This story takes place after chapter 25 and partially during 26 of Ascension!
Monsters and Men
It still looked the same as when Seth had last seen it. The red bricks were faded to brown, the windows dirty. It was dark and intimidating as ever, and Seth's pulse spiked at the very sight.
This was a bad idea. This was such a bad idea.
He sat in his car, Cujo panting and whining in the backseat, and just stared at the house. The house he partially grew up in. After his fight with Mira, he had gone home and spent all night thinking about what he had said and what he had partially tried to do. And when daybreak came he grabbed his dog, a bottle of alcohol, a bat and a nail gun, and drove.
"Come on," He finally said, unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out of the car. Cujo hopped out behind him.
There was no way this was going to work. On the top shelf of his closet he kept a box hidden. Somewhere in it was the key to the back door to the old house. He had dug it out and fled.
Now he stared at the old door, with the peeling white paint and cracked window, and gulped.
He took the little brass object from his pocket and slipped it into the lock, and was surprised when he heard a small 'click'. He pulled the key out and turned the knob, opening the door.
Cujo's head nudged his hand, which was hanging limply at his side. Instinctively, he patted the animal's head and stared into the partially dark kitchen the door led to.
With heaving shoulders and a deep breath, he took that first step. There was no chill that washed over him, no horrible slap-in-the-face of memories, there was nothing but a small creek as he stepped on the faded yellow diamond shaped tile.
The room was bare; the refrigerator, table and chairs, and appliances on the counter were all gone. He looked at the white countertops, noticing the layer of dust and grime that covered them. There was a small, quarter sized hole in the window above the sink that he was pretty sure wasn't there last time he lived here. The windows needed a washing too, he observed.
Turning, he realized his dog was gone. "Cujo?" He called. When he got no reply, he left the kitchen and headed toward the hallway.
Seth heard noise upstairs, so he gripped the weak-looking banister suspended on the wall and walked up the creaky stairs. He stopped at the landing and looked up the remaining stairs to the three bedroom doors that awaited him. All three were opened. Taking another breath, he held the bat over his shoulder like a soldier's gun and walked up.
The first door he stopped at had been the guest room. It was empty, naturally. Not that it mattered, Seth couldn't remember it ever being used as anything other than a room Joseph slept in when Carolyn kicked his ass out of their bedroom.
The second was just as empty as the first, but he could mentally see the phantom furniture on the floor. His mother's vanity and mirror, filled with her makeup and hair stuff. The old TV that stood on top of the short dresser, and the tall dresser against the wall.
Their large bed that once sat in the middle of the room. The watercolor painting Carolyn had hung above the bed. It was all gone, just a memory. Unable to help himself, he walked in and noticed that the multiple holes in the wall were just at his eye level. He remembered being a child and having to look up to see them. He curled his hand up into a fist and slipped it through the hole. It fit almost perfectly.
The last room was where he paused. His old bedroom. The room where his childhood had been so horribly torn from him. The door was only open about a foot. His grip tightened on the bat as he pushed it open and walked in.
His dog was curled up on the floor, head picking up off his paws when his owner walked in. Seth's shoulders slumped in relief.
"What're you doing boy?" He crouched down and rubbed his head. "Why'd you come in here?"
Like everywhere else, the room was empty, but Seth saw it all. He could see his small bed pushed against the wall, his little dresser, the ugly blue and grey rug that had once laid there. Like his parent's former bedroom, there were multiple holes in the wall.
He was walking over to one of the bigger ones when something crunched under his feet. Looking down and lifting his shoe, he was met with green pieces of glass from what looked like a beer bottle. He shook his shoe off and looked around, this time getting a chill.
So this was it. This was where it all began.
Suddenly, the bottle of Jim Beam in his hand was flung against the wall, shattering to pieces.
Letting out a groan, he walked back against the nearest wall and sank down to the ground, pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. Cujo nuzzled his head under his arm, settling against his side.
Seth pulled his arms away and buried his face against his dog's soft fur and sniffled pitifully. It was overwhelming, why was he here?
His phone buzzing in his pocket alerted him. He lifted his head off Cujo and took it out.
"What?" He answered.
"Where the hell are you?" Carolyn demanded. "Jerome told me you took off at seven in the morning!"
"He's not lying."
"Where are you? I want you home. Now."
Seth looked around the room and sighed, "I'm at the house."
"No you're not, your car's go-"
"Mom, I'm at the house."
There was a pause, and Seth could almost hear his mother's eyes widening and jaw dropping. "What?" She sputtered, "What are you doing there?"
"Just dropped by for a visit."
"Come home, now."
Seth ended the call and shut off his phone. She couldn't understand why he was here. He didn't even understand why he was here.
