07 Feb Personal Demons
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"Personal Demons"Written by
Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
“Have a good night, Mrs. Moore!”
The car service dropped me off at precisely six o’clock in the evening. Making my way to the front door with well-practiced skill, I expertly slid the key home, flicked the lock, and stepped into my cozy front hallway. I hung my coat in the hall closet, tucked my purse on one of the small shelves, divested my aching feet of the heels I’d been wearing all day, and turned to move toward the kitchen.
I might not be able to see my home clearly, but I knew it like the back of my hand. The placement of each piece of furniture, each nick-knack, each dish, knife, fork, spoon, each appliance, had been left up to me. I may occasionally use my guide cane when I’m out of the house, but at home, I didn’t need it. I’d been only partially sighted my whole life; the official term of my condition was called Legal Blindness.
With my lack of vision came an acuteness of other senses. My hearing, for example, was especially keen. I could hear the boys whispering conspiratorially upstairs at the other side of the house even now. Faint giggles. They were either up to something, or simply playing a game together. They were twins, and without doubt, each was the other’s best friend. But it was my sense of smell which was the most acute. Right now, that sense told me Jeremiah hadn’t started supper yet, which left me with a mild case of irritation.
When the twins were born, Jerry and I had decided that, with his home-based business, and my work with Arco Corp, he would stay home with the boys. Not only did I have the better paying job, he would be able to schedule meetings and consultations around both the boys’ schedules, and mine. I would have preferred to stay home with my babies, but this made more sense. The boys were eight now, and both in school, so Jerry had more time to devote to his business. My flash of annoyance at the fact that supper had not yet been started evaporated as I heard Jerry moving around in his office upstairs, pacing. He must be in the middle of something business-related and had lost track of time.
I opened the freezer, took out a bag of frozen, leftover soup, and a loaf of French bread. After a few minutes, I had the soup warming on the stove and the bread in the oven. I decided I should go check on the boys and let Jerry know I was home and supper was started; then, I would get out of my work clothes and into something comfy.
The chaos of the evening reigned supreme for the next two hours. Supper was a happy, loud affair, and after everyone had eaten, the boys did their part by helping clear the table and load the dishwasher. I was proud of them. Then the chore of getting the boys cleaned up and into their pajamas (which somehow always took much longer than it should) occupied another half hour. When they were finally settled into their bunk beds in the messy room with the dark blue walls (their choice, not mine), Jerry and I sat quietly together for the first time since the evening before.
It was routine. It was normal. And it was good.
Jerry was unusually quiet and, though it pained me not to ask him what was on his mind, I, too, remained silent. So, we sat in companionable solitude for about forty-five minutes, before I finally said, “I’m heading up,” and rose to get myself ready for bed. My days started early, having to be at the office by seven thirty each morning, so my nights were never late ones.
“Goodnight babe,” Jerry said absently. “I’ll be up in a bit.”
I was awakened in the early morning hours from a horrible, recurring nightmare I’d had since childhood. Since even before my parents died. Since the age of six, I’d been raised in a foster home (several foster homes, actually), but I’d aged out of the system when I’d turned eighteen. It seemed no one wanted to adopt a mostly-blind teenager with emotional struggles.
I fought hard after that to make something of myself. Put myself through college with hard work and a hard-won state scholarship. I’d refused, beyond the point of simple stubbornness, to let my past define me. To let my handicap define me. My heart was racing now with the resurgence of the nightmare. It had been years.
Jerry was sleeping, quite deeply, next to me. I could hear him breathing. He was definitely very much asleep. I didn’t want to disturb him by getting out of bed, but with as unconscious as he seemed to be, I didn’t think a little wiggle of the mattress would stir him at all. And I was right. Sliding out of bed and into my slippers drew no movement from Jerry; I left our bedroom to go check on the boys.
Everything felt…heavy. It was probably nothing, most likely a product of that awful nightmare, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was wrong. I wasn’t a worrier by nature, I didn’t typically come up with all manner of awful things which could or might happen to me and mine, but this feeling was…inescapable. I needed, in an almost desperate way, to check on the boys and then do a quick walk through of the house. I knew I would feel better after I’d assured myself nothing was actually wrong.
