A Descent into Madness
By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – How did it come to this? The question echoed throughout the empty room.
A year ago, his world was a different, beautiful place.
Perhaps it was the stress or the sense of loss that would descend on him as daytime flickered from the sky and turned into night.
Picking at scabs that never seemed to heal, he came to the realization the lines between what he thought was real and what was imagined had become forever blurred.
Yesterday was a good day, he thought to himself. He felt the sun on his face, heard the birds chirping and felt the grass between his toes. Or was that the day before or even last week?
All he knew for certain was he was now sitting in a corner, surrounded by the dull, whiteness of a padded cell.
Life can be full of twists and turns – he knew – but he never anticipated how he could suffer a time out from reality.
Last year – that’s when it started. His girlfriend left him, his dad died and he lost his job. Quite frankly, the last 365 days just sucked.
Hit with this three-pronged attack, he felt himself starting to slip. Violent thoughts filled his head as he plotted his vengeance on those who had committed some perceived slight against him.
Almost as soon as these thoughts would come, fortunately, they would go. Other than his battered hands and the pock marked sheetrock in the living room, no one was ever hurt until…
Long ago, he recalled, he had a strange encounter with what could only be called supernatural. He had run across a grave marker of a little girl named Sally while riding the backroads of East Texas. He had become obsessed with ….
Learning about this girl, why her tombstone was mere feet from a well-traveled roadway and why she had died at such a young age was his new obsession.
Over the next few years, this obsession began to intensify. Late-night drives to the area, hours spent staring at the tombstone and days spent in local libraries trying to learn all he could about Sally.
While researching the matter, he discovered the circus was growing in popularity throughout the nation in the 1850s and several came through the Grapeland / Houston County area. He also learned a little girl was found dead in a creek, west of Grapeland, after one of these circuses departed.
Since the circuses of the time were populated with some nefarious characters, legends and old wives’ tales began to develop. Following one show, several of the circus performers had been accused of theft. The other performers had gone back to where they were staying, west of town, when they were confronted about the alleged theft. The situation escalated and the circus was forced to leave the area in the middle of the night.
Evidently, the circus left in such a hurry, one of the youngest performers had been left behind. She was named Sally and worked as a clown, along with her parents. According to the legend, Sally had snuck out of her parents tent that night and no one noticed she was gone until the next day. When her parents realized they had left their daughter behind – in their haste to flee the area – they returned to look for her. They discovered her body face down in a creek.
Very soon after that, strange things began to occur in the Houston County area which could not be explained.
Every so often, people would disappear – never to be heard from again. Animals came up missing or would be found disemboweled. As time went by, cars would be discovered on the Rock Hill Road which appeared to have run out of gas.
It seemed like a completely innocent inconvenience until the vehicle owners never returned to gas up their car / truck.
Time has a way of lessening a bedevilment but never quite getting rid of it and – in a coherent moment – he thought to himself, “I’m living proof.”
Seeing the sun start to set, he knew it would soon be time for his meds. He thought of them as magic pills because the meds pushed the physical and mental anguish away long enough for him to fall asleep.
Sleep – if you could call it that – was the only place he felt he could find the truth. It was a blackness that enveloped him and gave back his mental faculties but also forced him to confront his darkest fears.
“Careful there, Mr. B,” the nurse said as she handed him his tray of food.
“Are you all right? You okay? You seem a little agitated this evening,” she added.
Really? I’m in a damn mental ward for killing a little girl and you really want to know if I’m alright? Lady, I have to tell you I’m pretty freakin’ far from okay, he thought to himself.
“Yeah,” he answered. “I was just wondering when I could go outside again?”
“Oh,” the nurse responded. “I’ll have to check with the doctor on that. You remember what happened last time you went outside?”
Until this very moment, he couldn’t come up with the right word to describe this hideous creature who brought him his food and magic pills
Troll – that was the word. Nurse Troll.
“Talk to you tomorrow?” He asked hopefully as she closed the door and left.
Hearing the soft whisper of her Easy Spirits traipsing down the hallway to the next door on the ward, he pulled the three pills from under his tongue and went and sat by the corner of his bed.
