"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
The dusty space underneath the staircase housed clay statues of religious figures such Mother Mary and Jesus. Red dripped from Jesus' hands and feet, and it rained blood from the spiked halo adorned upon his head. All the messy paintwork that detailed his eyes made him look unloving and unwelcoming. Zach kneeled in front of him, resting the open wounds on his knees into the line of salt on the floor.
"Pray." Commands the voice behind him. He flinches first, then lowers his head and begins, "Be merciful to me, O God..." Only two weeks six earlier had Zach turned eight years old. At his party, there was balloons and cake, even friends from school. But not Ruth. Zach's parents were very particular about the friends he made, and Ruth had not made the cut. "...because of your constant love, because of your great mercy..." His parents told him he is not to speak to Ruth at school. Even so, Zach remained friendly towards her in the schoolyard. It was only a matter of time before husband parents noticed.
They said she was poison her family did not worship God. Zach didn't know what that meant, only that it was bad. She didn't seem bad. He got two lashes to his feet and another three on each knee for crying about it. Locked for two hours in the prayer room, another hour added each time he pulled his hands apart. In total, five hours.
Silently consoling himself in his bedroom was not enough to mentally protect himself from the daily abuse. Each day he lived in fear; second-guessing every move he made. It was taking a massive toll on him and reflected throughout his life. Zach had terrible grades, unhealthy relationships with other children at school, and grew skittish of adults. He had been emotionally and physically beaten down to the point of lacking trust in himself, and Zach had nowhere to turn.
Then, he made a friend. It all started innocently enough. Presumably, Zach invented an imaginary friend named Alexander, or Alex for short. Zach and Alex would often play quietly in his bedroom, or on the playground at school. They were inseparable. Where Zach went, Alex would follow. He often reserved a seat for him at the church on Sundays, and sometimes was daring enough to insist that his parents leave an empty chair for him at the dinner table.
Zach's parents were willing to put up with his imaginary friend, but as weeks turned into months, their patience wore thin. They insisted that Alexander needed to go - Zach had surely outgrown an imaginary friend. It wasn't going to be that easy, however. Fearful of what his parents might do if he went against them, Zach tried his hardest to forget about Alex. Yet, no matter what he would do, Alex continued to hover around Zach endlessly. He would appear on the opposite side of the playground, taunting Zach to encourage him to interact with him. Sometimes, he would throw things at Zach during class. The more Zach ignored Alex, the more irritated he became.
The first blackout was the scariest; Earth froze, and Zach along with it. Time slipped through his grasp as his consciousness fell into a deep slumber. Alexander, the friend supposedly crafted from a child's imagination, had grown tired of being ignored and so, out of desperation to stay in touch with his dear friend, possessed the poor boy. The loss of control came in and out like seizures, wearing out Zach on a day to day bases. One night, when he finally came to, Zach recalls a horrified expression on his parents' faces. What did Alex do? What did he say? That night, he was punished severely. Multiple beatings from his father's belt tore up his flesh. His throat burning painfully as his screams ripped at his vocal cords. He never did find out what it was that he did to deserve such a beating.
His parents were delirious, calling Zach's blackouts and behaviour to be the work of the devil. Priests came to visit Zach, intrigued by rumours spreading at the church of the boy with the Devil inside his head. Convinced that the only way to save their son would be an exorcism, his parents encouraged the visitations, exposing him to many exorcisms. The whole experience was a blur of confused timelines and varying memories for Zach. From his parents perspective, their only real option was to lock Zach away and pray to God for a miracle that their son may be saved.
As if Alex were apologetic, Zach did not see, nor hear a single word from his friend in the following years. Not until he was a teenager did Alex reappear looking to have grown older much like himself, and still very much not real. Despite his efforts to ignore the lingering ghost of his imagination, Zach eventually could not continue to pretend Alex did not seem incredibly real to him. To this day, Zach is still followed on a day to day bases by his life-long friend.
"What if I told you that I don't know what's real anymore?"
The Game and Friends
In Zach's first year of high school, he tried out for the football team. He showed promise out on the field because of his physique and apparent natural talent for sports. However, his knowledge of the game was severely lacking and therefore led to him not making the team. Not all hope had been lost that day, as Zach had strengthened a bond with a fellow classmate and friend at the trials -Matt, who had been lucky enough to make the cut.
Through Matt, Zach became friends with a wider circle of people which included Josh, Chris, Mike, Samantha, Jessica, Ashley and Emily. He is the final addition to the group of friends but considers them all to be just as close to him as Matt is. From the beginning, Zach has always been open and honest with his friends about his rough relationship with his parents. Although, he preferred to skip over a few details about his still very-current imaginary friend. They have helped him through rough times whether they know it or not, helping him to find independence, as well as question his religion in a healthy way.
Matt is who Zach feels he owes the most to, as he is the source of all of Zach's current football knowledge. Wanting to find an escape from his home, even if it only meant an extra couple of hours after school a few times a week, Zach put his all into qualifying for the football team. With some help and a whole lot of patience from Matt, Zach made team. Without any other hobbies or particular talents, Zach focused all of his time and effort on the sport, much to his parents' dismay.
Gradually, Zach grew to be the star of his football team and before he knew it he was front and centre for every game. Before his high-school graduation, he was scouted by multiple colleges' seeking out talented football players. Zach, who had rather disappointing grades, was encouraged to raise his average to better qualify for a full scholarship at the respective colleges. Turning back to his friend Matt, and another Emily, Zach sought out help to achieve higher grades. He had been successful enough to land a scholarship to the furthest college away from his hometown. Without his friends and football, he doesn't know where he would still be today.
2 February 2014
[Text: History in progress]
2 February 2015
[Text: History in progress]
A rough childhood designed Zach to be empathetic toward others. He is nervous to judge people at first glance and will almost always give someone the benefit of the doubt no matter how many odds are stacked against them. The belief that everybody has some good in them can be misconstrued for naivety on his own part. Zach is hopeful about many things like his future, his friends and his faith.
Religion is a complicated subject for the young man. He has since strayed from his parents' harsh teachings, yet clings to blind faith in something greater than himself. Somedays he can't be certain what it is. A simple wooden cross taken from his childhood bedroom is kept hidden in his sock drawer. He also has a rosary in his closet that he has not touched in years.
'What goes around, comes around' is a motto Zach lives by. He likes to put out into the world what he would like to receive from it. In circumstances of negativity, Zach is optimistic and able to keep his chin up. He easily keeps his cool and remains well-rounded in stressful predicaments; this is a skill he honed while working part-time jobs between his study. And the stressful home environment he grew up in. His friends often note that Zach has a calming disposition. Often, he is a peacemaker, or in some cases a leader during stressful times.
Zach's extraversion and sense of likeability have given him a large circle of friends. Many of which are compiled of frat boys and sorority chicks. His friends are not, however, limited to this crowd of people. To this day he stays connected to his childhood friends; admittedly, some more than others. Additionally, he welcomes new people into his life with open arms.
Regarded as 'not the brightest crayon in the box', Zach is slow to the punchline. His academic grades suffer when he is not completely focused on his studies. In school, Zach marginally gets acceptable enough grades to maintain his sporting scholarship, but none of it would be possible without the daily support from his friends. Zach's 'slowness' is considered to be endearing by most of his peers.
[WIP - To be added]