The Grin

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Day 2

David awoke the next day to the usual morning sounds, loud banging, car honking, people yelling, the usual. He let out a groan, “Well I guess it couldn’t last forever,” He chuckled to himself as he stretched, “Nothing does.”

He slowly stumbled to his feet and made his way towards his bathroom. He glanced in the mirror and rubbed his eyes. He yawned then gave himself a tired smile, “Today’s the day that everything changes,” he encouraged himself. He ran water over his face in an attempt to wake himself, before he made himself a quick bagel and slipped on his overseers uniform.

Michelle was the first one awake at her house, she usually was though. Her dad owned his own business and her mom worked in it. It was their family business, but Michelle didn’t want any part of it. Secretly she wanted to work with her family and would love to be a part of the family business. But she wanted to show her dad that she could get her own job away from them and didn’t need to be near them all day every day to feel safe. Even though that’s exactly how she felt, she was terrified working at the Mental Institute for the first month, until she met David. David was such a confident and caring guy that she couldn’t help but feel secure around him. Michelle rose from her bed and quietly put on her overseer uniform, trying her best not to wake up her parents. She decided to grab some breakfast on the way to work and quickly made her way downstairs and to her car.

On the way to work, both Michelle and David saw a polar shift from the night before. Where it had seemed like there was nobody on the streets the night before, now there seemed to be the whole population driving. Rows of traffic lined every street, preventing any sort of smooth flow among the traffic. Both David and Michelle seemed to get stuck at every light and at times it seemed like they weren’t even moving.

David let out a sigh of frustration, “Nope, nothing can last.”

When he finally managed to pull into the parking lot, he drove around for another five minutes before he found a spot towards the back of the lot. Michelle repeated the process a few minutes later. She met David right outside the elevator, their agreed upon spot to meet every morning.

Michelle let out a tired sigh, “Did you see that traffic?”

David let out a chuckle, “Yeah it was unnatural. I’ve never seen morning traffic like that on a Saturday. I thought most people would’ve slept in,” He pressed the seventh floor button and got inside.

Michelle followed him in, “Ugh, it’s not even past eight yet and I’m already ready to head back home and sleep.”

“Yeah where’s the redo button?” David joked.

The elevator arrived at the seventh floor and the duo got off. They walked down to Dr. Hullinsworth’s office and glanced inside. There sat the doctor still hunched over a pile of folders, not looking like he had stopped working since the two left the night before. He peered up seeing the two looking at him and waved for them to come inside. Michelle opened the door. “I said early, and you two come the same time you do everyday,” he greeted.

“Sorry, we...well I….I can’t personally speak for her, but I got up an hour and a half earlier today. But the traffic was horrendous this morning,” David replied.

“Yeah it took me longer than usual to get to work today, too,” Michelle replied.

“Yes, well everyone else seemed to get here without complaint,” Chris said.

“I don’t know doctor, all I know is that I was stuck at the same light for fifteen minutes and I was ready to go off road at points,” David stated.

“Well that wouldn’t be good for anybody if you did,” Chris replied waving off what David had said.

David chuckled folding his arms.

Chris was silent for awhile before peering up, “So are you two not gonna work today? Did you just show up to stare at me all day?”

“Oh sorry,” David apologized.

“Just go check on the girl.”

The two overseers nodded and exited quickly.

“I’m kinda nervous,” David muttered after they walked for awhile.

Michelle turned her head towards him, “About what?”

“What we are gonna find this time.”

Michelle nodded, starting to feel the butterflies too, “Yeah, I feel the same way.”

David thought for a moment, “You remember when we walked in there yesterday and all of that crap was everywhere.”

Michelle shuddered, “I don’t want to think about that anymore than I have to…”

David hesitated, “You don’t think she could have possibly caused any of that do you?”

“I don’t know…..we’ve seen some crazy things here.”

David nodded to himself, “That’s true, but I have a feeling…..I don’t know why but I do. That this isn’t just a story of a loon,”

Michelle’s lips began to move but that’s when the cackling began again, drowning out her words. David tried to ignore it the best he could, but its sound was otherworldly.

Her lips stopped moving for a while but then she spoke and the cackling stopped, “That sounds fun.”

David blinked, “What?”

“You said you wanted to get ice cream with her at the cafeteria right?”

“Oh, uh yeah sure….” David began to blink some more

“I said that sounded fun.”

David chuckled awkwardly and nodded.

When they reached the outside of Avita’s door they both felt the butterflies stir faster, “Well here goes nothing,” David started.

They both winced when they opened the door, but the room was relatively calm except for the eerie memories of the day prior. Avita sat in her bed, her teddy bear in her arms. She was making it dance in the new light of her room.