Easing his right hand into the shadows, he found a piece of fabric that wasn’t quite stitched very well. He gave a slight tug and a hollowed out space appeared. The pills from his hand dropped into the square, the fabric was put back in place and he finally started to relax.
Reaching over with his left hand, he attempted to make sure the fabric square was back in place when he felt the first puncture.
Every inch of his arm exploded in pain as he felt gnarled teeth tear into the flesh of his arm, over and over again.
Blood began to flow from under the bed and soon the dull white of the room had a pinkish hue.
Eventually, he passed out from the agony of his wounds and the blackness enveloped him along with the truth.
“Can’t you hold on to a job?” his wife nagged. “This is the fifth job you’ve had this year and the fifth job you’ve been fired from! You’re a brilliant guy – act like it!”
“Are you finished?” he asked.
“Really? Am I finished? I wasn’t until you mentioned it – but now I am. I’m leaving you!”
Every window in the house shook when she slammed the door.
Fast forward three months and he was standing at the bedside of his father as the priest performed the Last Rites.
Until then, he thought he was doing fine. The bills were paid, he had a new appreciation for what he had not lost and had started what he thought would be the second act of his life.
Lo and behold, this thing called life can throw a nasty curve. Sometimes a hitter will bail out of the batter’s box for fear of the pitch not breaking. Often the pitch will settle into the catcher’s mitt and the umpire will let the world know it was a strike.
Other times, the ball simply doesn’t break. The batter stands his ground and gets plunked.
Following the break-up with his ex – who he truly loved – and the hurt of losing his dad, it seemed as if he had been beaned.
The memories came flooding back. It was a cold October night when he heard the doorbell ring
Halloween was coming early this year, he thought to himself as he walked to through the living room.
Easing open the door, he saw a little girl dressed in a clown costume as a sense of dread began to settle in.
Gazing out through her mask of clown were two of the deadest eyes he had ever seen.
Haunted by the memories of his past, he went to slam the door but was not quick enough. The clown bit into his leg and he saw blood ooze out of the creature’s mouth
Over and over, the clown creature bit into his leg while he began to pummel the back of its head with punches
Suddenly something changed. He was being lifted up by two policeman who had been called to his residence. He looked around and didn’t see
a clown or a little girl. The pain was gone from his legs
The police questioned him for what seemed like hours. After accusing him of being drunk or high, the police finally determined the man must have had a bad dream.
Sally was back in his life after all these years and she had returned with a vengeance. He looked around on the floor and didn’t see any blood, but at the edge of his mind – it seemed as if a cover of some sort had been placed over his conscious thought process.
A hard knock woke him from his sleep. He wandered downstairs to see who was at the door. It was his neighbors from across the street. They wanted to know if he would like to come to their Halloween party later that night.
Never one to say no to free booze he readily agreed and went back upstairs to finish his nap.
Daytime turned to night as he began to get ready for the party. He was going to go as a baseball player but with a twist as he turned himself into a Fury from the movie “The Warriors”
Making his way downstairs, he heard the doorbell ring and thought it was probably just the neighborhood kids out trick or treating.
Opening the door, he saw a little girl dressed as a clown and his mind snapped.
Not wasting anytime, he swung the bat like Mickey Mantle and felt it connect with the clown’s head. He swung again and again until he heard the cries from a sobbing mother who looked at him as she held her little girl, looked up at him and asked, “Why?”
Sirens split the night air with their wails as law enforcement officers surrounded his house. He stood there with the bat still in his hands and waited. Looking down, he saw his handiwork and realized the little girl wasn’t Sally.
The headlines screamed he was a monster who had laid in wait for his first victim. They didn’t know the whole truth. He was the victim. The little girl with her head caved in was merely collateral damage.
Even now, as he sat in the dull whiteness, he never doubted he was right. He knew this little clown creature he first met years ago was trying to kill him. Somehow, this devil child had been in hibernation waiting for the right moment to re-emerge and exact her revenge. He would be ready the next time she showed up, he thought as he held the steel leg of the bed in his hands. He would be ready.
“Ready for your meds, Mr. B?” The nurse asked before she saw the steel post coming down at her head.
Sometimes they never leave.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.