The Alphabet Stories: Ben
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
Ben hadn’t always killed people. He was sure of it.
Every day after school Ben pushed his key into the lock, pulled down the handle and immediately wished he hadn’t. The heaviness - always waiting - dragged him in and down. But he couldn’t turn away. His parents would have heard the key. He’d have to come back at some point and how would he explain? Where would he go anyway? Outside was just as awful in a different way unless he sat in the woods, yet they were cutting them down. He had nowhere to go. So he went in. And every time he did, he heard the house laugh.
The house held him captive for years. It had a habit of comforting and suffocating him at the same time - masquerading as ‘home’ with the stink of Satan breathing in its walls. And Satan had been why he’d killed in the first place. Jennifer told him, Satan sneaked into your head, Ben. He made you kill, not me. I wouldn’t do that. Ben wanted to believe Jennifer because she was his only friend, but she had made him do other things in the past. He longed to see her, but she lived in his head, and always told him he’d be frightened if he saw her. That bit he believed. Sometimes she would soothe him, yet most times … she scared him more than the house.
The weight of what he’d done made him slump and he began to scratch the skin from his arms. Jennifer had told him she knew how to take care of him and not to worry, but killing his parents did make him worry. She said it was better this way, but would never explain how.
His aunt moved in to take care of him and his little sister, Amanda. The house continued laughing, and Ben did what he could to stop himself from killing again. Until he couldn’t. He started an apprenticeship as a carpenter. He would hold the hammer, and instead of focusing on driving the nail in the wood, would think of his aunt’s skull. Jennifer would tell him how horrid his aunt was to Amanda, and she was, but still. He would not kill her. He managed to fight Jennifer for months … yet Jennifer was stronger.
When he eventually killed his aunt too, Amanda was taken into care. Ben didn’t wait around. He ran, to escape the house … and Jennifer. He wondered if she was Satan. The house’s laughter chased him down the street and he ran and ran until at last he broke its hold. Ben stopped running and rested his hands on his knees and fought for breath. He listened to his head yet just heard his own thoughts. He’d left Jennifer behind with the house. Instead of loneliness, he felt euphoric, a smile stretched his lips.
Ben, Jennifer said. Why are you smiling? Did you think you’d left me behind?