Give and Take

Give and Take

A Story by zdzd
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Young Joseph is not a normal child; nevertheless, he lives with an all too human problem. A short story about Power. Written: 11 May 2010 by Kyle Roe

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Give and Take

A short story about Power

 By Kyle Roe

 

 

 

           

            The florescent lamp in the cold, musky interrogation room flickered once more as the boy walked in. He was seven years old, with curly brown hair and deep brown eyes; the kind of child who made adults stop in the mall and proclaim to him how adorable he was. A light frown sat arched across his charismatic face. In his hand, he toyed with a small action figure: his favorite toy. Behind him entered his father, the General, who was a man of high stature and power. With a crash, the door closed in their wake.

            The General pushed his way around the boy. With heavy steps, he walked to the lone table in the room. Strapped to a chair behind it was an enemy soldier.

            “What the hell is this?” asked the prisoner, who looked more annoyed than tired from a long week of interrogation. “None of your humane torture methods could make me talk, so how do you expect a child to do any better?”

“As you know my government has very strict restrictions on the torture of prisoners of war,” the General remarked with a smile, “but there is no law against having a child persuade you to talk.”

            “What is the twerp going to do, annoy me to death?” the P.O.W. laughed.

            The General slammed the captive’s head down on the table. A metallic echo bounced around the room. The little boy, occupied by his toy, jumped up at the sound. Blood streamed across the steel table. The enemy soldier cursed as pain lashed across his broken nose.

            “Joseph, drain him,” the General instructed to his son.

            The young boy, Joseph, gawked at the blood that lied in a neat, red puddle on the table. “But Daddy, he is in a lot of pain,” he pleaded.

            “But I need you to cause him more pain.”

            “But Daddy,” Joseph repeated, “I don’t want to hurt him.”

            “God damn you,” the General barked, stomping over to his now cowering son, “I am your father and you will do as I say!”

            Joseph slowly shook his head, out of fear rather than defiance. Nevertheless, his father saw it as disobedience.

            In a burst of rage, Joseph’s father ripped the action figure from the small boy’s hand and hurled it across the room. Plastic showered down as it shattered against the brick wall. Tears swelled in Joseph’s eyes. His towering father attempted to muffle the tears with a menacing glair. Gradually, as he realized his tactics were not working, his angry expression morphed into an unwelcoming smile.

            “If you do this for me I will get you two new action figures,” the General exclaimed in a disturbingly calm voice.

            At the promise of new toys, Joseph’s face began to light up; no boy could resist such an offer. “Ok…” he settled.

            The General turned back to his captive, grinning at his victory of easily winning over the child. “Make sure you don’t kill him,” he instructed with a laugh.

            As the short respite ended, the enemy prisoner glanced over at the Joseph. Wiping a stray tear from his face, the boy with curly brown hair looked up. His young brown eyes locked into the apathetic glare of the bound P.O.W. Then, Joseph blinked.

            Blood curling pain sauntered through the prisoner’s body. Straining against his bindings, he began to jolt and quiver. Millions of volts of electricity seemed to lick at his limbs. Slowly, as he wailed out a wave of curses, the agony engulfed his entire body. He struggled with his bonds, and stretched out his muscles, hoping to escape the unseen fire. Every nerve reacted as if a thousand blades were cutting into him. His ears rang an unbearable tone, singling along with the chorus of agony that bit at his senses. Only his sight remained spared from any pain, all he saw was the little boy named Joseph, and his brown, unblinking eyes.

            Meanwhile, as the screeching man unleashed his typhoon of curses and pleas, Joseph continued to stare. Behind him, his father smiled, resting a hand on Joseph’s shoulder. He exclaimed: “Take him to the edge!”

            For five excruciating minutes, the quivering victim sat in the unseen waves of Joseph’s power. Finally, his body gave in, and he began to pass away. Then, as the poor captive sat completely drained and he took his dying breath, Joseph blinked. Then he blinked once more, resuming his endless stare.

            As abruptly as the pain had come before, so too came a wave of joy. A most wonderful sensation burst through the once-bawling victim’s body. Flowing through him washed a surge of energy and relief.

            Joseph turned away. Sigh at his liberation, the man dropped his head against the steel table, basked in a great high.

            “So, Lieutenant, will you tell me what I need to know now?” asked the General.

            Still smiling from the acute high, the captive spat towards Joseph. “You will get nothing from me, for not even your demon child can break me!”

