I’m Sorry (Regional YGA Winner)


Bronson Carey

Congratulations to  senior Bo Carey for winning the RESA level, Northeast Georgia Young Georgia Authors award!  His story, I’m Sorry, will be sent to  represent our region at the state level.

I’m sorry.
My little brother, Nathaniel, was always bright, imaginative, creative, and remarkably optimistic; he was a joy to have around, and I loved the little guy.
He never had tantrums, or crying fits, even down moods, so I was shocked when he came home one day, went strait to his room, and slammed the door.
I went to it, about to knock and see if he wanted to talk, but a voice stopped me, his voice. So, instead, I pressed an ear to the door’s frame and listened attentively.
“Are you sure? Okay, don’t worry…….huh? Why?” His voice dropped too low for me to register, but soon following it were footsteps. The door opened to reveal Nathaniel, about half my size with blond bangs hanging above his eyes and freckles that dotted his nose and rosy cheeks. His blue eyes shot up at me with distraction drawing him back to his room.
“Hey Johnny,” he said with a light smile. “Sorry, I can’t play right now.”
“How come?” I asked. He would often get hooked on one project or the other, a side effect of his creative determination, so it’s not so unusual he’d be busy.
“Cause-” his explanation stopped in its tracks, and his head jerked to focus at something behind and above him. He stared that way for a solid few seconds before returning his fragile attention to me. “It’s a secret.”
“A secret?” I repeated. That was unusual. We were no strangers to secrets, but to keep one from me was unheard of.
“Did someone tell you a secret?”
“Can’t say,” he responded, shaking his head. “It’s a secret!”
I nodded and made a face that got a smile out of him. Odds were that it was one of his school friends and the ‘secret’ was something silly and childish, so I thought little of it. Instead, I decided to shift the topic of conversation.
“Who were you talking to?”
He glanced for only a moment behind him before turning back to me. His mouth opened and closed a few times, as if unable to find the right words. I noticed his muscles stiffen for a moment, and his eyes go wide before shifting about three feet above me. I try to follow his gaze, but find nothing there.
“That’s…a secret too. Sorry Johnny, I gotta…gotta go.” He pushed me just past the door’s frame before closing it on me, the click of his lock following suit. I hesitantly went back to my room. Nathaniel was acting strange, but I had my moments as well when I was his age. In reality, this kind of behavior was probably overdue, like a payment for all the years we had without an issue.
The secret thing was minor, and maybe he needed an imaginary friend to convey it with, like a partner in some secret organization, or some other imaginative ploy.
The more I thought on it, the more relaxed I became until the event barely warranted concern. Later, when our parents came home, he was quiet during dinner. Don’t get me wrong, he normally isn’t loud or obnoxious as most children would be, but to go through an entire meal without reciting the highlights of his day was…unusual. Even our father noticed and commented, yet to little avail. After finishing, he retreated to his room for the rest of the night. I stopped by his door on the way to bed and heard his voice again from the other side. I gave it little attention, but, for a moment, I almost heard someone talking back.
The next morning was a Saturday, meaning our parents would be at work until seven, so I got started on a few toaster waffles to hold us over.
I set them out, three Eggos with syrup on the side because he liked doing it himself, and a glass of cold milk. Though mom and dad won’t admit it, I’m almost certain this is his favorite meal. I called him down while making my own, but he didn’t show, so I tried again, yet without results.
Finally, I forced myself to go in for a more personal touch. My knuckle resonated a light beat upon his door frame, but still with no answer.
“Hey kiddo, breakfast is ready,” I coaxed, yet still nothing. “Kiddo?”
A feeling I can’t explain coursed over me. Even as my fingers wrapped around the doorknob, a sense of impeding dread speared my mind, muscles poised, heart beating, hairs standing on end. My hand froze, trembling, set on the doorknob. There was no reason for me to be afraid, or cautious, no logical reasoning behind my trepidation, but it still existed, deep in my blood, almost instinctive.
“Nathaniel?” I cracked the door, peeking cautiously as to whatever’s keeping him.
His room revealed steadily with an ominous creak sung by the door. I found him, still donning his superhero pajamas, staring at the wall beside his bed.
“Nathaniel…?” I asked, but he didn’t even seem to hear me. A chill ran through the room, though I assumed that was probably just the air conditioner, or a draft, but that didn’t explain why I still felt uneasy. I stepped closer, but with each one, the room felt heavier, and colder until the point I didn’t want to move any further.
“Kiddo?” I asked desperately with terror building in my chest.
I didn’t know why I was so worked up; he was my little brother, the one who loved and looked up to me. I hesitantly placed my hand on his shoulder with no warmth to meet it. He finally turned and met me with his natural smile and those innocent eyes.
