With a Bit of a Mind Flip
Jensen kneels beside his mother. Her skin is the grey of rain clouds except for the black around her mouth. “Mom?” he calls, voice catching on a sob. Her eyes, green like his and normally so kind, stare past him, wide with terror. “Mom?” he tries again. He reaches out and touches her face. It’s cold and waxy. She needs help and he’s not sure what to do. Dad will know. “Dad? Mom needs help.” His dad doesn’t move. Jensen feels disconnected and small, so very, very small. He pulls his cell out of his pocket and dials 911. When the dispatcher answers he gives her the address in a voice he doesn’t recognize as his own and asks her to hurry, please hurry. Twelve minutes later when the paramedics arrive, they find him still in his Rocky Horror costume and makeup, curled in the fetal position, his head pressed against his dead mother’s shoulder.
“What in the hell is that smell?”
“Ugh, I don’t know. There’s no pulse over here, no life signs. Looks like he’s been dead for a while. Some kind of black stuff all over his nose. What about those two?”
A pair of legs come into view. Jensen breathes in, breathes out.
A white bag thunks to the floor. Jensen blinks.
A woman crouches down next to him. She says, “Hey hun, can you tell me your name?” Her warm hand encircles his left wrist.
Jensen stifles a moan at the pain that flares in his shoulder at the movement.
“Ah, sorry. It’s okay, I’ll be more gentle with that arm,” she says to him, then turns her head. “Pete, can you check the female while I get vitals here?”
“Sure thing. He all right?”
“I’m not sure. That same black liquid is all over his shoulder and arm, looks like ink maybe? He’s conscious, but unresponsive. In shock most likely.”
Help is here, Jensen thinks. They’ll make sure Mom and Dad are all right. Take them to the hospital. Everything’s going to be okay now.
The female medic talks to him, takes his temperature, shines a light in his eyes, carefully probes his shoulder, takes his blood pressure. Jensen drifts, not actively ignoring her, just not really there. When they lift him onto the stretcher, he feels their hands, but it’s almost as if he’s not inside his body any longer, like he’s watching someone else get wheeled out to the ambulance, red and white lights strobing on and off. During the ambulance ride, his stomach churns and cramps. He feels all the blood drain from his face, leaving his skin clammy, and he begins gagging. The female medic is there, turning him onto his right side so he can heave into a plastic container. He heaves and gags, gags and heaves. It seems to go on forever. Then he’s shivering so hard that his teeth rattle.
“Hold on, it’s okay. You’re okay,” the woman says, putting a blanket over him and a hand on his sweaty forehead.
Jensen wants to believe her. He closes his eyes.
“What in God’s name happened in that house?” she mutters.
Some indeterminate time later, the ambulance rolls to a stop and the back doors swing open. He’s rolled inside and is immediately surrounded by men and women wearing various pastel-colored hospital scrubs.
“We have a male in his mid-teens. His shoulder is dislocated. It was covered in black ichor, but we cleaned it up before bringing him in.” The lady medic announces.
“He hasn’t given us his name yet. He hasn’t said anything at all actually.”
Jensen peers around, looking for his parents. If all this activity is for him, his mom and dad must have even more around them. But he doesn’t see anyone else being brought in.
“Where are my parents? They need more help than I do. Help them, okay?”
The hospital personnel look over to the medics expectantly and Jensen does too. They both shake their heads ‘no’ which doesn’t make any sense. Why are they saying no? He feels gut punched because a part of him knows why, but he can’t accept it. Won’t accept it.
“I want to see them! Where are they?” Jensen struggles against the hands that are suddenly holding him fast to the gurney, panic overriding the spaced-out haze in which he’d spent the ambulance ride. Any movement sends paroxysms of agony from his shoulder all the way down to the fingers of his left hand. He doesn’t let that stop him.
“Hey, hey, settle down. What’s your name? Can you tell me your name?” A skinny man, all sharp angles and big ears, asks.
“Jensen,” he pants, the exertion wearing him out much more quickly than it should.
“Okay Jensen, I’m Dr. Qualls. We’ll talk about your parents in a little while. Let’s worry about you for a minute. Tell me what happened to your shoulder.” He points to two people and makes a hand motion that must mean they’ve been selected to move Jensen’s gurney, all while appearing to give Jensen his undivided attention and genuine concern.
Something about him makes Jensen feel...safe, despite the turmoil and confusion roiling inside him. The gurney moves down a long, white hall and Jensen stops fighting it. “Monsters are real,” he whispers. “It was in my house when I got home...the monster.”
