There’s a party at the Pain house tonight.
It’s a reunion, really.
A Pain family reunion.
It’s evening now and music is getting louder and louder, sounding into the streets as the pavement echoes the beat of the music. Thump thump sounds the bass coming from the house as the family members arrive all ready for the party. Cars line the streets and the house looks like it’s alive with flashing lights and laughter. You can see the party through the front windows of the house.
Some of the neighbors have already made arrangements to be out of the house this night. They’ve long given up fighting with the Pains over the loud music and debauchery. They went to knock on the door one time. They learned their lesson.
Neighbor 1 is a seasoned pro at this.
They just rolled into Chucky Cheese with the minivan. “Let’s play nicely now, kids,” says the dad who resembles the one on Leave it to Beaver, as he presses a button to close the portable DVD player playing Dora the Explorer in the car for the toddlers in the back seat. Night covered, he thinks to himself as he looks to his wife all decked out in white. And then it gets real. “Really, honey? You know they have pizza sauce here, right?” He reaches for the baby wipes. He’s not about to let year 4 in their streak of avoiding the Pain’s family reunion be a catastrophe. Oh, the qualms of a stain on white. He knows it’s the least of their worries.
Neighbor 2 is a little green.
Never mind that neighbor 1 already informed them of the Pain’s annual family reunion days ago. “Surely it can’t be that bad,” they say to each other. A pair of newlyweds who aren’t really concerned about the rowdiness of a little family reunion. They’re still euphoric from their Honeymoon in Cabo last week and they know a thing or two about loud music and Tequila. “Honey, why don’t we take the Pains a bottle of wine and a chocolate cake to say hello?” says the wife, who’s unawareness clouds her vision of any potential harm coming from this. “After all, we can’t avoid meeting our new neighbors forever.” Year 1 and already audacious. Oh, the delusion of a little optimism. They’ll learn.
Neighbor 3 couldn’t care less.
He’s a cynical old man. An old war veteran who stays up all night telling war stories to anyone helpless enough to join him for a glass of whiskey on the front porch. “You know son, why don’t you let me give you some real advice…” he’ll say, with that deep southern draw that make you feel like he’s got a lot of old-timey wisdom that has to be at least somewhat credible. Squeak squeak goes the wooden rocking chair that he likes to sit in on his front porch. And tonight he’ll be rocking along to whatever the Pain’s DJ has playing. Year 18 and he’s not bothered by their rowdiness one bit. He likes it. Oh, the pleasure of a deep-seeded ambivalence. He doesn’t let much get to him now.
Meanwhile, the party at 222 Pain Street is revving up its energy for the night.
It looks so alluring to the passers-by.
A group of boys in their teens drive by.
“Ooooooh look at that party over there,” says the boy driving his Dad’s Hummer. They have a bass in the back that enhances the stereo sound and they can’t help but nod their heads back and forth. “Let’s stop by…” says the bright-eyed teenagers looking for an outlet for all their adolescent energy.
Little do they know that Pains are waiting inside.
All meddling together.
Waiting for someone they can feed on.
The one in charge of the group drives the Hummer down the long stretch of road trying to find a space.
“There’s nowhere to park, let’s just go back home,” says Lincoln, the discerning one with brown eyes in the passenger seat.
“I’m going to circle back around first and try again. There has to be a space somewhere,” says the driver, Kai, with windows down, eyeing the house where the party is at.
“I don’t like this,” says Lincoln, the same one in shotgun.
“We have to go in!” says Jess, the blue eyed boy in the back seat.
They just don’t get it, do they. Maybe I will just not saying anything anymore, Lincoln thinks to himself. Head down and worried that trouble is about to become their friend, he looks out the window to the flashing lights. Closer and closer they get to the house, and he can feel the car starting to move from the beat of the music.
The allure becomes stronger and stronger and they all become captivated by the people they see through the windows dancing, lights glimmering and music making the whole house seem like a buzz of entertainment.
“Look! I told you a space would open up!” says Kai, who’s blinded by the trouble about to ensue.
Beep beep!! There’s a yellow sports car with horns on the logo pulling out in front of them. The driver is signaling to them with his hand out the window to come and park in his space. And he’s looking back at them with a devilish look in his eye. He drives away slowly.
“Alright, let’s go boys,” says the Hummer driver, Kai, who struggles to parallel park and hits the car in front of them. His eagerness is getting the best of him. “Well that’s the problem with big cars, guys, but it looks good, doesn’t it?” The others are not convinced.
