Archive for March, 2015

Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 249) Walk Upstairs

Stephen does not recall a single time in his life that he was not under pressure or tension or afraid and nervous. Even with his challenges, Tamas never seems to let things get to him. Is it his mindset that he does not comprehend bad or sad moments? Does he not realize how frightening life can be?

“Walk?” Tamas says as he stands up and points out to the entry hall.

“You want to go for a walk?” Stephen asks as he too stands up.

“Yes. . . up?” Tamas replies as he claps his hands and squeals with glee.

“Upstairs? You want to walk upstairs?” Stephen questions as he and Tamas walk out into the entry hall together.

Tamas grins and nods his head as he looks up at the large round window that immediately becomes the center of attention as soon as anyone enters the hall. It is very impressive as it sits over the room between the two large staircases like an eye to the heavens. However, Stephen knows it actually looks out at the massive conservatory that is secretly encased behind the masonry walls of the manor.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 248) Admiration

“Are you laughing at me?” Stephen asks as he stands up playing at being upset with Tamas.

This makes Tamas laugh again and he places his hand on his forehead then shakes his head back and forth while he giggles. Stopping short of going into a full bout of laughter, he looks back up at the tall windows where the dim colors of morning are starting to drift in.

“You like that light coming in the windows, don’t you.” Stephen says as he too looks at the windows but Tamas shakes his head no, as if Stephen is being silly. “Oh okay, so now you’re just really laughing at me, is that it?” He teases as he walks over and sets down on the couch across from where Tamas is playing.

Watching this gentle young man, who is only two years younger than his own age, Stephen realizes he has great admiration for Tamas and his good humor. He is a person with many odds against him, yet he is always pleasant and playful. What must it be like, to spend each day without pressing worries and stress weighing down and smothering the act of living until it becomes too much to bear.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 247) Holds Back

“Are you thirsty?” Stephen asks.

“Yes,” replies Tamas.

“Me too, I’ll get us some water, you stay here, okay?” Stephen says as he stands up.

Tamas grins in acknowledgment at the statement and as Stephen is leaving the room, he turns around to make sure his younger friend is staying right where he is supposed to. Quickly, Stephen walks across the entry hall, through the dining room and into the kitchen.

Sitting on the counter where he left it, is a large package of bottled water. Taking two, one in each hand, he makes his way back to the sitting room to find Tamas happily playing with his toy truck.

“You like that truck, don’t you.” Stephen says as he hands a bottle of water to him and proceeds over to the fireplace to push the cold coals off the grate.

“Truck,” replies Tamas as he twists the lid off the bottle of water and looks up at the windows. “Huh,” he says as if he is about to laugh but holds back.

“What’s that?” questions Stephen as he looks over at Tamas who is smiling as he glances at him.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 246) Childlike

With a quiet laugh, Tamas turns and walks over to where Stephen is sitting. He recognizes Zsofia’s basket and begins to clap his hands with delight.

“That is exactly how I feel about digging into the basket.” Stephen laughs as he flips the red and white cloth back exposing the muffins and breads within.

“Banana,” Tamas says as he gently reaches in picking up a small loaf of banana bread.

“Oh yes, that looks like a good one, let’s see what should I have.” Stephen mumbles as he lifts and tips the cakes around for a better view. “I’m going to go with blueberry.”

Several minutes pass as they eat their way through the first item picked. Due to the rich flavor, Stephen moans with the first bite and Tamas finds this to be very funny, which in turn causes them both to laugh.

“So what should we do today?” Stephen asks of Tamas as they both grab a second baked good.

The young man looks at him and shrugs his shoulders as he chews his food and gazes up at the beautiful ceiling. Stephen watches him and wonders what he is thinking of. His childlike wide eyes are taking in all the beauty of the expressive details as he slowly follows the straight line of the trim that edges the walls of the room.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 245) Starving

Laszlo said he only allowed Zsofia to work here if she stayed in specific areas. Stephen finds this puzzling for what he understood from Zsofia is that his great-uncle set the boundaries. He wonders if Laszlo knows something about the manor that he has not shared, not even with his own family. If Stephen can get a chance, he hopes they will sit down together sometime and discuss the mysterious history here. Tamas waves goodbye to his grandfather, then follows Stephen through the threshold of the manor and into the sitting room.

“I bet you already had breakfast.” States Stephen as he straightens the cushions and pillows on the sofa where he slept.

“Yes.” Replies Tamas as he sits on the sofa across from Stephen.

“Well, I’m starving.” States Stephen and this makes Tamas laugh. “Stay here, I’m going to get some muffins that your sister brought up yesterday. I’m just going across the entry hall, okay?” Tamas nods yes in response and begins to drive his toy truck along the arm of the sofa.

