It’s 12:01 pm on Monday June 30th, 2014 and Savannah Wilson just went to lunch. She decides to read for a few minutes before taking a nap in her car. She’s an Administrative Assistant for Kern County Department of Social Services in California. She has worked there for fifteen years. briefly thinks about this as her fingers run across the cheap plastic fifteen-year pin that she received yesterday. It is smaller than the size of a nickel, is of brown plastic and has a cheap, cheesy-looking fake green gemstone in it. It says “Kern , Public Service, 15”. It is the least monumental thing she has received in a very long time. She sighs but then briefly smiles as she thinks “Well, thank god I come to work every day for the money and benefits. Otherwise, I’d be seriously disappointed!” She laughs inside at this thought.
clicks her keyless entry fob to unlock her car. Her black Mazda 3 hatchback is blazing inside from the heat. She quickly puts down the driver and passenger windows. After putting her backpack and lunch box down, she picks up her hard back book. It is a Stephen King book. She loves reading his horror books, though she is not a fan of his science fiction stories. A co-worker had given her most of the Stephen King collection when the woman moved from her house into a mobile home. So far, Savannah had liked about a third of the books she had read. Some books she did not read, as she knew the stories too well from watching the movies and knew that reading the books now would just bore her. occasionally had to remind herself that she reads for fun. She has such a Type A personality that she feels guilty when she does not finish a book, like she is sure that someone somewhere would be disappointed in her if she didn’t finish. So, she had donated “Carrie”, “Fire Starter”, “Christine”, “Pet Sematary” and “The Green Mile” to the local library. She did keep “It” and “Cujo”, as she felt that those were some of the scariest stories every written, even though she had seen the movie and already read “It” when she was a teenager. “It” had scared her so badly, that she would not walk across drainage grills in the streets for almost two years. So far, her favorite Stephen King books besides “It” was “Bag of Bones” and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”. Presently, she was reading “Four Past Midnight “. She looked at the hard back book, but realized that she was too tired to read today.
She often read at lunch, and then would take a short nap after getting sleepy from reading in a warm car. She never overslept. In fact, every two to three minutes she would wake up, look at the clock in her car and doze off again, thus getting numerous mini naps. These mini naps did leave her feeling a little more refreshed; at least for a short time. Today, she was extra tired as her neck was out and every time she turned to the right, her neck muscles would seize up, making her gasps in pain. She even had to support her neck when taking a drink of soda to avoid the seizing. She decides to get a sweatshirt from the back of her car to put under her neck, so she can nap. She takes out the sweatshirt that she had gotten the first time she was in . She loved it and looking at it always reminded her of when she bought it. She had come across this little alcove that was actually a store in the Soho district during her week vacation in . Well, not really a store, just a tiny outcropping with three walls and a ceiling. It was more like a storage shed with a roll down garage door when the storekeeper closed. The salesman looked as if he was from or somewhere like that. has quite a large Indian population. Savannah paid eleven pounds and seventy five pence which equaled about twenty two dollars at the time. Though the red sweatshirt with white stripes on the cuffs was a little cheesy, she loved it anyway, and kept it in her car in case she was in need of a jacket. So, she rolls it up and gently places it under her neck. As she leans back she winces as her neck muscles seize up a little. Once her head is against the seat and the seat was fully reclined, the pain passes. It was less than a minute before she drifts off to sleep.
Savannah is hiding under the covers trying not to hear them scream at each other. She winces and a sense of terror grips her when she hears the sound of a rifle hitting flesh. Her mother moans in pain. She wants to be anywhere but here. And yet, she would not leave even if she could, as she is so terrified for her mother’s life. The next morning she will find her mother bruised from head-to-toe as her father had beaten her mother with the end of his rifle over and over.
The scene now flashes to her father lying on the floor and a man is squatting over him, choking him. In some small, cheap apartment room, Savannah, her mother and a woman that is with the man who is choking her father are all in the room. Her father’s face begins to turn blue. At first, wants her father dead. She is tired of her father beating up her mother. Tired of her father making her pick out tree branches that he is going to spank her with, while psychologically tormenting her by making her lay on the bed with her bare butt in the air. She has to wait for him this way. Sometimes, he makes her wait for longer periods of time. She knows he’s humiliating her this way. It’s his way of psychologically abusing her. Between making her have her bare butt in the air and she never knowing when he’s going to come in to beat her, the anxiety is almost too much for Savannah. When she cries as he beats her, he angrily yells, “You better stop crying or I’m going to give you something to cry about!” Yet, as she sees her father’s face turn blue, she gets scared and suddenly does not want him to die. She is panicked. Her mother’s panic seems to have coincided with hers. Her mother was not protesting too much at first, and then she too, starts to panic. Her mother begins to pull on the man that is choking her mate (they are not married, and yet it seems ridiculous to call him her “boyfriend” after all these years). Finally, the man stops. Her father is violently coughing. Both men look at each other with a terrified wide-eyed look, as they both appear to know how close the situation came to ending in death for at least one of them.
