I wasn’t prepared for the absolute disinterest that I confronted within myself as Greg’s words began to spill from his mouth. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t his rather clumsy, almost fumbling, attempt to put some kind of a psychological structure around my made-up problem, it was that I hadn’t any real use for his input. I had reacted almost mechanically when I made the appointment with him…I mean, I’d killed (indirectly, mind you) another human being, for Christ’s sake! I thought the mental numbness was temporary, and that it was only a matter of time before the guilt and terror leaked in. But my icy indifference proved un-melting, even beneath my constant and blistering scrutiny, and the most intense, self-imposed visions of grimmest consequences that I could cook-up. In fact, despite the efforts I put into dispelling the realization—I think I was proud of myself. The real problem, if that’s what it was, was that my pride was attached to the wrong thing. You might have assumed that I was proud to have eliminated such a monster from the world, providing a bit more safety to all the potential murder victims of the world. But that wasn’t it, not at all. It was that I proved capable of the act itself—murder.
I felt like I had overcome some kind of invisible barrier, a trained resistance to the fullest measure of my potential. All of a sudden my presence seemed to take up more space, as if my thoughts and actions had grown beyond my shitty little cubicle of conditioned existence. My eyes fearlessly wandered the world around me, now, meeting and matching the stares of strangers; moving over, shamelessly, the things that I desired; and burning small, smoking holes in the things that pissed me off.
Greg had just cleared his throat, trying to look as professional as his overly youthful face would allow, and began to talk about how my desire to hurt the man who had recently groped me at an interview, for a magazine I’d caught a job from, was only natural, and that I should realize that the balance between anger and reason is especially difficult to maintain when personal space is violated. Of course, the whole story was just a convenient concoction for the sake of getting some advice, which might hopefully veer somewhat close to my real problem. (Although, anger had nothing to do with what I’d done…for better or worse.) I realized that since I’d long ago failed the balancing act he was outlining, there was no sense in continuing with my therapy. I don’t even remember what I said to Greg, before rising from my chair and leaving his office. I never saw him again.
As I neared the exit of the building, my footsteps sounding confidently upon the polished floor, I felt like I was too big to be contained within the cold, sterile walls that threatened to hem me in. The second I stepped outside, I filled the entire sidewalk, the streets, the sky…just like the smile that nearly swallowed my face. I was trying incredibly hard to convince myself that my buoyancy came from acting out against demons, and possessing the balls to do what was needed, rather than only what was allowed. But that notion was as much bull-s&%t as the story I’d fed to Greg, and was no deeper than, maybe, two or three thoughts deep. All I really consisted of, at that very moment, was excitement—to see what my new confidence might bring me, professionally and otherwise. After all, I was an avenger, now.
A while back, the demonic geriatric had confided in me, at cleaver-point, that one of the killers who had occasionally attended the wicked witch had been recently caught and placed in a maximum security mental infirmary. The man’s name was Dillan Wickett, or as the press was fond of calling him— “Dillan Wicked.” Apparently, he had a nasty fondness for turning his victims into dead toys (The witches’ words were always right behind me). In his most famously ridiculous murder, he inserted an entire troupe of actors into one another, each hollowed corpse containing the body of the next victim, until, finally, the “little person” of the group (who, I hear, was fairly well-known for his theatric turn as a comically over-shrunken Napoleon) formed the final and center body of the dead ‘Russian Nesting Doll.’
The drive out to the nuthouse was long, and afforded me far too much time for self-examination. But, at that point, I was too far gone to fall for any cathartic inner monologue, regardless of how accurate it might actually be. So I blew myself off. I was a happy, career driven, clearly damaged (but not too badly) woman…and I was on the trail of one of the biggest stories of my crappy career. However I came by my confidence, I wasn’t giving it up for the world.
I had no Idea, what-so-ever, how I was going to get in to see Mr. Wickett, but I was giddy with the momentum of arrogance, and I was just so ridiculously certain that I would figure something out. My mind was on the other side of killing eyes, now, and I couldn’t stop peeking between the bars of the ordinary, repressed world. There were pathways around just about every obstacle: you just had to be willing to walk beyond the beaten path. And I was.
Just before I reached the “Ohm’s Institution for the Mentally infirm,” I ran head-first into a monster of a thunderstorm. lightning seemed to fall from the sky as often as the raindrops, and my badly flash-blinded eyes were barely capable of picking out the shape of the nuthouse, as it slowly rose up out of the tempest. I remember the sound the wipers made as they struggled to cope with the rain, how it seemed to bring order to my thoughts, and the storm. For just a second, I was fully aware of what I was doing…and why I was doing it. It was like that awful clarity that used to greet me in the mornings, after I’d spent a couple of nights inside a wine glass. It made the world seem like it’d been redrawn using a razor-bladed ruler, and convinced me that the only sound in the entire world was a thin, metallic ringing, which painfully resonated with every worthless, shitty truth about myself that I sought to drown in expensive (when work was plentiful) grape juice. But this time the truth was more than just shitty…I was a killer, a murderess. It didn’t matter what my intentions were, or how productive the act made me. But beyond all that…something else was wrong with me. Something that the old, underground bat kept saying to me…But, just before I could probe that thought, the thunder exploded, and the rain vanished from my view, as my car slipped into a small parking garage, just beyond the mental facility. My near-realization was as lost to me as surely as was the world, whenever the wine ran red and sweet and expensive.