“Good morning sweetie!” David greeted, “I see the lights are back on.”

Avita nodded happily.

“That’s good,” Michelle stated.

Avita shrugged.

“Well, me and Michelle decided to take you on a little outing,” David stated.

“Yeah we want to get some ice cream in the cafeteria and we’re wondering if you’d like to tag along,” Michelle added.

Avita’s lit up like a light bulb, her stormy grey eyes flashing like a lightning bolt. She leapt from her bed and began to sprint towards them.

“Hey now, you gonna go out in your pjs?” David asked.

Avita giggled.

“Okay, so we are going to wait outside, you get dressed and when you’re done we can get ice cream. How does that sound?”

“Okay,” Avita smiled and closed the door with the others on the outside.

After a short wait, Avita walked out and David looked her over. She was in a sparkly, red dress with black sandals. She had her red hair in a pony tail and she was clutching something close to her chest. She gave both her overseers a smile. “Teddy,” She said showing them the bear she was playing with a few minutes ago.

“Where’d you get it sweetheart?” David asked smiling.

“My friend found it and gave it to me before I came here,” Avita said.

David looked at Michelle then back at Avita, “Oh, where’d he find it?”

Avita shrugged.

“Uh huh.....”

Michelle saw the confusion on David’s face, but knew they needed to get past this for now. “Here, let’s go get some ice cream, sound good?”

Avita nodded and grabbed David’s hand. They started to walk down the hall. As they were walking David looked down at Avita and her teddy bear. She seemed to be in deep thought, “But in thought about what,” he thought to himself.

Avita sat in her room, it was midnight and both her parents were fast asleep. They thought the little five year old was asleep too, but ever since HE came, sleep had avoided her. She would sit there with her eyes closed for however long it took for them to think she was asleep. Then as soon as she felt they were in their room asleep, she would sit up in the corner of her room and wait for morning. She didn’t trust HIM. She’d much rather pass out in the middle of the day, than sleep at night when she knew he was around.

He would appear out of darkness and just watch her, whisper to her, laugh at her. It all scared her, she told her parents but her parents would just say “It was just a dream” or they would laugh and say “what an imagination you have”. It would upset her because she knew he was real, she knew it wasn’t her imagination.

She felt alone, in society, but she had gotten used to it. She never fit in with anyone, everyone thought she was weird. Even her teachers always thought of her as an “off child”. Then at home, her parents never gave her attention. They were always “too busy”. The only friend she had was her sister who would be moving to college next year.

She began to sob, a nightly routine of hers as memories flooded in unrelentingly. Tears streamed down her face and she shook with sadness. She gripped at the curls of her hair and pulled them into her face. She used the bend of her arms to pull her knees close to her chest, making herself as small she felt she was to everyone else.

Just then, she heard a slight shuffling across the room.

She quickly looked up and scooted herself as close to the wall as possible. She then balled up in the fetal position and quaked in fear.

“Do not fear my friend, I am here for you,” The mysterious figure hissed crouched in the corner. This was the first time it ever spoke to her, its voice quiet, demanding her. It had a soothing eerie nature to it.

“Go away,” Avita whimpered.

“You seem to be fretted by something,” He hissed with a giggle.

Avita looked down, “I just wish I had a friend,” she sighed, then looked up again, “Go away!” She repeated.

“You do have a friend,” He said coming out of the shadows revealing his mask with dark eye holes and a chilling grin. The grin dipped in the middle with tiny swirls at the edges. He initially crawled to her on all fours but as he got closer he stood upright and walked. He got to the edge of her bed and outstretched a hand.

She was hesitant at first, looking this odd thing up and down.

“There’s nothing to worry about friend, all I want is for you to be happy,”

“M-my mommy told me not to trust strangers.”

“I’m not a stranger though, I’m a friend,” He said in a airy, soothing voice, “Besides, your mommy doesn’t trust you and you’re not a stranger.”

She contemplated, looking him up and down.

He wore black pants and shoes. His t-shirt was black and white striped with a black long sleeved shirt underneath . He was about a foot taller than her and when he talked, he sounded like a kid that wasn’t too much older than her.

“He’s right,” She thought, “My mommy doesn’t trust me. I need somebody I can talk to, someone who will trust me. My sister is gonna leave me in a year anyway,” She looked up at him and gave him a weak smile, “Friends?”

“Best friends,” He replied.

She reached out her hand and he quickly grabbed it with his already outstretched hand and twisted it palm up. He used his free hand to grab the knife he held in his pocket and sliced the palm of her hand.

