The Grin

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Day 4

Avita awoke the next morning to light shining in her face. She squinted as figures started to form in the light.

“Hey kiddo,” a familiar voice said.

She sat up rubbing her eyes.

“Michelle is still getting over the incident yesterday and I need to help her.”

Avita felt a slight pause as he said incident.

“So I decided to bring a friend to keep you company for the day,” David stepped to the side, revealing another figure, about the size of Avita.

As she rubbed her eyes once more, she began to be able to see this strange person.

He was fair skinned, with short messy, brown hair and freckles. He had faded greenish-gray eyes with a pixie like nose. He wore a greenish, blue jumpsuit, which meant he was a new patient.

“This is Sean, he’s new here.”

Avita tilted her head, she hopped out of bed and made her way over to them, staring long and hard at the stranger in her doorway the whole way. A weird feeling flowed into her veins, shaking her very being as she reached them. She looked up at David, who held out his hand. She reluctantly grabbed it but when David held out his hand to Sean, she snatched hers away like she had been burned, a look of disgust resonating in her eyes. David looked between the two and then turned to Sean, “Hold on Sean, we’ll be back,” He said and stepped inside of Avita’s room and shut the door.

When he did, everything became cold to him and he began to shiver. He look around the virtually empty room, rubbing his goosebumps. But he saw nothing else in there but himself, Avita’s bed, night stand, pink lamp, and the now glaring Avita. He brushed it off as the cold and knelt down in front of her, “Come on sweetie, why are you acting like this?”

“I don’t like him,” Avita said sharply.

“You just met him, how do you know this already?”

“His soul is ugly.”

“What?” David’s brow furrowed, “Don’t say that.”

“He’s evil, I know it.”

“Avita stop,” David said his voice growing a tone of fatherhood.

“It’s true! I can feel it!” She whined.

“Listen, Avita. Michelle’s parents are no longer with her, so I need to be with her in these tough times. So you have to stay with Sean and his overseers.”

“I can help Michelle!”

“You will, just not right now.”

“Why not.”

“This is grown people stuff today. We have to prepare her parents for the next big step. You’re gonna be bored.”

“No I won’t, I promise,” Avita begged.

“Avita, no.”

“Then I’ll just be alone, because I don’t want to be with him,” She said folding her arms glaring at the door.

“Be nice. Please.”

Avita saw the caring look in David’s eyes and she sighed, “Fine.”

“Thanks sweetie,” David said and tried to hug her but Avita turned.

“Nope.”

David chuckled and walked back over to the door and when he opened it, there was Sean right where he left him like an obedient dog. David bent down and whispered something to Sean and then patted him on the head. As David walked away, Sean seemed to be watching him leave, then slowly turned and looked at Avita.

“Hi,” he waved to Avita, “My name’s Halo,” He held his hand out to Avita and started to step towards her until he was an arm’s length away.

Avita stared disgustedly at his hand, “Your name’s Sean,” she replied coldly.

“That’s my first name, my full name’s Sean Halo Jackson Junior,” he replied, “I prefer notta be called by my pop’s name,” he said the last part almost in a whisper letting his hand drop to his side.

“Why?”

“Well, when my pop was still ‘live, he used ta beat me and my mom when he was drunk. He’d call us names an’ be hittin’ on us and my mom’d tell me ‘Sean don’ worry he don’ know what he’s doin’. She ‘ventually start yellin’ at him an’ stuff,” He explained, “She’d call me Halo cuz she began to dislike my pop, I was the only thin’ keepin’ her sane,” He looked away, “My mom and pop are both dead now.”

“What happened to them?” Avita asked, when she received no answer but an uncomfortable look as Halo looked around her room, she questioned him again, “I said, what happened?”

“My pop set my mom on fire in one of his drunken fits an’ when he sobered up an’ he saw her dead he killed himself.....‘least that’s what they tol’ me,” he said looking away.

Avita looked at him questioningly, but shrugged her shoulders. A sudden thought shot through her brain, “Where are your overseers?”

“They are usually eatin’ breakfast now…..they never ask me if I wanna come….”

A smirk spread across her lips, “Okay....you wanna play?”

“Sure,” he replied smiling.

She went across the room to the lights.

“Hey, what’re ya doin’?”

Avita ignored him, smiling.

David had finally finished making all the arrangements for the funeral. Michelle had almost worked him to death making him send emails, write letters to the people that don’t have emails, go to the people’s houses that don’t have emails and are too close to send letters to, then, when his hand cramped up from writing too many letters and email, she told him to call.

David had never realized how famous Michelle’s parents where. However, having to notify hundreds of devastated civilians all day of their death, he soon realized they were small celebrities.

But it didn’t stop there. Once he finished divvying up the notices , she made him buy the flowers, get transportation for the caskets, schedule a priest, order the tombstones, and still found other things for him to do.

Meanwhile, Michelle did the honors of reserving a seat on his couch and watch chick flicks while eating butterscotch ice cream. Oh yeah, and she also yelled at him for getting roses instead of Daisies.

But after three headaches, five hand cramps, and a new phobia of roses, everything was just the way she wanted. And as he made his way back to work, he had never been so happy to be away from Michelle.

Avita was getting frustrated at this point. She had been going around her room alternating from lamp to normal light in her room flickering them on and off for a solid five minutes now.

“Where is he?” She questioned in frustration to no one in particular.

“I like your lamp. Wish I had one....” Halo said timidly, “Alls I got is a nightlight.”