The place didn’t look anything like I had imagined. It was old and quite run down, and was likely starving from a pronounced famine of funding (State, even Federal monies, were generally pretty slim this close to the failed financial gamble that was the, now defunct, City of New Victoria). As I crossed the parking lot, making my way to the clearly marked “Visitors” portion of the building, it seemed like the asylum was sideling up to me, while I stood perfectly motionless, watching the rain and lightning fall from the sky.
When I got inside, the place looked worse than its exterior, and, for a moment, I wondered if I’d somehow managed to mistake some rundown warehouse for an asylum. But when I encountered a small man, sitting behind a water-damaged wooden desk, I knew I was at the right place.
At that very moment, my actions became automatic—one of my many practiced pretenses was immediately selected, as a phony smile spread thick, red and wet across my face. Men like this were pushovers. That I was attractive wasn’t my advantage—it was that I knew I was attractive. The balding lump behind the desk didn’t even put up a fight, nor did the next two “officials” I wandered past, each one was far more interested in ogling my cleavage than my (fake) credentials.
As I pushed further into the huge facility, I couldn’t help but to feel somewhat chilled by its ghostly interior—dim hallways, most of which were only slightly lit by maybe one or two functioning lights (out of the legions of dead bulbs that marched single file across the water-damaged ceilings); huge, empty rooms, filled with mildewing crates of…whatever; rows and rows of broken windows, which compensated for their lost glass with tangles of mindlessly strung razor wire and dirty plastic sheeting; mold-blackened hallways that had become swamps, from rainwater and, presumably, years of neglect; and then, of course, there was the storm, which made an already creepy place all the creepier. (I was even more creeped-out by the thought that the ramshackle dump was all that stood between people like Wickett and the rest of the world.)
After some loosely guided strolling (there were, barely visible, yellow arrows painted on the walls, indicating where things were), I entered a half-lit room the size of a gymnasium; it contained only a couple of workout machines, all of which were rusted and nonfunctioning (this wasn’t the product of a funding famine, but a funding dead zone). As I began to walk around the puddles spread out across the cracked, uneven, cement floor (compliments of the many, many holes in the ceiling), a uniformed, limping woman emerged from a shadowy hallway directly in front of me. She was so far away from me that I felt confused as to whether I should acknowledge her, even though I knew she had come to bring me on to the next leg of my journey. She saved me the headache of looking stupid when she raised her hand to get my attention, as if I hadn’t seen her.
The woman wasn’t too sharp, and unreflectively accepted my story—that I’d been sent, by the firm (some name I made up) that represented Wickett, to resolve a few legal questions about his recent trial. (I had no idea who his lawyer was…and I was betting that the staff had no idea what firm, if any, Wickett’s lawyer might be working for.) Honestly, I’m not sure if she was really that inept, or if she just didn’t give a shit who I was.
The woman showed me to a corridor (that maybe had all of one functioning lightbulb) and told me to follow it until I reached the room at the very end. She said she would arrange to have Wickett brought to me. Just then, a man, an orderly, I think, passed through the big room where I was still standing with the woman. He was transporting, via what looked like an oversized wheelbarrow, two men that had shackles on their hands and feet. They had been beaten to bloody gristle. Only their slight wheezing indicated they were alive at all. It was at that very moment when I realized why the asylum had been built in the relative nothingness that was the area around New Victoria. People like Wickett would be lucky if they went a day without losing a limb. Given that, escape might as well have been a little winged fairy named Glinda.
By the time I reached the end of the hallway, which was lined on either side with old, disused (I hoped) cells, I had lost the momentum of my ill-gotten confidence. The gloom and storm had conspired to drag it out of me. Now, I was just a damp and doubtful liar (among other things), waiting for a guy who turned people into gory toys. But, as it turned out, Wickett was the least of my troubles.
After a huge lightning strike killed the lights, I heard something clicking on the wet cement beyond me—from the hallway I had just come from. I swallowed my shriek, and quickly flattened up against the wall farthest from the sound. The clicking sounds drew closer, until I knew them to be the sounds of claws, tapping across the wet cement floor: the sounds of a dog overfilled with wickedness. Then came a crooked mess of a voice; It seemed to come from the depths of something warm and wet…I knew all too well who the voice belonged to.
“Told ya, didn’t ol’ Grammy Rose?…She told you that some evil things just can’t settle for dyin’, hahaha!”
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