“I want you to know I’m not crazy. What I tell you in this office today is just to clear my head so I can get past all the damn nightmares. Past the demons” Joshua stated.
Dr. Hugh listened but did not acknowledge as he read over the man’s handwritten file. According to the paperwork Joshua Huff is 32 from Aurora, Colorado. Employed by Pierce construction, a widower and father of 2 now diseased children.
“I have nowhere to turn, God doesn’t hear a word I say and if i went to the police or any authority id be locked in the fuckin looney bin with the padded rooms.” Joshua paused in thought, staring at the floor, palms rubbing his thighs as if to warm them. “Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, no windows in the looney bin.” He said in an almost inaudible whisper.
“So what exactly is it I can help you with today, nightmares or dealing with the grief and trauma of losing your loved ones? Or both?” Dr. Hugh asked as he sat up and stacked the paperwork neatly on his desk. He now noticed how worn and old Joshua looked, a sunken, scruffy face held dull blue eyes that were full of pain and bloodshot from excessive whiskey drinking.
“Let’s be honest here doc, an hour isn’t going to solve any of the grief or trauma I got going on. Like I said, I just wanna tell my story and never see you or anyone again.”
“Where would you like to start?”
“Would you mind closing that curtain?”
Dr. Hugh got up without a word and began to close the curtain
“Make sure it’s locked too.” Joshua said without looking up
Dr.Hugh was intrigued by this and stood admiring the shimmering blood orange glow of the sunset for a moment before locking the window and sitting back down without further question.
Joshua was now laying flat on the couch, as stiff as an unmoving corpse, fingers tightly laced over his chest, fixated on the ceiling with eyes searching back and forth as if reading a passage from a book.
“It’s my fault my children are dead.” Joshua started. “Maybe my wife too but my kids for sure. I killed them.”
“You killed your children?”
“Not with my own hands, but with my choices.”
“I loved my kids. Jonny was 4 when he died and Isabella wasn’t even 2.”
How did they die?” Dr. Hugh asked
Joshua replied in a hushed tone without taking his eyes off of the ceiling, “The man in the window.”
“The man in the-”
“The man in the fucking window doc!” Joshua yelled, suddenly bolting upright on the couch. “He got my beautiful babies and now my wife too. I can still hear the noises oh god the terrible noises it made.”
Dr. Hugh sat as still as could be, looking intently, not giving an inch of himself. He thought the man was about to burst into tears but only a single large tear rolled slowly down his left cheek and he wiped it without a word.
“Jonny was my first, born in January of 2018. Spittin image of me out the gate. He had beautiful blonde hair and piercing blue eyes you could just get lost in. Always a trouble maker getting into things he shouldn’t be. Just like his old man he was so brave in every way. Everything was smooth sailing the first 2 years, a perfect life. I had a great job just promoted to lead foreman, my wife Jessica is the superintendent of Aurora central highschool and Jonnys just been the best damn baby you could ask for. You know he’s slept on his own since he was 8 months old? Never cried a peep.”
Joshua now paused in a deep thought, stuck in his fonder memories of the past as Dr. Hugh silently watched 2 minutes tick off of the clock.
“Until one night he did. One night my wife and I were woken up by his shrill screams. I got to him first and he was standing in his bed facing the window, screaming ‘man, man, daddy get the man.’ My wife consoled him as I checked the room but there was no sign anyone had been there, nothing was moved, the window was shut, but..” Joshua trailed off once again
There was a long pause before Dr. Hugh finally finished for him “But the window was unlocked.”
“Yes, but not only that. The next day heading to work I noticed there were light scratches and dirt on the outdoor vinyl leading up to that window. I had no idea where it could’ve come from since we didn’t have a dog at the time but I didn’t let it bother me too much, just an animal I figured.”
“That was the only occurrence of the year, Jonny turned 3 and our beautiful baby girl Isabella was born that december of 2021.”
