Eric just wants Jake to realize how awful it is being his little brother. With the help of some strange pills, he exacts his revenge. But, has he gone too far?
It was a gorgeous Saturday fall afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. Unseasonably warm, young people of all varieties reveled in one of their last opportunities to wear their fashionable summer clothing and cavort outside. The cloudless blue sky and bright sunshine made for one of the least foreboding Halloween days in recent memory - in fact, the scene was downright peaceful.
“Jaaake, I don’t wanna go to the mall!” Eric Williams whined, sounding much younger than his thirteen years, his piercing wail disrupting the peace of the day. Eric dragged his feet and made a big production out of voicing his displeasure as he followed his older brother Jake through the parking lot of the Tuttle Crossing shopping center, something Jake did not appreciate.
“God, you’re such a baby!” Jake snapped back. “You think I wanted to be stuck with you today? When mom and dad drove up to Cleveland this morning to help Aunt Janie with her Halloween party, they left me in charge. And right now, I’ve gotta get a CD. So just deal with it.”
Eric scowled but said nothing. Jake and Eric’s mom and dad, co-owners of a local costume shop, went up to Aunt Janie’s house every year to assist her in throwing her famous Halloween parties. Every year before this one their parents had gotten a relative or a babysitter to watch their kids, but with Jake having just turned eighteen, they figured he was finally mature enough to handle the situation. Eric tried his best to convince them otherwise, but they wouldn’t hear any of it. He tried to tell them how Jake lorded his age over his younger brother, always making snide comments about Eric’s height and manhandling him in humiliating ways. But since his parents saw this as nothing but harmless brotherly teasing, it didn’t make for a particularly strong case.
It actually seemed to get worse as Eric entered puberty. It was as though Jake knew that, before long, Eric would be strong enough to fight back, and that he had better take advantage of his younger brother’s small stature while he had the chance. Over the past couple years, Eric had slowly changed from a scrawny kid with numerous freckles and ears too big for his head into a burgeoning adolescent, his muscles finally developing and his more ridiculous boyish features evening out. Despite this, Jake constantly treated him like a child, speaking to Eric in condescending tones and derisively turning him down whenever he invited Jake to join him in a video game or in a match of H-O-R-S-E.
As Eric grew older, he began to more closely resemble his big brother. Both boys possessed the same light blue eyes and straight dark brown hair, which Eric let grow down to his shoulders while Jake cut his short and styled it into prickly spikes with the help of copious quantities of hair gel. Both were lean with a modest amount of muscle gained from playing baseball for their respective school teams. Of course, whenever Eric tried to tell his parents about his exploits on the field on any given day, Jake would either snort and make comments under his breath or just outright interrupt Eric, going on about his own affairs while pointedly ignoring Eric’s death stare.
But no matter what Jake did today, he couldn’t sour Eric’s mood for too long. Always on the middle rung of popularity at his school, Eric had somehow managed to plan a Halloween party that some of the coolest kids in the 7th grade planned on attending. Even Megan Ruggins, one of the cutest girls in school, would be there. Eric smiled and blushed a little at the thought of getting to talk to Megan, the girl he had a crush on ever since he liked girls. As he absentmindedly trailed Jake into the mall, Eric allowed himself to fantasize about scenarios in which he would spirit Megan away to some unpopulated part of the house and charm her into submission, to the point where she had no choice but to become his boyfriend.
“Yo, Jake!” came a cheerful teenage voice, jarring Eric and pulling him violently from his dreamy adolescent fantasies. Eric looked up and saw Mark and Steven, two of Jake’s friends, approaching them. Mark was Korean, about the same height and build as Jake and his hair molded into the same kind of gel-encrusted spiky structure. Steven, on the other hand, was as Irish as Irish gets. Tall, lanky, with long, shockingly bright red hair, Kelly green eyes, and a face covered with all manner of freckles.
“What’s up, guys?” Jake greeted his friends, engaging in complicated handshake routines with the both of them. Eric simply hung back and rolled his eyes, realizing that Jake would more than likely forget his existence for the next couple of minutes.
“Not much.” Mark replied. “Hey, Eric.”
“Hey.” Eric smiled and waved. Though he can’t remember ever getting along with Jake, his older brother’s friends were thankfully pretty nice to him. They always treated him as the “cool little kid”, which Eric didn’t mind, considering it was a hell of a lot better than the treatment he received from his brother.
“You got any plans for tonight, bro?” Steven questioned Jake.
“Nothin’.” Jake sighed. “As of right now, I’m stuck at home with the shrimp while he entertains his goofy friends with a costume party.”
“It’s just a normal party.” Eric indignantly piped up. “Costumes are for kids.”
“Whatever you say, runt.” Jake gruffly silenced Eric, drawing an irritated glare from his annoyed younger brother. “In any case, I’m saddled with him ?til our parents get back from Cleveland tomorrow afternoon.”
“Too bad.” Steven grinned. “Derek’s throwing a party tonight. Beer and everything.”
Jake’s ears perked up. “I’ll be there.”
Mark laughed. “Well, don’t make us twist your arm or anything.”
“Not necessary as long as there’s beer involved.” Jake replied. “I’ll see you guys then, I’ve gotta go home and finish my homework if I’m gonna get wasted tonight. Definitely not gonna wanna do it on Sunday with a hangover.”
