Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
“No, Mama! Mama, no! Please, Mama, don’t let them take me! I’ll be good, I swear!” the girl screamed. Tears flowed from her eyes as she thrashed against the two-adult woman dressed in black. They held her arms firm and pulled her deliberately up a small set of stairs.
“Now, now, young one, don’t fret so. We are going to help you. You’re going to feel better soon, and your mother will be here when you are ready.” The woman’s voice was reassuring and steady.
The young girl’s voice became strained and she drew in a deep breath and begged, “Please don’t leave me!”
The girl managed to turn her head just enough to see the familiar late model black sedan drive away. “NOOOOOOO!” She screamed and pulled hard with her body, desperate to separate herself from the strangers ushering her to her inevitable death.
“My goodness, aren’t you strong,” the woman said to her.
As they neared the heavy, worn wooden front doors they stopped. The girl’s hair was wet, heart beating rapidly in her ears, breath came in short frequent gasps, unable to continue she went limp. A larger man had been following just behind them. He skipped the next step and reached out to grab the girl before she fell. He cradled her near his chest and looked to the woman silently. She smiled at the man approvingly.
The girl’s head fell back softly and she strained to open her eyes. The blinding sun was shaded just before the entrance. She could see a half-moon carving dug into the old cracking concrete face of the building that declared this to be “Mother Mary’s Asylum for Wayward Children”. She smiled inwardly knowing she would never see daylight or feel the warmth of the sun on her skin again. There was a painful sting on the side of her neck and she fell into a nothingness sleep.
There was a sound. She focused intently, it was a voice but it sounded terribly far away. Slowly it seemed to be getting louder. Was someone speaking to her? Were they walking this way? She strained to open her eyes but they were not ready. After a moment of silence, she heard it again. It was a woman’s voice but she couldn’t place it. What was she saying? The girl took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
She decided to try again, this time she opened her eyes. She was laying down on a thin, overused mattress in a dimly-lit room. Everything looked foggy at first. She blinked several times increasing the pressure each time. She moved to rub them and realized she was unable to move her arms.
“Madeline…. Madeline, can you hear me, dear? Wake up, Madeline. My name is Sister Kay, and I would very much like to talk to you.”
“My name is Maddy, not Madeline. Why can’t I move my arms?”
“Maddy, of course. Maddy, do you know where you are?”
Maddy looked around. The ceilings were quite high and there was a door but it had no knob that she could see. There was a tightly barred window near the ceiling, though it was much too high for anyone to reach without a ladder. She could see it was nearing twilight, or dawn depending on how long she was out. The window must have been open because there was a sweet cool breeze that felt fresh and clean. Placed on the table between them was a small candle; the flame danced softly. The dimness made it a bit easier to try to focus but cast elongated dark shadows against the walls.
“No, I don’t know where I am. Why can’t I move my arms, ma’am?” Maddy asked.
“You are in a place that can help you. Your parents, especially your mother, are very worried about you. Your mom told us that you haven’t been eating or sleeping, that you’re failing all of your classes, and that you only attend school occasionally.” Sister Kay paused and looked at Maddy hoping to get a response. When none came, she continued. “You cannot move your arms because they are attached to the bed. Your father told us about the cuts and bruises… now burns, as well, I see.” She turned the child’s forearm a bit in the light and emphasized the fresh puss-filled blister. Sister Kay looked up at the girl with questioning raised eyebrows and awaited a response.
“He thinks I did it. I didn’t do it. It hurts, I hate it. But Dad yells at me. He’s so mad all the time. It makes mama cry sometimes.”
“You love your mama very much, don’t you, Maddy? I can tell you do. You wouldn’t want to hurt her at all or make her worry, would you?”
“No, Ms. Kay, never. She is the only one that…” Maddy stopped, looked up at the beautiful woman, and restarted. “May I please have my arms free?”
“Please, Maddy, call me Sister Kay. I want to free you child, but I can’t. You see, I am going to help you. Your mother says that you believe you have a demon that visits you. He isn’t very nice to you, is he?”
Maddy said nothing, just closed her eyes and shook her head softly. She looked back to Sister Kay, moisture beginning to collect in the corner of her eye. She was afraid to blink. She did not want this woman to see her cry.
“I’m going to help you. We are going to visit with Father Steven tomorrow. Father Steven is very knowledgeable about demons and spirits. He has made many of them go away and never…” Sister Kay touched Maddy’s chin with one cool finger and tilted her head towards her to ensure she was listening, “… ever, ever, come back.”
Maddy’s eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “Ms… I mean, Sister Kay… you believe me?”
