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I should’ve known something was wrong. What happened that night was fucked up, no doubt, and I had a lot to deal with, a lot on my mind. But how did I not notice something so obvious, something that was staring me right in the fucking face, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?!
I’d put Susie to bed several hours ago, her slipping eyelids and persistent yawn being all the evidence I needed that she lacked the fortitude to complete our Disney Marathon. “But daddy, I’m really awake, I promise!” she’d pleaded with me as I carried her up to her room in my arms. “Oh really?” I chuckled, playing with her, “Then what’s your middle name?”. I could almost hear the gears spinning in her tired little head as she desperately tried to find the answer, the one thing she needed to watch the stunningly climactic conclusion of Mulan 2, if indeed she could remain conscious long enough. She pulled a funny face and guessed, “Pretty?”. I laughed and touched her nose. “Alright, take me to bed.” She said moodily, looking defeated.
The move had been hard on her. She was only five, after all, and she’d had to grow up a lot faster than any child should ever have to. But she was so smart for her age, so understanding. She understood why we had to move so far away from all her family and friends, to this unfamiliar house in an even more unfamiliar city. She understood why she couldn’t see her mother anymore, that she wasn’t the same, that she’d forgotten how to love after the drugs took their hold. She understood that she’d probably never see her old friends again, that she’d have to make new ones. She, somehow, even understood why I’d suddenly had to start taking the little white pills from the little orange bottle every morning and afternoon (The stress of a long, drawn out separation from my wife, and waking up every morning to see the shell of the woman I once called the love of my life, had broken my heart, literally). “If my daddy gets too excited, his heart explodes!” I’d heard her telling some other girls one day when I was picking her up from school, much to their fascination. Not quite right, bless her, but it was amazing that she was so close because we’d never even spoken about it before.
“Don’t worry, we’ll watch the rest in the morning, together, I promise.” I reassured her as I tucked her into bed and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “But I must warn you, at the very end, Mula-” “Don’t tell me!” she shouted as she buried her head in the pillow and made the classic “I can’t hear you” sounds. I laughed again, told her I loved her, as I always did, turned off her lights and left her door open a crack before going back downstairs to watch some shitty late-night tv.
She was the strongest girl I’d ever met, bar none. Even during her infancy, she’d rarely ever cried. Even if something was upsetting her, even if something was really scaring her, or if she was in serious pain, she would just sit there, resolute, showing no weakness. I laughed as I recalled the memory of when she was only two. By that age, she already knew how to feed herself using a spoon, and I’d normally just sit her in her high chair with the bowl in front of her and let her get to it while I did other chores around the house. But one morning, she wasn’t eating. She was just sat in her chair with a sour, unhappy, pained expression on her face. She wasn’t crying, but I could tell something was wrong. Turned out that I had accidentally trapped her entire hand in the joint of the high chair’s folding table when I’d put her food down on it. She wasn’t hurt, luckily, but it just goes to show how tough she was, even as a baby. When I looked into her eyes, I didn’t see a child, I saw a woman. She was the only female I needed in my life now. I loved her, unconditionally, more than life itself and I knew that as long as we were together everything would be fine.
It got to that point in the night where the adverts for stretching super-hoses or pop-up gazebos begin to run together with the fake tarot readings and over-the-phone spiritual guidance, and I really thought I might die or, at the very least, become brain damaged to the point of incontinence if I watched another second. When even the tv strippers start putting their clothes back on, you know it’s time to hit the can. Switching the tv off with the remote, I quickly stood up and patted myself down to make sure I hadn’t, indeed, shat myself. I got the all clear and started up the stairs, fumbling with my pills, turning off lights as I went and preparing myself for bed.
That’s when I heard the scream. That bone-chilling, blood-curdling scream. That pained, gurgling scream. Susie’s scream.
I launched my pills into the air and sprinted up the stairs. I burst into her room, panting, scanning around for any sign of danger, and found none. Content that the room was empty, save for myself and her, I kneeled at her bed and stroked her face. “What’s wrong, honey?” I asked her gently. She just sat up in bed, frozen, paralyzed almost, pointing one shaking finger towards the foot of her bed and clutching her other hand close to her chest. This wasn’t really any surprise to me. Yes, she was a strong girl, but she was entitled to her share of childlike monster-in-the-walls-type fears that everybody goes through at that age. I’d been woken up many times in the small hours of the morning by her cries of “Monster in my wardrobe!” or “Ghost in my floorboards!” (The latter of which ended with me doing some weird, foot-stomping dance ritual to ward off evil spirits). One that had become more and more frequent of late was “Man at my window!”, which was one of the few I actually took seriously, but luckily there never was, at least not that I saw. This time was different, though. She hadn’t shouted out any of those usual complaints. She hadn’t shouted anything. She had just screamed.
That’s when I should have known, right then, right then and fucking there is when I should have realized. That I was too late. That the worst had already happened.
I decided to see if I could calm her down, have a little fun with it, try to get her back in the sleeping mood, y’know? I walked over to the other side of the room, where the wardrobe was. “Is it… IN THE WARDROBE?” I asked loudly, suddenly jerking the doors open to reveal nothing but clothes and hangers. “Nope, no monsters in there.” I concluded. “Unless… It’s Invisible Ivan!” I yelled, unleashing a flurry of kung-fu-esque moves into the empty closet. “Nope, Ivan’s not in there either.” Then I bent down and started rapping my knuckles on the floor. “Hmm… floorboards sound empty to me!” I stood up again, smiling, and looked at Susie. Her cold, terrified gaze just followed me around the room, her face the picture of absolute seriousness, her quivering finger unmoved from the end of her bed. The smile quickly melted from my face. My ghostbuster routine usually at least made her chuckle, I knew something had seriously scared her and whatever it was, she thought it was under the bed. “Down there?” I mimed to her, gesturing to the floor under where she sat. She nodded silently, then withdrew her hand and clenched it tight to her chest, like the other one. I got down on two knees, put my hands on the floor and prepared my scariest roar to pretend to scare away whatever imaginary creature lived there. I quickly brought my head down to floor level and was just about to shout under the mattress when what I saw made the breath catch in my throat; I felt nauseous, terrified and infuriated all in the same instance, but that’s not when I had my heart attack.
