By Shannon Higdon
Vilify [vil-uh-fahy]: verb (used with object), 1. To speak ill of; defame; slander 2. To make vile.
He awoke into an imperceptible brightness; lights, many bright lights, coming in from all directions and making it impossible to see beyond the glare. The details of the room were blurred into a thick smear and his initial reaction was to wipe his eyes. He couldn’t. Upon discovering the restraints at his wrists and ankles a shot of panicked adrenaline went surging through his veins, dilating his eyes and the bringing the minutiae of the room together quicker. Reflexively, he tried to shake his head in an effort to bring himself to alertness, but that only led to the revelation of the head restraint and more panic.
“Where am I?” It was supposed to be a shout, loud and authoritative…a demand for attention. It wasn’t. It was such a weak noise, in fact, he wasn’t actually certain he had said it afterward. Perhaps it was just a thought? His heart was a jackhammer. There were sharp pains in both arms and his shoulders. Had he been in an accident?
With some clarity returned he could see the lights above him take shape. It was a hospital room…or an operating room. There was a steel surgical tray at the boundary of his vision, slightly above his face; its contents unknown. Now he could hear people. There was someone else in the room…his doctor? Why the fuck why he strapped down? With more strength he shouted, “HEY!” It was a hoarse whisper but at least he heard it that time.
Two surgically masked men stepped into his limited field of vision.
“I’m gonna take the off the NBCI,” the first one said to the other.
“No, but the delirium tremors have passed for now.” With the press of a button on the side of the head rest the foam restraints slid backwards with a little whirring sound, freeing up his head. He turned to see the two doctors and the rest of the room a little better. Behind the two men were four other staff members in scrubs and medical hair-nets. Two were checking monitors while two were working on something he couldn’t see, their backs to him.
The doctor who removed the restraints held a glass of water with a straw and helped him to hold his head up and take a sip. The water was warm but still washed the cobwebs away.
“Where the hell am I?” The two doctors looked nervously at each other. “Why am I RESTRAINED?!”
“Mister Winchester…do you know how you got here?” said the doctor without the glasses; his thick, grey mustache battling to break free from the top of his mask.
“Do I look like I know how the hell I got here? I don’t even know where ‘here’ is. Free me, dammit!” Despite the demand, neither of them made a movement towards his other restraints.
“Mister Winchester,” Mustache continued, his demeanor expressing that he was the one in charge. “You’ve been in an accident. You’ve been brought here to the Man Dahari Medical Center in Rochester at the behest of your company. We are a very privately owned facility where you will receive the best care at the utmost discretion.” He took special care to emphasize the word ‘very’. “We understand that you are an important man, Mister Winchester, and you do not need to worry about the press here sir.” The two doctors exchanged another worried look. Everyone else in the room stopped what they were doing and watched as the main doctor spoke.
“My name is Doctor Richards; and this is Doctor Patel. The reason you’ve been restrained is completely for your protection; I assure you. You’ve been having extremely violent tremors due to the withdrawal. It is heroin, isn’t is Mister Winchester?”
Mr. Winchester could only nod in agreement, the familiar crimson blush of embarrassment flooding his cheeks. Dr. Richards returned the nod and placed a hand on his shoulder, a fatherly touch. He turned to look at one of the green clad members behind him and they got busy with something on a tray, revealing the flash of a vial for a split second.
“Good. We needed to be certain,” and then with a well-rehearsed grimness, “Okay…so Mister Winchester…” He was cut off.
“Call me Daniel. Mister Winchester was my father.” Dr. Richards gave his shoulder a light squeeze.
“Okay Daniel. This is where the bad news comes.” With well-practiced care, he gave the patient a moment to prepare himself before continuing. “You have an air embolism, Daniel…and it’s not in a good place. It’s lodged in your pulmonary vein to the left of your heart.” The confusion on his face must have been evident as the doctor reverted to layman’s terms. “It’s an air bubble and it’s about to enter your heart. If it does, Daniel, you will die.” One of the assistant technicians walked up behind Dr. Patel and handed him a small syringe. Dr. Richards continued; “I don’t want you to worry Daniel because we are the best in the entire world at what we do and we are going to save you. Part of the reason you’ve been restrained is to keep you stable and to prevent the embolism from going any further.”
Dr. Patel unstrapped Daniel’s left arm and began to swab the veins with alcohol, showing no reaction to the track-marked runways.
“What’s that for?” Daniel asked weakly.
“This,” said Dr. Patel this time; “is Diamorphine. You’ve been experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremors. The D.T.’s are pushing the embolism at an accelerated pace so this will help with that.”
“NO!” Daniel actually managed a scream this time as he jerked his arm away.
“Mister Winchester…” Dr. Richards’s voice was like that which would chastise a child, “We can worry about the addiction later. Right now we are most concerned with saving your life and this,” he motioned towards the needle; “will stop your body from convulsing.”
“NO!” His free arm began flailing about, creating the best hard target possible. “You don’t understand! You can’t!”
“Daniel,” Dr. Patel reassured, “you won’t even be awake. There’s a sedative that will put you right under. While you’re out we’ll run a detox as well.” Dr. Richards managed to pluck has hand from the air and, with the help of another, held it in place. “When you wake up you’ll be good as new, my friend. You motives are noble, I’m sure, but I think you might be overreacti-…”
“NO! You don’t know what you’re doing! You’ll kill us all, you son-of-a-bitch!” With every ounce of strength he could muster, Daniel pulled at his arm thinking the key to freedom somehow lay in reaching his other hand. A third assistant came to their aide, however, and it was to no avail. “PLEASE! DON’T DO THIS! I can’t have your deaths’ on my hands.” Pain gripped his chest and for a split second he thought he might actually die first and everything would be okay.
Dr. Patel slid the needle in. The warmth began to spread.
“You fools. Now you’ve done it. She’s gonna’ come now and you’re all dead.” Warm all over now; floating in a misty cloud. “She’s gonna’ kill you all.” His words were starting to slur. “Please!” He was losing them quickly. “Please…run…now.” Darkness crept in from his periphery, slowly eating the contents of the room from the margins in. Just before being swept into the abyss, when there was just a pinpoint of visible light left, he saw…her. Towering over the men in the room, thick saliva dripping from her razor-sharp teeth, she was there. The last sight he captured was of her glowing red eyes; burning orbs floating in the darkness…and something else. What was that…screams?
As his mind sped away into the dream-state of inebriated bliss he tried to remember: when had this all started? At what point did his life become one of questionable reality? He knew, of course. It had to be at Wicky’s so very long ago…a different lifetime.
The first time Daniel Winchester met Wilson Cane he had said, “Everybody just calls me Wicky. Because I get the sticky-icky!” At the time it was the coolest nickname Daniel had ever heard, but then again he was only twelve and thought ‘sticky-icky’ had something to do with kissing girls. Wicky was sixteen and the older brother of one of Daniel’s classmate’s. Since his father had deemed generally all his classmates to be inferior riff-raff who would lead him down a bad path, it had been the first time he had ever gone to a friend’s house to study before. Perhaps his father had been right since, coincidentally, it became the first time he had ever tried marijuana as well.
Their basement represented a new and exotic world; it was a veritable den of inequities with its circular couch, projection television and miniature refrigerator. The two boys were pretty open about their smoking habit, as the collection of bongs around the room would suggest, and Daniel could only surmise that their parents weren’t around much or were more…progressive than his parents were.
Wicky saw himself as the patron saint of weed…a peace-maker, bringing people together. Moving at a slower pace than most people Daniel knew, there hadn’t been a malicious bone in his body. Wicky was a ‘shirt off his back’ kind of guy and in an effort to introduce his new friend, and possible customer, to “Mary-Jane” the right way, opted out of utilizing any of the many bongs and rolled a large joint instead. It was just as well for Daniel, who found the glass tubes both intimidating and foreign. Anything that needed to employ such apparatus wasn’t something one should partaking in, was it? The hookah, in particular, brought about shuddering images of gypsy in a middle-eastern caravan willing to hand over the Hellraiser box to any drunken fool.
The joint was definitely the best, if least threatening, way to go and Wicky was his guru guide into the new world of “whoaaaa…dude”. With Roger Waters crooning about loss, Daniel inhaled off the tightly rolled cigarette. He was warned to take a small “hit” to prevent potential coughing fits, but Daniel didn’t give it much regard; he knew it all at that age anyway. In that instance, as he conceded later, he probably should have listened.
