I couldn’t stop thinking about that day. It was hot, in fact it was record-breaking heat for June. I was out back with some childhood friends playing in the old yellow sprinkler that would flip back and forth. We probably looked a little strange, a bunch of teenagers playing in a sprinkler but it was too hot to worry of embarrassment. Everything was fine until I heard a blood curdling scream coming from inside my house. I was fifteen at the time, which made Trey seventeen, and Thomas twelve. I ran into the house, not knowing that the screams should have cautioned me. What I saw changed my life forever. My little brother Thomas was laying on the hardwood floor, blood pouring out of his body and pooling around him. My mother was kneeling next to Trey holding onto his hand that was tightly gripping a kitchen knife, blood dripping off of the tip. My mother was uncontrollably crying, asking “Why?” Over and over… Trey didn’t answer though. His lips were sealed and his eyes were dead.

That scene played in my head on repeat for years, as I dropped out of high school, went to Juvy, cried at my Mother’s funeral, and skipped my Father’s.

Growing up I always knew my older brother Trey was little fucked up in the head. My mom sugar coated it, just saying he was different, special. I knew he had anger problems, he got into fights at school before… but that day he just snapped. It made sense that when he finally snapped and went fucking insane it would be because of Thomas. I never did anything special so I never stole the attention from Tyler. However Thomas was gifted in multiple ways. For an eleven year old he was one of the smartest, athletic, and even charismatic people I knew. I think the part that probably bugged Trey the most though was how humble and innocent Thomas was about everything.

That day as I played out back they were playing some video game. I could hear the occasional “fuck you,” or “that shot was bullshit.” Coming from inside the house. About the only thing Trey could beat Thomas at was video games. So when he kept losing to him on the day, in his own comfort zone… I guess, it’s what made Trey finally snap.

He turned eighteen just a couple days later and was tried as an adult. He was given life and prison and ever since than my life has been complete shit. A year later my mom shot herself and just a week ago dad died from cirrhosis. Alyssa wouldn’t stop nagging me, “You should be the one to tell him what that he died.” I fought the idea for a couple days but finally caved in. Maybe it just because I haven’t seen him in years.

The flakes of snow were a blur. As we drove down the winding road, they would come into focus as we took the turns, slowly, due to the icy conditions. Some whiny song played in the background and my girlfriend’s screechy voice singing along made it worse. All I could do was try and watch the falling snow pass by my eyes in a bleak effort to block out everything around me. I would try and follow one as it came into view. It would pass by the giant dead trees and swoop to the ground, splashing into a sea of white. None of this was really helping me escape the thoughts that were eating away at me.

“Tyler! Tyler!” Alyssa continually tapped my shoulder to get my attention.

“What?” I yelled, as I swiped her poking finger off of my shoulder.

“Don’t get mad. I was trying to get your attention for a couple minutes now. You are doing that thing where you zone out and don’t talk and don’t listen and don’t respond. I was trying to ask you a question! Not to mention I’m driving you all the fucking way out to a prison in the middle of nowhere!” She gasped for air, trying to catch her breath after her ranting.

I took a deep breath. “What were you going to ask me?” I asked.

“Never mind now.” She looked straight ahead.

“You know I hate it when you do that. Tell me what you were going to ask! I’m trying… okay.” My fist clenched. She is the most annoying person I have ever met.

“Fine. I was going to ask you what you were going to say to him. It’s been what, seven years?”

“Six.” I spat.

“Fine. Six. Whatever. Just answer the question.”

“I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to say to him…” I sighed. “What are you supposed to say in this situation?”

Surprisingly the car grew quite. I guess even Alyssa’s big mouth didn’t have the answer to that.

The prison started to come into view, the wired fences surrounding the grey fortress, keeping in some of the most dangerous people in Montana… My brother being one of them.


“Who are you here to see?” The middle aged women peeked from behind her glasses. I assumed I looked as miserable as she did.

“Trey Cullingham.” His name seemed to sap the moisture from my mouth as it slipped off my tongue.

