Winter has arrived and snow lines the pathways of New York. The naked trees stand tall, shivering fiercely as the brisk, frigid winds rattle throughout the city, their eyes fixated on the fast-paced legs moving swiftly within the crowd. Large edifices rise high above the rampant minuscule beings below them, their presence creating a dark overshadow. The heavens, overlooking the vast terrain with its many grainy eyes, covers the city's entirety with its domineering hue of dark grey.

Markeith, sitting at his oak desk, stares out of the window with his dark brown eyes, his chocolate skin highlighted in the dimly lit room. The 15-year-old marvels at the thought of a life beyond the stars. His grandfather used to tell him, 'A life beyond the stars, beyond the constellations, beyond what you can see, is a life where everything turns to gold. You know no man, and it is bliss.' With impressive strength, memories flood the young boy — the soft, gentle voice of the elder, holding the boy close to the warmth of his body, and speaking to him of the magics within the world, crossing the borders of their neighbourhoods tired streets. Ignoring the honking horns and elusive shouts of the city below him, a small smile plays loosely on his lips. Pure bliss, and they hated it.

'Markeith, get down here now!' He hears the hoarse voice of his father call out to him. His resonant shouts are seemingly louder given the house's empty state, the stature graced only with the striking presence of dysphoria.

Quickly, the boy rises from the dark blue chair. The silence is only momentarily disturbed by the sound of the chair's spring at his sudden ascension. 'Coming,' his broken voice carries throughout the household. With a heaving sigh, he closes his bedroom door behind him before descending down the stairs. He looked askance at his surroundings, feeling uneasy at the eerie silence encapsulating him, his only comfort being the creak of the stairs as his sneakers clash against the ageing wood.

Entering the living room, Markeith is met with the sight of his father hunched over, his face buried in the bleak universe within his large hands — a cold, desolate area; a place of isolation; a field of deserted sands, burying every secret in its cavernous folds. His suit, normally ironed to perfection, is plagued with many furrows. His head bowed, he refuses to leave his frustration concealed as he perennially bounces his leg up and down, his Oxford dress shoe colliding with the floor, fiercely enrapturing the room with the sound.

Markeith's mother stands by their window, donning her worn sneakers and her decades old yellow summer dress. A far cry from her usual pressed suit and black high-heeled shoes. Her features are creased into a deep frown, urgently wishing for the return of her happiest times with her husband and son.

Markeith stands uncomfortably within the scorching tension, watching his parent's battle themselves as they silently beg for the warmth and comfort of one another's touch.

'Sit down,' his father finally says after the pregnant pause. With obvious uncertainty, the boy takes a seat on the dust-covered sofa, his gaze shifting between his parents at each passing second, confusion overt on his dark features. 'We want you to know that this isn't your fault. It's not because of your issues — or anything other than your mother and I's own personal issues — that we have chosen to separate. This has been a hard decision for us, Markeith.'

His father offers his shrivelled hand to the boy. Markeith hesitantly permits his hand to his father's grasp, and his father grips it tightly, his deep, loving eyes trained on his son. His eyes are the key to his soul, within them you unlock the mysteries he so desires to keep hidden, and behind his brown pupils, Markeith uncovers the truth — the truth of regret as the demons ravage his father's soul, desperately trying to escape their pale yellow cage.

It is your fault, they whisper to Markeith, their relentless hisses filling his head. Their eldritch voices crawl on him, blending in with his dark skin, their presence unbeknownst to the naked eye.

He agrees, absentmindedly nodding his head at their repeated affirmations. It is his fault that the hungry fiends claw at his soul; that they take him for everything he is worth; that they are merciless creatures, feeding on the innocent to fuel their twisted nature. It is his fault that his parents aren't together; his constant nuisances creating the barrier of unfulfilled promises and unvarying indecision that separates their longing hands.

It is your fault.

His gaze focuses on the mahogany coffee table, a picture of a smiling family of three resting on the fine wood. He shuts his eyes, begging for the memories to be erased and the shouts encasing his mind to stop. His parents cast each other a look, and his father's empty hand places the face of the photo against the wood. 'It's okay, Markeith. You can open your eyes now,' the father says gently, his thumb caressing the boy's hand.

