I'm just keeping this for my archives. This was the original chapter from forever ago back when the book was called "Justin's Story" and I hadn't introduced the concept of shifting genres or made it a Calvin and Hobbes parody.
“I see dead people.”
I've always enjoyed that movie. Probably M. Night Shyamalan's only good film. Well maybe “Unbreakable” was good--I never actually saw it. It's true by the way. Seeing dead people I mean. Although they aren't exactly what you would call “ghosts.”
I remember the first time I had dinner with my new family in the Kansas House. There was a man sitting at the table with us Not doing anything, just sitting there, staring off into the distance.
There was a woman who would appear by the foot of our staircase. She would slowly walk up the steps, turn the corner towards the bathroom, and vanish. Only to repeat the process at exactly same time the next day.
It was normal. Well for me I mean—to see these things. I've been seeing them for as long as I can remember.
After my mother's suicide I was adopted by my aunt Angela and her husband Thomas. I'm not really sure what they were thinking, taking me in. I guess at first they assumed that I was just an imaginative eight-year-old boy. They soon discovered however, that my “imaginary friends” were very real to me.
They tried everything in their power to make me “healthy” again. And honestly I can't blame them. Angela must have found it horrifying--so soon after her sister's death—only to discover that I was just as damaged as my mother.
The doctors diagnosed me with some form of childhood schizophrenia. And I spent the next year and a half of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Speaking to the same concerned doctors, with the same concerned faces, trying to ask the same concerned questions over and over and over again.
But of course nobody could tell my new parents what was wrong with me. And neither the therapy nor the medication prevented me from seeing the things that I saw. In fact, my frequent stays in the hospital only seemed to make things worse.
I remember walking around one of those wards trying to get back into my room, only to be lead back into the hallway I entered from. I was stuck in that loop for half an hour before I finally convinced one of the nurses that I was sick and had to be carried in.
I started getting nightmares. I would wake up cold and confused, covered in sweat, my voice hoarse from screaming before the nurse woke me. But I could never remember what it was I was screaming about. One night I woke up with bloody fingers. I asked the nurse about it, she said I would claw at the wallpaper in my sleep.
Even as my health deteriorated, the hospital bills were getting more expensive. And our insurance didn't even begin to cover the rising cost. My new parents were starting to have second thoughts about my adoption. Thomas, in particular. I can still hear Angela and him screaming at each other outside my room. He didn't think they could keep taking care of me, he wanted to have me committed. I don't hold it against him though. I guess in his mind they just couldn't afford to keep me.
I didn't want to be a burden, I knew they were going to leave me there, so I took the only option I saw left. When the nurse walked in I was already passed out in a corner, blood and broken glass everywhere. They still can't figure out how I managed to slash both arms.
After my suicide attempt, my new parents decided that the pain just wasn't worth it. They were going to try something else. So they took me home. No more pills, no more doctors, no more hospitals. From then on I was simply to "ignore" what I saw.
It worked out surprisingly well.
For a while Angela and Thomas started acting like parents. And I, aside from my reoccurring night terrors, started acting like a normal child. Angela would still occasionally catch me staring off at the wall or lying in bed fixated on the ceiling, and ask me about what I saw. I would usually tell her I was just deep in thought, which was occasionally the truth. But we never talked about it--my delusions I mean. I didn't want to worry them anymore. Besides, my new parents had bigger problems to worry about.
Angela and Thomas had spent far too much on my treatment, and the total cost of my hospital visits was substantial. Combined with the ongoing writer’s strike and therefore lack of work, my new family was forced to declare bankruptcy. I had ruined their careers.
Fortunately, Thomas had a rather large extended family based in Kansas, and his mother bought us a house next to a small set of woods. I was around ten when I got there, and a part of me hoped that I could somehow leave the delusions behind. But as I said, my first dinner proved otherwise. I spent the rest of that night crying.
The next day was spent exploring. I had mostly been left to myself those first few months. Angela had immediately taken up an emergency job as a waitress and Thomas had locked himself in his study, trying desperately to finish a screenplay. Besides, he still hadn't forgiven me for throwing both him and his wife into debt.
It was an older, larger house. With dusty wooden floors and a surplus of rooms that no one really cared about. I remember the bumping I would hear as Thomas walked down the halls, the creaking that came from the attic late at night as the cold wind twisted the old floorboards, the smell of stale air and dust that filled each room.
Most of all I remember the woods. There was an almost invasive presence about them. The trees that surrounded our house grew up the hill at an angle. And in the dead of winter they looked like spikes that covered the neighborhood. They grew in from behind our house, stopping just in front of the fence but growing over it, piercing into our backyard As if our old wooden fence was the only thing that prevented them from swallowing us whole.
Since my stays in the hospital, the delusions had become far more lucid. I remember getting up late one night to go to the bathroom, but when I opened the door to my room, instead of seeing the hallway I was greeted by the entrance to a large labyrinth. I closed the door, peed in a cup, and went back to bed. Because by then it wasn't scary at all. By then it was just normal. And that’s my point I guess.
I was surviving. I was doing okay. I knew I was insane, but I also knew that I could still live a relatively normal life and I wasn't afraid anymore. I wasn't afraid of my new mother or Thomas. I wasn't afraid of what I saw in the delusions. By that point I wasn't even afraid of the nightmares. It was only when I met my cousin Chance that I really became afraid.
I met Chance at one of my new aunt’s family gatherings. Her son Matthew was staying at a university out of state, and he left behind a room filled with his treasures. While my new parents were conversing with the rest of the family, I quietly slipped up the staircase.
I loved that room. The walls were always lined with colorful posters while the bookshelf was riddled with volumes of manga and comic books. He kept his pet snake, Basil in a cage next to the door. And in the corner of his room stood a samurai sword, secured authentically from Japan--or so I was told.
I had finished with both the snake and the sword, and was now desperately staring at a poster of an optical illusion on the wall--that kind that only worked if you somehow "saw past" it--when I turned around in frustration and discovered I wasn't alone.
The boy who stared back was a little taller than me, arguably plump, though not by any means fat. He wore a hooded sweatshirt that came down past his pant-pockets and a buzz-cut that was a little too short He must have been eleven or twelve at the time.
"What are you staring at?", he asked.
"That poster.", I said pointing back towards it.
"It's a T-Rex."
"That poster. If you un-focus your eyes, it’s a T-Rex."
"My name’s Chance, by the way."
And then we talked, mostly about ourselves. He introduced himself as one of my new cousins, but to be honest I don’t really remember much from that conversation. It may have gone on for a few minutes or a few hours, only one exchange was memorable:
"Hey, are you even listening?", he asked, clearly annoyed.
"Of course...", I lied, even though I was far more preoccupied with the fact that the ceiling behind him was melting on to the door. I was trying to figure out whether or not this would prevent me from leaving when he turned around to look at it.
"What are you staring at?", he asked inquisitively.
"Nothing...I'm just looking at that sword Matthew has."
"Oh...", he said, turning back with a grin, "I thought you were wondering why the wall was dripping."