October 31, 2033

When walking in the streets of Manhattan, the subject of the paranormal wouldn’t be the first thing on someone’s mind, especially not amongst all the crowds and never-ending noises of traffic. The city itself is a reality check. It’s hardcore, fast-paced and intense. Despite all of that, the subject of ghostly sightings isn’t uncommon. When you think about it, all of us have purposely, at some point in our lives, forced the creation of an invisible entity into existence, mainly during the phase of childhood. With our own imagination, we’d forge what is commonly known as an imaginary friend. Even when we grow up surrounded by actual human beings, the idea of having our own private confidant comes across as thrilling and very fulfilling. Sometimes, our fantasy is more concrete as we inject our dolls and action figures with souls and feelings which makes them even more real. We can see them, admire them, touch them and play with them. We give them a background story, a personality and their lives go on with us until we reach our adulthood when we slowly start to let them go, the result of growing old having taken the magic and delight away.

The body of thirteen year-old Dario Ferdinand has been found two weeks after he was reported missing. Two women walking their dogs saw what appeared to be sprinkles of blood on the ground, a few feet away from a cornfield. When they followed the short trail and looked through the bushes, they found the body of the young boy. When we arrived at the scene and inspected the body, the first thing we were puzzled to see was how his eyes were carefully removed from his sockets, as if a surgeon had done it. Other than that, there were no obvious signs of struggle found in the area surrounding the body, only marks around his neck that suggested he was murdered through strangulation. After bringing the body in to be examined by the coroner, we did a thorough search of the environment. We looked for evidence besides the few drops of blood and meticulously combed the field, but we couldn’t find anything that helped further our investigation.

David and Harrison talked to the parents who positively identified the body as their son. With the killer still at large, we relied solely on the interrogations we had with his family members and friends. Dario’s mom said he was out fishing at a nearby creek the night of his disappearance. That simple revelation alone helped us proceed to our next step. Although she wasn’t sure which creek he went to, she narrowed the possibilities down to two. When we weren’t able to find anything at either of them, we went back to Dario’s body in search for any clues. After swabbing the inside of his mouth for forensic evidence, Jared found something that immediately caught his attention. He found a type of algae called “diatom.” Those microscopic organisms live exclusively in the sea, lakes and streams, and can occasionally be found on moist rocks. That proved Dario had been forcefully drowned before his eyes were meticulously taken out. Our next step was to figure out if the diatoms found in his lungs could help determine the exact body of water where the murder happened.

We flew in Dr. Roland Crane, a biologist and diatom expert from Baltimore, to help us identify the species found in Dario’s system as well as the ones we collected from the two different creeks. He analyzed the population found in the boy’s system and was able to identify the species as, Fragilaria Pinnata, using his own elaborate chart. However, he found no matching similarities from the samples we collected from each creek. According to him, two samples have to match very closely for us to be able to conclude they came from the same place.

We spent an entire week collecting samples of water from every lake and river surrounding the Amityville area. After microscopically testing each one of them, we were able to match the one in Dario’s system to the one corresponding to Avon Lake, which had the particular species Dr. Crane identified earlier. Armed with the evidence we had, we drove back to the lake and invaded the entire area and its entourage looking for physical and trace evidence. Patrolling the area with search dogs, we found Dario’s bicycle and fishing pole thrown on top of each other in the bushes half a mile away from where the water was and far enough from the trail where someone could find them, which proved they had been purposely moved and hidden. We finally had strong evidence to prove Dario was there the night he was murdered, and that his murder took place in that area before his killer dragged him away and left his body in the cornfield, all in order to confuse us.

We questioned hundreds of people; family members, friends, classmates, teachers, even people living in the area surrounding the lake as well as fisherman we found at the location. None were able to provide us with any useful information. Back at the station, we started working on a profile. We knew it was a man, mid-thirties to forties, someone with extensive knowledge in the medical field. Due to how the boy’s eyes were surgically removed, we noted that as his calling card. Basing our search on this signature, though, we couldn’t match his method with any other case involving meticulous eye extractions. In Dario’s room, we went through anything that could help us retrace his steps the week prior to his murder. Among various things, we found a small booklet that intrigued us. It was titled:

Davenport’s House of Wax Museum
Exhibition
“Death, Mourning and the Hereafter”
in Mid-19th Century New York”
Thursday, September 26 to Monday, November 4, 2033

We questioned his mom about it and at first she didn’t know what it was. When she thought about it, she told us Dario had visited what he called, a haunted house, the Sunday before he was killed. Although the residence is known as the only nineteenth-century family home in New York preserved intact, it’s also a local historical landmark and museum. Paranormal geeks identified it as the spookiest haunted house in Amityville due to several accounts claiming the family that lived and died there haunted the place.

