Short Story – “The Empty Prodigy” – 7,000 Words – Unedited

I

Colors will drain from the open wound. Upon the carpet, upon the spaces where sunlight brought in from open windows is shown warmest, as these marks are left without memory for why or when they were applied. They just were, because colors can be left behind.

Color-blinded, some people are, though not ever blinded of the self. An ideal is a comparison to the self, of what one can make themselves to be. At first, a blank canvas. Then, perhaps something monstrous. Or, perhaps another thing resplendent. However, it is always innocent. Always to appear of ongoing progress, though that first step is still seen that could not be completely crossed. It is the white space of the underlying blank canvas. Always the innocence, always the purity. Nothing should, or nothing could shroud it, to cover every trace of sand or soil with the waters of an artist’s emotion.

An ideal can be created for the self, though cannot be misunderstood in the eagerness to conceal a beginning.

This is why we have children, who are better able to recognize the confusion, though most interpret it with no conclusive effort. This is why we have Brandon Hill, whose eyes still are too childish to penetrate the shades that so much attempt to cover his expressions of subtle interest.

He cannot tell why he is looking upon what the shades about him find so amusing. They abuse him. They torture him.

Brandon Hill is nearing adolescence, though stays stagnant on the age of twelve. Why should he ever advance past childish wonderment, if meaning to stay put? He sees what keeps him held. They are the hands that wield him, that have severed his freedom and yearning for a setting of his own making.

If Brandon could interpret himself, he will say his hands cannot move to paint his own canvas. He will say another is making the motions, the swirls with the brush, the scrapes with the palette knife. Those shades remind him. They keep Brandon fueled with the recognition for being idealized, even while pain has cut into his literal flesh. While his mind is either altered when astray or continued for the masterpiece of design, his flesh becomes cut. Punished at the altar for being little, where those shades seem to ignore what Brandon can still comprehend with fullness. It is pain. His arms, bruised. His hands, though not his fingers, swollen. His legs only ever stung to raise the welts just enough to slow himself, though retain the ability for posture and motion.

This is the place of curiosity. When interest is heightened to a point beyond the normal, it becomes prestigious. Brandon is these shadow’s own vehement curiosity. It is not, however, without caution. As Brandon can fathom pain, their method to not injure enough to impede his mobility will keep his mental canvas still showing white. It is for what would not be, in these shadow’s eyes, progress. Such shadows that beat and swear to the punishment of Brandon, as he, a child, holds an appetite for learning that names him a prodigy.

A child who has been taken; no, he was stolen from any life that might have been an awareness beyond the mere keen. Astuteness in observation, as that is what resulted in his attention to pain.

No other child, being abused, would recognize pain as a terror. These shades will show enough through their influences for machinations unseemly. Brandon will recognize the abrasion, the blood-mark, will find this a wrong. He will say, “No” to it, as this sign for his awareness will shun the shades, the figures of darkness do what they will to color his white, his innocence. They step away and walk out, blending in with the corners as Brandon begins to mix in with his wounds.

Pain revives him, it might be said. It awakes and stirs him, keeping him alert to the next time the dark figures approach. With their lash, they will open him. With his own eyes, they stay widened, as if another cut.

But the ideals are heaviest, as these shades have branded him with greater weight of cruelty than any mere beating. They have allowed him no other awareness than the pain. The stings, the physical scars, the welts are all recognized to his wide eyes that stare, though nothing is apparent in what else he can be open for.

Upon both sides, Brandon is open for both the beatings and the pushed idealisms that attempt to make either landscape or portrait from his simple obedience. His face, always with bulging eyes, as though meant to observe the entirety of the universe, though severely limited to what these shadows are inducting.

They are shadows that cross along the walls, pass within his mind, to then paint his consciousness to his youth of a blank canvas with miserable colors. Alike with the post-modern, hideous protrusions of buildings on the cityscape, or a painting formed of splatter to the mere effect of audience shock, influences leak in the color upon the child who is believed by them to be an emptiness.