He had never coughed so much and so hard. After twenty seconds Daniel started watching the clock to see how long he would cough; surely it couldn’t be forever? After five minutes he became extremely concerned and began to ask for his “mommy”. At the seven minute mark the coughing became laughter. After ten minutes he couldn’t remember why he was looking at the clock anymore. Something about his hands…maybe? They seemed weird for some reason.
Then hunger; or in the vernacular he would come to know: the munchies. He didn’t know it was possible to be so hungry or that anything could taste as good as what the Canes’ stuffed in their pantries. Having tasted Twinkies before, he didn’t remember them tasting like…that, a perfect concoction of sugar and heaven. Mountain Dew was a new fine wine and Cheetos a caviar. Pierre, the chef at the club, could not compete. Needless to say, he fell in love with Mary-Jane with the very first kiss.
Daniel found himself at the Canes’ house a lot…really a lot. So much so, he had to lie to his parents the majority of the time he went. It didn’t become an issue until the grades started to slide and his extra-curricular activities began to go by the wayside. The more he started checking out on the rest of his life the more he found it necessary to lie about spending that time at the Canes’ house.
A month or so after his relationship with the Cane brothers began their parents decided to seperate and Wicky’s little brother moved to Philadelphia with his mom. Wicky stayed behind with his father who, Daniel found out later, was the one that supplied Wicky with the marijuana to sell to his friends. Hindsight would suggest that it was probably a contributing factor in the divorce but Daniel never found out. Wicky, who Daniel remained close with, never wanted to talk about it and he never pressed.
The day that everything changed came about a year later. Daniel, now thirteen, had blown off baseball practice to hang with Wicky for the third straight day. Wicky had a new strain of marijuana that purported to be the strongest he had ever seen. It was a hybrid of Colombian Gold and Panama Red but Daniel didn’t know that. The description he got was, “it’s the grass that will rip your ass.” Daniel who considered himself more than just a novice at this point was doubtful. It was again a moment where his dubious nature led him awry.
They made two crucial mistakes straightaway: only one joint was rolled and the two of them decided to sit on far ends of the immensely comfortable circular couch. Daniel took the first hit and passed it across the table to Wicky, both of them having to stretch to the edge of comfort in the process, before exhaling. Daniel immediately recognized their mistakes the second the thick coil of smoke began to expel from his lungs. The moment that cloud formed before his face he knew he wouldn’t reaching across that table again for another turn. Mobility seemed to have become a temporarily un-achievable goal. His drink…his lit cigarette in the ash-tray…they might as well have been on a desert island; there would be no grabbing them anytime soon.
Daniel was certain Led Zeppelin had been playing a moment before but now…. He couldn’t place it to any mental representation of what music was but rather having it register as a cacophony of jumbled noises that, somewhere on a distant planet, might have been known as musical notes. His body had become a vegetable and his brain wasn’t far behind. It was awesome.
After intensely watching his cigarette burn down to the filter, he began to find some semblance of thought returning. That really wouldn’t do. He was ready for another hit. “Bring me that, my brother,” he had asked but Wicky was still struggling to find his own cognitive dissidence and had only looked at him with blissful bewilderment.
Daniel managed to make his hand do the sarcastic version of sign language that is not official ASL and that only assholes knew while saying, “Pass…me…the…jay” in a voice which was just as insensitive. Wicky was having nothing of it with the rolled joint, still emitting a thin line of grey into the air, dangling from a hand which had been stuck on his knee for way too long to be comfortable. Daniel reached his hand out towards the joint and having recently seen “Empire Strikes Back” in the theater, imagined himself using the “force” to pull the joint from Wicky’s hand.
With his mind lost in a narcotic haze, something within his being truly felt for that moment that he could actually do it. Bringing the entirety of his concentration to full bore, harnessing any psychic energy there might be inside himself he imagined the strip of paper wrapped around sticky green sliding from Wicky’s fingers, gliding across the room and into his own outstretched hand. He had focused so hard his head began to ache and his nose began to bleed. Over and over and over the image played in his mind until it started to seem…real.
When Wicky jumped to his feet and screamed, “Holy Crap!” at the top of his lungs Daniel realized it had been. The stream of smoke still lingered across the table where the joint had floated by. There, with the joint now in Daniel’s hand, the two of them stared, wide-eyed, at each other; then at the joint, then back to each other. It took a full minute before they erupted in screams of jubilation and laughter. If either one of them had a lick of sense they would have been afraid; or at very least, cautious; but…no.
Theirs was a co-dependent relationship built on their ability to be enablers for each other’s addictive behaviors. It was spent on pursuits which included destroying more brain cells than cultivating them. There was no time spent researching or investigating or just trying to figure shit out at all. Over the next year there was just them trying to reach the state of inebriation required to re-create that amazing moment, day after day after day. Daniel nearly got kicked out of the academy in order to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol; for scientific purposes of course.
What they did discover was his telekinesis could be re-created…but only at the extreme end of a buzz. The level of intoxication necessary to repeat the ability basically reduced it to a parlor trick; never having the mental acuity to do more than move simple objects about. It wasn’t a complete loss however. In the tender years of puberty it actually worked wonders with the opposite sex. Girls loved magic.
It wasn’t a lifestyle that could last forever, unfortunately, and Daniel knew it. With his father getting sick a year before he was due to graduate from the academy he made a vow to start taking the studies more seriously. He didn’t want his father to die, but he definitely didn’t wanted him to die before he was able to see Daniel become competent enough to handle the reigns of the family’s billion-dollar empire. So, having considered his wild oats sown, he put away the marijuana pipe for the last time and re-entered the world he had left behind.
Daniel Winchester was actually a Daniel the fourth. Coming from a lineage, the certainty of his being at the head of his father’s company was decided before he was born. If his parents hadn’t gotten lucky the first time with him, there is no telling how many children they might have had before they got a boy. In his father’s eyes, his mother’s sole responsibility was to give birth to a Daniel before he died. When he was finally born she knew she had done well. Over time Daniel was able to see what kind of a toll that responsibility took on his mother and vowed to never make his wife do that. If he were to ever be blessed with a child, be it boy or girl, they would be loved and have a place in the family business; if that’s what they want to do. Daniel would also never decide their destiny for them.
Daniel the fourth got serious about the business while Daniel the third slowly succumbed to lung cancer in a vicious battle that left the entire family with scars by the time the old man finally passed. On his twenty-second birthday, Time Magazine put Daniel on the cover as one of the youngest President and CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company. He was able to bring the company to successes his father never dreamt of as well as his own personal life. He met Mary when he was twenty-five and all childhood infatuations did nothing to prepare him for the impact true love would make; they were married within the year. It was an amazing period with only one thing left wanting: a child. Mary had been, since her early childhood, desperate for a child of her own…a little girl.
Mary had known the name of her offspring from the tender age of five: Sophie Lynn. A beautiful wedding and a beautiful little girl were Mary’s only goals for her life and, while some might have seen that as simple and antiquated, Daniel loved the hell out of her for it. He had decided on their third date that if that were the way things worked out then he would have had no issue with the Winchester empire being handed to a Sophie the first instead of a Daniel the fifth. If only he had been able to provide that for her…if only.
Specialists were seen. Medications were taken. It was really the only sore spot between them and when the arguments began they decided they weren’t going to let it damage what they did have. If it was meant to be, it would. That was how they saw it at the time. They enjoyed each other, the company’s success and the perks that money had to offer. They were still young and had time ahead of them. There was always plenty of time ahead to figure it all out. So traveling the world and racing sports cars on his weekends became his intoxicant of choice and it would be another twelve years before he would take another narcotic drug again.
That moment happened in 2003 and was due, in large part, to Wicky’s influence once again. It had been at least a decade since Wicky had been back to the east coast and he felt that it was his obligation to come to the big city and visit his old comrade in delinquency. Despite the predictions of most who knew him, Wicky went on to become quite successful in his own right as a chef. Snatched away by a Michelin Five-Star restaurant in Los Angeles, Wicky had gained the reputation as the celebrity chef to the stars. It took a reality cooking show to finally pull him away from the sunshine and flashing cameras.
Daniel was actually apprehensive about seeing him at first, but with the loving “you have no friends”…insistence of Mary in his ear for two days he decided to give his old friend a chance. “What’s the worst that could happen?” She had asked. He had simply shaken his head. She didn’t know Wicky.
Wicky took Daniel to an uber-exclusive restaurant in The Village as guest of the head chef there and they were seated in a private room with just the one table for the two of them. Wicky was the one who insisted on the wine, even though Daniel had informed him of how long he had been sober.
“Did you quit because you were an alcoholic?” He had asked.