            “Good,” the General smiled. After one last glance, he turned around and opened the single door in the room. “Take him down and then bring him up as many times as needed.” He instructed coldly to his young son. Before he left the room, the General paused to remind Joseph of the toys he would get after the day’s work.

            The heavy door rang as it slammed shut.

            Joseph walked across the room to the scattered debris of his broken action figure. With a whimper, he shoved the pieces into his pocket and turned to the P.O.W.

            “Look, kid, please don’t do "”

            Before the innocent victim could finish his plea, Joseph’s brown eyes met his. After a blink, hell fire laced the room, drowning the captive in its inferno.

 

 

            Later that night, Joseph sat at home, playing with his two new toys at the kitchen table. The floor creaked as his father stumbled into the room, intoxicated by a night at the local bar. Like any chronic drunkard, the General searched the kitchen with clouded eyes until he found the icebox. From it, he pulled a frosty bottle.

            With unsteady hands, he attempted to remove the bottle cap, and failed. Defeated, he slammed the alcohol onto the table in front of Joseph and staggered out of the room. Seconds later, he returned. With him, the General carried a combat knife.

            Joseph remembered that knife; his father had always carried it with him before he had been promoted. It was with that knife that he had honorably worked his way to the rank of Brigadier General, or at least everyone assumed that. Of course, Joseph knew the truth. His father had not reached his rank through his skills in close quarters combat nor through the heroic actions he was accredited with countless medals for. Instead, Joseph’s father had gained all of his rank through deception, killing and most of all, Joseph’s power. Joseph’s power emerging, with the tragic death of his mother, had given his father a deceitful road to success.

            The General proceeded to walk over to Joseph and his stubborn beer. Raising the blade high above his head, he awkwardly cut at the beverage’s glass neck. With luck, the top came off clean, spouting fizz onto the table. In his lightheadedness, the General blindly grabbed at the top of the bottleneck. The unforgiving glass easily cut into his palm.

            “God damn it!” he cursed. Blood diluted with alcohol spilled down the General’s arm.

            “Let me help you,” Joseph sprang up, determined to use his power to help his ungrateful father.

            “No!” Shoving Joseph away with his good hand, the General skirted to the other end of the kitchen. “You know you can’t use your powers on me.”

            “But I can heal you,” Joseph persisted.

            “You killed your mother with those powers, the last thing you would want is to hurt me with them too,” his father nervously volleyed, “Now get to bed, it is getting late.”

            Grabbing his action figures, which were now sticky with spilt beer, Joseph raced to his room. He cried himself to sleep that night, an action that he was slowly becoming accustomed to.

 

...

 

            The morning of Joseph’s tenth birthday arrived abruptly as his father bashed into his bedroom. Yawning himself awake, Joseph looked around in the gloom. The sky out his window was painted an ugly gray; his father had intruded quite early.

            “Why are you not ready!” his father bellowed.

            Joseph sheltered his eyes as his father flicked on the blinding room light. “Ready for what?” he asked.

            “I am leading a mission into enemy territory, and I need you to keep our operation quiet.”

            Joseph became alert. He wants me to kill more people.

            “But Dad, I don’t want to use my powers to harm people anymore,” Joseph sighed, “I want to use them to heal people instead.”

            “Nonsense, there is nothing wrong with killing enemy soldiers, I do it every day.”

Joseph repeated: “No, Dad, I will not use my powers to harm people anymore.”

            “Now hear me boy,” the General threatened. “You will go on this mission with me, and you will kill every person I tell you to. Because if you do not, I can easily report your abilities to the authorities. I will tell them about all the people you have killed and about all the laws you have broken doing so. And, I will tell them that you were threatening me to cover for you- that you even killed your mother to prove a point. As long as I am here to say it, you will be seen as the demon b*****d that you are.”

            With that, the General marched out of Joseph’s room, leaving him only an hour to prepare; most of which he squandered with tears.

 

 

            A vortex of sand lifted into the air as their helicopter touched down at the General’s base of operations. Hastily built camouflage buildings sat in a large clearing in the wood. Fatigued soldiers paced left and right, all in a hurry to complete one task or another. As Joseph and his father stepped onto the tarmac, three blood-drenched medics pushed a stretcher towards them.

            “Sir,” the lead doctor began, “we need to use your helicopter to bring this soldier to a better hospital.”

