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Easton, School For The Gifted

Easton School for the gifted


Estimated reading time — 10 minutes

I had no prior belief in the preternatural, paranormal, or mythical. I was very much the atheist and a practical man, but the events of that night changed me for the worse. I’m hoping that someone might know what I’m dealing with, and whether I should stay looking over my shoulder.

I had been introduced to Christopher about a month prior. He already had a soured reputation before reaching the school grounds, thanks to news outlets covering his story. Easton was known as the ‘go-to’ place to drop off developmentally disabled students that parents weren’t apt to handle. A horrible reputation to have, I know, but we were good at what we did. A full-fledged boarding school with a massive campus, we housed about 500 youth aged nine to twenty-two. Most students moved to group homes once they aged out, so we focused on functional skills rather than academic ones.

I worked the second shift at B-Wing as a supervisor, which housed the most behavioral students. It was a ten-story building, equipped with state-of-the-art dorms, classrooms, gyms, kitchens, indoor pool—everything the students needed to minimize their need to leave the building. We even had a mini grocery store inside. I was against keeping the students cooped up with no public interaction, but that’s a different story.

Christopher was scheduled to join B-Wing, much to everyone’s disdain. He had made the news for stabbing his mother over twenty times during a schizophrenic episode. It wasn’t the act that made him a news phenomenon, though, but rather his backstory. To lend perspective, most of the children we housed were born with their diagnosis. Autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, down syndrome, etc. Either that or acquired brain injury. They normally received intensive therapeutic services starting at age two, through high school and beyond. Christopher, however, did not fit the picture.

He was very much born a ‘normal’ child. He was socially developed and intelligent; a B-average student at school. He had friends, crushes, teenage worries, and even a newspaper delivery job. One day, though, right around his thirteenth birthday, something ticked in Christopher. The parents described it as a literal night and day difference. He woke up and was no longer the son they once knew. Overnight, Christopher suffered a mental breakdown of sorts and developed full-blown schizophrenia. This was accompanied by auditory hallucinations, more commonly known as ‘voices.’

The parents described a chaotic scene that morning filled with violence, rampage, and blood-curdling screams. The mother was stabbed, and the father had to restrain the boy, nearly killing his son. Eventually, Christopher was sectioned into a hospital where he received his diagnosis. The doctors were stunned by the sudden onset of mental afflictions, given his normative background. They were able to identify three different voices that afflicted Christopher, all of whom encouraged him to do unspeakable things. Each voice had a specific name, one of which was the foulest of the three, and the rarest to occur.
The local news dubbed him The Boy Who Broke Down. People speculated how such a breakdown could occur in the first place. Many blamed the parents. Others accused the father of sexual abuse. Police interrogations cleared the parents of wrongdoing, but there was always a tinge of uncertainty looming over them. Either way, the Christopher Tavern once there had ceased to live, replaced by a scared, mentally fisured boy.

Many of the staff protested his onboarding, citing that he needed a more restrictive environment. Although we’ve had our fair share of violent kiddos, Christopher’s story posed a dramatic allure that intimidated us. After extensive therapy and years’ worth of experimental drugs, the doctors found the ‘perfect’ mix of medications to quell the voices burdening Christopher. Though the voices would never fully go away, they could at least suppress the foulest of the three, Topaz. The other two were manageable, but Topaz had been the one to encourage his mother’s stabbing that morning. Each time Topaz emerged, Christopher made an attempt at someone’s life. Since the inception of his current medication mix though, Topaz hasn’t emerged for well over two years. The boy was eventually deemed qualified for community reintegration.

At the age of twenty, Christopher was set to board our school. I vividly recall my first time meeting him. He was tall—very tall, about 6’6”—and lanky. His skin reminded me of a bruised peach. It was mottled and blotched with an unsettling rubber band appearance to it. His eyes usually avoided yours, but when he did make eye contact, it was a piercing gaze. His personality also fluctuated, making me wonder if he had dissociative identity disorder on top of it all. He was either mute, quiet, and meek, or mischievous, child-like, and cunning. The boy I first met was the former. He answered with single-word responses. “Yes”, “No”, “Mhm”,” Uh-uh”. You can imagine my shock when I met the mischievous side a week later. That side spoke in full sentences, was articulate, caused trouble, picked fights, and antagonized other residents and staff alike. We were not thrilled with his addition to the wing.

About twenty days into his move-in, the incident occurred. I was working with a good crew that night. There was about an hour left of shift and we were finishing up daily logs. Most of the kids were sleeping, but Christopher was up and about, teasing another one of the boys. I had left the office to chastise him in the lobby, which looked more like a giant living room. Bal was already there trying to pry the two apart. Though small, she was mighty. Whereas most female staff would be afraid to be alone with him, she wasn’t afraid to grab the bull by its horns. She would later admit in privacy that she was terrified, but she’d never let that show in the moment.

“It’s cause he’s a little bitch.”

