The La-Iin Series
“A Broken Son”
Night had fallen on all of Vaelyn, and most everyone in every part of it was asleep by now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya included.
Both were lost in their dreams, until Orlin-Aesth’s ears twitched. He had been dreaming about playing soccer with his high school friends when he heard a strange sound. His ears continued to twitch until he opened his eyes and realized he could hear Dosa-Mina screaming.
Elai-Riya was already awake and getting out of bed. Instinct put Orlin-Aesth on all fours and dashing after his wife as the two burst into their son’s room. He stood up.
Dosa-Mina was screaming loud enough that they would have wondered if their neighbors could hear him had they not been so worried. One arm slightly raised, he was thrashing about in bed, the only thing his parents able to make out in his screams being “San-Kyung”.
Elai-Riya moved faster to wake him up.
“Dosa-Mina! Dosa-Mina, wake up! Wake up!”
Orlin-Aesth shook his son until his screams started to calm. Dosa-Mina opened his eyes and started to breathe heavily. His eyes were wide with fear and streaming tears. Both his parents had to try and keep themselves from letting their sadness show.
Seeing their son like that always broke their hearts.
Dosa-Mina turned to see them. “Mom? Dad?”
“It’s alright, Dosa-Mina. You’re awake now,” Elai-Riya said. Orlin-Aesth could hear a slight waver in her voice.
“You can sleep with us tonight if you want to, okay? Are you alright?”
Dosa-Mina bit his lip, wiped away his tears, and then smiled at his parents. Both Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya felt they knew what was coming next.
“No, I’m fine. I probably won’t have another one when I go back to sleep. Sorry to wake you.”
“You say this every time, Dosa-Mina,” Elai-Riya said. “I don’t believe you.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, we happen to be your parents,” Orlin-Aesth said, sitting down on his bed. “We’re worried. And you know you can trust us, right?”
“I even changed to Normal form when I came to your school, and Orlin-Aesth covered up,” she said. “You don’t like talking about that. This is just a nightmare.”
Dosa-Mina’s expression did not change, save for his smile dissipating. Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Can you at least tell me this? Do these nightmares have….well, do they have any basis in reality? Like, are you reliving something?”
“I–” For a moment they both felt hopeful. “…it’s nothing. It’s just a nightmare. There’s nothing special about it.”
“Don’t you think you might feel a little bit better if you talk about it?” Elai-Riya asked. Orlin-Aesth could tell by her tone that she was starting to get irritated.
“No. That will just make me think about it again. And I don’t want to.”
“Please, I just want to go back to sleep. I have school in the morning.” He checked his clock. “And it’s already morning. I’m exhausted as it is. Thank you for waking me up, but please stop being so worried. I’m fine.”
He laid back down after that. With nothing else they could see to do, they walked out his room, both feeling as if they had failed him in some way.
“Goo-ood morning, Dosa-Mina!” Orlin-Aesth called. Dosa-Mina didn’t respond. Orlin-Aesth took a glance at his face.
“Aw, come on, Dosa-Mina, don’t be like that. I know, I know, it’s hard to just get over it when you’re sad. But come on. I can make feather soup for breakfast~”
“Thanks for the offer, Dad, but it’s alright. I have more of a taste for meat anyway.”
“What kind of meat? I’ll make any kind of meat you want.”
“…nothing in particular. I’m actually not all that hungry, Dad, so it doesn’t really matter if I eat or not…make breakfast if you want.”
Orlin-Aesth stared at him. “Something got you down, Dosa-Mina? Usually you’re all peppy in the morning…is it ’cause of the nightmare?”
Dosa-Mina did not respond.
“Dosa-Mina…you know I hate seeing you like this…please tell me what’s wrong so I can try and help.”
“It…it’s not anything you could help with, Dad. Talking to you about it would be pointless and just make me think about it more…”
“Why not? Something really bad happen? Got a broken heart? Come on, Dosa-Mina. Work with me here.”
“I told you, you can’t help me with it…”
His words were obviously having some effect, he could tell–Dosa-Mina’s eyes had started to glisten with tears. Orlin-Aesth wasn’t quite sure what to do next.
‘I can keep pressing him, but that might just make him feel worse. Or maybe he’ll finally decide to tell me…dammit! Why is he making this so difficult?”
“How much time is there until school?”
Orlin-Aesth blinked. “Uh, about thirty minutes?”
He sighed and stood up from the chair. “I should probably go then. Don’t worry, Dad. I’m fine, and I’ll be fine without any breakfast. See you later.”