“Maybe next time we should just take my mom’s Volkswagon Beetle?” says the quiet one, Stan, who hasn’t spoken up till now.
Kai looks at him in confusion.
“Girls like Hummers, Stan,” says Kai. “At least that’s what my dad says. But what does he know… He’s divorced.”
Tears start to well up in his eyes as he tries to not let the other guys see. He shakes it off, moving his head around and fumbling with his keys as he locks the Hummer door. “We’ll think about it Stan.”
Bump bump bump goes the rhythm of the music as they make their way toward the front door. There’s an uneasiness about this place that’s starting to become apparent and there’s something about the faces through the window that doesn’t look real.
Neighbor 3 is looking on from across the street.
“Uh oh. Those boys are in for hell of a…”
Crash! goes the glass mason jar falling from his hand. He falls off his rocking chair passing out from the 5th drink he’s had since the Pain family reunion on-looking began.
Screeeeeeech…..goes the front door of the Pain’s house.
“Why hello there, boys.”
“Welcome to the Pain Family Reunion. I’m Mrs. Pain,” says the lady greeting at the door. She has a forced smile that makes her look almost evil despite her long eyelashes and flowing long hair. She’s wearing a green dress fitted too tightly and her hands have long fingernails with horn designs on them, just like the ones they saw on the back of the yellow sports car in from of them a few minutes ago.
“Come on inside and let me introduce you to the family…”
The boys look around and shadows bend around the room like ghosts.
The smiles they saw in the windows are gone.
There’s no one dancing.
Just eerie silence and sizzling noises coming from something like smoke settling near the ceiling.
“What is this place!?” they think to themselves but don’t dare to say out loud. They know they are in trouble. Hearts pounding. Sweat starting to drip. They look at each other and over at the front door to signal an escape.
Mrs. Pain is eyeing them with a vicious look as her lips keep smiling at them wickedly.
“You see, we’re all about the human experience here in the Pain family. We like to exploit our patients for the betterment of their sense of reality. We wouldn’t want you to get the idea that you can actually be happy and peaceful in this life now would we.”
She starts to laugh with a sharp splintering sound of laughter as she lifts her hands to craft something out of the smoke.
A body appears.
It has eyes that burn with fury and a shroud of agony cloaks him like a garment. He hands are rough and peeling from some kind of physical labor.
Then another body appears.
He has a twisted look on his face and a chuckle that slightly resembles Mrs. Pain. He keeps dancing in place lifting one foot of the ground then the other, like some kind of jig. He has a sick look in his eye.
Then a 3rd body appears.
His arms are strong and muscular, like he must work out or so some kind of heavy lifting. He’s wearing glasses and has a puzzled look on his face, like he’s in deep meditation or thought. Arms crossed and face stern, he doesn’t look confident in whatever he’s thinking about.
Then a 4th body appears.
He has long flowing hair and a seductive smile on his face. Tall and lean, his physical appearance is appealing. He won’t make eye contact with Mrs. Pain but he keeps eyeing the boys in front of him. Perhaps he thinks he can get to them before they know too much.
The boys start to shake at the sight of all this.
“What is going on here?” demands Lincoln. “We thought there was a party. Nothing in here looks the way it did to us outside.”
Mrs. Pain puts her arm around Lincoln’s shoulder and starts to gaze at all four of them.
“You see, boys, this isn’t just any old get-together. No, no… This is a family reunion. A family reunion of pain. And these are my most masterful soldiers of pain. They know how to inflict the four most brutal kinds of pain that humans experience. And with more pain, comes more resentment of that wretched One in the Sky who we seek to devour. There will be no mention of His Name here!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Shrieeeeeek!!! she shouts at them for the first time, raising her voice and cracking the chandeliers that rest below the ceiling but aren’t shining.
“If you mention His Name, you will surely die. I guarantee you that,” Mrs. Pain threatens as she looks each boy in the eye with a grimacing look and then immediately changes to a forced smile and a fake tender voice.
“Now, to my soldiers…”
Mrs. Pain walks toward the first body in the smoke.
“Let’s leave!” Stan whispers and the other boys nod their heads in agreement as they all try to make a run for it while Mrs. Pain is distracted.
But when they try to run to the door, they can’t move.
Their feet are stuck in place.
Each one tries to jump and then pulls at his pant leg to try to move out of position but their feet won’t budge.
