We’re very excited at Wordsmith HQ today because we get to feature some never-before-seen writing! We included snippets of Anson Clark’s story Horror at High Ridge in our latest publication of The Purple Breakfast Review: Rebirth and Growth, but we weren’t able to print all of it because of the length. Instead we’re publishing the full story here on the website so that, once you’ve devoured PBR6 from cover to cover you can hop over to the blog and read Anson’s full piece! So, without further delay, The Student Wordsmith is proud to present Horror at High Ridge!
When Lee was a child he loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. He loved the power, the ability to decide what your character would do next. He felt like God but then he realised that even though he could determine his own story, the words could not be changed.
“Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” Ayn Rand
“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.” Wuthering Heights
During that final Indian summer of Keynesian economics,
The children did play, not knowing of the nightmares to come.
They would read stories of cartoonish villains in comics.
Dream-like characters, the weary world had yet to succumb
To their extremities, surely too dark to be taken seriously
By mainstream society. Let them exist in darkening sands,
Where shadows hide from their point of origin. Mysteriously
Folding back on themselves, scoffed at by the Khans and
Caliphs that ruled the fast decaying world. Sure, change
Was needed. Strikes, three-day weeks; the law of the land
Was being rejected by baying mobs, the stock exchange
Fluctuating. A state of hopelessness, a lack of fiscal demand.
Where could man turn? Could he remake society anew,
Rejecting the vested interests that were waiting behind
The stage curtain, ready to pounce? A seed that grew
Into something alien: Hayek and Friedman combined.
For what is man if he is not a giving being? The dreamer awakes.
The nightmare too far-fetched to be true; let’s return to play.
A nagging sense of Spencer reborn, the harsh reality grates.
Evil Freddy lives on, watching those E.T. kids during the day.
“Freddy’s back!” the young boy screamed. This, however, was not a scream of torture, which was the expected reaction when coming into contact with the blade-gloved beast – it was a scream of delight. “Freddy’s sooooooooo cool!” the boy exclaimed to himself. Everyone in the video shop turned around. Lee was the centre of attention. “At last,” he thought. It did not matter that the adults had, in general, not even the vaguest understanding of who the dream master was. The store clerks knew. They were film geeks; or buffs, as they liked to be known. “Don’t sleep or he’ll get you. Pow, pow,” Lee said punching the air, the blows cushioned by dead heads in plastic bags. One head was that of a girl; a ghostly pallid face, a strange black centipede creature appearing from out of her mouth, just like the picture on the back of a half-imagined video case. The young boy was very much in his element. Bored at this child-cool, the adults turned away their grey faces and returned to dream-reality. Lee later thought that they were soooo dead, bored dead-beats with ashen-faces, living a life without colour. Grey monochrome torture. The dream master had devoured them. Stop eating your breakfast cereal, dream warriors. Wake up. Wake up. All they needed was a lullaby.
Lee loved his childhood in Britain, the birth of it all. But when his parents told him that the family was moving to America sometime during the next year, he was so happy – he almost forgot the sadness. Transformers roamed the streets in America. Or so he thought.
The guitar solo rises, the chords clang. The dream master echoes nothings; the vaguest riffs of understanding – how cool was this. Way out, far out; back in, back out. The dream warriors return to their chasms, the empty bodies of the dronies fall like rubber puppets. The murderer dressed as a harlequin slowly lumbers down the ornate staircase – shocked faces, Black Orchid. Would he dare play cruel canasta?
The rainbow glimpses through the seer-like mist. Forcing light, a creative berth that could not be deadened by the tranquilizers. But at the same time, it was something that mixed with the drugs, creating beauty of its own.
“I have been watching you,” the dream master whispers.
“Are you Freddy?”
“No I am not. Though I do have many names…”
“Are you trapped like me?”
“All those who care too much or not enough are squares on this chessboard.”
Lee wanted to know more.
