming, what I'd do, was almost as good as actually doing it.

I held the match carefully between my fingers, stroking its thin wood and enjoying its feel, how smooth and solid it was. The power to destroy, the power to burn and mutilate and melt material of much more solid stuff…the power to kill. It was a rush to stand here and know that just holding that match, I did too.

My heart was beating fast, my mouth dry as hell, and my palms were sweating a shitload as I kept holding the match, looking at the damp wall. It was always like this. I wasn't nervous or afraid, any of the times. I was fuckin' excited. This was the fourth building I would burn, and it was the biggest one. Making myself wait was practically torture.

I waited a few more seconds, until I couldn't take it and my legs were practically shaking with anticipation. Then I dragged the match's head against the box's side, holding the burning result in front of me, balanced. Then, flicking my wrist, I flipped the lit match onto the gasoline-soaked wall.

It was so fucking amazing. The fire caught right away, spreading up the side and up to the sagging, missing-shingled roof, so the wood smoldered and ate away at itself, whole pieces of the roof and wall collapsing. I backed up far enough so it couldn't leap out at me or something and burn me too, but stayed close enough so I could still see a lot of detail. Believe me, this wasn't something I wanted to look away from.

I watched with my heart pounding, my face hot with excitement, a grin I couldn't stop, and I tried not to blink so I wouldn't miss anything. It was the best sight I'd ever seen to watch the flames spread, looking like it was taking over the house to make it eat itself alive. Flickering orange, red, even blue, climbing, crackling, the smoke rising too into thick clouds of black, drifting off into the night sky.

I loved it. Fuckin' loved it. The smell, the sight, even just doing it, just knowing with hardly more than a flick of the wrist I'd taken down a building. It was better than anything. It was the only thing I did that ever made me happy to do it, and I'm including sex was sexy and alive, exciting. And it made me feel like I could do anything I wanted, any time I wanted, fuck the rest of the world.

It was beautiful.

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I don't know how a person couldn't like fire. Yeah, maybe it's different if the thing on fire is your own shit, or another person. Or you. But even that, I'm not so sure about. Sometimes I think about setting fire to my whole room, my whole house, just to watch it burn. Sometimes I think about burning my sister too, and my mom. But that's a different story.

I've always had a thing for fire. I don't know how a person couldn't if they've ever actually seen it. Even when I was a snot-nosed toddler kid I remember reaching for the stove top because I saw the flame underneath, reaching into candle flames and being totally amazed by fireplaces. I remember wanting to climb inside, to feel the heat all around me and be part of it. To burn like everything it touched. I've lost count of how many times I've burned my hands and arms, and there are permanent scars where I don't feel touch. It doesn't matter. I think anyone could develop a tolerance for fire, a resistance to the pain of burns, if they tried enough. But the burns themselves? One of the coolest things about fire is it can't be stopped. Doesn't matter who you are or what you do, surround yourself in flames and you're gonna get burned.

I've tried burning pretty much everything. Paper, plastic, wood, metal, hair, even my own skin. All different, with same result. Defeat by the flames. It's always the ultimate fighter. Nothing else is the same or gives off as much of an adrenaline rush, and believe me, I've tried it all. Fights, drugs, whatever life threatening shit I can get myself into, it never measures up to the power of one match.

Sometimes I wish I could set fire to myself too. I could just lay back in a bed of gasoline and light the match. Would it be more exciting than anything else, because it was on me and in me and part of me instead of out apart from me? Sounds fucking crazy, I know. Sometimes though I really have to wonder, and I find myself taking out my matchbook and holding it tight in my hand. So far I always went outside, found another place to burn instead, and then I was all right.

Who knows though. One day I might not. At least whatever happened then, I'd know the answer to the question.

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I left when I heard the sirens starting- damn shame since there was still plenty of time left for the place to burn before it was put out, but this was the fourth building I'd set fire on this month and I knew the cops would be out looking for me. I threw the gas can in the first Dumpster I saw and kept walking, heading back towards the shithole I call home.

The place isn't all that much better than the one I'd just set fire to. As I climbed the our shitty sunken porch steps that creak and bow under your weight when you step on them, I thought with real regret as well as irritation that I'd be doing us all a favor if I did burn it down around our heads.

It was close to three am as I came through the front door, but that doesn't mean shit in the Blaise household. I didn't have a curfew to worry about breaking, and neither did Emily, my 13-year-old sister. Wouldn't surprise me if I came home one night and the door was locked, with my mom calling out from the other side to go away so she could "entertain" someone.

Wouldn't surprise me, because it's happened before.

As I opened the front door I could already hear voices in the living room. Before I even looked around I knew what was going on. Like I said, it's happened before, more times than I want to even try to think about, and it's fucking disgusting. It's enough to make you want to kill something. And I felt enough rage even though I didn't' see anything yet to do it.