“No,” Daniel had replied.
“Did you quit right when you wanted to?” He had grinned.
“Yea.” Their old pattern of enabling still fit like the snug sweater they had forgotten that they owned.
“Then what’s the big deal?” Wicky’s logic always mystified him. Daniel could always see that his suggestions held the depth of a wading pool but it never stopped him from diving in head first; not even then. One bottle became two. The meal was fantastic when they could take the time from laughing at each other’s stories to actually eat any. They were on after-dinner brandies when the head-chef, Shawn, finally joined them at the table. There they sat and talked for another hour, long after the rest of the restaurant’s staff had clocked out and gone home…or somewhere else to do their own drinking.
After the brandy came the sherry. After the sherry came grappa. After the grappa came the absinthe and after the absinthe came the cocaine. Shawn poured the white powder onto the glass table-top and began to cut it into small lines with his paring knife. Daniel watched him throughout the preparation process to the point at which he was holding the straw in his direction without it really registering what he was doing. In an alcohol haze he just blinked stupidly at the offer. Wicky took his turn instead and monkey see, monkey do, and the next thing Daniel knew he was high on cocaine.
It was a different…wired high. The tranquilizing effects of the booze was suddenly washed away while his senses seem to sharpen to a fine point, if not a quivering, jittery point. He felt like he could run a marathon or wrestle a bear. He felt like effing Superman. That had to be the greatest feeling on earth and he had Wicky to thank for it…and to hate for it.
Wicky eventually left New York for California again and admitted fully that it could be another ten years before he made it back. “It’s your turn to come out west,” he had said on the tarmac; and while Wicky did leave, his influence stayed behind. Daniel had never thought of himself as a being weak man with an addictive nature having, after all, quit smoking cigarettes, marijuana and the drink in his life, all with relative ease. The problem was, he hadn’t enjoyed those things nearly as much as he did the cocaine.
It didn’t take long to graduate to crack and a few weeks later he found himself locked in his expansive office sucking on the end of a blackening glass pipe. He was so tore up that night he could barely see straight; his pupils struggled to lock onto their targets. The middle of his desk suddenly became the edge of the desk and the pipe found its way to being shattered on the floor. While on the floor, desperately trying to scrape up the broken pieces of glass, Daniel caught his reflection in the darkened fortieth-floor window and it sickened him. The image was a striking disparity: his massive office filled with baubles and decorative items more expensive than most middle-class homes set against the, less than graceful, juxtaposition of him on his hands and knees like a common street junkie and it slammed into him with a physical reverberation. He had to quit.
He decided, then and there, that the shattering of the pipe was fate; a message well received. No pipe meant no finishing off the crystallized little rocks beckoning from the container on his desk. Falling back into the substantial chair, Daniel held his hands to his eyes and cried. He cried for all the things he hated about himself in that moment but even more than that, he cried for the fact that the desire to smoke the rest of the crack was stronger than the desire to quit. Daniel did want to quit; he really did, but, more than that, he wanted to not quit. What he really wanted was a new pipe on his desk!
He probably could have had one delivered to the office, but not right then. Money had, over the years, insured many luxuries and created scenarios that he knew weren’t available to the average Joe on the street. However, a discretionary crack-pipe delivery service at ten in the evening wasn’t an amenity he had on speed-dial. Calling his assistant, Andy, was a possibility. Andy could be amazing with the services he had been able to provide him in five years of employment, but again, there were certain things that Daniel couldn’t afford for anyone to have knowledge of.
Daniel had felt so helpless in that moment…weak and addicted. Victimized by the strength of his compulsion, he found himself intensely focused on one singular thought: an unbroken pipe for his crack. He knew the expression “a glass dick” and hated it, but then and there he was certain there was no end to the vulgarities he would have performed for one…probably. Was he really nothing more than a piece-of-shit crackhead? Is this how far down the rabbit hole he was? He sobbed, chest heaving. The mental image of the unbroken crack-pipe that should have been was burning itself into the back of his eyelids.
The warring voices inside his head ceased their battle for the sobriety of Daniel’s soul and he brought the full intensity of his being into the details of that image; his mind pouring over the smallest minutia and for a second something felt different. When he pulled his hands back from his glistening eyes the mirage seemed to remain. With his handkerchief he wiped the tears away and looked again. It was still there; a perfectly formed doppelganger of the smoking utensil he had shattered only minutes before.
Daniel looked at the broken glass mingled with the nearly indiscernible crack crystals that remained on the floor. Seconds passed and then back to the desk pipe; then back to the glass pile on the floor, then back to the pipe. This went on for a good minute while his mind did the mental gymnastics obviously required to figure this out. He reached out to touch the unused pipe just to verify that he wasn’t somehow stuck in a perpetual hallucination. It was cold…smooth…real.
Had he had two pipes? Perhaps he had just…forgotten. No. No, dammit, no; and then like a flood it came back to him. That summer with Wicky in 1984 and all of the “party tricks” he had learned. This had to be like that. Daniel remembered, but only barely, being in a marijuana and alcohol induced stupor and having certain telekinetic abilities. It had been so long ago. He hadn’t thought about it in more years than he could remember. It was part of a life he left behind…and now…had returned to.
Moving an object with his mind was one thing but creating one, creating matter, was a totally different one. As different, one might say, as the difference between being high on weed and being high on crack cocaine. Picking up the new pipe he proceeded to smoke the remainder of his stash. This night was the turning point. This was where his life took a wrong turn down a darkened corridor where nothing from the light dared to live and it all happened because one question came into his mind straight from the depths of hell itself: Can I create something that’s…alive?
That night turned into three years of hell. The crack quickly became less and less effective, especially once his main goal had been determined. After a week there were pain-killers added to the already toxically addictive mix. From there…heroin was an easy leap. Daniel had begun to devote all his time and energy to his new “project” and everything else in his life suffered for it. Mary tried to understand. She was a loving and devoted wife and truly believed it when they said, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”
She had seen addiction in her own family and knew it for the sickness that it was, spending the better part of the first year reassuring him that he would get better and things would work out well in the end. She wasn’t familiar with the extent of Daniel’s vices however as he kept her in the dark about the hard stuff. To Mary, he was an overworked man who turned to prescription pain-killers and bourbon. It wasn’t that he thought she would leave him exactly if she knew the full extent, but that wasn’t the point. He didn’t want her to know.
In Mary’s eyes he was a bastion of independent strength and courage. Daniel Winchester was a man’s man and he didn’t need to be helped. If anything, he was the one who did the helping. Daniel knew that moment he took that away from her, the moment he stripped away that mirage and let her see the true nature of his soul and the many, many vulnerabilities, that she would never get it back. They say that you can’t get a second chance at a first impression. He didn’t know if that were true but he did know that you can’t get a second chance at a last impression.
So for nearly three years he avoided her. When they did see each other they fought; only a little at first but then more and more, louder and more violently. He was missing therapy appointments and scheduled departures to rehab clinics. The company could only act as a viable excuse for so long before it became apparent to all that he was unable to conduct his duties. Six months was longer than it should have taken for the board of directors to remove him from his position as the Corporate Executive Officer and place him on “paid leave” since he quit actually doing the job after only a day or two.
The largest majority of his time was spent in a private cabin upstate which he had purchased under a pseudonym for one specific reason. It may not have had all the amenities to which he had become accustomed over the years but the one thing it did have was lots and lots of drugs. Were the DEA ever able to stumble across his wooded getaway they probably would have thought that they captured a kingpin, believing, surely, that it couldn’t have all been for one person’s consumption? They would have been wrong.
The massive amounts of alcohol, cocaine, crack and smack stashed away in the retreat were for his use, solely. It wasn’t for the purposes of enjoyment, however. This wasn’t some crash and burn plan to sedate himself straight to death’s door. This was a matter of science. This was about doing something that had never been done before; about…creating something, something the world had never seen before and would never forget after. If Daniel Winchester had to die so that his…child…could live, then so be it.
Sophie started as an idea. She was the child they couldn’t have naturally except…she was. The personality was built first: the love and compassion of Mary with his intelligence and fortitude. She was precocious and inquisitive, full of a burning hunger for more of the world; exactly what any parent would want. When she began to take form in Daniel’s mind, she was around three years old. Mary’s curly blonde hair, green eyes and cheek bones defined Sophie’s features. She was slender and beautiful and to anyone with eyes to see, very much her mother’s daughter.