“You should join me here. I live in a wonderful place, where the only words are kind ones. I take care of lonely, unique, damaged people. We’re all aboard a train bound to “Morningtown.” Safe from the horror of having to make choices with real consequences. A world of dream is heaven in my eyes. You can eat as many apples as you want here.”
Lee held the Freddy sequel in his hands; wet with the sweat of anticipation; gleaming with the thought of what was to come; a hero reborn, a terror dragged in.
He placed the video case on the counter in a manner that demanded attention. The store clerk shook his head.
“You have to be at least eighteen years old to see this film. I’m sorry but you’ll have to put it back on the shelf.”
“But I’ve seen the first one.” This was Lee’s attempt at logic. Surely, if he had been ‘allowed’ to see the first film, he must be able to see the second. Logical, right?
“Did your parents let you see the first film?” The store clerk was aghast.
“A friend lent it to me. He’s usually a bully, but he’s afraid of me. I’m special, you see.” Lee was proud of himself.
“Well, he shouldn’t have done that” the clerk clipped, seeming to savour his new found role of moral custodian, which was very different from his usual role of twenty-something loser. “Listen, Freddy’s a very bad man. He’s bad to children, okay?”
“I know, he kills them. But it’s only a film.”
The store clerk was now on the back foot. “I know it’s only a film, but it’s like real life”, he sensibly thought. “What would your parents think if they knew you had watched it? They would be upset. It’s like a bad dream, a nightmare. You don’t want to experience a nightmare, do you?”
“I know all about horror films. I’ve seen Cannibal Holocaust, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, The Brood, John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, Night of the Living Dead, Suspiria, Don’t Look Now, Asylum, Halloween, Friday the 13th, And Soon the Darkness, Dracula, The Mummy, The Exorcist, The Exorcist II, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, The Shining, Piranha, Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Beast in the Cellar, The Sentinel, Black Christmas, Shivers, Two Thousand Maniacs, The Driller Killer, Blood Feast, The Wicker Man, House of Wax, Abby, Amityville Horror, The Crazies, An American Werewolf in London, Witch finder General…”
“I’ll stop you right there,” said the store clerk. “Wow, you’re a real ‘Movie Kid’”.
The sweet poesy of youth: Lee remembered riding on the shoulders of his mother. She loved to treat him. He used to ride so high that the top of his head nearly touched the ceiling. They would travel to so many places; it was a ‘cave of time’. The bathroom would be a forest, the kitchen, a sea; the hallway, outer space; the bedroom, a chasm. She would make ‘swooshing’ and ‘whoosing’ noises as they swanned around the known universe. Down the stairs like falling stars; around the garage like ancient explorers. This was the ultimate in cool for Lee. Sometimes Lee’s mother was too busy to take him to the garden – she often made chocolate chip cookies. This didn’t bother him, he loved cookies. But then as Lee grew too big – he grew quickly – his mother couldn’t carry him anymore. He had to run round the house and garden himself, imagining adventures, like Journey under the Sea, The Mystery of Chimney Rock and Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey?
On one occasion, meandering slowly down the mottled garden path, innocently whistling and smiling at the unspoilt environment around him, something caught his eye. Something was lying on the ground by the concrete and there were red marks stinging the tops of the blades of grass. Lee quickly realised it was blood. He moved slowly towards the small mass and gazed downwards. Lying on the grass was an injured bird. Its beak was moving and it unclear whether it could fly again.