The scene now flashes to her mother and father fighting in the kitchen of their mobile home. Her father is threatening to take from her mother, disappearing with , so that Savannah’s mother can never find her again. Her mother physically stands in front of her. She is now pressed between her mother and the refrigerator. She cannot breathe. She starts to panic and pushes against her mother. Her mother either does not notice or is too scared to take a step away as she and Savannah’s father are still screaming at each other. Savannah begins to think she is going to pass out, when finally her mother responds to her pushes and moves forward slightly. Finally, she can breathe. Though, part of her wishes she could not. Their fights are so violent and terrifying. She wishes she was not born.
The scene now flashes to an apartment right by the elementary school Savannah attends. ’s parents’ room is across the hallway from hers, and their door is open. She hears her mother beg her father not to rape her in front of their daughter. In response, he squeezes her mother’s breast so hard that her mother cries out in pain. He continues to rape her mother with the door open, in view of Savannah. That was the beginning of what would manifest into a life-long anxiety disorder. That night, when she had accidently swallowed her gum; she convinced herself that she was pregnant. She was in the third grade. She did not know how she was going to tell her mother. After weeks filled with anguish, the thought eventually subsided. However, a couple years later when she started getting breasts, and had just these nubs on her chest, she was convinced that she had breast cancer. She was so scared that she actually did approach her mother about this. Her mother reassured her that she was just getting breasts and thought her concerns of cancer were silly; though saw a flash of concern cross her mother’s face. There had always been so much fear and anxiety inside of .
Savannah’s eyes are flicking back and forth under her eyelids as she relives her childhood memories in her dream. This is where the past catches up with the present, and dreams begin to merge with reality.
Savannah opens her car door and steps out. The air has a pungent smell to it. It almost smells of rotten flesh, like a decaying dead animal. She wonders about the source of the smell briefly and then shrugs. She proceeds to walk in her house. It has been a long day. She grabs a Coke from the refrigerator and walks out to the backyard to inspect her roses. She loves growing roses, as not only are they beautiful, they are all individuals. Each plant responds differently and needs slightly different care, though fortunately they do not need to be housetrained. She smiles to herself with this thought. She enjoys fussing over them. At that moment, hears a crashing sound inside the house and goes in to inspect. There stands a little blonde boy looking about 5-years old in plaid overalls. She does not recognize him, and has no idea whose child he is. A second later, sees that something is wrong with the boy’s right eye. Suddenly, she shrieks with terror. There is a huge piece of glass stuck in his right eye! He is bleeding a little, but not near as much as one would expect with such an injury. He leaps forward and manages to go airborne. Within a split second, he is at eye level with her with his little arms clutching her neck and shoulders. She is barely aware of the muscle spasms in her neck from the boy grabbing onto her. The glass that was sticking out of the boy’s eye was now at the edge of ’s own left eye. He is insanely strong.
He begins pushing with all of his might and realizes that the boy intends to push the glass that is sticking out of his eye into her own eye. Oh my god, he wants to blind her! He keeps saying over and over, “You better remember what you’re seeing, as this is the last time you’re ever going to see again!” He laughs when he sees on her face that she understands his intention. She is filled with terror, using all of her strength to keep the glass edge from penetrating her own eye. Her arms are exerting all the strength they can muster up, and Savannah can tell they are just about to give out, keenly aware that the results will be excruciating pain and blindness. Finally, is able to throw the boy off of her. He proceeds to ram her and poke the glass into her belly and right arm over and over. Her adrenaline is so high that she is not even aware of the pain or the blood from the multiple cuts from the glass. She tries to dodge the boy, but again, he becomes airborne, trying to stab the glass into her left eye. It takes all of her strength, but again, she manages to throw him off. She begins to run, with the boy chasing her. She outruns him fairly quickly, since the boy is only about 5-years old. She runs all the way to the Bakersfield train station, which is a good four miles from her home. She does not dare to stop, though occasionally she takes a peek over her right shoulder to confirm that the boy is not behind her.
