There was a land that Claire dared to believe in. One that existed both in fantasy and reality. A land she needed to believe was not so far away. It was never a place she could occupy for very long even in her imagination.
There were always the disappointments, the poor test scores and grades, other teens mocking her, calling her weird just because she was trying to make something of her life, and of course the unplanned pregnancy. Those were the things that temporarily pulled her back to reality. But she could always return to it simply by closing her eyes and imagining. In this world parents lived in well to do houses and read books to their children at bedtime. Stories that didn't include boogeymen. Their homes were warm enough in the winter and properly air-conditioned in the summer. There was a sense of wealth and security and acceptance all around, and this feeling of acceptance accompanied you even after you left your apartment and went to your school or your job or whatever.
If you followed the rules, if you did what the grown people told you to do, you were rewarded with permenant occupancy there. In a sense Claire had dedicated her entire life on finding that world and living there permanently.
Yet, somehow inexplicably she had left that land. Fell from it, like Alice falling to Wonderland. And now she occupied it's polar opposite. Where lunacy reigned and pure ridiculousness was allowed and something bad, very bad was controlling it all.
How amazing that this land had been adjacent to reality all along. The tragedy riding seamlessly just under the surface until it decided to make it's grand appearance. You turned the corner and there was the car accident that laid you up in the hospital for weeks or months to come, your body wracked with pain. You turned the corner and learned that that your family has died, through disease, through fatal accidents. The reason hardly mattered. You turned the corner and there was the the rapist, the murderer gibbering and jabbering at you from your supposedly safe home. Drooling in madness and staring at you from the closet. Just waiting for you to fully acknowledge it. Just waiting for you to accept it's reality so that it could ...
Anger, the emotion that always seemed to live next door to her more reasonable self, boiled inside her yet again. Almost unconsciously Claire disentangled herself from Anthony who was still flailing about helplessly on the kitchen floor and headed back towards the locked bathroom door. She would touch the cool, metal door knob and dare that lunacy to interrupt her reality just one more time. I dare you! I double dare you muthafucka! The door handle's solid presence would remind her that she lived here on Planet Earth. The only monsters were the ones that lived in fairy tales.
Claire strode towards the bathroom door fully intending to squeeze the door handle. Instead she halted and then shoved her fist into her mouth in order to stifle a scream. Her throat made a funny little noise, something between a cough and a squeak.
The door was chewed open. No, that wasn't correct. It was still closed and probably locked as well, but there was a human-sized oval shaped hole torn into it. Easily large enough for anyone to enter or exit. To Claire it seemed like a clumsy attempt at creating space for a floor length mirror. And what kind of horror would come from my reflection? she wondered with little girl awe. She saw the minuscule grains of saw dust floating in the air. Could smell an unpleasant dampness and underneath that, an odor worse then mildew. Something rotted and unnatural.
How could you not have heard him destroying the door? Even while you were on the phone you should have heard it. That doesn't make any sense.
The same way it didn't make sense for a candy man, or any man or woman for that matter, to simply knock the door the open with one single kick instead of clawing a hole into it. That was the only thing necessary to defeat the simple lock. We were not talking about a bank vault here.
Because he was showing off to you. Showing you as they say on Next Generation ...Resistence is Futile.
Or maybe, just maybe, there was no noise because your selective insanity forgot to include that one little detail.
And as her mind grappled with the old sanity question again. Has Claire Buckley gone insane? Yes? No? Mark the box with the appropriate answer, she heard a malevolent voice speak directly into her brain, baritone, yet soft and intense.
Be my victim.
Claire turned around and she saw him. Her urine broke, the wetness warming her crotch and thighs.
What stood down the hall might have been human once, but with his death and monstrous rebirth he had became something else. He was taller then any human had a right to be. His head brushed the ceiling as he stood towards the end of the hallway. Blood dripped from the wounded stump where his hand was cut off and where it fell steam rose. He was being cooked from the inside with anger, Claire knew instinctively With hate. It was as if he had consumed the sins of random racial injustices. He was the black man who was politely asked to leave the premises for wearing a hoodie and the one that the police shot and killed because he hadn't raised his hands fast up enough. One side of his face was blackened and burned, just like his hook, and the eyelid there was permanently sealed cooked into his skin. The other side contained one eye which stared balefully at Claire.
And with him came the unthinkable sweet odor of burning flesh.
He was perfectly still at first as if he wanted her to take in his full horror, his reality. Then he slowly came towards her. There was no rush in his foot steps, just a slow, heavy tread as if the inevitability of her demise bored him. And Claire discovered she couldn't move. Her terror had nailed her feet to the floor. He dragged his hook into the right side of the wall as he walked, and pieces of plaster busted from the wall along with a high-pitched screeching noise like a rat squealing in a steel mouse trap. All the more better to kill you, with my darling. And still Claire couldn't move. She was hypnotized by his ugliness and his beauty. His burning, all-consuming rage.
