t didn't start with a murder plot. Before he devised his massacre, Eric settled into a life of petty crime. Earlier still, even before adolescence, he was exhibiting telltale signs of a particular breed of killer. The symptoms were stark in retrospect, but subtle at the time--invisible to the untrained eye. Eric wrote about his childhood frequently and fondly. His earliest memories were lost to him. Fireworks, he remembered. He sat down one day to record his first memory in a notebook and discovered he couldn't do it. "Hard to visualize," he wrote. "My mind tends to blend memories together. I do remember the 4th of July when I was 12." Explosions, thunderclaps, the whole sky on fire. "I remember running outside with a lot of other kids," he wrote. "It felt like an invasion." Eric savored the idea--heroic opportunities to obliterate alien hordes. His dreams were riddled with gunfire and explosions. Eric relished the anticipation of the detonator engaging. He was always dazzled by fire. He could whiff the acrid fallout from the fireworks again just contemplating the memory. Later the night of the fireworks display, when he was twelve, Eric walked around and burned stuff. Fire was beauty. The tiny eruption of a cardboard match igniting. A fuse sputtering down could drive Eric delirious with anticipation. Scaring the shit out of stupidass dickwads--it didn't get much better than that. In the beginning, explosions scared Eric even as they exhilarated him. He ran for cover when the fireworks started in his "earliest memory" account. "I hid in a closet," he wrote. "I hid from everyone when I wanted to be alone." ____ Eric was a military brat. His father moved the family across five states in fifteen years. Wayne and Kathy gave birth to Eric David Harris in Wichita, Kansas, on April 9, 1981, eighteen years and eleven days before Eric attempted to blow up his high school. Wichita was the biggest town Eric would live in until junior high. He started school in Beavercreek, Ohio, and did stints in rural air force towns like Oscoda, Michigan, and Plattsburgh, New York. Eric enrolled in and was pulled out of five different schools along the way, often those on the fringes of military bases where friends came and went as fast as he did. Wayne and Kathy worked hard to smooth over the disruptions. Kathy chose to be a stay-at-home mom to focus on her boys. She also performed her duties as an officer's wife. Kathy was attractive, but rather plain. She wore her wavy brown hair in a simple style: swept back behind her ears and curling in toward her shoulders in back. Wayne had a solid build, a receding hairline, and very fair skin. He coached baseball and served as scoutmaster. In the evenings, he would shoot baskets on the driveway with Eric and his older brother, Kevin. "I just remember they wanted the children to have a normal, off-base relationship in a normal community," said a minister who lived nearby. "They were just great neighbors--friendly, outgoing, caring." Major Harris did not tolerate misbehavior in his home. Punishment was swift and harsh, but all inside the family. Wayne reacted to outside threats in classic military fashion: circle the wagons and protect the unit. He didn't like snap decisions. He preferred to consider punishment carefully, while the boys reflected on their deeds. After a day or two, Wayne would render his decision, and it would be final. It was typically grounding or loss of privileges--whatever they held dear. As Eric grew older, he would periodically have to relinquish his computer--that stung. Wayne considered a conflict concluded once he'd discussed it with Eric and they'd agreed on the facts and the punishment. Then Eric had to accept responsibility for his actions and complete his punishment. Detectives discovered gross contradictions to Eric's insta-profile already cemented in the media. In Plattsburgh, friends described a sports enthusiast hanging out with minorities. Two of Eric's best friends turned out to be Asian and African American. The Asian boy was a jock to boot. Eric played soccer and Little League. He followed the Rockies even before the family moved to Colorado, frequently sporting their baseball cap. By junior high he had grown obsessed with computers, and eventually with popular video games. In his childhood photos Eric looks wholesome, clean-cut, and confident--much more poised than Dylan. Both were painfully shy, though. Eric "was the shyest out of everybody," said a Little League teammate from Plattsburgh. He didn't talk much, and other kids described him as timid but popular. At the plate, one of his core personality traits was already on display. "We had to kind of egg him on to swing, to hit the pitch sometimes," his coach said. "It wasn't that he was afraid of the ball, just that he didn't want to miss. He didn't want to fail." Eric