Torturing Kenny is fun.
Kenny is lonely.
He doesn't like dying.
He doesn't like the raw agony or the panic.
He doesn't like it when they forget.
He doesn't like, 'ohmigod they killed Kenny!' 'you bastards!'
It just makes him feel lonelier, really.
No one remembers.
(Well, Damien does).
Damien likes corpses.
Damien likes bruised throats and puffed-out eyes.
Damien likes blood splatter, vivid against the snow.
Those colors contrast perfectly.
(Damien also fancies himself as somewhat of an art connoisseur).
He likes mashed and mangled limbs.
He likes ripped-open ribcages.
But eventually, all corpses rot and turn to sludge. They're buried, cremated. Ruined.
In this way, Kenny is a perfect plaything.
When he gets down to Hell, Damien is always smiling.
"I died in a car accident," Kenny will say. Or, "A serial killer."
"Cool," Damien says, and they play tag or pirates or checkers or superheroes.
"I'm lonely," he tells Damien.
"I'm here for you," Damien says. "I'm the only one who's here for you."
"Your friends, they don't care about you."
"If they really cared about you, they would remember."
"I'm the only one who cares about you."
"So come down to Hell as often as you can, Kenny."
Dying is easy.
It's a jump (from a cliff, down to the crashing waves beneath).
It's a step (in front of a car).
It's a needle (in the wrist, the syringe full of sweet arsenic).
It hurts for a little bit, yeah.
But then he's down in hell.
Where the one person who cares about him is waiting and smiling.
He sees the bags under his sister's eyes, sees the way his parents fight more than usual, sees his brother's self-destructive patterns. And he realizes that even though they don't miss him on a conscious level, they still see every death and it breaks their hearts every time.
He can't keep doing this.
Damien is angry when he doesn't come down to play as often.
"My family," Kenny says, by way of explanation.
Damien's expression darkens. While they're playing Cops versus Robbers, he ends up hitting Kenny harder than he needs to.
He keeps dying.
Not as often.
But still more than simple accidents.
Axe murderers make a beeline for him. The house crashes down on him while he's doing his homework.
He's paranoid, glancing over his shoulder every second, hiding under the bed to sleep.
It's like some sadistic quasi-deity is toying with him.
He only feels safe down in hell.
Eight years old.
Then the teenaged years.
Damien thinks Kenny grows only more and more beautiful.
As he gets older and puberty hits, his obsession turns sexual.
Sometimes he'll venture up onto earth and caress Kenny's cooling body before flitting down into hell to greet his soul.
He daydreams about eating every inch of Kenny, of dragging his teeth over his skin and making beautiful rivulets in his flesh.
He's the artist.
He's the only one who knows how to make Kenny's deaths perfect.
The easiest way to deal with the constant deaths is not to worry about it.
The easiest way not to worry about it is to go for a little acid trip.
He doesn't care about how it'll affect his grades. They're shit from missing class to languish in Hell every other day.
Just one strip of paper on his tongue and he's hearing colors and seeing sounds.
It's not real.
The only thing that's real is the reek of brimstone down in hell, and Damien's cool fingers twisted with his.
"You ever think about sex?"
Kyle tips his head back to stare at Damien. They're in his bedroom, relaxing and reading magazines Damien wanted to read and listening to music Damien picked out.
"Dude," Kenny says. "All the time."
"Yeah, but like, with guys. That kind of sex."
Kenny's eyes widen. "Uh. No. Dude. Do you? Is that it? You queer or something?"
"So what if I am?" Damien hisses out.
It just means Damien can be there for Kenny in another way. Kenny will never have to worry about the troubles of dating someone who's not right for him, Damien says. Because Damien will always be there for him. He's the only one who cares about him enough to do this with him, anyways.
They're only fourteen. Sure, he's been thinking about sex all his life, but he's never genuinely thought he would score any time soon. He thinks about saying something about them being too young, but then he swallows it down. He doesn't want to make Damien stop being friends with him. He doesn't know what he would do without Damien.
Damien holds Kenny this tightly because he cares about him.
He keeps him down in Hell for days upon days because he doesn't want to let him go.
He ties Kenny up and leaves him alone for hours because Kenny isn't good at listening to him.
It's okay when Damien hits him, because he's just trying to get him to act better.
It's not like the bruises stay.
This is what Kenny tells himself.
"Ken? You okay?"
"Huh?" He glances up from his stupor. He'd been staring off into space, thinking of nothing, his math textbook out in front of him.
"You've been quiet lately."
"Oh, yeah." Kenny shrugs. "I'm always quiet."
"You should talk more, dude."
They haven't been friends in the past few years. He's not sure if they ever were friends.
Kyle's the one who finds him hunched over the sink, trying to scrub the redness from his eyes.
"Dude? Why are you crying?"
He dries off his cheeks and swallows hard.
"I don't know."
The three of them take Kenny out. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and him, just like old days. They take their bikes up to Stark's pond and stargaze with the late-summer grass tickling their backs, staring up at the sky.
Laughing. Joking. Kenny doesn't talk much, but he likes listening to them chuckle and tease at each other.
"Dude," Kyle says at about midnight when Kenny hasn't said a word for three hours. "You're not going to, like, commit suicide or something, are you?"
Kenny blinks. It seems kind of redundant to him.
"Uh, no, guys. But thanks for worrying. Really. Thanks."
"You do know we'll always be your friends, right?" Stan says with a way-too-serious look on his face. So Cartman calls him gay and the three of them start to bicker again.
Damien grabs Stan by the neck and presses his back against the alley wall. The night shadows frame both of their faces.
"How dare you."
Stan struggles, kicking out, gasping for breath.
"How dare you make him want to live."
He starts to tighten his grip, choking him.
Damien turns to see Kenny standing at the mouth of the alley, gasping for breath and hunched over. He must have run here after Damien informed him he was going to kill every single one of his pathetic little friends.
"Please," Kenny says.
Damien lets Stan drop to the ground."
Kenny steps forward and complies.
"Get away from that psychopath," Stan wheezes out.
Kenny pulls away from Damien and peeks over his shoulder.
"He only does it because he cares about me."
"You know that's not true."
"Yeah." Kenny shrugs, and he smiles, and it doesn't reach his eyes. "I know."
Then he takes Damien's hand and leads him away from Stan.
They're concerned, all of them are, but what can he do, stop dying?
This is just the way it is.
This is just the way it is.
Doze off during school. Trip on acid whenever possible. Stay alive long enough for your family to get a decent rest. Die in a horribly painful way. No one remembers. Then it's down to hell with Damien, who's all smiles and bruising fists and sharp teeth and his, "I'm the only one who cares about you."
. . . Kenny is still lonely.