The Grin

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Day 5

David awoke early the next morning, he peered out his window and was greeted with a cloudless, blue sky. He winced as the brightness hurt his eyes, “Ugh, the sky mocks me,” he muttered.

He trudged around his apartment, slipping on his uniform and freshening up in the bathroom, avoiding seeing himself in the mirror out of spite. As he drove to work, he drove exceptionally slow, deliberately missing every light and driving behind the slower drivers. Searching for any excuse to shorten his day at work.

It took him almost an hour to reach the mental institute and as he pulled into the parking lot, his usual spot had been taken. He wasn’t surprised but heaved upon this realization before he started driving around looking for an open parking spot. Once he finally found an open spot he pulled in and sat staring at the grey wall before him. He felt a single tear drip from his eye before he quickly wiped it away and unbuckled himself, turning of the car. Then, after hesitating exited and dragged himself across the parking lot, up the elevator, and to the seventh floor.

Once he got off, he ignored Chris’ office and headed straight down the hall to Avita’s room.

Chris shook his head when he saw David pass. He’d hoped David had taken the day off to gather himself. But then again, it was David, his hardest working overseer. He’d never used a sick day, he’d been late sure, but never absent. And now that he saw David lifelessly trudging down the halls off the institute, he wish he had.

David checked his watch, an hour late. He sighed and continued to make his way to Avita’s room. He ignored every other overseer that waved at him and called out to him, their happiness only fueling his frustration. He made sure to keep his head forward and lips sealed, any human contact that wasn’t obligated in his work contract did nothing but lengthen his work day in his mind.

As he finally reached Avita’s door, he gripped the knob, the cold metal familiar against his warm skin. But this time he wasn’t nervous or uneasy, but apathetic. He felt nothing as he gripped the knob. He twisted it casually and opened the door, the dark room revealing itself to him in its emptiness.

“Avita?” He called out.

No answer.

“Avita?” He questioned this time louder.

Still nothing.

He looked around the room and didn’t find a living soul, only the lifeless objects that decorated the bleak space. For the first time that day, David felt an emotion, anxiety. He quickly exited the room and glanced down both sides of the hall, searching for her poofy, red hair among the other people that strolled the halls.

He quickly made his way back to Chris’ office and burst in without knocking, “Chris! We have a problem! Avita! She’s…”

Chris chuckled shaking his head, making David trail in his anxious blabbering, “Oh, right. I should’ve stopped you, she’s with Danielle and Oscar. I told them you hadn’t checked in this morning so they said they’d watch her, it’s the least they could do.”

David heaved a breath of relief. He left Chris’ office with an anxious nod and headed back to the elevator, riding it down to the sixth floor.

He walked through the halls, passing many unfamiliar faces. He didn’t know many overseers on this floor, in fact he didn’t know any faces on this floor except Danielle and Oscar. Only knowing those two because they were stationed on his floor before being assigned to Halo.

He continued through the halls briskly until he reached Halo’s room. He knocked on the door twice and within seconds the door was opened.

He was greeted by Oscar’s smiling face, “Dave! What’s up my man?”

David half heartedly chuckled, “Hey, nothing much Oscar. Just here to pick up Avita.”

Oscar squinted slightly, “You okay man? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

David hesitated, contemplating if he should explain his predicament to him. In the end he decided not to, this was a personal problem he had to get through himself, “Uh…yeah, just didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“Do you want us to just keep Avita for the day and let you take it easy man? She’s no trouble really.”

“No, no I got it. Thanks though.”

Oscar lingered, looking David in the face for a moment before stepping aside to let him in.

Across the room, on the bed sat Halo, Danielle, and Avita. Danielle sat, book in hand, reading aloud to the children. The cover of the book she held showed a knight, sword drawn, face determined. In the background was a dragon, neck reared and mouth open, fire emitting.

Once she saw David step into the room, she peered up at him, stopping mid sentence.

The two children initially looked at her questioningly before looking to the door and seeing the visitor.