Stephen quickly walks across the entry hall to the dining room and picks up the basket of baked goods. Upon his return to the sitting room, he finds Tamas standing at the wall to the left, under the windows that are near the ceiling.

“What do you see up there?” Stephen questions in a lighthearted way not looking up at the windows that his friend is focusing on.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 244) My Word

Stephen grins at the thought of seeing Zsofia again when she stops by to take Tamas home at the end of the day. He enjoys her company and believes she feels the same about him. As for sampling some of the treats she makes, little does her grandfather realize, he has a basket full of them on the table.

“I ahh. . . I’m sorry that I keep calling you Istvan.” Laszlo’s tone is calm. “Your grandparents always referred to you as such, and I’m not good with the American version.” He says as if he is apologizing for doing something horrible.

“It is alright Mr. Eszes.” Stephen says but before he can continue with his statement, Laszlo interrupts him.

“Please, call me Laszlo, there is no need to be so formal.” He laughs as he pats Stephen on the arm much like an old friend would do, but then he grows very serious as he glances in, once again, at the entry of the manor. “Please promise me you will not let him wander off through the manor alone. In the past I allowed Zsofia to work here but only in specific areas and I would like to have your word that Tamas will not be left alone.”

“Yes, you have my word.” Stephen replies as he thinks about the statement that was just made.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 243) Relationship

Stephen is not clear on the relationship between Tamas and his grandfather. The way Laszlo is holding his grandson’s arm seems a bit harsh but as the interaction continues, the elderly man pulls Tamas to him and the two embrace in a strong hug. Tamas smiles wide as Laszlo kisses him on the cheek and says I love you. The young man then buries his head in his grandfather’s chest and repeats the phrase in a muffled voice.

This touching moment causes a lump to form in Stephen’s throat as he thinks of his parents and grandparents. Even though Laszlo seems harsh and stern at times, it is obvious he is truly a loving man with compassion for his family. During the short span that Stephen has been here and the many occasions Tamas has ended up at the manor, he is sure that raising him has been and can be trying at times.

“Mr. Eszes, I assure you he will be fine and I am more than happy to help.” Stephen states as he pats the elderly man on the shoulder.

“Here, I packed enough food for lunch and snacks for both of you.” Laszlo hands Stephen a soft square cooler satchel that he was carrying across his left shoulder. “Zsofia will be by after work to take him home before nightfall.” He smiles, “If you’re lucky she will bring something from the shop to eat.”


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 242) Toy

“Steee. . . phen.” Tamas states happily, as he jumps up and down then gets distracted as he stops to look at the toy truck he is holding in his own hand.

“Listen to me Tamas, listen,” states Laszlo with authority as he covers the toy with his hand so Tamas will look at him. “You listen to Istvan. . .”

“Steee. . . phen.” The young man corrects his grandfather.

“Okay yes, yes, Stephen.” Laszlo replies as he quickly glances at Stephen then looks down, slightly aggravated and embarrassed that his grandson has corrected him.

“You must promise to do as he says and stay with him, no wandering off. You hear me?” The old man questions as he holds Tamas by the arm.

“Yes,” replies Tamas as he nods his head up and down in a very serious manner as if he is about to cry.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 241) Interactions

“Are you in need of my assistance with Tamas?” Stephen asks and there is a slight pause to their conversation before Laszlo speaks again.

“Yes, I am. I cannot take him with me and with his disabilities,” Laszlo pauses again as he looks at his grandson.

“He can stay with me, sure.” Stephen states as he blurts out his reply without giving it a second thought.

“He can? Thank you.” Replies Laszlo a bit surprised as he grabs Stephen’s hand and begins shaking it up and down in a rapid fashion.

All of Stephen’s interactions with Tamas thus far have been positive. He seems to be a very smart young man with his own way of communicating in which Stephen finds to be easily understandable. That is his perception of him anyway.

“I cannot thank you enough.” States Laszlo earnestly, he then turns to his grandson and explains the plan for the day.

With a wide smile and a high pitch laugh, Tamas looks at Stephen as he walks toward him. The size of his nineteen-year-old frame is only slightly smaller than that of other individuals of his same age. With the height of a man but the mind of a child, he sometimes does not know his own strength. Reaching out he hugs Stephen tightly for a short moment then steps back and laughs again.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 240) For The Day

“Ah, he’s happy to see you,” says Laszlo in a soft voice. “I hate to do this, especially now that you are staying here,” He looks up at the windows of the building as if he is afraid someone might be eavesdropping so he lowers his tone and says, “but I need a favor.” He looks in the door and glances around at the room and it is clear the old man is on edge.