Day after disappeared day, he sat there in the cabin, barely clinging to consciousness and reason while thinking about her. He dreamed about her, he day-dreamed about her; constantly running her image through his mind until he could see every detail from her lacy pink dress to the white ribbon in her hair. Other than her teeth which were a slightly crooked like his, the only resemblance she bore to him was in the facial expressions that she used when talking and the cadence of her voice. People would call her “Little Danny” in the future for the quirks she would share with her father.
As time progressed the “experiment” pushed him to the limits of his sanity. Reality and the dream-state became indiscernible and Daniel knew he was killing himself. In a rare moment of lucidity and self-actualization towards the end he realized he couldn’t continue that way. If Sophie were going to become as real as the crack-pipe, or the other moments of unbelievability in his life it probably would have happened by then. Was it too late to try to go back to Mary? He hadn’t left that bridge entirely burned but he had put all his chips on returning to her with a psionically created three-year-old daughter and then everything would be A-Okay. It seemed logical.
Daniel remembered the last time he injected the “channel swimmer” into his vein. There was some small effort to get the needle out before the initial rush of “daytime” took him into darkness. His eyes had only been closed for a couple of minutes when he heard her for the first time.
“Daddy,” her voice was sweet and melodic yet timid as well. “Daddy, I’m scared. Where are you?” Daniel didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t want to make this one slip away; it sounded so…real. This was different than other times, almost like he wasn’t hearing it in his head this time. It gripped him. “There you are daddy. Are you sleeping?” Now it sounded like it was right next to him. Even its echo in the room had changed positions. Squeezing his eyes so tightly his head began to ache…fearful not of seeing her there but rather of not seeing her.
A small hand came to rest on his cheek, cool and smooth and he had to open them. Sophie was there, just as he had been praying for but not in her entirety. She seemed to be flickering in and out of existence like the ghost in some movie with poor production value. Except there was nothing poorly done about it. It was happening. She was real and she was there…kind of. Daniel tried to clear his throat with a dry cough.
“You wanna, come lay with daddy, baby-girl?” he asked hoarsely and patted his chest. Sophie nodded and squealed with happiness. The sensation of her climbing onto the bed and curling up on his chest was indescribable even if only partly visible. He felt the solid weight of the little girl nestling into his embrace despite her appearing to phase between realities; one moment there…one moment gone. Not gone, exactly. He still felt her heartbeat for heaven’s sake, heard her breathing. She was still present even when she seemed to fade away. She was still there!
As Daniel drifted into sleep, his new daughter cradled in his arms, his heart felt like things might actually be all right now. Now that Sophie was here he could get off this highway to damnation and reset his course to the one it was always supposed to be. Mary would forgive him and beg for reconciliation. How could she not be overjoyed? She would finally have the one thing in life she truly wanted the most; and he will have been the one who made it happen. He will be…a hero. How could he not? After a small nap to recharge the batteries it would be…’happily ever after’ here I come, but in that moment it was just too much; he…had to…sleep.
When he had finally awoken everything hurt. The devastating effects the drugs were having on his body were evident in so many ways, from the sunken eyes to the sallow skin that clung to skeletal frame. The last time he bothered weighing himself forty pounds had slipped away since he had checked into his little motel of personal self-destruction. He had certainly made sure it was well prepared with illegal substances, alcohol and food that would do well to no one, but, as his body would become painfully aware, quite shy in areas of general nutrition, vitamins and immune boosters. There were no medications for his headaches and constipation. There was no ascorbic acid to repair his body’s tissues as they slowly broke down; no retinol or calcium for his bones and immune system. The only carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals or vitamins he got were the ones packaged by Nestle or General Mills and needless to say…it began to show.
Every muscle in his body ached with the smallest movements; bones barely strong enough to carry his weight. His reflection had become too terrifying for him at some point along the way and he had long since broken all the mirrors in the two-room building. He was a walking corpse and didn’t need to see his mirror image to know it. There, struggling to get out of the bed, Daniel had a fear he had never before known: fear of death. He didn’t want to die. There was once a time he would have been willing to give up his life, but that was before everything changed. That was before Sophie.
He looked around the cabin but she was gone. Gently lowering himself into a Lazy-Boy he spotted a line of coke that somehow made it through the night; a lone soldier returning with the scars of war.
“Hey there,” Daniel greeted the fat bump. There was no overwhelming desire to do the line other than the fact that he just wanted to see if Sophie would be back. Her formation came through time and the consumption of many drugs; last night it was the black tar. He would try the coke now and if that didn’t work then…we’ll see. The line disappeared with a quick snort. With closed his eyes he leaned back into the recliner to let the flood come rushing in; when he opened them again…she was there. There was no flickering in and out like a broken projector, just his baby girl in her pink dress standing next to his chair.
“Hey baby-doll,” he smiled.
“Hey daddy,” she smiled back.
He could barely feel the effect of the cocaine and yet…there she was, perfect in every way. He knew immediately that he needed to show Mary. He didn’t know how this would play out, giving no thought to the logistics of how something like this would work. His brain was so far removed from any thought processes that one might consider normal that the “how’s” and the “why’s” didn’t even register anymore. There was only the reality of the “right now” and his “right now” was Sophie being in his life…their life. He would take her to Mary and they would figure it out together…as a team. Daniel was sure she would want it that way.
“Sophie?” he asked the improbable child, “do you want to meet your mommy?” Her smile nearly blinded him.
It hadn’t taken much, quantity wise, to keep her around for a while but as soon as the buzz wore off, even a little one, she would disappear again. One second they would be giggling through a round of Patty-Cake only to have it broken by jarring silence. Later he would be reading her a story only to look down and find out he was reading to himself. Every time she left he would consume a little bit more of the small stash he had brought back to the city with him.
She was gone again when the limo pulled up to the Winchester Estate, leaving the driver questioning whether or not he had actually seen her enter the vehicle in the first place. The driver did ask if he needed any help getting into the mansion, however. Daniel could only imagine how horrifying he must have looked to the younger man and while he had said, “Thanks” and waved him off at the time, he found himself wishing the offer had been accepted. Just getting through the front door and up the flight of steps to his study took a Herculean effort. He never remembered it being so laborious before. Once finally relaxing on his favorite couch the entire endeavor began to feel a lot better. Doubts had stayed with him day and night…but now…now it was different. Now he would have Sophie.
Downstairs, Daniel heard the front door open, then Mary’s keys jingling in the foyer. Two carefully laid lines of cocaine rested on the table before him. Obviously this would look bad initially but once Mary knew what it was all for…why he had been doing this to himself…she would understand. She had to. He heard her footsteps come down the hall and start up the steps; a timid, “Daniel…?” called out. God, he missed her voice.
“I’m up here Mary,” he called out to her and snorted part of the first line. The plan was to do them both very quickly; figuring that would be just the right amount to retain Sophie’s presence the longest without becoming that manic, coke-head guy that everybody hates, but half way through something in his skull popped. There was a quick snap in his ears with a reverberation felt from his ears to his chin. Blood began to flow from his oft used nostril, dribbling down into the lines of coke.
This was a serious situation and he was adequately afraid. No one ever wants to hear a noise like that coming from somewhere inside their head, but the only thought he could keep was: not now! The timing couldn’t be worse. Mary would walk in that door in a few seconds and he would fall dead at her feet, scarring her for the experience. Even worse, Mary would never get to meet her daughter: what this had all been for. Daniel wiped away the blood and swung around to look at the door. In the process of doing so managing to drag his arm through the rest of his cocaine, spilling it onto the marble floor.
“Shit.” He fell to the floor, desperately trying to find and sweep the rest of the drug together in a little pile only to look up at his wife standing in the doorway. She was so damn beautiful. He could only imagine how he looked to her: on his hands and knees, emaciated, face smeared with blood and cocaine, looking like a wild animal. Suddenly Daniel remembered his own reflection in his office window all those years ago when he had broken that crack-pipe. He remembered how weak and…destitute his reflection had been; and that was before spending three years in hell’s ass-crack. Now…jeez, now he had to look…well, he would be lucky if she even recognized him. Odd were, she’d be calling the police shortly on the madman who had broken into her house and was on his knees in her husband’s study.
When their eyes met he could see, however, that she did recognize him. It wasn’t exactly the look his was hoping for.
“Baby,” he tried to clear his throat but the large amount of blood that had run back into it caused the words to come out somewhat garbled, “I know this looks bad…”
“Is that cocaine…are you?” Disbelief in her voice, her face grew redder. “Are you…fucking high?” Daniel shook his head ‘no’.