“Hmmm?” She turned to him and saw him next to her bed where the lamp was, “Oh yeah. David gave it to me yesterday afternoon,” Avita said walking towards them. She looked at the lamp closely, David had stopped at the shop on the way back yesterday. She guessed this was an apology for her having to see that gruesome scene, but it wasn’t really necessary. She doesn’t get affected by things like that anymore, not since that night. What David doesn’t know is that she’s seen her parents murdered right before her eyes and now Michelle’s too.

“Your overseers seem to really care ’bout you,” Halo stated staring at the lamp.

Avita looked at the boy, “Don’t yours?”

Halo shrugged meekly, “Alls I’m saying’s I’ve noticed how they interact with you. Almost like parents,” Halo was now pacing the room, from corner to corner, all around the room. Avita was about to question him on this, but before she could get the words out she heard a shuffle from behind her.

She said turning around to meet Oriah, “Where were you?”

“I had some business to take care of,” he replied with a mischievous giggle. He then looked over her shoulder and hissed, “I see we have a visitor.”

Halo shuffled up until he was almost shoulder to shoulder with Avita. He stared at the intimidating mask of the mysterious creature standing in front of him. The curly grin and black sinkholes burned their way deeper into his brain the longer he stared at the him. He couldn’t see the creatures real eyes but he could tell that they were staring back at him more intensely, so intensely that he couldn’t move even though he wanted to. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Avita was watching this with what appeared to be pleasure.

He felt like shuddering, but couldn’t even do that and in his mind, he heard the voice of the creature whispering into his brain, “Are you afraid boy? Because you should be,” the voice began to speak in a mixture of a growl and a low hiss, “I could kill you right now if I wanted to. I wouldn’t even have to move a muscle and I could end you. You wouldn’t even have time to move and attempt to protect yourself,” A loud cackle began to reverberate in the boy’s skull, “But, I’ve seen what you could do, but don’t think I’m even the slightest bit impressed. But you could be a useful asset. Consider yourself blessed.”

Halo internally shuddered at these words that were telepathically sent into his mind. When Oriah finished his message, he turned to Avita and giggled.

Avita looked confused then glared at him, “Why aren’t you killing him?”

Halo’s face turned to one of shock as his head snapped to Avita.

“Because child,” Oriah got close to her and whispered in her ear, “He’s of no use dead.”

Avita backed away from him looking into his mask, analyzing it.

“Now, where are your friends?”

“Off planning the funeral you caused,” Avita pointed a finger at him.

“I actually wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to the boy,” Oriah retorted, “But, I, in fact, didn’t cause anything little girl, I only witness the masterpiece.”

Avita glared even harder when he said masterpiece, “You didn’t do anything to stop it.”

“If you see Van Gogh painting a picture that offends you, you don’t stop him or you might lose an ear as well,” he replied simply. Avita really frowned up then. She didn’t know who in the world Van Gogh was, but she didn’t like how stuck up Oriah sounded when saying that.

Halo watched the two, he was physically shaking at the morbid nature of the conversation.

“David, actually should be up here shortly anyway, so I bid you both farewell.” As he said this he began to fade away into the darkness.

As he disappeared from their sight, the door opened and both of them watched as Halo’s overseers finally arrived.

When David pulled up to the mental institution, a sudden chill shot down his spine. The hair on the back of his neck rose causing a certain uneasiness to set in. He shuddered slightly, “Man, I’m freezing...” he muttered as he pulled into a parking spot. He unbuckled himself and opened the door, a burst of cold air flowed in like a tidal wave. He quickly closed the door again and rubbed his arms turning on the hot air. Despite the heat running across his skin, the chills stayed.

As David sat inside his car, he felt unnerved. Like a sitting duck, he felt like he was being watched. He slowly got out of his car and into the unnaturally cool air and looked around the lot but saw nobody.

“Maybe I’m just tired from all that labor Michelle put me through,” he chuckled to himself as he sat back down in his car. He leaned back, just letting the hot air blow over him, engulfing him like a warm blanket of heat. He laid there for awhile, eyes closed, unmoving, and unresponsive to the feeling of what felt like sweat dripping down his neck and forehead. He breathed deeply as the unnerving feeling of something looming right above his face suddenly swept over him in a wave. He laid motionless like a corpse, ignoring the feeling and instead letting the silence and stillness all around him lie.

However, it was quickly broken by the taps of what sounded like steps......quick steps......in his direction. They started out low and distant, then louder, louder, louder! Until, it felt like they were less five feet away.

David began to panic, but for some reason, he couldn’t open his eyes or mouth, and he couldn’t move either.....his body was stuck. All he could do was listen to the echoed pitter patter of what sounded like running now.

His mind raced at a hundred miles an hour as he began to question his life choices. “Why can’t I move? Is this how I’m going to die? In my old, rusty hand-me-down car with the heat blasting? Jesus it’s hot.” These thoughts raced through his mind as his eyes rapidly moved against his eyelids, frantically trying to open. He began to hope and pray that he would have died from heat stroke before his soon to be murderer got to him.

A hand grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him up, “David what the heck?” A feminine voice questioned.

David snapped his eyes open and inhaled deeply, followed by short, frantic breaths. How long had he not been breathing?

He looked down and saw his shirt drenched in sweat. He began to wonder how long he was in the hot box. He looked around him quickly, then up at what he thought was to be his murderer.

“Michelle, what are you doing here?” He asked.

“Obviously saving you from killing yourself,” She stared worriedly at David before reaching in the car and turning it off.

David again looked around him, he was beyond confused at this point, “Why was she here? What couldn’t I move? How long have I been sitting here? More importantly what was right in front of my face?” He’s never felt anything like that before, and he was sure it was more than just a feeling.

“What are you looking for?” She demanded.

David didn’t answer but just stared at her and instead stood up slowly. Michelle embraced him ignoring the fact that he was soaked with sweat, “Please, I can’t lose you too,” She pleaded.

