Contemporary Drama Speculative

Henry was not a simple child to love, nor was he easy to understand. 

Born to a woman of society’s elite who dropped him onto an extravagant Chinese carpet, one likely worth as much as the county of Cheshire, and so drunk she only noticed her baby’s arrival once she stepped onto the umbilical cord, you could say that Henry was off to a rough start.

One that would set the tone for the rest of his life.

Henry’s mother’s name was Priscilla and she hadn’t worked a day in her life. Spoiled from birth, she was one of the privileged few on planet Earth that could have all that she wanted, with a simple wave of her finger. Be the prettiest girl in school? Her parents bought her a school of her own, where she could make up the rules. Have a pet pony? Her parents bought her the whole zoo, naming it after her.

Be married to the most handsome and richest man in all of England? The engagement of her and John had been set long before she was even conceived. John was cut from a similar block as Priscilla - only his upbringing was tinged with a bit more masculinity. In hunting, athletics, and business, John would dominate all areas he chose to participate in and do so by the will and strength of his own merit. Or, if that proved insufficient, by the depth of his parents’ wallets. And those went deep.

John achieved many titles and gained much power… but Priscilla’s hand in marriage was perhaps his most treasured one, for he not only received a loving wife but had become allies with his family’s biggest rivals.

So the playground for little Henry was set without his knowing or his consent. He was to be the great uniter, the one to usher forth a new era of wealth, power, and status for the two conjoined families. Or so his parents and grandparents had chosen for him. But it was not what Henry would choose for himself, as you will soon see…

Meant to be spoiled and corrupt from the start, Henry was born different than most. The doctors defined his condition as autistic, though to him, everybody else seemed weird. He showcased incredible feats of intelligence from an absurdly young age, though he suffered greatly from lack of attention and severe mood swings. 

Henry knew how to do math and spoke three different languages, besides his native English, by the time other kids learned to form their first sentences. He could remember entire dialogues from movies, recognize the songs within them, and tell you what the actors were wearing in each scene, just by viewing the movie once.

He was, in the pure meaning of the word, a genius! A wonderchild. And, like all geniuses, he had a mind of his own. One which proved rather difficult to sculpt by his parents...

“Henry,” his father would say, rubbing his forehead in growing annoyance. “It’s hardly brain surgery, boy. In business, we take everything we can, and then some more, regardless of the cost to others. It is a dog-eat-dog world, and we are the leading dogs, so-”

“Ooo, dogs!” five-year-old Henry would exclaim with enthusiasm, after a few seconds of dead-serious attention. “Look, Daddy! It’s raining cats and dogs outside! Why do we say that, huh Daddy? That it’s raining cats and dogs, when clearly it’s h-two-o and not literal animals? It’s so fascinating! Can you imagine if real cats and dogs would fall from the sky? Oh, and did you know that actually there have been reports of fish raining down, as a result of a tornado, forming over a body of water…”

Henry’s father would sigh in contempt and leave the child to the best tutors money and connections could get, hoping that the boy’s mind could yet be tamed, and its vast potential harnessed. And although they tried, with some variable results, Henry’s mind was a beast more powerful than a class five hurricane.

“Dagnabit!” a world-renowned psychologist, Alex Manbreed would say, after a week of failed attempts at working with Henry. “I promise you, I shall make this kid obey! I studied all of Freud, all of Jung, all the classical Greek philosophies, and all the modern cutting-edge techniques, including everything in-between. I’ve worked with minds too broken to stutter and have fixed them to be prolific public speakers! I’ve dug deep into minds that were too shut off to remember what their name was, and not only helped them recover their identity but made them remember the sensations of their birth! I shall fix Henry, or I’ll eat my hat!”

Henry, a young eleven-year-old lad, would sit on the sofa, playing with a set of his father’s hunting knives, overhearing the valiant psychologist, and laughing. “Now that would be funny! Eating your own hat! Why would you say that?”

The doctor would turn briefly, dismissing the boy with the wave of a hand. “It is just an idiom, kid. Of course, I’m not going to eat my hat.”

“But you could! You’re not only wearing one, which is rather outdated, if I may say so, but I see it’s made of real leather - organic stuff. I bet it wouldn’t taste too good, but it should be at least somewhat edible.”

Alex Manbreed, you see, was a psychologist only second. His first and foremost passion was that of fashion. So he would turn to the boy, disbelief glaring in his eyes. “Outdated? Boy, have you any idea by whom this was made?”

“I’d say a deer, about five to seven years old, by the looks of the texture.”

“It was made by Benton! The leading designer of men’s headwear! As if you’d know anything about that, you’re barely a teenager.”

“And you're barely not an oldtimer, yet you’re wearing a hat that seems to predate the very people who invented such hats.”

