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Joey had always lived a secluded lifestyle. As he clicked his computer’s mouse, the doorbell rang. It was the fifth time today. He knew who it was, but continued to play on his computer. These kids just didn’t know when to give up, just like every other day of the week.

Joey lived in Cornwall, after his eighth move. He’d been all over the globe, as his father worked as an archaeologist. To some people, this may seem like a wonderful lifestyle, but Joey was anything but gracious. There was a time when he tried making friends in these odd places and tried adjusting to the different lifestyles. But Joey was 14 now. He knew better than to make himself at home, after all the time he’d spent doing it elsewhere. It was a vicious cycle.

The past few months in Cornwall were torture for him. Every day at school was the same, but completely different than any other school he’d been to. He spent so much time in other school systems, wasting his time trying to fit in, that he’d given up. He just wanted to go back to his hometown, Collingwood. That was the only place he ever fit in, but at this point, he’d be contented anywhere that wasn’t Cornwall. The weather was awfully dreary, especially because he moved there in the winter months. This gave him even less reason to go outside. That was the last thing he needed, considering the only kids who spoke to him were purposely annoying, and nearly every word they spoke was unintelligible due to their thick English accents.

Joey’s marks were dropping in school, although he knew he was capable of much more. His father pushed him to do good in school but didn’t have the time to help. Whatever he was doing in his job, whatever he was researching, he was far too engulfed in it to pay attention to his son. Joey lost connection with his father, only seeing him in the morning for a few brief moments as he wakes him up, but almost instantly he’s out the door. Joey missed how his father used to be.

It was always the same every day. Joey would get up, go to school, and when he got home he’d do whatever he pleased. But certain kids would always ring his door, knowing he was the only one home, and then leave just to disrupt him. In the rare cases they’d stay, they’d just say one thing they thought was funny, then leave without waiting for a reply. Once he gets tired of doing whatever he’s doing, or tired of being disrupted, he goes to bed and is almost always fast asleep by half past nine. Joey enjoyed keeping his life to schedule, and the consistencies that fell into place because of it. This was quite a problem for him, because of the constant moving. He could never finish getting his life in order and didn’t enjoy the uncertainty of what could happen the next day.

Joey never understood the means of his father’s work. Day after day, his father worked from seven o’clock in the morning to twelve o’clock at night. His father wouldn’t make a sound as he entered the house, and the only sign of him being home was the rushing water from the shower nozzle because instead of telling Joey he was home, he wanted to clean himself up. Joey found this out himself, after staying up until twelve several times just to find out when his father makes it home. This task wasn’t quite as easy as it seemed since his father forbid Joey to stay up this late. His father said he didn’t want Joey to be tired for school the next day, but his father’s actions seemed so peculiar he knew there was something more to it. Joey never acted upon his curiosity, although one fateful day he figured out the purpose of his father’s work.

This story begins in an average winter day in Cornwall; windy, cold, and gloomy. Joey was awoken at the regular time by his father, precisely seven in the morning. His father uttered the same words he spoke to his son every morning, “It’s time to get up.” he spoke with his stern, deep voice. Every morning, his father’s voice seemed strong and unfaltering; incomparable to that of someone who just woke up. But for once, his voice seemed odd. Like there was actually something he was thinking about, and actually cared whether or not Joey got up.  This was strange, but Joey just dismissed it. It didn’t seem like it could add up to anything.

His father was always controlling, and Joey knew not to argue with him. He had to learn that the hard way, after several years of fighting and punishments. After a certain point, he learnt just not to get caught when he did something wrong. This task was incredibly easy, owing to the fact that his father was almost never home.

His father patiently waited for Joey to get up, as usual. This was one of the few things his father was mildly flexible with. If Joey took a while to get out of bed, his father would repeat his words, continuing to do so every few minutes until he was completely awake and out of bed; it usually took 4 or 5 times before his father lost his temper. Joey was in a good mood this morning and felt well rested. He got up moments after his father woke him, and began to get ready for school.

Joey got dressed and exited his room towards the kitchen, passing his father’s room which was heavily locked as usual. Of all the things his father was strict about, his room was the worst thing. If Joey as much as stayed too close to the door for a while, his father would shout for several minutes. The rules about his room never made much sense to Joey since his father was never in it; at least to the best of his knowledge. But of all things, why wasn’t he allowed to stand near it? It’s not like he could find out what was in it just by standing near it. He couldn’t hear anything, and could only smell a very strong air freshener. He expected it to be incredibly clean but didn’t really care too much about it. The door was so heavily covered with different types of locks it would never make a difference, even if he wanted to get in.