He set the bag with the nailgun in it and the bat to the side and rolled over so he could rest his face on Cujo's soft side.
"You're a good dog," He whispered, watching his breath move the fur. "You're all the family I need."
Seth must have dozed off, because the sound of the downstairs door slamming startled him awake. For a moment, it was like being a child again, waking up in the room. But his brain snapped on after a second and he was able to remember where he was.
"Seth?" Carolyn called from downstairs. He sat up, what the hell was she doing here? "Where are you?"
"Up here!" He called back, leaning his head back on his dog. He heard her quick footsteps come up the stairs, a pause, then she appeared in the doorway.
"Oh thank god," she breathed, hand over her heart.
"Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
"I like your outfit."
"This neighborhood is dangerous! You could have been kidnapped or mugged or something!"
Seth held something up, "That's what the nailgun is for."
Carolyn barked out a small laugh and ran a hand through her hair. Her eyes softened and she looked down at him. "Are you alright?"
To Seth's surprise, Carolyn leaned against the wall beside him and sank to the ground. She put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. Without a word, he scooted away and laid his head down on her lap. She stroked his hair off his face.
"It's okay," she soothed. "It's okay."
"It's not okay," He argued weakly. "He's dead and he still has the ability to fuck with my mind!"
Carolyn rubbed his side soothingly, "shh," she hushed.
A single tear slipped from his eye, trailing along his temple, then dropping onto her lap.
Seth laid there a lot longer than he wanted to, just staring into space and letting a few tears escape his eyes. Carolyn's hand's stroked his hair or rubbed his side and back gently, whispering soft words to calm him.
After she felt he was calm enough, she asked, "Why did you come here?"
He didn't say anything for a while. But finally he looked up at her, "I... needed to be alone."
"You could have been alone somewhere else, this place is dangerous."
"I did something bad," He muttered.
Carolyn scooped her hand under his cheek and lifted him off her lap so she could look at his face. "What happened?"
"Don't wanna talk about it," Seth answered stubbornly. He didn't want his mother to know how he had almost attacked Mira, then said such horrible things to her.
"It would help, talking about it," Carolyn continued.
"Mom," He said weakly, looking at her. "I can't." his voice cracked embarrassingly. "You shouldn't be here, you should be having Thanksgiving with your family."
"With my... what would that make you, then?" She demanded, trying to touch his cheek only to have him pull away and lean against the wall.
"Right now, I don't know what I am."
Ignoring his attempts to pull away, she cupped his face again and turned it toward her. "what is doing this to you?" Carolyn practically begged. "I'm your mother, I'm not here to hurt you."
"You don't get it..." He whispered, head down.
"Then show me."
Seth turned his face out of her palm and looked down at his dog. Cujo stared back at him with piercing blue eyes. The boy sighed tiredly and rubbed his forehead.
He scooted forward and opened his bag with the nail gun and pulled out the photos he'd stuck together with a rubber band and handed them to his mother. Carolyn peeled the band off and looked at the first one, eyes widening slightly.
"Where did you find these?" She flipped to the next one, seeing another picture of her former husband and newborn son.
"In the dresser in the storage unit."
She flipped to the next one, a small laugh leaving her before she could stop herself. "Look at that face," She said quietly, fondly. Seth tilted his head to see one of him when he was a toddler, in a blue wool coat and beanie hat. Joseph was holding him on his hip, head turned away from the camera, clearly talking to someone. Seth's tiny hands were fisted in his father's shirt, face tilted so he was looking at him.
Carolyn slowly went through the photos, taking the time to examine each one, occasionally smiling or commenting on them. Seth was silent beside her, watching.
The last picture she looked at was newborn Seth and Joseph asleep on the couch together.
"I remember taking this," She said. Her voice spoke the unsaid fact that this particular memory had just now returned. "You were a week old and he offered to stay up with you so I could sleep. I found him the next morning asleep on the sofa."
"Did he do that alot?" Seth picked at the rubber on his shoe. "did he like to spend time with me when I was a baby?"
"Oh yeah." she smiled a bit at the memory. "From the first time he held you, he loved you."
"Sure had a funny way of showing it," He said darkly. Carolyn raised her eyebrows.
"Is that what's going on?" She asked, holding up the photos.
Seth rubbed his eyes with his hand, "Why did you have to say he loved me? This would be so much easier if he hated me from the start."
"Stop that." She pulled his hands away from his eyes.
"No!" Seth yanked himself from her hands and stood up. "Don't you get it? I'm him!" He raked his fingers through his hair and tugged it hard. "I'm going to end up just like him!"
