Title: Do You Think You Could Fly by Lexikal
Fandom: (The) Good Son
Summary: Mark struggles to deal with his emotions and confusion following Henry's death.
Rated: T for references to violence
Spoilers: Mild spoilers for the movie. Then again, I doubt those that haven't seen this movie will be reading this story, as this movie isn't a popular one for fan fiction...
Author's Note: I saw "The Good Son" in the theatres when I was 11 years old and loved it. In real life both Mac Culkin and Elijah Wood (the actors who play Henry and Mark, respectively) are older than me, however, for the purpose of this story I arbitrarily chose them to be eleven years old (both Henry and Mark were supposed to be in the same grade and roughly the same age in the movie). Also, while I know the actual famous "cliff hanger" scene (no pun intended) wasn't actually filmed in Maine, the movie is supposed to take place in Maine. Also, both Mark and Henry have the same last name (Evans) because Henry's Dad (Wallace Evans) is Mark's father's brother... in other words Henry's Dad is Mark's Uncle by blood (his Uncle Wallace is his father's actual brother, hence, they both have the same last name)... hope that's not too confusing.
Additional Notes/Warnings: I am very interested in Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and attachment disorders in general, and how they develop. In "The Good Son" there was seemingly no real reason for Henry's lack of conscience/inability to "attach". He wasn't abused by his parents (at the very least, the parents in the movie aren't depicted as abusive), he wasn't neglected, etc... However, I will have a short scene with Mark's father talking to Mark about RAD and attachment disorders. Kind of philosophical fan fiction for a B-horror movie, I guess, but there you go. Please read and review!
Also, in case anyone is interested, because Henry was younger than 18, if he had been evaluated by a psychiatrist (who could see past his lies) he most likely would have been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, and possibly Reactive Attachment Disorder. If he'd survived to adulthood, if nothing had changed in his personality, he would be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" are not technically diagnoses, anymore than the term "psychotic" is. However, whatever the technical label, Henry was definitely a psychopath.
What if there was this boy? And he did these terrible things because he liked doing them? Would you say he was evil?
I don't believe in evil.
Mark Evans woke up gasping, sweating... a scream dying in his throat. A cold sweat covered his small, thin body. His heart was hammering in his chest furiously. He felt chilled to the bone, even though his room was fairly warm and he was back in Nevada. He'd been dreaming about Henry again- well, not exactly about Henry this time, but the time with Henry, when he had tried to warn others, when he hadn't been believed. Somehow not being believed had been almost worse than Henry's actual behaviour. Almost.
The therapist... her name had been Davenport. Alice Davenport. And she'd only thought he was a screwed up little kid. She hadn't believed Henry was evil. Or sick. Or whatever he'd been. Henry had fooled them all. Almost killed Susan... almost...
Mark rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, but he knew it was useless. He got out of bed, grabbed his house coat and softly walked out of his room, into the living room, the kitchen.
"What are you doing up?"
Mark screamed, startled, but it was only his father, staring at him with concerned, gentle eyes. "Mark?"
Mark sighed heavily. Hung his head. Sighed again. C'mon, calm down. It's just Dad. Not Henry. Henry's dead, remember?
"Bad dreams?" His father ventured softly. He wasn't surprised when his son nodded, eyes averted.
"This is the fifth time this week, Mark..." His father sighed gently. He was sitting in the living room, on a chair in front of the computer. Late night work. He'd closed the deal in Tokyo, and things were okay, but he still pulled a lot of all-nighters.
"So?" Mark said warily, wandering into the kitchen. He opened a cupboard and grabbed a glass from Pizza Hut. A Jurassic Park drinking glass. His favourite. The one with Lex and Timmy and the Raptors... The boy filled it with orange juice, and then replaced the cartoon to the fridge. He stopped for a moment, staring blankly at a school photograph of himself from the previous fall sticking to the fridge, held in place by a happy-face magnet. The photo had been taken just 3 or 4 months ago. Back in September.
But he wasn't the same person anymore, was he? That photo had been from before...
Before his mom had died.
Before he'd gone to live with Henry and learned that evil could take on the form of a child... and learned that he could try to warn others, and not only be disbelieved, but condemned as insane for telling the truth.
Before the dog had been shot and thrown in the well in the graveyard.
Before Connie had almost drowned in ice water.
Before the 10 car pile-up "accident", care of Mr. Highway.
Before he'd almost died by falling off the cliff.
Before Henry had died, his brains splattering all over the rocks... That photo wasn't even him anymore. He'd never be that same Mark again. There were too many afters, now. Dark and serious afters.