Reading about the house’s history online, we learned that in 1835, a man named Maxwell and his wife, Eliza, moved into the house with their three children. The house was passed down through generations until 1989, when on Christmas Eve, while the whole family was asleep, the house was caught on fire. Firefighters arrived quickly, but were unable to reach Mr. Davenport, his wife or the two daughters, who were trapped on the upper floors. Their son, however, was rescued and ended up spending the rest of his childhood and teenage years in an orphanage upstate. Reports said that embers from the fireplace may have sparked the blaze, but that was never confirmed. It wasn’t until years later that the son managed to reclaim the house and painstakingly turn it back into the victorian house it once was. From the few images we were able to find on the internet, the museum contained wax figures, each one representing a member of the Davenport family, including the two maids.

It was a few days before Halloween weekend that David and I drove up to the museum. We rang the bell and were instantly buzzed in. Inside, we faced a dark hallway. We walked to the end of it and were greeted by Arthur, the house owner and survivor of the fire, who told us we were lucky because the tour had just started. He gave us a few brochures and pointed us toward the south parlor. David and I exchanged looks, wondering whether to go along or tell him we were there to investigate. We decided to go on the tour.

“Welcome to Davenport’s”, the female tour guide started. “As some of you have noticed, it’s pretty dark in here. That’s because it’s mourning season…”

The room was lit by a few candles and we weren’t sure who was in the coffin, and it wasn’t important as it was fully closed.

Back in the nineteenth-century, mourning the death of a family member or friend was a highly structured ritual. Following strict rules and etiquette demonstrated respect and sincerity. Specific attires would be worn, certain kinds of behavior would be prohibited, and the house of the deceased had to remain in partial or total obscurity until the bereavement period was over. As we moved from the south to the north parlor, I was particularly intrigued by the veiled mirrors in both sections.

“When a soul leaves this world, it leaves the grieving with a deep emptiness, one that’s prone to be filled by evil forces”, Arthur interfered to explain. “We cover the mirrors to avoid looking at those dark figures lurking behind us in the mirror. Although we might not see — or feel them, we believe they’re there. And what feeds them are emotions like regret, guilt and anger.”

It was quite interesting how, while the outside world continued to change and adapt to modern life, the house and its master were stuck in what seemed like a period piece. I was particularly intrigued by Arthur’s outfit which consisted of high waist flannel trousers, pale off-white shirt and plaid tweed vest. His look was complimented with edgy silver jewelry; an ID bracelet, a classic signet ring and a polished box-chain necklace.

The remainder of the tour was guided by the woman, who walked us through all four stories. Some rooms were inaccessible, including the small elevator that seemed to connect the whole house. Uninterested in going through the whole thing, David stopped to use the bathroom while I drifted away from the group to explore the house on my own. Throughout my personal stroll, I’ve managed to catch various eerie glimpses of Arthur who seemed to be interacting with his “house guests.” As I observed him more and more, I noticed how obsessive he was about the figures’ postures and costumes. He didn’t shy away from mumbling a few words as if he was talking with them. I followed him into one of the bedroom where he fixed the collar of the sculpture of a little boy.

“Interesting house”, I said, startling him.
“Thanks. I’m glad you think so.”
“Who’s the sculptor?”, I asked even though I knew the answer.
“It’s all me.”
“The amount of detail is impressive. They look exactly like the people that inspired them.”
“They do, don’t they?”, he said proudly. I nodded and approached the small figure overlooking the window.
“Is he supposed to be you?”, I asked.
“Yes. That’s little Arthur.”

It was hard to take a good look at the face since he had his back turned. Piqued by curiosity, I impulsively snuck in to get a better look at the face.