“Fuck you Chrees, you have own games! You lost two, you no take mine!”

Kyle was a good kid. A bit of trouble on his own, but always pure-spirited. Being about five feet tall with Down syndrome, Christopher towered over him.

“You suck at games, anyway, give them to me.” He shoved his shoulder and held his hand out, demanding the Nintendo. Bal intervened.

“Christopher, enough. It’s 10:15 and the others are sleeping, tone it down and go to bed.”

“I will not.” He flashed a wry grin that modeled his intentions.

“Yes, you will,” I interjected. He spun around and our eyes met. “This is the third time I’ve had to address you. You’re a grown man at this point, make a grown decision.”

A devious grin shifted the corners of his mouth again.

“Sorry,” he held his hands up in mock defense, “Kyle owes me some games, that’s all.”

“I do not!”

“You’ll have zero games in a moment,” Bal responded, “and it’ll stay like that for the week.” Christopher spun back around, his arms following him like loose Twizzlers.

“Shut up, cunt.” His tongue was sharp. I was about to cut in when Bal stepped into his space, challenging him.

“Or else what?” The two exchanged glares, making for a tense moment. Chris eventually conceded with a wave of the hand, sucking his teeth while setting his crosshairs back at Kyle.

“Baby needs mommy to protect him again, I thought we were grown men?” He backed away and fell like a tree on the couch, pretending to watch TV while he fickled with his fingers. Bal and I exchanged glances. I pointed to my radio, to which she gave a nod and sighed before attending to Kyle, who still wanted a go at him. I shook my head and headed back to the office. The nights were long enough already, but Christopher posed a particular challenge no one wanted. A couple of the staff put in their resignation shortly after he joined. It was tempting at times, I won’t lie.

I headed back to the office and complained to my coworkers, going through the usual tirade. As we chatted and got our paperwork in line, I heard a squeal and the harsh sound of furniture going brr against the wooden floor. On cue, Bal’s voice blared from the radio.
“Franco, I need you here. Now.”

I nodded towards the others and scrambled, sensing the urgency in Bal’s voice. When I rounded the corner at the end of the hallway, I saw Bal holding Kyle’s head in a protective hold. His eyes were bloodshot, and there were reddening marks around his neck clearly outlining that of hands. My eyes scanned the room and spotted Christopher off to the side, looking lost.

“You stay right there!” Bal shouted at him. Christopher’s eyes darted maddingly between her and Kyle, who was barely responsive.

“What happened?”

“He happened,” she said while holding Kyle. Kyle’s movements were sluggish, choking on his words as he attempted to speak. “He lunged at him.”

“What did you do, Christopher?” I spat the words out. Christopher gave me a pitiful look that showed he was complicit. “What the fuck did you do?” I repeated. I’m not proud of my lost composure, but based on the situation, I wasn’t sure if Topaz had finally made an appearance after all these years. I grabbed my radio.

“Possible Indigo, I need everyone to the lobby.” My voice echoed through Bal’s walkie, overstimulating my heightened senses.

“I didn’t mean to…” Christopher backed into the wall, his eyes continuing their dance between the three of us.

“Franco,” Bal spoke low, “he would have killed him had I not stepped in…”

I kept my eyes glued to Christopher, who must have reverted to his quiet personality, or Quiet Chris as I called it. I recalled the crisis guidelines from his case file.

Should you suspect Topaz has made an appearance, approach cautiously. The subject will need a three-to-one staff ratio. Signs that Topaz may be present include but are not limited to:

A sudden burst of extreme violence
Explosive movements
An affixed gaze
A targeted ‘look’ that indicates Topaz may have locked in on an individual to inflict bodily harm
The subject may also twitch, tap at his eyeball anxiously, or cover his ears
Christopher has demonstrated a past ability to snap out of it should you confront him with his full name, Christopher Tavern. Ask him if Topaz is in the room with you. Should he say yes, you must demand that Topaz go away. Instruct Christopher to bid Topaz farewell. Administer a PRN medication of Clozapine. Should these measures fail, staff discretion is advised. Contact emergency personnel and proceed with a restraint, if necessary.

I walked up to him.

“Christopher Tavern.”

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A blank stare.

“Is Topaz here with us?”

A pause.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then what happened here?”

Another pause.

“Uh-uh.”

“No, we’re not doing ‘uh-uh’ here, I need an explanation. Kyle is choking.”

“Uh-uh.”

“Fucking hell, guy, what happened?” I grabbed his shirt. Christopher looked back at Kyle, then at me. Then I saw the ‘switch.’ His eyes narrowed down on Bal, and this searing look of what I could only describe as pure hatred contorted his face. Murderous intent tightened his eyebrows. At that moment, a surge of protective energy ignited my tactile senses. I got in his face and slammed him against the wall.

“Christopher Tavern, bid Topaz farewell.” His face remained stuck, hatred oozing through the very pores of his skin. “Christopher Tavern! Bid Topaz Farewell!” I slammed him again, threatening Topaz directly this time.

