Leo likes to roar at people. Not full-throated, like a lion, but as a baby on the brink of toddlerhood, barely above a whisper. The kind of roar that says: I recently learned to walk, and I’ll be coming for you, because I’ve got a darkness inside of me.
Sometimes, Leo will roar at families in line at the grocery store. A mom usually turns around, smiles, and says something like: Was that you, making that big sound? Leo never responds, just stares into the fluorescent distance.
Once, Leo had a dream. Once.
Leo hears Metallica all the time, sometimes for hours a day. Research for a church youth group project. His first taste was a song called Blackened. He felt fear, but upon repeated listens, he got used to it.
Memory is a tricky thing, Leo thinks. Just the other day he thought all the Fig Newtons were gone, churning in his belly, waiting to be ejected into the fig afterlife. Then today, as if by magic, there was a package on the kitchen table. Sure as hell looks like the same package of Newtons, he thought. Once in position, he inspected and found the tray half-full. If I can’t trust my own mind, he contemplated, what hope is there for me?
After the shock of the Fig Newtons discovery, Leo is at church. The group is knee-deep in research, listening to Metallica’s Master of Puppets album on repeat, discussing the sacrilege that is the album cover. The youth pastor talks about staying on-guard against Satan, but Leo is becoming more comfortable with Metallica and their backbeat from hell.
Leo gets home from church and quickly makes his way to bed. It’s been a long day, and to be at his best, he needs a good 12 hours of sleep. His father, the youth pastor, leans over and kisses him goodnight, starts to walk away. Leo cries out, his voice clear and strong.
“Dada,” he says.
His father looks back to him. “Yes, son?”
Leo pulls himself to his knees, hands gripping the wooden bars of the crib. A shard of light comes in from the hallway, giving the appearance of a lightning bolt across his face. Leo can sense his father’s fear.
“Dada,” he says, and his voice drops to near-whisper level. “Damage, incorporated.”
T.L. States lives in Tucson with his family, and his writing can be found at Hobart. He can also be found on Twitter as @epmornsesh.