A short story from my forthcoming book.
The Best Friend
It wasn’t the darkness that bothered Shane, but the insecurity of being on his own, all alone for the first time in many years. In fact, he had never been afraid of the dark. Even as a young boy, he had spent most of his time loitering in the dark alleys near his grandfather’s house. Dark spaces had always enticed him, and made him feel calm. There was something soothing about the unknown and the unexpected. However, certain traumatic incidents had shattered his life. Shane hadn’t expected his parents to die when he was just ten. He hadn’t expected to be taken in by his resentful grandfather. He hadn’t expected his sister to run away from home when she was just fifteen years old.
And now, as Shane sat injured in the pitch-black night, his thoughts teetered on the edge of the past and the present. He remembered his childhood, and the dark nights that had brought with them even darker surprises. One dark night had brought his grandfather to his room. The old man had held a belt in his hand, and had unleashed upon Shane an avalanche of pain and shame. That night had led to many more disgraceful nights. Each night, Shane had secretly wished that he could have mustered the courage to kill his grandfather. Yet, he was defenseless against a man almost twice his height and nearly double his weight.
Then one night, out of the blue, Shane bumped into George, and both boys embarked upon a journey of deep friendship that bonded them as best friends for life. George was very similar to Shane, but differed in one aspect from his shy and quiet friend; he was much more reckless and fearless. He was the answer to all of Shane’s doubts, and the solution to many of Shane’s problems. It was George who had pushed Shane’s grandfather down the stairs, and without an ounce of remorse had slit the old man’s throat with a butcher knife. By the time the police had arrived to investigate, George had disappeared. But Shane, the trusted and dependable friend, had come up with a very convincing story to throw the police off of George’s tracks.
With his grandfather dead, Shane ended up in an orphanage. However, George always remained close by. The two boys were inseparable. As Shane grew older, his dependence on George also increased. He looked towards George for constant support and protection. And George was always there to provide it. He would grip Shane’s shoulders and whisper into his ear…Just call my name, and I’ll be there. I’m never far away…I’m never far away…
An owl hooted from a nearby branch, and Shane’s eyes suddenly fluttered open. He was drifting in and out of consciousness. His leg was a mess and he had lost a lot of blood. Where was George? He hadn’t seen him for hours. The night air was thick with the sounds of the forest. It had just stopped raining. Shane needed to see George. He needed to get to a hospital before he bled to death. His voice was shaky and sounded shrill to his own ears.
The dark night swallowed Shane’s voice. The leaves on the ground rustled a few feet away from him. It wasn’t George, but the woman who had hitched a ride with them. She was the reason George was gone, and also the reason why he was bleeding. Her groans were getting louder, and Shane was afraid that she would start screaming soon. He would have to gag her before she opened her mouth. George had tied her arms and legs securely, so that she wasn’t a threat. Shane tried to stand, but his wounded leg couldn’t bear his own weight. He tried hopping on one leg, but the wild, slippery undergrowth made him lose his balance. He fell hard upon the damp ground.
The pain was excruciating. Where was George when he needed him? Just then, the woman let out a blood-curdling scream. Shane dragged himself towards her. She continued to scream, and this made Shane tremble. Just when he thought everything was going to fall apart, George returned. He swiftly moved towards the woman, and stuffed a rag in her mouth. All she could do now was whimper. This made her stop struggling. The whites of her eyes pierced the darkness, and Shane could feel the weight of her petrified stare. He felt himself being dragged towards a drier place.
‘Where were you, George?! How could you just leave me alone like that? I was losing my mind!’
Shane’s anger was justified, and George knew that he shouldn’t have rushed off in a huff.
‘I’m sorry, Shane. But I had to make sure that the car wasn’t parked on the road. We don’t want uninvited trouble.’
George was always two steps ahead of things. Shane admired his quick-thinking friend, and wished that he could be more like him.
The woman was wide awake now, and was listening to their conversation. Shane jerked his head towards her, ‘What do we do with her? We shouldn’t have gotten ourselves into this.’
George gripped Shane’s shoulder, and whispered in his ear.
‘She’s the one who asked for a ride. All we did was help her out.’
Shane loved George’s soft voice, especially when he whispered in his ear. It relaxed him and made him feel calm. But Shane knew that helping the woman didn’t include beating her and stealing her money. She didn’t deserve that kind of treatment in exchange for a free ride.
George ripped open the leg of Shane’s jean, and poured some water over the deep gash that ran from his knee to his ankle. As if able to read Shane’s thoughts, George replied promptly.