She goes into the train station and buys a ticket to . Fortunately, she had her credit card in her back pocket from getting gas that morning. She does not know why she picks , as she does not know a soul there. Well, maybe that is why. The idea of being in a truly metropolis city is appealing to her right now. Bakersfield is a large town but nobody would certainly describe it as metropolis. She settles into her seat. At first, she is very anxious, afraid that the little boy would get on the train, but once the train pulls out of the station, she begins to relax. The beverage cart goes by and she buys herself a Coors Light. She sips it and closes her eyes.
wakes up from her nap. Her lukewarm beer, still half-full, is on the tray in front of her. The train stops at a station and when she looks out the window, she can tell that this is a bad area of . She does not know anything about the areas in Los Angeles. She has only stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in City a couple of times and of course, been on a handful of day trips to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Los Angeles is basically a strange city to her. is confused and lost, so she decides to disembark the train. She picks up a map at the train station and realizes that she needs to go many miles to get to . She decides to ask the attendant at the counter for advice. The attendant tells her that she must have missed her stop, and not only is there no public transportation that goes to ; there are no rental car companies open today. It is dark and she knows that her only choice is to walk.
She begins walking quickly, yet confidently, hoping to stave off any problems. At first nobody bothers her, but then scraggily men on the streets begin to call to her. She continues walking briskly and the neighborhood turns even worse. Suddenly the streets are deserted. Believe it or not, this makes her even more uneasy. Suddenly two men come toward her from an alley. She begins to walk faster, as do they. The men try to grab her and yanks away at the last minute. One of the men says to her, “I’m going to rape you and then kill you just because I can”. He darts towards her. begins to run and the men chase her. She cannot believe that she is running again, staving off danger. In the distance she sees a sign announcing that tickets can be purchased here to tour a “”. She decides to join the tour, as the men that are chasing her, surely would not harm her in public. Would they? She quickly approaches the ticket booth and practically throws her credit card at the pimply-faced kid working. She looks over her shoulder to see that the men have stopped running and are just standing there watching her from across the street. She gets her ticket and gets on the bus. The tour bus pulls away, leaving the men standing on the sidewalk.
can barely catch her breath, but after a couple minutes her breathing begins to slow down. She sighs in relief. About forty-five minutes later the tour bus pulls up to a large, bland building. The tour guide begins to explain the history of the mental hospital. Inside they walk along concrete walls that are all painted a dull shade of beige. There are no pictures or paintings on the walls, nothing but tan paint. She ponders how it feels very institutionalized here, and concludes that she guesses it should be. It is a forensic mental hospital, a hospital for mentally ill patients that had also been convicted of a crime. The group approaches a room with large glass windows. The tour guide explains to the tour group, “As you can see, in this room there are patients and slabs of meat hanging. These patients with the meat hooks have been deemed safe and stable enough to work here and process the meat…” Two men make eye contact with briefly and then they turn to carry on with their work.
Suddenly, a horrible crashing sound is heard. Thousands of pieces of glass are flying through the air. It almost looks like snowflakes or maybe small pieces of hail. A patient had thrown a chair through one of the big glass windows. The patients are now climbing through the window and chasing and the other people in the tour group with their meat hooks. notices that one the patients who is facing her, has this sick smile on his face. His face is also frozen-looking in one way, with no affect. He just has that smile yet has no expression in his eyes. He just has those dark, dead eyes which are looking at her. She is frantic and terrified. Again, runs for her life.
looks back to see the men that were chasing her had stopped. She can tell by the looks on their faces that they realize they are free and have only a couple minutes to take advantage of this opportune moment. Already you can hear sirens in the distance. The hospital guards look almost comical as they run around like chickens with their heads cut off and carrying their police batons out in front of them. Since it is a mental hospital ran by the Department of Mental Health and not actually ran by the Department of Corrections (even though it’s technically a prison also), none of the guards carry guns, only police batons. The patients are unconcerned with the hospital guards, as they know the guards are of no real threat to them or their escape plans. In fact, briefly notes that the patients (soon to be ex-patients) appear to be oblivious to the guards’ presence. slows down but keeps on jogging down the road from the hospital.
Soon the terrain changes and she is now in an older neighborhood. The houses are all painted white and have beautiful manicured lawns. stops to catch her breath, hoping that her heart recovers from this madness, as it has been beating practically a thousand times per minute. She lies down in the grass of a small corner park near a street light. The street light illuminates where she is lying. She decides to stay there until dawn. She plans on staying awake, but begins to doze off.
