Phases

Eleven AM.

Eleven AM and he hasn’t even come down for breakfast.

It’s tough being a single mom of a teenage boy. I don’t complain, hell no, I love my son. Jamie’s done nothing but make my life better for the most part. As a little one, he was always so quiet, loving storytime and reading books. He had always a higher reading level than most kids his age, something which I always encouraged. We made weekly trips to the library where he’d bolt to look at the books, not even pausing to look at the movie section.

As he became older he started coming out of his shell, making friends, but he was still my sweet boy. He always did the dishes without being prompted, was always home at a good time, and always told me what was going on in his life. When he told me his friend was considering suicide we worked together to help that friend out.

A few months ago everything changed.

I don’t know what triggered the change, but it was a day and night change. I could normally go to work and trust Jamie to be out of bed, ready to go. He loved school and was excited he was finally a sophomore.

It was almost time for me to go to work and he hadn’t so much as opened his bedroom door. I was naturally concerned. I thought he was sick. I hurried up to his bedroom and knocked a few times, asking if he was okay. His response shocked me.

“Fuck school, I’m tired.”

First off, Jamie wasn’t the type to use harsh language around me. I don’t care what he said around his friends, just watch his mouth with his mother. I knocked harsher before opening the door.

Jamie wasn’t sick. He was twisted up in his blankets, only his mop of hair and the top of his face sticking out the top. He glared at me.

“Go away.”

Jamie might’ve grown taller than me over these past few years, but I was no pushover. I ended up pulling him out of bed by his blanket. It took a bit of pushing but he did end up marching into the bathroom to get dressed and showered.

I figured it was one of those teenage things. A phase, mood swing, whatever. Jamie had gone through a few phases as a child, one where he refused to sleep anywhere but my bed, the monster under his bed was going to get him, and don’t get me started on his cowboy phase. It was months before he stopped wearing those stupid boots.

But this… this was different. This was rebellion.

The next day I was already running late to work, so I didn’t check to see if Jamie had gotten out of bed. I was on my lunch break when I got a text from Jamie’s girlfriend Marissa.

‘Hey Ms Hensley, how’s Jamie doing?’

Confused, I texted back and asked what she meant. Her reply sent my blood pressure through the roof.

‘He’s sick today right? That’s why he’s not in school?’

I used the rest of my lunch break to go home and sure enough, Jamie hadn’t gotten out of bed. Still twisted up in blankets, although he wasn’t asleep, he was playing some sort of game on his phone.

Busted.

I marched him to school after giving him time to shower and dress, telling him how I was disappointed in his actions and if something was wrong he could talk it over with me. In response, I got an eye roll and an excuse about ‘being tired’.

For the first time in my life I had no idea what was going on in Jamie’s head.

Everything’s just gone downhill since then. Library trips stopped happening, it was a miracle to get him out to do anything but eat on the weekends. And my god, did he eat. I set aside a foot long sub for my dinner in the fridge and went out to water the garden. By the time I was back, the sub was gone, along with a family sized bag of potato chips and a two liter of Pepsi. The latter two were his, so that was none of my business, but the sandwich was mine. Jamie had never taken my food before. I was hurt.

His appetite became voracious over the weeks. On days I knew he went to school, he would pack his own lunch but eat whatever the cafeteria had as well, and judging by the payments the school gave me, he was eating everything he could fit on those plastic trays. He obviously gained weight, and although he was never a skinny kid, he’s now so large he’s having a bit of trouble buckling himself in when he’s in the car.

What’s worse is how he’s shut me off. We were so close for so long. We hid nothing from each other. He told me about his crushes on girls or when he was feeling depressed, I told him whenever I had a bad day at work or when I met a nice guy on a dating website.

Last night was one of the worst of my life. He came home with the cops.

I had no idea he was gone, I was frosting the cake for his birthday when I saw the blue and red flashing lights in the driveway. For several achingly long moments, I thought my son was dead.

Then the door opened and Jamie came out, the cop walking him to the house. I ran to the front door, dropping the chocolate frosting bag in my rush. I opened the door and pulled Jamie into a hug so tight I probably could’ve snapped him in two. The hug was not returned.

“Ma’am, can we step inside and have a talk?”

The cop adjusted his belt and looked stern. Of course I let him in, Jamie sat beside me as the cop explained what happened.

Jamie had been hanging out with a few ‘sketchy’ individuals. They had trespassed into a condemned building and started being a general nuisance, throwing things around, playing loud music. Jamie was the only one that didn’t get away, the other hoodlums were too quick. Jamie was getting off with a warning… this time.

When the police left and it was just me and Jamie, I broke down. I sobbed, begged to know why, just why was he doing this? I wanted my boy back. I wanted to go to the library with him again, read his favorite books, laugh like old times.

I think my tears got to him. I saw a bit of the old Jamie in his face as he rested his hand on my shoulder.

“… I’m sorry, mom… I…” He looked in the kitchen. “… How about we have some cake and… just hang out, okay?” He smiled.

We ended up polishing off the cake together. We didn’t talk about anything serious. Just something Jamie had watched on TV he thought was a hoot. It was, really, I laughed until my sides hurt. I worried about him, but for a brief hour, I thought that maybe he was back to normal.

It’s almost twelve now. He hasn’t even stirred, I haven’t heard him walk around. I got up and headed upstairs. I wanted to talk about his behavior. I wanted to know what the hell was going on. I knocked on his door.

“Jamie? Are you awake?”

No response. I frowned and knocked again. “Jamie? I hope you’re decent…” I slowly opened the door.

The blanket lay on the floor, shredded and covered in a thin layer of a shiny ooze. I looked at the bed and shrieked.

Jamie was nowhere to be seen. Instead there was this… bubble. That’s the best way to put it. A murky, reddish brown bubble. I ran up to it and now up close, I could tell where Jamie was.

Inside.

He was curled up like a fetus, his eyes were closed and he was completely naked. I couldn’t tell if he was even breathing. I screamed and started to claw at the bubble’s wall, desperate to get him out. It was an impossible task, the bubble’s surface was thick and wouldn’t give.

As I watched, helpless, I saw the skin on Jamie’s back start to peel off. Layer by layer, I saw skin, muscle, bone. He was melting. I screeched and pounded harder against the bubble, screaming Jamie’s name as he liquefied in front of my eyes. His gut practically exploded with fat, which succeeded in further clouding my view of him.

Before his head was consumed, his eyes opened. He looked… at peace. No more pain. No more exhaustion. He smiled before the flesh on his face was consumed, leaving behind a grinning skull that too vanished

I sunk to the slime covered floor, my shaking legs unable to support me any longer. My son. My son was changing.

After several moments, I rested my hand on the shell of his cocoon, and strangely smiled as well.

Just a phase, people say. This would be just a phase as well.

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