Lee had always had a dark side; he didn’t believe people or birds should be burdens. He hated false kindness, falseness of any kind, and thought people should always be themselves. For a moment, he thought that in the same way he was free to do what he wanted, he should let the bird live its life as nature intended; Ayn Rand shrugged. He also thought that he would be patronizing the creature by helping it. No-one likes to be patronized, even children. But then he convinced himself that this poor creature couldn’t cope anymore and it was time for it to be reborn in heaven, as his mother would say. He picked up a stone – what was he doing? He had always felt inferior to his eldest brother – he was the clever one. He felt a strong sense of will welling up inside of him. His thought was crazed. He half wanted to put the poor creature out of its misery, half wished to do something extreme. He convinced himself that the body would be a source of food for the local wildlife. The bird looked up, its black eyes blinked, pitifully Lee thought. With religious zeal he raised the stone – now he would stand out, leap from the shadows of Abel. As in a dream he threw the stone down on the creature, hard, killing it instantly. Perhaps things would have turned out normal if he had just walked away at that point. But he enjoyed too much the power he had just exercised. The bird was weak and useless. It was nothing. It was as if it had never lived. He picked up the stone again and threw it doubly hard at the bird, smashing its head all over the ground. He then did the same again. And again.
Lee stopped watching films for a month. They were too much like reality. When he started watching movies again, they were all horror films.
There was no noise, not even silence. Lee watched nothing. He would simply sit in the bedroom gazing blankly at the white walls. An asylum with no lock on the door. A lone bird pecked at the window. All the happiness of youth had for the moment drained out of him, sapping his inner sense of self. It was ten o’clock at night. Then he heard some music; beautiful, sweet music, orchestral, classical. He wandered out of the bedroom and went into the living room. No-one was in there; his parents must have left the television on by mistake before leaving for Caroline and Geoffrey’s. A teenage girl was having a shower, blood falling down her leg. Lee stared transfixed. She noticed the blood and succumbed to a blind panic. All the other girls started to laugh. “They’re all going to laugh at you. They’re all going to laugh at you.” She was so beautiful; why were they laughing? The blood, it must be the blood, oozing like a snake down her leg. The blood corrupted her. Lee knew this because he had been corrupted too; not in a sexual way – nothing that decadent, but in another sense. He thought about what he had done to the bird. It made him stand out from the crowd. When Evan the school bully asked him how he became so fucked up he casually replied that he had been “touched by God.” He was only being honest with himself – how could he criticise an act so beautiful yet so horrifying.
Lee became obsessed with the film. The very first thing he did after watching that scene was to check the TV guide. The film was Carrie. Must be a horror film he thought. From that moment on, he was hooked. Barry, a friend of his elder brother knew a man who could obtain any film, horror flicks being his speciality. He was a most unscrupulous person but found Lee to be a quite a cool kid, mainly because of his swagger. As a favour he would loan Lee films for no more than two days at a time. The films would then be sold on to adults in the shadiest of ways. While his parents were asleep, Lee would watch film after film, all totally unsuitable for his age; all depraved, all containing bucketsful of blood. The blood, the screams, reminded him so much of what had happened. The intensity of pain, the glory of suffering. Such feelings were a drug for Lee. The beak was feeble, the mouth was feeble. Actions meant more than all the talk in the world. Right and wrong were only words.
“You could have a steam train, if you’d just lay down your tracks.
You could have an aeroplane flying, if you bring your blue sky back.
All you do is call me. I’ll be anything you need.” Sledgehammer
… Let’s first rewind to nineteen eighty five. Lee had just begun his odyssey into the banal, the brilliant, the tortuous, the triumphant. But one film was destined to take its place at the peak of his canon – A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was set in a normal neighbourhood, just like the one Lee knew; but beneath the surface terror lurked. A child abuser, Freddy Krueger, had been burned to death by the baying mob, but his soul lived on in dreams; terrorising children during their sleep. If they die in their dreams they die in real life.
Ronald Reagan sacked the air traffic controllers; many of the mentally ill became homeless. Whenever he (Reagan) appeared on television, Lee would stop what he was doing and sit right in front of the screen. Reagan knew all about horror films, Lee thought. He was the man in charge. He allowed, by some special will, all these films to be made and had seen every one. Lee’s father, Derek, hated Reagan but he didn’t understand. The man was so glamorous and always so smartly presented. He had a warm voice. He was like a thin Father Christmas. Dad didn’t understand. Reagan had created all of this. He was a movie star who ruled the known world! He even named some weapon-something-or-other after Star Wars. How cool was that?