“Careful. He’s very fragile”, Arthur stopped me. He seemed a bit concerned and uncomfortable with me getting too close to it which I understood, so I backed off. “You’re not enjoying the tour?”, he asked as if he was purposely steering the conversation in a different direction.
“We are, but we’re here for another reason,” David proclaimed as he barged into the room, eager to cut to the chase. He took out his badge and announced why we were there. We headed downstairs to the backyard where he questioned him about Dario’s visit.
“He came here alone which I found quite odd. Usually, teenagers come here in groups”, Arthur started.
“What was he like?”, David asked.
“He was very calm, poised — respectful of the space. Seemed to know its history quite well. I was impressed by him.”
“Anything suspicious or out of the ordinary?”
“Not that I’ve noticed. He was very interested in the paranormal aspect of the house. Before heading out, he mentioned he heard noises coming from the man in the bed upstairs. Scarce breathing, is what he said. Although we’ve had body apparitions happen here before, particularly at the landing of the staircase on the ground floor, I guessed it was probably the fan.”

While David did all the questioning, I did the observing. I saw Arthur had a boathouse that matched the federal-styled home. It wasn’t part of the original setting, though. When I turned to get a wider look at the back of the house, I got chills just by looking at the third floor window where the wax figure was. It looked so real, peering at me. When David was finished, we started heading out. As we crossed the hallway leading to the door, I overheard one of the guests mention how one of the wax figures, the eldest sister, closely resembled a former Broadway actress named Trudy Price.

With no strong leads or suspects, we had no clue on how to proceed. While I beat myself up looking for clues and oddities in our reports, David was going on and on about Arthur’s child-like personality to his co-workers which bothered me. As he rambled, he unknowingly made a point — some sort of observation that got me thinking.

“There’s nothing uglier than an old infant”, David spurted out. “This guy is typically a quirkier version of Peter Pan. He’s smart and intellectual with a PhD in English Literature and Psychology, yet all he does is stay at home and play house all day.”
“These wax sculptures look amazing, though!”, Jared protested as he went through pictures on his tablet. “Also, it says here he’s a taxidermist.”
“Great. He stuffs animals too”, David said, mockingly.

It all started to make sense even though no one seemed to notice. Arthur lost both parents (and sisters) at a relatively young age, which obviously spoiled his normal development as a child. From his behavior, I concluded the lack of a father figure is was what affected him the most since the orphanage he ended up in had a female-dominated staff, which proved he was provided with enough feminine care to substitute his mother’s. Suffering from some kind of masculinity crisis, he probably grew up with insecure attachments, portrayed signs of clinginess as he longed for both attention and affection. He was definitely not a well adapted creature, hence why he acts like a “man-child.” The reason he didn’t end up doing anything substantial with his life is because he’s developed a delineation of the kind of destiny that makes a life worth living which probably led him to trade an adult person’s valued responsibility with impulsive low-class pleasures. On the other hand, there’s this thirst for control that manifested itself through the reproduction of the house and its inhabitants. Arthur couldn’t control the fire or the death of his family. However, he could recreate them. His lifelike dolls are a physical tool that allow him to cope with his losses. Although many psychologists find this approach therapeutical and healthy, sometimes it can have an underlying undertone of violence depending on the individual. Arthur’s grief might have developed in a corrosive and damaging way, giving birth to hidden psychotic tendencies. Two things supported that theory: First, the fact he’s a taxidermist proves he has above average or even strong medical knowledge, something our killer possesses. Also, I took into account the random woman’s opinion about the wax figure that resembled Trudy Price. Trudy Price was a famous theater actress who went missing in 2023. Her body was never found. After hours of researching past cases with missing persons who were never found, I managed to track down all the missing individuals who identically resembled each wax figure at the museum. After bringing all this to David’s attention, he became quickly overwhelmed.

“You’re saying that underneath all these wax figures, are actual people?”
“I’m afraid, yes.”
“Where does Dario fit in all of this? His body was left for dead. If the killer was collecting human bodies and turning them into wax figures, he would’ve taken him too.” He definitely had a valid point.

I went back to my desk and looked at some of Dario’s pictures. I tried to understand the discrepancy. Then it hit me: The boy’s eyes were green with an orange hue surrounding the iris. They were also identical to Arthur’s. After conducting a brief research, I learned that true green eyes are extremely rare, a recent article mentioning that only 2% of the world’s population has them. So although Dario didn’t fit Arthur’s overall physical appearance, it’s the eyes the killer desperately needed.

Knowing the caveat, it’s technically illegal for us to investigate a residence without a search warrant, and we had zero proof connecting Arthur to the crime scene, only my personal theories and speculations. He also had a clean record; no misdemeanors or prior arrests. Regardless, I decided to give it a shot and present a detailed report I’ve given to David to give to Grant. After hours of persuasion, bringing up the fact my personal insights have been useful to us in the past, he agreed to do me the favor. Of course, Grant wasn’t impressed with the lack of foundation.