As certain as any prodigy can be of who they might know, be aware to, or to contrast from what is not similar, is impossible when Brandon’s awareness towards these shadows is all too alien. He sees them, knows them not, and despises him with fury in his heart. His pain is the motivation to ridicule them, in his sleep. When he lays back, he sees himself smudging them from another canvas, filled with no memories but the current ones. He sees himself rubbing off what seems to never entirely clean away.

If they were not his parents, his mother nor father, the agony from their lashings could not form a different sort of stain for his unfurled palms. As teardrops fall, there is a sadness. There is confusion. There keeps the ongoing winter that drives the snow against his soul. A blizzard that will not part from its place above his head. Even while abandoned to his bed covers, covered in trickling blood, he continues to wish for the natural and serene dark of the night to smear him away.

II

It is telling of those who name you, that if they were to spit even on what such a brand represents, they will be scorning themselves. Scorn for the other who was named, though in breaking them, the self becomes the simultaneous scar. Wounds for those who are to be broken, and were left with the same name as the one who breaks will make the pain become mirrored. That is the example set here, when it can be secondary for the scenario of a man who beats his own wife. His own wife, her name shared of his, though he breaks the one who has adopted a part of himself.

Would the painting of Brandon’s mental canvas, carved, twisted and distorted to be the masterpiece in the eyes of his mother and father be, along with his birth-given surname, etched in with their signature? It can be metaphorically thought upon, as this would apply they claim him, even beyond what had naturally occured upon his birth.

The male, now a father, laid a seed for a canvas to be grown. It was a blank one, as it was named Brandon, as Hill is his surname, the family name being the one this child has come to resent. He looks into a mirror, captures not himself, while crying as if casting his eyes upon another winter landscape in the childish yearning for summer. No love to the reflection that he could see, while being scarred to the proportion of a raggedy doll. Pinned, burned, and stained in the sad sights of abuse, and so his eyes give no understanding nor awareness of himself, as himself. To himself, he sees merely his parents. He loathes not them, though the name they have given him. Not the true name, granted at birth, though upon what his awareness speaks when feeling pain from the ongoing torture to his flesh.

When Brandon should weep, it is for the truth he cannot ever embrace. As a twelve-year-old, a prodigy that will give words to classrooms able enough to enthrall the instructors, it is to him a deception. A deception that, to him, he cannot crawl from, wanting more as would be of a prodigy’s mind. As would be to the mindset of brilliance, wanting more in where awareness roams will be stuck upon the lie. As deception will infuriate him, it is himself that he is confused and misunderstood for in this unneeded, limited awareness.

Would if he did not have this rage, then nothing could at all be possible for him. If ever that, his tormentors for parents would not pose interest for Brandon. It is only whenn they can see their beatings could go too far, and that upon his awareness to the sting against his flesh, themselves as shadows begin to surrender and then dissipate.

Believe this child when he says he despises himself not for himself, though for what he is being made to be. Without will, he could lose heart, forfeit the meaning of life being to withdraw from the dark to explore the self.

Were Brandon to no longer have his awareness towards pain, he will accept it. It will be a stalement between himself and the shadows or shades that always attempt to color him, the blank canvas. As was said, nothing can truly conceal the white of the canvas, as it remains to be a step unable to be completely crossed or conquered. It means nothing to live with a beating heart, though shows everything to be one to have earned the ability to crawl, to walk, to run with the sped motion of life.

He had learned to crawl, to walk, to run, though does this now on the steps to his school. The gravity of leaves at their descent ring aloud the signs that the current season is Autumn. The overhead sun is embraced by the overcast, while the faces of passersby are dipped lower than usual. What is this atmosphere to Brandon, other than gloom? Familiarity. That is the word meant here to describe the neutrality hinted at his features. Like sadness being clothed over himself, even on his way to school, could hold effect for his mood to descend. He cannot weep, when something so familiar to simply himself is the surroundings that are forever ongoing.