The corner of her mouth pulled gently up into a sort of conspirator’s smile. “It doesn’t matter,” she said as she stood up. “Tell me, Maddy, do you know how to pray? I need you to spend tonight in silent prayer and reflection. I need you to pray for guidance and forgiveness. Our body is a temple, child, and we must treat it so. Before anything will help you, you must be honest with us, yourself, and most of all, the Lord. Once we speak to Father, we may be able to release you from the restraints. Until then, we simply cannot risk you hurting yourself, Maddy.”
Sister Kay stood and took a few steps toward the door. Maddy couldn’t help but be curious about how she was going to get out with no knob. Sister simply walked up to the door and it opened. Maddy thought about the sliding doors at the grocery store. She didn’t really understand how those worked, either.
Sister Kay turned to Maddy as the door creaked open. Her face was dark now, being so far from the light. “Don’t forget, Maddy. Pray to the Lord so you may receive his love and forgiveness.” The door closed quickly behind her and filled the room with a deep, echoed boom.
Maddy, still groggy from whatever it was they had given her earlier, laid in her bed and stared at the small light. She did not pray. Sister Kay did not believe her, either. If she had then she would have allowed her to have the use of her hands. Maddy pulled at the cuffs around her wrists, trying to slide her hands free. She wiggled and jerked but nothing happened. She stopped when it began to hurt. The small light flickered a bit as the booming sound of thunder came from the window. The weather was about to take a turn for the worse. “Of course, there’s a storm coming,” she whispered to herself. Maddy settled down again and watched the small light until it went out, thinking about her mother.
The girl jolted awake as lightning crashed down. She hadn’t realized she had fallen sleep. Her eyes darted about, looking for just a trace of light to help her see, but there was nothing. She listened then. The rain outside the window made a padding sound on the ground. It was a bit soothing but it also made her think about going to the restroom. She sighed. Sister Kay had left out what she was to do in this situation. Frustrated, she tried to ignore the urge and listened to the rain.
“Madeline! Darling, where are you? I can’t find you!”
The girl listened intently. “Mom?”
The voice was getting louder. It was her mother. Her voice sounded strained and dry, but it was definitely hers. Maddy pulled on the restraints with everything she had. She yanked and rolled and pulled, but they didn’t budge. The young girl felt panic creeping up in the darkness. The room seemed to be squeezing in on her. “Mom! Mom!” she cried. “I’m here, Mom! Please, come and help me!”
Lightning crashed again outside as the rain began to pound on the ground outside. Brilliant light filled the room. Maddy’s eyes grew wide as she saw the ceiling begin to swell and bow above her head. There was a new sound then. She stared into the darkness and listened intently. It was slow but becoming louder, like the liquid droplets were growing. Her breath was short and quick, and she couldn’t seem to force air deep enough into her lungs. Her chest was tight and hot. There was a splash. Warm liquid sprayed her as whatever it was she had briefly seen in her moment of light had fallen. It smelled putrid and foul. Another bolt of light provided her only a second of sight but it was enough. The demon had found her.
It had never been her mother. The demon was smart and knew how to find her.
Maddy’s eyes were wide as she stared blindly around her. Her flesh grew tight on her bones as she flailed on the table. The cuffs that held her wrists became slick with warm blood. She felt them slide just slightly. Hope and terror-filled adrenaline flowed through her as she pulled with every last bit of strength she had. “Ahhhhhh!” she screamed as her small hands slid free of the restraints.
She fell to the concrete floor. She sat up and scooted backwards till she was backed against the cold cement wall. Her head throbbed as blood oozed down the side of her face. She placed two fingers on the gash on her head in an effort to assess the injury.
She jumped and turned her face to the right as the sound of her bed crashing against the wall filled the room. She stood up and jerked her head left and right. Her palms were flat against the wall behind her.
Another deafening crack of lightning illuminated the entire room. It was there. Three inches from her face was the rotting skull of the demon. It had no eyes, just deep, black, empty sockets. Small pieces of moist flesh stuck to the elongated nose. It raised a long, clawed hand high and sliced through Maddy’s chest and stomach with the ease of a razor. Deep gashes opened and bled. She fell to her knees hugging her body, trying to stop or slow the bleeding. She was already getting cold and beginning to shake slightly. The monster stepped back and rested on its legs and lengthy arms and growled deeply.
Maddy’s head was heavy and her panicked breathing had slowed with her injury. She looked up where the monster should be and peered into the darkness. “Just kill me. Why do you do this to me? I’m here because of you! JUST KILL MEEEEEE!” she yelled at the demon.
It was quiet then. She could hear a guttural sound that seemed almost… happy. A laugh. It was laughing at her.
The door swung open and light filled the room from the hall. It was Sister Kay. “Dear Lord, what happened here?” She hurried over to Maddy and tried to see through the blood to find her injuries. “Help! Please, I need help!” she yelled toward the door.
Sister Kay looked at the girl with pleading desperation. “Madeline, what have you done?”
And with that, Maddy breathed her last.
Credit: Elizabeth Frazier
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