“Your hypothesis and feelings have no room in the investigative bureau”, he lashed out. “I can’t conduct a search warrant based on this, so unless you get me physical proof, this is a waste of my time. I also suggest you let the detectives do their job. You stick to yours.”

Not only was Grant’s comment condescending and a complete slap in the face, but it also brought me down — made me extremely frustrated. Part of me wanted to drop everything, but I couldn’t allow him to bring me down like that. I intended to get to the bottom of the case, mainly as my way to reclaim my credibility and prove my worth. For that, I needed two things, a closer look at the face of young Arthur’s wax figure, and any evidence that could place Arthur at the scene of the crime. My next move consisted of overstepping some huge boundaries, but over the past few years, I’ve worked on dozens of complicated cases which allowed me to acquaint myself with the job of every single person in the room. I wasn’t going to be victimized by everyone else’s laziness. I was going to break into Arthur’s home and get what I wanted even if the law prohibited me from it. I broke into Brighton and Jared’s lab and borrowed a few items; evidence bags, swabs, a brush, pump stick, needle and a pipette.

From the forest nearby, I observed and waited for the museum to close. After the female tour guide left, I watched out for Arthur’s next move. The house started to get more and more dim as he moved around and shut down some of the lights. I jumped over the beaten down section of the fence and approached the residence. In the north parlor, I saw Arthur turn off some candles with a snuffer before witnessing him do the creepiest thing. After taking a look around, he walked over to the wax figure of his mother. As the fire crackling in the chimney flickered against her face, he gently wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head against her right shoulder. After a brief moment, he straightened back up, kissed her on the cheek and proceeded in exiting the room. Once he closed the sliding doors and went completely out of sight, I started aiming toward the boathouse. It was locked with a chain, so I snuck in through one of the windows. I turned on my phone’s flashlight and carefully crossed over from the inner deck to the boat. The majority of it was clean, but there were some surfaces with semi-faded shoe prints highlighting a dry brownish film. Using the brush, I scraped off some of the substance and squirted water over the area using the pipette. I collected the greenish liquid and proceeded to my next piece of evidence; the wax figure.

The doors leading to the outdoors were all locked, so I snuck in through the trap door located nearby. I opened it as slowly as I could and went down the few steps of stairs. I waited until the footsteps coming from upstairs settled before making my next move. As they gradually fainted, I proceeded through the tunnel guiding me to the chamber where Arthur’s atelier was. I opened the door, flashed my light and took a panoramic view of the room. It was tidy and in pristine condition. I snooped around looking for any human remains — flesh, bone, hair, nails, and found nothing. However, I did find a surgical kit and mortuary tools which indicated my theory was valid — and true. I snapped a few pictures and headed to the steps of stairs leading to the ground floor. I entered the kitchen and stumbled through the darkness as I made my way to little Arthur’s bedroom. I tiptoed my way up the stairs and caught a shadow moving about in the study room. The door was mostly closed but not completely shut, so I carefully crossed over the hallway area and snuck inside little Arthur’s bedroom. Inside, I was eager to get to the wax figure. I moved rather recklessly and activated my phone’s flashlight. As I closely inspected it, my excitement started to build up. It couldn’t be denied, the eyes matched Dario’s perfectly. As I snapped a photo with my phone’s camera, the loud clicking sound came out as I had forgotten to silence it, which almost stopped my heart in place. I turned to the door and heard footsteps followed by a door subtle door creak. It was Arthur. He was coming. No way out of the room besides the main door, I lied flat on the floor and crawled my way to the side of the bed to shield myself. Arthur’s pace quickened as he made crew his way to the front of the bedroom. His presence eclipsed the light coming from the hallway, creating an overwhelmingly sinister shadow. I held my breath and waited for him to walk away which he never did. Instead, he walked in. As he got closer to where I was, I crossed my arms the way a sleeping vampire would and rolled over to my side, undetected, and shielded myself under the bed. He paced around the room for a second before pulling the wax figure up to him and cradling it into his arm. He started talking to it — mumbling reassuring words I couldn’t make up. He sat down in the rocking chair and started singing a lullaby. Things couldn’t get any weirder. As I preoccupied my mind thinking about my escape plan, I suddenly realized he was no longer there. I crawled from underneath the bed and stood by the doorframe. I couldn’t hear a thing. No footsteps — loud or subtle — no presence whatsoever. I started to panic as not being able to locate him was a huge drawback. I held on to my dear life and rushed downstairs. The door leading to the garden was locked, so I rushed to the doorway, to the main door, but it was locked as well.

