Terrence Mitchell sat on a makeshift chair that he had built from large rocks that were in his cell. Rubbing his forehead with the palm of his hand, he tried to remember exactly how he had gotten here. His young mind tried to comprehend how he could have gotten from his grandmothers house to a darkened cave surrounded by demons in a matter of moments.
He knew that he was in trouble, and he worried about his mother and younger brothers. Mostly, though, he wondered what he had done to deserve this punishment. Why did this masked demon pick him out of all of his family? The abduction wasn't random, this much he knew. The demon shimmered in and focused entirely on Terrence. He screamed out loud, and in a matter of seconds his mom, brothers, and grandparents were there trying to save him. For a moment he thought that he might escape, but then he was here. He was led through a maze of underground tunnels and caves to a small room where a lone man stood looming in the corners.
"Terrence," the man greeted him. The demons that escorted Terrence were dismissed, and they were left alone with the long dancing shadows on the ground.
"How do you know my name?" Terrence asked trying to sound brave.
"I know a lot of things about you," his captor answered. "I know about your father, and how he drank himself into an early grave. I know about the string of men your mother brought in and out of the house. I know how she expected you to call them all 'Dad' and then they were gone."
"Wow," Terrence told him sarcastically, although his knees were shaking. "You must have done some real digging to figure that out. I mean, it's not like that's been an obvious thing since I was like ten!"
At first, silence answered Terrence and then came the cool voice of the man. "I suppose you're right. You're a smart boy. I know that you come from a very powerful line of witches. I know that you were worried that you would never come into your powers until about a month ago, and that in that time you've discovered that you are in fact a very powerful young man."
"So?" Terrence asked, obviously uncertain where this conversation was going.
"You've asked me many questions, young man. Now it's my turn to ask you. Why didn't you tell anyone that your powers were coming alive? What were you trying to hide?"
"N-nothing." Terrence stuttered.
"No? Then why didn't you tell anybody?"
"It's not like it matters!" Terrence replied defensively. "We all have powers, it's not like it's a big deal!"
"I guess not," the man replied. "Unless of course you knew that your powers were controlled by your feelings. And your feelings of anger and hatred made those powers uncontrollable. For instance, that bully that wouldn't leave you alone somehow fell off the balcony at the mall. But of course, it's not big a deal."
The stranger turned his back to Terrence, leaving the young boy to soak in exactly how much he knew.
"What are you getting at?" Terrence asked his voice thin and nervous.
"I can help you."
"Help me what?"
"To control that rage and focus your powers."
"Why would you do that?" Terrence asked suspiciously.
The masked figure turned to face the young man. His long cape caught in the air and twirled around and the light cast an eerie glow on his mask. Terrence caught his breath as he realized the presence of the man in front of him. He stood over six feet tall, his shoulders were broad and powerful, and eyes the color of the stormy sea stared into Terrence's soul through the mask.
"I can show you a whole new world young Terrence. I can bring you to a place where you'll never be bullied, where you'll never be abandoned or lost, where you'll feel no pain or heartache ever again."
"Never?" Terrence asked.
"Never." The voice behind the mask replied certainly.
"I… I don't know. What about my family and my friends?"
"It's a different world, young man. Sometimes you have to sacrifice to achieve the things you truly desire. You have it in you to make the journey; all you have to do is make that call. Think on it, I'll come to see you in a few days."
Terrence felt his arms being grabbed from behind and he was led back through the maze. He was unceremoniously locked into a rough cell dug into a cave wall and forgotten. Food was always available to him when he woke, but he had lost track of the days.
The stranger still hadn't been to visit him, but that was fine because he hadn't really considered what was offered to him. Now, as he sat alone on his chair of rock, he thought about the pros and cons of the stranger's proposition.
Terrence could never remember truly being happy. His father battled a lifelong addiction to alcohol, and eventually his body succumbed to the years of abuse. Terrence watched his father slowly die from liver and kidney failure for three years, from the time he was six until he was nine.
Terrence's mother, Elizabeth, refused to leave him and his younger brothers alone with their father for good reason. He was usually drunk by 10 in the morning when he was home, and his violent temper rocked the house. Terrence watched his mother cower in fear as his father yelled and screamed, until eventually she gathered her boys and left for the afternoon.
When Terrence was eight years old, he got off the bus and walked home. His mother was supposed to be there, but he found himself alone with his father. He couldn't remember where his mother was, but he remembered his father. The man that he called 'Daddy' was sitting on the couch, a cigarette in one hand, a beer in the other, and an empty pill bottle on the coffee table in front of him. Terrence stood in the doorway frozen by fear when as he looked on. The scene was no different than he was used to, but even his eight year old senses could feel that something was about to go terribly awry.
"Well, don't just stand there boy." His father slurred. "You're letting the cool air out."
"Yes sir," Terrence answered taking a step further into the house.
"Come over here and sit with me, I want to talk to you."