“You don’t understand…” Suddenly, in the hall behind Mary, he saw Sophie standing there in her cute pink dress and white sandals. “Oh thank God. Sweetheart it’s all gonna be good now. I got us a baby. We’ve got a daught…” Mary cut him off. He was sounding like an insane person and she had reached a boiling point. Mary Winchester was at the culmination of three years worry and tears, of not knowing where he was or if he was even alive; three years of putting her life on hold and trying to hold together financial matters she knew nothing about.
It took just about three years of standing by a non-existent husband through a dead marriage…and then…to come home to randomly find him here, looking like this. She exploded and every dark thought she had held at bay came to fruition in that moment.
“You son-of-a-bitch, back-stabbing…SERPENT!” Behind Mary Sophie’s shoulders jerked backwards, nearly pulling her to the floor. “You’ve disappeared EVERY time I need you the most. You have LIED to ME and my family and EVERYONE who has tried to GIVE A SHIT about you!” Sophie’s legs cracked at the knees and bent themselves backwards while her neck twisted itself into an equally unnatural direction. Daniel raised his hand in her direction but could say nothing; transfixed.
“You are NOT a man! You aren’t even FUCKING human!” Sophie’s skin began to pulsate and bubble like fat on a frying pan; slowly darkening to slick, shiny black. Her hand and feet, ripping through the dainty sandals, turned into massive, elongated things with razor-sharp talons that would seem more at home on some type of lizard. “You’re a fucking SNAKE! Do you hear me Daniel…a FUCKING SNAKE! I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. You should be…” Daniel couldn’t hear her anymore. Mesmerized with Sophie’s transformation and watching from outside his own body now, Mary’s voiced faded into an unrecognizable buzz.
Sophie’s body finally came to a rest and what remained was nothing like the little girl that was there just a moment earlier. It was too soon, he thought to himself, she was still forming. She still stood upright like a human child but any resemblances ended there. Her features were, for lack of any better description, very reptilian. The creature’s skin was jet black but tough looking, like leather or…scales maybe; with the exception of a few streaks of pink which appeared to be all that was left of her dress after it molted into her. The head had to be the worst, so…snake-like; beady-red eyes sunk into her black skull, her nose nothing more than a couple of slits. Mary was still going hard, shaking her fist at him even when Sophie took her first step towards them.
The long talons clicked against the marble floor of the hallway and the sound stopped Mary mid-sentence. She seemed to suddenly be aware of the horror in his eyes as hers widened. As she turned to see what was behind her Daniel got out one word: “NO!” The next few seconds occurred so quickly. When it was over his brain was still trying to process what had happened. He didn’t think Mary actually had an opportunity to see what Sophie had become before she sliced into her.
Only a few feet tall, Sophie leapt from her spot catching one shoulder and the side of her “mother’s” neck in her large jaws. He would never have guessed that the creature’s mouth could open that wide; the jaw unhinging itself like some snakes do. Sophie had probably meant to hang off of Mary’s torso but her claws slid through the back and chest muscles like butter, skewering her and puncturing her heart. Mary Winchester died before she knew she was in trouble. Daniel, shocked into trauma, could only watch for a fleeting moment before he passed out. He would later be grateful.
In Daniel’s lifetime he had gotten to see a lot of crazy things. Money will do that. He had woken up in some extremely unusual and often disturbing situations. Once he woke up in a random backyard in a dog-house; no idea how he had gotten there or, thankfully, why the dog wasn’t there. Waking up in that room on that day, however, was something he would never forget…no matter how hard he tried. Mary’s blood covered nearly every inch of the room with viscera and shredded flesh strewn throughout.
Daniel threw up. The room looked like something out of a horror movie and the floor was so covered in…her that just getting out was difficult. He ran down the hall to the shower leaving a trail of blood and vomit behind him. As the hot water tried its best to wash away his sins Daniel struggled to figure out what to do. How does one handle a situation like this? He couldn’t call the cops. They would put him away for life…or worse.
Maybe worse was better. Did he really deserve to live after this? He had brought that thing into existence…and it had killed the only woman he ever loved. Now it was not just Daniel’s life that had been destroyed. One thing was for sure: Sophie could never be brought back! He had been a fool to think this was something he could control. He hadn’t been thinking clearly in years. What the hell was he going to do? He couldn’t check into a rehab center; it was going to take everything he could manage just to keep people from looking too closely at Mary’s…disappearance. He would have to go cold-turkey and he would have to do it here at the house.
When all of the hot water was used and Daniel was forced from the shower he marked a calendar on his desk with a big “X”. This was to be “day one” and he figured it would take at least thirty before he could be through any withdrawal issues. If he ate well, got lots of fluids and exercised then maybe less. At that moment, with the towel draped around his waist and his wife’s blood drying in his study, Daniel’s motivation was strong. Seven hours later: not so much.
He had cleaned out all the narcotics in the mansion in the first thirty minutes but there hadn’t been a lot to start with; most having been re-located to the cabin some time ago. The gung-ho Daniel didn’t think through how hard an abrupt cessation of a substance dependence was going to be but the clawing-at-the-wall Daniel that showed up a little later was starting to get an idea. Being able to wean down was ideal; that had been the plan all along, but Sophie had turned into a great incentive to go with the new plan.
Around 8:00 pm he started getting a little nauseated and a lot antsy. Pacing every room in his colossal abode, except the study of course, did nothing to alleviate the sensation. Every room he would walk into would become an expedition for items he could kill himself with. There were knives in the kitchen, antique guns in the study, swords hanging in the library…or for that matter he could hang himself in the library; the banisters were quite sturdy. The entire endeavor was becoming unhealthy so he decided to take a walk. There was a pretty nice size public park less than a mile down the road. The evening air was cool and he thought it would feel good.
He was right; it did. The park was very Norman Rockwell with just a scattering of people. There were two young lovers picnicking in the grass, a couple of boys around twelve or thirteen were tossing a baseball to each other while desperately trying to flirt with a couple of girls who were obviously too old for them to have a chance with, an elderly couple canoodling on a bench and finally a man in his twenties tossing a Frisbee to his beautiful Golden Retriever. No one looked in Daniel’s direction as he shuffled his way to a bench all the way in the back of the park. It was as relaxing as it could be, which is to say, not terribly.
The bench sat on the edge of the park’s property with a large corn field at its back. Daniel could hear the cars whipping by on the interstate highway he knew to be at the far end of that corn field but could never see from the park. Dusk was starting to settle in and Daniel, watching the old people help each other up to leave, started silently weeping. Why was he doing this? Could he really go on in this life without his beloved Mary? The pain was so overwhelming on all sides: the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.
Pulling himself into a fetal ball on the bench while rocking back and forth something caught his eye. That couldn’t be…it was. Tucked into the grass next to the bench was a crack-pipe with a large crystal waiting to be smoked. Daniel looked around frantically. This felt like a set-up or something. Do people really leave shit like this just laying around in public places? Something reminiscent of “Boyz N The Hood” came to mind although he was about as far away from the ghetto as was possible.
The internal struggle turned out to be not much of a struggle as he scooped up the pipe. This had to be fate…right? It had to be…because as fortune would have it he had a lighter in the sports coat he had chosen. Just one hit, he told himself, just one hit to help with the withdrawal. She won’t show up if I don’t think about her…not here in the open like this. The logic was sound according to the addiction and so he took the flame to the pipe. He closed his eyes as he exhaled and it did feel good…for a second.
Then…there was a scream from around fifty yards away and Daniel’s first thought was that someone had seen him and he would need to get the hell out before that someone called the police. It wasn’t that. It was the teenage girls who had been ignoring the boys. They had screamed…well, one of them had screamed. It was apparently a reaction to her friend having just had her head cleaved from her body by Sophie’s massive, clawed hand. She was bigger now. Even from that distance he could tell he was at least six or seven feet tall at that point. She’s growing!
The second girl tried to scream again but it died in her throat as she was eviscerated as well. Sophie was fast…too fast; scary fast. Without wasting time inspecting her kills she ran immediately to the man with the dog. He was a good thirty yards away from Sophie and she covered the ground in two seconds flat. The man tried to fight and his faithful companion jumped into the fray as well locking his jaws onto her long, black…tail. What the fuck…she has a tail? Both efforts were futile.
Daniel couldn’t see how the man went down as Sophie’s back was to him and it was getting dark very quickly but he did see the dog go flying through the air, landing with a thud and a whimper. Daniel stood up. He wanted to run but his legs wouldn’t work properly, trapped in a dream-state where every step is through mud. Run. Run. Run. Run, Dammit, Run. Why aren’t you running yet?