She looked up at me in disgust. When a seventeen year old kills his twelve year old brother there isn’t a person who doesn’t here about it. My whole life had been a living hell, stuck in a shadow of my brother’s deeds. After what happened people didn’t look at me the same. It was hard to make friends so I dropped out of High School that same year. I fell in with the wrong crowd after that. They were the only ones who accepted me, I started doing drugs. After robbing someone’s house with a couple of buddies I was sent to Juvy till I was eighteen. The only thing they let me out for was my mother’s funeral. When I heard she died I was numb. When my dad died I wasn’t surprised, and with how he treated my mom after the incident there was no way in hell I was going to be giving him my liver…

“It will be a few minutes. Go ahead and take a seat. I’ll call your name when we are ready. Just sign this please.” She pushed across a clip board. ‘Tyler Cullingham’ I signed the paper.

I walked over and sat beside Alyssa in the waiting room. The walls were grey and the chairs were oddly bright red. It wasn’t easy on the eyes. Alyssa flipped through some magazine she picked from the table beside us. Her blonde hair hanging down to her knees. “Are you nervous?” She asked.

I didn’t answer. I just sat, with my hands crossed, rubbing my thumbs together.

“You always do that when you are nervous.” Alyssa chimed in.

“Will you shut up?” I whispered. Not sure if I wanted her to hear me or not.

She put her hand on my back and started to rub it. It was soothing. Maybe this is why I kept her around, or maybe it was because she had a car and a decent apartment. I met her a couple months after I got out of Juvy. I started bartending at a small joint and she was… A regular to say the least. One night I found her passed out in the alley behind the bar. I took her back to my place and threw her on my couch. I figured it had to be more comfortable than an alley. Even if it was a shitty couch.

“Tyler.” The lady called my name and suddenly it was real.

“I’ll be right here when you are done.” Alyssa leaned over and kissed my cheek.

We walked down the grey hallways that reminded me of the blur of snow on the way here. We walked into the room. Other people sat in chairs divided from their loved ones by a bullet proof pane of glass, and nothing more than a telephone to connect them. I knew the people around me were talking but I couldn’t hear anything other than my blood pounding in my ears. I sat in the metal chair, and for the first time in six years, seven months, and four days, I saw my brother’s cold dead eyes.

I couldn’t move. I just stared at him. Observing how much he had changed. He had a scruffy beard, a couple of scars across his face. Prison must have been hard on him. Good. He deserves every second of it. He held the phone up to his ear, looking back at me with tears welling up in his eyes.

I’m sure only seconds passed but it felt like I had been sitting in this chair my whole life. Maybe I have been. Just living in this moment when I could confront the person who ruined my entire life. My hand slowly drifted over to the phone picked it up, when I pressed it against my ear it was cold. “Dad…died.” I quietly said into the phone.

“Tyler, I’m so sorry.” He repeated it. Over and over. The first five minutes of our conversation were just those four words on repeat and a slew of sobbing.

“Sorry! Sorry? Don’t you dare say that to me!” Suddenly I was screaming into the phone. “Fuck you!”

His sobbing stopped, the tears ceased. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“Why?” I looked him straight in the eyes, and asked him the question I had wondered for years.

His eyes shifted down, he was ashamed of his answer before it even left his lips. “I was jealous. He always got everything. He was always the best. Even though he was five years younger than me. I lost control. He kept beating me, and beating me. I lost it. I went into a rage.”

“You killed him over a video game! A video game for Christ sake!”

Tears began to steadily fall from his face again but I wasn’t finished. “You didn’t just kill him! You put the gun to Moms head and drowned Dad in whisky. You fucked up my whole life! I’ve got nothing because of you!”

He wiped away his tears with his shirt and stopped his sobbing. “Listen Tyler.” I looked at him, right into his eyes ready to hate whatever left his lips. “I’m not the prisoner.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I started to feel sick.

“Times up.” A guard stood behind my brother.

“Are you kidding me? We just started talking!” The guard didn’t seem to care as he took the phone from my brother’s hand and placed it back in its holster. He forced my brother to get up out of his chair. He wasn’t resisting the guard just staring at me, there was pity in his eyes. Pity, toward me? He said it once more. Though I couldn’t hear it.

“I’m not the prisoner.”


One thought on “Prisoner

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