Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Flat (01/03/13)
TITLE: The Frozen Marionette
By Marlene Bonney
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As long as he could remember, Nathan had been picked on by his peers, ignored by teachers, and bullied by everyone else, so that ridicule became his middle name. Yet, he maintained higher than average grades and excelled in technological and mechanical on-line courses. Not athletic, his frail frame betraying him as unworthy, he gravitated to video games and computer prowess for entertainment. There HE was the hero, mastering all the ins and outs in record time. There HE could bully the bullies, HE could eliminate the opposition, HE could be applauded for his expertise with bonus points and increased levels of difficulty.
School became Nathan’s number one enemy. Drawing increasingly more inside himself to escape the taunts and snubs of other students, he created a mental fantasy world more real than the physical world around him. Not surprisingly, Nathan did develop a few friendships with like-minded teens online, and they fed each others’ demons with the latest and greatest dark ideas “out there.”
At fifteen, Nathan was well on his way to becoming emotionally flat, so that only things that caused him shock or pain were allowed to penetrate his consciousness. His facial expressions were stony, even when he lowered himself to others’ expectations and played their social games. Over time, he lost his knack for this, his pretended demeanor and speech awkwardly forced.
“Kids just don’t like me, Mother. I don’t wear expensive name-brand clothes, I’m not very good-looking or a sports jock, so I don’t get noticed.”
They all thought he was too naïve to see their rolling eyes, hear their aside wisecracks, or realize that they were always whispering about him and out to get him. In his developing paranoia, Nathan knew they made fun of him, and whenever he passed a snickering group, he knew he was the object of their conversation.
The only reliable friend Nathan had was his computer. He learned quickly to avoid social chat rooms, for even there he was an outcast, rejected by his inappropriate comments and strained observations. But on other websites he was appreciated and there other like-minded demented souls gathered, each trying to outdo the other in deviant behavioral suggestions. The possibilities to obtain at least nationwide notoriety were wide, and Nathan became intrigued.
He spent months gathering his arsenal of weapons and preparations with his usual precision. For a budding madman who had withdrawn so far within himself, he had an uncanny ability to hide his intentions and more extreme oddities from those around him, still able to function on a semi-normal plane. As time passed, however, Nathan’s facial expressions were becoming as flat as his emotions. He was like a puppet performing before a distant audience that would become up close and personal to his stage in the very near future. . .
The murders of dozens of innocent school children and some of their teachers was the devastating result, making Nathan’s subsequent suicide inevitable.
“He aimed the guns like a wound-up mechanical robot programmed to kill.”
“How could his parents have been so blind?”
“What we need is more gun control.”
“Teachers need to be armed.”
“Why didn’t they have security guards to stop the guy from entering the school?”
“We need required psychological testing of kids.”
Nathan is dead, so he can’t be punished, so someone else has to be held accountable. We shake our fists at God, or at the government, or the media, or the perpetrator’s family or acquaintances.
God weeps with us for the shattered dreams and wasted lives and the unbearable pain . . .
It is impossible to explain the unexplainable, to understand the tortured souls walking amongst us, to find answers for the unanswerable. Doesn’t God care? Why did He allow it? Why? Why? Why? So we put band-aids on the gaping wounds, failing to recognize ourselves as part of a much bigger impossibly complex problem.
We have taken God out of our schools, faith out of the equation, let media babysit our children and elect individuals into office who are in love with power and grandeur and who speak deceitfully.
And we wonder why bad things happen to good people.
Mental illness is a disease, a cancer of the mind and emotions, and its victims are more than we realize. Although science has come a long way in its diagnoses and treatment, there is still no cure, and the stigma attached to it is connected by cords of shame and denial.
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