The boy lay on the brown carpeted floor and played with his army men. Small green army men, the kind that come in a bucket of a thousand. They had tanks, helicopters, jets, foxholes, even a bunker. A flag was displayed proudly beside each bunker. The men were all aligned in formation, perfectly apart and ready. Each platoon had a good proportion of equal arms as the boy had tossed the odd men out back into the bucket. He called them "causalities" even though he couldn't have been more than thirteen, barely in junior high. The jets were on the makeshift airfield complied from notebooks, the tanks lying with their guns pointed toward each enemy. Each army even had snipers strategically placed along the top of the bed and the dresser, ready to assassinate any officers they saw. Scouts scanned the no-man's land between them, sappers wandered across searching for any mines. It was a war waiting to break out. The boy lay in the middle of all of this proudly, just finishing up the scene he had created. He was a small thing, built like a stick figure. He had short brown hair that flopped toward his dark brown eyes. He was grinning a crooked grin as he finished up, happy to be alone in his own , he could do whatever he wanted. Here he could give the orders. Here he was in control.
Just as he was about to place the final piece, he heard it. The soft creaking of a stair. It was almost too faint to hear, but his ears had become accustomed to it. The sound filled him with a quiet dread. He wished that he would hear another loud creak of a door opening and the footsteps disappearing inside. Instead he heard another creak, this one closer to his door. With sound alarm he began snatching up his carefully placed battlefield, his heart in his throat at knowing what was coming next. He began praying for more time, thinking if he willed it hard enough time would slow down enough to let him pick up all the pieces. If only so... if only he could have but a few more moments...
His bedroom door creaked open and there he stood. A giant of a man with dark hair that swathed around him, making it appear as if it were a mane. He had the eyes of a hungry lion and what looked to be the snarl of a hyena upon his visage. The sight of this man at this moment filled the boy with a feeling quite like death had visited recently. He had a handful of army men in his hand when he felt the man's eyes lock upon him, seeming to stun him for a moment. He continued trying to cram his fantasy world back into the bucket when the man spoke. It was a deep growl, one that came from a black pit. An abyss. The snarl of a monster that could tear him apart.
"I thought I told you to go clean your room."
The boy couldn't even look him in the eyes. He focused instead on the man's large belt buckle upon his brown leather belt that resided between his blue jeans and his gray t-shirt with a single breast pocket. The belt buckle had a large bee on it with a machine gun. Addressing the bee, he stammered "I-I was..." before trailing off, knowing what was coming next.
"Bullshit you were." the man hollered at him. "I've been listening to you playing for the last fucking hour!"
"But I was cleaning." the boy told the bee again.
"What did I say about lying to me?" the man asked him from the doorway. The boy couldn't speak for a moment. He couldn't even look at the buckle anymore. His gaze dropped down to the man's feet where it stayed there.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you." the man commanded. The boy tried to bring his eyes up to the man's face and had difficulty. But he managed to do it. There he could see a haggard face with eyes as black as night. Those eyes brought a feeling of terror into the back of his mind.
"What did I say about lying to me?" the man asked once more. His arms were crossed across his chest expecting an answer.
"I'm not lying to you." the boy told the man. Then the man strode over to him.
The boy braced but knew what was next. In the next split second the man struck him across the face, his wrist smacking into his right eye. The boy flew back and his head slammed into the dresser, making a loud thunk noise against it. Another hand came flying towards him and hit him across the temple, causing him to see stars for a moment. He was lying on the ground for a moment and then felt himself being picked back up by his shoulders. He was rammed into the dresser and felt the man's face coming close to him. He could smell his breath of cigarettes and jerky.
"WHAT THE FUCK DID I SAY ABOUT LYING TO ME?!" he screamed into the boy's face. The boy felt the tears rise unbidden to his eyes and start streaming down his cheeks. He began choking on his own sobs. Fear was the only thing he felt now, pure raw and uncut. It consumed his mind and he found he couldn't even answer the simple question. For his tears he received another blow to the cheek. His eyes were squinted shut from the pain and crying, and because the man's wrist had injured them so he couldn't open them even if he wanted to. Then came another blow. "WHAT" another "DID" another "I" one more "SAY" yet another "ABOUT" this one rocked his head back into the mirror "LYING TO ME?!" The boy just collapsed on the floor and began to sob unbidden. His frail body shook with the force of the sobs. He buried his head under his arms, trying to protect himself.
"LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!" the man screamed before pulling the boy towards him and shoving him back into the dresser. The boy felt the highest metal handle scrape his back. He tried to open his eyes but couldn't. He was rammed into the dresser once more, still trying to open his eyes. He really couldn't. Before he knew it he felt himself being lifted slightly from his feet and felt himself fly across his room. He slammed into the adjacent entertainment center with no TV and no video games because he had been grounded from a previous incident. He lay one the floor for another moment when he began to hear it. The clicking and tinkling of a belt buckle being moved. The boy was paralyzed. He couldn't move. Terrorized with fear he laid down and prayed once more. He prayed that this would all go away, that this was just a bad dream, that this man was only something out of the darkest corners of the sickest mind and would fade away as if he were only a bad dream. Instead he kept hearing the clicking and finally the sliding of leather against denim. It was then that he realized he was lying face down. He was vulnerable.
Before he could even brace himself he felt the lash of the belt against his bottom. It jolted from his butt cheek all the way up his spine and into his brain, making him cry out and cry even harder. He shrieked out in pain, the kind of cry that sounded like laughter laced with agony. He jerked from his position, lying on his side now. He hoped that it would cause the man to not strike once more, that he would leave him be for a moment. For that hope he felt the sting upon his forearm, and then his calf. He jerked once more and felt it across his knees, his feet. It penetrated his jeans, his t-shirt. There was no stopping it, as if it were a living thing and he had wronged it deeply somehow. He kept jerking this way and that, still getting struck with the taught leather. He rolled over on the floor, trying to escape the lashing and stinging of the belt and found no escape. With each blow came yet another cry of agony, terror seeping into the tones as well. But then the lashing came to an end and he thought it was over. That the man would just stride out and leave him be. But it wasn't to be so.
Before he knew it he felt a hand grab a fistful of his hair and jerk him upwards, causing his neck to be exposed. Then the powerful vice of the man's other hand had wrapped around his scrawny neck, trying to crush it it seemed. He was back on his feet, then he was lying upon his bed, the man atop him with a hand around his neck. He could feel his carefully placed snipers beneath him. He couldn't breathe. Not from his sobbing, not from his suffocation, and not from the man's weight upon him. He could feel his head getting light, like his mind was floating away. His sobs had reached a level beyond that, with water pouring freely from his eyes and mucus running freely from his nostrils. And beneath the man, he felt something hard near his middle. Something terrifying. He could only think one thing, but couldn't say it. He couldn't say it because of the man's grasp around his neck, forcing him to submit to whatever he desired. He couldn't do anything. He was weak.
"When I tell you to do something, you'll do it. Understand?" the man growled at him. The boy managed to nod even beneath the vise, hoping this would finally be the end of it. That the vise would leave and the boy could finally be left to his own devices. It wasn't.
"Good." the man said. "Now we're going to do this..." he said as the boy felt his hand slide down from his hair to his chest and continue down. The boy couldn't think anymore. This was it. It was going to happen again and he still couldn't do anything about it. All he could do was lay here and cry, defenseless. He began to sob even harder, knowing what was coming next. He didn't want this to happen again. He still had the nightmares of that summer ago when this was a daily occurrence. He didn't want to go through with it again. He should be used to it but he wasn't. It couldn't happen again. Not now, when it had been so long. Not now. Please not now. Please please if anyone is listening make this stop...
It was at that moment the boy heard the downstairs door open and the sound of people coming in reached his ears. Before he knew it the vise was gone and the man was putting his belt back on. His eyes were one of someone that had had an opportunity stolen from him. He looked at the boy with rage. It was a look the boy had seen often and would see often in the future. It was rage for no reason other than rage's sake. But the man could do nothing more with witnesses about. He couldn't let his crimes be known.
"NOW CLEAN YOUR FUCKING ROOM AND DON'T LET ME CATCH YOU PLAYING AGAIN!" he yelled before storming out and slamming the door behind him. The boy laid and his bed and broke back down in tears. He didn't even know of what, just that he should cry. He reached under him and pulled out a sniper lying in the prone position. He kept sobbing, staring at it through squinted eyes. Then he flung it across the room and broke back into fresh tears. These were the moments when he remembered that he was weak and pathetic. That he would never be able to fight back. That he would be forced to be like this forever. That he could not do what he wanted. That he could not give the orders. That he was not in control...