“Um, okay. What kind of favor?” Stephen questions wondering what in the world this man could possibly need from him.

Stephen understands the elderly man’s curiosity of the manor and his bold attempt at looking inside. After all, he made it very clear the other night, when Stephen walked Tamas home that he wishes the building would fall down around itself. He even went as far as to tell Stephen to leave and never return. Yet, here he is at the manor, asking for help.

“Early this morning I received an urgent call from my sister who is ill. She’s been sick for months and lives about two hours travel time away from here,” Laszlo says as if he is embarrassed, he then glances over at Tamas. “I do not think she will live much longer and with Zsofia at work, I. . . I do not have anyone else to tend to Tamas.” He finally confesses.

Stephen stands there for several seconds waiting to hear more and then realizes Laszlo is trying, in a very awkward way, to ask if he will watch Tamas for the day.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 239) Apologetic

“Ah, I am so sorry Istvan, I had no idea you would still be asleep.” Laszlo says in an apologetic way. “We went to the gatehouse first because I thought you were staying there.” He looks around nervously.

“It’s alright, I slept too long anyhow and yes, I was staying at the gatehouse.” Stephen says as he runs his fingers through his deep brown disheveled hair then looks back at the staircase. “I just came up here last night and decided it was foolish to keep running back and forth between the two locations.”

Strong in his mind at this moment, are the strange dreams he has been having. This is the second odd one he has had since coming here and for a person who does not sleep for more than a few hours at a time, he knows he needs to go back to his old ways. The less sleep he has, the fewer times he will drift off deep enough for a dream to generate, or so he believes. Now a little more alert, he looks at the elderly man and then notices Tamas is grinning ear to ear, which causes Stephen laugh.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 238) Wide Smile

Just as Stephen is about to back away from the window, Tamas steps up, on the other side of the glass, and waves at him. He has a wide smile on his face as he continues with his motions until Stephen lifts his hand in return. Only then does Tamas let out a loud laugh as he steps over to where his grandfather is now patiently waiting.

“Hello. . . Istvan, you in there?” questions the old man in a loud but surprisingly not an angry tone.

Looking up at the clock on the mantel, Stephen realizes it is a little past nine in the morning. He slept a full seven hours to be exact. That is more in one setting than he usually gets over a three-day period. Shaking his head in amazement, he staggers toward the entrance door hoping he becomes a little more alert before having to answer to Laszlo Eszes.

With his hand on the bolt that secures the door and the visions of his dream still clear in his thoughts, he takes in a deep breath. Pushing with the palm of his hand, the bolt slides to one side and Stephen opens the door. The bright light of the morning makes him squint as he lets out a long yawn.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 237) Noise

Coldness, unlike anything Stephen has ever felt before, starts at his neck filling his entire body with chills. Clenching the now frozen handrail, his fingers ache from the severe pain of frostbite as he stands paralyzed by what he fears is lurking next to him. Again, the wicked voice calls him by the Hungarian version of his name, “Istvan!”

Jarring Stephen from his slumber is loud repetitious pounding on the front entrance door. Stephen jumps violently from his sleep as the rapping has become forceful and more deliberate. This sudden jolt causes his heart to pound rapidly as he looks around, lost at first, confused as to where he is, but then he realizes he is in the sitting room of the manor.

Leaning on one arm, he now hears a man yelling but is not able to discern the words. Still half asleep, he staggers to the lightly curtained window near the now cold fireplace. Poking his finger in the crack between the drapes, he pulls one to the side and looks out. To his surprise, the sun is up and Laszlo is the one making all the noise.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 236) Teasing

Inside the walls of stone, the rooms are peaceful and insulated from any sounds of the outside world. The ticking of the old clock has created a rhythmic pulse and neither it nor its hourly chimes stir Stephen as he sleeps. The fire has served him well at keeping the chill out of the room as it continues to burn at a slow and steady pace. Up to this point, he has yet to dream but now little bands of color begin to drift into view as he finds himself looking out over the gurgling waterways of the conservatory. To him, what he is experiencing is real, but in reality, the images are simply playing out in his mind with sounds from his memory.

The grounds below him smell of fresh earth and rain as moisture collects on the glass that encases the large overgrown garden. He finds this odd because the day Zsofia took him there it was well groomed and tended to but now, in his dream, it has nearly escaped its boundaries.

Standing on the metal walkway of the third tier up, he becomes dizzy as he looks down at the overgrown foliage below. Grabbing the thin damp handrail, he steadies himself and not a moment too soon, for from somewhere very near comes a summons once again.