"Look at the pictures, mom! He never wanted to hurt me!"
With some difficulty, Carolyn stood up. "He made a choice, Seth. It was his fault."
"No it wasn't!" Seth yelled. Tears were streaming freely down his cheeks and he was still pulling his hair. He turned away from his mother and wrapped his arms around himself, shaking.
The boy shook his head, still turned from her. "It wasn't his fault... I see his face in the pictures. He didn't want to become what he did."
He felt her hand rest on his arm as she walked around to be in front of him, cupping his face again. Her brown eyes were wide and worried.
"It was my fault," He breathed. "I-I must have done something to...to make him like that. It's my fault... I'm so sorry." He broke down, letting himself completely fall apart and sob.
"Oh baby." She pulled him into her arms. He clung to the back of her shirt weakly, sobbing to her shoulder.
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..." He cried.
"It's not your fault..." Carolyn let him cry, not knowing what else to do. One hand rubbed his back and the other stroked his hair. "It's not your fault, baby."
She held her sobbing child in her arms and felt her own eyes fill with tears. How could this poor boy blame himself for the horrible actions his father did to him? He was a baby when Joseph made his choice.
"I don't wanna be him," Seth whispered. "I don't want to hurt Lucy or Mira or anyone. I want this to stop..." His knees buckled a little and he leaned heavily against his mother.
"Come on," Carolyn said gently. "Let's sit down."
She managed to sit on the ground, and it was difficult because Seth refused to let go of her. He placed his head back in her lap, curled up on his side, arms wrapped around his stomach while she tried to wipe the tears away.
Carolyn had no idea how to process this. She never would have imagined that Joseph's death would hit Seth like this, that the strong man her son had become the last several months would crumble into a pile of broken child before her.
The dog she hated so much curled up on the floor beside him, licking his cheek slowly. Seth unwound his arms from his middle and threw them around him, clutching handfuls of fur. Carolyn was so consumed with holding Seth, that she didn't even mind being so close to Cujo.
"You didn't do anything," She eventually said. He turned his head a little on her lap so he could look at her. "You were four years old. There is nothing you could have done to make it your fault."
"Then what was it?" He asked softly, staring up at her. "If it wasn't my fault, and he loved me, then why did he do it? And... and who's to say it's not going to happen to me?"
Carolyn gasped, hand going over her mouth, but she dropped it back down and wrapped her arm around his chest, hugging his awkwardly and tightly.
"Don't say things like that, Seth," She said firmly.
He tried to wiggle out of her hold, but it was too tight. "I can't help it mom, what if it happens to me? What if one day I..." He trailed off with a choked noise, suddenly gripping her arm and sobbing again.
Carolyn cradled him closer and cried along with him.
"Do you have everything?" Carolyn asked, leaning against the kitchen doorway and watching Seth look around the room one last time.
"All I had was the bat and the nailgun," He said back tiredly. Cujo whined anxiously and pawed at his leg, eager to get outside and off his leash.
"Do you know the way home?"
"Yeah," Seth answered shortly.
"C'mon," Carolyn held out her hand, "Let's get out of this place. We have no business here."
Seth let her lead him out the back door. He thought for a moment about putting his key inside the house and locking the door, but he ignored that thought and walked after his mom.
"Drive safely," She told him. "If you need anything, just call me, alright?"
"Got it." He opened the car door and let Cujo hop in the back seat. Before he could get into the driver's seat, Carolyn spoke to him.
"He never told me, you know."
Seth looked at her in confusion, "What?"
"Joseph... never told me he was sexually abused by his father. I found out. His sister Laura told me when you were little. It was… it was after he h-hurt you."
Seth didn't say anything. He stared at his mother with a perplexed expression.
"That's the difference between him and you, Seth," She continued. "He never thought it would be a problem, so he didn't think about it and turned to drugs and alcohol when it became a problem. But with you? As soon as you thought it was a threat, you told Mira and you got help."
"Really?" Seth asked hopefully, meeting her brown gaze.
"Really," she confirmed. "You make look like him, you may talk like him, and you have similar interests, but you will never be him. You're better than him."
Seth's mouth turned up into a little smile, "Thanks mom."
The mother and son got into their cars and drove away from their previous residence, leaving it as cold as empty as before they arrived.
Well I finished this a lot sooner than I thought! And it turned out a bit angstier, too!
Ok, so I want to give you some back story. The Joseph Elsen you saw in Metamorphosis was a man driven crazy by his own actions. After losing Seth and Carolyn, he began using hard drugs and drinking excessively. I am not, by any means, trying to lessen his actions. I just want you all to see that the person in my first story and the person Seth and Carolyn remember are different.
Read and Review!