He embraced her back still in thought, there was something weird going on here and he felt that this was just the beginning. He needed to protect himself before he was severely hurt, even more importantly he needed to protect Michelle and Avita from it.


David and Michelle sat next to each other across the desk from Dr. Hullinsworth. David lifted his arm to check his watch and winced, the remnants of a vicious hand cramp making itself known.

6:36 p.m.

It wasn’t too long after David had left Michelle’s house that Dr. Hullinsworth called in Michelle, telling her he needed her to come immediately. An emergency, he had said.

When the two arrived in his office, Chris said he tried to call David, but he apparently didn’t hear his phone ringing.

Emergency at the mental hospital can either mean one of two things, a fault in the building, like a wiring mishap or fire, or it can be a death of a patient. They both assumed the latter, probably suicide again. It had been a few months since the last one, it was only a matter of time they figured.

Every time one of the patients die, Chris calls all the overseers, starting with the ones specifically assigned to that patient, then by order of name. David Larkin and Michelle Lanson falling next to one another on the overseer roster causing them to always be selected together. However, Chris would’ve probably called them together regardless, considering how close all three of them are.

After he calls all the overseers, he then calls anyone in relation them. After notifying everyone, that’s when they have the funeral. The only patients allowed are the friends and the occasional sibling if they have one there. It was a tedious process, but one that was all too familiar to the people that worked there.

After greeting the pair, Chris went back to staring intently at the folder in front of him, sliding a hair through his hair.

“You wanted us Chris?” David asked after sitting in silence for a short while. Before coming to meet with the doctor, he went to the restroom to clean up after the incident in the parking lot. He and Michelle had promised not to mention that to anyone. Chris looked over his glasses at the two of them then back down at the folder he had been studying. David and Michelle tried to read over the upside down contents.

“This is about Sean?” David asked.

Chris nodded, he slid the folder to them, then folded his hands.

David and Michelle began reading. Where it had originally said, ”Father is an abusive drunk, mother is a neglectful junkie” there was now a giant red line through it and written in red ink next to it was, ”Parents deceased“.

David and Michelle’s hearts sank. They looked at each other in worried confusion, then to Chris.

“You didn’t tell us his parents were dead yesterday,” David stated in confusion

“Because they weren’t,” Chris replied.

“What happened?” David questioned.

“The police called us last night after you left and informed us that his father committed suicide after setting his wife aflame,” Chris explained.

“Have you told him yet?” Michelle asked.

“We did, but that’s why I have brought you here,” Chris replied with a hesitation. He leaned in close to them whispering, “When his overseers walked into his room at eight this morning to wake him up for breakfast and break the news to him, he wasn’t there.” Michelle snapped up quickly about to question him but Chris put up his hand before she could say anything. “We don’t know how, or what happened. All we know is he wasn’t there. However, an hour and a half later when the wash lady went to his room to pick up his dirty clothes and change his sheets, he was back.”

“What? Where was he?” David asked.

Chris shrugged his reply.

“Have you checked the security footage?”

Chris looked at them both in turn, “We can’t.....the cameras in his room are gone.”

David’s eyes bulged, “How could his cameras be gone? They’re in the top corners of his room and he only comes up to my stomach...”

Michelle was flabbergasted, her brows furrowed in confusion, “He couldn’t possibly have removed them himself, there are no ladders or anything in his room…. the only way he could jump from the floor to the roof is by some form of wizardry,” she stated.

David half laughed, looking from Michelle to Chris, “Like some sort of super power of something.”

“Anything is possible,” Chris looked back at David sternly, “This is a mental hospital you know.”

Michelle looked at the two for awhile and then nervously chuckled, “What?”

“You never know, maybe Avita’s visions aren’t a product of her ill mind. Maybe it’s all real, and we are the crazy ones for not knowing it. And maybe Sean has a friend that took out the cameras for him and let him out. Maybe Avita has a friend and he or she knows Sean’s friend and they tag teamed to take out the cameras,” Chris paused and looked from Michelle to David, “This institution was built on the exact spot where a government science lab once stood. You never know who could’ve tragically died here and be returning for their revenge,” Chris stared them down seriously and then began laughing, “I’m just messing with you guys.”

Michelle and David nervously began laughing, “That was pretty morbid,” David chuckled.

“I guess when you’ve been around such a depressing place so long your humor adapts to your surroundings” Chris replied, “But, I won’t keep you guys any longer, go let Avita know you’re here.”

Michelle and David walked out of the office, “That was....weird,“David muttered.

“You’re one to talk,” Michelle scoffed.

“What are you talking about?” David chuckled.

“You’ve been acting weird these past few days,” Michelle replied, “Just earlier you almost cooked yourself in the car!”

“I was just a little chilly is all,” David said smiling at her. He gave a Michelle a small shove when he saw the worried look in her eyes, “Oh come on, don’t worry about me. Thinking about it now, it was probably just a little sleep paralysis.”

Michelle gave him a confused look.

“Oh right, I didn’t tell you this, but while I was in the car I couldn’t move, like I was paralyzed. But I was completely aware of my surroundings. I haven’t been sleeping as much these past few days so I probably just half dozed off trying to recover and suffered sleep paralysis.”

“So now you’re becoming a self proclaimed doctor?” Michelle asked beneath her breath.

“Hey, most cases are self diagnosed,” He said matter of factly while nudging her.

“Just promise me you won’t severely hurt yourself one of these days.”

“I promise.”

They feigned normalcy with small talk for the rest of the walk to Avita’s door. Once they reached the door, Michelle stepped aside. David stood directly in front of it and stuck his hand out to open it. He paused as he felt a cold breeze pass by his neck. His head ducked and his shoulders rose as he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise once again. He looked over his right shoulder at Michelle, then looked over his left and saw nothing. “David, what are you doing?” Michelle demanded.