Dr. Qualls leans over the gurney, face scrunched up in concentration. “There was an intruder in your house? Did the intruder attack you?”
Jensen nods. Intruder is as good a word as any. “Attacked my parents first, must have, then me. Smoke and shadow. The monster was made of smoke and shadow.” He bucks on the gurney, testing to see if he can get off. “Can I see my mom and dad now?”
“Hold on, Jensen.” Skinny though it may be, Dr. Qualls’ hand on his chest is strong enough to keep Jensen from sitting up. “Tell you what we’re going to do. First, we’re getting an x-ray of your shoulder. We may be able to manipulate it back into the socket without surgery. Once that’s done and we’ve got you in a recovery room, we’ll find out about your parents. Deal?”
Jensen didn’t see his mom and dad being brought in to the hospital, but they’ve got to be here somewhere. Right? He takes a shuddering breath. “Deal.”
Having x-rays taken of a dislocated shoulder sucks. By the time they’re done, Jensen is trembling and sweating. Afterwards, he’s taken to a treatment room and given an IV for fluids - apparently, he’d lost a lot during the bout of vomiting in the ambulance - and pain meds. His shoulder is iced. Dr. Qualls gives him the great news that, according to the x-rays and the fact that this is the first time his shoulder has ever been dislocated, it will be a fairly easy matter to lever it back into its proper place. All it will take is a wonder drug called Versed and Jensen won’t remember a thing about his bones and ligaments and tendons being stretched and pulled and ground back into place. He’s all for that, wishes he could go back in time and take some before stumbling into his parent’s bedroom and seeing them...
The Versed works quickly. He remembers Dr. Qualls asking him to count backwards from twenty. He gets to seventeen and Jensen...is...out.
His mom and dad are dead.
He’s known it all along. Pretending made it easier to cope, to bear, to survive, but he couldn’t keep up the lie forever. Not even to himself.
“Jensen, about your parents...” his geeky-looking doctor says when Jensen wakes up in the recovery room wearing a hospital gown, his arm in a black sling. “I’m so sorry, but they-”
“I know,” is all he says. He feels strangely calm and guesses that he’s been given something to relax him on top of the pain medication.
“Is there anyone we can call for you?”
Jensen thinks of his sister, still blissfully unaware. Her world is about to come crashing down and Jensen hates that he’s not going to be able to cushion the blow for her. They’ve never really gotten along, nevertheless, she’s still his sister, the only sibling he has. The only family he has left. “My younger sister, Mackenzie. She’s spending the night at her friend’s house. Alona Tal, I think. I don’t know the number.”
“Okay, we’ll alert the authorities and have them notify her. Do you have any other family? Anyone who can come and get you? Anyone who can take care of you?” The look on his doctor’s face is full of empathy.
“No one local. My Aunt Samantha and my cousin Isabella live in Wyoming. They’ll come, but it may take a while. Can you also call my boy- my best friend, Jared?”
Dr. Qualls nods so hard, he looks like a bobble-head figure. “Sure, you can give us the numbers and we’ll call them in the morning. You should try and get some rest until then. We’ve given you a mild sedative to help you sleep.” He leans down and gives Jensen a hug. It’s awkward, mostly because Jensen’s not expecting it, but it’s not unwelcome. Truth be told, he could really use a hug and the dorky doctor exudes compassion unlike anyone he’s ever met. Jensen likes him. With a final pat on his head, the doctor walks to the door and switches off the light on his way out.
Jensen looks up at the ceiling. He doesn’t sleep.
Nurses come and go for the next four hours, always tiptoeing in, surprised to see he’s still awake. They ask if he wants a stronger sedative, they beg him to close his eyes, they tsk and shake their heads when he stubbornly refuses.
There’s a voice in his head and it hisses and it screeches and it sounds like a kettle boiling over if a kettle could form words. It sounds like the monster’s voice. The volume is soft, a low susurration. He can barely hear it. He can’t ignore it either.
Want you...can’t have you...not yet...still too bright...but soon...soon...soon
At 7 am there’s a knock on his door. Jensen’s hoping to see Jared even though the nurses have told him visiting hours don’t start until nine o’clock. He’s disappointed by the entrance of a policeman. The cop gives him a name, but Jensen doesn’t care enough to remember it.
All business, the cop gets right to the point, no pleasantries, no pretending he cares, no chitchat. Jensen’s fine with that. The quicker they can get this over with, the better.