Lee’s parents were rather concerned at their son’s obsession with politics and movies. “He was beginning to talk like the boy in ET; so American,” Lee’s mother often thought. Later, Lee would see the early to mid eighties as the time when pure Marxism-Leninism finally died. Kids were more interested in the latest movie toys than they were with leading sober, reflective lives. It was the time when children in the west began to confuse the concept of ‘want’ with ‘need’. Whilst in the seventies it was ‘I want a G.I. Joe; in the eighties it was ‘I need a lightsaber’. The release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in two thousand and eight, which had Soviets replacing the Nazis as villains, was perhaps the final nail in the coffin of Marxism. That genius Fukuyama – he was right. It was the end of history. Well, at least according to him, Lucas and Spielberg.
Lee’s mother and father were watching an episode of Columbo on the TV. They both preferred the seventies to the eighties. They liked Jimmy C. It was both dark and light in the room. They could hear Morningtown Ride by the Seekers playing upstairs in Lee’s room. The volume of the music was, as expected, annoyingly high but they had learned to accommodate their son’s eccentricities. By allowing him to be creative and to act out whatever was going on in his mind they hoped he would someday become normal – they preferred this approach to any that would force him to think in certain, socially acceptable ways. This hope for the future was why they tacitly accepted his love of violent horror – they had found out about it. Perhaps by watching such films life would, hopefully, become less of a horror.
The door began to open – “must be Lee,” they thought. The light flickered on. “Lee, turn off the light. You know we don’t have the light on while we’re watching TV.” There was no answer. “Lee…”
Lee’s mother had turned round and could now see Lee clearly. He was holding a British Action Man toy – a talking commander. The cord had been pulled and he was saying “enemy tanks approaching.” Lee was wearing a half smile.
“Oh, my God, Lee…”
Lee was covered in blood – there were cuts on his right arm – and they were newly created cuts.
“Hey look, the dungeons and dragons ride…”
“God is in my head,” Lee stated matter-of-factly.
“What makes you say that?” Dr McGill earnestly replied; half fascinated with this unique case, half wishing she was home, sipping a sherry with Mark.
“Sometimes he walks outside. Sometimes he’s in the heads of the other children. Sometimes he talks but I don’t always understand what he says. The last time he spoke to me he said he had a message for you.”
“What was the message, Lee?”
“He said “why don’t you just fuck off.””
“Well, that’s not a very polite thing to say. It’s not the kind of thing a thirteen year old boy should be saying.”
“Well, you don’t know what it’s like to be a thirteen year old boy.”
“I think that’s enough for today, Lee. You should get a good night’s sleep and reflect on what you have said.”
Driving home, the trees marching backwards like upright coffins, proved more irritable than usual for Sydnee McGill. The light of the moon scorched her eyes and she tried to find meaning in the stars. Lee was so young, so troubled. Who was this man who plagued his mind? She thought of her own rather privileged childhood; trips to Broadway – Cabaret was her absolute favourite – and whipped cream on hot chocolate every night. How different to Lee, who had probably never been to a musical or recently experienced the simple delight of hot chocolate with whipped cream. For Sydnee, most things had well… gone to plan. Straight ‘A’ grades at school, an education at Princeton, meeting Mark at Hitchcock’s art gallery. Not to mention Freda and Sabrina, her closest friends. The only bad experience was the abortion, which she chose to do against her parents’ wishes. Sometimes she felt as though she had violated a natural law, at other times she felt a liberated, enlightened woman. She remembered the dreams she had where she witnessed images of babies crawling on the ceiling above her bed and drowning themselves in shiny white porcelain baths. She hoped the decision would never come back to haunt her.