            Joseph immediately noticed the soldier on the stretcher. He was even more blood-drenched than the three medics were. His wounds where extensive, and it looked apparent that he would die before he could gain the necessary treatment. However, Joseph knew he could help him.

            Joseph pulled at his father’s coat. “Dad, I can help this guy.”

            “You will do no such thing,” his father insisted, pulling Joseph’s hand off his coat, “You are not to use your powers around any of my men, unless you are using them to kill the enemy.” Then he turned to the medics, “I must say no, Doctor. I will be leading a squad into battle very soon, with this helicopter.”

            “This man is dieing, sir. Moreover, I need to get him off the ground now. Why can you not wait for one of the other helicopters to be fueled for your mission, sir?”

            “Because I choose to use MY helicopter. Now return that man to the infirmary; if you can not help him there, then he is already dead.” The General jabbed a thick finger into the doctor’s face, “And make sure to remind me to have you court marshaled when I return.”

            Throwing one last glare of annoyance, the medics rushed off, pushing their doomed patient. Joseph slumped to the ground. He had arrived in a hell where no child belonged, and it did not help that a person like his father was on that blackened dirt too.

            Joseph sat there on the runway under the metallic canopy of the helicopter’s blades while a group of soldiers gathered. Joseph sat and watched, uninterested, playing with the lose gravel. His father gave instructions, preparing the soldiers for the mission to come. Joseph began to build a couple of dirt castles. While digging around, he seldom noticed his father mention his name. Finally, after Joseph had built enough castles to form a city, the briefing was finished. The soldiers and their general piled into the helicopter. Joseph was pulled on last. Sand and dust pushed away once more as the helicopter lifted into the air, leaving Joseph’s city behind in a flattened ruin.

            Joseph, the General, and the squad of soldiers proceeded with their mission. Joseph found himself dragged around, while the soldiers and the General blasted into an enemy stronghold. Gunfire and death rang incessantly into Joseph’s young ears as they pushed through the village. Around each corner, cloaked by the increasing darkness of night, they stalked. They shot every scout and guard, even passing civilians were silenced.

            As they pressed deeper into the village, their team began to take casualties. Every time a fellow soldier was shot, Joseph offered to heal him. And every time his father refused. Joseph began to wonder why he was even on the mission. No child should be pulled around a foreign town, crawling through the dark while death and murder flourished before his eyes. Yet the General urged him forward, even offering rare encouragement.

            As the darkness neared its peak and as their numbers continued to fall, they reached a large, highly guarded building. The General instructed them to find cover.

            “Joseph,” the General whispered, “now is your time.”

            In the dark, Joseph was almost blind; he could barely make out the cover in front of them. His father patted him on the shoulder, pointing at the building.

            “That building is full of enemy troops. There are too few of us left to attack it by ourselves; their snipers would probably kill us before we even reached it,” his father explained. “I need you to kill as many people in there as you can. From right here, behind cover.”

            “I can’t do that!” Joseph exclaimed, astonished.

            “Of course you can,” his father falsely encouraged, “I know you have the strength in you, all you need to do is try.”

            “But, Dad, it’s too far away.”

            “We both know distance does not matter.”

            “And I can’t use my power on more than one person at once,” Joseph continued.

            “Of course you can, you just have to concentrate.”

            “But, Dad! I can not do it!” Joseph spoke up.

            “You little brat,” the General growled, “you will do it, and you will do it now!”

            With a shout, he pushed his son Joseph out from behind cover, and instantly the snipers in the building noticed him. Out of utter fear, Joseph concentrated. He focused on everything that had been unjust in his short life: his father coming home drunk every night, his indifferent stepmother, the constant yelling from his father, Joseph killing his mother by accident with his power, and the pile of broken toys he had collected from his father’s rage.

            For three minutes, nothing seemed to happen. The snipers never fired. Joseph just stood there, pressing his eyes shut. But then, with a screech, a man came running out of the house. He dropped down to the ground and began to roll around as if he was on fire. At the same time, multiple crashes echoed through the air. Two men jumped out of the building; they fell to their death. With the windows now open, screams and curses could be heard flying from inside. The shrieks tarnished the silent night; the entire enemy stronghold was approaching their invisible demise.

            As the final victims fell silent, Joseph opened his eyes.

            The General and the three remaining soldiers rushed into the building to assess the results. Joseph did not follow, he remained rooted the ground, contemplating his actions. Three shots rang out from the building. Joseph turned away, for he knew he had already killed all the enemy soldiers.