Sophie was eating the picnickers now. Well, not “eating” exactly. More like excessively biting them. He could see old couple…barely through the dusk: they were nearly to the entrance. They’re gonna make it! Having seen what she had done already Daniel should have known how stupid that thought was. She caught them at the precipice of the entrance between the large stone pillars that served as a gate. It was impossible to see them with detail but he could see slashing motions; different angles of light bouncing off her slickened skin. He heard wailing…the old woman…and it made his soul ache. Not because she was screaming in pain or fear but rather in loss…a sound Daniel now knew well.
The howling ceased abruptly and somewhere deep inside Daniel was jealous of the old woman. At least they were together now. Everyone in the park was now dead…except him. He was still stuck in cement, a deer in headlights. Run! He took one step. Run! Two steps then three; he was behind the bench now and he could see Sophie look up at him from across the darkened park: two glowing embers. Run…why aren’t you running? You should be…because…she was beginning to. RUN! Finally he did.
Daniel ran blindly into the corn field, waving his arms as stalks struck him in the face and going as fast as his malnourished and drug ravaged body would carry him. There is no way this is fast enough…at least not as fast as…her. He tried to look over his shoulder to see if she was upon him yet but he was blind in all directions. Was he even half way yet? He could still hear the cars on the busy interstate but they didn’t sound like they were any closer.
Breaths became shorter, his chest refusing to expand to any useful capacity while he struggled to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Suddenly there was some light: headlights; several of them zipping by. The cars were significantly louder now but that wasn’t the only sound Daniel heard. Something was behind him…something big. The hulking force of whatever Sophie had become was crushing a huge swathe of corn stalks in her wake. It was nearly as loud as the cars.
Then he was free of the corn and onto a paved surface. Daniel looked over his shoulder in time to see a long, black arm swiping at him. Its fingernails, replaced with long razor blades that would make Freddy Kruger blush, glinting in the headlights from the car. The car!
The impact sounded worse than it felt. Unconscious almost immediately, he rolled end over end like a rag doll down the center stripe. The fact that no bones were broken was nothing short of a miracle.
The driver of the taxi that struck him said it looked like he was being chased into the road. When the police asked if he saw anyone pursuing him he had to hesitate before he answered. It happened so quickly that there was no way he could have seen what he thought he saw in that split-second so he answered simply, “No…I didn’t see nothin’.”
Upon discovering his identity they contacted his former assistant, Andy, because they weren’t able to get in touch with his wife and Andy was still listed as an emergency contact. Andy, it seemed, had been waiting for that call for a long time and it was he that arranged to have Daniel brought to the very exclusive Man Dahari Medical Center. It had been a plan for a long time although, initially, it was simply to be utilized as a detoxification and rehabilitation facility. Andy had it in his mind for a while that one of two things were going to happen: A. Daniel Winchester was going to want his life back at some point and get his shit together…or, B. He would die. This wasn’t exactly either of those circumstances but Andy wasn’t going to waste the opportunity of being able to decide Daniel’s destiny while he was unconscious after getting hit by a car. Andy had no doubt that Mary felt the same way and would have agreed with the decision had anyone been able to find her. It was what was for the best.
Mary leaned in close and gently nibbled on Daniel’s earlobe. “Mmmmm…” he moaned.
“Oh…you like that?” She was teasing him, “Maybe I’ll eat cha’ all up. Maybe I don’t stop at the ear.” He laughed. They were in their bed together. They were in their underwear and Daniel couldn’t remember ever seeing her look more radiant than at that moment. He couldn’t remember how he got there but he knew he never wanted to leave. He loved his wife so much; he wanted the time to go on forever.
“I love you baby-doll.”
“I know,” she said.
“Please don’t leave me Mary. Stay with me forever.”
“Then don’t wake up, goofball.” Her smile faded just a bit. He was confused now.
“I said, ‘don’t wake up’.” Her smile was gone completely; a look of panic beginning to creep in.
“Don’t wake up, Danny! Don’t wake up!” Mary was terrified. “Don’t wake up…please.” Then in a moment of lucidity, he realized the delicate nature of his predicament. He knew he was dreaming and the connection to Mary was hanging by a desperate thread of cognitivism and his ability to remain unconscious. Tears began to run down her cheeks; she already knew what he was about to figure out: he was waking up. No…he was awake.
Daniel was still strapped to a bed in the Man Dahari Medical Center. The previously sterile room was much different than before with a striking dichotomy of bright, red blood splashed against the spotlessly clean white walls. The initial reaction was déjà vu; a quick flash of Mary’s remains splattered throughout his study intertwined with the carnage Sophie had left this time. There appeared to be no one left in the room…alive, that is, but he wouldn’t know until he got himself free. His left arm was still unstrapped with a hypodermic needle poking out of the vein. They didn’t even have the time to take it out!
Managing to shake it free he tried to reach his right arm restraint but the shoulder restraint prevented that. He was unable to reach the latch on the shoulder restriction as well. Struggling and jerking against the leather belts only helped to heighten the fear and pump his adrenaline. You have to think! He slammed his hand back down with a sigh. Thinking was the one thing he had done least of all in the last few years and his brain was not up to this challenge. Negotiating a cross-word puzzle would have been hard enough; this was…impossible.
A noise suddenly came from outside the room and upon hearing it Daniel became painfully aware of the lack of sound that had just existed. There had been no beeping or whirring machines, no background televisions or hallway orderlies, no wrong guest popping their heads in or voices on the intercom paging doctor so-and-so; only deafening silence. And then there was this noise…this…like a ‘click’ of some type. There is was again, definitely in the hall outside and getting closer.
‘click’, ‘click’, ’click’, ’click’, ‘click’. It was getting closer. He was going to call out; to scream, “Someone help me. I’m here,” but something about that noise…stopped him. It was so unnatural…but still… ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’. What the hell is that? It wasn’t the sound any machine makes; it was more…biological. ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’. Whatever it was, it was right outside his door…and then…in the room.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and pretended to still be unconscious; a small child hiding under the covers from the bogeyman. ‘click’, ‘click’; right next to the bed now. Giving himself only the smallest of slits through his squeezed eyelids he could see the massive form that Sophie had become. She was walking on all fours now but if she stood upright she would easily be ten feet tall and she had to be at least a thousand pounds now. She had become a huge, hulking beast and he could hear her breathing like wind blowing up from a cavern; deep and guttural. Daniel realized after she took a couple steps that the clicking noise he had been hearing were her talons smacking against the hospital’s linoleum floors.
Sophie picked up something from the floor with her mouth and shook it violently like a dog with a chew toy. Blood splattered against Daniel’s cheeks…warm blood. It took everything in him not to scream out but his commitment to playing possum was greater; somehow his survival instincts stronger than he had anticipated. There was a loud chomp accompanied by the cracking of many bones. Something heavy landed on Daniel’s chest with a dull thud which was felt more than heard. He instinctively jerked on the bed but she didn’t seem to notice; preoccupied with her…chewing. This lasted for an unbearable few minutes before the creature left the room, dragging something heavy behind it.
Apprehensive and horrified, Daniel opened his eyes. The thing on his chest was an arm, slick with blood, with part of a sleeve and medical coat still attached. He couldn’t be positive but it looked like the arm of darker, possibly Indian, man so he was guessing it was Dr. Patel’s. Fighting the first reaction to toss it off his persons, Daniel decided to utilize it if at all possible. Long enough to reach the latches on his restraints to be sure but he doubted Dr. Patel would be as helpful in unlatching them as he had been putting them on. It only took only a couple of clumsy tries and almost losing the appendage once before abandoning that effort.
He looked around the room as best as he could. It was impossible to see below the side of the bed but there had to be something useful. The room appeared in complete disarray with very little from before left standing. But…he did see…yup, that might work…he did see the silver tray next to the bed slightly above his head. Reaching out with Dr. Patel’s arm, hand extended, Daniel tried to swipe at the base of the tray holder. It should be on wheels and if he could just slide it a little further he could reach it with his hand. Blood spilled from the torn end and onto his face as he swiped but he did his best to ignore and was rewarded with movement from the tray after just a few.
Once in reach, he lifted the tray as carefully as he could and lowered it, contents and all, onto his chest without spilling it. His hand began shaking a few times and it required several deep breaths to keep it steady. There were several items of little interest and he went for a long scalpel. It proved to be both long enough and sharp enough to cut through the shoulder restraint. With his torso relatively unencumbered the remaining straps weren’t difficult although he did send the tray of medical utensils flying from his chest when he sat up. Dumb luck managed them into landing on soft surfaces; probably dead bodies.
