This story is by Shukran Jacobs and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
During a quiet night in my apartment, I fell asleep with hopes to ward off my worried mind. Mr.Patterson’s voice echoed in thought as I slept. His voice kept saying, No more Claudia. The medical debt is gone
Suddenly, my eyes opened and I was back at the Patterson Homes. An eerie desolate atmosphere seemed to cave in the hallway. My mother’s room door appeared before me. I opened the door to see a woman laying on my mother’s bed. I approached her with caution as she turned her head to face me.
“Where is Henry?” She asked.
“Henry? Who’s Hen-”
“Henry!” She started screaming.
I backed away from the bed as she kept yelling. As I turned around to open the door I felt something slimy sliding around my legs. I looked down, and screamed at the sight of black snakes. They wrapped around my ankles with a tight hold until I fell over.
I looked up at the unknown woman from the floor. She was still screaming for ‘Henry’. Her jaw was draped opened, and the snakes slithered inside of it as she fell back. The snakes covered my face to cast a frightening darkness.
Upon awakening my legs felt heavy, and sweat drenched my chest. My family photo album I was looking through, before slumber was upside down on the floor. I went for my patio to get some air, and saw a strange sight on the door.
A drawing expressing great distress of the elderly woman from my night terror was imprinted on the glass. Next to the drawing hung a creepily crafted emblem composed of two letters.
“H.M.” I whispered.
“Okay, slow down for me Claudi. Deep breaths,” Said Carly.
“I was doing so well. I can’t believe I forgot my medication on a day like that,” I said.
“It’s alright Claudi you’re under a lot of stress. We’ll sort this out love,”
She said while rubbing my shoulder.
“I just know this is all starting again because I’m worried about Mom,”
“That makes sense. But you know this takes time. After a few days it’ll blow over.”
“But what about the night terror. That woman? Henry? Who is-”
“Claudi. Remember what the therapist said. Your mind will try to trick you into thinking that the night terrors have any significance,”
She reminded me.
“You’re right. I have to calm down,”
“Come over tonight. I don’t want you to be alone.”
She expressed her concern.
“Okay. I’ll do that. We still have to talk about this.”
I pulled out the drawing, and the crafted initials that were hung on my patio door.
“I don’t understand,” Carly said.
“Have you seen this lady before?” I asked.
“Yes. That looks like Agnes from the nursing home,”
“Who is she?”
“She use to be a resident until she was released.”
The confusion briefly left my face. My body sprung up quick from the couch.
“Carly I think I made a mistake,” I said with nervousness.
“I should’ve never signed those forms!”
Carly grabbed my shoulder,
“Claudia it’s alright. We’ll figure this out together.”
“Grab your jacket and follow me,” She said.
To clear my head Carly drove me to an old spot we use to visit as kids. A place called ‘Haven Circle’ where our parents would take us to play. The sight was just as beautiful. I could still see our child reflections in the clear creek water.
“Thank you Carly. I needed this,”
“I figured it would help us both. I love you Claudi.”
“Love you too.”
We walked the trail leading away from ‘Haven Circle’ and saw an abandoned cabin in the distance.
“You remember that cabin being there?” I asked
“Can’t say so, but looks like it’s been around a while.”
“Let’s check it out,” I said.
We ran up to it, and I noted the H.M. initialed emblem hanging over the door.
“It’s the same emblem,” She said.
“You don’t think?”
“Let’s find out,” I said.
I pounded on the front door, but no one answered. We went around to the back of the cabin, and I saw a window on ground level. I looked around the yard, and picked up a stone.
“Claudia don’t!” Carly yelled.
The window smashed, and all the glass sprinkled onto the basement floor. I turned back to Carly.
“Help me get inside,”
She rushed behind me as I got on all floors. I slid through the window with Carly gently pushing me in from behind. The fall came quick, and I ended up landing on my ankle with a piece of broken glass.
I yelled out in pain, and heard Carly shuffling to the window above me.
“Claudia are you okay?” she screamed.
“I fell on my ankle. The cut isn’t that bad I’ll live,”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah just get down here!”
She slid her body through the window as I staggered back onto my feet. I limped over to the window, and grabbed her legs. She released her hold on the ledge, and slid down the wall.
A bulletin board sparked my attention in the distance. Carly and I walked over to it. A brochure of the Patterson Homes was pinned to the board, and covered in red markings.
“How does he know about the Patterson Homes?” I worried.
As we moved across the board, we saw a copy of a lawsuit form filled out by Henry Mathis. In detailed description the lawsuit exposed the Patterson Homes for negligence by nurses under care for Henry’s mother, Agnes Mathis.
A picture of Agnes, and Henry was posted next to the forms. The mysterious woman from my night terror was Henry’s mother.
“I’m sorry Claudia. Sorry you had to find out this way,”
A voice came from near the stairwell.
“Henry? You’re hangman?” Carly asked in a nervous tone.
“She needed the truth about you monsters,” He said.
I looked over to Carly, “How could you do this?”
“Claudia just let me explain,” she said
“How could you even begin to?” I screamed.
A rage that boiled over inside of me unleashed in Henry’s basement. With the lawsuit form at hand I pushed over the board, and ran out of the basement. Carly ran after me out into the the rainy woods.
“Claudia please wait!” She screamed.
“Give me your keys,” I demanded.
“Claudia I can explain.”
“I said give me the keys!”
I charged into her and held her down on the ground. She fidgeted in her pocket until the car keys fell out. I reached for them and rose off of her.
“You follow me and you’ll be sorry.” I said.
Her face dampened in the rain as I backed away. Henry was off in the distance watching from his porch with a solemn face. I ran off to Carly’s car.
The car screeched to an alarming stop in the Patterson Home’s parking lot. I stormed inside to Dean’s office, and barged in. His face beheld a mix of shock, and worry as I slammed down the lawsuit file.
“Pull out the release form now,” I demanded.
“Claudia you’re making a mistake,”
“If I were you I wouldn’t be talking about mistakes. Show me the form!”
He sorted around his desk for the paperwork. As he placed it in front of me his cell phone lit up with Carly’s face. I snatched the phone, and grabbed a pen to sign the forms.
“You do this and it’ll all come back Claudia. All the debt,” he said.
I stepped back from the table; pulled out his phone, Carly’s keys, and threw them at him.
“Go and pick up your daughter before she backstabs someone else without you,”
I raced to my mother’s room, and pounded on the door as the adrenaline depleted inside of me. The door opened and there she was standing with a noticeably bruised puzzled face.
“Claudia?” She said.
“Mom, what happened to your face?”
She began to explain, but words turned to tears.
“Mom this isn’t the place for you. I want to be by your side just like you were for me. We could make it all work.
“Sweetie. You just say when and we’ll go.”
“Now Mom. We end all this now.”
I packed up her belongings in a neat manner, and walked her out of the building. The 10 minute exit felt like an eternal walk over a burning tightrope.
Streak marks from Carly’s car were engraved in the parking lot. I thought about the now cut ties between us. Mr.Patterson’s voice echoed in thought “All the medical debt will come back.”
My mother and I boarded a bus, and left for home. I looked out the window and saw Henry Mathis. A man whose purpose I assumed was to cause me harm. A man who was just a victim reaching out for my awareness.
I whispered to myself, “Thank you Henry” as the bus drove off.