“Oh, hey Johnny!”
A great weight lifted from my chest, allowing a relaxed breath to come out in a sigh of relief. “Breakfast’s ready. What were you doing?” I asked, scolding myself for getting so worked up.
“Listening to my new friend.”
“Mhm! He’s kinda weird, but really nice!”
I glanced back to the wall he faced. An imaginary friend? Or perhaps he’s messing with me…
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t really know how to say it…In…incursey-o ”
“Huh…” I rested on his bed and he sat beside me. “What’s he look like?”
Nathaniel stared into space for a few moments, like some elementary philosopher before he explained, “He’s really tall…annnd oh! Hold on!” He jumped up excitedly and hopped to his little desk, ruffling through a few papers before pulling one and bringing it to me. The scene drawn before me had a bright yellow sun in the corner, green grass, a blue sky, a poorly drawn figure I assumed to be Nathaniel, and behind him, a creature standing at least three times his height with long claws drawn over his shoulders. The creature was shaded with violent black swirls and lines, without any facial or bodily features distinguished. It stood in such contrast with the rest of the bright world my brother fabricated it seemed virtually like a shadow.
“Nathaniel…what is this?” His optimistic demeanor faltered at my response. He’s always been self conscious of his artwork, needing validation it was well done, so I quickly followed up with. “It looks really good! But…where…did you see that?” I asked, directed toward the creature. He probably saw it off some horror movie, or imagined it from a scary story.
His gaze shifted to something beyond me, and a chill encompassed my entire body, forcing all my hair to stand on end from something other than the cold.
Nathaniel laughed and said sweetly, “He’s right beside you!”
My hands trembled, heart quivered, and sweat built on my brow, though I couldn’t find any reason why.
“Nathaniel,” I couldn’t help but express urgency in my tone that seemed to wipe away his grin. “Where did you first see it. What’s it from?”
“Asher told me about him.”
“Is Asher your friend?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but instead stared at me in horror, the sheer, awful horror of a child.
“I’m sorry…” His innocent eyes watered, and lips trembled as he continued, “I didn’t…no please don’t!”
“Hey,” I tried to comfort, taking him in my arms as the dams behind his eyes snapped. “Hey, it’s okay. What’s wrong?”
He sniffed and stuttered in his answer, hiccuping emotional breaths. “I…I…I didn’t…mean…to…”
“Didn’t mean to what? It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“I wasn’t supposed to tell…”
“I wasn’t supposed to tell!”
His sobs became impossible to decipher anything else from, aside from repeated “I’m sorry,” between the gasps. After a while, he finally calmed down and ate breakfast, but throughout the day, he kept looking at something behind me, pale white with an intimidated expression on his face. He refused to say much else, even up to his bedtime, but before retreating to his room, he wrapped his arms around me in a tight hug.
“I won’t let him hurt you,” he assured.
“My friend…but I don’t think he’s my friend anymore.”
“The shadow from your drawing?”
“Yeah. He doesn’t like me, and he really doesn’t like you.”
That statement disturbed me. I knew his friend was imaginary, but his tone…his fear…the things he said didn’t sound like him. Whatever movie he saw, whatever his ‘friend’ told him, was really scaring him.
“Don’t worry,” I tried to comfort with a warming smile on my face. “No one’s going to hurt me.”
He didn’t seem convinced but went to bed nonetheless. It being a Saturday night, I stayed up a little later, flipping through the channels for anything decent. Sleep already held me by a string, yet I working against it, but a cold breath against the side of my face brought me back into the waking world. I jerked to see its source, but found nothing. The room steadily dropped several degrees and my ears picked up a light whisper from across the room, whispers I couldn’t make out.
“Nathaniel?” I asked to the void, but the soft voices, shrouded in darkness, were my only response.
“Johnny,” his voice rang from the side opposite to the whispers. I turned to face him, and found a creature whose head scraped the ceiling, whose long, thin nails wrapped around my little brother and elongated limbs distorted its proportions. The creature stands void of light, like a stain of darkness so intense it stands out in the dark.
“I don’t see him anymore,” he whimpered with tears in his eyes. “Like Asher said.”
I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!”
“What did Asher tell you?” I asks with urgency riding on my voice.
“He goes to whoever hears about him. Asher told me about him. I thought he would be my friend!”
The creature started snickering horridly, like nails scratching against a chalkboard, the dissonant sound straining my ears.
“I didn’t mean to tell you!” He said, though I could barely hear him over the laughter.
Eventually, it died down, but the creature remained. Hours later, it still stood behind me, always watching, so I eventually figured out what to do. Asher told Nathaniel in order to get rid of it, Nathaniel told me and got rid of it, so…that’s why I’m telling you.
I’m sorry.