“I think we’re stuck here! What has she done to us? How are we going to leave!?”says Kai, the one who was driving the Hummer.
“Try to unlace your shoes and let’s just get out of here!” says Lincoln, who knew from the beginning this was trouble. “She may not see us through all this smoke.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Pain walks toward the first body to introduce him.
“This is Physical Pain. My most dependable Pain soldier…” says Mrs. Pain as she comes around to massage his shoulders.
“He may not be the most damaging, but I can always count on Physical Pain to inflict a solid hurt on somebody. He lingers long enough to inflict his usual blows and then bails without leaving a remedy. Always reliable. Nice job, Physical Pain.” She pats him on his shoulders and releases her hands, starting to walk over to the next body.
The boys are looking up towards her through the cloud of smoke and unlacing their shoes. “Hurry, hurry we need to get out before she sees us!”
“Allow me to introduce you to Relational Pain,” Mrs. Pain says as she looks straight at him and his sickening grin.
“This one is of my own flesh and blood. I taught him well. He usually makes an appearance at the party after he gets to know you. He likes to bring a friend with him like he always does, one who will stir the pot and make the air really tense. He plants seeds of misunderstanding between people. Then he channels it into resentment and annoyance. He’s gifted like that. That’s why I’ve nicknamed him ‘sick and twisted.’ Love you, pumpkin.” Mrs. Pain squeezes his cheeks and they both join in a bizarre kind of laughter.
“My feet aren’t coming out of my shoes! What do I do!?” Stan says as the other boys look at each other with fear in their eyes.
“Mine aren’t either.”
“Yeah, me neither!”
Lincoln suggests another plan.
“Ummmm, okay. Next plan. Try to take off your socks. If our feet are stuck and our shoes are stuck, then maybe we can free our feet and get away by getting straight out of the socks.” They all nod in agreement.
Mrs. Pain walks over to the next body behind the veil of smoke to the one with glasses and strong arms.
“Now this is my second most powerful Pain…Mental Pain. When he comes to the reunion he likes to break down the front door. He can’t wait long enough for someone to answer the doorbell. He always lets impatience get the best of him and his condition is contagious. He’s the smart one in the family, and he knows how to get people to overanalyze things and question the One in the Sky. He always fuels worry and anxiety in my patients. He is very useful to me for that. Depression starts to set in with him a lot. I have to be very careful with how I use him. Keep at it, Mental Pain. You do good work.” Mrs. Pain rests her hand on his face and looks him in the eye with one of the most sincere looks she’s had till now. There’s something strange about her relationship with Mental Pain. She seems to really love him.
Mrs. Pain has been so wrapped up in her Pain soldiers, she just now notices the boys’ escape efforts.
She glides over towards them through the veil of smoke.
“Now, now, boys there is no point in you trying to break free from my humble abode. You can’t break free from my power. You’re in my domain now!!!” she shouts at them with a vicious loud voice that is different from how she was talking before.
Her eyes turn a menacing green and the Pain soldiers start to take steps forward to where she is standing, as if they are going to torture the boys right then and there.
“Please go back to your positions, Pain soldiers, I am in control of this situation. If I need you, I will alert you.”
They step backward in an orderly fashion. She recovers herself and her eyes morph into a soft blue color while her face returns to a forced smile.
“Listen here, my boys, my lovely boys…” She smiles at them cunningly walking over gracefully. “You are stuck here whether you like it or not.”
There is a pause.
Then she leans in with red in her eyes and a fiery look on her face that they had not seen before, with her voice reserved and firm.
“If you keep trying to escape my family reunion that you yourself decided to join, I will not relent in letting my Pain soldiers do whatever they want to you. And believe me, they don’t have the emotion of compassion like humans do. They will not relent in torturing you.”
The boys look over at each other as the fear that was formerly in their eyes now turns to despair.
Mrs. Pain walks back over to the last body.
“What are we going to do?!” Jess whispers to the other boys. “We should have never stopped by this party. We’re going to die here. She’s never going to let us go! I’m tired of this Pain family. I want to go home.”
After hearing him, Lincoln, the discerning one with brown eyes sits down.
He begins to think.
He begins to pray.
“Now this is my most lethal weapon…Emotional Pain.” Mrs. Pain winks at him and gets close to his face. She begins to run her fingernails through his hair.