Lee would probably never go to Princeton. He had been in the clinic for over a year and would probably spend most of his life in some kind of institution. Sydnee felt her mothering side take over. She loved the responsibility she had and often felt the urge to organize the lives of her patients. Some people just can’t take care of themselves.
The main dilemma facing Sydnee was whether to separate Lee from the other children. On the surface, keeping him in isolation would almost represent torture but during group sessions his very presence seemed to initiate a kind of extreme episode of group psychosis, and three children had throughout the year fallen into comas, states which they remained in to this day. Sydnee knew, however, that insinuating that Lee was somehow responsible for such alarming developments would not be taken seriously by her fellow psychiatrists, the hospital board, nor Lee’s long suffering family. To keep her license to practice she must keep such thoughts to herself. But she could not deny that there was something of the devil inside that poor boy’s head. He was a medical mystery.
“Lee,” the dream master purred.
“Go away, I’m trying to sleep.” The voice was sometimes annoying.
“Don’t be angry, I’ve been through hell too.”
“So, you keep telling me,” Lee was becoming tired of this omnipresent spectre, plaguing his day, stalking his night.
“Have you ever wanted to meet God, boy?”
Lee was intrigued and part of him wanted to know more. He sensed the spectre was aware of this – he seemed to know most things.
“When I was a boy God often spoke to me. At first we were inseparable – he was a great playmate and friend,” the dream master wistfully reminisced. “He made me laugh, he was such fun. We would debate everything from the best film of the sixties to the coolest Rolling Stone. Sometimes I would experience mishaps; you know, fall over or cut myself and I would ask him why on those occasions he did not protect me. He would answer, like the Dungeon Master you know, that each and every experience was character building and part of a plan. And I would always respond “why can’t things be perfect from the start?”
One day while listening to Morningtown Ride, bored, I playfully asked whether I could see his face. I suppose it was both an obvious and inevitable question – I wanted proof that he was real, that he wasn’t just a strange voice emanating from my brain – proof that it wasn’t just me, desperately alone in the world. I was only being half serious, you know. Then – and I’ll never forget this – he spoke to me in such an unusual and serious manner, like an adult. He said “do not ask me this question.” I was not in the mood to back down. “Whenever I ask you about something I don’t know, you never give me an answer.” “I answer all your other questions” he replied in a blank manner. I was angry with such a dismissive response. “I don’t want to be your friend anymore,” I snapped. There was a silence and I thought for a moment that I might have lost my only friend in the world. He then replied, “Are you sure you want to gaze upon my face? You might never want to talk to me again.” I was special, you know, a child of the sixties. I coped with Vietnam, so I could cope with anything. “Okay, show me your face…”
Lee’s mind was in a frenzy. This half stranger was friends with God? He had to know more. “Tell me about the time you saw God’s face.”
“I saw the face of the almighty, ruler of both sea and land, master of Quaaludes. I thought I could cope with anything, that I was a ‘master of the universe’. But on seeing his face, I realised that I had made a mistake. At first, the sight before me was so beautiful – the moment of birth was the greatest gift imaginable, greater than all the mountain peaks and treasured valleys. I saw skyscrapers bursting through clouds. Love, intense love rolling like the ocean waves. I saw smiles and tears of nearly unimaginable joy. A million million ‘thank you’s’, a million million ‘I love you’s’. The great community of man, intricate, ordered like a colony of ants – each knowing their place. Money, stacks of money everywhere… but then I saw sights of anger and fear. Of war and haunting revenge. Wives crying, holding the dead bodies of their loved ones. I saw the lonely mad gouging out their eyes. I saw broken homes, lifeless lives, a meaningless mass. These sensations built up to a crescendo and looking directly into his eyes I witnessed the conscious moment of death, the time when a person knows that the end is happening. The time when they realise that all they have known and witnessed could evaporate into nothing. No longer could they listen to Beethoven. No longer could they bite into a cake or wrap a warm towel around the wet head of their loved one. No more could they shape earthly lives. For what is the world if you are not there to experience it? At this very moment even the periods of intense pain seem like the most precious moments, things to cling to like barnacles. My eyes opened so widely that my eyeballs nearly burst and my hair turned white. I aged into an ugly adult, the left side of my face became disfigured and I retreated into the world of dream. Dreams are never real; they will never let you down. When people think of God, they tend to retreat into concepts of perfection or horror, when the earthly evidence tells them that it is logical to consider both extremes co-existing, ‘feeding’ off each other, like the kiss of the butterfly, like the suck of a gnat. The last thing I saw in the physical world was the woman in the red dress singing Wuthering Heights. I now live in a world of metaphor and symbols, where everything is sign and signifier, no unity or totality of meaning, no absolutes. Derrida! Ecrire! Ecrire! A king in a nutshell, forced to peddle nonsense to dumb asses. He hurt me, you know. And I knew if I could ever communicate with Him again it would be using the language of song.”