“Uhm....” David mumbled.

“You gonna open the door?”

“Yeah.....” David felt uneasy as he twisted the knob slowly. He took a breath and swallowed heavy. He slowly opened the door until it was half way then flung the door open quickly and slammed his eyes shut.

“Hey sweetie!” Michelle greeted happily as Avita ran out of the room hugging her tightly. David slowly opened one eye and saw Avita embracing Michelle. He opened both eyes and looked into the room seeing Halo sitting on the floor Indian style next to his overseers. A bunch of paint brushes, paint, and paper were scattered about around them. Halo had one of the paint brushes in his hand and was slowly drawing short red strokes on the paper, his brown hair drooping down over his face.

“Hey what’s up, Dave?” The male overseer greeted, wincing as the door collided with the wall behind it.

David didn’t answer but slowly walked into the room looking at the children’s artwork, trying to avoid stepping on them in the process. His glances were met with whimsical drawings of Avita that polarized the ones decorating the walls. However, among those nice were some that were just as eerie in nature. Some of them portrayed a glowing, green humanoid figure with bright, green eyes. The paint was stroked in a way that depicted leathery skin and two long tails.

David squinted trying to further observe this being, but his eye was brought back to another picture that was hidden underneath it. He bent down and grabbed the corner of the soggy paper and brought it up to his face, tilting his head to get a better look at it.

It was a drawn headshot of a person. They appeared to be wearing a black and white horizontal striped shirt. Its face was unsettling. It had two large, black ovals for eyes and a grin that dipped in the middle and swirled at the edges.

The picture made David feel uncomfortable and uneasy. But he kept staring, unable to turn his gaze for a long time before a picture was placed underneath his face.

“Look,” an innocent voice said.

In the background of the drawing was a huge tree, underneath it was David, smiling in his overseer uniform. Next to him was Michelle also in the overseer outfit, a silver peace sign necklace around her neck. In the middle of both of them was Avita in a white dress with golden sparkles, behind her was a long, white cape. She was wearing brown sandals and had a white flower in her hair. In her hand was a huge, red rose. David observed the picture then looked at the source of the voice and saw it was Halo looking up at him with expectant eyes waiting for a response. David looked at Avita, who was still in her pink onesie pajamas, printed with white flowers.

“This is amazing, Sean,” David smiled.

“Thanks,” Halo smiled back, “Avita showed me her white dress earlier. She tol’ me it was one of her favorites.”

“Why aren’t you in it?” He pointed to the drawing.

“Avita ain’t wan’ me to be in it. Said it would ruin the drawin’.”

David was about to reply but felt a tug on his leg and looked down and saw curly, red hair, “Hey there, sweetheart!” David greeted enthusiastically.

Avita looked up, smiling at David, also looking at him with expectant eyes,“Are you done with your grown up stuff?”

David sighed, “Yes finally,” he bent down and whispered in her ear, “It was awful!”

Avita giggled as David dramatically shuddered and peered over at Michelle who was now talking with Halo’s overseers. When she saw David dramatically cowering away from her, she just shook her head and smiled.

Halo smiled at the trio who looked almost family like. He admired how genuine they all looked together and had a warm feeling overcome him. A feeling of happiness that he hadn’t felt in awhile.

“David, can we get something to eat? I’m huuuuuungry,” Avita whined.

David’s stomach grumbled, “I’m actually quite hungry as well,” he turned towards Halo, “Sean, you wanna join?” He asked.

“Uhm,” Halo looked at Avita who was scowling at him and gripping tightly to David’s leg, “I ’on’t wanta get in the way. So I’ll just get something with Oscar and Danielle....”

“Nonsense!” David interrupted, Halo’s stomach growled, “Come with us, you’ve been with Oscar and Danielle all day long. Just chill with us for a couple hours.”

“But David, he said he didn’t wanna,” Avita interjected.

“Avita, you don’t wanna overwork Oscar and Danielle do you?” David replied looking at the girl latched to his leg.

“Maybe I do,” Avita stuck her tongue out at David and released his leg and quickly jogged over to Michelle and latched her arms around her waist, glaring at David.

Halo stood in the center of Avita’s room silent, not liking being the center of the argument. He’d known this all too well, first they argue because of him, then his dad beats him relentlessly and tosses his mom all over. It was the stuff of nightmares but instead of being able to just wake up and everything be alright, it never ended.

He twitched in discomfort as horrible memories and flashbacks spread across his mind like wildfire before ultimately breaking down in tears. The little boy shook with depressed emotion, tears racing down his cheeks. He repeatedly shook his head violently, pulling his hands over his face in an attempt to hide his face from the world. “Sean! Sean, are you okay?” Oscar called from the doorway and began to quickly step to his side to comfort him.

But David was there first and wrapped his arms around him.

Halo kept violently shaking his head, unintentionally bumping it against David’s chest every now and then. A low moan was all he could muster out of his mouth for a solid few minutes before he screamed, “I’m a burden!” his face scrunched and his cheeks turned a bright pinkish red.

“No! No! Not at all!” David knelt next to him, wrapping his arms around the upset child. He pulled him tightly against his chest, not caring that snot and tears were staining his white lab coat.

Halo buried his face against David’s chest, gripping onto his coat with his tiny hands pulling him tighter.

“You’ll never be a burden here.....never.”

Eventually Halo stopped shaking and crying but just laid against David’s chest, breathing deeply, attempting to calm down. He just listened to the calming sound of David’s relaxed heartbeat.