The bright morning sun awakens her, and Savannah sits up abruptly. She inspects her body for stab wounds. She is in one piece and has eyesight in both eyes. She is filled with relief. sees a city bus pull up to a bus stop that is maybe 500 yards away. She sprints to it before the bus can pull away and asks the driver if this bus would take her to a train station or somewhere where she could rent a car. The driver tells her that he is going to and that she could rent a car there. She gets on and rides to the airport. She quickly finds the area where the rental cars are and rents a car. She rents a car through as she knows there is an down the street on Hine Street from where she lives. She drives the approximate four hours back home. She is exhausted. She had been famished, but had stopped at a Denny’s Restaurant along the way. She had ordered a Grand Slam breakfast and followed it up with a big slice of cheesecake. After the couple of days that she had had, was convinced that the meal was the best food she had ever eaten.
When she pulls into her driveway she reluctantly gets out. The house looks quiet, no sign of the little boy. She goes through the front door, which is unlocked. She grabs a walking stick from the corner to use as a weapon. She systematically searches every room in the house, but finds nobody. She makes sure that all the doors and windows are locked. She collapses on her bed and falls fast asleep.
The next morning is a little overcast and foggy, but otherwise, a nice day. She looks out her windows to make sure nobody is on her property, and opens the shades to get some natural light in the house. She spends the first few hours of the morning, working in the yard. She clips the branches on her fruit trees, mows the front lawn, and sweeps the patio all before noon. In spite of the recent events, she finds herself humming the old Campbell Soup song. She decides to get a bite to eat. She heats up some leftover rice pilaf and some rotisserie chicken from a couple evenings ago. After eating and doing the dishes, she steps outside to water her roses. feels a chill go up her spine.
Something is wrong yet it is not quite obvious. From across the field by her house she finally sees him. Him! He is the Joker off of a deck of cards that her parents had when she was a small child. The Joker that she had spent the first ten years of her life dreaming about night after night; she had prayed each night before going to sleep that she would not dream about him that night. That Joker! Instinctively she knows that he wants to kill her. First, he wants to torment her and play with her though. runs into her house and frantically locks all the doors. Just the sight of him terrifies her! She hears him laughing that familiar, haunting evil laugh as he moves from window to window. She begins closing the blinds of each window. There suddenly seems to be an endless amount of windows in the house. Her heart is racing, filled with terror as she runs from window to window pulling the blinds before the Joker can get there. Now she doubles back to reassure herself that all the doors are locked and all the blinds are down.
briefly thinks about calling 911, but what would she say? “Yes, there’s a joker outside my house trying to harm me!” “No, I mean a real Joker, you know off the playing cards from the 1970’s?” “Describe him?! He looks like the Joker!” Click. Next, she would hear the paddy wagon coming for her. Paddy wagon, which is a term she has not heard or thought of in years. It is funny the things that cross your mind when you are hysterical with fear.
She can hear the Joker scratching at the windows, and that horrible laugh! He cackles more than laughs, and follows each cackle with a shrill scream-like sound. Each door handle jiggles one by one, and then he scratches his nails along each window. He does this in a systematic pattern. He knows this adds to her terror. Suddenly, the noise just abruptly stops. In fact, it is so quiet that she can hear the hum of the refrigerator. She goes to her bedroom and gets under the covers of her bed, just as she did when she was a small child. She feels like a small child, scared and vulnerable, subject to whatever life chooses to hand her. Somehow, she feels safer under the covers, just like she did as a child when her parents would violently fight. She closes her eyes and begins to drift off to sleep.
Every muscle and cell in her body jerks. “Ouch! My neck!” That damn muscle spasm. Savannah can’t wait for her neck to pop back into place. She stops abruptly. There is silence. Finally, she begins hearing the sounds of birds chirping in the trees, distant sounds of traffic not too far away. She reluctantly sits up, while supporting her neck and looks around. Through the blurry haze, she sees the green outline of trees above her. sees that she is surrounded by parked cars. Slowly, her senses fully return and she looks at her watch. It is 12:55 pm on Monday, June 30, 2014. She sighs. The sigh is of mixed emotions. The sigh is relief that the nightmare is over and she is safe. Yet, the sigh is also of dread, as she sees that she is in her car which is parked in the parking lot of the Department of Social Services and her lunch break has just ended. slowly gathers her things and heads on back to work, just another mundane day, just like yesterday, just like tomorrow. As she steps on the sidewalk that leads to the three story building, she hears what sounds like cackles followed by a screeching scream….the Joker! Her eyes widen and she frantically looks around, but everything looks as it should. The birds are still chirping; the distant sound of traffic drones by; the parking lot is full of empty cars waiting for their owners to drive them home. She turns towards the building with a smile, sure that all is well and that her experiences were just a nightmare.
As opens the door into the building, an uneasiness sweeps over her and doubt suddenly rises. As the door closes behind her, she frowns. She gets a whiff of rotten flesh, that smell of decay and she wonders whether it was a dream after all.