This is a story that has become more than just a story to me. It spawned original work, helped me understand Gary as a character, and put him inside my head where I think he’ll remain a long time.
It started because I had a thought about a particular line of this song . I wanted to challenge myself to write something really from inside Gary’s head, and once I got in I couldn’t really get out.
I hope that I’m going to be able to do it justice, and that there are those who know of this story or have seen earlier betas of it and remember what it was. Without any more bullshit, I give you Predator.
Original cover art by Tackles
Predator ~ Prologue
For an endless summer, Gary Smith had been suffering.
This was his purgatory, his punishment for daring to lose. The reason he lived like a test subject instead of a human. Shunted from therapy to therapy, from one doctor to another.
He’d lost, which was unforgivable, but he’d lost to Jimmy Hopkins, and that was the worst crime of all. Headstrong, violent, infuriating Jimmy, who punched first and asked questions later. Who Gary deserved to beat, who Gary should’ve run rings around until his neanderthal eyes saw double. He deserved to beat Jimmy, he’d never known anything so surely in his life.
But he hadn’t. He’d failed.
From the floor of Crabblesnitch’s office, where he’d lain among his plans like so much broken glass, he had gone straight to Happy Volts. He only stayed until his parents came to get him, but it still meant eighteen long hours behind bars. Of being kept in a cell like a rabid dog, waiting to be shot full of death.
It was humiliating, frustrating, and worst of all, frightening. He was sixteen years old and abandoned in a mental hospital, of course he was frightened. He knew better than anyone how dangerous this place was. Where the hopeless got abandoned and drugged until they weren’t anything more than shells; just empty carcases kept on by artificial means.
"Look what you’ve done to yourself,” he accused, pressing his back against a filthy wall. “Fucked it right up, didn’t you?" He threaded wet hair through his fingers and ran the events over and over in his mind, trying to pinpoint what went wrong, the one thing that he’d neglected. But no matter how hard he tried to unravel the problem, it came back up in knots. How had Jimmy beaten him?
He refused to sleep. Even for the night they kept him under observation, he stayed where he was, awake and afraid. Until his parents came to get him with faces disproving and expectant. Like they had given up pretending to be surprised. They’d surely known it was only a matter of time – that eventually he’d throw himself in it.
And their answer was always the same, great, green stacks of it. They didn’t like to talk any more, just opened wallets and chequebooks so other people would try to solve the problem of The Broken Son for them. Really, that was his fault. He’d exhausted their patience over and over. They were some of his first and most successful experiments. The original experiments.
So he knew what was coming next: new therapy, new medication, and long weekends away. Visits to places adamantly claiming they were not hospitals, even though they bore all the signs – timed meals, pills in those little cups and group therapy, where his only fun was trying to prompt a breakdown from the other patients and even that got him locked into another psych session.
He was boredof doctors and nurses. So hopelessly, mind-numbingly bored of their practised manners and polite suggestions. Petey was better company, which was saying something. Even Jimmy would be better company, because Gary could wrap his hands around Jimmy’s throat and crush the enraging life out of him. That’d be good for a few minutes at least.
He knew the shrinks would go wild for a piece like that, but it was exactly why they never got them. He just sat tight and played along, giving enough to get by but no more. He knew the ropes too well to be caught out now.
Except it wasn’t always easy, not when they were pumping meds through him like a chemical processing plant. Even at the beginning he’d never taken well to medication, but now it was worse. Instead of giving up and calling quits, they carried on chasing the rainbow. Looking for a perfect swatch of colours to turn him into a pot of gold. The person they all wanted.
He could handle drugs with time, once he’d gauged them and knew what to expect, but they’d throw him for a loop with one ironically named ‘slight adjustment’ and he’d spend hours staring at the wall, knowing that he was missing something, something important, but unable to grasp it because he was playing side-effect bingo and winning every time.
Sometimes the pills actually worked, and he’d start ticking all the boxes, showing signs of ‘stability’ and ‘good behaviour’ until he caught himself. He’d realise he was reading a book, or paying attention to the news, and like a bout of food poisoning his mind would purge itself. Only that ended up with another cycle of therapy, another change in medication, and one more spin on the wheel of fortune, playing over and over until it stopped on a lucky number.
What no one realised was that nothing would ever stick, because he didn’t want to be fixed. When he sat in group therapy with all the suckers, stuttering and spewing nonsense about their problems, no one realised that he wasn’t like them. He wasn’t claiming there was nothing wrong with him, just nothing worth treatment, nothing that needed a cure. His only problem was being there. That and Jimmy Hopkins.
Because Jimmy was a huge problem. The problem. The problem he hadn’t figured out a solution for yet. Because Jimmy had beaten him, which would not, could not, not ever stand.
He couldn’t do anything about it yet, not while he was still in purgatory. Trapped under the thumb of the system that tried to smash a triangular peg through a square hole over and over, until he felt sick and paranoid all the time. Until he’d forgotten what being off medication even felt like.
But summer couldn’t last forever, and Bullworth was the only place that’d have him – it was the only place that’d have anyone. It was just a case of how many zeroes after the one it’d take to make the problem go away. Writing out cheques to cover for their son’s wild behaviour was his parents’ speciality after all, and he didn’t expect them to let him down.
Because it was a pathetic, regimented abattoir for the soul, but Bullworth was his – or it would be. He wasn’t going to leave things as they were. He couldn’t.
He was going to pick the threads up where he’d started to unravel them. He was going to tear down Jimmy Hopkins, because his pride wouldn’t allow him to stand.