“You need to be slicker than this,” a voice said, breaking the silence and causing me to jump in my spot. From the corner of my eye, I saw him standing behind me — right by the door frame of the north parlor. I kept a clear distance between us before I faced him. He was leaning on the wall, gawking, with a dorky yet menacing smile spreading across the sides of his face. I kept him in my sight as I distanced myself more until my back was glued to the door. I knew I was stuck.

“Stay where you are.” his words came out loud and clear, but I couldn’t hold still. I was trapped in what seemed like the perfect scenario for an 80s slasher movie. All I wanted was to run, but my body couldn’t do it. I broke down in cold sweat as soon as he took the first step forward.

“Sit down.” He pointed to a chair behind me. I obeyed and sat on it.
“I don’t know why you’re here or what you were intending to find, but I’m pretty sure intruding into my home like this, is illegal.” He reached for the phone, dialed three digits — 911, I figured.
“What are you doing?” I said, my voice shaking.
“Calling the police,” he said matter-of-factly. He put the phone to his ear and after a few beats, a dispatcher picked up. “Hi. I’d like to report a break in”, Arthur started. “Yes. I just caught a man breaking into my home — He’s still here — I locked him in — 319 Ocean Drive — Please, make sure they’re on their way as soon as possible — Great — Thank you.”
“Look. I’ll leave, and we can pretend this never happened.”
“I don’t think so. Do us both a favor and remain seated until they get here. And, let’s have you empty your pockets while we’re at it.”
“I’ll do it if you let me go.”
“You’re in no position to negotiate. Besides, whatever it is that you think you found won’t do you any good since you obtained it illegally.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Suit yourself.”

Ten minutes later, I was hustled into the police car like a criminal. As Arthur gave them a digested police report, I was told he didn’t want to press charges.

“I can’t believe you did this. What the hell were you thinking?!” David screamed. “You know you can get fired for this, right?!”
“David, I have proof—”
“We can’t fucking use it, Felix! Illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible. You know that. If this guy is our killer like you’re saying he is, then you’ve just jeopardized our only chance at using any evidence to convict him.”
“Grant won’t be happy about this”, Harrison said. They proceeded in leaving the room while I waited for my moral execution. I ended up being scolded and suspended for violating law enforcement investigation policy by not following protocol and badly affecting the investigation by making it harder for forensics to come up with a different set of evidence in pursuit of the killer.

When I thought about it, I realized the crime wasn’t meant to be solved. Solving it meant Arthur spending the rest of his life in jail, and I didn’t want that to happen. I was too selfish trying to prove to everyone how valuable I was to the police department. The truth is, I sympathized with Arthur, and after all he’s been through, I just wanted him to be free. Of course, as soon as that idea sunk in, I got a call from David saying Brighton found hair samples in Dario’s hair as well as under his fingernails that belonged to the killer. Those samples probably came from the physical altercation as the boy tried to defend himself against his aggressor. After extensive forensic analysis, those samples turned out to match Arthur’s, and since they were unrelated to my findings, they served as potential valid proof on their own. That said, the evidence I myself collected was taken into consideration within the police department which reinforced their decision to go ahead and make the arrest. David was kind enough to give me some insight into a private meeting led by Grant who said that if another crime was to be committed by Arthur and someone leaked any information regarding the convicting evidence I collected against him, the entire police department would be liable and scrutinized for negligence.

Things weren’t looking good for our prime suspect, and I found myself overly concerned about his fate which would’ve guaranteed him a life in prison or the death penalty. Arthur obviously never got the childhood necessary to grow up into a normal human being. That’s why I couldn’t allow myself to let him be thrown in jail despite all the heinous crimes he’s committed. I’ve seen what it’s like within the walls of prison, where men who haven’t been in contact with reality in years suffer from dire consequences. Insanity and retardation are rampant in men on death row, and although the law says those can’t be executed, it still happens more often than we know. People who lack empathy don’t necessarily lack it because they have no conscience, a lot of times it’s because they grew up in tough situations that corrupted their emotional development and warped their minds. They are the dregs of humanity, wasted and thrown in corners where we can’t see them. The media makes it seem like law enforcement is tough on crime, but the only time we see police actually doing their work is when a public figure or politician is involved. Otherwise, they’re seen having conversations on the street or lazily sitting at a diner. There’s no room for romanticizing imprisonment. It’s simply not fun. And knowing how rigged the prison system, and how prisoners are constantly dehumanized and thrown in a cell to rot in their own feces, I had to warn him before the cops were sent to arrest him. While David and Harrison waited for the judge to sign the arrest warrant, I was on the road and on my way to Arthur’s home. The cab dropped me off at the end of the street, and I walked to the residence, knocked on the door repetitively until it opened. When Arthur saw me, he wasn’t pleased in the slightest.