Breakfast was on the table. His father had cooked him the same bacon he ate every morning. It was incredibly chewy but had quite a strong flavor. It tasted more like beef or veal than bacon, but Joey didn’t complain. Although it was the same breakfast every morning, he still looked forward to it. The flavor was so great, he could never get bored of it. The only problem with it was the temperature. It took so long to cook, his father had to do it early in the morning, and by the time Joey was ready to eat it was already cold. This is because the stove in the home was so old, probably from the 1970's or 1980's, so his father takes extra caution while cooking. A stove that old, especially a gas one, can be dangerous if not taken care of. If the gas doesn’t ignite as soon as it’s expelled, it could build up. But his father insisted it worked fine, and Joey was unable to question his authority.

One time, the stove didn’t spark, and the entire house was filled with propane. It smelled awful, definitely not something he’d forget. He remembered having to stay out of the house for a while, letting it air out until, eventually, it was safe to go back in. Just a single flame could’ve exploded the entire home.

Joey ate his breakfast quick, as usual. He grabbed his lunch and was out the door at the same time as his father. As his father entered his old sports car (which was as old as Joey), Joey began his boring hour-long walk to school.

Joey started to ponder about his father during the walk. He hadn’t been with him for five years. Five years today, to be precise, was the day he moved to Australia. He remembered the first month, being alone and homesick, just waiting for the day he moved back to Collingwood. Back then he believed that it would actually happen, that his father was telling the truth. But now he could clearly see it wouldn’t, it was just a lie to made up to shut him up about it.

Back in Australia, his father didn’t work quite as much. He was still home early enough to tell a bedtime story and tuck him in. But those days were long gone now. He looked toward the murky Cornish sky and the faint ghost of the sun. This reminded him of his connection to his father; once bright and strong during his time in Australia, now weak and unclear in Cornwall.

When Joey made it to school, he was surprised how fast the walk went. Although it took him the usual time to arrive, the time flew by. He hadn’t been in such deep thought before, and for once wished the tediously long walk wouldn’t end. But, the walk was over and there was nothing he could do about it. He walked into the school, mind still in the zone. Time for another day of boring, useless school.

He didn’t plan on learning anything today and instead continued to drag on his thoughts about his father. He knew there wasn’t any use in such a thing, because any questions asked would instantly be dismissed, sometimes with a punishment. But when nothing is said, and no answers given, people tend to fill in the gaps. And that’s exactly what Joey spent this day doing.

Each class flew by, with his thoughts uninterrupted. He was entertaining himself by thinking about his father’s work, and what could possibly be happening in it. Eventually, it was time for Math. Joey didn’t have a problem with the subject, and when he tried was always quite successful. The thing he didn’t enjoy about this class was his classmates. Some were fine and quiet, but the annoying group of boys who bugged him after school outshone them. The class always seemed to go on forever, and the boys continued to remain just as annoying as the day before. In fact, they were so awful he actually spoke with his father about them several days ago. This was quite a feat, as conversation between him and his father so rarely came about.

He entered the classroom with his head bowed, bracing himself for the boys to make some sort of rude comment. As moments passed without a single sound, things began to seem off. Joey looked around the classroom and was surprised to see the boys away. This was the first day without any thoughtless chattering, hearing only slight whispers from students he didn’t mind. He joyously sat down, looking forward to a day without any harassment.

The lesson was about to begin, and suddenly the PA system turned on. “Joey Solomon, please report down to the office,” the principal’s voice echoed. He left his seat, preparing for the boys to make some annoying comment, but remembered they weren’t there. A slight grin grew across his face as he exited the room.

Joey walked through the hall, down the staircase, and into the principal’s office. As he opened the door, he was surprised to see his father standing there, conversing with the principle. He was unsure whether it was a pleasant surprise or not, but at least he got out of class for a few moments. The principal turned his attention to Joey, nodding to him. As soon as his father finished his sentence, which had something to do with Canada, the principal introduced himself. “Ah, Joey, I don’t believe we’ve met this year. But it seems this is the only chance we’ll get, with you moving so soon,” he said, followed by a warm smile.

Joey’s eyes widened and turned towards his father. Fire flowed through his veins, and he harshly questioned, “Are we moving again?” He didn’t mean for it to come out like that, but the anger was too much to handle. Moments after, he began to think about how much he hated Cornwall. As much as he disliked moving, living in Cornwall was worse. But it was too late to take back his words.