Slowly, his rigid posture returns to one of relaxation. His eyes flutter open, still focused on the spot at which the picture used to stand, its premiss haunting him. 'We're sending you by your grandmother, Markeith. My mother. It just seems that we are incapable of taking care of you right now. We have things that need to be tended to before either one of us can tend to your needs appropriately. Grandma is our best bet.' His mother's firm voice obscures the tension, finality laced within her tone.

'Why on Earth would I want to go by her?' Markeith finally questions, his brows knit and fingers clasped while he nervously gnawed at his fingernail, his dark brown eyes still penetrating the picture frame with his harsh stare.

'Because that's your grandmother who loves you, and she's our last option. We can't have you around right now, Mar. It's not right.' His mother tries to reason with her stubborn son, her dress twirling as she spun to look at the boy's annoyed expression.

'What am I even going to do there? Listen to more people talk about how fucked up I am? I think I've had enough of that.' He watches his mother's face grow sorrowful as she turns back around to look out their large window, her hardened eyes gazing downwards at the swirl of red and yellow painting their impressive garden.

'That's enough.' His father's stern voice speaks, his eyes burning with passion. 'We did not raise a disrespectful child. That is no way to speak to your mother. Your mother and I have made our decision already and your flight is booked. Maybe if you wanted to stay with us, you wouldn't make up these ridiculous stories. You have issues, and this is the most effective way for us to deal with them. Hopefully, this acting out will just turn out to be you needing to get away from the city to clear your mind.' A sigh leaves the lips of the 50-year-old man, his action fuelled with the desire for his words to hold ripe certainty. An empty desire, everyone in the room knew, but one they prayed for nonetheless. Because empty prayers are better than no prayers at all. It is within the empty hope that all true inventions may thrive.

'O... Okay. Okay.' The young boy stutters, rising from the chair. He looks around hazily at the room, stopping at each item masked by plastic sheeting, their rich history effaced by their coverings. 'I guess... I guess I should get packing, then. I'll be just like you guys. Packing. Leaving everything behind without a second thought. That's how we Leonard's do it.' He spat, a piercing venom evident within each word to leave his chapped lips.

His father's shoes strike the wood flooring as he steps towards the boy. His jaw clenched, he balls his fingers into a fist. 'Look at me.' Unmoving, Markeith keeps his gaze lowered to the ground, his face void of any emotion. 'I said, look at me.' His father's voice grew intimidating and vicious. The distance between the two males continues closing at Markeith's uninterrupted defiance, and the 15-year-old flinches slightly as wads of spit lands on him.

'I'm sorry,' the boy utters weakly, tears freely streaming down his face, his eyes beginning to redden as he rubbed them fiercely in his effort to halt the pouring waterfall.

'You'll be sorry once I'm done with you. Don't ever disrespect me in my house.' The man's solemn voice declares as he hovers over his son, his piercing gaze leaves Markeith shaking and vulnerable, the intense scrutiny the tall man's transparent mien downpours is tantalising. Markeith feels his heart convulsing in its cage, threatening its escape. It proudly bares its teeth, smeared with the crimson blood of Markeith; its sharpened claws unceasingly scrape the metal bars enclosing the beating muscle, leaving jagged marks while its tortured screams filled the grimy cell. It was a daunting scream — a scream of agony, of desperation. Markeith's heart ached, he knew.

'Keith, that's enough. He understands. Let him go and start packing.' His mother's honey voice speaks, her soft eyes set on the trembling body of her son, his sobs vigorously vibrating the room.

'Next time, you won't be so lucky.' His father warned the lanky body, watching his son hurriedly run up the staircase. 'Stop your stupid crying. It's annoying. If you want, I will give you something to cry for.' The poison was obvious in his tenure as he spat the words to his proposition. Markeith shook his head quickly, bringing his hand to his mouth to muffle his cries, the tears still escaping their duct, even at his most grave cries for them to stop their impedance.

Markeith slams his wooden door closed, sliding down the smoothened exterior, mouthing his screams of frustration and resent towards his father. He gesticulates rapidly; his every emotion coursing through his veins, his body flushed with anger, his fist clenched, his eyes narrowed, a muscle flexed in his jaw, a knot formed between his brows.

I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. He repeats to himself. I wouldn't care if he fell into a well and starved to death. I wouldn't care if he died. I wouldn't care. I wouldn't care.