A large clap of thunder wakes him and his heart skips a beat. He finds himself looking at his hand, which is pressed up against a window, rain cascading on the other side. Outside, a lone hawk sits on a branch staring back at him. Its bright, unrelenting green eyes stare deep into his soul. The hawk blinks, slowly turns its head just a fraction, no longer focused on the man or his hand. The man stares back at it for a few moments until he gets an eerie feeling that someone is standing behind him. He turns quickly and finds himself alone in a room that he’s never seen before. He looks back toward the window and the hawk is gone. Maybe it was never there to begin with.
Not only does he have no idea where he is, he has absolutely no idea how he got there. The last thing he remembers is… Actually, he can’t remember anything at all. Not even his name. Where am I?
A large 19th century sofa sits invitingly in the middle of the room next to a small wooden table. As he gets closer to it, he notices a newspaper. He sits down on the sofa, sinking into the red velvet cushions, and picks it up.
Something does not feel right. Everything seems to be out of place.
Shuttle Explodes: The headline reads in big, bold writing across the top of the page. That’s strange. He looks at the date - January 29, 1986. He doesn’t know much about what’s happening, but one thing that he knows for sure is that it’s not 1986. This paper is almost thirty years old, but it looks as though it was delivered first thing this morning. He keeps reading, already knowing how the article is going to end. This was massive news and almost everyone would have seen the footage at some point of their lives. On that blistering cold, breezy January morning, shortly after takeoff, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, destroying the shuttle and killing all seven crewmembers on-board. It was later found that a faulty ‘O’ ring seal in one of the rocket boosters caused the explosion. This is old news. He takes a deep breath. What the fuck is going on?
He tries to turn the page but finds that his hand is sticking to the paper. He peels back his hand and begins to panic. It’s covered in blood. He drops the paper and desperately tries to wipe the blood off on his pants. He looks at the coffee table and notices a large bloodied hunting knife sitting ominously in the middle. He picks it up. It feels very comfortable in his hand. He turns the blade from side to side, evaluating its weight. There’s something very familiar about this moment. Is he dreaming? He looks at the rear bolster of the knife and wipes the blood away revealing two letters: AR. He runs his thumb over the initials. Who, or what, is AR?
His concentration is broken and he drops the knife to the ground. What was that? He looks towards the large double doors. He could’ve sworn he had just heard footsteps. He leans down to pick up the knife and he hears it again. This time it is joined by the feint sound of a woman crying. His eyes are firmly locked on the door while he blindly fumbles for the knife. He looks down and it’s no longer there. The paper is gone, the knife is gone, and all the blood is gone. He jumps up off the lounge and stares at the only entrance to the room. The crying is coming from the other side.
The floorboards creak under each cautious step. He makes his way closer to the large double doors that seem to be from a different era to everything else in the room. He stops before them and stares at the intricate workmanship of the carvings. Delicate etchings that appear to be telling a story of some kind, though no matter how hard he tries, he can’t make out any of the words. It’s in a language that he’s never seen before.
He presses his ear up against the door, careful not to make a sound. The crying has stopped, replaced by the deep echoing of his own pulse resonating in his ear. He steps back from the doors and notices a shadow. There’s someone on the other side. He takes a deep breath and firmly grasps the brass handles. A cold shiver runs down his spine. Before he has a chance to turn the handles, the doors fly open and he falls to his knees, blinded by a bright white light that is now pouring into the room. He no longer feels cold. He feels something he hasn’t felt in years. He feels alive. His mind is clear and, although he has no idea of where he is or what is happening, he knows exactly what he must do. He steadies himself to his feet and walks out into the light. The doors slam behind him and the light is extinguished. Total darkness. His hands instinctively move around, aimlessly trying to feel his surroundings; they find nothing.
