Minutes later, we were back in the living room, each with a cup of vodka, ready to find the truth.
"So, how did you find out about the cult?" she started.
Allow me to back up for a moment. I sometimes wander the night as a vigilante, who is known as Mysterion. I've been doing this for several years now, long after all of my other friends (even Eric) stopped playing superhero. As it turned out, I had only been at it a few months before I was found out, and my identity made known to the public. Since then, I've had to be more careful.
But anyway, during this time, I had made some late-night stops by my parents' room. I guess they hadn't heard the news that their son was Mysterion (Eric always did say poor people didn't watch the news. I really hate it when he's right). I had used my position as a crime fighter to try and, um, convince my parents to stop fighting so much, and to stop getting high every night. It hadn't done much good, but it was something.
And it was during these conversations that I found out about the cult. They told me about once going to one of the cult's meetings, because they were serving free beer. Sigh…
"You told Mysterion about going to the cult meeting," I told her.
My mom's eyes widened. "How do you-"
I had briefly considered not telling her the truth. But it looked like she was going to be very honest with me. And in hindsight, I did feel kind of guilty about manipulating (you could even say threatening) my drunken parents while dressed in a black cape and mask.
"I'm actually Mysterion," I admitted. "And I'm sorry for tricking you."
She didn't look as upset about that as I had thought she would be, which was a relief. "Well, yes, we went to a cult meeting. It was almost 15 years ago, just a few days before you were born. But it was just one, and that was it."
"Ok," I said. "Go on."
"We had heard about the meeting that afternoon. They were offering free beer to their members and visitors, and your father thought that was a good idea. I didn't drink back then (and, being pregnant, I wouldn't have drank even if I had), but I thought it would do us some good to get out."
"Wait," I interrupted. "So you didn't drink anything while you were there?"
"No," she said. "Anyway, at the meeting, they did a lot of voodoo and magic, and reading from a strange book, and I started to get a little anxious. I didn't think anything serious would happen, but I was starting to get creeped out. Finally, near the end of the meeting, the leader asked if there were any visitors at the meeting. Against my better judgment, your father and I stood up. The leader noticed that I was pregnant, and offered to bless the baby. Before I could stop him, his voice turned strange and he said something like:
May the dark and mighty Cthulhu bless this child, and keep him safe from harm.
"I breathed a sigh of relief. They seemed to have good intentions, and I didn't think anything else of it.
"A few days later, you were born. You were such an adorable baby, Kenny, all wrapped up in an orange blanket. Kevin was excited to have a little brother, and we were all happy to take you home with us.
"But, on the way back…" Mom's voice broke, traumatized. Through a sea of tears, she pressed forward. "We were driving back home. There was a wreck, and…you got thrown out the shattered windshield.
"I saw your tiny body on the street, every bone broken, and I passed out from shock. Your dad was able to get an ambulance, but there was nothing anyone could do; it was already too late. You were less than a week old, and we thought we had lost you forever."
I listened on, not making a sound. Too horrified to move.
"That night, as I cried myself to sleep, I suddenly felt pain in my stomach. I looked down, and saw that my belly had swollen, like I was pregnant again. I didn't know what had happened, but Stuart and I had no time to think; I started to give birth again. When the baby came out, I took one look at his face, and knew that he was the same boy that had come out a few days before. I didn't know what to think. Your father and I stayed up all night trying to find out what had happened. In the morning, Stuart called the mortician to find out what had happened to your body, but he didn't know what we were talking about.
"And then I remembered the 'prayer' that the cult leader had said over my womb, and I got scared. I thought that my dead child had been resurrected through unholy magic. I panicked. I grabbed you, ran all the way to Stark's pond, and let you drop. You sank into the water like a stone.
"The next night, you were born a third time. I needed to talk to someone, but I didn't dare return to the cult, so I decided to take you to Father Maxi. I told him everything that had happened. He didn't believe me at first. After I managed to convince him, he went on a rant against the cult until I finally told him to shut up. I didn't want to hear a lecture; I wanted to help my son.
"After a long moment, he said he didn't know what to do. He sounded like he was ashamed to admit it. He quickly told me that he would be willing to help any way he could. Over the next few days, he tried everything: he prayed over you, and I went to confession. He even attempted an exorcism. But it didn't work; you died again a week later.
"When I came to tell him that his methods had failed, he didn't have any idea what I was talking about. He and I got in an argument, but he couldn't remember anything I had told him about your death. Finally, I got frustrated and left.
"As time went on, you died again and again. Five times…then ten times…then fifty times. Soon, I lost track. Every time, you were reborn after less than a day. Every time, no one remembered that you had died, except your father and I. Sometimes, people didn't even seem to notice you.
"Finally, I realized there was nothing that we could do. We kept going to church, even more than we used to, hoping that any little thing we did might make things easier for you. Your father suggested alcohol might make things easier to cope with, and so I tried it. I began drinking, and your father began drinking more, trying to drown out the pain. It almost worked; we don't spend every moment of the day remembering the curse. But each time you die, it hits us just like the first time. Your father's alcoholism became so bad that he was fired from the few jobs he could find, and we lost even more money. And no one else knows, or cares."
I sat there for a moment, not knowing what to think.
So that was it. The reason for all of it.
We lived in a moldy old shack, eating frozen waffles for dinner.
My parents spent each day in agony, with only alcohol to ease it.
No one knows enough to help them.
And it was all because of me.
Because of this.
This. Fucking. Curse.
I reached into my pocket, and touched my gun. The gun that Stan's uncle Jimbo had given me. The gun that I kept in the pocket of my parka at all times, in case I got hurt and needed it to ease the pain. It had a clip of eight bullets
I was so mad at myself, and at my curse, that I wanted to take each of those bullets and shoot myself. Somewhere nonfatal, where I would die slowly and painfully, if at all. Because that was what I deserved. For bringing this upon my family. For being so caught up in my own problems that I didn't realize the curse my parents were under. That was what I wanted to do.
But I couldn't do it. Not in front of my mom.
"Oh, Kenny…" Mom said. "If only I had known…"
"That I knew? Mom…there was nothing you could have done about that. You made a mistake. It…happens to everyone, I guess. It's just that we got a little more screwed over than everyone else."
"I guess so," she agreed. And then she hugged me, like I was the most precious thing in the world to her.
Later that night, I came up with a plan.