FUIMUS NON SUMUS
by M.J. PACK
t's always a shock. A surprise. No matter how much time you've had to prepare. Whether it's cancer like a slow-acting poison in their veins or they suddenly drop dead of a heart attack, you're never ready for the utter reality of someone being there one moment and gone the next.
Everyone has their little niceties that, in truth, are more for their comfort than yours. The little greeting-card phrases like "everything happens for a reason" or "God works in mysterious ways". They don't explain anything. They don't tell you how you should act, or what you should feel, or what happens next. No one tells you what to do when your father dies. Even if they've been through it before, even if they've lost their own parent or child or beloved family pet, not one person will sit you down, look you in the eyes, and say, "Here's what you do."
They don't tell you how to handle the dreams where he's still alive only to wake up hours later in a cold sweat. They don't warn you about the way every man on the street looks like him from behind, lurching your heart like a hot stone to the back of your throat until they turn their head to reveal no, you were wrong, it's not him after all.
No one tells you how hard it is to keep your secret, the vicious little ember deep in your stomach that knows you're glad he's dead, you're glad he's dead because it's over and he can't hurt you any more.
All the years of pretending it didn't happen, pushing the thoughts away, trying to douse that flame of hate in your belly... it's all been for nothing, and no one will tell you why.
They won't explain how the world starts to look like some bizarre silent film, all the pale people dressed in black weeping grandly at his funeral, how the only way you're not laughing like an insane person at this ridiculous farce of false grief is by digging your nails into the palms of your hands until they’ve drawn blood.
All the people who thought they knew him, who had no idea of the monster that lurked beneath his skin, who touch your shoulder and mold their faces into masks of pity to console with words like "he'll always be with you". And how could they know? How could they know the ways he had already been with you, the slow creak of your bedroom door and the sliver of light that fell onto your bed, how it made your stomach greasy, your forehead peppered with tiny droplets of terror-sweat because you knew what was coming, you knew what would happen and yet there was no way to stop it?
Oh yes, he'll always be with you, that's something you know already.
No one tells you what comes next. What to do when you're an adult, alone in your bedroom at last, knowing the door will never open that way again because he's gone.
And no one tells you what to do when it does.
So you lay there, frozen, your skin clammy with the cold sweat of animal fear, waiting for what happens now because what you told yourself never happened, what you convinced yourself never had been, is back and it's at your door and it's so glad you haven't forgotten.
No one tells you what to do when your father dies, and no one tells you what to do when he comes back.
M.J. Pack is a marketing professional by day and a horror aficionado by night. After years of selling everything from moonshine to fine jewelry she’s decided to pursue a lifelong love of writing and start selling terror instead. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, her dog, and her dreams of becoming the next Stephen King. You can follow her on Twitter under the username @megslice.
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