A muffled indistinguishable noise breaks the silence; the same type of noise a radio makes when it isn’t tuned correctly. He stops dead in his tracks, holding his breath. He strains as he tries to make sense of the static. A few moments later, the crackly noise turns into something that he recognizes. It’s a voice. A chill runs down his spine.
“Alex,” it whispers.
He listens intently, wondering if his mind is playing tricks on him. He hears the voice once more. A woman’s voice.
“Alex,” the voice echoes in to the nothingness.
In the distance, a crack of light starts to grow brighter each time the voice pierces the eerie silence. He feels himself falling and panic takes over. He tries to scream out, but he is drowned out by the voice that is now desperately yelling out a name.
He watches the light pick up speed and feels its warmth as it slams into him, blinding him once more. He closes his eyes. All of a sudden he feels nothing but fear.
“Alex!” The voice yells as the light gives way to darkness
Two hands materialize and tighten around his throat, choking him. He can’t breath. --Not like this!
As quickly as he was awakened, his mind slowly slips away.
“Alex!” A final, desperate plea fades away.
Alex Rain opens his eyes.
Alex stands at the top of his driveway watching as the morning sun tries desperately to break through the storm clouds. Coffee in one hand, local paper in the other, he unfolds it and casts a curious eye over the front page. Another beat up article about something that isn’t really newsworthy: “Wheel Deal. Local drivers are among the safest in the state.” Alex shakes his head as he folds it under his arm.
“Morning, Mrs Gavin,” he raises his coffee to the old lady across the street, busy in her garden as always.
“Hello, Alex,” she smiles as she delicately trims a few stray branches from an already immaculate hedge.
“Do you need a hand with anything?”
“Well, aren’t you a sweetheart? I’ll be OK, thanks. It gets me out of the house,” she smiles and wipes her brow. “Hopefully I’ll be able to get it all finished before this storm rolls in,” she gestures to the clouds with the shears.
“Plenty of time, ma’am. If you change your mind just give me a yell.”
“You’re such a nice young man,”
“I know, Mrs Gavin. I know,” he laughs and she keeps on hacking away. If she only knew…
Alex turns around and takes a large mouthful of coffee. He lives in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Brookmount, a large and busy metropolis. His hometown, Greyhall, is far enough from the city to escape the hustle and bustle, but close enough that his commute into work doesn’t kill him. Large colorful trees adorn both sides of the street giving an almost rural feel to an otherwise thriving suburb. He lives in a modest house set back off the street. Far enough back to offer him some much-needed privacy; he likes to keep to himself. Alex has never cared much for the wandering eyes of nosey neighbors. He walks back inside, stopping briefly to admire his gardens while he slurps back what is left of his coffee.
They say you can tell a lot about someone by the inside of their house. Alex’s house shows that he is a very smart young man who prides himself on what he has achieved. It is spotless and very well organized. Some would argue that Alex has some type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but Alex just likes to know where everything is. His obsession isn’t a sickness; it’s a finely tuned skill.
He walks into his study, sits back in his favorite chair and admires his collection of old books that sit proudly on the shelves of the large, solid oak bookcase. Alex picks up a random book and starts thumbing through the pages. He loves everything about old books; the smell, the feel of the pages, the little notes people have written in them over the years, even the wear and tear made by the clumsy hands of time. Every stain and every crease telling a story of it’s own. This book isn’t as old as his others and by no means is it a collectable, but it’s the one that means the most to him. It was a gift from his mother.
Alex Rain grew up very quickly. His earliest childhood memory is one of watching his mother being beaten by his father and living in constant fear that he was always moments away from a beating of his own. After his father’s death, Alex’s life returned to normal. His mother looked happier and was a completely different person, no longer looking over her shoulder, no longer walking on eggshells trying her hardest to avoid a beating. She was a normal, every day mother. She even looked younger. It’s amazing what fear can physically do to someone’s appearance.
