This story is by Katana V and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I couldn’t tell you when it began, but I always felt Its presence inside me; playing its own, rigged game of cat and mouse, stringing me along with crumbs just to be released long enough to let the hunger seep in again. It lines them up and, though I most certainly know it’s a trap, I figure, hey, maybe this time I’ll outsmart It.
“I thought It was tucked away neatly but it wasn’t until I was standing over the body that I knew a new game was afoot.
“I heard its voice, but I couldn’t stop staring at the latest crumb. I heard It groan, no doubt doing what it could to process the scene.
“‘What did you do?’ It asked me.
It wasn’t until I got here that I realized how out of control It truly was, Dr. Goldsby.”
“For the purpose of your evaluation, I need you to be as specific as possible. I’m doing what I can to get you into GenPop, but I can’t testify for you until you’ve shown me that your regression has progressed.”
I rolled my eyes.
“What was that?” she asked us.
“That eye roll.”
“We’re sorry, we’re just so tired and haven’t slept very well in,” we paused, “a while.”
She nodded slowly, writing some judgment down in that spiral notebook of hers before closing it and leaning closer to us.
She purses her lips and we stifle a small laugh. She knows us too well.
“Nope, Ada. Had you for a second, though. Sorry to disappoint.”
She took in a deep breath and sighed.
“We’ll pick this back up next week. I’ll see you then, Ada.”
She rose from the chair and adjusted her skirt, pressing its wrinkles and walked to the door. She knocked on it three times before the orderly appeared.
Threein five minutes, we thought.
“Take out the chair, get her lunch and then take away dinner”, we see her shrug, “we’ll see what happens.”
We remained pressed against the corner, limbs strapped, confined. We glared at her and the orderlies, in the hopes of boring through their skulls, but to no avail. This was Dr. Goldsby’s third visit, telling us it had been as many weeks since we’d been admitted.
As the door to our room slammed behind her we thought about how much we’ve accomplished since it brought me here.
The first day, I didn’t think they’d pegged us as unfit for the general population, so here I am, wasting away in this padded box. When I opened my eyes at the beginning of each day, I saw complete darkness. When I closed my eyes at, what I presumed to be, night, I saw nothing but Charlotte’s bloody, wide-eyed expression, mouth agape and lips beginning to turn my favorite shade of blue and my pulse would begin to race.
The orderlies are required to stand at the doors to watch us eat our meals. They need to ensure we get enough calories to keep us alive, or maybe to ensure we didn’t choke ourselves to death using the food. In either case, sometimes, when they stood at the door, they got a little lazy. They’d leave it propped open with their foot. Any old crazy could just run out.
We like seeing the light, even if it’s just for a few moments.
When Dick came back with lunch, we ate the crustless turkey sandwich in small bites to prolong the artificial light on our skin.
Something else we weren’t used to was how well we seemed to co-exist since she rescued us. In the last few years, Mary’s paranoia filled the hollow space inside of her that the darkness had created, but she was always just trying to protect me and that’s what she did by bringing us here.
‘The safest place is in the belly of the beast’, she said.
We were almost sad when the orderly took our tray and left us to the darkness, like she would, but breaking the silence with Mary brought us closer together. The longer we’re alone, the more connected to her we feel. We think she gets mad at us, sometimes, when we let the orderly stay a little longer. She seems to take it personally, but really we just like to feel the light, again. It’s one of the few, but major, differences between here and, well, there.
We were never sure where there was, but we knew what it sounded like a constant drip from a crack in the foundation that hit the floor approximately every three seconds when it poured; thunder rattling the same foundation during these storms, but it always held. Coyotes howled in the distance, or so we thought as we turned our ears to their frequency of their desperation and hunger so as to forget our own.
Mary reassured us they were there.
Each day, Charlotte would visit once, maybe twice to give us our meals and vitamins until one day, Mary told us to stop taking them. We started tracking the feeding schedule, counting the seconds from between her visits. Mary knew that Charlotte was poisoning us and if we didn’t act soon, she’d surely, kill us all.
Figuring out her schedule proved to be more difficult than we thought, but we counted to ten seconds at least 1,420 times from the time she slammed the door after a feeding until the next. Mary said to keep track using tallies so we wouldn’t get lost.
It was so easy to get lost when there wasn’t any light.
Mary was our light. She said if we could establish the pattern, we could devise a plan. We could only use what we had available to us, which we told him we didn’t think it would be enough. She didn’t opposition very much, but she was smart enough to know the bucket that sat in the corner opposite to my pillow and blanket weren’t the best resources. All we had was, well, eachother. We also knew that every once in a while, Charlotte would imbibe on a little bit too much wine and that she seemed to like me even less when she did so.
I said we could make it look like an accident that way. All we had to do was wait for her to go on a bender and when she reached the fourth step on her way back up to the kitchen, she would misstep in her drunken stupor and tumble down the stairs to her unfortunate death. I’d call the police and leave her there for them to find. I would be free.
I found Robert Burns to be correct in that the best laid plans of mice and men often do go awry.
When Charlotte reached the fourth step, she turned and missed the step. She rolled down the stairs, smashing her forehead against the splintering rail twice on her way down.
I stood there, paralyzed, until It urged me to start hauling ass before the cops showed up. I’ll admit, it did more than urge me. It spat at me, swirling insults into a ball of knotted yarn, but I digress.
As I took my first step toward freedom, Charlotte grabbed my ankle from behind and yanked me down. I landed, elbows first, on top of her and my head smashed into hers. I rolled off and scooted a few feet away, wondering when the room would stop spinning so quickly.
She grabbed my ankle once more and I kicked her in the face with my calloused foot. She rolled over, her eyes sent to the back of her head and began to seize. It was screaming at me to run, to scram, but I couldn’t stop watching her jirating body. I stared at her already bruising, bloody face and her eyes as they began to fill with blood and that was the first time I felt something that tugged at a memory from long ago.
It gave me that.
I hadn’t felt this in so long and despite Ada’s screams, when Charlotte’s convulsions began to slow, I just wanted to let myself feel it, honestly. I wanted to take it in. I wanted to remember the moment I was finally released from this captor.
After that, I think Ada’s body just caved to the adrenaline. The shock caused her to pass out until EMTs arrived. When I came to, I was here.
I don’t have to have the memory to know that It brought us here. It’s probably cackling back there, as I speak, at the irony of my demise.
That’s alright. All I have to do is say the right things to Dr. Goldsby and she’ll let me into GenPop, but she won’t treat me quite the same. I like our visits.
It makes me feel happier when I close my eyes and imagine the blood leaking from her lifeless, bleeding eyes.