Look, a Cuckoo Clock of Doom fic that isn't a genderbend. This concept is far more disturbing, though, so if you don't want to read about characters self harming in your childhood book series written by a girl projecting, I completely understand. Stop reading now.
When Michael Webster was ten, his sister Tara had been playing with her new ball in the house, against their parents' orders. She had been throwing it around in their parents' room, and accidentally knocked over a vase. Shards of glass fell all over the floor.
Michael was in his room when he happened. He heard the crash and jumped, wondering what his sister had done now. He knew he'd probably get in trouble for it instead, like usual.
Their parents had come home shortly afterwards. Tara had hid her ball under her bed, and told her parents Michael had knocked over the vase. As usual, they believed everything she said. Michael didn't even try to defend himself. They wouldn't believe him. Even if they saw Tara knock the vase over, they'd probably blame him for not watching her. They'd done so before.
Michael had to clean up the glass. He bent down and shoved it into the dustpan with the brush. He picked up one of the smaller pieces that wouldn't get in, and accidentally cut his hand.
"Ow!" he cried. That was sharp. He watched as a cut formed on the side of his finger. There was a thin, bright red line of blood. Watching it form was oddly satisfying. His finger stung, but it also felt soothing, in a way. Looking at the cut on his skin, he felt his anger towards his sister and parents fade.
He picked up another shard of glass and gently scraped it right under the cut. It did nothing, as he expected. He had done it too light. He did it again, harder and deeper, and felt the same sting. He saw another cut form right under the previous one, the blood blooming and the skin around the cuts turning pink. To his surprise, he felt himself relax. He didn't feel angry at his sister or parents anymore.
He cleaned up most of the glass, but kept some of it in his pocket. That night, Tara snuck into his room and got her chocolate-covered hands all over his English homework. He had spent ages working on it. He ran after her, but she ran to their parents, crying about how he was after her. His parents scolded him, ignoring him when he said she ruined his homework. He said his sister was more important than homework. Michael doubted that, though he would've liked to turn her in and let a teacher keep her.
When his parents were done yelling at him, he retreated to his room. His homework was completely ruined. It had been due tomorrow, and he had spent ages on it. He had been really happy with it, for once. He thought the teacher would give him a good grade. But that wasn't what upset him the most. It was how his parents didn't care what his sister had done to him, and only cared that he had chased her, their perfect angel. It was so unfair. Still, he was used to it.
He reached into his pocket and felt one of the glass shards. This time, he dug it into his arm, right below the back of his hand. This time, he had to scrape it against his skin a few times, as the shard was rather blunt. He saw white bits fall off his skin. Then it turned pink. It annoyed him. He wanted to see blood.
He kept cutting, and as he did, he thought about his parents' lecture. How they had yelled at him for daring to hurt their perfect angel, Tara, and then gone on to lecture him about how he was always being mean to her and blaming her for everything. It made him so mad. She was the one being mean to him. Actually, "mean" was an understatement. But did she ever get scolded or punished? No, never. According to them, she could do no wrong. Michael was the one who always got blamed. He wished he had a different family, one that understood him.
He had started cutting deeper and faster without realising it, driven by his anger. It was only when the sharp pain registered that he stopped the glass shard. He glanced down, and saw several cuts and scratches on his arm. He had been cutting like someone furiously scribbling writing onto a piece of paper. He had been taking his anger out on his arm.
Looking at his arm, which was stinging, he felt calmer and less angry. It was ironic. The angry cuts and the burn should've had the opposite reaction, but he felt his anger fade. Even the burning pain was somewhat comforting.
Then, realisation dawned on him. What had he just done? Looking at his arm, and then the cuts on his finger on the same arm, he suddenly felt sick. Why had he done this to himself?
He shoved the glass into his pocket and went to bed. He avoided putting pressure on his arm, but the pain comforted him. What had he done? He had cut himself, and liked it. He had heard jokes at school about people who were emo and cut themselves. His classmates said they were losers. Why did he want to inflict pain on himself? His life was bad enough without causing himself additional pain. Tara caused him enough pain. And now he was causing himself pain as well?
But, when he did it to himself, it seemed different. It hurt, but it also felt soothing. It made his anger and distress fade. He had felt better after hurting himself. It made him forget Tara and his parents hurting him, ironically.
From then on, whenever Tara did something bad to him and his parents scolded him and took her side, he'd apply the glass to his skin. The cuts weren't deep, but they didn't need to be. When he saw the blood form on his arm, he'd feel better. It was sick, but he couldn't stop himself. He started wearing longer sleeves and a jacket. His mother asked him why, and he said he was feeling cold. It was a weak lie, since it was summer, but the house was air conditioned, so she assumed the air conditioning was too cold.
But eventually, he lost all the shards. They were small, and fell out of his pockets easily. He went a while without them, but quickly missed the sharp edge and soothing pain. He couldn't deal with his parents and sister without it. He decided that once his family was out, he'd break one of the glasses and keep the shards.
But he didn't have to. While he was walking with a glass of water, Tara tripped him, and it broke in shards over the floor. For once, he didn't feel annoyed with her. His parents scolded him for not looking where he was going and instructed him to clean it up, and that was fine with him. While cleaning, he picked up one of the shards and rolled up his sleeve, revealing an arm littered with scars. The cuts had all faded now. He pressed the shard into a clear part of his arm, and actually smiled when he felt the familiar soothing pain.
Michael would've liked to say his parents found out when he forgot to wear a jacket, and he had cursed himself for being so stupid afterwards, but that wasn't the case. He had forgotten the jacket on purpose. He knew it was selfish, but he wanted to see if his parents cared. They didn't seem to care about him at all. Tara was all they cared about.