Avita, Michelle, and the other overseers watched from the doorway. Michelle was impressed at David’s relaxed and father-like manner at the situation at hand. She smiled to herself, she always knew that David would make a great father and protector in the future.

Avita stared into the furthest corner of the room, arms still wrapped around Michelle’s waist. She knew something nobody else in the room knew.

It was Oriah.

He was hidden in the furthest, darkest corner of the dimly lit room, leaning against the wall staring out into the room for the longest time. In his left hand, a knife. The very knife he had used to end many victims, including her parents. His right hand was toying with the pointed tip as he looked down at it, observing it. He then stood upright and looked down at the floor. He picked up one of the drawings and lifted it slowly, turning it for Avita to see.

It was a drawing of the trio, David in a wedding suit and Michelle in a sparkly, white wedding dress. Around Michelle’s neck was her peace sign necklace that Avita had seen her always wearing. In the drawing, Avita was next to her, hugging her in a matching sparkly, white dress and brown sandals. Behind them was a blue sky and multicolored butterflies. Underneath them was beautiful green grass and yellow flowers.

Oriah tilted his head and shook it slowly. He then twisted the picture towards him, observing it one last time.

Avita heard his faint giggle from the other side of the room as he twisted it back her way.

Then, in one swift motion, he sliced the image in half. Splitting up David and Avita into two separate pieces and slicing Michelle in half. He let both pieces slowly drift towards the ground, the pieces swaying back and forth before landing in the ocean of various meaningless drawings.

Avita gasped and jumped slightly, feeling her heart snap.

“You okay sweetheart?” Michelle questioned looking at Avita concerned. She softly placed a hand around her shoulder, squeezing it slightly.

Avita didn’t respond, she just stared in the far corner, mouth open.

Oriah faded into the darkness giggling.

And only she heard.

Halo sniffled and stepped back from David, his eyes red from crying. David patted him on the shoulder one last time and nodded.

“Alright Sean, we’re all going out to eat,” he looked over his shoulder at Avita, who stuck out her tongue in response, “And I know the perfect place.”

Without another word David stood up and walked past the others and left.

Michelle peered out the doorway, confused.

Halo looked at Michelle appearing just as confused as she was.

“You guys coming?” David’s voice called from down the hall.

“Uhhhh, well we’ll see you around Michelle…” Oscar chuckled, unsure how to feel of the events that had just unfolded.

Danielle waved, she was standing in the doorway now.

“Yeah, see you Oscar, Danielle,” Michelle replied, “Oh, and thanks so much for watching Avita.”

“Hey, don’t mention it, she was really easy to look after. Oh, and when your done with Sean, just text us,” Danielle said.

“Of course, we’ll try not to keep him out late.”

Oscar and Danielle laughed, “No rush,” Oscar replied and with that they left.

Michelle looked at the two children she was left with. She smiled at them awkwardly and grabbed Avita’s hand and walked out, attempting to catch up to David. Halo cautiously followed. David led the group down the hallway to the elevator.

Once they reached the elevator, Michelle stopped, “David, where are we going!?” She asked impatiently.

“It’s a surprise,” David replied mysteriously.

“I’ve grown to dislike your ‘surprises’,” Michelle replied shortly.

“Well, trust me on this one.”

“That’ll be tough,” Michelle muttered looking at the two little kids.

Halo grabbed Michelle’s free hand, looking up at her for answers.

She smiled back but gave nothing.

Avita looked up at her and noticed the worry hidden behind her smile. She frowned, worried for her two overseers.

Halo began to look around, growing even more upset, all this bickering was starting up more flashbacks.

“Michelle, come on,” David begged.

Michelle hesitated, questioning his sanity, “Is he drunk?” She questioned herself in thought. She observed him up and down, “He’s not wobbling, but he might be tipsy.....”

The elevator opened up behind them and David walked in, but Michelle didn’t follow. David looked at her from inside the elevator. He stuck his arm in the doorway to stop it from closing, “Michelle, come oooooooon!” He playfully pleaded.

“You’re acting like a child!” Michelle scolded.

Halo’s stomach growled again.

Michelle turned to him and sighed. She wanted nothing more than to just go to the cafeteria. Stay at the hospital, where it was safe.

Or more precisely, safer.

But if she denied David’s offer to go to the outside world to eat, it would upset Avita, “Get in the elevator,” she mumbled, pushing a hair behind her ear.

The two kids smiled and piled in the elevator on either side of David, as he smiled with delight. Michelle followed slowly.

They rode down to the parking lot and walked quickly to David’s car. David eagerly lead and the trio trudged behind him. Once they reached the car, they piled in.

“Is everyone strapped?” David asked looking at Halo and Avita in the rear view mirror. Avita questioningly looked back at David and saw a creepy wide smile on his face. She shifted in her seat slightly and nodded back at him. Something was off about the way he was acting, he was more animated and excited than usual which unnerved her. She gave Michelle a worried look and Michelle returned it.

Halo also nodded back at the man, he saw nothing wrong with the way David was acting. It made him smile because of how funny he was being. He was anxious though, why were the other two being uptight?

Michelle peered over at David nervously, she too thought he was acting weird. She couldn’t place what it was but she could feel it. Maybe she was just being paranoid because he was acting different lately, maybe he is just taking them to a nice restaurant. David shifted in reverse, backed out of the parking spot and proceeded to drive out of the parking garage.

Once he hit the main road, he turned on the radio. It was low enough where Michelle could hear him, but loud enough where the kids couldn’t. He then turned to Michelle, “I’m sorry I’ve been stressing you out so much.”