His father's low, gruff, gentle voice jerked him out of his sanguine reverie.
"Mark... maybe talking to someone about what happened might help? About Henry?"
Mark took a gulp of his juice and came back into the living room, sat down on the couch. Stared at his father angrily. He felt frustrated.
"Right, Dad," Mark snapped, sighing heavily. "Because when I told them about Henry before everyone believed me..."
"Mark..." his father sighed and finally got up from his chair, walked over and sat on the couch next to his son. "Nobody could have known... I mean, with Henry, his behaviour, what he was doing... nobody knew."
"They knew. Because I was telling them. They just didn't believe me."
"Mark..." his father trailed, not sure how to express all he wanted (needed?) to say to his eleven-year-old son. Henry had only been dead a little over a month, and due to the fall it had been a closed casket funeral. That had disturbed Jack. Sometimes Jack Evans wondered if his son truly believed Henry was dead. Without a body to see, maybe touch... without seeing Henry close-up and dead, truly dead and unable to ever hurt another human being again... without that proof would Mark ever have closure? Ever stop jumping at shadows? Waking with startled shrieks in the middle of the night?
He'd been sullen and withdrawn after the death of his mother, filled with grief and self-blame. In his mind he'd been ravaged by guilt: he'd promised his mother that he, an 11-year-old, wouldn't let her die. But cancer didn't care about magical thinking. Mark's mother had died anyway. That death had hit Mark hard enough, but since the events in Maine, since his time with Henry, since that death...
He'd had a hard time with his mother's death, but he'd been coping. Now he was a pale, ghostly, jumpy shell of the boy he'd once been. The doctors said he was suffering from something called Acute Stress Disorder. That it could develop into a more serious condition called PTSD if Mark wasn't treated promptly.
Jack Evans had thought only war veterans developed PTSD, but the child psychologist on the phone had set him straight, outlined all the possible traumas severe enough to induce it. Any profound sense of horror or helplessness, especially when combined with the fear of one's own imminent demise, was enough to cause the condition. Apparently the impact was greater if the trauma was deliberately caused by a human or humans, as opposed to a natural disaster or an accident.
The fact that Mark hadn't been believed when he'd tried to warn not only his aunt and uncle, but also the local therapist, made the situation even worse, apparently. Not only had the boy's sense of safety in the world been crushed, but he'd been disbelieved. And he'd almost died himself, after trying to warn his aunt that her life had been in danger.
Jack sighed and shut his eyes briefly, not for the first time trying to imagine his son's confusion and grief. First, he'd been left with relative strangers right after his mother's death. Then, he'd been bewildered and confused by Henry's increasingly violent- albeit secretive- behaviour. Then he'd treated as if he were delusional when he'd tried to warn his aunt and uncle... all culminating with his aunt holding onto each boy by a single hand, 180 feet above a rocky, Atlantic shore, having to make an impossible decision.
Had Mark thought she was going to let him drop after all the times he'd warned them? All the pleading? Had he thought he was going to die right then and there, plummet to his death?
Worse, during and after Henry's funeral, Susan had refused to even look at Mark. Jack could understand why. The entire incident was too fresh, and her little boy- monster or not- hadn't even been buried yet. But at the same time, Jack felt anger for the woman. Mark hadn't killed his baby brother, or tried to kill his mother. Or tried to drown his sister. Mark wasn't Henry. Hell, Mark had risked his life to save her life, a grown woman's and what had he gotten for his trouble? He'd almost fallen to his death while Henry's mother deliberated about whether to save her compassionate nephew or murderous son. And if they had listened to Mark, Henry probably wouldn't have even died...
He exhaled a bit louder. Who was he to blame anyone? Even he hadn't really believed Mark... not really. He'd guessed something was wrong, but had expected Mark was exaggerating. That Henry was perhaps just a little too extroverted for Mark. A little too rough, maybe. But honestly, he hadn't suspected anything more than that, and certainly nothing... nothing like what they ultimately discovered.
Nobody had. Nobody had seen Henry for what he was, not in his entire eleven years of life. Nobody... except for Mark.
Jack Evans glanced over at his son. Mark was still sitting on the couch, sipping his orange juice pensively, staring at the carpet.
"Mark?" Jack Evans said, shaking his head as if he could clear away the thoughts that easily. His son looked up, drank the last of his orange juice and put the empty glass on the coffee table.
"I want you to speak to someone. I can't...they will believe you. That will never happen again. Somebody not believing you."
