I got the call at 1:25 p.m. yesterday. I’ll probably never forget the date and time. I couldn’t concentrate on anything after that. I hung up, avoiding all the calls that followed, blocking out the sound of the phone ringing off the hook.
There was only one thing on my mind now; something that burned into my brain and kept me from so much as closing an eyelid.
It seemed so insignificant. Just a little fable our mother used to recite to my brother and I when we misbehaved. She had plenty of them, some lighthearted and fun, some menacing and dark. Some were tales of creatures who would snatch us up if we kept goofing around; some were weird old rhymes that didn’t make sense. Most of them were just standard children’s poems though.
Not this one.
This one was unique. It never made a lot of sense, but whenever my mother delivered it to us, her stare would harden like steel, her voice would lower to a gravelly, somber cadence, and her hands would clench until her knuckles became white.
I never paid much mind to it.
“Whenever you’re impatient, rambunctious and loud,
Think back on the tale I’m telling you now,
This isn’t fiction, it comes not from my head,
This isn’t a story about what’s under your bed,
Yes those creatures can scare, but none are more real,
Than the One whose presence one day you might feel,
Not a stranger on the street or a terrible dream,
This One is relentless, and has many means,
At first he’ll be subtle, treat you like his friend,
But that’s just the beginning; he has plans for the end,
He’ll confide all his secrets, and you’ll confide in him too,
He’ll give you ideas, fun things to do,
Things that defy what your mother taught you,
It’s all fun and games, the more time you spend,
But remember this now – this One is no friend,
What started so shallow begins to get deep,
He consumes all your time, robs you of your sleep,
He starts to demand, he’ll curse and he’ll scream,
Your life is now nightmare, when it was once a dream,
The more he demands, the less you resist,
Soon you’ll be powerless; all else will be missed,
No more loving family, no support from your friends,
Nothing but darkness, as madness descends,
The One will control you; you’ll do horrible things,
His voice will consume you as you’re pushed to extremes,
Remember this warning as you start to get older,
One day he’ll be there when you need a friends’ shoulder,
Resist, resist – resist at all costs!
Remember this warning or your life will be lost.”
Silly. That’s what we thought at the time. We joked around after hearing it – not in front of our mother of course. There was no “The One,” and it was stupid to think that by misbehaving in little ways we’d somehow end up being controlled by some sort of madman… Monster… Or whatever it was. Still, after all the jokes I’d go to sleep with my covers hiked up to my nose, silently thinking about that eerie poem.
“…Unclear thoughts, auditory hallucinations… A danger to himself… A danger to others… Won’t let him hurt anyone else again…”
The conversation was coming back to me in bits and pieces. 1:25 p.m. yesterday, but I still hadn’t processed it all.
All I know now, as I type this and wish for sleep, is that something happened to my brother. He’d been getting a little wild lately, a few stints in jail, but nothing too bad for a young man his age. Now doctors were calling me from some institution somewhere, trying to tell me something was terribly wrong.
This wasn’t the boy I’d grown up with. It was almost as if someone – or something – was influencing him.
Or some One.
I have to go now; I can’t be alone anymore.
I hear that familiar voice calling my name.