“Ow!” She squealed in pain and quickly pulled back her hand.

He just stared at her.

“Why did you do that!?” She questioned holding her hand in pain, tears filing her eyes.

“Now we are bonded forever,” He said simply, in an ominous tone. Avita stared at him for a moment, confused as to what that meant, then got up. “Where are you going?” He questioned.

She outstretched her hand fully covered in blood towards him, “I need to tell my mommy about this,” Avita said in between sobs.

“Okay, I’ll wait for you.”

Avita ran down to her parents room, dripping a blood trail as she bounced. She tried to suppress her pained sobs but they periodically seeped through. As she made it down to the door, she naturally used her left hand to open the door, wincing at the pain since this was the one that had received the cut. She quickly released the knob and used her right hand. Once she opened the door, she ran to her mom and dad’s bed and woke them both up,“Mommy, Daddy, help!”

“What is it sweetie,” her mom said drowsily wiping her eyes. She was too tired to hear the distress in her child’s voice.

Avita waved her hand in front of her face.

Her mom’s eyes bucked out,“Terry.....Terry!” Avita’s mom screamed as she shook her husband.

“What is it Danielle?” Terry moaned.

“Look at your daughters hand!” Danielle exclaimed.

Terry opened his eyes slowly to see his daughter standing at the edge of the bed sniffling, a fully bloody hand dripping with the thick red liquid in her other hand. “What did you do!?” He yelled.

“Uh....I the kitchen and fell on something,” Avita lied. She knew if she told on her friend, they wouldn’t be able to play anymore.

“What did you fall on?” Terry asked, “A bear trap.”

“I don’t know....” Avita lied again, “It was dark.”

“Here, I’ll go get the first aid kit,” Danielle said and exited the room.

Terry gave his daughter questioning looks, “What were you in the kitchen for?”

Before Avita could answer, her mom squealed. Her Dad ran from the room and met his wife trembling by Avita’s door, which was right next to the bathroom.“Terry there is a giant RAT in her room!” Danielle squealed in a trembling voice.

“A what?” Terry replied.

“I heard scratching and saw something scurry across her floor!” She screamed, when Terry didn’t immediately move she screamed louder,“Get in there and do something!”

Terry sighed, entering the room. After a short while he screamed, “Ahhh!”

“Terry?” Danielle said, voice uneasy with fear. She walked in with trembling legs and called again, “Terry?”

“Gahh!” Terry screamed hopping out from behind the door.

Danielle screamed and covered her face. Terry grabbed his wife and pulled her in a bear hug. Danielle pushed Terry away,“Terry! What the heck?”

Terry laughed,“I’m just having a little fun, calm down,”

“That wasn’t funny....did you get the rat?”

“Do you SEE a rat?,” Terry asked sarcastically and wrapped his arm around his wife,“Don’t worry,” he said giving her a warm smile and leaned in for a kiss. A scratch came from underneath the bed and Danielle squealed pushing him away. She pulled her daughter with her to the doorway, “Terry, get that thing or else!” She threatened.

Terry sighed and got on his hands and knees and looked underneath the bed. He was met face to face with a masked figure. He quickly got up and stumbled backward cursing himself, “Get out of here!” He yelled to the two.

Avita and Danielle quickly backed out of the door.

Terry stumbled to the door but it closed right as he got to it and it locked. Terry banged on the door rapidly,“Open the door, Danielle!” Terry shouted.

Danielle and Avita banged and wiggled the knob,“It’s stuck or something!” Danielle shouted.

A giggle came from behind Terry. Terry turned around, back to the door.

“Wanna play?” Avita’s friend teased crawling from underneath the bed directly at Terry, staring him dead in the eyes.

“Stay back!” Terry warned, feeling around for anything he could use to defend himself.

“Whyyy? All I wanna do is play,” Avita’s friend teased again. He lurched at Terry.

Terry closed his eyes, awaiting the inevitable, but nothing happened. He opened one eye, the room was empty. That’s when he heard the door latch automatically unlock by itself. He let out a sigh of relief and opened the door with a relieved grin on his face. His wife grabbed him in a large bear hug, sniffling. She appeared to have been crying from worry.

After they released, Terry stepped back,“I don’t know what that was, but whatever it is, I guess it’s....” Terry started, and those would be his last words as Avita’s friend dropped from the ceiling landing directly on Terry’s shoulders. He buried a knife directly through the top of his skull, the tip sticking out his mouth. Blood started to bubble from his lips as his body went limp and crumpled to the ground in an unnatural position. His eyes rolled back, his spine snapped from the weight of his murderer, his legs spread in from of him, and his torso in between. Blood began to bubble from the top of his skull and pour from his propped open lips.