His father hated it when Joey questioned his authority, but for some reason he calmly stated, “Yes, and you know I hate it when you question me; this isn’t a choice. Besides, you might actually look forward to it this time.” He then turned to the school’s principal, and had emotionlessly thanked him for taking Joey in. They exited through the front door, into the old sports car, and began their drive home.

On the way to the house conversation was as stale as it usually was. Joey would occasionally bring up a subject, while it seemed his father would attempt to dismiss it with a one word answer. The most they spoke was about where they were going. As soon as Joey asked, “Where do you plan on moving us this time?” his father seemed to lighten up and became a chatterbox.

“Well, I know you’ve hated moving so frequently. So this is going to be our last move for a while. Guess where we’re going,” his father said with the first hint of happiness Joey had heard in years. When his father looked at him for a moment, he shrugged without an idea of where he could possibly be living next. “Well, we’re moving back to Collingwood!” exclaimed his father.

The news of the return to his hometown took several moments to sink in for Joey. Something just didn’t seem right. Joey knew he’d probably regret his next question, but decided to take his chances due to his father’s recent behavior. “But what about your work? Weren’t you in the middle of something important?” he asked, immediately observing a look of worry cross his father’s face. Although his father seemed distressed, Joey was just relieved he wasn’t furious with his son for bringing up the subject.

His father paused for a moment before answering the question, and responded, “All the work I can do is finished. Other people are taking it from where I left off. Now we can finally go home.” The satisfaction Joey expected to feel at this moment was non-existent. He couldn’t quite grasp why, but decided just to reply to his father with a simple “Okay.”

The ride was only fifteen minutes, but seemed to drag on forever, much like his Math class. But he had finally arrived. Joey and his father each exited the vehicle without exchanging words, and began to pack their bags. Joey had memorized the procedure to moving homes. Pack his belongings into the car, make sure the house is tidy, then leave. As Joey began walking up the driveway towards his house, his father stood by the car, completely still. When Joey reached the door, he turned around waiting for his father to unlock it. He was surprised to see his father pale as can be, a petrified look across his face. In fact, his whole body seemed frozen in place. “Dad?” Joey called, waiting for some sort of response.

After several moments, he seemed to snap out of it. “I need… I need to do something real quick. Stay here and get packed,” his father mumbled, still recovering from his previous stupor. Joey nodded, unsure of what could possibly be happening. In his state of confusion, he forgot to ask his father to unlock the door. He watched as his father got back in the car and drove away, and by the time he remembered, he was already down the street. He sighed, knowing he wouldn’t catch up, and sat down on the front porch. He just hoped his father wouldn’t take long with his last-minute errand.

Hours seemed to pass, with Joey left to his own thoughts. Joey didn’t seem to notice it, but for the first time since coming to Cornwall time flew by. That seemed to be a pattern today. Probably because his mind was so overloaded with information. It wasn’t long before the daylight faded away, and eventually the sky was shrouded by the dark night sky.

All he could think of the whole time was Collingwood. Why wasn’t he excited? It didn’t make sense to him. Perhaps it’d been so long he no longer had any connection to the town, or maybe the goal of arriving there no longer seemed obtainable. Whatever the reason might’ve been, his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud ear-piercing sound. It was the sound of police sirens.

Two police cars sped up the driveway of Joey’s home, and he was almost instantly petrified as much as his father was before he left. The police simultaneously opened their doors, jumping behind them as if they needed cover. “GET ON THE GROUND!” a powerful voice demanded through a megaphone. Joey instantly hit the floor, despite his unknowing state. The police waited, maintaining their distance for a moment, before approaching him. There were three officers. They pulled out a pair of handcuffs, tightly cuffing him, and began speaking the Miranda Rights to him.

The officers roughly pulled him off the ground, and started bringing him towards their cruiser. “Wait a minute…” one of the officers mumbled. “Isn’t Solomon in his forties?” he questioned, letting go of Joey. “Yeah…” another agreed, also letting go. “This is only a kid,” he followed his interjection with. One officer remained silent, still firmly holding Joey, who was confused as ever. The first officer walked in front of Joey, and asked him, “Are you Solomon?”

Joey was so confused all he could do was awkwardly nod his head, completely filled with dubiety. “You’re David Solomon?” the officer questioned, now just as confused as Joey. However, that question managed to wake him from his state, and was able to answer.