When walking on the path beneath, he notices a bird, that even would his face be predicted to sigh in yearning as though wishing for freedom, it instead reveals nothing. Even having noticed it, while going further to watch it glide along the updraft in sailing motion, he cannot bring himself to react. His emotions are startlingly barren, when surrounded by this familiarity. All his surroundedings, able to speak to anyone else for their impact, will not even inspire Brandon to flinch. For the majority to this travel, he keeps his face and eyes directed ahead.

He is still warm in the legs from welts, though also sore where bruises have been left. His face, untouched by the torture his parents inflict, so that not to arouse suspicion. Even in the summer he would wear longer sleeves, much to the oddness of it perceived from his classmates.

Wide-eyed, at certain times, in the countenance, with much that Brandon observes when upon the path, though not for what is about him. Instead, he recalls what he must do upon his arrival in class. To himself, he says the two words, “A test,” remembering its importance once mentioned by his parents. A test he must take, within a classroom? If so, then failure could not be an option. No matter Brandon’s own fury, the shadows that be his mother and father will drip their venom to, once more, burn his skin.

Upon arrival to the classroom, the test has been laid. It is an open document, hurling its engrained words as though whispering to Brandon to enter it. To walk through to the place he most despises, all since he regrets being born with only the limited awareness to his pain that has invented this rage.

It weren’t the questions that had fazed him, for their difficulty. His studies come, without struggle. A prodigy, and then some.

His woe enters when he must draft his own name. Brandon had used the pencil to write his first, though when the instructor came around to notice what had must been, for himself, a common occurrence, they said, “Write also your surname.” It was to Brandon’s severe dislike of the proposed instruction, for it had sounded like a command, and for another time, a method for controlling his will. He did not look up at the instructor who paced up to him to speak this, aloud, though merely did as he was told in the next moment.

It was only when Brandon was discovered to have crossed out his surname with such finely dug-in pencil marks, that had serrated itself within the page, that the same commanding instructor had contacted his parents.

Words was received to the parents. A beating was received to Brandon. All over again, his awareness upon what is most scenic as his bloodstreams became fathomed. As if, to him, it is a science project being conducted. As if, to just Brandon, alone, he could take himself to the front of his school, unclothe his form to the nudity, showing scars that never touch his face. He could stand there, crying high above the forsaken husk of a childish human form, appearing skeletal. His innocence, attempting with earnestness to the mother and father’s shouts and torments to smear it with their black. His innocence, his white, his purity being attempted for the coloring into a somber and grave-like masterpiece. A masterpiece of black, being without true shape.

“I live for the snow, because with it, I also fall,” says Brandon, covered in soars and fresh wounds, ending with, “I live, though I cannot see the sun. This Autumn has hidden it. Here I am, as just another school-child wanting rest, when the summer’s warmth comes.”

A suicidal stillness, becoming of a child who can fathom death in greater truth than the normal toddler of his age. Dawning on adolescence, though pressed to be what he cannot become. Pressured to believe he must be to his parent’s making; this, and an infinite more, bleed the sadness out of Brandon. He knows fury. Though, rage is a fire, and even among those who breathe it cannot become wholly accustomed to its fumes.

As was said, he comprehends death in a greater clarity than the common youngster to his age.

Death, a blackness, on its own. Would that be where he aims to fall, for the settling of his bruised and beaten flesh finally at rest? No love from parents. No eyes, of Brandon’s own, able to discern the external school-children as worthwhile for friendship when he finds even himself as alien.

Without will, and he is able to breathe in and out the same grey of the sky.

III

Depression should not be a matter for a child.

