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I open my eyes and sit up straight in bed. I look to my right. Ted is still asleep. This is the fifth night in a row I have had nightmares.

I wipe my damp forehead of sweat. I need a cigarette. I slide out of bed quietly and sneak over to the closet to get my emergency stash. I slip one out and grab a lighter. I quietly close the bedroom door and slither through the living room and out the front door.

I sit down on the balcony of our apartment and light the cigarette. Smoke fills my lungs, and I instantly feel calmer. Footsteps. To my right. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. People are outside at 3 am?’ I think. I look over and see a man walking in my direction. No, not a man, a boy. No more than 17.

He approaches me and sits down on the pavement next to me. He has an expression on his face that seems too happy. “Can I bum a drag?” he asks me, nodding at my cigarette. I nod my head back, and hand it to him. He lifts it to his lips and inhales. He blows the smoke out with a delighted look on his face.

“What are you so happy about?” I ask.

“Well, let me start by telling you a little about myself. My name is Aaron. I live two apartments down from you with my parents.” He then proceeded to tell me all about his family, friends, and where he went to school.

“That doesn’t exactly explain why you’re so happy,” I say.

“I know, I know. I haven’t gotten to that part yet!” He has an extremely happy expression on his face at this point.

“Okay. So today, my parents and I went out to lunch with some friends of theirs. Really nice restaurant. After that, they take me out to see a movie I’ve been dying to watch. Do you see where I’m going with this?” I shake my head no. “Well then, they take me home and they sit me down. And you know what they tell me? Do you? They say, ‘Son, we’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and we’ve decided it’s finally time for you to enroll in military academy.’”

He chuckles and shakes his head. “Can you believe that? Skinny little Aaron in a military academy?” He laughs again. Then his expression becomes more serious. “Do you know what I said? I said no. I said I wouldn’t go. I said I was scared. Anything to get me out of going. But they wouldn’t listen. So tonight, I went into their bedroom and killed them. Can you believe it? I murdered them.”

I open my mouth in shock and begin to back away. “Where are you going?” he asks. He grabs my arm.

“’re hurting me!” I cry.

“Sorry. Now that I’ve told you, I can’t let you get away, now can I? I don’t want to go to jail. They deserved to die.” He looks at me unmercifully.

“Please..let me go! I won’t tell anyone! I swear!” I struggle.

“Oh, and by the way,” he says, flicking the cigarette to the ground. “Smoking is disgusting.”

The last thing I see is the flash of metal coming towards me.

Then I wake up. This is the fifth time this week I’ve had nightmares.

I need a cigarette.