"Only because they have evidence and have to believe me now," Mark snapped angrily, getting up of the couch and taking his glass back to the kitchen. Jack heard the water running, knew Mark was rinsing the glass and placing it on the drying rack. The boy came back into the living room and sat back down on the couch.
"You're right. They have to believe you now... but I also think it would be good for you..."
"You thought it would be good for me to stay with Henry!" Mark said bitterly, pulling his knees up to his chin.
"Mark, Henry was sick. We both know that. Only... the part of him that was sick was very hard to see. It wasn't an obvious sickness."
"He was crazy," Mark said softly, eyes slightly unfocused.
Jack considered the term crazy, turned it over in his head.
"He was mentally ill. But he wasn't psychotic... he wasn't out of touch with reality, Mark. He knew what he was doing. That's why he managed to get away with it for so long. That's why he was so convincing, why everybody believed him..."
"So he was evil, then? Like I first said. Like I told Doctor Davenport..."
"He...well, the technical term for it would be psychopath, I guess." Jack stopped himself. Did Mark really need to know all of this? "He... well, you know how you feel badly if something bad happens to another person? Henry couldn't feel that. Ever. It was like the part of your brain and my brain that allows us to feel badly for other people never formed."
"Why?" Mark asked, looking at his father with haunted, blue eyes. Jack Evans shrugged and sighed tiredly.
"I'm not sure, son. Lots of people have lots of different theories. Some people think it's because a child is raised without love, or hurt early. But we both know Uncle Wallace and Aunt Susan never hurt Henry. So that only leaves nature."
"Nature? You mean he was born just... not caring?"
Jack Evans shrugged and wrapped an arm around his son. "Maybe. We don't know. And Henry is dead, so we can't ask him why he thought and felt the way he did."
"Even if you could, he'd probably lie anyway," Mark informed, leaning into his father's hug.
"Uncle Wallace was Henry's Dad. And Uncle Wallace is your brother. Which means... Henry is related to me by blood."
"Mark, you're not like Henry, if that's what you're worried about. The fact that you're worried about being like him is proof that you're not."
"What if I am, and I don't know it yet? Or I am fooling you? Like Henry fooled everybody?"
"Mark, you're nothing like Henry," Jack hugged his son tighter, but Mark stiffened.
"But how do you know?" His young voice was softer and raspier than normal.
"I don't. I can't. But I don't think you are."
"But what if I am like him?"
"Mark, if you're that worried, you could speak to a doctor..."
"You mean a head shrinker. A therapist or something. Like Dr. Davenport. Except she couldn't tell what Henry was, either..."
"Mark, she was a small-town therapist. She wasn't a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. She had never had any cases dealing with, well... children like Henry before. She did grief counselling."
"Mark, if you speak to someone who knows about these things- about kids like Henry- will that put your mind at ease? You don't even have to speak about what happened. You can just... say what you want. Whatever's on your mind. This fear you have that you may be like Henry..."
Mark was silent, absorbing. Considering. Finally he nodded. "I don't have to say anything I don't want to?"
"Okay. If you think it's a good idea."
"I really didn't know he was going to drop that dummy... Mr. Highway... onto the road. I didn't know, Dad."
"Mark, I know you didn't know. And you were terrified after."
The 11 year old looked up, blinking back sudden tears as the memory of that day flooded back. He could see Henry leaning over the railing, watching the cars screech and slam into each other, smirking and bobbing his head delightedly as each vehicle crashed... God.
"I...didn't know about the dog, either. Or... I knew he was dangerous. But I tried... and Susan almost died..."
Jack Evans pulled his son closer, cradling his head under his own. Like he had when Mark had been very small.
The doctor was female and wore glasses and was younger than Alice Davenport. She smiled at the young boy broadly and extended her hand.
"You must be Mark. I've heard a lot about you. My name is Vickie."
Mark glanced back at his father, who nodded his approval. Mark stood, accepted the hand. Shook it.
"You're not a doctor?" Mark asked uncertainly.
"I am, actually. I'm a psychiatrist."
"So you can tell if kids are nuts or not?"
Vickie laughed a little. "I'm not sure I'd use the term nuts, but I like to think I'm not too bad at my job. Feel like coming back to my office and talking for a bit? I won't bite."
Mark looked back at his father again. Finally sighed and nodded and followed the young psychiatrist into her office.
It was white and bright and would've looked antiseptic, but there were multiple bookcases and framed art on the walls, some of which had obviously been done by children. There were a few easels in the room and a sandbox, a large dollhouse on the floor. The bookcases that weren't full of books were stacked with board games and plastic baskets full of random toys that didn't seem to fit anywhere else.