A single tear ran down her cheek.
He gripped her face with a hand so impossibly huge that it seemed to swallow her entire head, just as her own hand easily gripped a mid-sized apple. His touch repulsed her and she moaned shrinking inside herself. She could feel hundred of insects squirming underneath that glove. Bees perhaps, crawling over each other, buzzing, vibrating. And still she couldn't turn away or even flinch.
He smiled. It was full contempt and for a moment she agreed with it, was seeing herself through his eyes. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion including the rhythm of her heartbeat. He lifted his hook high and Claire trembled in anticipation.
It was then through the corner of her eye that she saw little Anthony. Remarkably he was crawling towards the Candyman completely unaware or incapable of understanding the danger. He cried as he dragged himself clumsily forward. How could you have forgotten about me? that wail said. Even with death literally breathing down her neck she took the time to think; What are you doing crawling Anthony? You're not supposed to be crawling yet. You're only five months old!
But it broke the spell. "Leggo of me!" She screamed and yanked herself away from the Candyman. Because he was not expecting this reaction she was able to free herself relatively easily.
"Leggo of me! Leggo of me!" She shrieked at him despite the fact that he was no longer touching her. Claire spun around and ran into her bedroom, slamming the door and leaving Anthony behind. Both of her hands scrambled for the lock until she remembered that none existed for her bedroom door. Duh Claire! Double duh! She laughed out loud, a screechy, paranoid sound.
Claire ran to her 150 pound bureau and after some effort (grunting and still laughing all the while) she pushed it over, relishing in the loud noise the crash made. Claire shoved it against the door. Next she moved her desk to the door and flipped it over too. Her lamp, the television set, the swivel chair ...she threw them all half-hazardously on to the growing pile. It wasn't until she had dragged her mahogany bed towards the furniture heap, tearing one of her fingernails in the process that she became self-aware again. Woken from the panic had put her in a trance like state of constant movement. She forced herself to stop and survey her work while sucking on her wounded finger.
It looked like the proverbial hurricane had hit her room leaving a small mountain of random junk in its wake. But it looked impressive too, the mountain of furniture leaning against the door. Surely, he wouldn't be able to push the door open with all of that leaning against it.
Hopefully he wouldn't be able to push the door open.
And what about Anthony?
Can't help him. He's on his own.
The guilt that was in itself was like a metal hook tore through her heart. It forced her on her knees, caused her to press both hands against the side of her head.
Sure, go ahead Claire. Go on and kill Anthony just like when you killed your ...
"He's not my baby!" She screamed out loud. He was not her child and not her responsibility. She was only responsible for herself. Sure, it was selfish thinking. But it was necessary for her survival. Wasn't that right?
Only the silence answered her back.
How funny that she had once honestly believed that the Candyman was a creature that she could somehow attack, that she could punish and subdue. A man that she could awe with her own female ferocity. In truth she was not a bad ass at all. At this very moment she didn't even feel like a particularly competent teen. She had been reduced to a child, a little girl who was left all alone in the world because mommy ran away, daddy was unknown and her auntie didn't want her. The Candyman had exposed her reality for what it was when you got right down to it. The game she had been playing at before was that mystical land thinking again. All sweetness and light.
Claire dropped her hands and stood up becoming aware of her own funk: an odor of piss and sweat. What she wanted to do was put on fresh, clean clothes. But somehow it just didn't seem wise to be naked even temporarily with the Candyman loose in her apartment. (He touched me, she thought again and shuddered.) No, her base instincts told her the best thing to do was to be still and listen. Listen to Anthony's crying then for it's sudden choking absence, the signal that he was dead ...
Stop it, Claire. Nobody died. Not yet.
Listen for the creaking protest of furniture scraping against the wooden floor as the Candyman pushed it slowly aside. See the Candyman's grinning face through the opening crack. His one good eye staring at her. Be my victim.
Stop it Claire, damnit!
And what it would feel like to have that hook not slice through your flesh. but tear into it? Separating muscles and tendons, and splintering bone. Watching yourself become meat even as you still took in air. See pieces of yourself scattered on the floor, like the busted pieces of plaster the Candyman had carved out of the wall. Would the pain knock you out before you witnessed your complete destruction and thereby granting some form of mercy?
STOP IT CLAIRE!
This time she did stop. She stood there staring at the door, waiting for her dire predictions to come true. She waited for what felt like hours thought it couldn't have been no more then fifteen minutes at most. Her anxiety seemed to grow with the passage of time rather then abating. Yet she heard nothing except for her own shallow breathing.
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