Michelle turned to him, not sure if she should reply, but she eventually does, “I worry about you David, now more than ever. I just lost both my parents. Both my grandparents are dead and I’m an only child. David, I don’t have any relationship with my aunt or cousins. You’re the only ‘family’ that I’ve got David, I can’t lose you too.”

“I know, it’s just....I know I’ve been acting…” He trailed for awhile, not sure how to continue, “- out of character lately. My heads just been really fogged, and I’ve felt extremely annoyed and scared. As if I’m being followed all the time. I know it sounds paranoid but, I’ve never felt so in danger.”

Michelle looked at David and saw the genuine look of fear on his face. Michelle cleared hear throat, “David, I can’t stay at the house my parents were murdered in. I was going to ask if I could stay at your place, and maybe that could ease your nerves and mine.”

“That sounds good, I guess,” David said in almost a mumble.

Michelle could see David felt hopeless, the man who was just giddy like a six year old on Christmas Eve, now seemed to have found out that there was no jolly fat man.

“I don’t need to stay long, I just need to stay there until I can find my own place and sell my parents place,” Michelle replied, she hated the thought of living on her own, and she knew David wasn’t distraught at the thought of her staying with him. However, she wanted him to open up a little more.

“Oh, my bad I didn’t mean to say it like that. I’d be happy to let you stay with me as long as you need, I’m just....in thought about..... my mental state.....”

“If you want to talk about it, I’m willing to listen.”

“Thanks,” He gave Michelle a slight smile and Michelle smiled back, but neither of their nerves were eased.

They rode in silence for a solid ten minutes before they pulled up to a tiny empty lot with a small building towards the back.

“We’re here!” David exclaimed with a smile. He was once again giddy and excited.

“David what is this?” Michelle questioned, she grabbed at her seatbelt for security.

“This is a place called The Slaughter House, they slaughter all their own meat and lay their own eggs and grow their veggies and wheat. Probably the realest place you could eat at.”

“It looks abandoned, David,” Michelle replied.

“Nope, the sign says open.”

“We aren’t taking the kids in there.”

“Nonsense, look there’s a man in the window there. He’s even smiling at us how friendly,” David pointed to a short, skinny figure in the window. He had a hand on the glass and many of his features were made difficult to see because of shadows. David parked the car and got out.

“David, I don’t see him smiling.”

“You think too much, stop thinking with your mind and think with you gut!” He paused and held a hand to his ear, “My guts saying ‘Let’s go get something to eat kids!’”

Avita and Halo looked at David then Michelle. Michelle shook her head but then clicked out of her seatbelt, letting it slowly slide off of her. She got out the car hesitantly, never letting her eyes leave the seemingly abandoned building. The two children soon did the same.

They followed David, who slowly lead them towards the tiny, truck stop like building. Avita looked toward the window where the figure had been standing, but it was gone.

“David can we just get back in the car and go to a fast food place like The Coop or something?” Michelle begged.

“Nonsense,” David replied. He grabbed the door handle and swung it open for the others, a weak chime emitting from the bell at the top of the doorway, “After you m’lady.”

Michelle looked at David for a moment before hesitantly walking inside.

Avita quickly followed not wanting to be too far away from Michelle.

Halo dreamily went in afterward, he’d never eaten out anywhere before, actually he hardly ever got to eat.

David brought up the rear.

The inside of the place was dark, with the ceiling light flickering. The place seemed completely empty, nobody was behind the bar or in any of the numerous small tables. There was a jukebox in the far corner to their left that had a large crack running through it.

“I don’t like it here,” Avita whispered to Michelle.

“Don’t worry, David knows what he’s doing. I’m sure,” Michelle replied lacking confidence. She turned when she heard a ring behind her.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!” David called from the bar as he rung a bell, “Is there anybody back there?” David’s voice and the ringing echoed off the walls of the almost empty restaurant.

There was no reply.

“Some service this is,” he muttered.

“David maybe we should just go, it seems like it’s closed,” Michelle tried.

“Maybe if it’s closed.....THEY SHOULD SIGNAL THAT BY THE SIGN!” David yelled in the direction of the kitchen. He turned in defeat and started walking towards the door, “Come on guys I’m really sorry about this, I thought....” David trailed off then slowly began to look around him, “Michelle....Where are we?”

Michelle stared at him, “The Slaughter House, you said.....”

David snapped to look at her. He grabbed her shoulders and in a hushed whisper he yelled, “The Slaughter House!? Are you serious?” He looked towards the kids and saw them staring back at them in worry, so he got quieter, “This place is one of the most dangerous places on the Islands!”

“WHAT!” Michelle yelled.

“Shhhhhhh,” David cupped her mouth.

Michelle glared at him in response.

“About seventy years ago, this place was one of the most beloved restaurants in the world. It was a hugely successful restaurant, said to have the best meat on the entire planet, so a lot of big name celebrities ate here. Well one day, Bermuda Banks was having breakfast here, and in the middle of him eating, was beheaded.”

“That happened here?”

Another solemn nod, “There were no witnesses or anything besides the owners of the restaurant, who said there were two murderers, one in a pig mask and one in a bull mask, who were never found. They’re said to still roam around here today.”

Michelle made an unintelligible noise before yelling, “David! I tried to tell you I didn’t feel right here!”

“We need to get out, NOW,” David demanded. He peered around the room as he began to back away.

How had they not realized this place hadn’t been touched in years. The tables were covered with dust, and the feint light pouring in through the windows illuminated the dust that flew all around them in the air. Shattered glass from cups and plates littered the floor. Cobwebs were left in every nook and cranny, and the word slaughter was written on the back wall behind the bar in red.

“Hopefully that’s an advertisement,” David whispered to Michelle who had joined him in backing towards the door.