"I'm not going to play with this stuff, if that's what you're thinking."
Vickie nodded. "Yeah, the toys. Unfortunately, when you work with kids, that means everything from toddlers to young adults." She stared at him for a moment.
"I'm not going to draw anything, either. You already know what happened."
"Okay. So you don't like to draw and you don't like to play. Any other dislikes?"
"Do you think I'm crazy?" Mark blurted. He wanted to get this over with. That was the only reason he was here.
"From the... what? Two minutes I've known you? No." Vickie sounded amused. "But then again, you'll have to define what you think crazy means."
Mark sighed and wandered over to a bean bag chair. Sat down on it. All the chairs, except for Vickie's, were tiny. There was a couch but it smelled strangely of cigarette smoke, which reminded Mark of Henry.
"Lacking a conscience. Like Henry did."
"Your cousin?" Vickie asked.
"I think if you were like Henry...no, Mark, I don't think you're like Henry. But I understand why you're afraid you might be."
"Why?" Mark croaked, lifting his head to meet her eyes.
"Because to you, Henry is evil. Henry did do evil things. He hurt people. He tried to kill you, your aunt, your cousin... and he killed his little brother."
"And he could've killed people in that crash he started." Mark added. Vickie nodded.
"Nobody else ever noticed that Henry was... the way he was, either, did they? Only you did. And when you tried to tell them, they didn't believe you."
"Yeah," Mark said again, even softer this time.
"That must have been pretty scary. Knowing what he was capable of, maybe even knowing he had something planned, and not being believed."
"It was," Mark exhaled loudly, and put his face in his hands.
"But that's not why you're worried you're like him, is it? There's more to it than that?"
Mark was silent for a moment. There was, but he wasn't sure himself how to describe the fear that was gnawing away inside him.
"Why was Henry... the way he was? Why did he do those things?"
Vickie was silent a moment, thinking. She'd treated children like Henry Evans before, destructive and violent children. Some, like Henry, had also killed. Most of the kids like Henry had been abused and neglected as infants, but according to what Mark's father had told her over the phone, that hadn't been the case with the Henry. In other cases... the cause was a mystery.
"Mark, I don't know exactly why Henry turned out the way he did. What I do know is that, for whatever reason, when Henry was really little he didn't bond to his mom. Or to anyone."
"What do you mean?" Mark asked warily.
"Mark...when we're little, when we're babies, we learn to develop a conscience and sense of empathy and trust by how we bond to our parents. Usually our mothers."
"Susan is a good mother!" Mark protested, eyes flashing. "Connie turned out fine! Henry is just evil!"
"Mark, listen to me. I'm not saying your Aunt Susan wasn't a good mother to Henry. Only that... for whatever reason... Henry didn't bond to her when he was a baby. For some reason we don't know, and probably never will know. But you did bond to your Mom. That's why you felt so upset when she died."
"Yeah. But...what does that mean?"
Vickie sighed. Not for the first time she wished someone would write a book about attachment disorders for the 6 to 12 year old crowd.
"It means, Mark, you're not like Henry. Kids like Henry, kids without consciences, they don't care if they are evil or not. All they care about having fun. Unfortunately for the rest of us, their idea of fun usually involves hurting other people or animals. The fact that you're worried about being like Henry proves that you're not like him. Does that make any sense?"
"My Dad said the same thing to me the other night," Mark remarked glumly, still not convinced.
"Mark," Vickie sighed, removed her glasses and cleaned the lenses. Put them back on. "Did Henry say anything to you that made you think, or feel, that you might be like him?"
Mark shuddered. Could remember running across the bridge and sliding down the embankment. Breathing heavily in the tunnel as police cars screeched to the accident overhead.
I feel sorry for you, Mark. You just don't know how to have fun.
It's because you're scared all the time. I know. I used to be scared too. But that was before I found out.
Found out what?
That one you realize that you can do anything...you're free. You can fly. Nobody can touch you... nobody. Mark...don't be afraid to fly.
"Mark?" Vickie asked, leaning forward.
"Yeah," Mark heaved another sigh. "Henry... he said something once. He said I was like him. That I was scared, and that he used to be like me... scared all the time. And that he changed, that he found out he could do anything. And you know what? He did."
"So, because Henry shared this with you... this secret of his... you're scared you might become like him?"
Mark looked up at the psychiatrist, blue eyes haunted. Nodded slowly.
Mark sat in the waiting room and his father went in.