 

...

 

            By age thirteen, Joseph had experienced a lot while working with his father. However, as he walked into that cold, musky interrogation room for the one hundredth time, he did not expect to see a young girl sulking at the lone table.

She looked about Joseph’s age. Long black hair draped over her face in a tangled mess. Behind it, dried blood creased down to her chin. From across the room, Joseph impulsively began to heal her, and by the time he had walked to her side the cuts across her face had vanished. Only bloodstains remained.

The girl gripped her now absent wounds. “What just happened?”

“I healed you,” Joseph explained.

“Wow,” she felt her face in amazement, “that is a wonderful ability you have.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m Samantha, by the way,” the girl offered her hand, “who are you, with the magic to heal others?”

“Oh, well my power is not magic,” Joseph stuttered, “My name is "”

“JOSEPH! You are not to talk with your victims!” The General walked into the room. “Now get on with the interrogating. I thought you were old enough to do it yourself, but I guess I was wrong.”

Interrogation! Why would he want me to torture a young girl! Joseph thought in disbelief. Fear ate at Joseph’s body, but as he turned from his father, and looked into Samantha’s eyes, all his fear fell away.

“I will not do this anymore.”

“What?” the General barked. He had heard this argument before, and he was certain that he would win. Fear always won.

“I will NEVER use my powers to hurt an innocent again.” Joseph turned and stared his father down.

“I do not care if I am making you torture a four-year-old child, you will do as I say. Or you will regret every living moment of the rest of your life.”

“You do not scare me,” Joseph rebutted.

Maybe it was teenage rebellion that fueled his determination, or maybe the girl had gained his affection, or maybe it was both; but Joseph did not plan to back down. Thus, he did exactly what all parents, and especially the General, feared and hated most: he walked out of the room, ignoring all the curses that were tossed at his back.

 

 

 

At home, as the front door was broken open with a familiar crash, Joseph knew that Hell had arrived on Earth, and his father pulled it in on his shoulders.

Bursting into Joseph’s room, his demonically-enraged father grabbed for Joseph’s main weakness: his curly brown hair. Joseph found himself dragged into the living room, pain pacing across his scalp. The room fell apart as Joseph was flung into shelves and the TV-stand. Then, grunting, Joseph’s father slammed him against the floor.

“You ungrateful brat, I’ll teach you to disrespect me,” his father spat.

            Joseph crawled backward, and seeing that his father did not pursue, he stood. The pain in his head made him stagger. He would have to fight back. However, his father was a trained soldier, and he held an empty beer bottle.

            With blinding speed, his father jumped forward. Trained muscle rammed a brick fist into Joseph’s stomach. Afterward more pain stabbed through his skull, as his father broke the glass bottle on his head. Blood drew a red veil over his eyes. It was the first time Joseph had ever seen his own blood. He dropped cold to the floor.

            When he regained consciousness, Joseph saw his father’s back turned. Once more, his father was searching through the icebox. Joseph was too weak and light headed to stand, but if he did not, the hell would only continue. Beside Joseph, knocked down from one of the room’s shelves, was his father’s combat knife. All his life his father had told Joseph that his power to kill could not work on him. Joseph had believed it, and to his dismay, he soon had learned that it actually did not work on his father. Multiple times since that horrible night when he was ten, Joseph had tried to use his powers on the General, but they never worked. He could not take his father’s life as he had taken the lives of so many others. Except with this cold, steel blade he had the opportunity to end all his pain.

Joseph grabbed the knife and stumbled to his feet. “You always threatened me and said you would turn me in as the murderer if I disobeyed you, but you forgot one thing: if you’re dead, no one will be able to accuse me of anything and it will all stay on your record. I said I would not kill any more innocents, but sadly for the both of us, you were everything but innocent.”

 Joseph’s father began to spin around, but his drunkenness slowed his response. With gravity and the knife itself willing Joseph on, the blade easily slipped into the General’s back.

 

© 2010 zdzd


Author's Note

zdzd
This story is the second of a Short Story series that I am working on, labeled: "Power"
This story is based on many things I have faced in my own life (besides the 'abilities').

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Added on May 17, 2010
Last Updated on May 17, 2010
Tags: Child Abuse, Abusive Fathers, Cruelty, Power, Science Fiction, Mistery, Irony, Science, War, Abilities, Short Story

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