“The next year was a living hell.” Joshua said with a wicked soft smile while nodding his head
“What happened then?” Dr. Hugh asked
“Things just got worse. Isabella was nowhere near the baby my Jonny boy was. She kept me and Jess up constantly. I got absolutely no sleep the first few months and we were in the hospital for an extended time due to her being born at 33 weeks.”
“How did that affect you mentally.”
Joshua cleared his throat and continued. “It really weighed on me. My work performance declined, I was always so snappy at Jessica at any minor inconvenience. Oh how I wish to god I could take it back and just hold her again. I blamed so much on her, I blamed her for not being able to carry a baby full term and gave her hell for not getting up every time with Isabella when I had to work early. I would take it all back if I could. She was the best damn wife you could ask for and an even better mother to those kids.”
“Would you like to start with how your wife died?”
“No, I want to go in order and I want to tell it my way.” He quickly glanced at the closed curtain over the window and back before continuing. “You already think i’m crazy i can see it in your eyes, but i’m not one of your drugged up phonies in here looking for relief through some addictions in a bottle. I know what I’ve seen.”
“Very well, proceed your way.” Dr. Hugh noticed 20 minutes had passed and pulled out a carton of cigarettes and offered one with a nod. Joshua declined, “When my pops died of cancer I dropped them for good and haven’t looked back.”
Dr. Hugh lit his cigarette and took a long, deep drag before slowly exhaling a heavy gray cloud that floated gently up and lingered around the dusty ceiling fan above them.
“We didn’t have any problems from Jonny for about 6 months after Isabella was born. He had a great birthday trip to a waterpark, it was the highlight of our year. Isabella was getting healthier and things were starting to get easier.”
“That summer he started crying in the middle of the night and wetting the bed frequently for a couple weeks. Always crying about the man in the window that scared him. Saying that he’s scared of the ‘caws.’ Now I assumed he meant claws cause you know how kids talk. So of course I always assured him it was just the shadows of the trees that look like long fingers.”
“Did you check the windows each time?”
“Of course I checked the windows and they were unlocked every damn time. Now I couldn’t just tell Jess that the windows were magically unlocking themselves, so I kept it to myself. She is one of those overthinkers, if you tell Jess something like that she would be a stressed mess every day and she had her school stuff to worry about.”
“I should’ve told her. The next night Isabella had gone to bed quick and easy for what seemed like the first night ever. As I snuggled Jess I was on the verge of sleep when I heard Jonny scream the loudest I had ever heard him before. I darted out of bed but got tangled in the sheets and fell face first into the hardwood. Jess got to the room before me and by her screams I knew something was terribly wrong. I entered the room and Jess dropped to her knees and started one of those breathing panics you know?”
“She was hyperventilating, emotional stress is oftentimes the leading cause of that.”
“Yeah!” Joshua snapped his finger in the air as if a nagging puzzle had just been solved. “That’s what she was doing, just in a full panic. I couldn’t help her though I was too stunned myself because it just made absolutely no sense. The room was empty outside of a fresh piss stain in his bed. And that goddamn window was cracked just the slightest.”
“Your child was kidnapped?”
“They haven’t found a body or a lead in over a year.”
“Did the police do a deep investigation?”
Joshuas eyes widened as he leaned forward. “That’s the thing doc, they said it’s like he just vanished. Here one second gone the next. Just like a cloud of smoke.”
“That must have been very difficult for your family at that time.” Dr. Hugh said as he took one last drag from his cigarette before snuffing it out repeatedly.
“It was very hard. He was my little soldier, my best buddy. Everyone always raved on and on about how alike we looked. It truly was uncanny. We did everything together, those little hands always into something because he loved to help his old man. Always getting my tools or helping make breakfast, god how excited he got when we would go out for ice cream. I miss the rascal every damn day.”
“How did you and your wife deal with losing him?”
“She actually quit her job, said the kids all reminded her of what she had lost. She wanted to spend more time with Isabella and I was the opposite. I had to work more to make up for her not working but that didn’t bother me. I was glad to be out of that house where I didn’t have to be constantly reminded of my Jonny boy from all the photos and my own damn reflection in every mirror of the house.”