"I think Mark is doing remarkably well considering everything he's been through in the last 2 months..." the psychiatrist told Jack Evans evenly. "But I'm not going to lie to you. He's deeply afraid of becoming like Henry. Of becoming, as he puts it, evil. He's going to need a lot of reassurance that he's not evil, not like Henry; that the events in Maine were completely out of his control."
"I know," Jack sighed. "I've tried to talk to him, but he refuses to talk about specific incidents. Susan told me early on, shortly after I got there and the police were still investigating... something about a dog that was killed and thrown down a well. And the accident on the road, of course, but I know more happened... and Mark, he won't say anything. I tried to get Susan to talk to him. Wallace- my brother- got on the phone. Said she couldn't. Wasn't ready, apparently. But I think this really needs to come from Susan. Despite what happened on that cliff, she was the first person to realize what Henry was. After Mark, I mean."
Vickie nodded solemnly.
"But I can't exactly make her talk to my son, now, can I? Hell, my own brother won't return my phone calls. We weren't particularly close before all of this, but he never ignored me like this..."
"Mr. Evans, we can't control what your brother or sister in law do, but right now, how you treat Mark will make a big difference."
"So... what? I just keep telling him night after night that he's not evil? That we believe him now? That Henry is dead and he did nothing wrong and..."
Vickie was nodding. "Yeah. Pretty much. And anything else that validates his experiences, makes him feel safe."
"He is safe,"
"But he doesn't feel safe. He's afraid of his own mind, his own conscience."
"He's afraid of other children. Other kids his age, boys. Scared they might be like Henry..." Jack trailed tiredly. "He's started skipping school, I keep getting phone calls from his teachers reporting that he never came back from recess or back from lunch break, or the endless calls from the school nurse because he's sick or has a stomach ache or a head ache or a sore throat..."
"Somatic complaints are very common anxiety symptoms in children Mark's age," Vickie said calmly. Jack Evans nodded tiredly.
"But...kids... I mean, do they ever recover from things like this?"
"Mr. Evans, your wife died about 2 months ago, a little less? And then Mark was with Henry for two weeks? He's had less than two months to really process all of this. All of these traumas."
"So you're saying that he'll be fine," Jack stated.
"I'm saying that, to me, he seems like a very resourceful and resilient kid. A sensitive kid, but resilient. I think he'll be okay."
"And if he's not okay?" Jack Evans asked morbidly, locking onto the psychiatrist's eyes.
"Then we take further steps. Right now, though... he just needs time to adjust. To work through all of this."
Jack Evans nodded and stood. Held out his hand. Vickie shook it firmly. Just in time. Her next case was coming in, a ten year old girl who had seen her parents butchered to death by the mother's ex-husband.
"Hey, co-pilot," Jack Evans said as they drove home. Mark was playing with his game boy, the same game, from the sound of it, which he'd played on his trip over to Maine about six weeks ago.
"You gonna' stop bombing the universe and pay attention to me?" Jack asked his son gently, glancing over. Mark paused the game and looked up.
"You're not crazy. You're not like Henry. She told me."
"I don't think she knows. She told me she doesn't know why some kids turn out like Henry," Mark said sullenly, returning to his game. The electronic beeps and blips started anew. Jack Evans sighed.
"Oh, she did, did she?"
"Yeah," Mark muttered, shaggy head still focused on the electronic game.
"Did she tell you about the DSM? About Reactive Attachment Disorder? Or Conduct Disorder?"
The game boy was paused again. Mark glanced back at over at his father.
"No," Mark said honestly. "What are those?"
"Two illnesses that Henry might have suffered from. She even photo-copied the symptoms of each of them out. I was thinking when we get home, we can go down the list and see how many of the symptoms you have for each. If you're still scared?"
Mark shrugged. "Okay." And once again he was back to the video game.
"None of them?" Mark asked, grabbing the papers from his father, looking them over. "I have none of the symptoms? Of either of them?"
"Nope. Sorry kiddo."
Mark smiled. "Are you sure? Did you double-check?"
"Yup." Jack Evans was smiling.
"Can we put these up on the fridge?"
"Um...how bout you pin them up on the corkboard in your room. You think?"
Mark nodded and grabbed the Xeroxed papers and ran out of the room.
I had to finish this a lot faster than I initially wanted to. I realize it's more angst and h/c than drama or action, but this story takes place after the events of the movie. However, like I mentioned in my author's notes above, abnormal psychology interests me greatly, especially juvenile delinquency and attachment theories, so I may write more stories dealing with these issues. If you enjoyed this, please review!