The lights were turned off, but that didn't mean I didn't see the outline of my mom on the couch. My mom, and whatever asshole she was with. I tried not to look, feeling my jaw muscles jerk. I tried not to hear her stupid drunk giggles and her slurred voice saying the asshole's name. I tried to just keep walking and go to my room. But then I heard the bastard say a name…a name that wasn't even HERS, a name that wasn't my mother's. He didn't even fucking know her name!

There was no way in hell I could keep going.

I strode towards them, not even trying to disguise the sound of my heavy steps in my boots, and still they didn't even seem to notice, still they were too damn caught up in fucking each other senseless to hear me, or maybe too drunk off their asses to care. Reaching the couch in two steps, I shoved the back of it with all my strength, pushing it over so they were thrown to the floor and trapped under it, screaming.

Both of them were yelling and swearing, fighting to push it off themselves, to shove away from each other to get up, but I held the couch on top of them, not letting them up, rage making me hot all over, running through me like lava. Like a fire. Every night she did this, she couldn't even take it into her damn bedroom, couldn't even take it outside, what the hell was wrong with her, the stupid bitch, the stupid slut! What was she trying to do to me?!

I hated her so much I saw black and red dots in front of my eyes…and I hated him even more.

"You fucking bitch, you slut, who do you think you are?! What the hell is wrong with you, you stupid drunk-ass bitch, what are you trying to make me do, what the hell is wrong with you?!"I screamed.

I slammed my fists onto the back of the couch repeatedly, driving it further down on their backs, crushing them, probably practically smothering them. I kicked it too, my anger growing even more, and continued to scream at them as I lifted the couch partly, then let it fall heavily back onto them again, picturing their naked bodies, the sound of my mother's drunk snicker, of the bastard moaning the wrong name.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"Alexander…Alexander, stop, stop!" my mom was crying, and that just pissed me off more. She knew damn well I hated that name, that I went by Xander. XANDER, not Alexander, like some fucking general, like some fucking saint or king. The Blaises didn't spit out anyone who fit a name like fucking ALEXANDER, and she just couldn't get it through her stupid head, seventeen years and she couldn't get it through her head that I was fucking XANDER!

"What, you don't know my name either, just like you don't know his, like he doesn't know yours?" I yelled.

I started to throw back the couch, to grab the asshole up to his feet so I could throw him out the door, but my sister came running in then, flipping on the lights and squealing.

"What the hell is going on?! Xander, what are you doing?! Xander, stop it! Stop! MOM!"

I looked up at my sister then. She had on heavy eyeliner still smeared under her eyes from earlier in the day. Her blonde hair was messed up, hanging in her face, anger and fear in her eyes. She was glaring at me so hard her eyes were barely open at all, really. And Emily was in a tank top that was drooping low on her thirteen-year-old tits, that was practically see-through and that showed the outline of her damn nipples underneath. She was wearing underwear, fucking underwear, so her skinny thirteen-year-old legs were out there for all to see. And there were marks on her neck and chest that made me want to explode inside.

And then I saw the pimple-faced 16-year-old bastard sidle up behind her, one arm circling Emily's waist, and I did.

The rest of it, for a while, is kind of a blur in my head. I don't know what happened then or even if I remember anything right at all. I remember screaming, swearing. Me, my mom, Emily, Emily's guy. I remember my fists tearing into the asshole's skin, my knuckles splitting open, blood splattering that could have been mine or his or both. I remember Emily screaming my name, yelling in my ear, launching herself onto my back and trying to rip me off of him, and me smacking her down to the floor. I remember grabbing the half empty bottle on the floor and waving it around, screaming that they were all sluts and drunks, before running out the door, still holding the bottle in my hand.

Maybe I do remember a lot then.

I didn't know where I was going. I didn't really care. I just went, almost running, feeling my temples pounding and screaming in my head, his blood slick on my hands, my torn sneakers smacking on the sidewalk. I went, and when I stopped, I think it was because I was practically gasping for breath more than anything. Damn cigarettes…bastards are going to kill me before I'm twenty.

Let them. I don't give a shit.

I was still holding the bottle and tipped it to my mouth. My hand was shaking as I swallowed. The shit was terrible, but I drank it anyway, letting it burn down my throat, then fumbled in my pocket for a cigarette. I'd smoked my last one earlier, but the matches were still there.

Taking them out slowly, I held them in my hand like they were one of those expensive crystal vases or something, looking down at them as I tried to breathe like a normal person instead of a dying old fart. I let my eyes drift up, looking around, and then I saw it.

Another one of those old falling down houses, right there in front of me. Like it was just begging me to do my best to it.

I wasn't about to turn it down.

Looking over at the alcohol, or what was left of it, I walked up to its side wall, splattering the rest of the alcohol on the wall. I didn't bother going inside to look around this time. There had never been anyone in those places before. Why the hell would there be today?

Lighting the match, I paused, enjoying the moment, before tossing it onto the alcohol soaked wall.

It wasn't until I heard the screams that I realized this time, I had been wrong.