Avita’s friend let out a slight giggle as he sat on Terry’s limp body, crouched, poised for attack.

Ready for the next player in his game.

Danielle watched stunned for a second, then let out a scream of horror and started to sob screaming,“Noooo! Terry Noooo!”

Avita’s jaw dropped. She had just witnessed the death of her father, but she surprisingly didn’t cry. Instead, she pulled her mom’s hand and led her away from the death scene. As they turned and started down the hall, all the lights immediately shut off.

“Oh no....the power,” Danielle whimpered.

A loud cackle echoed in the darkness, its location seemingly to be coming from all directions, causing the two to look all around them. They saw nothing, not even each other in the darkness.

As Danielle looked over her shoulder at Avita’s room, the only room with a light on, she saw the killer place his foot on Terry’s corpse. He slowly pulled the knife out of his skull. He slowly raised his head to look at her and slid the knife across his mask, leaving a crimson trail along it. He then tilted his head and snapped his fingers and Avita’s light shut off.

Just like that, the killer disappeared from view and the house became silent.

“What happened to the lights mommy?” Avita asked.

“The power turned off.... here follow mommy closely,” Danielle said.

They tiptoed down the hallway trying to find their way around their dark house. Everything in the house had become a stereotypical horror scene. No sound, no light, and no sign of the killer. The only sound was the sound of their heavy breathing from fear.

Avita clutched her moms hand tightly as they continued down the seemingly endless hallway. She could’ve sworn that she could feel the steps of a third closely behind them. It’s steps in time with theirs.

As they reached the end of the hallway they turned to their right, toward the staircase and began to descend. They inched down the stairs as quickly, but safely as they could. Danielle went down each step forced, Avita was right behind her with a vice grip on her mother’s hand.

They had made it a quarter of the way down when, suddenly, Danielle felt a push. She fell face first down the staircase, a loud cackle emitting from behind her as she collided with the first step then every step afterward. Avita almost went with her, but something, the cackling thing, caught her from falling.

“Mommy!” Avita called out but couldn’t see where she went, all she heard was the thudding.

Danielle’s skull banged on numerous steps and her body flipped and contorted as she fell. When she reached the bottom she felt the trickling of blood on her her skull. She lifted her hand to her head and felt her temple pounding against the skin. She winced from the splitting headache that developed but still managed to stumble up dazed. A sharp pain shot throughout her body but she ignored it and stood up, leaning against the wall for support. She opened her mouth to call to her daughter, “A....”

But that was all that escaped her lips, because as soon as she opened her mouth she got a mouth full of steel. A mysterious figure that she could just make the outline of in the dark stuffed a knife straight in her mouth. The figure placed one hand on the back of her skull, gripping her hair tightly. It used the other hand to shove the knife deep into her mouth, a gurgling sound emitting from her lips. As pain registered all around her skull, she tried to scream but it only made the pain worse, a shocking feeling crawling around her jaw. Her eyes began to water, the pain becoming too much to bear. “Shhhhh” her killer soothed.

Blood started to trickle from her mouth and she began to become weak, her legs giving threatening to give out, “Thanks for playing,” He said and released the knife, leaving it in her mouth. He grabbed each side of her skull and jerked her head one way, snapping her neck.

Her body dropped instantly, crumbling into a heap on the floor with a thud.

Avita heard something from the bottom of the staircase and began to climb down the steps towards it. As she reached the bottom she saw a dark figure knelt next to another, “Mommy?” She called.

“Hello friend,” Her friend responded.

“Where’s my mommy?” She demanded then looked at the heap on the floor, “Is that her?”

“She lost,” He said.

“What did you do to her?” She questioned her voice getting louder.

“She lost the game of life,” He replied simply.

“You killed mommy!!” She squealed seeing a dark puddle surrounding what she assumed was her mother’s skull.

“Did you REALLY want to return to a life of living with people that don’t understand you!? That don’t believe you!? Did you want to return to a life ALONE!?” He questioned in a harsh tone she never heard him speak in before. He pulled her in close by her frail shoulders, “You’re my next player. Are you with me or against me?”

Avita blinked and looked around, her body jerking against her forward momentum. She felt a hand on her shoulders and when she peered behind her, she saw David looking down at her. She smiled at him and turned around and saw a big gray door half an inch from her face.

David opened the door to the cafeteria and let the young girl in. Before Michelle went in, David looked worryingly at her and she knew why. They had just walked all the way across the extensive building to get here and the young girl had not said a word, but instead just stared forward. It wasn’t unusual for her to be silent, but she had almost walked into numerous doors and walls including this one. The only thing protecting her from kissing the architecture were her two overseers.