The fondest of Alex’s memories are those of his high school years. He wasn’t the most popular kid at school, but that didn’t stop him from having fun. He had a close group of friends and they were popular in their own right. They were a funny bunch, too. Some kids are known for being the ‘cool’ kids who skip classes to smoke behind the library every afternoon. Some kids are known for being bullies, who go through school picking on the timid, the weak and the innocent. Then you have those who do really well at school and end up being outcasts, labeled nerds and geeks by their peers as though that’s a bad thing. Other kids are known for being jokers and that’s what Alex and his friends were. They were the class clowns. They never took things too seriously, yet they – rather surprisingly – did extremely well in all their classes. Compared to some of their schoolyard peers, they managed to get through the harsh, and somewhat cruel, high school years relatively unscathed. It seems you can be a nerd and a geek; you just have to laugh about it. Sure, there were times when each of them were picked on, like the time that Alex’s mom packed his gym bag and added a new can of deodorant she had bought for him. A musk-scented deodorant in a pale pink can which turned out to be for women, much to the amusement of the other guys in the change room:
“Alex uses girls deodorant. What a fag!”
“Is that your mom’s?”
“Awww, Mommy’s little girl smells so pretty!”
This lasted a few weeks and Alex took it in his stride. Then, like the circle of life that is high school, another rumor replaced it with something equally irrelevant, which caught the attention of the masses:
“Jim had a hard-on in Maths.”
“Simon and Amber are going out, and she’s pregnant.”
“Sandy’s mom is an alcoholic.”
Some rumors were harmless fun, some were blatant lies and others were downright cruel.
In their last year of High School, Alex and his friends all knew what they wanted to do with their lives. They stopped joking around and worked hard on achieving the grades they needed. Alex had a passion for science and agreed it was time to focus. “No Distractions,” they’d said. It was at this time that Alex fell in love for the very first time. Talk about distractions.
Looking back on it now, Alex wonders if his life would’ve turned out any differently had he and his girlfriend not been split apart by bad timing. She accepted an internship on the other side of the world; a once in a lifetime opportunity that she knew would be the beginning of a long and prosperous career. Alex heard that she did go on to do big things. Top of her field, jet-setting all over the globe, shaking up boardrooms wherever she went. She even had time to get married and have a few kids along the way.
Alex doesn’t like to dwell too much on the past and he doesn’t like to overthink things that are outside of his control. She had to do what was best for her; he would’ve done the exact same thing.
As fond as his high school years were, there has always been a darkness that followed him. A darkness that he created, one that he nurtured and had come to enjoy. For most people, one of the happiest moments in their life is the time they fall in love for the very first time. The thrill of not knowing what you are doing, exploring these new emotions with someone else, exploring each other’s bodies. The excitement you feel as you realize that ‘tonight’s the night’. Your first kiss - the quick slide to second - the time you rolled into third and that glorious moment that you hit your very first homerun. Of course, we’re not talking about baseball; we’re talking about the very first time you have sex. But for Alex, this isn’t his happiest moment. It doesn’t even make his Top Ten. Alex’s happiest moment happened well before he even thought about girls. It was a sunny afternoon when he saw his parents fight for the very last time.
Alex was just a few days short of his tenth birthday. He got home late from school one afternoon, threw his bag down near the kitchen table – a subtle reminder that he had homework to do – and as he opened up a can of coke, he heard the familiar sounds of muffled cries, the occasional scream and the constant crack of a swift, well placed backhand. He walked towards the noise, leaving the fridge open behind him. He peered through the crack in the door and watched what was to be the end of his mother’s last beating. His father turned around, fuelled by some type of sixth sense giving him the feeling that he was being watched. He caught Alex’s eye.
“There’s plenty of this left for you, son,” he jeered.
Alex walked quietly to his room and waited for what was to come. Like clockwork, his door slammed open and his father stood there, belt in hand, rage-filled eyes, sweat on his brow and a little intimidating smirk. He lunged forward, then stopped dead in his tracks. The belt hit the ground as he stumbled forward. Alex watched on as his father began to sweat more and more, turning red as he clutched at his chest.