The stress of the situation that Alex Manbreed had been put into - tasked with tutoring the child of one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people - combined with the deep insecurities that lay hidden within his psyche - which, ironically, the good doctor never found the guts to face with - were too much to bare, even for a psychologist that had worked with serial killers and people attempting suicides. He snapped at Henry, in front of the boy’s parents, spearing not a single thought or filter. The boy lowered his father’s knives and waited patiently for the man’s ravings to run out, and for him to collapse into the sofa. 

When the doctor had caught his breath and the realization of the insults he had just spoken got to him, Henry offered the man one of the knives. “I’d find you a fork so you could more easily eat your hat now, but that would mean I’d also have to find you a plate and perhaps some seasoning, which I don’t want to because you’re a selfish #$%&.”

As sharp and deadly as Henry’s mind was, he often got stuck on the more subtle things in life. And since he received little to no love from his parents, he had no real examples of how to spot it, let alone how to show it to someone he found affection for. Needless to say, when his extraordinary development matured to the interest of finding a mate, our nineteen-year-old Henry was at a total loss.

Bemused, dumbfounded, and confused to the point of depression, he showcased a weakness in his mind that his parents could exploit. Regardless of their attempts insofar, Henry had refused to join them in their campaign for world dominance. He would do well for himself in the areas of his choosing, and do so mostly by his own merit, yet would remain what you and I would deem ‘fair' and ‘uncorrupt’. 

But, when mother nature’s most potent urge finally came knocking on Henry’s body, the seed of his downfall might have been sown…

“Why do I always get the short end of the stick, Mom?” Henry would ask his mother, on one of the rare occasions that the whole family would gather and sit down for dinner. “Why am I the one that’s always left out? Why can't I find love?”

Henry’s condition would often make him forget the nature of his parents’ behavior toward him and he would think that he was still a little boy and that his mommy and daddy had only his best interest at heart. Thus, seeking their council and their comfort.

“Do you think I’ll ever find someone to love me?”

John, at this point a multi-billionaire of shady making, would snort. “Yeah, when pigs fly, perhaps.”

“John!” Priscila would snap, but not so much to save the boy’s feelings, as to stop John from closing an opportunity she saw opening up. “Don’t listen to your father, honey. Of course you’ll find someone.” She would give her husband a meaningful look and say; “In fact, I know of someone already interested in you. She told me herself.”

Henry’s ears would perk up, the steamed vegetables from southern Brazil dropping to the plate. “Who?”

John’s eyes would meet with those of his cunning wife and he would remember why he married her. A spark of passion would reignite between the two as they’d plot against their own son together.

“Oh, you know her already,” Henry’s mom would say, reaching for John’s hand under the table. “She’s exactly your age. Smart. Pretty. She’s never had a boyfriend.”

Henry would think. “Marionette? No, she’s a few days older than me, so not my exact age. Tricia? Nah, she’s dumber than Newton, so she can’t be considered smart. Veronica? Yeah, her body could be objectified as dang hot, but the term pretty implies there should be something beautiful to her personality as well. Mother, I can’t possibly see who-”

Priscilla squeezed John’s hand, as Henry’s eyes flashed with intelligence. He gave her one look of a hurtful pup and left the table, saved by a flash of insight, in the nick of time. John and Priscilla were back to square one, their hands parted.

As years went by and Henry reached his thirty-eight birthday, John’s and Priscilla’s situation grew dire. They were old and getting older. They had no other heir than Henry, though they had thought of making another child - but were too preoccupied with the potentials of the first one, to ever make attempts on a second.

And what’s worse, Henry’s own health began to deteriorate. 

His condition started to progress. Years of running his vast intellect in overdrive, combating the clever schemes of his family, and striving to do good in the world, while trying to cope with the everyday human problems of someone who was a brilliant misfit, all brought Henry down to the point of hospitalization.

And, it brought the family back together, after a more than ten-year-long hiatus, where they haven’t seen each other in person. It seemed that fate had brought them together, for they were all running down the clock, being chased by the inevitable passage of time.

Death was breathing at their mortal necks.

Henry’s parents desperately needed an heir they could trust, for the vultures had caught the scent of their old age. They had built an empire of personal power, but that was now standing on frail legs. Money, as it turned out, was a faithless servant, owing allegiance to no one.

But, in all their lies and schemes, Henry’s parents used their power towards at least some good - they had found a possible solution to Henry’s condition. A real treatment.

And Henry, he had managed to establish a foothold of justice and charity in an otherwise greedy and corrupt world of business - just as his condition deteriorated. So, naturally, he had to get better to ensure his efforts last.

Both Henry and Henry’s parents, for the first time in their lives, had something of value to offer to one another. But it would come with a cost to both parties. And so the plot thickened.

“Henry, dear boy!” 