Michelle gently touched his arm, giving him a reassuring smile before continuing in.

After they ordered their ice cream, the trio sat at a table in the middle of the cafeteria. The room around them was almost empty except the workers, the trio, and two other overseers talking and having lunch.

As Avita ate her ice cream, she couldn’t help but smile. David and Michelle caught a glimpse of her genuine smile, their eyebrows involuntarily raising, “You really like ice cream, huh?” David said jokingly.

Avita smiled and continued eating.

“Is vanilla your favorite flavor?” Michelle asked pointing to her vanilla ice cream.

Avita shook her head.

“Can you tell us your favorite?”

“Cookie dough,” Avita replied. “Me and my sister used to eat it all the time.”

David nodded, “I like cookie dough too.” He said, “But I have to say rocky road is better.”

“Honestly, butterscotch is the best,” Michelle retorted.

Avita giggled, looking down at her bowl of ice cream, “Teddy said he likes honey flavored ice cream.”

David and Michelle laughed, “That sounds delicious,” David said.

Avita smiled.

“So were you and your sister were close?” Michelle asked.

Avita nodded, “We used to play together all the time.”

“Oh really?”

“Mhmmmm, and she would be queen of the castle and I’d be princess and we’d rule the kingdom with an iron fist!” She clenched her tiny hand in demonstration, her soft voice holding a mighty growl.

David chuckled watching the animated child.

“She was my best friend, I didn’t have any friends but her. I really miss her.”

“That close? Well how old is your sister?” Michelle asked.

Avita looked up from her ice cream and tilted her head, “Uhh,” She then looked down to her fingers to count, “nineteen now.”

“Wow, you and your sister were close despite that age difference.” Michelle replied.

Avita nodded, “How old are you?” she then asked before Michelle could think of a follow up question.

“A lady never reveals her age,” Michelle smiled and winked at Avita.

Avita giggled.

David wanted to keep probing the girl but couldn’t help himself. He covered his mouth to hide it from Michelle so only Avita could see, “She’s twenty two.” He whispered.

Avita’s face shifted to one of surprise as she turned looking at Michelle smiling.

Michelle shoved David slightly.

“How old are you?” Avita asked pointing to David.

“A gentleman never reveals his age,” he said mimicking a regal, British voice looking at Michelle who gave him a jokingly angry look. He then laughed, “I’m just messing, I’m twenty three actually,” he then again covered his mouth from Michelle, “Meaning I’m the boss of her.” He pointed towards Michelle. Avita smiled.

Michelle again shoved David, “You wish.”

“Wow, somebody’s abusive,” David turned and smiled to Michelle.

“Who me?” Michelle made an expression of confusion at David’s accusation which made Avita laugh.

She continued to watch her two overseers continue to playfully mock and argue with each other and just smiled at how well they got along together. It reminded her of her parents.

“Oh, Avita, sorry I didn’t realize you were done with your ice cream. Are you ready?” David asked.

Avita nodded, her empty bowl sitting before her with remnants of ice cream filling the sides.

As they exited the cafeteria and began to walk down the hallway, Avita looked around at the empty walls she had ignored on the way up here. The dull beige was an empty canvas for her imagination’s paint brush to decorate. Soon, those once empty walls began to hold wooden torches, flames burning valiantly on top of them, illuminating their path. Her eyes followed the path of the torches before they drifted to the floor. The pattern of the rug covered floor was crimson in color and had gold streaks, complimenting the medieval torches.The hall began to remind her of something out of one of the princess books her mom used to read her. She soon felt like a princess and felt as if Michelle was her lady in waiting and David was her knight. This made her feel special, a smile spreading across her lips.

David observed the young girl. He smiled as the young child looked around smiling with eyes full of wonder.

Michelle saw this look and nudged him smiling.

He looked towards her and whispered, “There’s nothing more beautiful than a child’s wandering imagination.”

As they reached Avita’s door, each of them felt a twinge of sadness. It wasn’t complete sadness, but a sadness just enough for them to feel it. Over the course of a couple of hours, they went from patient and overseers to three friends just hanging out. They hadn’t gotten that much accomplished but both David and Michelle could feel that they had a grown to know her, even slightly.

David squatted down eye to eye with her, she flinched slightly, which confused David. “You gonna be okay?” David asked the young girl.

Avita hesitated but soon hugged him as a reply. A hug that not only took both David and Michelle by surprise but solidified that she had gotten to know them too.

At first David was hesitant from shock, but finally he returned the hug.