If it is even depression that can leak its dark contents, its liquid so black, in through the cracks children so unwillingly leave themselves open with, it can be proper to call it a monster. Though, depression is no illness, because an affliction implies its own presence. What is present of shadows, blending well within the darkness of those with depressive minds? That is a nothing. Depression is to nothingness, because itself defines an absence. Itself is the absence, the void of what was never there. Brandon’s innocence should be kept, his purity remaining intact. These repeated beatings will mark it not red, though with the black of that same absence.

Brandon’s wings now burn in a cold void, touched by what frostbite could be the thing to spread the sparks. Sparks as softly landed as the snow, where Brandon, himself, wishes to to turn into. “Could I be the snow?” might say him, though his words were an admittance to live for the falling flakes. His pages all burned into blackness, his face a contortion, a twist, a formed scar even without the devilish hands to swipe.

Depression should not be what hugs the child, staying next to Brandon, here, as a friendly phantom. It should not be what wraps its cold, deceptive hands about, in what is instead needed of genuine arms to do the same.

A child should no more be wrapped at the tongue of the night, than contemplate for a minute more the imagined terror in their closet or beneath their bed. A child should no more be having to tug at their own heartstrings to break open tears, than yearn for a mother to hold their hand or a father to give an advisory word.

But it is Brandon’s tears that swarm his face, falling with the outdoor Autumn leaves. Tears that appear as flies to follow their thirsting taste, pursuing the scent to his multitude of open wounds. These droplets smear his cheeks, cleanse for a moment his aching soul, while he whimpers in his room where no comfort ever fades in. Everything else entering through his breathing nostrils fades out quickly with his exhausted sigh. Faint winds from his open mouth tickle small hairs on his arms that hug his knees. How does the scene of negligence appear? It is when the child hugs his knees, finding darkness a greater comfort than hope. It is not, in this case, a darkness that he would resent, much to the similarity of his mother and father.

However, to resent his parents means to do the same upon himself. A reflection is brought back, in seeing them. He notices the flare in himself, the speed in which the fire ungulfs both lesser and greater areas of his insides, sharing its searing warmth to all corners. Outside of that heated scorn, he comes into contact with the places that speak, “Too late” to him, telling him to recede to its comfort. His dread disappears, if but for a moment, though returns on the scene of seeing himself in his torturers, the shadows.

Even while the comfort is pleasing, he must bury his head in his knees when the moon sends its silver sweeping glow over to illuminate Brandon. He must cry in the darkness, to remind himself of the sickness he faces, washing his mind in the suds. Though a comfort, it is also a loss to something else. That is, truth. Even if being prestigious within Brandon’s mind allows for an understanding of pain, that is its own limit. He cannot fathom more.

Depression both soothes and cherishes him, wanting on either side to keep him despondent into never venturing elsewhere beyond the painful reach of the shades, and then also imploring him more for the warmth of these torments. It is all he knows, being painted by their presence, their darkness.

While the pain can be his rebellion, of the only awareness Brandon can grasp, what is there to do with it?

Brandon can deprive himself of life, though not without an appreciation for pain. An appreciation, that is, for what gives him the pleasure in seeking. Being gifted, there is knowledge to satiate his mind’s hunger. Pain, being a rebellion, goes nowhere in anyone’s eyes without a place to set its flag. That is rebellion, of any sort. That, in being able to show a greater loyalty to a thing more conductive of the self, than to the mere obedience to be sculpted, forms individualism at its core. One cannot be collected of color, if meaning to possess individualist character. One must drain their colors to a white canvas, to know that the pain did more to cleanse, than to taint.

Would Brandon comprehend this, then he will possess a chance at escape. Even if not outside their physical clutches, his mind would be free. For that is freedom, since fleshly harm has no cessation to itself when that is our understanding of pain’s literal definition. As it is of wounds we ignore, most often become infected at our unneeded negligence, though cannot have a literal comprehension.

Brandon sits, hugs his knees, and stares at the dark between them as though to see himself sinking through a grave site.