“Issstvaaaan,” Hisses a ghastly voice in his ear in a mocking teasing manner.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 235) Tops The Hill

In the massive marble fireplace, short bursts of sparks pop and crackle as the well-established fire burns evenly. Drooping to the side with his head resting on the arm of the sofa, Stephen is fast asleep and has been so for several hours. It all seems to have finally caught up with him, the jet lag, his typical inability to stay asleep for long periods of time, and the late hours he has been holding have taken their toll. He needs this resting period in order to have strength to tackle all the projects he has taken a mental note of and wishes to complete.

The manor sits quiet atop the hill as a gentle breeze presses its way through the valley below and rattles the leaves of the dense forest. A steady stream of smoke rises out of the chimney at the front of the structure as the lights of the lower level glow brightly out the tall thin windows. Ever so slightly, the entrance lanterns swing back and forth with each passing ripple of wind that spreads from the forest and up the ridge as it tops the hill.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 234) Warmth

Wadding the paper into small loose balls, Stephen places them on the grate. Next to the fireplace is a large metal box filled with thin strips of wood, heavy logs, and tall slender matches. The kindling feels dry and brittle, which should aid in getting the fire started. With the temperature in the house becoming colder, he is anxious to feel a little warmth. After several times of striking a match on the brown grout between the sections of green marble, the match finely takes and he touches it to several different sections of paper before dropping it in the middle of the stack.

Once the flames are established, he adds several larger pieces of wood to the grate then brings the old trunk of photographs and notes into the room. Setting the trunk on the floor next to him, he realizes he feels content. He is on the sofa that faces the entry hall and as he stares out from the room, he begins to think of the many things he needs to do. At the same time, an intense drowsiness comes over him as he lays his head on the back of the sofa. Glancing to his left, he watches the flames as they hop around the wood as if confused about which side to burn first. Before he has a chance to get up and stoke the fire, he falls asleep.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 233) The Flue

“You, old clock, should sit on the mantel of the fireplace.” Stephen says as he crosses the room and lifts the clock up, centering it on the thick piece of marble.

Looking around the room at his surroundings, he realizes he feels very comfortable here, much more than he did at the gatehouse. Pulling the poker from the fireplace stand, he hooks the handle of the flue and pulls it open. A small amount of ash falls from it causing a light dusting to coat the hearth.

“I wonder how long it has been since a fire was built in here?” He mumbles as he tries to look up the chimney and coughs from inhaling the ash. “Ah, come on.” He says in a frustrated way for getting dirty.

He wipes the dust from his sleeve and pulls the flashlight from his pocket and again looks up in the chimney, this time shining the beam of the light up to see inside. He is surprised to find that as far up as he can see, it looks fairly clear and clean. He decides it is safe to build a fire so he brings his duffel bags into the room, opens the largest one, and pulls out a newspaper he purchased at the airport.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 232) Ambiance

Squatting down next to his bags, Stephen unzips the largest one and lifts the old clock up to eye level. The face is dusty as is the complex detail of the carved wood casing. He blows several puffs of breath at it causing dust to fly into the air. Standing up and without moving his head, he looks with his peripheral vision at the two sets of stairs that lead to the second floor. In some way, he feels that if something is there, watching, it will not know if he is looking.

Slowly he turns, hoping with all his might that no one and nothing is there, and he is correct. This lower floor of the manor appears to be quiet and exempt of any other dwellers. The only sounds he hears are of his own rapid breathing and the perfectly timed ticking of the mantel clock he is clutching in his hands.

“Where do you need to go?” he questions aloud as he looks around the large entry hall. “Ah ha, the sitting room.” He says as he walks toward the large double sliding doors opposite the dining room.

Pushing one of the doors into its recessed place in the wall, he enters the large sitting room, which is the very first room he investigated upon his arrival days ago. He pushes the switch on the wall and lamps on either side of the fireplace, as well as several along the walls, light up giving the room a soft and natural ambiance.



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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 231) Finality

With his foot, Stephen nudges the heavy door of the manor and it slams shut rather hard as if he shoved it with anger. Sealed, that is the first word that comes to mind, it shut with such finality, that it feels eternal. A bit shocked at the force of the closure he turns the handle to make sure the door will open again and thankfully, it does. Lightly, he closes it back and slides the bolt through to lock it for the night.

One at a time, he carries the boxes of food to the kitchen and places the items in their appropriate locations. He sets the milk, cheese and meats on the top rack of the refrigerator, canned goods on the shelves, and breads and coffee on the counter. Tossing the empty boxes in one corner of the mudroom, he looks up at the door that leads outside.