He was laying there, totally naked and on the erect, in an expanding pool of his own piss. His wrinkly, curdled, wart-covered skin was stuck to the floor by his stinking sweat, and I could see his yellow, rotting teeth, the few he still had, leaning pitifully towards me through his cracked, arid lips. He must have been in his late sixties, and his greasy, silvering hair, where he wasn’t bald, fell down over his face in messy knots and clumps. In one veiny, clawed hand he held a bloodied steak knife, rusted with use, a large stained burlap sack in the other. And he was under my daughter’s bed. He was under my daughter’s fucking bed. “Uh, listen friend, I-I can explain-” he started, half crying.
The sound of his bones crunching in the doorframe were not nearly as disturbing as his frenzied, animalistic screams.
About 15 minutes later, his near-lifeless trunk was getting loaded into the back of an ambulance, thankfully clothed and under heavy guard, and the police who’d arrived on the scene were filling me in on what had happened while a medic bandaged my bloody, misshapen knuckles. Using Susie’s bedroom door, I’d broken his jaw, his nose and the globe of his left eye-socket, cracked his skull, broken 6 ribs and seperated his spinal column at the 16th vertebrae. When the hinges splintered and the door fell from the frame, I resorted to using my fists and had shattered all 9 of his teeth, half-crushed his windpipe and left him with a major concussion, all of which made identifying him in any way very difficult (mainly due to the fact that his newly swollen and disfigured face could now have put Jocelyn Wildenstein in high spirits). We would have to wait for his fingerprints, luckily intact despite most of his digits being mangled and snapped, to be put through the database to be sure, but they believed I had just caught one Jeb Roberts, the perpetrator of a series of weird murders taking place accross the city. He had entered the house by climbing up the guttering and entering a slightly opened upstairs window. Reports indicated that he would stake out a house (was that the “man” at Susie’s window? I couldn’t be sure) before breaking in, drugging the child with strong trihalomethanes, and then harvesting their skin, bones and internal organs, using them to fashion creepy dolls and marionettes from dead, rotten flesh, leaving nothing behind but a soft heap of fat and muscle, lovingly topped with 20 little teeth.
I felt sick. I couldn’t believe Susie had almost become a victim of that manic cunt. I remembered watching a news report about the guy not 3 days ago; there wasn’t an actual name for what he was, but the general, one-size-fits-all terms such as “Paedophile”, “Murderer”, “Creep”, “Child-Killer”, “Communist”, “Servant of Satan” and “Straight-up fucking psycho” were getting thrown around a lot. The officer’s commended me for my brave and valiant action, and assured me that, if this was the right guy, and he lived long enough to stand trial, he would be getting nicely acquainted with Ol’ Sparky within the new year. Susie just sat there in silence, still clutching her hands to her chest and not moving an inch. I hadn’t heard her say a single word throughout the entire ordeal; she even silently dismissed the paramedics who tried to check on her, insisting instead that they focus on me. She didn’t look as scared anymore, but I assumed she was still too in shock to say anything or give a testimony to the police. They said that was alright, and that I could bring her down to the station whenever she was ready.
In hindsight it wasn’t the best idea, but I decided to wait until all the cops had cleared out, the investigators had taken their photos and left, the paramedics all piled into their car and sped away, and the sound of wailing sirens was no longer audible in the distance, about an hour in total. Then I sat Susie down on the couch and decided we needed to have a talk about what had just happened. I explained to her that a nasty man had gotten into the house, that he wanted to take her away, but that it was alright because Daddy had been there to protect her, and that that man was never, ever coming back. She placed a hand on my cheek and nodded, that nod she always did to show me she had understood everything I had just said, and everything I hadn’t, as the first tears I had seen in almost 5 years started to roll down her cheeks. “It’s alright, Suze,” I comforted her, “you don’t have to cry”. She still said nothing, but I didn’t question it too much. I hugged her lovingly, and she nestled her head into my shoulder, but she hardly hugged me back. Her arms were still clamped tight against her chest, as if trying to hide something valuable, afraid she could lose it at any second. “Susie, darling, what’s that in your hand?” She looked suddenly apprehensive, and that fearful expression crossed her face again. “It’s okay, you can show me, it’s alright, I promise.”
Only then, only then did I put two and two together and work out what had happened. I failed my daughter, the girl that meant everything to me, because I was too fucking dim to see what was right in front of my face, HOW FUCKING STUPID CAN YOU BE?. Now I’m gone, and she’s all on her own. I was meant to protect her… I was meant to protect her…
What I saw burned my very soul, and set fire to my chest. As she reluctantly uncurled her fingers, she opened her mouth in a wide, forced smile, revealing an entire mouthful of crimson-tinted teeth, as blood, still oozing from the sickly, throbbing stump, poured messily down her chin. In her precious, shaking hand, cruelly taken from her innoccent mouth, glistening in the first rays of morning sunshine poking through the window, was her own severed tongue.
That’s when I had my heart attack.
Credit To – Acaimo