“Alright, see ya later then. Later, Eric.” Mark bid the brothers farewell as he and Derek turned and headed in the direction of the food court. As they were leaving, Eric stepped in front of Jake, put his hands on his hips, and glared up at Jake with a defiant look on his face.
“You can’t go to that party!” Eric declared. “You promised mom and dad that you’d stay with me while they were out of town!”
“Hm. Guess you’re right. What to do, what to do.” Jake pondered, a smile on his face as he scratched his chin in mock thought. “Suppose I’ll have to drag you along. ?Course, you’ll be waiting outside. Can’t have a thirteen-year-old around alcohol, that’d be downright irresponsible.”
Eric’s jaw dropped. He stood there in shock for a second as Jake stepped past him and headed for the Sam Ash, whistling to himself as he did so.
“Wait just a minute!” Eric cried as he chased after his older brother. “You can’t make me cancel my party, it’ll make me the least cool kid in my class!”
“So, nothing would change then.” Jake replied nonchalantly, not casting so much as a glance in Eric’s direction. Eric stepped in front of Jake again, forcing him to stop. Jake leaned back, cast his eyes skyward, and slumped his shoulders as his younger brother did his best to change his mind.
“I’ll tell mom and dad you were drinking.” Eric threatened, his eyes narrowing as he attempted the most intimidating glare he could muster. Upon hearing that, Jake suddenly straightened up and looked down at Eric, who was caught a little off guard by his older brother’s sudden seriousness. Jake leaned down so that he was face to face with Eric, staring straight into his older brother’s eyes.
“Do that, and your life is a living hell until I leave for college.” Jake hissed. With that, Jake stood back up and walked past Eric as though he wasn’t even there. Eric stewed for a second before stomping his foot once and slamming his fist against a nearby map kiosk, inwardly cursing every deity he could think of for sticking him with such a rotten brother.
“Sibling rivalry, huh?” a friendly-sounding voice asked. Eric looked up and saw a man in his twenties, dressed in typical goth attire - black boots, black pants, black shirt, black eye shadow and long black hair that flowed down beneath his shoulders. He leaned up against the entrance of a Spencer Gifts, apparently having seen the entire exchange. Eric looked at him for a minute, his expression blank bordering on confused cynicism.
“C’mon.” the man motioned for Eric to follow him, as he pushed off and turned to enter the store. Eric watched him disappear behind the doors, turned to see Jake heading the other direction, and pondered the decision for a few seconds before finally following the man into the Spencer Gifts.
Surrounded by tacky knick-knacks and all kinds of black light products, Eric observed the man as he disappeared behind the front counter and rooted around behind it, causing Eric to grow more and more curious the longer he spent searching for whatever it was he was searching for.
“Ah, here we go.” The man re-emerged, placing a small plastic object on the counter. It resembled a pink opaque Pez dispenser with a flat lid where the cartoon character’s head would normally be. Eric examined the object with no small amount of confusion, wondering where the hell the man could be going with this.
“Within this container are ten pills.” The man explained, sensing Eric’s bewilderment. “Dissolve one into your brother’s drink, and I guarantee you that he’ll see things from your point of view.”
Eric cocked an eyebrow. “What is it, a laxative?”
The man laughed. “A little crude, don’t you think?”
Eric glanced around at the store’s gaudy merchandise before once again meeting eyes with the man, his eyebrow still raised.
“Point taken.” The man grinned. “So, it’s a tacky gift store. Doesn’t mean we can’t sell bottles of mysterious tablets on the side, right?”
Despite himself, Eric was intrigued. He had never bought a strange set of pills from a Spencer Gifts before, but the man seemed earnest and had a strange aura about him that suggested he wasn’t just some guy working a minimum wage mall job.
“It won’t kill him or anything, right?” Eric asked, barely believing that he was taking this seriously. “I mean, my parents would be curious about that.”
The man chuckled. “Nah, nothing like that. The effects only last for one evening. I can’t tell you exactly what it does, but let’s just say that your brother will get what he deserves. Just ten bucks. Whaddaya say?”
Before he knew it, Eric had reached into his wallet and put down a crisp ten-dollar bill on the counter.
“You won’t regret it.” The man smiled and handed over the pink container. Eric took the vial and shook it slightly, hearing the slight rattle of the pills within as he did so. He gave the man one last quizzical look on his way out, to which he responded with a friendly wave.
“Thanks for shopping at Spencer Gifts!” he called out after Eric as he exited the store. Eric stood out in front of the doors for a minute, turning the object over in his hands, wondering what exactly the pills within actually did.
“Whatcha got there, runt?” Jake questioned, coming up from behind Eric and scaring him so badly that he nearly dropped the pills. Not missing a beat, Eric immediately shoved the container in his pocket before turning to face Jake, who eyed Eric suspiciously.
“Nothin’.” Eric replied, trying his best to look nonchalant. Jake looked him over for another second before shrugging and walking past him towards the exit.
“C’mon, we gotta get home so you can call all your little friends and tell them your dumb party’s been cancelled.” Jake smirked. Eric stood still for a moment, making faces behind his older brother’s back, before he obediently followed after Jake, feeling the object in his pocket and smiling wickedly as he did so.