Fiction Drama Contemporary

TW: Some graphic scenes, and drug use.

I wake to piercing screams, ripping me from sleep – it takes me a few seconds to realise it’s Danny, my 14-year-old son. Deathly still I listen, as his screams turn into sobs. Eventually they subside. It’s quiet, the rain lulls me into a discombobulated sleep – it’s no use, tossing and turning only gets me frustrated. Passing Danny’s bedroom on my way to the kitchen, I can hear him talking to himself again; a chilling cold shivers down my spine. After boiling the kettle, I make the strongest black coffee I can handle, and I sit in front of the electric heater, that does not take away the chills. I contemplate my life, and all that has happened in the past year, when our lives were turned upside down, and forever altered. Who could have imagined the price we were soon to pay?

When Danny was 10-years-old, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. The specialists said he was probably born with it, but it wasn’t detected until he collapsed at school one day on the field playing soccer. After several tests, they concluded their diagnosis. Then, finally, after waiting four years on the recipients list, we finally got the call, they had found a heart. It happened so fast from there, it spun me around in circles. Apparently, a donor had just died. So we rushed Danny to the hospital to receive said donor’s heart. At the beginning I asked a few times, who the heart was coming from? But, I was told the family wanted to remain anonymous…I should have pushed for more information, but at that time, it was a chaotic rush. Kathy, my wife, and I, stayed for the entire eight-hour procedure; holding each other’s hands, drinking disgusting coffee from paper cups, and staring out the windows as the day turned into night.

We’d spent years ensuring Danny wasn’t doing anything that could damage his heart further. We no longer played Basketball, even riding his bike could be dangerous – it’s still in the back shed a rusted mess. We used to go on hikes, that too we had to give up. He could continue school, but he got teased a lot because of his fragile heart. There were many not so physical activities we did together, to make up for him not being able to do the things normal boys his age were doing. We’d go to the movies, swim in the beach or the river down the road. Walking short distances was okay, as long as he didn’t over exert himself.

After the transplant, he remained in hospital for several days. Finally, he was released to come home. We were so happy. Life was better with this new heart, not just for Danny but for Kathy and I it was a huge relief. We could instantly see a change. Danny wasn’t breathless anymore – he could run up the stairs to his bedroom. His energy levels returned, and he talked a lot…Hell, we couldn’t get him to shut up! This was new, but then everything he started doing was new to us. One day I caught him smoking a cigarette, and I was livered!

“You can’t be doing that son! Someone died and gave you their heart, and you repay them by smoking? Put it out now! And go finish the rest of the dishes.”

“Yip, sure dad. Sorry, I was craving one for some reason. It’s fucking awful, why the hell do you smoke these things?” he said, walking back towards the house.

“And mind your fucking language!” I yelled after him.

Kathy had quit her job at the local Bakery soon after the transplant, because someone had to be home to look after Danny. At the time, I was working as a supervisor at the local power plant. After several weeks I insisted it was time Danny went back to school. It’s only natural after such upheaval to want things to go back to some sort of routine. But he kept saying he was too tired to go. So we thought he just needed more time, fair enough. Initially, I thought everything would go back to normal, but whenever I’d ask him if he wanted to shoot some hoops? He’d laugh at me. We brought him a new bike; that didn’t tempt him, at all. This became his usual response to everything I’d suggest;

“Dad, I’m not interested. That was the old me!”

I was disappointed. He started staying up all night on PlayStation, and sleep the day away quite happily. This isn’t what we wanted, not at all. Before the transplant, we could manage his game time, not anymore. I guess because of the transplant, we felt like he needed time to adjust, acclimatize to his new condition – but it was if he had aged overnight. His bedroom, which he used to keep immaculate, was now an ashtray for cigarette butts, a rubbish tin for his trash, dirty dishes piling up and clothes strewn across the room. I remember telling a colleague about it, but he just laughed, saying, “welcome to the world of teenagers,” needless to say that did not help me in the slightest.

One day while I was at work, I received a disturbing call from Kathy.

“You need to come home, now!” she said, in between sobs.

“Slow down and take a breath, what the hell is going on?” I said furious, “for fucks sakes! I can’t just drop everything and come home. You can handle it, whatever it is…Kathy are you there?”

The phone went dead, so I waited for her to call back, but she didn’t. I tried for half an hour to reach her, but the land line and her cell phone were going unanswered. I knew then and there that something was wrong, call it a hunch if you will. I raced home as fast as I could.

“Kathy! Where are you?”