“N-no. I-I’m Joey, his son,” he whispered, as his confusion was replaced with fear. The officer exchanged looks with the others.

“Give us a moment,” he requested.

The third officer released him, and joined the other two who were walking towards their cruiser. The three officers gathered into a group, and began talking quietly beyond earshot. Besides one of them pointing at him for a moment, they didn’t seem to acknowledge his existence. Joey hated them talking like he wasn’t there, but patiently waited until they were finished.

After about two or three minutes, they came back to speak with him. “Do you know the whereabouts of your father?” the first officer asked.

“No. He left a little while ago,” Joey answered, checking his watch. “He’s been gone for four hours… he said he’d come back soon,” he continued, somewhat surprised by the amount of time that had passed.

“Give us another moment,” he requested again, and they grouped together once more.

The first officer left the group after another few minutes, and began walking towards Joey. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to say this, but your father might not be coming home,” the officer spoke, looking down. The news took some time to sink in. Despite his father not being there, he couldn’t help but miss him. After all, he’d been a pretty good dad the first nine years of his life. But now, hearing the news, it felt as if he was gone for good this time. And he probably was.

Joey stood motionless, for close to a minute, before the officer told Joey the rest. “We’re going to have to search your house for evidence. See if there are any leads to where he could be.” The officer didn’t wait for a response, tried the door, and asked, “Do you have a key to get in?” Joey, who was frozen once again, shook his head. The officer nodded to the others, and they began walking to one of the cruisers. They opened the trunk and pulled out a battering ram. They made their way to the door, and with a few heavy blows the door was down.

The officers made their way in, with Joey following, and uncuffed him. Joey immediately noticed something was off about the house. It smelled quite strong, but the smell of which was unidentifiable yet extremely familiar at the same time. But the officers didn’t seem to notice, so it must’ve been okay. They explored each room separately, until eventually they reached his father’s room. The room must’ve aroused their suspicion due to the absurd amount of locks on it. The officer who first spoke to Joey eyed it skeptically, but commanded the others to bust it open. It took much longer than the front door, and it took the power of all three of them to bust it open. But eventually, the door burst open. A horrible feeling crept upon Joey when it opened, but knew he had to find out what lay inside.

The police entered the room, with Joey following hesitantly behind them. The room had a dank feeling to it, but was not observable due to a lack of lighting. A horrible rotting smell mixed with the familiar one resulting in the worst scent imaginable.The curtains were closed as usual, preventing any moonlight from entering the room. There also didn’t seem to be a light switch either. Without flashlights, it’d be almost impossible to see anything in there. Lucky for them, Joey had one in his room. He walked down the hall and grabbed it, and handed it to an officer. While the officer was about to click it, Joey shut his eyes and prepared for the worst. He heard the click of the light, and yelling erupted across the room. He didn’t think it could be that bad, but was immediately proven wrong upon opening his eyes.

The floor was covered in blood trails, leading to different area. Bones littered the room, and in the corner was a large box with blood dripping down the side; some of which looked fresh. However, what was most disturbing was the hook in the center of the room. It had a body prepared similar to that of a deer after killing. Hung upside-down, body split open, and left to be drained of all of its blood; this was done so that it could be cooked and eaten. But that couldn’t be what happened with these bodies; could it? It was just at that moment Joey thought of his breakfast every morning, and things seemed to add up. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was Simon, one of the boys he spoke to his father about. He couldn’t handle the thought of such a thing, how horrible his father could be. He wanted to throw up, but knew it wouldn’t change anything. It was too late.

The officers continued to search the room. Aside from the horrible abomination that lay in the middle of the it, it also contained normal things, like his father’s bed. How could he sleep in such a room? Now that Joey knew who his father truly was, it didn’t seem so awful compared to the rest. Instead of staying in the room, he sat outside, waiting. Waiting until he woke up, because he knew he was dreaming. But he wasn’t quite fortunate enough; this was reality.

After half an hour, Joey’s flashlight ran out of batteries. Any officer would’ve passed the job onto a detective at this point, but they wanted to know more. They exited the room and found an alternative light source; a single candle, not yet lit, laying on the dining room table. One of the officers was lucky enough to have a match box on him, and as soon as he pulled it out, Joey finally remembered what the wretched smell was. It was propane, from their gas stove. Before Joey had time to warn them, the match was lit, and the world around them erupted into flames.

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