Terrence didn't want to, but he took little steps towards his father. He shook with fear, and it seemed like an eternity before he stood in front of the man that was causing so much fear in his heart. Terrence suddenly yelped in pain as the sausage like fingers of his father wrapped around his little forearm, pulling him closer.
"I said sit with me boy!" he hollered. The smell of old beer and stale cigarettes was heavy on his breath.
"I'm sorry, Daddy." Terrence whimpered.
"Then sit," he growled.
Terrence dutifully did as he was told, and his big brown eyes looked on at the man that was supposed to be his one and only role model and hero.
"It's time you and I had a little talk," he told his son. "I think you're old enough to know the things that I'm gonna tell you… but your momma don't think so. Don't tell her I told you this okay, kiddo?"
Terrence nodded enthusiastically. Finally, he and his dad were going to talk and he was very excited.
"I got a problem, son. See this drink here? This is beer, and I never want you to try it. It's the devils drink." He paused to take a big swig from his brew. "Tastes like dog piss too."
"Don't drink it, Dad!" Terrence cried.
"Yeah," he answered. "I probably shouldn't, but I can't help it. It's a part of me now. It's been a part of me for a long time. I wasn't always like this. I used to be a pretty nice guy. I never yelled or cursed, never."
His eyes seemed distant and he smiled inwardly as he remembered a different time.
"That was a long time ago. The devil lives in me now, and he's gonna get me soon. I'm gonna burn in Hell for the things I done."
"No you won't. You just have to tell Jesus that you're sorry, and then you can go to Heaven!" Terrence told him innocently.
His father laughed cruelly and looked deep into the boy's eyes. "Heaven? There ain't no Heaven! That would mean there would have to be a God… and there ain't no God either! The devil is here, he lives among us, but God abandoned us a long time ago. I'll tell you something else! The devil, he ain't no man… the devil is a woman!"
"A woman?" Terrence had never heard that before.
"Yeah. And that woman is your Momma! She don't want you to know it, but she's the devil! She's a witch, yeah! A real witch Terrence!"
"Mommy isn't the devil, she's just a witch." Terrence said. It really upset him to hear his father call his mother that.
"Well," his father slurred. "If she ain't the devil herself, then she sure is the devils whore!"
"No!" Terrence cried.
"Yeah, she is. She's a regular whore too if you think about it. Didn't you ever wonder why you didn't have my last name boy? You ain't my boy. Your momma, she spread her legs for anybody that came along. She don't even know who your read daddy is. That's why I had to marry her. Nobody else wanted her, and I knew that she would spread her legs to me too!"
Terrence had no idea what his father was saying. He couldn't understand why he was telling him these things, or what his mother's legs had to do with his father marrying her, but he didn't like it.
"You're lying!" Terrence accused. "You're lying and I hate you! I don't care if you're not my real dad because I want you to die!"
"Funny you should say that, boy." His father answered. "That pill bottle right there is empty cause I just took them all. Here soon, you're gonna watch your old man die. That's my payback to your momma for being such a slut."
Terrence ran out of the door because he didn't want to watch his dad die. His face was streaked with tears as he tore out of his driveway on his brand new bike, but he had no idea where he was going, but he didn't want to be anywhere near home. The next thing he remembered was lying in bed at Gramma Paige's house and sipping on hot cocoa while she and his mom argued about something.
Terrence didn't shed a tear at his father's funeral two years later. He dutifully stood next to his mother and held her hand as she cried through the services. Though he was only ten years old, he shook hands with mourners and received gifts of food from guests at the wake. He felt an overwhelming sense of relief as he thought how much better life would be without his father.
He was sorely wrong. Within months, Terrence's mother brought home a string of men. They all smelled like stale cigarettes and liquor like his father did. They usually had greasy hair and yellow teeth. They usually drove big motorcycles and dressed in heavy leather. His mother started leaving them alone at night with nothing but a box of macaroni and half a gallon of milk. He and his brothers called them all dad, and they all eventually left them. Not that Terrence cared; he never liked any of them anyway.
Days after they left, Terrence would find his mother alone in her room crying. His heart always went out to her. Once, he tried to comfort her. He sat at the foot of her bed and patted her gently on the shoulder.
"It's okay, Mom." He told her. "You'll find love again."
"What do you know about love?" She asked him sniffling. "You're thirteen years old. You've never known real love."
"Yes I have," Terrence answered. "I know you have always loved me."
His mother's love. The thought of it wrenched at his soul. That was the only thing holding him back from taking the strangers offer and never looking back. The idea of never having to deal with abandonment and learning to deal with his rage was tempting, but the love of his mother held him back.
He knew that if he did it, he would never see her again, and also risk her love. Could he live with himself if he lost her love? But if she really loved him, could she really quit loving him? But, it could be worth it if he left all of the pain and heartache behind him. Her love wouldn't matter anymore because her love was the only thing that kept him strong through the hard times…. And the hard times would be over. What a huge decision to make.