continued to dream. Major Harris inspired military fantasies, but Eric usually saw himself as a Marine. "Guns! Boy, I loved playing guns," he wrote later. The rustic towns he grew up in provided fields and forests and streams where he could play soldier. When Eric was eight, the family moved to Oscoda, Michigan, where the scenic Au Sable River meets Lake Huron in the rugged northern region of the state. Wayne and Kathy bought a house in town so the boys could grow up with civilians. Oscoda was dominated by the air force base; population 1,061 and dropping. Work for adults was sparse, but it offered a world of adventure for little boys. The Harris house sat near the edge of Huron National Forest. It seemed vast, empty, and ancient to Eric's young eyes. The air was thick with the scent of musty white pines. This was early lumberjack territory. The state proclaimed it Paul Bunyan's home, and the Lumberman's Monument had been erected in bronze nearby. Eric, Kevin, and their friend Sonia would spend afternoons hunting down enemy troops and withstanding alien invasions. They built a little tree fort out of sticks and branches to use for a base camp. "Fire!" Eric screamed in one of their enactments. The three young heroes rattled off machine-gun fire with their toy guns. Sonia was always fearless--she would charge straight into the imaginary rifle fire. Kevin yelled for air support; Eric tossed a stick grenade into the trees. The three defenders took cover and felt the earth shudder from the convulsion. Eric hurled another grenade, and another and another, taking wave after wave of enemy troops down. Eric was always the protagonist when he reminisced about those days in high school. Always the good guy, too. When he was eleven, id Software released the video game Doom, and Eric found the perfect virtual playground to explore his fantasies. His adversaries had faces, bodies, and identities now. They made sounds and fought back. Eric could measure his skills and keep score. He could beat nearly everyone he knew. On the Internet, he could triumph over thousands of strangers he had never met. He almost always won, until later, when he met Dylan. They were an even match. In 1993, Wayne retired. The family moved again, this time to Colorado, and settled down for good in Jeffco. Eric entered seventh grade, and Kevin started at Columbine. Wayne eventually took a job with a defense contractor that created electronic flight simulators. Kathy began part-time work at a catering company. Three years later the Harrises upgraded to a $180,000 home in a nicer neighborhood just north of the beautiful Chatfield Reservoir and two miles south of Columbine High School. Kevin played tight end and was the kicker for the Rebels before heading off to the University of Colorado. The color gradually drained out of Major Harris's thinning hair. He grew a thick white mustache, put on a few pounds, but maintained his military bearing. ____ Eric loved a good explosion, but treasured his own tranquillity. Fishing trips with his dad were the best. He captured the serenity in a vivid essay called "Just a Day." The night before, he had to go to bed early, which would normally provoke "a barrage of arguments and pouting," but on these occasions he didn't mind. He'd wake up to black skies and rich ground coffee vapors wafting up to his room. Eric didn't like to drink the stuff, but he couldn't get enough of the smell. "My brother would already be up," he continued, "trying to impress our father by forcing down the coffee he hadn't grown to like yet. I always remember my brother trying to impress everyone, and myself thinking what a waste of time that would be." Eric would scamper out to the garage to get his tackle together and help load the cooler into the back of their'73 Ram pickup. Then they headed into the hills. "The mountains were always peaceful, a certain halcyon hibernating within the tall peaks & the armies of pine trees. It seemed back then that when the world changed, these mountains would never move," he wrote. They would drive out to a mountain lake in the wilderness, almost deserted, except for "a few repulsive suburbanite a$$holes. They always seemed to ruin the serenity of the lake." Eric loved the water. Just standing back on the bank and gazing at it: the waves dancing around the surface in peculiar patterns, getting caught suddenly by a burst of current, forming unexpected shapes and vanishing again--what a glorious escape. When his eye caught something interesting, Eric would cast into it, presuming the fish might have been attracted to it, too. Then it was over. Back to shithead society, populated by automatons too dense to comprehend what was out there. "No regrets, though," he concluded. "Nature shared the secret serenity with someone who was actually observant enough to notice. Sucks for everyone else."