Lee felt on the one-hand that he had merely been told what he knew already, but perhaps he had gained something new, like the workings of Hegel’s dialectic.
“In one sense I never grew up,” the dream master wistfully mused. “Children cannot make choices – they’ll never let you down.”
At this point Lee wasn’t sure whether he was talking to an adult or child, like himself. But he was becoming an adult – the children were at the ‘city at the edge of midnight’, on the verge of leaving the realm of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, thrust into the adult world. A frightening world of strikes, layoffs and excessive consumerism. The theme park will have closed down; the sense of wonder of it all would have gone.
Sydnee was not her usual self and Mark realised this. “What’s wrong? Bad day at the ‘office’?”
It’s just this one patient, he draws in the other children like some kind of psychic magnet. I think he might be possessed.”
Mark laughed. “Maybe you’ll have to contact an exorcist.”
“You know, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea,” Sydnee replied half seriously. She was a lapsed Catholic, though still wore a small silver crucifix around her neck.
Mark felt like telling another joke but realised his partner was not really in the mood for sly humour. Sometimes he questioned whether it was such a good idea to share a relationship with a psychiatrist – it wasn’t the most laid back or easy of professions. Sometimes he felt that she was too involved with the patients, especially this boy. Something had a hold over the child, this much he knew. But it was clear to see that this psychic kid had a hold over Sydnee, a hold that was drawing her in slowly but surely, like a fly buzzing around but inevitably progressing towards the web, its end. Sure, she had had an extremely successful life and he loved her deeply, madly, but this and their seeming inability to initiate a pregnancy made the relationship difficult at times. “How about I give you a massage?” This usually worked, though today was different.
“Okay, I suppose so,” Sydnee replied indifferently. A massage would be a welcome break from the conundrums that plagued her mind.
It’s strange how similar life can be to stories. The dream stalker’s tale of how the greatest sadness and the greatest happiness co-exist together was kind of true – at least in his life. For Lee, the times of greatest sadness were the periods of isolation in the hospital, times when no other kids would talk to him. Those were the times when he felt almost alone, a single atom orbiting some black hole somewhere. But there were also times of the greatest happiness – whenever his mother came to visit. She would always bring him warm, soft, freshly ironed clothes and wrap blankets around his head and eyes and play games. He had long ago decided not to tell her about the bird, she would only cry and pray to God. She was in fact shell shocked by the whole hospital situation. But she always put on a brave face. That was the kind of woman she was. And she would never ask Lee about why his eyes were black holes.
On some occasions she would bring his old Transformers toys, even Megatron and Soundwave, his two favourite ones. Lee never forgot those glimpses of joy and nature’s happiness/sadness dichotomy that seemingly disproved those writers who wrote of either total ugliness or total joy.
Poor Lycidas, drowning in the sea. Poor flower’s purity stolen by the bee.