The elderly couple would enter the simple hospital room that Henry had chosen to be administered into. They were, as always, dressed to impress. Henry, on the other hand, wore only a hospital gown under the white bedsheets.

“Cut the crap, Father. And drop the fake smile, Mother. I know why you’re here. As you know why I let you come. We've got a deal to make.”

The two would regard each other, then nod, realizing there was no need to wear masks anymore.

“You’re dying,” Priscilla would say.

“As are you,” Henry would say.

“Your doctor says you’ve got less than a year before your brain shuts off from overuse. But he also said you’ll likely lose all sense of reality months before that happens.”

“And your doctors say that your lavish lifestyles have finally caught up with you. Father, you’ve got lung cancer. Mother, you’ve got breast cancer. The dues for your vile deeds are due soon.”

Deadly silence, that could be cut with a knife, would settle upon the trio. Only the soft beeps of Henry’s heart monitor would break the unpleasant silence.

“We’ve found a treatment that could work,” John would finally say, his voice hoarse from sleepless nights of coughing.

“But you would only give it to me if I take over your criminal empire. Tell me, what’s stopping me from using all your wealth and power for my own vision?”

“Legal bindings,” Priscilla would say, taking out a tome of documents from her handbag. “This here has more words than the Bible in it, and even when we die it will prevent you from wasting our hard work on your frivolities.”

“The betterment of mankind does not seem frivolous to me, Mother.”

“Oh grow up, kid!” John would say, birthing a cough. “I told you, and you should have listened! It’s a dog-eat-dog world. You either eat or get eaten.”

“It would seem we are at a stalemate.”

“One of us has to lose. There can not be a win-win.”

Henry would sigh. A realization had grown within him that was now ripe for coming out. “Come closer.”

His parents would frown at him. But they’d step closer. Closer still, until they stood right next to the bed in which their son was dying.

“Show me the papers.”

Priscila would take the bulk of documents out of her bag again, but since it was so heavy, John would help her. They’d both hand it to their son. Henry would smack away the papers, letting them fall to the floor, and grab both of his parents' hands.

“Mother, father, I resented you for not loving me my whole life. But recently I have come to understand why that was so. You couldn’t give me love, because you yourselves hadn’t received it, so how could you give what you didn’t have? Well, you know what? Here, let me be the first to start. To give you what you can’t seem to give to yourselves.”

John and Priscila, shocked, stunned, and even repulsed, would recoil, perceiving their son’s sudden outburst as an insult. And yet, they’d linger in his embrace.

“I will sign your papers,” Henry would say. “I will continue your empire. Not because I want so desperately to live… but to show you, to be an example, of what this world needs more of. I will not wage war with you any longer. I embrace you for what you are.”

The plot twist nearly gave them heart attacks. But as the shock passed, they accepted it. Henry received the treatment, and it was successful. He inherited his parents’ empire, just as they had hoped he would - and he didn’t try to wiggle himself out of their bureaucratic shackles. They watched him lead with the ferocity of his father and the cunning of his mother. And they saw just how magnificent his potential truly was, now that he no longer had to fight them. Henry far exceeded his parents’ wildest expectations of him. His success was astonishing, glorious… terrifying. 

And they saw just how unhappy it was making him. How deeply broken and empty the look in his eyes became. How severely crushed his spirit was. All his life, Henry had an inner fire to him, a spark that would burn brighter than any, and all his life, Henry’s parents fought to tame that fire. And now that they finally did tame it, they had also extinguished it. They simultaneously brought out his full potential and snuffed it. 

All they had fought for, all that their family strived for since before Henry had been born, now crumbled into ashes before their eyes.

And they understood what they had done. And they understood what he had done.

They decided he was right. 

The tables had turned.

The die was cast.

As the days of their old life grew long, a new dawn was coming, and Henry was the one to bring it. He smiled at them for recognizing it, as a supernova smiles upon the unborn planets that would come in the wake of its destruction.

Their decision to unbind Henry from all the legalities was the greatest implosion of corruption ever seen in the history of humanity. And Henry, a child so difficult to love by his parents, became a person revered by the world.

April 19, 2023 16:18

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Miles Gatling
18:31 Apr 27, 2023

Oh snap! What's up Harken?


Show 0 replies
Jessica B Taylor
16:04 Apr 27, 2023

Lots going on here between these 3 and the psychologist too! Did you intentionally leave out Dr. when you share Alex Manbreed’s backstory? I got lost at the dinner table when his mom is referencing a pretty, smart girl. I don’t know what happened there? Also, the hospital scene has a lot going on and it’s hard to keep up? An interesting story that certainly helps the reader understand an autistic mind. Great use of all the contest idioms in one story!


Show 0 replies
Unknown User
02:13 May 07, 2023

<removed by user>


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.