He walked into the kitchen, his arms on display. His mother was there, drinking a glass of water. Michael glanced longingly at the glass glinting in the sunlight from the window. Oh god, what was happening to him? He was so messed up. He couldn't even look at an innocent glass of water without thinking about his disturbing hobby.
She turned to him as he walked in. "Michael, there you are."
She hadn't noticed yet. He walked to the fridge and opened it, keeping his arm up so she could see without trying to be too obvious about it. He heard her say, "Michael, what happened to your arm?"
He closed the fridge and pretended to be shocked and nervous. He lowered his arm and hid it in his shirt. "Nothing."
"Show me," she demanded in a stern voice.
Michael felt genuine fear then. What had he been thinking? This was a horrible idea. He should've tried his hardest to keep it a secret. He was an idiot.
It was too late to backtrack now. He walked up to his mother and let her take his arms.
She gripped them tightly, making him wince. "How did this happen?" Her voice was shocked and incredulous.
Michael bit back a sarcastic retort. He didn't reply.
"Did you do this to yourself?" his mother exclaimed. "Michael..." He said his name like she did after he was caught sneaking cookies from the cookie jar or hitting
Michael winced. He knew it was a terrible idea.
"Answer me," she demanded, a stern tone creeping into his voice.
He looked down shamefully. That was all the response she needed.
"Why?" she demanded, sounding shocked and disgusted. "Why would you do such a horrible thing to yourself? What's wrong with you?"
"I... I don't know," Michael lied. His heart sank, and he felt like crying. He knew his parents preferred Tara, but he didn't know they wouldn't care that he was hurting himself.
"Well, I want you to stop," she said, sounding angry and disgusted. "This is sick. It's not normal. You don't see your sister or your dad or me doing this." Because you don't have to deal with what I do, he thought.
Tears welled up in Michael's eyes, but he blinked rapidly. A dam rose inside of him, and his throat choked up. He felt ridiculous. He hadn't shed a single tear while cutting himself, but his mother's words were making him feel like sobbing.
"Put some antiseptic on it or something," she demanded with disgust, releasing his arms. "I'll have to tell your dad. I thought we raised you better than this."
Michael turned around and left, tears running down his cheeks. His mother's words had hurt more than the cuts. And the pain didn't feel good like them. He fell on his bed, his shoulders shaking with sobs and staining his pillow. He could slice his skin to shreds without shedding a single tear, but a few words from his mother and he was a bawling mess. It was the crushing realisation that his own mother didn't care about him. He had always suspected it, but he never knew she was this uncaring.
He reached for the shards in his pocket, his hands trembling. He sat up rolled up his sleeve. Tears fell on his scars and the glass. He dug the shard into his skin, and as he started cutting, he stopped crying. It was ironic. Pain made him stop crying. He cut fast and hard, until the physical pain had replaced the emotional pain. His face was stained with tears, but he had stopped crying, watching with strange satisfaction as he cut lines into his skin. It was sick. This was what made him feel better?
When he was finished, which took quite a while, he replaced the shard and went to sleep. When he woke up, his dad was in his room, frowning at him.
"Michael, your mother told me she saw cuts on your arms," he said. "What's going on, kiddo?"
The nickname made Michael feel better. Maybe his father would care. "I... I don't know," he said.
"You do," his father accused. "I think you were hurting yourself. Am I right?"
"Y-yes..." Michael muttered, tears clouding his vision again.
"Well, you should stop," Mr. Webster said, a stern look crossing his face. "I don't know what's gotten into you. I know you're smart enough to know hurting yourself isn't a good idea."
Michael buried his head in his pillow as the tears trickled down. His parents didn't care. If his father noticed he was crying, he didn't comment.
"If you do it again, we'll have no choice but to call the hospital. You'll have to stay there overnight. Is that what you want?" His voice was gentle, but it made Michael cry.
When Kevin Flowers found the hat in his bag and wanted to beat him up, he saw his arm, and laughed at him.
"Cutting yourself? Like an emo crybaby?" he scoffed. "Well, you'll have plenty more cuts once I'm done with you."
Okay, Michael wasn't masochistic enough to enjoy the beating that followed. That was a little too much pain for him. The cuts hadn't hurt nearly as much. Besides, when he was hurting himself, he could control how much he hurt himself, while when it was someone else, he couldn't. But he'd take the beating if it meant Kevin didn't tell anyone.
When he went back in time, he was surprised to see his clear, unblemished arms. It was like looking at a stranger's arms. It looked wrong and disappointing.
When he fell off the tree and broke his arm, the pain had been hot and searing, and he hadn't enjoyed it, but it had at least felt right. It didn't feel right not to feel pain on his arm. It disappeared as soon as he woke up further back in time.
When he was sent back to the right time, Tara not existing wasn't the only difference. Well, that and his parents treating him better, but that was probably connected to Tara not existing. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt without a jacket on the day of his birthday party this time, unlike before. He glanced at his arms, and they were smooth and unscathed. But he didn't feel disappointed this time. Instead, he felt free and happy, and his arms looked beautiful. Now that Tara was gone and his parents were treating him better, hurting himself seemed inconceivable.
He wouldn't get Tara back. Not someday, not ever.
This fic is pure projection. Michael's feelings are exactly like mine, right down to wanting my parents to care and them not caring and preferring my little sister. I'm doing the same thing, and I like Goosebumps, so I'm just projecting. It could be several protagonists, since most have terrible lives. I mainly picked Michael because of the ending.