“You’ve got some nerve coming back here”, he said, his eyes narrow and dark.
“May I come in?”
“Of course not.”
“I need to talk to you. It’s urgent.”
“About what?”
“Arthur. They’re coming for you.”
“Please”, he interrupted, closing the door.
“Your wax figures. Dario. We know it’s you”, I said, stopping him.
“I don’t think so. You’re just trying to trick me. Now, leave.”
“I’m not. I promise.” He slammed the door in my face. I didn’t give up.
“Arthur. The cops are on they’re way! They’ll be here any minute!”, I screamed, pushing the words out and through the door.
“I don’t believe you. Go away or I’m calling the police!” his muffled voice said.
“God damn it, Arthur! I’m trying to help you!”

It took a moment for him to walk back to the door and open it.

“Why would I believe anything you’re saying?!”
“Because I can’t let you go to jail. I know you’ve had a rough life. I just don’t want it to get any rougher for you.”
“Really? And why do you care about what happens to me?”
“Because it’s my fault! I did this.”
“Well, it’s too late now, isn’t it?”
“No. You still have time. You can leave before they get here.”
“And you want me to run and go where exactly?”
“I don’t know. Anywhere!”
“Easy for you to say. I can’t leave. This is my home.”
“Arthur…” He turned away from the door and walked back inside. I followed. He walked inside the parlor and paced around the room — no urgency whatsoever.
“I used to have a friend, back at the orphanage. His name was Lester,” he started.
“What?”, I said, confused. He moved away, toward the bar cart. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey, poured himself a drink and lit up a cigarette. He then put the glass down, kept the bottle and walked back to the center of the room and faced me.  “Lester was extremely depressed. I remember him lying on the floor, every night, so angry and miserable — barely able to breathe. He’d cry for long periods of time which disrupted everyone’s sleep. One day, I caught him staring in the mirror and hailing profanities. He was beating himself up — bringing himself down. I saw him pull out a blade and cut himself around his ribs and on his sides. The sight of blood seemed to calm him down. But his sadness never ebbed away. Neither did mine, but I could handle it. I was far too vain to indulge myself in anything that was going to damage my appearance.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“I recently found out I have a cyst in my brain. I’ve had it for a while now, and it’s slowly rotting me away. All those years I spent being obsessed with beauty and being overly concerned about how I looked from the outside, all while a disease was eating me from the inside. And I had no idea it was happening. See the irony?”
“Arthur, we’re running out of time.”
“If you ask me what kept me going, I’ll tell you it’s the memories. I was lucky enough to grow up with happy ones. Every time I felt miserable, I’d revisit them — wring every ounce of nourishment out of them. Nostalgia is a strong force…” He paused as the sound of sirens started to fade in, echoing in the distance. “They’re coming. You weren’t lying.”
“You can still make it. Go, take the boat!” I urged him, my whole body shaking, the sirens getting closer and closer.

“It’s not worth it”, he answered with a downbeat tone. “It’s about time we’ve reunited.” He smashed the bottle against the side of his head, glass breaking, liquid splashing and dripping all over him. He spread the fingers holding the cigarette, releasing it and dropping it to the floor. As soon as it touched the surface, an instant fire ignited. I screamed in terror and ran over to push him, but he was untouchable. Red and blue lights flashed inside the room as the police cars pulled into the driveway. I couldn’t stay there, so I ran.

A man who was wrongfully convicted for a crime he didn’t commit once said, “The mind can set you free if you force out everything bad that’s surrounding you.” He was referring to his own experience in the prison he was going to spend the rest of his life in. Although I can definitely understand that in desperate times, anything that allows you to alleviate the pain and tragedy surrounding your circumstance is a good thing, I wonder if the return to your shocking reality is worth the short period of euphoric denial. It’s like being high on a drug before experiencing its inevitable comedown. I personally would rather force myself to face my harsh reality — no matter the cost. Because it’s much more freeing that way.

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