“Dosa-Mina, come on! Why don’t you ever talk to us about your problems!? You know I’d never hate you, right? You know we wouldn’t tell anyone, right? Me and Elai-Riya just want to help you!”
“…I know you do,” Dosa-Mina said, glancing at his father over his shoulder. “I know you’d try. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that not even my parents or San-Kyung can help me with this. There’s no point in hiding that there’s anything wrong. But this isn’t something you three can deal with. I have to deal with it myself. That’s my only option. So don’t let yourself get so worried. Soon enough…” Orlin-Aesth noticed that he was starting to choke up. “Soon enough, I’ll be back to normal. Alright then, see you, Dad.”
Dosa-Mina left the house, slamming the door behind him. Orlin-Aesth remained where he was, feeling completely and utterly defeated.
“Where did I go wrong, Elai-Riya?”
“What’s wrong, Orlin-Aesth? What did you mess up this time?”
Orlin-Aesth slammed his head into his knees. “Sorry.”
“What did I do?”
“Mind telling me what this is all about?”
“…it has to do with Dosa-Mina,” he said. “Where did I mess up raising him that he ended up like this? When he gets sad he hides it from people. He’s really bad at hiding when he’s sad, but he’s really good at hiding what he’s sad about. And something he said to me before he left school makes me think he’s not confiding in San-Kyung either. He’s probably just carrying the weight of whatever burden he has all by himself…”
“And then there’s his species! He’s so fascinated by species and I’ve overheard him trying to encourage San-Kyung when he feels down about being Aesthetically Normal before. But he seems to hate the way he looks so much that he pretends he’s a Normal…and then, of course, there’s the nightmares…”
He buried his face into his knees. “Where did I mess up? What did I do so wrong that it made him not want to confide in anyone about his problems? What did I do wrong that he even has these problems in the first place?”
“…it might not just be your mistake, Orlin-Aesth,” Elai-Riya said. “I’ve felt the same way you do. I thought I took good care of him as a baby. I’m the one who taught him that song so he could transform into a Normal. At times I think that was one of the biggest mistakes of my life…hell, maybe it’s not you at all. Maybe it’s me. Instead of trying to make him feel better about the way he looked, I just went and taught him a song to hide it all, and now…maybe it’s just stuck. Maybe it’s just spreading into other parts and now he doesn’t trust anyone with anything about him anymore…”
“Don’t blame yourself, Elai-Riya!”
“But when you think about it that way, I really f@%ked up, didn’t I?” She hiccuped. “I didn’t try and help him. Instead, I taught him how to hide his problems. But doing that is only a temporary solution. And the more you rely on hiding your problems, the more you rely on burying them, the more painful they’ll be when they resurface. I didn’t help him. I might have just doomed him!”
“But you can’t put the blame just on yourself!” Orlin-Aesth yelled. “It’s not like I was out working all the time and you were the only one watching Dosa-Mina. When he was little, our schedules complimented each other. We took turns and sometimes we did things together. Both of us contributed to raising him. Both of us might have messed up. I’d rather think that than just put the blame on one of us, anyway.”
“But we tried so hard to give him a good childhood,” she sobbed. “And now he’s like this. Who knows how this might affect him in the future? And no matter how hard I try, he just gets frustrated with me and doesn’t tell me what’s wrong! Someday he’s just going to break, Orlin-Aesth! What are we going to do then? What if we aren’t even around anymore when he does!?”
“…instead of giving up, we have to keep trying,” he said. “We promised we’d do that, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, we did…” Elai-Riya dried her tears. “I just don’t know how anymore. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself before I started trying to teach him that song.”
“Hey, he’s still a kid for a little longer,” Orlin-Aesth said. “And there’s no guarantee he’ll move out the day he becomes an adult. Think about it, he doesn’t even bring in any vuyong right now. I think we have time. And even when he does move out, why should we let that stop us from trying to help him?”
“I just hope it doesn’t take that long,” Elai-Riya sighed.
“Me too, Riya, me too…”
San-Kyung was nearing the gate to school when he heard footsteps behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted Dosa-Mina, who was walking with his head bowed a distance behind.
“Hey,” he called out. Dosa-Mina began to walk faster and soon caught up with San-Kyung. “Did something happen?”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond. “Dosa-Mina?”
Dosa-Mina grabbed onto him, his grip almost too strong for San-Kyung to handle. There was something different about this, he quickly noticed.
Dosa-Mina wasn’t smiling and being playful and affectionate as he usually was when he would do this. Instead, he had broken into tears.
San-Kyung wasn’t sure what to do, except try and calm him down. He gently stroked his head. ‘I guess we have time before school starts…’