She pulled the kids along with her by the collar of their shirts but as they were backing away, they began to hear a loud drip from the kitchen. They could just hear it above their own breathing.

They all stopped and stared at the door of the kitchen, “Stay here, I’ll go check it out,” David whispered.

“David no....” Michelle tried to stop him, but David confidently slapped her hand away. He slowly walked toward the bar counter and stared through the doorway and saw nothing but a dimly lit white room. Inside the room was empty, except for counters lining the wall. Every few feet, you could see gaps between them where the stains of the outlines of missing cooking wear could be seen.

“They cleaned that place out,” David mumbled to himself.

He was preparing to vault himself across the bar when the dripping once again became prominent. He looked up into the emptiness of the room squinting, hands perched on the bar.

“What is that sound,” he complained quietly to himself.

He cautiously crawled on top of the bar and paused, never taking his eyes off the room. He carefully got down on the opposite side of the bar, making sure to make as little sound as possible, and slowly made his way towards the room. Two steps away from the bar, he could just make out a dark, floating object. He took another step closer and squinted, the objects features slowly coming into focus.

It was a headless pig corpse. It was dangling upside down, its leg tied to a rope. It hung in the furthest corner of the room, just hidden inside of a shadow. Where the head was missing, blood could be seen dripping, ever so slowly. Right below the hanging corpse was a large puddle of dark red liquid. It’s blood.

“Oh shoot…..That thing’s just been slaughtered!” David yelled quietly, covering his mouth.

He backed up quickly, ramming into the bar hard on his spine. He didn’t acknowledge it, the adrenaline canceling out his pain temporarily. He quickly crawled over the top of the bar and scrambled to Michelle and the kids almost slipping as he got over the counter.

“We need to get out of here!” He called.

“What was back there?” Michelle questioned, ignoring the panic in David’s face.

“Don’t worry about that!” David said trying to drag Michelle.

Michelle stumbled from the force of David’s pull and began to follow. Before a voice called out to them.

“Gone so soon? You’ll miss the specials!” They all turned around and saw a slim figure standing crouched on the table. He wore an open vest that revealed his chest and abdomen. He was wearing black pants and gloves, and on his feet, combat boots. In his hand he held a bat and on his head, the head of a pig. His right hand gripped the edge of the bar as he faced David most directly.

“We’re serving slaughtered pig!” He hissed and manical cackel.

David winced as the psycho cackled, reminding him of the exact cackling he had be hearing recently, “What the.....” David muttered but then turned and ran.

The figure leapt off of the bar as Michelle and the children followed. They screamed in panic as the pig man ran after them on all fours like a dog, maniacally oinking at them like an actual pig.

David bust out the door followed by Michelle then the children. They ran into the car and jumped inside through the closest door.

David attempted to start the car but it didn’t work, he then tried again still nothing. “David!” Michelle called from the passenger seat.

“I’m trying!” David replied, trying again.

Nothing.

“David!” Michelle repeated but David ignored her trying again, “David!”

“What!” David snapped.

“Look!” Michelle said.

David turned and looked at The Slaughter House where the outline of the pig man stared at them from the window, and next to him the outline of the figure they saw when they first entered. He sighed and calmly turned the key and it started.

They drove out of the lot and back to the mental institute. Stopping momentarily at The Coop for some chicken. Then drove in utter silence, still shaking from the trauma.

They pulled into the hospital parking garage and once David parked the car, Michelle got out silently, kids following. David sat by his car momentarily. Once the kids and Michelle got on the elevator out of sight, David’s head fell back and he let out a deep sigh.

“What is wrong with me, God?” David prayed, “Why is all this happening to me. I just want to help out this girl. If I’m working too hard or if I’m stressed please help me through this time,” His head fell back to his chest as he shoved his hands into his pocket. He sat peacefully for the first time in the past couple of days. It seemed like an hour that he sat by his car, eyes closed in peace before a sudden chill ran down his spine. He looked around him and saw nothing, but noticed the sun was starting to set. He sighed and began to make his way to the elevator.

Once he reached Avita’s floor, he quickly made his way to Dr. Hullinsworth’s office and saw Michelle was already in there.

“Chris I cannot keep working like this! My parents got killed, Sean’s parents got killed, I almost got killed by that thing back there! I’m going through chronic stress, I’m going to start growing grey hairs! I’m too young to start looking like a fifty year old mother of five! I love Avita and Sean like they’re my own kids and I want to help them, but there’s only so much I can take. I never believed in the paranormal before, but there’s definitely something unnatural here!” Michelle was telling him.

“I understand your concern Michelle, but you knew when joining this job there would be odd occurrences. It’s part of this job and all these weird occurrences can really cause you maybe to see and believe some odd things,” Dr. Hullinsworth replied.

“Don’t you dare talk to me like I’m one of your patients Chris, I’m a sane woman and whatever that was back there was real!”

“Well how am I going to take your word for it? You claimed to have seen a man wearing the head of a pig wielding a bat? What were you even doing there?”

“Oh, now you’re blaming this on me?”

“I’m only saying that maybe you put yourself in that situation. You know when something of that significance happens, there are gonna be some people who get their kicks out of dressing up-“

Michelle interrupted, “I don’t believe this,” She rolled her eyes and folding her arms as her eyes began to water, “You got me out of college early because you said you saw something in me. You believed in me, you hand picked me for this overseers job and I’ve been less than but everything you thought I would be. You’ve told me this. And now I come to you for help and you basically call me crazy and place the blame on me! You’re brushing it underneath the rug like I’m just another one of your patients......” Michelle’s cheeks were now soaked in tears as she sniffed, “I’m sorry Chris, but I’ve got to put my safety first here and I’m going to have to quit this job.”

