My son went missing about 10 years ago.
I remember the morning we lost him like it was yesterday. I woke up before my wife did, only to find the front door ajar. Panic ran up through my veins as I went to check my son's bedroom, but Eric was gone. He was five years old.
The police searched for months on end. There was even an amber alert for him. We put out hundreds and hundres of missing persons posters. There were numerous of tips called in, but none of them yielded anything of any value. I just couldn’t believe what was happening to us. How could the world be so beautiful yet cruel?
My wife, of course, was destroyed. She couldn’t sleep, and she barely ate. It got to a point where she was hardly functioning. If it wasn’t for me, I don’t think she would have gotten through it. I was her rock, and while she knew on the inside I was upset, I stayed strong for her. We couldn’t both break down, right? And thankfully I never lost it like she did. Not in front of her, at least.
“We will get through this,” I would say.
“Do you think he is still out there?” I asked.
She paused before she answered, “I’m not really sure.”
I don’t know what hurt worse, the possibility that Eric was alive but forced to endure an unbearably awful situation, or the possibility that he was gone completely. I didn’t like to talk about it, I shut my wife down every time she brought it up. We all grieved in our own way, I suppose.
Somehow, the hardship brought us even more closer together. While this kind of horror would tear most couples apart, it only made us stronger. It was the way she was there for me, the way she picked me up when I was down. I made the right choice in a partner, she thought through it all.
A few years later she found out she was pregnant again. She was nervous, feeling as though she had failed once before. I reassured her of course.
“This time things will be different,” I stated as though it was a fact.
She gave birth to another son. We named him Ericsson, after his brother. As he grew, I noticed there were odd similarities between the two. They looked so much alike, that they even had the same birthmarks on their cheeks. When I had pulled out a few of Eric's old toys, it was like Ericsson recognized them. He even gave his brown teddy near the same names that his brother had. They also liked the same foods, loved the same cartoons, and would even want us to read the same bedtime story. We felt like we were blessed with a second chance.
Ericsson was closer to my wife than he was with me. I didn’t mind of course, it gave me more time to focus on my work. I was present as a father, but I wasn’t really fond of ‘babysitting’ as I would call it. To be honest I think the similarities were too much for me. Maybe it was just too painful. I didn’t mind it though. I know it’s very selfish, but I liked the fact he preferred to spend all of his time with my wife. Once I had even offered to take him to the play park, but he refused. He wanted my wife to go instead.
Yesterday something very alarming happened. I took Ericsson to the play park. It had a large play structure which he enjoyed, and was surrounded by peaceful bushes, which I enjoyed. I watched as he played the same way Eric did when I used to take him there.
He was headed down the slide when a buzz on my mobile phone distracted me. I pulled it out and saw it was a text from my wife. She was wondering what we were going to eat for supper. I replied her quickly, then returned my gaze to the play structure. To my horror, my son Ericsson was nowhere to be seen. I swear I had only taken my eyes off of him for a few second.
“Oh dammit! Not again,” I whispered as I frantically began to search for him.
After running aimlessly through the bushes while calling his name, I finally found Ericsson. He was underneath a tree, and was digging for something.
“Ericsson!” I shouted as I rushed to him.
“Daddy?” he said as he turned.
His hands were covered in dirt, and he looked worried.
“What were you thinking coming out here?” I asked as I grabbed him by the shoulders, “Do you know how much you scared me, huh? You could have gotten yourself hurt, do you understand that?! Never run off like that ever again!”
“I-I’m sorry, daddy,” He frowned.
I hugged him and sighed in relief.
“What are you doing out here anyways?” I questioned.
He pointed to the hole he had started to dig. I raised my eyebrows curiously, and walked over to the shallow pit in front of me.
“Don’t play in the dirt, Ericsson,” I said.
“But daddy, I have to keep digging!” He exclaimed, “I have to show you something.”
“Show me what?”
“Daddy, just keep digging, you have to see for yourself. It’s a deep hole.”
I don’t know why, but I felt like I was under an obligation to listen. We stopped by the house, and grabbed my shovel.
“Do you want to stay here with mommy?” I began, “I’ll be right back okay?”
“No daddy, please don’t leave me. I have to be there too,” he pleaded.
“Okay, okay, fine, but you need to stay right next to me,” I relented, “No running off this time, you really scared me.”
“I know daddy. I’ll stay close to you this time, promise.”
The two of us headed back to the play park. We walked through the bushes and found the shallow hole Ericsson had dug. I began to shovel at it right away. I don’t know how long it took me before I hit something, maybe it was a couple of hours. Little Ericsson did as he was told. He stayed nearby, eating the snacks I had packed him.
I dusted off the hard surface I had struck moments ago, only to find something that was an off blue cloth. I dusted away the dirt, until I could make out what I was looking at. There in front of me was a child-sized skull. Beside it I saw something shining in the light. I picked it up to reveal it was a silver pendant, one from a set I had bought Eric a few days before he went missing.
“Wh-what the hell is this?” I stammered, “What the hell is this?”
“It’s me daddy,” Ericsson started with a mouth full of crisps, “That’s where mommy left me after she put me to sleep.”
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