“David!” Avita squealed, leaping from the bed and running towards him. However, she stopped halfway across the room, the joy faltering from her face, “Where’s Michelle.”

David awkwardly cleared his throat, “Michelle won’t be returning,” He answered slowly.

Avita stayed motionless in the center of the room, staring at David silently.

“What?” Oscar questioned from behind David, “You have to be joking.”

“No, I’m not,” David replied a little more coldly than he expected. He turned to face Oscar who was slightly taken back by the stiff reply.

Oscar nor Danielle replied but just stared at him.

“Avita lets go,” He called.

The young girl hesitated, hoping to see Michelle peek around the corner with her motherly smile, but it never came.

They exited the room hand in hand, neither of them said a word as they started towards the elevator. They were about to round the corner at the end of the hallway when a voice called to them, “David!”

David turned and saw Halo frantically running towards them.

Oscar and Danielle stood in the doorway to the room calling for the young boy to come back but he ignored them.

“David! I wanna stay with you guys!” He finally said as he reached them breathing heavily.

“You have to make sure it’s okay with your overseers bud,” David replied putting a hand on his shoulder.

Halo pouted looking at David.

David sighed, the look of the boy easing his tensions slightly. He looked at the two in the doorway, “Is it okay if Sean comes with us?”

“You sure man? You look tired as is,” Oscar asked.

“Yeah it’s no problem really.”

Oscar peered at David skeptically, the mood swings out of character for him. He then looked at Danielle who shrugged, “Okay it’s cool then I guess.”

Halo smiled and looked at David who smiled back. He grabbed David’s hand and they headed to the elevator and back to Avita’s room.

Once they reached the her room, they all sat on her bed.

“Soooo, what do you guys wanna do?” David asked after a moment.

The two looked at one another and shrugged.

David sat for a moment looking around, “Wanna grab some food?”

“We already ate,” Avita replied.

“Well, what were you guys doing before I came?”

“Danielle was reading a story to us,” Avita answered.

“What story?”

Avita leapt from where she sat, and walked over to her drawer and pulled out the book with the same cover as the one Danielle had, “My favorite book.”

Avita handed it to David who grabbed it and observed it, “The Bravest Knight huh?” He read.

Avita nodded and opened the book in his hand, flipping to the page they left off, “This page.”

“Who said I’m reading it?” David teased.

“Please!” Avita begged gripping his arm.

“I dunno,” David continued, “What if Sean doesn’t want to listen to it?”

Avita turned to Halo, he was nodding excitedly, “I do!”

David pretended to groan, “Fine,” he chuckled.

The kids cheered and snuggled close to David as he leaned back against the wall to read. As he started to read, the kids grew silent, listening to the fantastic tale. David read the short story, slowly becoming more intrigued by the plot of the story the more he read himself.

It was the tale of a dragon that continuously stole the jewels and livestock of the neighboring kingdom, stealing these products away to its hidden cave. The king had finally had enough and ordered his bravest knight to go and kill the dragon and return with its head, or he wouldn’t be allowed back in the kingdom. However, the dragon’s cave was hidden by its dark magic, hindering the knights travels until the dragon gave the knight three tasks to complete. Once the tasks were completed, he convinced the knight to turn on his kingdom and with the help of the dragon took over.

It was a surprising plot twist and very in depth for a little less than a hundred pages. As he finally finished reading, he checked his watch, it had been a little over an hour. He then looked at the kids who were sound asleep, looking angelic in their slumber.

He smiled to himself before maneuvering from in between them to stand and stretch, his limbs tight from being locked in place for that long. As he tried to climb over Halo, he stirred a bit causing David to freeze and hold his breath. Halo returned to his peace causing David to relax and finish climbing out of bed.

As he stood on the floor, he extended his arms and arched his back letting out a grunt. Then he began to twist his hips back and forth repeatedly for a short while. Once he felt his limbs loosen, he turned back to the children.

Sitting erect in the bed staring at him was Halo, his eyes glowing a bright green, his face expressionless.

