Seventeen-year-old Ryder Ellis is a troubled, certified genius, who lives with his last remaining family member and guardian, Daniel. Things are slowly starting to look up when he is suddenly plagued by recurrent headaches that only seem to be getting worse. Yet never in his wildest imagination could he ever have dreamt the cause.
Chapter Description: This is a fully-written short story which would not leave me alone. Iâ€™m not sure how I feel about it. To be honest, it was kind of completed in a bit of a rush, so I don't know if it all works together.
Trigger warnings for self-harm, suicide attempts and depression.
The one thing Ryder Ellis is one-hundred-percent sure of is that nobody - absolutely nobody - owes you anything.
His childhood, with its knack for invisibility, is proof of that.
On the playground, in high school, amongst fellow classmates, teachers, he was a child and nobody noticed.
A human-being, at heart, despite every outlandish fact and a mounting accumulation of knowledge. But no-one really cared about that.
Those who were older, who were supposed to know better, took because there was so much packed into such an extraordinarily youthful body - surely that head has enough to spare when it’s so close to exploding? They set up tests and gave him big thumbs up while they marvelled at his potential. They scrutinized his intellect when they should have scrutinized the darkening bruises blossoming on his legs - another week of torture in gym class and clumsy kicks during soccer, an easy target for his peers.
Ah, his lovely peers… Well, he might as well have been an alien, for all they knew. Weird and separated by their very language, (Ryder, with his occasional lack of social grace and big words that quite frankly scared them, intimidated them) they could do as they pleased, say what they wished, because he was so odd that it couldn’t possibly count as cruelty.
So he learnt, from an early age, that flaws were expendable in the same way that ’friends’ were provisional. He tried - he tried so hard - to be the best that he could be. But what if being the best was the very obstacle he couldn’t hope to defeat?
His solution? Being as unaffected as possible.
While his temporary buddies sidled up to him, begging for help on a science project or another difficult homework assignment, smiled those pretty, perfect smiles filled with warmth and affability, Ryder would give a dark, ’Sure,’ and try not to feel too surprised when those same individuals wedged him in his locker or shoved him in the corridor days later.
Ryder prided himself on letting the insults roll off his back as he buried himself in books and built a wall of facts that were as solid as they were safe.
In public, he stayed strong. Alone - that’s the only place he could afford to fall apart. It wasn’t even about showing weakness, as such, for they too could be endearing if you played it right. Mutual shortcomings draw others in. You can laugh it off. Play it down.
So long as you don’t show that it can be upsetting, you can rise above it. Perfectly okay with imperfection.
It’s the darker sides of yourself… those weaknesses are never to be unburdened.
Like his scars.
Etched deep into his upper arms, unlikely to ever fade.
He looks at them sometimes out of bizarre, morbid fascination. Strange, because part of him is disgusted by such a ghastly display of weakness, and, naturally, Ryder fears other’s reactions and yes, okay, you got him - their condemnation.
Yet, the thing is, he likes seeing them, likes the idea that he did it. The pain and the blood is inconsequential. Temporary. And while, at the time, Ryder wasn’t thinking about the ramifications for the future, his need was just that.
The blemished appearance - red and inflamed, slowly turning silvery, ever so slightly raised. The deformity. That deep-seated wrongness.
He wanted that.
Ryder didn’t consider the reality of living with such marks. Didn’t imagine just how ashamed he would feel when some stranger caught a glimpse of them in the street, or how exposed he’d be in school on the off chance that he distractedly rolled up my sleeves out of boredom during class - a force of habit he has since had to eliminate. Nor could he possibly foresee the guilt that would consume him at the most inopportune moments.
Yet he wouldn’t take them back.
Ryder is proud of his scars in the same way he’s sometimes proud of his ability to deceive so easily. It’s wrong and it’s sick and he sometimes speculates that maybe this is what it means to be crazy. To hurt yourself and dismiss the pain because somehow you enjoy the fact that even as it heals, it never truly will. Skin may repair itself, sure, but it will never look as flawless, will never be the same as before you took a jagged knife to it.
He cut himself just to bleed. To marvel at the sight of blood, humanized him. It occurred to Ryder that no matter who you are or what sort of life you lead, if you dig a knife into your flesh, you’ll bleed.
Ryder just wanted to hurt until he knew how to feel.
Wanted to forget. To be normal. Be like everyone else, even for one moment.
So he’d hide from the mirror and the sharpened eyes of a freak, child prodigy, and listen to the faint slaps of blood as they dot the pristine floor. He’d tip his head towards darkness and pinch his eyes shut.
In this fleeting sanctuary where wounds bleed freely and silence cuts.
Here, he could clench and flex stiff fingers - sore now, with the blade no longer poking out, sparkling and commanding from between them. With frustration weaving through his limbs, an overwhelming swell of pressure festering inside his chest, he could cry, softly, in the only place it’s safe.