Darkness is the comfort, and so Brandon could perhaps sleep in this position. An uncomfortable position for perhaps an adult, though in no way is it for Brandon who has been wrapped in both the tantrums and spell-bindings of loneliness and solace. His depression, for one, has allowed his mind to settle into a heap of jumbling over soil. Soil, representative of where life becomes pounded into grain under the weight of earth, finds itself as a thought into Brandon’s sleep-filled consciousness. Contempative of soil, comprehending its place for worms and undergrowth, speak to him of weight and none at all. Whether or not of weight, it is where he thinks upon exiting into.

Suicidal retreat. He dreams, to his mind in a half-sleep state, in being without the burden of flesh upon his arms and legs where such is scarred to the numerous. Here, he bleeds within himself. He bleeds in his heart, in his soul. His face is watching the floor, though his eyes are closed. He is dreaming to be closer to a Hell that would burn him brighter than whatever hope he has clung to. To burned brighter than the faces of both his mother and father who, through their fury, swipe hands and kick feet.

Blood runs, though not upon his skin. Wounds open, though not in areas where a knuckle had struck nor a foot had landed. Death could not, as is impossible to see for such, be the further terror for him. He could find his sleep, his retreat, his escape into there, though it is an ideation. It is a thought, being just that, as another thing to replace the absence of parental comfort. Each thing to this design, of all that could be represented as what supports or encourages Brandon, will be nothing more than another star send into a void. It is absence, being of depression, that swallows what is not meant to fill that gap, that empty space, that void that sings the worst of songs.

Love flows, though not as blood. Love shows its spots upon the skin, though never in the meaning to keep the wounds unbound.

As easy it can be to speak of love, is not the same as proving it. To Brandon, love may as well be the same as the void. That is because it is a sameness. Love cannot exist, without offered belief. To this child of twelve whose adolesence is not sooner enough to come, nothing appears bright except for what aches him. Is it love or a genuine heart that he aches for, though could not speak the words?

He sits here, still hugging his knees, now trembling while the curtains float near to him in the steady Autumn breeze from an ajar window. Would this be the sight of his prayer. It is an appearance of desperation. He struggles to sound out the syllables that could send him off wanting to live, and then to breathe with the glimmer of hope wherever it could be reached. Trembling as the felled Autumn leaf, weeping in more fragile moments with the same tears of a cold rain, and with sighs that exit his throat sounding along with those from that same window. He may appear to drown, though the legs are swimming himself on. An appearance of desperation, this is, as it is nothing more the case that the child can fathom hope even from something imaginative.

He will think of the earth. He will think of the sky. Brandon will think of what is in the middle being the rain, the sighs between the branches of trees, and the quivering leaves laid upon the roadways.

IV

Could we repeat it, without the inevitable blandness that results from repetition, that a blank canvas cannot be truly covered? Concealing what will remain the slightness to discontent among the average person is to not just disregard Brandon, whose self as a prodigy would be represented as having an insatiable desire for knowledge, though also others who seek betterment. An artist, seeing their painting as a blank canvas, as not covered, in wholeness, by paint, will be motivated to create the next.

It is this, that to believe the self is colored to fullness, that the result is a discontent that falls outside the self. Outside of the self, and into the open world, and it is then that Brandon would become as his parents.

Both his mother and his father mean to color him, because it is their believe of themselves being aware for what must be smeared over with their infuence, that leaves them possessing no room for flaws. Their weakness, however, as it would be for any who relate to such shadows, is the lack of awareness to personal flaw. As it would be a weakness from them, then to Brandon, that this lack of awareness is what disconnects the parents from their son.

Could all be aware of this? It is not the presence of a thing that makes the misery to a person, though the belief that absence is a presence that is the onset to cultivating depression. One is not miserable from their blank canvas being colored, though are in the deception that an actual absence, being of that supposed color, is a presence of something keeping misery company. Brandon is miserable, only then because of what is absent of himself, though believed to be a presence. It is to blood and then to scars, that the pain for which makes up his awareness is comprehensive enough, for his young mind. His parents, believing themselves right in all things, by coloring their child with ideals that Brandon would not remember, have smeared the canvas of his mentality with all he knows as being painful. It is not so much to know such ideals being branded into him, since they are only attempts. Brandon would not recall the ideals, since his awareness goes to pain.