Now that he was free from his leather chains, Daniel was able to fully take in the intensity of the room. He had seen slaughterhouses with less carnage. Suddenly it became a battle with his lurching stomach and his stomach lost, contributing its meager contents to the mess. Daniel was keenly aware of not wanting to actually throw up on someone’s corpse but as he looked down on the expulsion he couldn’t figure out where the corpses were. Had she moved them all? Had she…eaten them all?
There were pieces and parts all over the place; he saw an ear here and a foot there, but there didn’t appear to be enough pieces and parts to round out the entire staff that had been in here before when he counted six. There was a large track of blood leading out of the door, into the hall and off to the right. Daniel wanted to have shoes and clothes on; anything would have been better than a hospital gown that leaves your ass hanging out. Cold and scared he stepped lightly through the room to the doorway, leaving his imprints in the blood behind him and looked around.
First right, where the path of blood went to the end of the long hall and into a room. The path was joined by several other streaks of bright red on the floor coming from all rooms and directions, all eventually leading to the dark room at the end of the hall. Is she stockpiling them? Then he looked to the left where no bloody smudges could be seen and no imminent signs of danger. He had to go somewhere. Anywhere would be better than right here.
“This way then,” he whispered to himself while taking a step into the hall. Somewhere in the distance, towards the end of the bloody rainbow, he heard a noise he did not want to hear. ‘click’, ‘click’, click,’ ‘click,’ ‘click’. It was faint, very difficult to gauge, but Sophie was obviously on the move. Daniel picked up the pace. The first door he came to was locked…then the next…then the next. ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’. It was getting louder. She’s getting closer! The next door was closed, and another. Daniel could hear her just down the hall now. Any second she would turn a corner and see him standing there…alone…naked…and would proceed to rip him to pieces. ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’.
And then a door did open. It was an insignificant examination room, sparse on contents with practically nowhere to hide. There was one tiny, segmented cabinet with the basic necessities: gauze, depressors, hospital gowns and the like. Daniel wasted no time ripping out the contents as well as the dividing shelf in the middle; it was just big enough for him to ball himself up inside. The cabinet door, however, wouldn’t close all the way. A one inch slit of an opening was the best he could manage and that inch became his entire world as he focused, with laser intensity, on its view from within.
Sophie’s clicking could now be heard in the hall just outside. He thought that he had closed the door to the room behind him but, in his rush, he had not. Ragged breathing echoed inside the small space as he held his hand over his nose and mouth, nearly suffocating himself, in an effort to silence it. It didn’t seem to help much but with his heartbeat sounding just as loud perhaps it wasn’t as bad as he thought. His breathing did come to an abrupt stop, however, when he saw with dismay a detail that could end up being his demise: his footprints. He had, hastily, left a path of bloody footprints around the room and backwards into the hall; the proverbial trail of breadcrumbs.
“Fuck.” The whispered word had barely escaped his self-muffled lips when he caught the smallest glimpse of Sophie…right outside the examination room’s door now. Daniel had only smallest of viewing space from his cramped position but it was enough to conceive his imminent danger. He could see part of her blackened form as she entered the room; segments of black skin with her thick muscles roiling beneath. A scene from “Jurassic Park” flashed in his mind, the one with the raptors stalking the children in the theme-park’s kitchen. He remembered how unrealistic it had seemed at the time; never dreaming of finding himself in a similar situation…and yet, here he was.
Sophie began turning circles in the room…searching for something; searching for him. Then, through his thin strip of visualization, Daniel saw her face and glowing red eyes. She had become so…alien. The reptilian features were obvious but like nothing he had seen before. It looked like a child’s plastic dinosaur had been nuked in the microwave for a minute, its once recognizable figure made different; a malformed and horrific version of what it was supposed to be. Sophie was definitely not what she was supposed to be.
Her jaw…unhinged…and with her massive mouth gaping open, layers of sharp teeth glinting in the light, Sophie waved her head back and forth while a loud hissing noise escaped from her inner depths. A long, thick tongue, forked at its end, rocketed out of her maw and flickered about the air in front of her face. What the hell was she doing? Is she…? Then it hit him. The information had been deposited into his brain by an episode of Wild Kingdom when he was only eight and up till this moment assumed lost with time.
The considerable volume of drugs he had consumed in the last three years had successfully re-wired Daniel’s brain. The synapses still fired, the trains of thought still left the station but the stops along the way had all changed. For the most part this unintentional side effect provided nothing but detriment, but every once and awhile… Savant thoughts or images would come forth from the ether, front and center, to surprise, confuse, convolute and possibly help whatever his current situation happened to be.
In that moment, trapped in a cramped space hiding from a monster just a couple feet away, Daniel’s mind began to play video from a different life. In an eidetic fashion, the sixteen inch, black and white television screen from his childhood bedroom appeared before him. Marlin Perkins’s hypnotic voice narrated over footage of various rattle-snakes in various states of agitation. Many snakes and lizards use their mouths and tongues to perform the same functions we would with our noses. Odor molecules and can hang in the air to be absorbed by the sensitive membranes that the snakes’ have in those areas. These snakes can smell prey from a distance most people can’t even see.
Sophie was looking for his…scent. She must have found it because her tongue suddenly retreated and her jaws snapped shut. Daniel could see her looking directly at the cabinet now…looking at him. Despite being a lifelong agnostic, he began recited the Lord’s Prayer, which he had been forced to learn in a catholic school. Something about being able to see the end of one’s life that tended to bring about spirituality in even the most hardened soul.
Faith in a higher power rarely came to the scientifically minded or the morally defunct…until the end. Then they, like he, desired more; more time, more life, a continuation…an afterlife; something else to look forward to rather than the cold, clinical cessation they had always imagined. There, mere seconds from the afterlife, as Sophie took one step in his direction he did believe in God. He did believe and in a moment of clarity and acceptance Daniel was ready to meet Him…except…except for the one thought stuck in the back of his mind like a thorn: what would happen to Sophie if he did die?
Would she simply disappear as she had whenever sobriety struck him? Or would she…stay? Dr. Patel had injected him with a pretty strong opiate. Was he even still feeling the effects? It was so hard to tell anymore; he generally felt intoxicated all the time now anyway. He needed to know what would happen to creature before he could leave. If God did exist, there would be special place in hell for the man that unleashed this beast onto the world. Daniel did not want to be that man.
‘click’, ‘click’. Sophie took another step in his direction, leaned her face down and made a noise he didn’t want to hear. As foreign as her hissing before, it was a deep sounding vibration bubbling up from the bottom of a tar-pit, hardly recognizable yet completely familiar: one simple word gurgled forth; freezing his spine.
Daniel could feel her hot breath through the crack. This was it…This was how he would die. It really was in God’s hands now. Except that it wasn’t. She had lifted one clawed “hand” to the cabinet’s door when a frantic intern scrambled by in the hall drawing her immediate attention. As quickly as a jungle cat, Sophie turned and barreled out of the room, skidding across the floor and slamming into the opposite hallway wall before regathering herself and scampering out of view in pursuit of whomever that poor soul happened to be. Daniel was flooded with emotions ranging from guilty relief to genuine fear for the bait that had lured her away.
He was unable to tell if it were a man or woman that scurried by and the blood-curdling scream that echoed through the building when Sophie caught up did nothing to give it away. Sharp and high-pitched, nothing defined it as feminine or masculine. It was, nonetheless, wholly…human; drenched with terror and dread and, coincidentally, just what Daniel needed to break through his catharsis. He fell out of the cabinet with a thud ripping his medical gown in the process. There was no time for lamenting nakedness anymore and the best that could be done was to tie the smock around his waist like a flimsy towel.
He didn’t know where to go or what to do but at least had enough sense to check his feet this time. The soles were red with caked blood but they had dried for the most part and were no longer leaving impressions on the floor. It was like a Shaggy and Scooby-Doo bad-acid trip as Daniel peered around the doorway and down the hall. Sophie was not to be seen.
To the right was a set of double-doors latched shut maybe twenty-five feet away. The way out? The direction from which he came was pure destruction and entrails; every horror movie seen being put to shame by Sophie’s decorating skills. Shocking and surreal, the closest thing he could relate it to was a slaughterhouse his father had taken him to when he as a child. Even then, they would clean up the mess. His daughter, or rather the beast that she had become, had no regard for human life. Whatever that was once good inside her was made vile; the product of rage and hostility; incapable of no more than bloodlust. She had to be put down.
