This story is by Holli Sperti and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Abigail’s attention was immediately drawn to the waiting room television, where the local news was reporting on the recent kidnapping and brutal massacre of three young girls ages 12 to 13 years old. The town had been in a state of shock for the last three months as the investigation pointed to a local man who previously served as the mayor of Morrisville, Vermont.
“Abigail? Dr. Mason will see you now.” She looked up, slightly startled as she was intrinsically and nervously captivated by the news story she’d just watched.
Dr. Mason’s office had become a comforting place for Abigail over the last three months. Her caregivers at St. Mary’s Children’s Home thought it a good idea for Abigail to talk to someone during such a tragic loss, especially since Abigail had been close to the girls before the kidnapping.
“It’s nice to see you again, Abigail. Please make yourself comfortable.”
Abigail always stared at first when Dr. Mason greeted her. She was an exotic-looking woman, tan with Cherokee features, long black hair, and dark brown eyes. Dr. Mason noticed the curiosity in her gaze but would smile and sit down across from her.
“How have things been for you in the last week or so? Is there anything, in particular, you’d like to share to start off our session today?”
Abigail sat with her back straight, her legs crossed at the ankles, and her hands folded in her lap. She always had difficulty focusing, and she’d repeatedly move her eyes up and down as if trying to recall events that eluded her memory or avoiding certain thoughts altogether. She took a quick but deep breath and brushed her hair back from her face before speaking,
“I have these dreams every night and even sometimes during the day. It’s like darkness or fog that creeps into my mind. In my dream, my sisters and I play in the fields behind our home. I like going to the fields and sometimes to the house at the edge of them to stay awhile. They are always afraid to go in. So, I stay long past the time they do and go in alone. Sometimes I get angry that they won’t come with me, but I’m not afraid of anything. Besides, there is a nice m…”.
Dr. Mason noticed Abigail had stopped herself in mid-sentence, so she asked, “Can you tell me more about the house, Abigail? I don’t think I’ve heard you talk about a house in our sessions up to this point.”
“You know…the grey house with the torn shutters. Everyone always said it wasn’t a place for children to be playing around. I didn’t believe them. I don’t believe them.”
Abigail shifted her eyes and flattened her hands to rest on her thighs. Her speech sped up somewhat, and she clenched her fingers around her legs, “I know it’s not my house. I liked going there, though. I wanted it to be my house. It could have been their house, too, if they’d just stayed quiet. I told them to come with me, so we could all be a family. They just never listened to me. I don’t know why they were always running from me!”
Dr. Mason reached across from her chair and put her hand on Abigail’s. She gave a gentle squeeze and said, “Abigail, I know it’s a lot to deal with. Grief and loss are difficult, especially when it’s someone you…”
Before Dr. Mason could finish, Abigail interrupted, “Most people said the house had been abandoned or something bad had happened there. But people are liars, and they don’t understand.”
Dr. Mason asked, “Who doesn’t understand, Abigail?” Dr. Mason sat up straighter in her chair again as she could see Abigail growing more emotional and angry.
“No one understands. And now, no one will ever understand!” Abigail stated firmly.
With that statement, she got quiet, and tears started to well up in her eyes. Dr. Mason also paused and took a deep breath.
“Abigail, I want to understand. I’m here to help, and you can trust me. Have you had any other dreams? A minute ago, you said you had dreams every night. Is the house part of the dream?”
Abigail cleared her throat and swiped her eyes clean as if to shake off the emotion, “Yes, I…I have had more dreams. That’s what they are, dreams.”
For a moment, it seemed as though Abigail went somewhere else in her mind, and she’d locked her gaze on the windows in Dr. Mason’s office.
In a softer voice, she asked, “Dr. Mason, do you think the dead stay with us?”
She paused again and locked eyes with Dr. Mason, “I don’t know when these dreams began. It feels like the dark places are always with me. I don’t know when they will come again or if they’ll come to me again, but they want me with them. I don’t want to be with them. I want to stay here, Dr. Mason.”
“Who wants you with them, Abigail?”
“I can see them running away from me, screaming. The screams are so loud, and I just want them to stop. Stop screaming! Stop being afraid! Stop so we can be a family!” Abigail spread her fingers around her thighs and forcefully rubbed her legs.
“But they won’t stop. I see them in my room at night, Dr. Mason. They just stand in the corner of my room, staring at me. I cover my head with my pillow to try and fall back asleep, and then I have other dreams. And they’re in those dreams, too. I just want them to go away and leave me alone.”
Dr. Mason started to jot a few notes down in her notebook, “Abigail, what happens in the other dreams?”
Abigail clinched and intertwined her fingers once again and stared straight ahead.
“Please don’t let them take him, Dr. Mason!” She cried and buried her face in her hands, sobbing, “He said we could be a family. I did what he said. I did everything he said. I just wanted to be a family.”
Just then, Dr. Mason got out of her chair and knelt in front of Abigail. Abigail flinched and gasped a little, then opened her eyes and fixed her gaze on Dr. Mason.
“Abigail, you’re going to be ok. We’ve explored enough for today. I can see that you’re very upset. Do you need a minute or some water? Yes, let me get you some water.”
Dr. Mason got up, walked calmly to the door, and reached for the handle, but Abigail stopped her, “Wait. Dr. Mason, I need a cloth.”
She turned around and saw that Abigail had clawed up one of her forearms and was staring down at all the blood pooling onto her pants. In a calmer tone, “Dr. Mason, the blood under my fingernails won’t get cleaned without the water. That’s what he told me. Yes, I do need some water, please.”
Dr. Mason felt her heartbeat accelerate and her throat tense. She kept her composure, but before she could ask any more questions, Abigail screamed out frantically,
“Don’t let them take him! I tried so hard! I tried to clean it all up! I tried to take them far away. He said we were a family. I didn’t mean to drop the bloodied clothes and leave them in the field. I tried so hard, Dr. Mason. It’s all my fault! It’s all my fault!”
Abigail stood up from her chair and threw herself at Dr. Mason’s feet, begging her and sobbing.
“Please don’t let them take him away from me. I want to be a family. Don’t you understand? I don’t want to be alone anymore. He needs a family. He lost his family, you see. But I’m his family now. He said so! I dream every night that the house on the edge of the field is mine, and we’re a family. It’s all I wanted, and I almost had it. If only they would have left me alone…left me where I wanted to be, but they ran out of the house screaming for help. I couldn’t let them tell on me, Dr. Mason. Those little bitches were going to ruin my chance for a family!”
Abigail sobbed and clung to Dr. Mason’s ankles for another minute before she abruptly stopped herself, stood up, and took a deep breath. She wiped her tears and sat down in her chair as if those few moments hadn’t happened; then, she turned toward Dr. Mason and, with a polite smile, asked,
“Dr. Mason, could I have that cloth now?”