Avita released David, then turned and hugged Michelle. She then went inside her room before her overseers could say anything.

They both just looked at each other before David broke the silence, “Did she just….?”

As the duo sat outside of her room, they decided to go check in with Dr. Hullinsworth. David pulled out his old school flip phone and check the time, 3:33 p.m.

“What time is it grandpa?” Michelle teased, a smirk across her lips as she watch him snap his phone shut.

“Hey, if it works it works,” David shrugged, “At least I don’t have to pay like seven hundred dollars for something I plan on using for just calls and texts anyways.”

“Well, aren’t you just the classy man,” She mocked.

David fixed his coat dramatically, a smirk on his lips.

Michelle punched him in the shoulder, “Let’s just go see Chris.”

They continued to tease and push each other as they walked down the halls to Chris’ office, the stress and unease they once felt replaced by the normal comfort. As they reached Chris’ office, the door was already left open. David peeked in and saw Chris pulling out a folder from the shelf in the back of his room. Michelle walked up behind him and pushed him to the side gently. She peeked in the space that was between David’s arm and the doorway. Chris turned around, his eyes fixed on the manila folder in his hand. He placed it on top of the folders that were piled on top of his desk and opened it, sitting in his chair. He stared at it for moment, his eyes drifting over the notes within. He then froze, feeling eyes watching over him and he began to lift his head slowly.

David peered at the folder that was open on top of the mound in front of Chris, “Who’s that about?” David inquired.

“He’s a new patient,” Chris replied, “Just came in an hour ago.”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“I just decided to diagnose him as a simple depressed patient who is mentally unstable,” He replied.

“Aww, how old is he?” Michelle asked.

“Eight years old.”

“Wow, he’s young,” David stated, his arms crossed leaning against the doorway.

“Yeah, his dad’s an alcoholic who’s abused him and his mom is a junkie who doesn’t care about him. He barely gets anything to eat at his house and he’s lived with his grandmother for the past year up until last month where she got diagnosed with cancer. For the past few weeks he’s lived with his impoverished aunt who tried taking care of him but she doesn’t have the money so he’s here now,” Chris explained.

David and Michelle stood awe-struck at the kids story.

“That’s…..horrible….” Michelle could barely think of a word that could describe how she felt about the situation.

“Yeah, at least he’s more open with his back story than Avita,” Chris said shifting in his seat with a weak smile.

“Yeah, she is a box full of mystery,” David said with a chuckle, he began to make his way into the office slowly, Michelle followed.

“I know a lot happened yesterday, did you gain anything from her out of that?” Chris inquired. The duo winced recalling the events from yesterday as they sat in the chairs across from Chris.

“Not really we spent all yesterday afternoon in the first aid office,” Michelle replied, “We didn’t get much information from her, she was unconscious the whole time.”

Chris nodded solemnly.

In David’s head the events swirled like a tornado, rampaging his mind. He pulled his hands to his temples, his head beginning to throb like a lightning bolt collided with the sides of his skull. He hunched over and felt Michelle put her arms around him, trying to console him. He slammed his eyes shut and placed his elbows on Chris’ desk. He was trapped in his mind. That’s when he remembered the drawings.

“Drawings….” He muttered and the pain slowly subsided.

“There was drawings.. on her walls.”

Chris looked at Michelle who nodded, “What kind of drawings?” He asked.

“Creepy, eerie ones,” David recalled through squinted eyes. He gazed at something on the floor in front of him, not making eye contact with Chris nor Michelle, “But she didn’t draw them.”

Chris sat up in his chair suddenly, “What do you mean?” He pressed.

“Someone she’s scared of did….a friend I think she said.”

“A creation of her schizophrenia most likely.”

“With a due respect, I don’t think so.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was way too afraid of speaking about him, she wouldn’t even utter his name to us.”

“Schizophrenic patients believe these beings are reality and thus can act as if they are,” Chris stated, “Like I said earlier, it’s probably in her mind.”

David opened his mouth to reply but a loud cackle echoed loudly in his ears, a high pitched frantic laugh. David flinched then shuttered looking around him.

Chris peered at him, “Are you okay, David?”

“Yeah….yeah, I’m fine,” He replied hesitantly.

Michelle eyed him up and down, analyzing him.

Chris eyed David then checked his watch, “Here, you two take the rest of the day off.”

They both looked at each other, “Really?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah, go ahead home, but expect to work a full day tomorrow.”

They both hesitated then headed out waving at Chris.

The duo headed out the door and started to their cars in the lot on the base floor. They walked in silence until they reached the elevator. “Can you believe that Chris just gave us the rest of the day off?” Michelle asked as they got on the elevator, her voice was slightly excited.

