The Screech Owls: Prologue

Oh, this story. I hadn’t intended to write this book; I had real books all planned out but then this happened. I have to write it, but you don’t have to read it. It’s kind of a dreamy journey thing where not much happens. I’m convinced it’s pretty much unpublishable.

TRIGGER WARNING: I don’t usually bother with trigger warnings, but this first part contains a detailed description of a suicide. You can skip this part if needed and start from the first chapter. If you even want to read this thing.

Novel: Fantasy Horror

He turned up the music on his headphones so he could hear Amanda Palmer over the water rushing from the faucet. He left the tub to fill and watched the steam creep over the mirror. He ran his hands through his dark hair, trying to settle a few strands. Then he looked at his thin arms and scrawny chest.

Faggot. The word fell into Edward’s mind like a weight, but he didn’t look away from his reflection. Look. See what everyone else sees.

The whole school knew by now. Ben had walked in on him and Tom in the bathroom, and Tom had shoved him away, calling him a faggot, telling Ben that Edward had jumped on him. Like he was just lying in wait in a stall ready to attack kiss a guy. But Ben was an idiot who adored Tom. He went along with it.

Everyone adored Tom.

Edward adored Tom.

Edward picked up the razorblade from the counter and ran a thumb over the cool metal, and looked himself in the eyes. He didn’t feel the urge to cry anymore. Good. He didn’t want to cry. Didn’t want to give anyone that satisfaction, even if they wouldn’t know. Even if Ben told everyone he cried when Ben punched him in the stomach.

Would it have hurt less if Tom hadn’t wanted to break it off? It was why Edward had kissed him in the bathroom for anyone to walk in and see. A denial kiss. Like maybe that kiss would convince Tom. It was Edward’s own fault. He shouldn’t have pressed him, shouldn’t have kissed him there at that moment. The worst mistake of his life. But hadn’t Tom kissed him back? What would have happened if Ben hadn’t walked in?

The tub was full. He shut the water off and rested the blade on the tub’s side. His parents would have flipped out. Devout church-goers, adamantly against “the homosexuals.” Well, his dad was anyway. And mom would go along with him, not really caring but ever the follower. And why shouldn’t dad flip out? It wasn’t like Edward had anything in his favor. His grades were barely passing, he never had a chance of becoming a doctor like Cora was doing, he had been caught drinking by Cheyenne’s dad last month, and God forbid Cheyenne’s dad give anyone a break.

As dad had yelled at him time and again: he was a mess.

He had his friends, Eric and Danny and Darren. He played guitar with Eric, but even that he wasn’t very good at, even if Eric lied and told him otherwise. But what would they be saying tomorrow if he walked into school as the official faggot?

Wasn’t Danny always calling the freshmen queers and lesbos? Wasn’t Eric always calling Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran gay? Didn’t Danny always joke that Clay Aiken was gross?

He set his iPod on the bath mat and sunk into the water, felt it warm and pressing against his skin. It wasn’t Tom, he told himself. He wasn’t going down because of a break-up. It wasn’t that. He simply had nowhere to go from here. What college would want him with his grades? What job could he get that would redeem himself with his dad? What would his mom tell her friends at church? How would he even go to church, with everyone looking at him?

What would his friends say? Would they keep talking to him out of pity? He didn’t want that either.

Amanda Palmer was wailing in his ears as he picked up the blade again. He turned it this way and that, watching the light slide over it. He was very calm. He had expected his hands to shake or something. But they were firm and steadfast, like his thoughts. Much as his mind was flipping through the events of the day, he didn’t feel like backing out. He didn’t regret kissing Tom in the bathroom. That was just who he had been – Edward, a little too reckless.

He put the blade to his left wrist and drew a line down it, hissing at the sting, and feeling queasy at the blood that ran out. But once it was done he felt better, and did the other wrist. It was a bit sloppier that time, because he was severely right-handed. But he got it done and dipped his arms back into the water, the heat of it pricking at the wounds. He focused on the music in his ears until the pain subsided, and he sighed, relaxing, watching the water change color, no longer queasy. It was actually rather beautiful, like the watercolor paintings he tried at sometimes but that always came out wrong. But this wasn’t wrong. He felt himself drift, as if he were already asleep, and as he closed his eyes the music echoed in his ears.

He woke. He woke on dry ground with trees piercing the gray sky above him. He sat up, his mind wrapped in a fog that cleared as he took in his surroundings. Nothing but black trees and red dirt. And a boy, who was staring at him with wide eyes and crawling backwards away from him.

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