Looking up at the night sky through the skylight, it felt like a portal to another world. There were only a scant few stars peeking through the darkness.
If he tilted his head just right, he saw only the unfathomable black of the night. It would be so easy to get lost up there…
One of his greatest wishes was to go exploring and spend a lifetime unraveling its secrets. Not for the fame or the prestige… Not for the scientific discovery, but just because he truly, deeply wanted to know.
He couldn’t bear the thought that he would never get out there.
Sadly, it was looking increasingly likely that that was the case. Years of studying and working, keeping his nose pressed to the grindstone so that he could one day walk amongst the stars and it was all going to hell before his eyes.
He’d been born into such wealth that someone would have to truly be trying to get rid of even a portion of it in a lifetime and had parents who fit the stereotypes of such wealth to a tee. He’d been raised by nannies but had learned better than to even get attached to those women because his mother invariably caught his father ogling them and found some reason or another to fire them.
When he’d reached first grade, they’d shipped him off to boarding school, as was tradition. It was there that he’d first begun to learn about space. There had been a hope in his tiny little heart that maybe out there in the wider universe, his parents and their money would no longer matter.
Perhaps out there, he could find people who paid as little attention to his wealth as people on Earth paid to him. That dream had been carefully tucked away in a corner of his heart but it had quietly motivated him all this time.
It had kept him going through years of studying and fending off fake friends who only wanted him for what he could give them, through the colossal effort that was keeping himself in peak physical condition, through every gold digger who showed him attention just long enough to realize that he wouldn’t buy them any of the expensive things their hearts desired…
Now, after all that struggling was about to culminate in success – when he’d finally gotten accepted to the programme he’d set his sights on – now, his parents had decided that they wished to be a part of his life. Just long enough, in fact, to express their opinions about him doing something so “middle class”, as they’d called it.
He’d refused to believe that they had that much influence, that their money could do so much damage. He’d called their bluff and refused to withdraw his application.
It had taken a single phone call, placed right in front of him, to have his acceptance revoked. Money truly did run the world – as long as you had astronomical amounts of it, that was.
He turned away from the stars, feeling a surge of hatred towards the couple who’d made him. They’d so carelessly ruined a dream he’d held for almost two decades, not out of fear for his life or worry over his safety, but because they’d been worried about what people would think of them for having a son who worked rather than just pretending to as the children of their peers did.
Appearance was everything.
It made him want to vomit.
He replayed the thought in his head. Appearance is everything.
Slowly, in the back of his mind, an idea began to germinate.
Appearance was everything, was it?
They’d left him with nothing… He’d do the same to them.
They’d stopped him from realizing his dream but they couldn’t stop him from destroying their lives.
The very next day, he’d begun. He’d never smoked, never taken drugs. Never even gotten a parking ticket. That day? He did all three.
It became a game to him – to see just how many terrible things he could do before one of his father’s assistants invariably caught up with him and tried to smooth over whatever scene he’d created.
They managed to suppress the majority of his antics but they couldn’t quite keep all of the scandal from hitting.
It was enough.
He watched as lines began to appear around his father’s mouth, as his mother’s features froze themselves into a perpetually pinched look.
They were beginning to feel a sliver of the agony he’d been feeling this entire time.
He didn’t stop there. He couldn’t stop there. Now that he’d gotten started, he was having far too much fun to stop. He lived for the vicious sense of satisfaction that curled in his belly every time he broke a rule or did something embarrassing.
It was all he had.
He was aware enough to know that there was no way to recover from the damage he’d inflicted on himself – socially, as well as physically, he was dying.
It didn’t matter.
There was little in his life worth living for. All he cared about was making sure that he didn’t just ruin his own life – he ruined both of theirs along with him.
Guilt tried to wrap its claws around him but he fought back. They’d brought this on themselves. If they’d only just left him in peace, all they’d have to worry about was his career.
Now, now they had to worry about a wild child.
But not for much longer.
He’d been to a doctor. In fact, he’d been to several. And they all agreed. He’d done irreparable damage. There was no way to save him now. So, he could either choose to prolong his life, suffering through unpleasant medical procedures and withdrawal from the many drugs that were in his system.
Instead, he chose one last hurrah.
And with that, he made sure that his parents would never escape the shame or the judgement – even if they ran to the stars.