I ran around the house searching for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Coming from  Danny’s bedroom I could hear music. But, it wasn’t music my son would usually ever listen to – it sounded like someone barking into a microphone, I think they call it death metal? Anyway, I entered without knocking. Inside, he was lying on top of the covers, naked and smoking. It wasn’t until I recognised the stench from my experimental drug habit in my late teens, that he was smoking weed!

“Danny! What the hell?”

Turning down the stereo system, I looked at him gobsmacked. For a moment, I saw him as a young man, not my 14-year-old son. It spooked the heck out of me.

“What do you think you are doing? Is that a joint?”

“Yeah, you want some?” he said as he held it out for me to take.

I ripped it from his fingers and threw it out the window.

“Dad, what are you doing? That’s mine! Whatever, I can get more,” he giggled.

“Where’s your mother?” I asked trying to defuse the situation.

“I don’t know. I’ve been up here all day. Maybe she went out?”

I stormed out in a rage, slamming the door behind me. It was building inside me and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, best I take myself out of the situation. So, I ran into the backyard and screamed into the sky! Several minutes later I went back inside to find my wife. Her car was still in the garage, her purse, wallet and cell phone were still sitting on the counter, she wouldn’t have left the house without them. Becoming frantic, I searched again. This time I checked the basement just in case. I could hear her screams as soon as I reached the bottom step. Racing with my heart in my mouth, she was locked in the storage room, where the power circuit board is located.

“James, thank God you found me! I was terrified.”

She burst out and grabbed me, holding on for dear life. She was a shivering mess as I soothed her as best I could.

“What happened? One minute I was talking to you and the next you were gone! Why are you in here?”

“I was speaking to you, then the power went out, cutting off the land line phone. I went to check the power board, and the door slammed behind me. Then I couldn’t get out! I don’t know what happened,” she cried.

“The door was locked when I got you out. That’s weird,” I said, examining the door.

“Why did you want me home right away? You were saying that something happened?”

“Danny was walking around the house naked, and I’m sure he was smoking weed. I told him to get to his room and put some clothes on, but he laughed in my face! There is something wrong with Danny. He’s not the same!”

“Look, calm down. I’ll have a word with him, and then I’ll call someone to come and change the lock on the door, in case it is defective. How about we go upstairs and have a coffee? Trust me, we can sort this out, it will be okay.”

Danny had started talking to himself, and when we actually got to see him, he often muttered under his breath. The incessant noises coming from his room had gotten so loud; we could hear him from our bedroom. He stopped coming down for dinner, preferring to be fed in his bedroom instead and not with us, as a family. Danny had an ensuite, he hardly used the main bathroom, so there was no way to tell how often he showered. But if the stench emanating from his bedroom was an indication, he certainly wasn’t grooming, and the condition of his bedroom didn’t help. When finally he graced us with his presence, he was a mess – hair a tangled mop, food stuck to his chest and he was growing bum fluff on his chin. I don’t recall having facial hair at his age. Odd.

That wasn’t the worst of it. The noises coming from his bedroom were horrifying! Besides the constant chatter and swearing, he was making grunting and growling noises – they sounded demonic and gave me nightmares…I’d be running after Danny, he’s little, and sweet pearls of laughter surround us…but he falls down a hole in the ground…I grabbed onto his arm…but he pulled me in, and down a tunnel of fire we fell…I woke sweating, swearing, and my lungs craving precious air.

Once, in the middle of the night, I saw Danny walk out of our bedroom. I was momentarily puzzled. Kathy was clinging to the sheets, her face pale in the moonlight slicing through the blinds. My heart skipped a beat when I saw what Danny held in his hands. A knife. Its blade, reflecting in the light from the hallway, as he closed the bedroom door quietly. His bare feet padding softly down the hall. My skin crawling as I reached for the lamp switch.

“I’m moving out,” Kathy said.

“Okay.” Said I.

And the next day she was gone. No fan fair, just tears. No goodbyes, just see you soon. Her tears wet my cheeks. Her eyelids feeling like wet wings of a butterfly. As she turned her back, she suddenly stopped. Looking up I searched and there he was. Danny standing at the window with his penis in his hand, and his ejaculation sliding down the glass. She fled in terror as I collapsed to my knees, there on the wet grass. This broke me. Seeing my son doing something so putrid, I vomited in the garden, dry heaving after expunging a night full of coffee.

After Kathy fled, I had to quit my job to take care of Danny. I was practically living like a prisoner in my own home. To be honest, I was afraid of him. His rage was out of control, and each time I’d put my foot down over his behaviour, he responded by smashing windows and punching holes in the walls. Kathy would call sometimes to check I was okay…or still alive. After the way she left, seeing the way our flesh and blood behaved that day, she never asked after him. I know she was as broken as me, but she didn’t have to live the reality of it all. She just left us to our own devices. Me, having to watch our 14-year-old son walking around the house in his briefs, smoking fuck knows what, and drinking beer all day, his moustache thickening, and a hairy chin, spindly wires forming on his chest, and stinking like the dead.

