Everywhere he looked, Vincent saw that normal humans like his father were rare. Almost everyone was like his mother– a race called demis. The demis were a race of semi-divinities with lengthened life spans, an element they could get killed by to give them a third form, and a realm, which gave them a second form and that controlled their lives.
Many of the realms were considered “common”, like grief, happiness, love– the emotional spectrum, and a few others, like children and sex. Some concretes, elements, and ideas as realms were much more rare. Magic, mad science, fire– just a few of the realms that were under government protection for the sake of keeping the world from losing its so-precious balance.
Vincent slowly wandered through the grocery store. Some demis used their human-looking forms, while others preferred their more exotic second forms, decorated by claw, puncture, partial puncture, or other markings, like tattoos, on their flesh. Some had wings, others had tails, and some had both.
The boy slowly wandered through the produce aisle. If he was right, his father was still on the other side of the store, getting alcohol. With cautious hands, he stole two grapes and shoved them into his small mouth. They were so big, his teeth could not chew them without the clear, sticky juice leaking down his pale chin.
A sharp impact to the back of his head brought him from his grape-filled reverie, and he looked up slowly. It was his father, and he was… irate.
The boy choked down the suddenly sour grapes and wiped his mouth on his sleeve quietly. “This is why you wanted to come with me to the store? To steal?” His tone was filled with disgust. “I should have known. You always do this.” The man reached down toward his four year old son and grabbed him by the ear, then shoved him roughly into the seat of the cart, which was too small for the thin child, and the uncovered bars dug into his rear.
“Daddy, let me out, the bars hurt my butt!” As he began to squirm in discomfort, his father shoved a Red Hot into his mouth and covered it as the boy’s eyes became wet and he struggled to try to spit the hot candy out.
“When you steal food, your mouth burns.” Vincent’s father scowled, then glanced around and finally let go as he noticed someone coming around a corner, into sight. The boy whimpered and quietly sobbed as he finally just swallowed the half-melted candy whole.
Vincent’s tongue burned like he had just tried to eat molten steel, and both his eyes and his nose were runny from the sudden shot of that intense cinnamon.
The woman who came around the corner had an infant in her cart’s seat, and the plastic lid was down. She looked over and frowned. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Her question was directed at Vincent, but the boy’s father answered.
“I caught him stealing and had to scold him. He takes any punishment so very badly. I’m sorry you had to see this, ma’am.” The man forced a smile.
“Oh, I see.” She nodded. “Perhaps next time he’ll be a good boy.”
Vincent’s father nodded. “I hope so. Have a nice day, ma’am.”
The two parted ways, and the Vances paid for their groceries and went home. Vincent quickly fled from his father, into his old treehouse. The thing was an abomination of plywood, two-by-fours, and chipboard. It creaked when he moved, and it was only barely large enough for the small, underweight boy as he curled up. He was sure he wasn’t going to get dinner tonight, anyway, so he opted to just sleep until the lights inside the large mansion went out for the night.
Outside– and inside– of his pitiful shelter, rain began to fall as he slept, and the night passed miserably. Morning arrived, then departed into afternoon. Only when an enraged bellow came from below, did the boy awaken with a start. He peered through a crack in the boards and quickly began to scramble farther up the tree.
“Get down here, Vincent.”
“Why?” The boy instantly regretted it as the vein in his father’s forehead bulged.
“You have your doctor’s appointment.”
A tiny spark of hope welled in the boy. “Ok.” He slowly, carefully climbed down, then yelped as his father grabbed him by the back of the shirt and dragged him inside, where the older man forcibly changed and dried the boy.
“Idiot child.” His glare spoke volumes of “punishment later”, and his hands lacked gentleness as he cleaned the boy’s body, even in the places that made Vincent feel queasy enough that the boy felt himself gag. He kept very still as his father washed him, and dashed away to dress once the ritual was finished.
The ride to the doctor’s office was filled with anticipation. Vincent and his parents all hoped he was not a demi, although each had a separate reason. His father hoped his son would be a member of the superior race. His mother hoped her secret would not be discovered by the man she loved, but feared. Vincent hoped that if he tested as a human, his father would smile at him with love.
They arrived after ten minutes, and Vincent dashed into the office ahead of his parents. For the first time, his father laughed at his son’s antics, and his parents walked in together. For the first time in two years, the family was united in hope.
The testing was fairly simple– a few taps, a few pokes, a couple ah’s, and some touching, and it was finished. The doctor smiled as he walked back into the examination room. “Congratulations.” Their hearts lifted. “Little Vincent is a demigod, and not only that, he’s eligible for many government benefits because of his realm.”
Two hearts broke, and one turned to stone.
“Thank you, doctor.” Mr. Vance looked at his wife and son. “Why don’t you two go wait in the car? I’ll take care of the bill.”
With barely-hidden fear, mother and son forced identical smiles and hurried out of the office, and into the parked car, where Vincent finally began to cry. “Mommy!” he sobbed. “Why can’t I be a human? Why am I a stupid thing?” He wiped his eyes with balled hands and continued to sob as his mother reached back to comfort him. Just before her hand touched him, however, the driver’s side door opened, and Mr. Vance climbed in. He buckled his seatbelt and started the car without a word before he began to drive home.
In terror, Vincent kept silent until they stopped in the driveway. “Daddy, I don’t want to be a demi!” His tears returned in full force, and Mr. Vance ignored him and went inside the house. He returned with a belt and led his wife and child into the basement, then followed as Vincent held tightly to his mother.