David said nothing and they sat for a bit in silence.

She let out a sigh, “I’ve been thinking about what you said yesterday and I agree with you, it’s not fair that I’m so apathetic towards the little girl.”

David still said nothing, just sat there in what appeared to be thought, but Michelle couldn’t decipher.

“Are you even listening?” Michelle questioned.

David still sat quiet.

Michelle snapped her fingers in his face.

“Michelle, what the heck?” David said defensively, snapping out of his trance.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

David nervously chucked, “Oh, yeah. Well, eh… I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I guess I’m just kinda stressed about Avita. I should be fine after a nap,” He finished rambling just as the elevator doors opened.

“Okay, well...I’ll see you tomorrow, David,”

“Yeah, I’ll see you, Michelle,” David said before they parted ways.

On the way home, David drove to his apartment in silence. He usually blasted music as he drove, but tonight he wanted nothing more than pure silence. He wasted no time to arrive at his apartment. One would describe his driving as nothing short of frantic. Michelle, however, took her time driving to her house, playing her favorite pop songs in the background of her everyday mental war: Should she buy her own place or not?

She was constantly stuck in limbo about living with her parents. She knew her dad and mom wanted her gone, and were secretly praying for the day to come where she would get married and leave their house. But to be perfectly honest the only thing keeping her there was her constant fear of being a victim. The next young woman to have her portrait plastered on the bottom corner of a news segment. She knew her petite size made her an easy catch in the sea of life in her mind and she was nowhere near aggressive enough to fend off what life through at her. So, simply put, she hated living there, but she also hated the thought of living alone.

David pulled up to his apartment complex, quickly got out of the car, and speed walked to the elevator. He repeatedly smashed the elevator button before impatiently grunting and storming to the stairs just as the doors opened behind him. He ran up the stairs to his fourth floor apartment, quickly unlocked his door, and burst inside. As he entered his living room, he basically sprinted into the bathroom and poured water over his face. As the cold refreshing water dripped from his face, he sat letting the water drip down the drain, breathing heavily. He sat there for a while staring at his own reflection, leaning against the marble counters.

How long had he been not breathing?

The questions swirled in his mind as he recalled the walk from his car to his apartment. Inaudible sounds of the TV in his room snapped him into reality and he quickly went and turned it off. As he once again fell silent, he went and plopped on his bed, closing his eyes. He focused on nothing but the sounds around him, trying to listen for any slight movement or sound trying to pinpoint subconsciously where each individual sound came from around him. He couldn’t tell what it was and he didn’t want to admit it, but he’d been feeling like someone, or something, was following him.

As Michelle entered her driveway, she noticed her parents car was gone. She let out a sigh, she especially hated being home alone at night. She quickly walked up to her front door and let herself in. She turned on the lights and walked to the kitchen. There was a note on the refrigerator, “Me and your mother heard that your Aunt Grace was in town and decided to go meet with her for the night. We should be back in the morning. Spaghetti’s in the fridge. - Love Mum and Dad” she read aloud.

“Great,” she thought, “I’m gonna be here...... alone......all night.”

She opened the refrigerator and fixed herself a plate of spaghetti. After heating it up she walked into her living room and turned on her television. She sat down and began to watch a detective show. The show was just beginning, the main character just finding the victim that started the whole search for the killer plot. The detective slid on a pair of latex gloves and knelt by the victim and started to uncover the dead body. The TV then suddenly cut to loud static.

Michelle squealed and dropped her plate, a loud crack emitting throughout the empty house as the plate shattered. She cursed to herself before getting up and heading to the kitchen to grab some paper-towels to clean up the mess. She returned with them to see the television playing silent clips of her as a child, about four or five she thought. The clips were low quality and lacked color. They showed her running in the snow, riding a bike, and at a park, among others. All of the clips had a black dog running around in the back with her, jumping energetically and bounding after her.

Suddenly it cut to a colored clip of her, still as a child. A woman, her mother, knelt beside her, a hand resting on her shoulder. There was loud audio on this one.

“I’m sorry sweetheart, but Lucy got run over today. She ran into the road before your father could stop her and the driver didn’t have enough time to brake…..”

Michelle felt a twinge in her heart, she remembered this moment vividly. She was six years old on Christmas Eve. She continued to watch the clip, feeling her heart break again as she relived the moment.