Suffering awakes him. Suffering sets him to sleep. It is suffering that is loyal to Brandon Hill, though he is not the same for his surname nor for the shouts and ravings his parents attempt to sear into him.

As a continued blank canvas, he would become as his parents were he to find himself content with the colors such shadows rub over him. His understanding to the pain is what keeps his own awareness to a wrong. A sadness or a misunderstanding this is, to Brandon, while sceneries of true motherhood and fatherhood are within reach, though out of reach. To see children, to see their smiles before the faces of parents, and he will then wish to wipe away his blood-stains to be a part of their embrace.

What wills a prodigy’s curiosity, except for itself? Its onset is in what could become, of what must become of the mind that starves for information.

It is upon a time when Brandon overhears his parents speaking on another family member, being said of them to be kept away from their child as he is what they would term a terrible influence. In hearing them warn of dangers to that member’s influence, makes of Brandon’s mind engross itself with the curiosity that he could feel himself hungering for greater areas ripe with information. An excavation, these descriptions might seem to evoke to anyone’s mind, though it is the space of the prodigy where curiosity rings clear for everything subterranean. Such a metaphor as that! Though, that is the proper one meant to show what a mind, of an inherent trait to curiosity, is now craving to uncover.

While Brandon has heard his parents, he begins to wonder. Retreating to his room, he sits upon his bed to place his head in hands, then pondering to find meaning in what could be valued of this family member.

He heard his parents speak the family member’s name, “Andrew”, to which Brandon goes to repeat it to himself, “Andrew.” Then, with instinct involved that knots his stomach into several folds, he says aloud, “Andrew Hilt,” for then a short-lived expression of danger to display itself as signs. To signs that are his face with jaws that clench, and in his hands that ball themselves into fists.

It would be, of course, that to this family member of Brandon to have his own same surname, will prove to be a stain for trouble ignoring. If Brandon despises his parents whose shadow selves have tainted or attempted to do so upon himself, then it is this Andrew who could be shared with the same treatment. For there to be distance from his mother and father to himself, due to Brandon’s inherent gifts of being aware to wrongs generated by the pain, then would he, in an automatic fashion, think of Andrew as the same? Even if being gifted, it is especially prodigies whose curiosity is still not yet tempered by wisdom.

As it is curiosity that will compel the individual to seek, it is not the trait among the gifted. It is the trait among the young. Since it is the aspects behind curiosity that compel attraction towards all things unknown, this could only compare to one so disassociated from worldliness. Those young will learn so that life is elongated, by its longevity. Brandon is curious for the same reasons, though wishes to know more of Andrew so that his place upon earth does not seem stagnant and a question. Since a question can break down or analyze a life that requires needed simplicity, knowing Andrew would, in place of complication, offer an answer.

An anwer to many things that must not be further questioned, or else draw the scientific mind, inherent of Brandon, back into the same darkness for contemplation’s sake.

He would want to say that he knows all about this man named Andrew, merely for the fact that the surname of Hill is shared. That, to Brandon, is a label enough to then be called a scar. He sees his name as just another wound upon his flesh, imprinted by the shades that are his parents. Would he come to know this Andrew, then he might become clarified with a broader picture than just the taint he has always both comprehended and loathed. To him, Andrew could be the answer he seeks, or he might end up being another question that turns him backwards towards those dark places for endless thought.