“Topaz, if you don’t leave, I will take Christopher away from you.”

A momentary pause. I held the man in front of me. For someone of his size and stature, I was surprised by how brittle he felt. I shouldn’t have been able to manhandle so easily, he felt bone-hollow. The other staff had already rushed in, standing behind me as events unfolded. I hadn’t noticed when they arrived, the primordial instinct to protect Bal tunneling my vision. I looked back to take inventory of the room, emboldened now that I had backup.

When I returned to face Christopher, a different look had taken hold. One of regret.
Regret, sorrow, and something else. You know that look a dog gives you when you yell at them for digging through the trash? How they hang their head, and are everlasting sorry for their terrible, terrible transgression? That’s what I saw. A hurt boy who was genuinely afflicted by guilt. I began to feel bad, remembering that there was still a boy under there. But I also felt relief, relief that Topaz may have finally left. Oh, how I wish that were true.
I noticed something. Under that look was something deeper. A beady blackness behind the eyes revealed something unnatural. I was staring directly into the boy’s soul now. You know how they say that the eyes are the window of the soul? It couldn’t have been more true in that moment. Something wasn’t right.

Then his face changed again.

As I caught that speck of his soul, his expression contorted from sorrow and remorse to alertness and panic. I don’t know how to explain it, but he knew I peered into him. As if I had intruded on a secret I had no business discovering. He beamed at me like a caught criminal, then bolted with an animalistic agility that caught me off guard, sending me tumbling.

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“Topaz!” I felt how light his body was moments ago—brittle as a sack of feathers. Where did this speed come from? I took off behind him, hopping over furniture and desks that he tossed with minimal effort. I remember hearing Bal’s gasp as the scene turned dramatic, the footsteps of my coworkers close behind me. As we ran through the lobby, his movements zig-zagged in an eerie manner. They were haphazard, yet fluid and purposeful. That should have been my cue to back off, but I continued my chase. We reached the end of the lobby where he turned around, backing against the wall and window as his chest heaved like a massive barrel.

And there it was again. That beady blackness, intensified. Time diluted, and in that moment, we stared at one another. Analyzing each other. Our souls mirroring. His eyes told me I shouldn’t be able to see him. That I didn’t belong there. An overwhelming feeling of grief and dread gripped me. Everything told me to flee and preserve myself. Time resumed and he spun around, yanking at the latch of the window.

“No!” I shouted as I lunged after him, clawing the back of his shirt. But I was too late. He plunged headfirst out the tenth-story window. I shot my head out and watched him plummet, my heart sinking. I couldn’t fathom it.

Suicide?

It’s truly amazing how many thoughts can run through the human mind when experiencing or witnessing death. Besides your life flashing through your eyes, other thoughts trample your brain like a child’s kaleidoscope toy, all fighting for a chance to be seen.

What will I tell his family?

How will the news cover this?

What if the others see his body?

Will I be incriminated for this?

Scenarios and scenes played out in those fleeting seconds, each with dismal outcomes. Then, my thoughts were interrupted as my eyes snapped to his feet. I had never seen another human dive to their death, but something about his manner of falling was uncanny. I watched as his feet arched and tucked in. His knees swooped and angled unnaturally. He folded and tucked his arms into his sides, allowing his body to ball up. Then, the unthinkable happened.

His body swooped upwards. The way a witch on a broom would if she were nose-diving and suddenly pulled up. I expected to see his body crash into the pavement in a mess of guts and bones, but it didn’t. I watched on, stunned as his body cut the air. In what must have taken a fraction of a second, a pair of heavy, skinned wings unfolded with a powerful burst. They were the most hideous wings I had ever seen—it looked like human skin stretched to its utmost limits. Veins, stretch marks and scars tattered its hide. I felt the wind from his takeoff as he zipped by the window like a gunshot. Then he was gone, quicker than I could snap my fingers. I fell back onto my butt, the window shaking in front of me.

Then, nothing.

I stared at the moon through the window, replaying that last second in my mind like an infinite loop, trying to rewrite what just happened. Then, goosebumps shot from my earlobes to my elbows, down to the very tips of my pinky fingers. What I saw was impossible. An affront to all things natural. Something not meant for human comprehension.

I had no idea what I had just seen, but I knew it was pure evil. A creature unbelonging of this world. I wanted to vomit.

Topaz will be back, I’m sure of it. I am writing this as a sort of documentation of events. The investigation into Christopher’s disappearance is still ongoing, but I know what happened.

My coworkers saw the boy jump but didn’t see the wings. Nor the takeoff. I don’t know when he—or it—will come back, but he will. If anyone can shed light on this or has answers as to what I encountered, please, contact me. I can’t keep living in hypervigilance. I need to understand what creatures walk among us. May God protect our souls and lend the blood of Jesus.

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals –Genesis, 3:14

Credit: D. R. Anthony

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