“Help me, son!” his father pleaded.
Alex slowly got up off his bed and stood directly in front of his kneeling father; one hand on his chest and the other reaching for Alex, begging both for forgiveness and for help; a weak and desperate man.
Alex felt something that he had never felt before. He felt in control. He felt powerful.
“Alex, what the fuck are you doing? Go get your fuckin’ mother. Help me!”
He tried to yell out for his wife, but didn’t have the energy to garner much more than a crackly whisper…
“Alex, I’m fuckin’ dying,” he choked out.
“Yes you are,” Alex smiled as he watched his father try, in vain, to get to his feet.
His father looked up at him, tears in his bright red eyes, gasping for air with each shallow breath. His arm still raised begging for help, but knowing that his past was slowly catching up with him. Alex stood over his father, fascinated by Death’s cold tight grip. Mesmerized with how quickly it was taking hold.
“I swear to you, Alex,” his father moaned and took a deep breath, “I won’t hurt anyone ever again.”
“I know you won’t,” with one swift movement Alex pushed his father backwards; he slammed into the ground sending a loud crack and thud echoing throughout the house.
Alex knelt down beside his father who grabbed hold of his hand. His father squeezed as hard as he could; even as he lay there dying, he still tried his hardest to hurt Alex.
“Alex!” he gasped, using his last bit of strength to pull Alex closer.
“You were the worst thing that ever happened to me,” a smile washed over his face as he lay there clutching his chest.
The last thing Alex’s father heard was the haunting echo of Alex’s excited voice; “I can’t wait to watch you die.”
Alex held his father’s hand and watched as he took his final breath. His eyes glazed over and Death’s work was done. He was gone. For the first time in years, the house was dead quiet. For the first time in years, Alex and his mother were safe.
This was Alex’s happiest moment; this is the last thing he thinks about just before he closes his eyes each night. This was his first home run.
A loud crack of thunder gently shakes the window and wakes Alex from his daydream. Just the thought of that moment makes him feel alive. It always reminds him of how far he has come.
From his humble beginnings, living in the suburbs with his parents back when they loved each other, to the horrors of an abusive home once his father found comfort in the bottom of a bottle. He took the fear and the pain of those years and hid it away - he had to be strong - not for himself, but for his mother.
From the moment he knelt beside his father and watched the life drain from his eyes, he knew he was different to everyone else. He sat emotionless and watched his mother cry as his father’s casket was lowered into the ground. He felt no guilt or remorse. He wasn’t sad and he definitely wasn’t afraid. He was confused - Why is Mom crying? She was free.
Alex can’t remember much of the year that followed after his father’s death. He’s read that it could be a symptom of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). A dissociative reaction to help him recover from what was undoubtedly a traumatic experience for a child to endure. Or it could just be that Alex is getting older and doesn’t care too much about his past.
He got through high school, and – even with a breakup during his final year – he managed to keep his head down and did exceptionally well. His final grades gave him a bit of freedom to choose what he wanted to do, although he didn’t need to think too hard. His passion for science led him to university where he studied medical science, majoring in anatomy. After several years of study, many of which were spent writing research papers for his thesis, Alex completed his doctorate and decided to stay on and teach full time. He has a unique hands-on approach to teaching; he doesn’t just educate his students, he entertains them. His classes are a performance. For that brief period when he’s standing in front of the class, he no longer feels like he’s at the mercy of the darkness he carries inside. Alex is no longer that little boy that cowered in the corner of his room, crying out each time the buckle tore at his flesh, hoping that his father would get tired and stop swinging the belt. He’s no longer afraid.
Despite the adversity he faced at an early age, Alex has grown into a smart, determined and successful young man; well respected by his colleagues, admired by his students, and loved by the few friends he kept.
This is who Alex is, but it’s not what he’s become. To say his life is complicated would be an understatement.