He says to himself, speaking in a level of volume above a whisper, “I want to know Andrew. I want to know him, because I don’t want to despise him without knowing him. Would he be like my parents, then I will disregard him among my life. Would he be like just anyone else, then I cannot find himself to question him, because I will have reached an answer.” Answers of this kind, to Brandon, do not mark the turning point, though the dead-end. A dead-end, that for its own purpose, is a needed to reach a state of comfort and being. If Brandon keeps prolonging the question, being directed to his existence in being colored by his parents, in being only aware to the pain, in being somber without true connection to someone similar, he will most certainly lose even this amount of understanding. Then, he will become as his parents. Colored, to the point of believing in the loss of his spaces of white upon his mental canvas, despite how such a feat cannot be possible.

Were Brandon to put forth the question to his parents, “Mother? Father? Do you hate me?” to their returned answer, “No, we do not hate you, because we wish for you to become us,” cannot be anything different than depriving a child of their means to explore. It is his parents who are colored to the point of ideals being their surety. To Brandon, Andrew and what kind of conversation to have should bring either another question to his young mind, or there could be the cleansing answer and truth that simplifies what was too long a dark complexity.

If, to Brandon’s mind, darkness is a terror, then it can be through it where he will find a light. If to allow the gaps of white spaces on his mental canvas to broaden even more, then he might widen a space enough to see beyond where he was always confined.

It is to the next day when this happens, when he sees the face of the man before him. As it was Brandon who had snuck to retrieve the information for Andrew Hill’s whereabouts, now it is the sasme child who will face either another demons or the only angel he might be a witness to. It is perspectives in his mind, that even if true or not, should still be deemed as either an original or a counterfeit upon what is recognized and compared.

V

A child cannot be stolen from his parents, when the mother and father are cruel? A child whose mind is aware to their traumas caused, being taken even for a moment at the sight of freedom, should not be considered theft? To these questions, they will be asked from Brandon’s parents. Questions that, even to shadows, are conjured up from some measure of curiosity. Would it be that to them, the shadows, their own white space of their concealed mental canvas had been opened, even if but a sliver?

This had been the case, upon the timewhen Brandon saw Andrew. To the scene here being recollected, Brandon had entered Andrew’s room, summoning himself up to the unknown man at suddenness, only to be receibed with expectation. The man, named Andrew, had looked upon Brandon if the child were there for an appointment with a doctor. At both eyes of his, there was a coldness and also a warmth. It confused Brandon, since he could not discern between the two. Seeing his parents and also someone else, there was to the occasion of their meeting something both serene and troublesome. To Brandon, the sight of this man was aglow. Though, there was also the same darkness he is familiar with.

Brandon had said his named aloud, “I am Brandon,” with the following question to match it, soon when he took a step closer, “Are you the Andrew whom my parents speak ill of?”

Andrew said, “If I am someone whom your parents speak poorly about, then I must not be Andrew. Although, I must be Andrew, since that is indeed my name.” He looked up at Brandon, seeing not a stranger, though a familiar face. He stares at the child, gleaming broad hazel eyes through thin strands of brown. He continues, “We are both of the same family. You must be Brandon Hill, then.”

“My name?” said Brandon, appearing to shift into a display of anger, “My name is more of a label than something for familiarity’s sake.”

“As is mine,” said Andrew, while eyes never diverted their focus from Brandon. Within those eyes of his, there was a glint of softness, a sense of pity being thrown at the child before him. Even in his attempt to know details, he saw there was a great deal of pain he wished to know more about. He continued, “As I just said, my own name is a brand, as is everyone else’s. I wish to know more of you, because I have never seen you. Though, I am guessing it is you who wishes to know the most about me. It is that, like you, I see myself as also a nothingness.”

This conversation flew along the exhaustive details at Brandon’s choosing of his words, to the pleasant surprises erupting as sighs and clearing of the throat by Andrew. He looked at this child’s face, seeing the same of his own self in such a tinier portrait, though they had not known, and still do not know much, about the other. Even as the conversation extends itself, there maintains the distance between one speaker and listener, to the switch of the other becoming the speaker with the opposite as the listener. Brandon could not see Andrew as his father, because he would be forgoing the value of a mother. He could then not see Andrew as a friend, because the distance that is being exuded in this conversation will always stem from Brandon’s fear to be influenced. To be influenced, in Brandon’s mind, is to be aware of pain.

