He woke with a throbbing feeling on the right side of his head. A painful, bulging, sucking sensation, like something had latched to his skull and was eating everything inside. He could feel it pulsing.

He stumbled out of bed and searched blindly for his cigarettes, his shoes. He smoked a cigarette in the yard and then smoked another one. He tried to think, but his head was full of shapes and noise, it streamed colors and there weren’t any words to describe the tumbling feeling. So he smoked another cigarette and heard himself muttering but they weren’t even words.


He walked into the garage and looked around, but he didn’t see the monster or anything else except his dad’s tools and his mom’s car and a snow blower that hadn’t worked in two years.

He smoked his cigarette and waited for the wasps in his skull to die away, but they didn’t. He wondered about that.

A few more cigarettes and the sun came up and he went inside, found his mom in the kitchen brewing coffee. The recycling bin looked untouched.

“Ben, you’re up early.”

He could feel holes burning in his head.

“How is therapy going?”


Eight knuckled fingers raked across his brain.

“Are you mad, Benjamin?”

“Nope. I’m fucking great.”

Pounding. Sucking. Throbbing.

“Ben, this isn’t like you.”


He poured a cup of coffee and then poured one for his mother, who stood still and looked at him. He handed her the mug, but she didn’t take it.

“You’re being very rude and I don’t like it. I miss how you were.”

He set her mug down on the counter.

“You mean the fat idiot who talked to himself? Who explained in entirely too much detail how to put a fucking banana peel in the compost?”

“Ben, stop.”

His head crackled. He could taste ash.

“No, Mom. You all think I’m fucking crazy and useless. You all do.”

“Who is this ‘all,’ Ben?”

“You, my therapist, Gerald, and you know, everybody.”

“Who is Gerald?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m sick of being around people who hate me. I want to be with Dad.”

“Don’t you ever say that.”


“Don’t you ever say that.”


She left for work and Ben sat down before his laptop to look over his blog. He’d only written two posts in total, each on separate days. One was a “welcome” post. The other was on “basic economics.”

He knew he would need more content before it would be a success. It would need an endless supply of articles and high resolution images and social media icons and comment threads where his viewers could share information and recommendations and lob insults at each other from behind Ottoman-inspired usernames.

He perused Wikipedia for a while and read about agriculture and how it had progressed from the discovery that seeds grew to plants in fertile soil to the advent of tractors and combines and pesticides. He started to write something about that but stopped after a half-hour and watched more cartoons.

He took two five milligram Vicodin and made a pot of coffee and smoked three cigarettes and watched four hours of TV, barely attentive.

When his mom came home, he asked to borrow the car and he drove to the cemetery.


He parked far away from his dad’s plot and took his time walking to it. This was the first time he’d visited in the two years since they’d buried him.

He told his dad about the monster and what it said to him and he described its outward appearance and the feeling of it banging around inside his head. He shared what scared him and he admitted, for the first time out loud, that he wasn’t sure what gave him greater despair: the monster or its absence.

He tried to tell his dad what that felt like, the looming fear of the thing, the nervousness he felt when he woke and didn’t know if it was there or not, didn’t know if it would show up again and, if so, when. And he never knew how long it would stay. And he could never predict what it would find in his head, what it would say about it.

He stopped himself from accusing his dad of being basically the same. He could hear his dad’s brittle wheezing laughter, grinning, eyes wide and watery as he asked, “What on Earth do you mean, son? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not a robot-monster and I’m not even alive.”

“Yeah, Dad, I know. But sometimes it feels like you are.”


He drove home and sat and read his book on the Ottoman Empire. He wondered about them, the Ottomans. What motivated them? Were there monsters there, dead or imaginary things, aluminum claws scratching their skin and ripping their garments, cruel personalities with unmoving faces and black eyes that led nowhere?

Did you build plows to please them or to scare them off?

The monster didn’t bother him. So he read for a while and went to sleep.


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5
  6. Part 6
  7. Part 7