“I was transferred over to a larger project that required me to start working 3rd shift so I was forced to be away at nights for a while. It had been about 4 months since Jonny was kidnapped and around early october Jess started calling me at work talking about the weird noises she kept hearing around the house. She would call on and off around 3am about these scratching and scuffling noises outside of the windows. She would wake up and the bedroom window would be unlocked every morning. I would get home and wouldn’t you know it, dirty fucking scratches up the vinyl outside our window. This lasted for about a month and we just couldn’t take it. Later the next month we were packed and moved into one of the homes her brother rented out all the way out here in Clearwater, Florida.”
Dr. Hugh checked his watch, 37 minutes had passed. “That’s a big change of scenery, did moving cause any added trouble or tension between you?”
“No, we couldn’t get out of that damn house fast enough. She was hesitant at first because she said our Jonny could still be out there but I shut that nonsense down before the idea could even be planted. He’s dead and holding onto false hope would only make the rest of our lives harder. Jess and Isabella didn’t deserve that burden.”
“So how were things once you got moved and settled into your new home?”
“They were actually good for a few months. We got the last of our furniture shipped early that december right before Isabella’s 1st birthday party. She started to get healthier and stronger but still had some small heart defects. The doctors assured us it was minor though and she would grow to live a full and healthy life.”
“Pretty ironic huh?” Joshua asks as he sucks his teeth and lets out a long heavy sigh
“Beautiful irony is when the very thing that tried to destroy you, made you stronger.” Dr. Hugh said as he now once more offered Joshua a cigarette
“Ah hell why not, never know how much time ya got in this life anyway.” Joshua took the cigarette and stared at it for a long moment, twirling it between his fingers as if in a deep tangle with his promise he had made so many years ago.
Joshua inhaled the cigarette deeply, paused as the sweet nicotine rushed to his brain and exhaled slowly through his nose before continuing with his story.
“I thought things were getting back to normal. Jess got a new job selling insurance and stopped moping around the house like a sad ass puppy all the time and I started to forget what Jonny even looked or sounded like. I know that’s heartless to say but it was for the best. It’s hard when they’re that little cause you didn’t get the proper time with them. His voice and face are all just hazy memories since the pictures were put away.”
“Joshua snubbed out the cigarette at the halfway point with a disgusted face. “We were never going to get away from it. It was only ever wishful thinking. It took it some time but it found us again, and this time it didn’t waste a second turning our world right back into the nightmare it was before.”
“I picked up spare jobs here and there but nothing long term. I was home with Isabella one night that March. We were waiting for Jess to get in from working late and that’s when I heard it. The scratching and slithering like a giant lizard or something was on the side of the house. I went over to the window and locked it but didn’t see a thing. I heard the front door open and shouted at Jess that we were back in the bedroom. I didn’t get a response so I called to her again and walked out of the bedroom and froze as I realized Jess wasn’t home yet.”
“There was no car in the garage and the door was wide open but a terrifying dread filled my body and my blood ran cold as I began to notice that every window in the house was open just the slightest.”
“I didn’t say a word of it to Jess either, but I couldn’t hide it. When I checked the house the next morning she saw just as well as I did all of the mud, dirt, and light scratches that riddled the new brick.”
“What did you do from there?” Dr. Hugh asked and tediously checked the time once again to see that 45 minutes had passed indicating 15 minutes remained of the current session.
“Didn’t have time to do anything. The next night Jess was stuck behind a wreck on the highway so she was beyond late getting home. I fed Isabella and put her to bed like normal and everything seemed fine. I was nodding off on the couch when I heard the sticky slithering around the house. I heard it gradually moving, I could hear the windows being slid up but i couldn’t move a fucking muscle. Ive never been so petrified in my life doc, I wanted to run and snatch my daughter up and get the hell out of the house as fast as i could.”
“But I just sat there.”