“THIS IS NOT MY SON!!!” I screamed down the phone at the doctor.

“Settle down. What are you talking about? Is he in good health?”

“I don’t fucking know!”

“Is his heart still beating?”

“Very fucking funny. Of course it’s still beating. That’s why I’m calling you! Something isn’t right. He’s a completely different person!”

“Is he exercising? Getting out and about? Socialising?”

“Oh yeah, he has some great mates. Some of them he pays for, off my credit card!”

“Ummm…well I don’t see any problems. Seems like he’s getting on with life, perfectly!”

I tried and I tried to stop myself from losing it, but I punched a hole in the wall instead. I wallowed down the phone, tears streaming down my face. After pleading my case with the doctor, I buckled to my knees. Although I knew in my heart, none of this was Danny’s fault, the totality of the situation, kicked me hard in the butt. I had to find out who the heart belonged to that was beating inside my son. There had to be a way. So, I started writing letters to the hospital, demanding more information. But they never got back to me. Taking it upon myself to find out, I searched the internet. It wasn’t that hard to find out who it previously belonged to. All I needed to do was look at the deaths on the same day Danny received his new heart. There were only two possibilities, one was a 3-year-old child, who passed away in a car crash. The other, a 20-year-old male.

More digging about this guy led me to some devastating discoveries about his terrifying past, and criminal record. His name was Trevor Neals, and he was an inmate at the local high-level security prison. I found news articles about Trevor’s misdemeanours. He was a monster, that’s putting it mildly. He’d been doing time since he was an adolescent. However, due to his young age, I couldn’t find the details of his earlier crimes, not specifically. But the news articles I found basically gave it away. He’d been sexually abusing his younger siblings, done time for breaking into a neighbours car and taking it on a joy ride, crashing it on the motorway – his passenger, a 14-year-old cousin, died in the crash. He was done for manslaughter. His life was ended by another inmate who strangled him to death, over gang rivalry within the prison. So that explained the reason why the hospital wouldn’t disclose his details to me.

Now, what was I supposed to do with this information? How was I going to fix this? I desperately wanted my son back! But how was I supposed to change things that were out of my control? Danny was too young to be kicked out of the house. There was obviously nothing the doctors could do…or could they? I took the bastards to court. I wanted that heart taken out of my child! They offered me compensation, a settlement to keep my mouth closed. But there was no way I was accepting any money, when there was more they could do to help. It took months of fighting, but finally they agreed, and instead of the money, which equated to the whole sum of four million dollars, they took out his heart. Danny remained in hospital during this time, I could breathe. Either Kathy or I visited him every single day. His disposition had a dramatic change. He was quiet, but not withdrawn. It was especially lovely to hear him giggle at my stupid dad jokes.

Only a month later, Danny received a new heart. This time, I ensured I knew who this heart belonged to, before I accepted it for Danny. It was coming from a teacher who had passed away in a bicycle accident. Her name was Maryanne Cox. She was in her early thirties and a mother of one. Since then, our situation at home has calmed down exponentially. Danny is a completely different person. We play together, hang out and have resumed the things we used to do before the first transplant. He’s actually taken to painting and he’s really good at it. He spends quiet time in the garden, with his easel and paints. I love to watch him from the kitchen window, brushing the canvas with beautiful bright colours. Danny is back at school and making friends. Kathy even moved back in a few weeks ago.

It’s bizarre to think a transplant can have such a devastating consequence. I mean, here we were taking the heart from a criminal, a deplorable person who happened to be a diabolical monster. How can it be, that heart held onto the life of the person it was taken from? These are all questions I’ve been researching, trying to find the truth. I’ve found others who have had the same happenstance as us. So I began a support group and although it takes up most of my time these days, everything seems to be ticking along quite nicely.


June 29, 2022 22:41

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13:43 Jul 07, 2022

This is really good! You definitely have a strong narrative style and do a great job creating a sense of tension! Also, this is such a spooky idea. I enjoyed this a lot!


Del Gibson
05:00 Jul 29, 2022

Thank you so much Abigail, your feedback is much appreciated. Glad you enjoyed the story, and the concept :)


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Ginny Kersey
20:57 Jul 04, 2022

Great story Del! Although I haven't heard of any,it makes you wonder if this has happened in real life to someone. I wouldn't be surprised if it did


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