This was one of those rare times when I felt angry for being visually impaired. I couldn’t simply open the door to the boys’ room and know they were fine. I had to go in, put my hand on each one to know, for certain, they were both where they should be, and breathing in the evenness of sleep. Since they’d chosen that awful dark blue for their walls last year, the Captain America nightlight did little to nothing to light my way when I fumbled through the mine-field of action figures, Legos, and other eight-year old boy debris, to their bed. Putting my hand on the top bunk, I knew immediately that Jeffrey, older than his brother by three minutes, was sleeping peacefully. Johnny, below, was doing the same. I immediately felt better, though not completely.
Back out in the hallway, I lifted my face toward the ceiling and said a little fervent prayer of thanks that I didn’t injure myself in the mess of the boys’ room, and that I didn’t wake either of them up. That would have meant many requests for water, and possibly a snack, and, “Mom, could you stay out there while I pee?” so they wouldn’t have to be alone in the darkened house in the middle of the night. Further, once one of them was awake, the other quickly followed suit. It was always difficult to get them settled back down once they’d awakened.
I shuffled quietly down the carpeted stairs to the first floor and felt my way around in the dark. Both the oven and the stove were off, all doors and windows were locked. And yet, I stood in the front hallway feeling…uneasy. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The hair at the back of my neck prickled, like someone was watching me, but that simply couldn’t be. No one was in this house except me, Jeremiah, and the boys.
We’d lost the cat last year. Poor Gypsy. He was old and frail and in the final stages of renal failure. We made the difficult decision that he should be put down. It was hard on the boys, who were both just barely seven then, to understand. But they’d come to accept. Jerry took it the hardest. He’d found, and brought home, the little squirmy, furless creature when he’d been a tiny kitten. He’d rescued it from a construction site and brought it to me as a gift when we’d still been dating. Gypsy had been the ugliest, saddest little kitten I’d ever laid eyes on, and it was love at first sight. With proper veterinary care, and a stable home with regular meals, Gypsy had turned into a sleek, gray tabby cat, who loved everyone; especially Jerry.
Steeped in the memory of Gypsy, knowing what I was feeling could not be the four-legged fur beast creeping around, stalking shadows as he used to do, I smelled something unusual. It was dark, thick, and vaguely metallic. It stuck like syrup (only not as sweet) at the back of my throat and made me want to gag. After several minutes of standing like a statue in the front hallway, trying to understand all the sensations which seemed to be coming at me at light speed, unable to see anything clearly, I finally decided I should just go back to bed.
But I was spooked.
And that, in itself, meant I would probably get no more sleep that night, even though I’d try.
As I entered the master bedroom, the scent I’d caught downstairs bowled me over. It was so strong I had to grab the door frame to steady myself. And at once, I knew what I was smelling. It was blood! And lots of it!
How could that be possible?
I flicked on the overhead light now, not caring if I woke Jerry, only to find Jerry had been flayed open like a fish on our bed. His intestines strung like holiday decorations around the room. Blood was everywhere. And written on the wall, in Jerry’s blood, in very large letters so I’d be sure to see them clearly, were the words: I’M WATCHING YOU!
I stumbled backward, got tangled in my own slippers, and fell into the hallway. On a half-scream (somehow instinctively knowing I should not do anything which would wake the boys) I scrambled for Jerry’s office on hands and knees toward the phone to dial 911.
“Come! Come quickly,” I whisper-screamed to the dispatcher. “Someone is in my house and has just murdered my husband. I’m legally blind and my two boys – OH, MY BOYS! I NEED TO CHECK ON MY BOYS!” I was gasping for air now. In a complete panic. I rattled off my address and hung up the phone, needing to get to Jeffrey and Johnny.
Racing down the hall, past the master bedroom, past the hallway bathroom, to the boys’ room, I flung open the door, flicked on the light, and tried to see. Tried to see! But the same smell I’d encountered in my bedroom was fresher here. And I knew. I knew my boys would never call for me in the middle of the night again. Never whisper and giggle. Never leave Legos all over the floor. I collapsed right where I stood, half in, half out of my sweet boys’ room, and cried in acute, desperate anguish.