“Okay,” Chris replied quietly, “You can get your stuff from the employee break room and hand in your resignation in the morning.”

“I’m sorry Chris,” Michelle said, “I’m sorry I let you down.”

“No, I’m sorry Michelle,” Chris stated, “It’s been a pleasure, you can see your way out now.” Chris signaled to the door.

Michelle opened her mouth to speak, but Dr. Hullinsworth just shook his head. She turned and faced the door, wiping her eyes.

As she opened the door, David jumped back to avoiding getting hit with it. He opened his mouth to speak but Michelle quickly brushed past him.

Chris, still sitting at his desk, ran a hand through his long dirty blonde hair. He let out a long sigh as he leaned back in his chair, the door silently closing on its own. He looked around his tiny office, various shelves littered with papers, folders, notebooks, and books haphazardly piled, threatening to fall. On the walls were Pictures of him standing in front of various famous landmarks mixed with pictures of him with his deceased wife. They never had kids because she was unable to have a baby, but this didn’t waiver his unshakable love for her.

It had been ten years since his wife died in a violent car crash, she was on the phone with him, promising to remain on the phone the whole drive home. She was returning home from an out of town business trip, trying to get home in time for their anniversary. But she was running late and in turn rushing. He remembers how excited her voice grew the closer she got home, but she was also tired. He told her to get a room at a hotel, that he didn’t mind her coming home the day of their anniversary, but she was determined. That’s when it happened, just as she returned to the city, her mind grew foggy and she drifted. Her car swerving into oncoming traffic, right into the path of an eighteen wheeler, her and her car being squashed upon impact. The driver was so traumatized, and so was Chris. Upon hearing the massive crunch through the phone before the call shut off, his blood ran cold and his heart sank. From the incident, he gained a severe phobia of driving and moved into his office. He’s lived there ever since in isolation, justifying the seclusion by the massive progress he’s gained on various cases from the limitless time he now has.

He now stared at the picture of her, his eyes starting to tear up. But before a tear could form, he shook his head and turned to the work on his desk. His desk was cluttered with various patients papers, folders, and his bulky, old school monitor. He loved his old monitor, its simple familiar screen giving him comfort. He never really got into technology, in fact he still used a flip phone like David.

On top of all the clutter, two papers laid, one read Avita Leigh and the other read Sean Jackson Jr. As his eyes scanned over the two familiar names, he sat up in his desk and flipped through Avita’s then Sean’s for the hundredth time today, “What are you two?” He mumbled to himself.

Out in the hallway Michelle Speed walked down the hall towards the elevator, doing her best to ignore David.

“Michelle!” David called.

She ignored him.

“Michelle!” He repeated.

Michelle snapped around towards him, a mixture of anger and depression in her eyes, “What do you want David?”

“You’re just going to quit on her like that?” David questioned.

“Yes and if you have any sort of brain left inside that thick skull of yours, you would too.”

“What about what you said? What about actually caring for the children?” David asked, “What about me?”

“Look, David, I care about you a lot. You’re my best friend, and I love those kids, you know that,” Michelle replied.

“Then don’t quit.”

“You don’t get it do you?” Michelle replied, “I don’t have a choice, I almost died because of you,” Michelle glared at David, “This girl will come out of her room bloody and bruised. Sean’s parents mysteriously died and the cameras from his room are nowhere to be found, and neither was he. MY PARENTS ARE DEAD, DAVID,” Michelle turned and started to walk to the elevator, “I’m never stepping foot into this place again.....and you’d be smart to do the same.” She pressed the elevator button and the door opened shortly after, “Oh and by the way, I won’t need to stay with you, I’ll just rent an apartment or something. Tell Avita and Sean I said goodbye…..for good. I don’t want anything to do with this place once I’m gone.” She stepped in the elevator.

“Michelle!” David called running to the door.

Michelle sighed and put a hand out to stop the elevator from closing.

“Don’t leave me please, like you said I’m the only ‘family’ you got. You’re the only ‘family’ I got too, the closest real family I have is thousands of miles away.”

“Don’t make this harder than it is, David,” Michelle replied moving her arm out of the doorway to the elevator.

David was silent until he saw the doors to the elevator begin to slide closed. He quickly extended his arms in the way of the door.

Michelle’s face grew frustrated as she looked at him again.

“I love you Michelle,” David said finally. The way he spoke it was slow, deliberate, and sure.

Michelle’s face faltered slightly and she quickly averted her eyes from David.

“There I said it, I love you. Not just as a friend but way more than that, and it would kill me if you were out of my life,” the way he spoke was fully genuine and confident in his words.

Michelle hesitated, balling her fist slightly in pain.

David stepped into the elevator doorway and begin to lean in.

Just as he was about to press his lips against hers, she slid her hand in the way to block it and gently pushed him backwards.

But to him, felt like the force of a whirlwind pushed him backward as he stumbled out of the doorway and once again into the hall.

“Bye David,” she said and pressed the button for the bottom floor. The elevator closed and she was gone, just like his heart.

Chris opened the door to his office and stepped out, patting David on the back. He didn’t say a word, but just gave him a reassuring nod.

A single tear dripped down David’s cheek as he stared at the metallic grey door of the elevator. It was the first time he had cried in fourteen years. The only reason he had cried then was the death of his dog he had since he was two. Now at the age of twenty four he watched the love of his life possibly leave his life for good and he felt the same longing, empty feeling he felt as he watched his dog take his final breath. He dropped to his knees, “All those years, Chris, ” David said, “I loved her, and couldn’t find it in me to say it. Now she’s gone. The only girl I’ve ever loved, the only girl to go out of her way for me and l drove her away,” That’s when he broke down, “Love is dead.”



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