David quickly rubbed his eyes, begging this be the cause of his tired eyes. But once he reopened his eyes, Halo was still staring at him, but now with a menacing smile decorating his lips.

“Well, well. It’s about time that we meet Mr.Larkin,” Came the deep gravelly voice of Iden.

“S-Sean…..” David finally managed.

Iden laughed, the noise was deep and throaty, “Oh no, Mr.Larkin. This isn’t Sean, not now at least.”

“What’d you do to him?” David questioned, his eyes locked on the resting body of Avita behind Halo.

“He’s sleeping, just like you’ll be when I’m through with you,” His whole body then ignited, causing David to jump slightly and his eyes to lock onto the boy, “But this time, you won’t wake up.”

David began to back away slightly, his eyes averting from the boy slightly, only to find the red emergency button next to Avita’s bed.

Iden followed his gaze before turning back to him, a wicked smile still on his lips, “Don’t think you can get past me, mortal,” He began to rise from the bed slowly.

David’s mind had two thoughts. One; try to get to the button, alert someone to come rescue them, and try to survive. Or two; run like hell.

He immediately discarded the second thought and decided to try to get past the creature. He scrambled towards Iden in a wild sprint, his eyes shut tightly. He tackled the boy, ignoring the burning sensation that was seeping through his clothes and as they hit the ground, he remained on top of him. He raised his fist high above his head, but as his eyes opened and he saw the face of Halo, he hesitated.

Iden reached up from underneath David and grabbed his throat. He squeezed his hands tightly, constricting David’s breathing.

David gripped at his hands, gritting his teeth from the pain of the flames on the boy.

Iden swung David to the floor next to him, then knelt over him, never losing his grip over his neck.

David began to grow light headed, the lack of oxygen finally overtaking him. His arms faltered, slowly losing their grip on Halo’s arms. The world around him began to grow blurry and dark.

“Don’t take it personally, David. I have nothing against you, but he does,” Iden growled ominously as he stood lifting David by his throat. He removed one hand from his throat to grab his lower body so he’d be all the way off the floor. Then with a swift motion, slammed him into the floor, his skull slamming into the ground sharply.

David awoke sometime later, his head pounding, his throat tight and aching. He looked down and saw he was in the same bed that he had brought Avita to days prior. He turned his head to his right and saw Chris talking to a new nurse he hadn’t seen before. He guessed they decided to let the shorter nurse go out of suspicion of the murder.

Chris nodded to the new nurse and shook his hand before walking over to David, “How’re you feeling?”

“How do you think?” David replied with weak sarcasm, wincing afterward from the slight pain from his throat.

“I don’t know, David,” Chris answered solemnly. He then let out a soft sigh between his teeth, “I think you should take some time off.”

David rose slightly but the sudden movement caused him to grow light headed and he fell back into the pillow.

“Settle down, you have a concussion. You need to be deliberate with your movements.”

“What about Avita, Chris.”

“I’m more worried about you than her, David. You’re overworking yourself and that’s coming from me,” Chris paused and gently placed a hand on his shoulder, “All this stress isn’t good for you, mentally or physically.”

David looked at Chris for a moment, he then finally spoke, “You’re right,” he exhaled, another pain flowing through his throat, “Who are you gonna have to watch Avita for me?”

Chris chuckled at the repeated question, “Probably Oscar and Danielle,” he replied, “Sean is being transferred, so they won’t have a patient anyway.”

Memories of earlier flooded into David causing his world to begin to spin quickly.

“W-w-why is he being transferred?”

“A request came in this morning, a distant relative asked for him to be moved so he could be closer to them.”

“What relative?”

“A grandparent or something, I don’t remember right now but that doesn’t concern you. All that concerns you right now is to return home and get some rest.”

David looked at him, he was being defensive and David knew it. But he also knew that he would have no luck if he pressed him. He nodded.

“I’ll have Oscar drive you home,” with that he left and retrieved Oscar.

On the ride home, Oscar tried to make light hearted conversation, but David wasn’t into it. With anything Oscar mentioned, David would give a half hearted reply and nothing more to try to continue the conversation. But, like the good friend Oscar was, he’d find a way to continue talking.