“Emotional Pain eased his way in the backdoor this time, now didn’t you, e.p.? He’s good at that. You see, over time, my patients know from experience not to let him in. They know that he is a sly one. But He sneaks in every time. Always unexpectedly. And he always wears a disguise of beauty and allure with my patients. He’s smooth. He knows how to make you feel special and happy and wanted. They usually forget about how he wrecked them last time and so they end up giving him access to their emotions. Once he has access to all the brain chemicals, he’s in control. He can rip someone apart through their emotions. Even get them to the point where they don’t want to live. He wants you to be so emotional that you can’t think straight. Then you won’t be effective at anything. You won’t want to do anything. You will sulk in your tears and You will despise the One in the Sky. He’ll make you a nervous wreck. He is oh so gifted at that and he doesn’t care about decency. I can get him to do almost anything to someone once he has their emotions. Exceptional work, Emotional Pain.” Mrs. Pain keeps caressing his head and leans in to kiss him but pulls away. Hahahaha, Mrs. Pain chuckles with an evil look in her eye, laughing violently and indecently. Then all the sudden her form starts to transform into something other than a woman.
Globs of her hair fall out as molten lava.
Her skin begins to melt, like a candle falling away from her face.
Her fingernails grow longer and her body looks like a monster. More smoke starts to fill the room.
“But even something as lethal as Emotional Pain doesn’t have control over me! My soldiers do what they’re told! No one tells me what to do!”
Mrs. Pain starts to get taller and taller as her body morphs from the body of the woman in the green dress to a devilish figure with a man’s voice and a shroud of red smoke all around him. Smoke keeps filling…the soldiers start to move forward…they are all looking at the boys as if they are the next victims to be inflicted with pain…they keep moving closer…and closer…and closer…and they reach out with their arms to grab the heads of the boys stuck in place…and then…
“The Name of Jesus!”
“The Name of Jesus!”
The Pain soldiers stop.
Lincoln stands up. He starts yelling the name of Jesus at the top of his lungs.
“The Name of Jesus!”
The Pain soldiers are halted in place.
Lincoln turns to the other boys.
“She said that the Name of the One in the sky is not welcome here. I know that Jesus is the One she is talking about. Maybe if we say His name He will rescue us from this death! It’s our only chance!” The boys look at each other in awe.
“That’s it.” They say to each other.
“Holy crap that’s it.”
They start saying His name too.
“The Name of Jesus!”
“The Name of Jesus!”
“Be silent, be silent, I told you His Name is not welcome here!!!!! Be silent now!!!!!!!” says the devilish figure that used to be Mrs. Pain as she slowly loses shape and the smoke starts to clear the room.
The Pain soldiers are still stuck in place.
They can’t move.
They are trying to reach out to grab the boys but now they are the ones that can’t move.
“It’s working, it’s working. Keep saying the Name of Jesus,” says Lincoln.
“The Name of Jesus!”
“The Name of Jesus!”
A loud sound echoes throughout the whole house.
All the sudden what was left of Mrs. Pain disappears.
And she is gone.
The smoke is gone.
The shadows are gone.
There is a bright light shining through the window.
The front door opens.
And the boys can move.
They are free.
The biggest threat is gone.
But the Pain soldiers are still there.
They didn’t disappear.
Their mouths are moving but there are no words coming out.
They cannot speak.
“I cannot believe what has just happened…we can move now all the sudden…we have been rescued by the One in the Sky…let’s go! Let’s get out of here!” says Kai, Jess and Stan as they are so relieved.
But Lincoln looks over at the Pain soldiers.
And he has compassion on them.
“I’m sorry for what Mrs. Pain has done to you. I pray that you will be free from the pain she has put on you.”
And Lincoln walks towards them, and he touches them.
Each one, he touches.
Lincoln says, “I ask God, the One in the Sky, Jesus, to not take away the pain, but to heal each one of you from the oppression that has been inflicted upon you because of it. May you be healed.”
Then the four Pain soldiers suddenly change back into life-filled, normal human beings, teens about the same age as Lincoln, Kai, Jess and Stan.
They look tired and weary. But relieved. They nod to say thank you. Lincoln nods back. And the four of them walk out the front door.
Lincoln and the rest of the boys, shocked and shaken, also walk out of the front door and make their way back home.
There’s a minivan pulling into the driveway a few houses down.
And a young couple walking across the street.
“Hmmm, I wonder who that couple is taking that bottle of wine and cake to?…”
They look each other and don’t say a word.
Vowing to never to return to another Pain family reunion.