“Until I heard a scream that was abruptly cut off by a sickly gurgling noise followed by sly shuffling as I burst in the room. I had no time to even process what I was seeing when Isabella fell from a shadows sharp grasp as it darted out of the open window. I heard the sickening, gut wrenching snap of broken bones as she hit the floor in a heap headfirst. There she was, my poor Isabella lying lifeless on the floor. Her head was jerked far to one side facing away from her body and her arm was snapped back behind her at a boomerang-like angle.”
“I just dropped to my knees and sobbed beside her broken little body. I couldn’t look at her face, those glassy empty eyes did nothing but assure me of the coward I was to let whatever that thing is kill my baby girl. I knew not to touch her because cops don’t like a scene to be tampered with but thankfully the cops got there before Jess. She was so hysterical when she arrived the medic on scene had to give her a ketamine shot.”
“The next few days went by in a blur, Jess cried herself to sleep holding pictures and stuffed animals and shit while i was out getting as drunk as could be to forget this nightmare. I shoulda just stayed with her. I knew she needed me but I was too selfish and blind to my own pity party.”
“A week after Isabella’s death I get in around 2am after a hard night of drinking and notice the door is standing wide open. Do you know what else is open in the house doc?”
“I would assume the windows?”
“Every window in the house. Wide open. And theres my sweet fucking Jessica.” Joshua trailed off and fell into deep heaving sobs.
Joshua takes a moment to compose himself as Dr. Hugh checks the clock once more
“There she is, the love of my life hanging by her neck from my old leather work belt tied around Isabellas ceiling fan.”
“She didn’t leave a note, nothing. I didn’t get to tell any of them bye, I couldn’t save any of them.”
Joshua once again trailed off into howling sobs now crying uncontrollably.
Dr. Hugh stood up and walked over to Joshua placing a consoling hand on his shoulder.
“Please make another appointment with my nurse at the front desk. Multiple actually, there is far too much to get out in such a short session.”
Joshua looked up through shimmering tear filled eyes “Oh no doc, i told you i was telling my story and that was it. I wanna get far far away now.”
“Joshua please, I know your story but I can’t help you yet” The watch beeped frantically as it signaled the end of the therapy session. “Please just schedule at least one appointment and I won’t charge for this one, there is far more to discuss and i can help you lift this heavy burden you’ve been carrying.”
Joshua stood up and let out a long sigh. “Fine, whatever you say doc.”
“Thank you, please schedule for as soon as you can the nurse will let you know the dates free”
Joshua wiped his eyes and walked silently out of the office to the front desk.
“Hello?” Joshua tapped the desk bell twice and waited a moment with no response. He noticed a sloppily written note that said ‘out to lunch back in 15.’
He turned on his heel and made his way back towards the office
“Hey doc there isn’t any-” the words suddenly froze in his throat. The room was empty, but the window was wide open.
“He just wants to help you daddy.” a small voice came from outside the window
A small blonde head with icey blue eyes peered just over the edge of the open window.
Joshua’s body suddenly felt limp, his heart all but stopped and every bit of his strength left his legs as he felt a wave of nausea wash over him. “Jonny is.. Is that you?”
“How come you moved so far away from me daddy? You just left me with the man all alone”
“I didn’t leave you Jonny you were taken from me, where have you been, how are you here?”
“We’ve been waiting on you. The man said we would all be together soon, he wants to help you just like he helped sissy and mommy.”
“Who wants to help me son?” Joshua asked as he slowly crept closer
“The man in the window”
Joshua looked on in horror as Jonnys eyes slowly sunk into his head, his arms violently twisted back and up and he was ripped away from the window.
Joshua screamed and reached out the window to grab his son, but the only thing in his hand when he pulled back was his worn leather work belt.
A beautifully familiar voice arose from outside the window.
“I miss you honey, he only wants to help you like he helped us. Let him help you.”
Joshua felt the belt tighten around his neck as he now found himself standing on Dr. Hughes desk.
He heard the all too familiar scratching and slithering outside just before he stepped off of the desk.
He didn’t struggle, only hung in a slow sway. The dull sound of Isabella crying for a bottle filled his ears like a beautiful serenade, he barely noticed the midnight claws entering the window as he slowly lost consciousness.
Credit: Roman Gibbz
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