“I wonder if there is another exit door that has been left open around here.” He says to himself as he thinks about his theory of a wild animal finding its way inside.

He hears a clock begin to chime and remembers he brought the mantel clock from the gatehouse with him. As he walks through the kitchen and into the dining room, he counts each chime as it plays. Once he steps foot in the entry hall the final one rings out.

“Twelve o’clock. . . midnight.” He says to himself and this sends a sensation of wariness through him.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 230) Outrageous

As Stephen approaches the manor, he looks up at the few lights that are on in the upper floors. The thought of having to wander the halls in order to turn them off does not settle well with him so a debate ensues in his head about what to do. Even though he knows he placed his pill bottle in his pocket, he taps his jacket to make sure. The rattling sound of its contents is soothing to him as he reaches for the door handle. Holding firmly to the knob, he presses on the door, which with all the recent activity, now opens easily.

With one final shrieking sound that echoes throughout the large open entry hall like a scream, he pulls the dolly of supplies inside. Dropping the duffel bags from his shoulder to the floor, he looks up at the staircase. The thought of having to travel throughout the structure at this time of night is outrageous to him and he decides right there, with the door still open, that he will simply let the lights burn.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 229) Warning

With his load of supplies and personal necessities, Stephen slowly begins the twisting turning and very dark walk up the hill to the manor. His thoughts go to Zsofia and her ability to brighten each encounter they have had together, but then he thinks of her walking the trails alone at night. He is not so sure that he himself would feel safe navigating through the woods where even in the daylight hours, it is shadowy and mysterious.

“I should have walked her home.” He says under his breath.

The wheels of the cart he is pulling squeak with every other step that he takes. In an odd way, it sets a suspenseful mood in contrast to the eerily quiet night. It bothers Stephen to the point that he feels it is giving him away to unseen eyes. His need to stay hidden and secretive seems threatened by the unnatural sound of metal scraping and squealing like a siren of warning.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 228) Relief

As many thoughts are traveling through Stephen’s mind taking him back days and years, he has gathered a few empty boxes from the kitchen filling them with the small amount of food on hand. Walking to the hallway, he looks in the hall closet and finds a luggage dolly, which will work perfectly in hauling the items up the path to the manor. The only remaining things are the two duffel bags containing his clothing and necessities. They have been sitting on the dusty wooden floor of the front bedroom ever since he arrived.

He takes the clock from its position on the fireplace mantel, gently stuffs it in one of the bags, and slips both bags across his right shoulder. He then turns off the lamp in the sitting room as well as the kitchen light, and pulls the loaded dolly out the back door.

At the last minute, he decides to bring the small trunk of letters and photographs with him and quickly removes if from its position on the hearth in the sitting room. He locks the door and double checks that it is secure before pocketing his keys. Stepping off the porch into the night air, he feels a form of relief as he begins to walk away from the little house that haunts him.


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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 227) Burden

Hospital security was involved as Stephen lashed out at the few individuals tending to his parents bodies. They escorted Stephen from the room to spend two days under the watchful eyes of the psychiatric ward. From that day forward, Stephen began to rely on the medicine more and more as his ability to maintain a calm demeanor grew more difficult. Anger was only a small portion of his inability to deal with the loss. He also carried the burden of depression and an anxiousness that held onto him like a vice.

As a child and with a daily dose of medication, he could suppress the fear he had with the knowledge that his parents were there to protect him. It was all very manageable, but after their passing, even though he was at the time a young man, he became overwhelmed with how alone he was in the world. The only light in his life was his girlfriend Kate who seemed, at the time, to understand him. To this day, he feels the relationship has yet to develop into anything long lasting and they continue to spin in a damaging cycle of being a couple and then becoming estranged.

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Shadows Of Guta (Excerpt 226) Agitated

Stephen lets the kitchen door swing shut with a loud bang, as he steps inside and turns on the light. Immediately, he searches the table and countertops for his medicine bottle. Sweat begins to build on his brow as he glances around wildly getting more and more agitated the longer he looks.

“Where the hell are they?” He says loudly as he steps into the sitting room.

On the table, near the lamp and chair, is the bottle. He now remembers setting it there when he began to rummage through the trunk of pictures and letters. Quickly he opens the lid pouring out its contents of forty-five pills. He takes two and tumbles the rest back into the bottle securing it in his pocket before walking into the kitchen.

Stephen has been on anxiety medication since the age of nine and as he grew, so did the need. Only once before has he been without the pills on his person. It was the day of his parent’s accident when he came to the hospital to identify their lifeless bodies as they lay in the morgue. He lashed out at hospital personnel for he did not want to leave them there in the coldness of the silver toned room.


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