When emergency services arrived, I couldn’t stir myself to answer the door. They broke a pane of glass and let themselves in. “This is the Police! Mrs. Moore? Where are you?” I didn’t remember giving them my name. I barely remembered calling them to begin with. I didn’t move. I could hardly speak, so I breathed, “I’m up here,” in a whisper I felt certain no one but me could hear. But they did hear, and up they came; two police officers, weapons drawn, eyes wide and searching, to find me sitting, knees hugged tight to my chest, face flushed and wet with tears, voice raw, eyes blind and shining dully from crying.
One of them crouched to my level and said, “What happened?” I couldn’t speak, so I just pointed to the boys’ room, and then down the hall to the master bedroom. I stayed where I was. I heard one exclaim, “Jesus Christ!” when they’d seen Jeffrey and Johnny. And “Holy shit!” when they’d found Jerry.
They came back to me. One said, “Mrs. Moore, are you alright? I mean physically. Have you been physically injured?”
I shook my head.
The other was talking into his radio, asking for an ambulance, and CSI, and, “Just send every damn body you’ve got!” I knew he was trying to be quiet, but I couldn’t help but hear.
The first officer said, “Mrs. Moore, we’re going to take you downstairs to the living room now and if you’re able to answer, we’d like to ask some questions.”
I didn’t resist.
I told them the story.
“Do you know anyone who might want to harm you? Who might be watching you?” one asked.
I shook my head. I simply couldn’t speak.
It felt like hours and hours of interrogation. I was so emotionally raw. I don’t really even know what I said to them. But they came, the house buzzing with emergency activity, three gurneys carried away those I loved most in this world. Pictures were taken of the crime scenes. I assume they fingerprinted everything. I don’t know. I sat, my back to the front hallway, with a cup of something warm (tea?) which someone had given me, so I would not see the end of my world.
It was after my loved ones had been taken away, and after the investigators had left with all the evidence they felt they needed to take with them, and just the two first responding officers were left, sitting in the living room with me, that I saw it. It was dark. Dark enough against the white walls of my living room for even me, with my limited vision, to see it. It morphed out of a shadow, became solid, and flew at me faster than a breath!
It brought its face (a dark void of nothing) to mine and, with rancid breath smelling thickly of blood, whispered in a guttural, gleeful voice, “I found you, Helen! And I fed upon your husband. I fed upon your children. I feel their blood coursing through me and it gives me strength. You should have remembered me. You should have known you could never have left your demon behind, Helen. You knew I would find you. And find you I did. And now, you’re mine. What you managed to avoid in your useless childhood you will now know, and understand. There was never any escape. It was selfish of you to involve others. To marry. To have children! Did the death of your parents teach you nothing?”
“Mrs. Moore?” one of the officers said. I couldn’t move. Wouldn’t even twitch my eyes in the officer’s direction to let him know I’d heard him. I kept my mostly-blind eyes on the demon in front of me. It grinned! It knew the others in the room could not see him and it reveled in that fact. It was my demon, and therefore only I could see it, even with my limited vision.
Everything about my early childhood, before, and even for some time after, the violent deaths of my parents, came rushing back. How could I have forgotten the manner in which my parents had died? Both had been flayed open like Jerry!
At first, the authorities thought they were dealing with a psychopathic six-year-old girl, and that I’d killed my parents, but it became clear pretty quickly that I’d had nothing to do with it. The fact that they’d found me curled up among the blood and entrails of my murdered parents meant nothing. All I’d had was gone and the foster system took over. They’d never caught my parents’ killer. But I knew. I knew who he was. And he was back.
Officer Andrews and Officer Miller sat on the sofa in the living room of the Moore home quietly discussing what they’d seen, watching Mrs. Moore carefully. She’d been as cooperative as someone who’d just witnessed her family brutally murdered could have been. They felt sorry for her. They didn’t know if she had any other family; someone she could call. Somewhere else she could go. They were still waiting on some information to come through from the station.
As they sat there in the homey living room with the white walls, they saw Mrs. Moore stiffen abruptly, as if she was seeing something they could not. She became very still. Like she was listening intently to something they could not hear. Tears began to stream from her glassy, blind eyes.
Before the officers could move, before they could even process what they were seeing, they watched as Mrs. Moore was sliced open (just as her husband had been. As her children had been!) by an invisible entity! They scrambled to their feet, not knowing if they should run, or try to help. But it was too late. Mrs. Moore was dead before the first long cut severed her from throat to belly button.
In identical shock, each officer wondered how they were going to write this up.
CREDIT : Jennifer Shell