With the lights off, only the seventeen candles on the cake illuminated the house. He could hear the voices of Benny, Mother, and Father singing the traditional 'Happy Birthday' tune. It was time for him to make his wish and blow out his candles. He paused to take a breath, and darkness engulfed the room. Glass shattered and wood splintered. Bright beams of light cut through the air. Father shoved him to the ground, and he protectively wrapped his arms around his screaming brother, whispering soothing words. In his peripheral vision Mother fell, blood pooling on the linoleum. He grabbed father's shirt, but his hand was slick with sweat and Benny's tears. Father tore away, crying for Mother, and fell atop her drowned in his own blood. Hands grasped him; he felt Benny being pulled from him. A large face loomed in front of his, one that filled him with fear so potent it was like an icy hand gripping his chest and squeezing tears from the depths of his soul.
"Please," he managed to ask through a choked throat.
"Mr. Dernhelm says happy birthday, Arrio," stagnant breath blew into his face.
He was whirled around to face Benny, who was held in the air kicking and screaming with a gun held to his head. A shot rang out. Blood spattered over Benny's pokemon print shirt and his eyes stopped watching.
Arrio awoke with a start. Once his eyes had adjusted to the dim light he found himself sitting in a plush red chair with a wine glass lying at his feet and a half empty bottle on the table. He pushed himself up and the floor plunged. Arrio was suddenly on the floor with the wine glass crushed beneath him and the bottle of wine lying beside him. He grasped for it and dragged himself over to the stairway in his finery. He began crawling up the soft carpeting on the steps. He tried to pull himself to his feet, but he slid and rolled down the steps. Arrio crashed at the bottom, bruised, nauseous, and with a splitting headache, but ready to start up again.
"Unnh," he moaned as he pulled himself to his knees and drained the bit of wine that was left.
With the bottle still in hand, he made slow progress by falling up the steps as he held on to the banister. After what seemed an eternity he had made it to the top, only to have another flight looming at the end of the hall to his right. He tried to walk over to it, but it suddenly pulled upwards in a large circle. The wine bottle shattered as he thrashed for the wall. The ceiling spun above him and he rolled over to vomit on the floor. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and struggled to stand again.
"God, Arrio," Luke was suddenly pulling him to his feet, "not again. I told you not to drink last night. You never can stop."
"Go 'way," Arrio slurred and made a weak movement before vomiting on himself, "I don' nee dyer 'elp."
"Yeah you do," Luke insisted as he pulled Arrio up the stairs, "You cut yourself up pretty bad. On that bottle, I'm guessing."
Arrio moaned and vomited once more before they reached the bathroom.
"You know, that's really disgusting," Luke told Arrio. He pulled back Arrio's curls of brown hair as his head hung over the toilet. "I'll be back with some Pepto Bismol."
Arrio vomited again and Luke left. The relationship between the two was complicated, but the way they cared for each other was simple. Luke was Arrio's older brother, always guiding and caring for him when he needed it. And Arrio was Luke's younger brother, someone who cared about and confided in him. They were what the other needed to stay sane.
Luke returned after fifteen minutes with the bottle of Pepto Bismol and bandages. He found Arrio sobbing quietly over the toilet.
"Mom," he was whispering, "Mommy."
Luke knelt beside him and held out the bottle of pink gunk.
"Take a swig of this," Luke told Arrio. "We'll wait a couple of minutes just to make sure it stays down."
Luke peeled off Arrio's vomit splattered shirt and rolled up the left leg of his pants. Arrio's shin was bleeding, and Luke could see several shards of glass lodged in the skin. He pulled out a piece and Arrio howled in pain.
"What are you doing?" Arrio snapped.
"I'm taking out the glass you've got stuck in your leg," Luke said as he pulled out a second piece.
"Well stop it!" Arrio yelled.
"There's only one piece left!" Luke yelled back and yanked it out.
"Damn it!" Arrio cursed, "That hurts!"
"Shut up," Luke answered, "Maybe I shouldn't have given you that medicine, then you'd still be so hungover you wouldn't notice!"
Arrio didn't answer, but remained silent while Luke wrapped his leg in gauze. He didn't have the energy to remain so angry, and by the time Luke was done Arrio's eyes were drooping.
"Alright, you go sleep the rest of it off and I'll take care of things," Luke told him. Arrio was about to open the door when Luke interrupted him. "Wait. You don't remember what you did last night, do you?"
"No," Arrio said.
He limped out the door and down the hall.