Lee had few friends in the hospital. What friends he had had fallen into comas, usually after mocking him. There was this one teenager, nicknamed Presto, who did speak to him on occasion. He was a nice kid, an amateur magician named after the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon character. Some of the teenagers in the hospital thought of him as being a bit slow but there was a sharp intelligence hidden underneath the verbal clumsiness. One day in the TV and games room, Lee sat slouched at the table playing Scrabble with himself. He liked the coldness of being alone, though some wondered whether he was in fact alone. Presto marched up to the table and sat down, immediately dissipating the drips of self-imposed solitude. Kate Bush’s ‘red dress’ video to Wuthering Heights was playing on the TV. Some kid had been watching Poltergeist before that (Lee preferred The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)
“They showed Ghostbusters on TV last night. That was the first movie I saw at the movie theatre.”
“I’ve always preferred A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Lee replied in an almost bored manner. “It’s more like real life.”
“Noooo, that movie’s sick.” Presto was not impressed.
“The movie’s not sick, it’s beautiful,” Lee poetically drawled.
“The main character, Freddy – he’s a pedophile,” Presto had always considered Lee to be a bit of a weirdo but his obsession with degenerate horror movies was creepy at best. A Nightmare on Elm Street was bad enough though Freddy was a bit of an icon, but some of the other movies he liked… Well, they were twisted as fuck. Presto was bored, he hadn’t cut himself in ages (since last week) and felt like picking a fight. He was sometimes picked on by the older teenagers though they tended to leave Lee alone. Perhaps because he was weird in a scary way; he was just too weird. And people tended to fall into deep sleeps if they got into arguments with him, though often nothing happened. Maybe by picking on Lee, the other teenagers might start to give him some overdue respect.
“What did you say?”
“I said that Freddy is a paedophile.” Presto was not backing down.
“You take that back.”
“Well, I’m going to count to three and if you don’t take it back by then I’m going to…” Lee knew that at heart he was like Gizmo but he knew that deep down gremlins lurked.
“You’re going to what?”
“One… two… three…”
There was no chance Presto was going to give in to Lee. Some of the other kids had started to watch what was going on – some of them looked frightened. By showing that Lee was a sheep in wolf’s clothing they would treat him like a king, not like some loser who liked card tricks.
“That’s it,” Lee said almost spitting out the words. He glared into Presto’s eyes. Presto smirked at first though after a few seconds felt a little uncomfortable – “was it getting darker and colder in the room?” he thought. He then decided he wasn’t going to be intimidated by a freak and tore his eyes away. Dark thoughts entered his mind. He ran off back to his room. Lee half smiled, the other kids quickly looked away and returned to what they had been doing previously. Lee looked towards the door; Sydnee had witnessed the whole episode and looked concerned.
Two days later.
Sydnee was sitting in the office. Things had been unusually quiet for some time; even Lee seemed at times settled. But things were about to change…
A nurse ran into the room.
“Dr McGill, there’s a problem with Michael Lawrence.”
Both Sydnee and the nurse ran into room twenty seven and saw Michael lying still on the bed, his eyes closed. Another coma victim – the fourth in a year. It looked as though Presto had performed his last magic trick, for now at any rate, and had vanished somewhere behind the curtain.
Lee sat still in Sydnee’s office, the only noise was the inexorable tick of the white clock on the wall – why was everything white in these places? Sydnee sat opposite him and had an exasperated look on her face.
“I think you’ve been particularly troubled recently, Lee. I’m going to prescribe you an extra dose of sedatives.” She was seriously thinking of discussing Lee’s rapid deterioration with Dr Packard.
“That won’t do anything,” Lee casually replied.
“Why do you say that?”
“No matter what you do to me, he’s still there. He talks to me no matter what. He says I belong to him and when I don’t hear his voice it is only because he’s sleeping.”
“Presto… I mean, Michael Lawrence… was found in a coma earlier today. What do you have to say about that?”
Lee just shrugged. “Dunno.”