Little Michelle stared at her mother then at the camera, her lips twitching as she began to comprehend what her mother had said. Her face then twisted into a look of complete pain and she started to cry loudly. The audio for her crying seemed to be boosted, echoing around the house and hurting her ear drums. The tape started to loop on her crying, the same high pitched scream repeating infinitely. The longer it looped the more unnatural and distorted her moans and screams became. The image then froze on her crying face, her mouth open loudly, tears trailing down her cheeks. As time passed, the image slowly became mangled and almost inhuman, eventually causing her face to become unrecognizable. Soon the image began to burn a blackish, red color, starting from the center and spreading outward until there was nothing but the hellish color filling the screen. The audio continued to blare in the background even with the burned screen.

Suddenly, the TV cut back to the regular show, which seemingly hadn’t continued. The main character finally uncovered the body and said, “This is the body of the six year old victim, Michelle....”

Michelle screamed and turned the TV off immediately. She sat there staring at the screen, shaking and speechless. She pulled her body in as tightly as possible as tears filled her eyes, she was emotionally confused. Udder fear and complete sadness looped around her heart as the first tear dropped, followed by multiple. She sobbed in the middle of her living room, covering her face and moaning loudly between breaths, “Lucy, I’m so sorry....” she muttered.

As she sniffled, she heard the video player suddenly open by itself. She slowly lifted her head to look at it, drying her eyes with her hands. She cautiously walked towards it and looked at the disc inside. She picked it up, but quickly dropped it as the mysteriously hot disc burned her. She squatted down, using the sleeves of her shirt to grab the disc and picked it up looking it over. It had no name on it or anything, she flipped to the back side, trying to find some sort of clue as to whose this was. She was looking at the bottom of the disc when she saw in the reflection a black figure standing behind her at a distance. She dropped the disc and snapped around.


She slowly backed up and heard a crunching sound, startling her. She looked down and realized she had stepped on the disc, crushing it under her weight. Her mind began to swirl, too much was happening around her and she had no clue what was going on, but realized she needed to get out of that house, now. She quickly grabbed her keys, got into her car, and drove off.

Back in his apartment, David sat, staring at his blank TV screen in the complete darkness of his bedroom. He had not moved off his bed for the past hour and a half, but had finally mustered the courage to open his eyes and stare at the emptiness of his TV, despite his nerves still being on edge.

Meanwhile next door, his neighbor had been playing the piano nonstop. David could feel his pulsating temples. How was he supposed to hear whatever it was that was stalking him if he is inconsiderate neighbor wouldn’t shut up that incessant banging he called piano playing? How was his neighbor finding enjoyment in pissing David off and putting his life in danger. Furthermore, by putting David’s life in danger, he was putting his own life in harm’s way because David wasn’t going alone. David could feel that he was losing it and was on the verge of snapping. He needed sleep and he needed it bad. He laid back down and attempted get some rest. A loud sigh began the solid three minutes he laid there motionless before jumping up. He couldn’t, not when all that obnoxious, arrhythmic banging was going on. He slipped on his slippers and stormed to his door. He swung it open and bumped into someone or something.

“Ow!” A small voice exclaimed.

David looked up after catching himself from almost falling, “Michelle? What are you doing here?”

“Hey, uh....sorry,” Michelle said looking around, “Can I come in?”

“Uh, yeah,” David said forgetting about his torturer next door and letting Michelle inside.

Michelle sat at his coffee table and rested her head in her hands.

“You okay?” David asked.

“No, not really,” Michelle sighed.

“What happened?” David pressed. Michelle explained what happened, from the fact that her parents weren’t home, to the incident with the TV, to the disc, to the black figure she saw in the reflection. David sat there listening to his friend’s story.

“I told my parents I hate being home alone,” Michelle said finally, “And this is why!”

“Well as you can tell from the constant piano key mashing next door it hasn’t been all cream and sugar here either,” David joked.

“I’m serious David!”

“Relax, you know, maybe it was just your imagination,” David was tempted to reveal his paranoia, but could tell Michelle was already way too stressed, “We both had a long day.”

“I don’t know, it all felt too real....”

“Here, some rest should ease our nerves. You can take a nap on my bed. I’ll nap on the couch,”

“I don’t think I can nap right now, I’m too worked up. You go ahead and nap on your bed.”

“No, really you should ease your nerves,” he insisted, then added, “On my bed. Only the best for the stressed.”

Michelle gave him a weak smile, “Okay, okay. Thank you, David,”

“Sleep well,” David said. He went and grabbed a few covers and pillows before laying down on the couch. As he was passing by his TV, on the way to the couch, he saw it on playing static, “I thought I turned you off,” he muttered. He shook his head and turned it off then laid down and closed his eyes.

Just as he was about to drift to sleep he heard shuffling above his head but assumed it was Michelle going to refrigerator and ignored it drifting into a deep sleep.

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