“Brandon,” said Andrew, “are you in understanding of a different kind of pain, other than what you might experience when you in some playground to scrape your knee?”

The question put forth had startled Brandon. Since he has always been aware of physical pain, of blows inflicted by the shadows, his parents, anything else being so painful comes off as a mystery. He had responded with these words, “If I am not aware of it, then I am most likely ignoring it. Would that not be good?”

Andrew gives to the speaker to himself one studious glance. He had kept that expression on his own face, examining the frail features of Brandon. For a moment, he attempted the faulted role of being a father-figure who, in a mindset for beneficial criticism, saw his son as genuinely confused. More than that, he saw Brandon as mortified by this confusion. Then, even more than that, he was witness to Brandon being tortured by this confusion. As if, to the realization by Andrew, this missing awareness for a “different kind of pain” was staining this child in some type of invisible ink.

VI

Their conversation ended. It had ended with a different mark upon Brandon, as he had left. Though, he had left in the hands of the shadows, his parents, who had caught wind of their child’s absence. How curious to speak upon Brandon as though his place among himself is in the presence of something false, laid on his form from those same shadows. His ever the curious comprehension that when the parents bring Brandon back to their home, they have done so for the sake of his absence. His absence. Their presence. Would he then be the smear over their forms, for what gives them purpose to be dark, to be malformed in appearance, in behavior?

A child used to the dark, or a child used to being handled in such a manner as to make his innocence seem a forever lost awareness. An awareness, Brandon had, only to the pain. Never had he been aware of what he was missing. His awareness to this even was an absence, since he had been aware only for what was present.

To the words that Brandon, at length, gave to Andrew before his abrupt departure, was this, “I have been empty, for too long.” Such a confined statement, though one that conveyed to Andrew, at the end to the discussion, every last shred of meaning. He, himself, saw them. The shades. Andrew was witness to their bleak appearance carry Brandon away. Their words, the parent’s own, came forth to speak in a deceptive, humbling tone, “You are not here to influence our child, so we will bring him back where he belongs,” to the expression from Andrew being one of emptiness.

He could respond to neither the mother nor the father, though it was not for the mindset of cowardice. He simply would not approve of their presence, in the absence of Brandon. To speak to them would engage discussion, which to Andrew’s brief encounter with Brandon, was a reservation.

They had brought him back to their dwelling. Upon arrival, their hands swung to Brandon’s arms, as their feet were brought upon his abdomen and sides. Once more to rekindle the flame of what he knows, though at this time, comprehend what he does not. A prodigy. Perhaps not one so empty as before, though aware to the darkness. More now to the light, than to the darkness, as that is where his mind has gathered itself.

He bleeds, though he does not shout. He sings to the pain. He finds a warmth in it, though not with a state of masochism.

Brandon is even smiling.

Brandon now enjoys himself, to the notion of what he comprehends now as an absence. As it is, a different breed of pain. Of one that raises higher welt upon the inside, and bleeds wider and longer rivers than any abrasion to his flesh. An absence as a prodigy, as now his mind can come to know. To not be aware of what is just the pain, having been always physical. To now be aware of something that, with time, would satiate him of the hunger to comprehend more. More than all else, he can control those rivers for where they bleed. He can, for himself, say there is a drought or a flood. He can be aware of what was, once always as a blankness, to be now a garden to cultivate different specimens of knowledge.

For knowledge that he gloats for, and for knowledge he wishes to absorb. Not to the beatings, though to the places, the realms that are ripe for knowing the meaning to presence.

For such a time, Brandon was aware to physical pain. To know his emotional pain, in not merely dwelling in the darkness, broken by his depression, there is now a void to explore. A void to discover, and then to place the pieces for what belongs.

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