Halfway through his sophomore year, Eric’s “active fantasy life [and] extinction fantasies” begin to translate to action. Starting in January of 1997, he, Dylan, and Zack begin to make “mischief,” embarking on a series of late-night “escapades” focused on vandalizing the houses of kids Eric doesn’t like. Eric dubs these pranks “the missions,” attacking houses sometimes “to retaliate for perceived slights, but most often for the offense of [mere] inferiority.”
Eric’s desire for mayhem, violence, and the assertion of his dominance over other members of the human race begins to come to a head. His desire to “retaliate for perceived slights” speaks to an inability to handle failure or humiliation—a trait he and Dylan shared.
The boys begin to get into other kids of trouble, too. Eric and Brooks Brown’s friendship falls apart—Eric, during a snowball fight, breaks the windshield of Brooks’ Mercedes-Benz with a chunk of ice. Brooks approaches Kathy Harris and tells her that Eric has been sneaking out at night and “going around vandalizing things.” Brooks tells Kathy that Eric has liquor and spray-paint in his room, and leaves hurriedly before Eric returns home.
Brooks’ involvement in Eric’s descent into threatening, violent behavior will come to have a vaster, deeper resonance than anyone yet knows.
After Brooks’ mother becomes involved in the incident, Eric’s parents confront him, and he describes in his journal lying to them “like a fuckin salesman” to get out of trouble. Wayne Harris details Eric’s offenses and punishment in his diary—it is February 28th, 1997. Wayne brings Eric over to the Brown home to apologize—he waits in the car while Eric speaks with Brooks’ mother at the front door. Judy Brown calls Eric a liar, and tells him that if he ever does anything to Brooks again, she will call the police.
The Browns reported to the media and to the police that they always knew that Eric was dangerous, and Cullen writes of the incidents that unfolded between the Harris family and the Brown family in support of that claim. The Browns witnessed Eric’s true self, but were powerless to convince his family or the authorities of what was really going on.
Eric posts Brooks’ name and phone number to his personal website, encouraging his readers to harass Brooks and describing his “missions” at Brooks’ house. Brooks’ mother continues calling the cops to inform them of Eric’s behavior. Wayne struggles with how to handle Eric’s mounting issues, and Eric continues lying to his father’s face. Wayne believes that Brooks is “out to get” Eric, and Wayne writes in his journal that he feels his family is being “victimized” by the Browns.
Wayne’s failure to see his son for what he really was would have vast, unintended consequences. Wayne wanted desperately to believe that it was Eric who was being victimized—when really, the manipulative Eric was creating a spectacle on the web for anyone who cared to bear witness to it.
The “missions” continue. Eric loves them, and Dylan enjoys the camaraderie—but the missions are not enough to make the “miserable” Dylan feel any lasting happiness.
Eric and Dylan are shown to be in cahoots together early on in their high school careers. Yet though they are working together, they have different motivations for and different responses to the mischief they are making.