‘You know how people are, Shane. All they want to do is hurt you. That’s all they’ve ever done, your entire life. If I didn’t do this to her, she would’ve hurt you too.’
Shane looked at George, and then at the woman. She was shivering. It was either from the cold or from fear. She didn’t look dangerous at all. But in all the years they had been together, George had never been wrong. He had always efficiently gotten rid of the troublemakers. But somehow, Shane doubted George’s judgment this time.
‘I think we should let her go, George. I’m sure she won’t cause any trouble.’
George let go of Shane’s leg and stood up. He lit a cigarette and smoked half of it quietly. The silence bothered Shane.
‘I thought you quit smoking a year ago. What’s bothering you, George? Did I say something wrong?’
Without any warning, George grabbed the woman by her hair, and rubbed the burning cigarette into her cheek.
Her screams were gagged by the rag in her mouth. But she wreathed in pain. He then kicked her in the stomach.
Before Shane could react, George pulled the cloth from the woman’s mouth. Her cries shattered the silence. She sobbed in pain and cursed George repeatedly. The profanities just spilled from her mouth. Shane listened without twitching a single muscle. George spoke in an excited voice.
‘Shane! Are you listening to this?! This woman’s mouth is filthier than a clogged up toilet bowl. This witch isn’t harmless. She deserves to die!!’
Shane heard the flick of George’s switchblade. The woman must have heard it too, because she suddenly went quiet. The look in her eyes displayed fear and desperation. She began to mumble in a slow and shaky voice.
‘Puh-puhlease, don’t hurt me. I’ll duh-do wh-what you want muh-me to. Duh-don’t kill me.’
George let out a full-throated laugh, and gasped for air as he continued to laugh.
‘Look at her, Shane. She’s whimpering like a little puppy now. I wonder what changed her mind.’
George continued to laugh and beat his thigh with his hand. Shane could tell that his friend was losing control. It wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened. George had taken irrational steps in the past too. He had killed several times without provocation, but Shane wouldn’t let it happen again.
‘Look at my leg, George! It’s your fault that I’m bleeding to death. If you hadn’t crashed the car…’
George slapped Shane across the face. This made the woman scream again. Her voice was hoarse and cracking.
‘Stop it! You sick psycho!! What are you doing?!!’
George lashed out at the woman and the switchblade sliced her arm. Shane caught hold of George’s ankle and pulled with all his might. George toppled over and hit his head on a jagged rock. His skull cracked and blood oozed from his nose. With the remaining strength in him, George’s arm shot towards Shane, and his fist connected with his friend’s jaw. Three teeth flew out of Shane’s mouth, and blood dribbled over his chin. George turned towards the woman with the switchblade, but Shane gripped his wrist. Both men wrestled with each other, and eventually George overpowered Shane, driving the switchblade straight through Shane’s heart. There was blood everywhere, and George staggered to his feet. He swayed unsteadily, and turned towards the woman. She shouted out her disgust.
‘What the hell are you doing?! Stay away from me! You’re insane!’
Her words were the last thing George heard. A trembling hand plunged the switchblade into George’s neck. Blood sprayed from the punctured artery. Both Shane and George fell to the ground. They never got back up again.
The woman’s screams finally brought help in the morning. The police arrived and then the ambulances. She was rushed to the hospital, and treated for minor burns and lacerations. According to her statement to the police, she had been abducted and attacked by a man in his mid-twenties.
‘This man was seriously crazy. He kept talking and arguing with himself. It was like he was two different people. I think his name was George…or maybe Shane. Everything was so weird, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. He was shouting really loud, and just kept hitting himself.’
With tears in her eyes, the woman finally finished her bizarre story.
‘The crazy bastard killed himself…he stabbed himself…twice.’
Her description matched the dead body found at the crime scene. The man was identified as Shane Donner, an escaped psychiatric patient from the Dunville Mental Health Institute. Dr. Wilson, the man’s doctor was brought in for questioning. He shed some light on the dead man’s mental condition.
‘Shane Donner was suffering from a split personality disorder.’
The doctor explained that the abuse and trauma endured by Shane as a child had resulted in the development of a second personality called George.
‘He often told me that George was his hero. George protected him from pain and agony. I had been treating Shane for five years now, and he had been showing gradual improvement. It’s very unfortunate how things ended. All I can tell you is that this wasn’t suicide, Shane was murdered. Yes, it was murder. You see, George and Shane were actually two different people living in the same body…’