“Can you tell me what happened last night?”
Jensen rubs his right hand through his sticky hair. At some point while he was under the effects of the Versed, someone cleaned off his makeup, but his hair still has all the gel and dye in it from the show. He’s looking forward to taking a shower as soon as the cop leaves. “I got home at about 12:45 am. My-”
“Where were you?” the cop interrupts.
Confused by the accusatory tone, Jensen stammers, “I-I was out with my f-friend, Jared.”
“Mmm-hmm, what’s Jared’s last name? I’ll need to speak with him to corroborate your story.”
Jensen frowns. “But Jared didn’t come inside my house. He didn’t see what happened.”
“If he’s your alibi, I’ll need to speak with him.”
Alibi? Only suspects need alibis. Is he a suspect? Jensen is stunned into speechlessness, gapping at the policeman who only stares back at him like a predator ready to pounce on easy prey. When he finally manages to force words past his numb lips, they sound breathy and childish, but Jensen barely notices. “Do you...do you think I killed my mom and dad?”
The cold, callous tone the cop uses to ask that question kindles a fire inside Jensen and a surge of anger temporarily burns away the apathy he’s been floating in. “No, I didn’t,” he states firmly, all traces of bewilderment gone.
“If that’s the case, where were you between ten o’clock and midnight last night?”
“I told you, I was out with my friend Jared Padalecki,” Jensen emphasizes the last name. “He and his brother Jeff came and picked me up from my house at around 9 o’clock and they dropped me off at 12:45.”
The cop scribbles notes on a pad of paper the whole time Jensen talks. “Okay, what happened after you got home?”
“I went upstairs to tell my parents I was back. Before I got to their room...I don’t know what to call it, a monster I guess, appeared in the hallway. I tried to get past it, tried to get to my parents’ room to warn them, and it did something to my shoulder.” Jensen stops, reviews what he’s just said in his mind. It sounds crazy. He sounds crazy. It’s the truth though, so he ploughs on. “Then it disappeared. My parents weren’t moving. I could see they needed help so I called 911.” Setting his jaw, Jensen blinks away the sting in his eyes. He hasn’t cried over his loss yet, hasn’t let himself dwell on the empty crater in his heart, or the despair for what his bleak future holds, and he won’t do it in front of this asshole cop.
The policeman narrows his eyes. “A monster? Your doctor says you mentioned a monster when you were brought in. He thought it was just a result of the trauma you’d been through. Are you telling me you believe an actual monster killed your parents?”
Jensen winces at the harsh words. The images that come to his mind - his unsuspecting parents being attacked by that hulking, yellow-eyed beast, the terror they must have felt as they died - make him feel like a steel band is constricting his chest. His face gets hot while icy tendrils entwine his arms and legs, slithering down his spine. “A monster did kill my parents,” he insists. “It was like a shadow come to life, smoky-black with no face except two yellow eyes.”
Without any pause the cop says, “Okay kid...if that’s the story you want to stick with.” He pauses like he’s waiting for Jensen to retract his version of what happened. When Jensen simply sets his jaw and stares back, his expression hardens. “I have another question for you. The paramedics say you were wearing black makeup around your eyes and leather clothes? Do you always dress like that?”
What the hell that has to do with anything, Jensen has no clue. He gets the distinct impression that the cop has already drawn a conclusion about people who wear leather and makeup and it isn’t a flattering one. “I was at Rocky Horror last night,” he says flatly. Let him make what he will of that.
Clicking his pen closed, the cop fixes Jensen with a steely gaze. “That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll go talk to...” he flips his notebook back a page. “Jared Pad-a-lecki and be back in touch. Don’t leave town.”
After everything he’s been through, the last thing Jensen thought he’d have to worry about was being suspected of having anything to do with his mom and dad’s deaths. It never occurred to him that he was going to have to explain to people - lots of people, people in roles of authority, people with control over his life - what happened and that they might not believe him. And now that he’s come face to face with that cruel skepticism in the flesh, he doesn’t know what to do. Lying, coming up with a story that will be more believable might be the smart thing to do, but it would feel like he was dishonoring his parents. They deserve for everyone to know the truth about what happened to them. And what if others are in danger? Doesn’t he have a responsibility to let them know what’s out there, hiding in the shadows?
He decides then and there that he won’t lie or try to cover up the truth with a more believable story.
No matter what.
Link to Chapter 9
Link to the Master Post