Sydnee was on the verge of snapping. All of her medical training had taught her to base every action on scientifically verifiable evidence. But with Lee, a black hole of a teenager, she just wanted to throw all that she had learned, all logic, out of the window. Surely Lee was not responsible for these comas and to be honest they had been occurring on a rather infrequent basis. Maybe it was all just a coincidence… Part of her wanted to believe that he played a part in all this, to make a leap of faith. To imagine something beyond the realms of normal human perception. If only she could make that jump… She decided to improvise and in more than hope than expectation pulled out the tiny silver crucifix from around her neck. Lee’s facial expression immediately became scarred.
“Lee, look at this?” Sydnee knew that if the board found out about this, she would probably be suspended.
“No, take it away. It’s a symbol of Him.”
Sydnee then felt as though her moment of supposed irrationality had been rewarded. She decided to throw evidence-based practice out the window and, like all the best artists, improvise.
“I see a light…”
Birds began to congregate outside at the window and Sydnee for a split second saw an image of a baby in a womb – she wasn’t sure whether it was smiling or not. Lee then started to sing Wuthering Heights (she was the woman in the red dress.) The voice was his own though was distorted to some degree. It was surely the strangest sight Sydnee had ever witnessed. Against all her rational instincts she kept the cross raised high, in the sight of Lee’s eyes; half in hope of rescuing him, half as protection from the darkness that hid silently within.
“Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d fall and roll in green.
You had a temper like my jealously,
Too hard, too greedy.
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you too.
Bad dreams in the night,
You told me I was going to lose the fight.
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Then suddenly his eyes filled with joy and tears welled up.
“Heathcliff, it’s me, it’s Cathy, I’ve come home.
I’m so cold, let me in your window.
Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy, I’ve come home.
I’m so cold, let me in your window.”
Lee fell to his knees and looked up to somewhere beyond the ceiling.
“Ooh, it gets dark, it gets lonely
On the other side from you.
I pine a lot, I find the lot.
Falls through without you.
I’m coming back love.
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream.
My only master.
Too long I roamed in the night,
I’m coming back to his side to put it right.
I’m coming back to wuthering, wuthering,
Ooh, let me have it,
Let me grab your soul away.
Ooh, let me have it,
Let me grab your soul away.
You know it’s me, Cathy.”
Lee then collapsed to the floor. A bee buzzed around a flower outside the window. And so ended the horror at High Ridge Psychiatric Hospital.
It had been a hard day at the office for Lee. Still he had Mollie and Sydnee to come home to. He loved his current life; great wife, child. An education at Princeton. He opened the front door and immediately smelled the lamb and potatoes that his wife was preparing. One thing was for certain, he could smell garlic. And it was pungent garlic at that. He waltzed into the living room and saw Sydnee kneeling on the floor. She was a cute kid though admittedly looked nothing like the psychiatrist who saved his life. And the comas? Hell, even Presto awoke from his; though Lee was uncertain whether such a change had been an improvement.
“Daddy, whenever I ask you about Santa Claus, you always tell me things I already know.”
Lee laughed. Smart kid.
“Anyway, I’ve got something to show you.”
Sydnee walked over to the small table and picked up an old tissue box. She showed it to Lee. He looked down into the box. In the box there was an injured bird lying on a mass of cut up paper. The bird looked at Lee and seemed to smile.
“I’m taking good care of it, daddy.”
Lee’s face was a picture of horror and he fell unconscious to the floor. Up to this day nobody knows whether he would ever wake up.
Before every night’s sleep is a lullaby…
“Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise.
Underneath their blankets go all the boys and girls.
Rockin’, rollin’, ridin’, out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown many miles away.
Driver at the engine, fireman rings the bell.
Sandman swings the lantern, to show that all is well.
Rockin’, rollin’, ridin’, out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.”
The harlequin removes his mask… He was so moved by the black orchid.
That definitely sent chills down our spines! Should we include more full length stories on the blog? Let us know what you think!