Once they reached David’s apartment complex, Oscar pulled up in front of his building, “Hey man, you gonna be alright for the night?”

“Yeah, don’t worry.”

“You got somebody coming to watch you? You know it’s not safe to be at home alone with a head injury.”

David hesitated in reply.

“I can stay with you if you’d like.”

“No….no…..Michelle’s coming to watch me.”

Oscar looked at him skeptically, “You sure?”

David nodded, and with that they each said their goodbyes, a chill setting over them both like a blanket as they parted ways.

A mist floated up around David’s face, parting as it hit his skin. He looked down at the boiling pot, a block of uncooked noodles floating carelessly amongst the bubbles. He yawned tiredly and shook his head. He couldn’t sleep, not yet. If he did, he was scared he wouldn’t be able to wake up. He yawned once more and decided he needed a splash of water.

He lowered the heat on the noodles slightly and went into the bathroom. As he flicked on the light, it illuminated only a small portion of the bathroom with a foggy light bulb. He sat for awhile, hunched over the sink, hands on either side of it staring at the mirror, reflecting back the same depressed look he held in his eye. He just sat there for a solid five minutes before he saw something move in the top corner. His eyes snapped up but didn’t see anything.

David growled and hit himself in the head, then looked back in the mirror frustrated, “You! You’re the reason this is all happening! You and your irrational paranoia and fear!” He pointed at his forehead in the mirror. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, “No!” He slapped the back of his neck. Then he saw something move in the corner of the mirror again, “Stop! STOP!”

Inaudible whispers came from all over the bathroom from seemingly nowhere. He covered his ears but he couldn’t seem to escape the demented voices.

He screamed as loud as he could, trying to drown them out, to no avail, “No!” He yelled.

The voices hushed, “Daaaaavid,” a voice sang from the back of his bathroom.

“Huh...” David muttered.

The voice stated, “You just want peace don’t you? Isn’t that what everybody wants?”

David looked up into the mirror and saw a dark figure standing in the doorway of the bathroom, a black swirl painted on his face. David snapped around and saw nothing there. As he turned back around and looked at the mirror, the figure was still there, this time with a wide toothy smile. It began to laugh, a loud high pitched cackle.

One all too familiar to David.

“No,” David began to cry as he shook his head and pulled at his hair, “This be happening….this isn’t real.”

It stopped cackling, “Is it, David?” It asked.

David shook his head, tears dripping down his face, “I..I’m....not crazy. I work in a mental ward....I’m not a patient.... I’m a worker...”

“Aren’t we all a little bit crazy, David?”

David looked at the figure in the mirror for hope, but it began to cackle uncontrollably again, the high pitched sound echoing off the tiled bathroom walls.

David dropped his head into his hands, “Oh God, I’m a nut case....”

“I can help you.”

“How are you going to help me, you don’t exist....”

The figure’s face didn’t appear to change, but it seemed change its crazy, psycho look into one of devilish intent, “I’m going to help you help yourself,” The figure reached behind its back then pulled out a pistol, “You want it to stop right?”

David nodded, “Yeah,” he turned around slowly to take the weapon from him, but once again saw nothing but empty space. He turned back to the mirror and saw the pistol rested on the counter by the sink. He picked it up slowly, examining it. The silver shone in the dim light of the bathroom.

David began to breath heavily as he felt his arm being directed slowly to his skull, the cold metal pressing against his temple. His finger slowly rubbed along the trigger causing his muscles to tense and his eyes to squint hard. He licked his dry lips as he prepared to pull the trigger, sweat building up on his brow. He shakily sighed and slowly began to squeeze the trigger.

A knock came at the door.

He stared at himself in the mirror for a moment before he placed the gun back on the counter and dead walked his way to the door of his apartment. He opened the door and was greeted with a huge bear hug.

“I love you too!” Michelle screamed through tears.

He blinked twice and looked down at his embracer. A smile broke across his face and all pressure and stress was melted away by her warm embrace.

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