A quick search of the little room yielded little in the way of weaponry; unless he could figure out a way to kill her with tongue depressors that was. Desperately pleading with his brain to MacGyver a working scenario Daniel suddenly remembered the scalpel he had used to free himself from the bed. What did he do with it? It was on the floor with the rest of the surgical implements from the tray. The room wasn’t too far down the hall. If he could just get to it…
Then what? You gonna kill it with a one-inch scalpel? He didn’t know…maybe? If he caught her in just the right spot? Magic spot under the neck…like dragons? Well…sounds stupid when you say it like that. His mind was fragmenting. Seized with indecision and teetering on the edge of madness, everything suddenly went black. There was a split second of the belief that he had just died or at very least been rendered unconscious, but the moment passed when the hospital’s backup generator kicked on providing limited illumination from the sparsely placed emergency lights. This was just what he needed.
“Perfect,” he whispered to himself “…ambiance.” Had Sophie done that? Did she knock out the generator? If so that showed she still held a level of intelligence he had thought to be now gone. Somehow that would be worse. Being a mindless predator, a shark, was one thing but having the cognitive ability to know what it was she was doing. Oh Dear Lord…that was just…evil.
The hallway, now bathed more in shadow than light, seemed to shimmer before him like a mirage. Daniel steadied himself against the wall as he slowly made his way back to the room he woke up in. In this light, or lack thereof, the blood no longer looked bright red and striking but a shone with a ruddy brown on the walls and gathered in pools of inky black on the floor. Even the ceiling resembled a Jackson Pollock painting. He understood now that his concern for the footprints he might have left wasn’t well founded. They had only blended with so much gore in completing Sophie’s master design. She was obviously trying to re-create hell and…she was succeeding.
Reaching the room he was looking for was quicker than he left it, quieter too; there were no interruptions yet. The room, now poorly lit by one struggling bulb in a corner, invoked hopelessness initially. It was only by pure luck, or perhaps the Grace of God, that Daniel saw the blade glinting in what light there was. In his hands, however, any confidence he might have held in the small blade’s ability to be effective before now seemed laughable. What exactly were you gonna do with this thing again?
Somewhere in the distance a scream shot out; an echo of an echo of an echo by the time it reached him. Daniel had been hoping that someone…anyone…would make it out of here alive; or at least be able to hide until this, whatever ‘this’ was, was over. Unfortunately Daniel knew Sophie’s tenacity. He had seen her in action. The way she…mutilated those poor people at the park; she was nothing if not thorough. He knew she was clearing out the facility. There was no way of knowing how big the place was but he felt certain, nonetheless, of her ability to kill every living thing inside its walls. He had to find her first.
Stepping into the hall with new and foolish determination Daniel saw a sign on the opposite side: Staff Only. Happy to find it unlocked, he was delighted to find the change of clothes he had been hoping for…especially the shoes. The pants were a little too big and the shoes were a little too tight but both were completely better alternatives to the nothing he had on. The shirt was gone but he found a white medical coat that helped to ease the shivers a bit.
Shivers? Was he cold? Was it really cold in here? Or…was he starting to feel the usually dreaded effects of withdrawal? If he went into withdrawal then his body would be craving the drugs. It would need them and if that was the case then Sophie would be needing them as well. The convoluted logic made perfect sense. Sure it does. If he could just be sure that he was sober then it would be safe…in theory.
Maybe that was true but…for some reason the idea of Sophie not dying when he did refused to leave. If he could have been sure of that one thing he would have slit his wrists then and there and been done with it. But he couldn’t; not in the same way he was sure that she would vanish again if he reached a certain level of de-toxicity. It would have been a really nice time to know the rules of this game.
Daniel walked back into the hall armed to the teeth. Armed with very little than his teeth. He might not have known exactly where Sophie was but he figured he knew where she would be. She had left bloody paths from every direction leading to her den. Maybe he could surprise her…catch her off guard? Before one step could turn into two he was halted by the echoing click of the intercom microphone being switched on, followed by a quick squeal of feedback…then…breathing; heavy, raspy, struggling for air breathing.
His first thought was one of optimism: there is a survivor, but that passed quickly the second he recognized its thick cadence. It was Sophie.
“Daddy…” The inhuman word filtered through putrid rancidity echoed off the walls. “…all for you…Daddy…all for you.” Overwhelmed with emotions, Daniel called out in the dark hallway.
“Sophie…Baby-Doll?” He had to take a chance. Almost all options had been extinguished. She could have killed him several times over had she wanted to. She slaughtered an entire room full of free people while he laid unconscious, bound to an altar. She had so many chances to do it already…why hadn’t she? She tried to kill you at the park. Did she? Maybe she was trying to save him from the oncoming cars. Then why was she chasing you in the first place? “Sophie can you hear daddy?”
There was a pause and more breathing; then, “Hear daddy” reverberating above his head.
“Good.” Now that contact was made no words would come to mind. He struggled to mine the simplest fragments. “Sophie…why? Why…do…this?” Again a pause; then.
“Good girl…love daddy…” A longer pause. “Love mommy too…” Involuntary tears began to spill down his cheeks at the thought of Mary. “Soon…you both be together.” Sobs now.
“Dammit Sophie!” he screamed. Then with a calmer demeanor, “You killed her Sophie…you killed her.” The tears were torrential now. “You killed her…you killed…” He was cut off by a low rumbling sound from the speakers; a thick smacking of jowls or mud that was all the more sickening when he realized what it was. She was chuckling. It was the unnatural merriment of a hellish demon enjoying its torture of the damned. She was enjoying this and wanted him to know. When the gurgling snicker came to an end she said two word before turning off the intercom: “I know.”
“That ungrateful…bitch!” Daniel spit the words into the hall and began heading towards his ambush spot. It was amazing how much shoes aided in the speed of his progression; not having to stop to see what had squished between his toes got him around much faster. All of the tendrils of blood that were branched throughout led back to the same room and upon finding himself at its precipice Daniel wasn’t sure he could actually go inside.
The door stood open but it was impossible to see anything within. Its emergency light either didn’t work or had been…disabled. The blackness of the room having eaten everything within now seemed to hunger for the meager light left in the hall. The envelope of shadow so thick it seemed solid making him wonder if he even could go inside, breaking through its wall of darkness. Craning his neck around his mind raced for something…anything he could use to increase the illumination. Would he trade his scalpel for a flashlight right now? …Maybe.
Teetering back and forth like a child too afraid to dip any more than a big toe into the pool he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his chest. It was a stabbing sensation that took his breath away and before he could gather himself again he could hear the familiar ‘click’, ‘click’, ‘click’ of Sophie somewhere down the hall. Judging from the speed of the clicks and the rate at which they got louder she was getting close…rapidly.
One hand gripping his pounding chest, one hand clutching the surgical knife, Daniel threw himself headlong into the unknown obscurity ahead. Could it really be much worse than what was coming up behind him? He only managed to stumble a few feet into the room before falling headlong into a pile; a pile of…bodies; or body parts. It gave away too easily to have been solid bodies and Daniel had to wade up and over the decomposing mound to get to the far side; never dreaming he would have been this grateful for the blinding darkness.
He could feel the damp, slippery combination of clothing and viscera beneath his hands; splashing cold and wet against his bare chest. Then there was the smell…Oh God, the smell…something between decaying flesh and fecal matter. His stomach lurched and desperately tried to expel anything. With nothing available they became jarring dry-heaves which further escalated the pain in his chest. Finally reaching and rolled over the far end of the pile, his back found its way to a wall and there he sat. His burning eyes focused on the only light: the doorway to the hall…and were greeted by Sophie’s horrendously unnatural silhouette.
She was here now; she had found him…but could she see him? Hovering in the doorway he could hear her doing her hissing thing again. Was she tracking his scent? Daniel held the small knife in a death-grip while praying his heart wasn’t actually as loud as it sounded to him. Sophie lowered her head through the frame and took a step into the room blocking out all the light. Her footfall left a physical vibration to be felt. She was getting big!
The blade began to involuntarily shake in his hand and Daniel had no way to stop it. The tremors were beginning. The increasing pain in his joints and the sensation of spiders creeping up his legs told Daniel that he was going into withdrawal. The little bit of light that began to show…around Sophie; no…through her just reinforced the notion. She was starting to fade. With that small realization unexpected hope sprang up inside him. There may actually be a way out of this. If he could just stay hidden long enough then…
“Daddy,” Sophie cut him off mid-thought. “I see you, daddy” She took another immense step in his direction cracking bones and crushing sinew beneath her overwhelming weight. The chest pain now felt like fire, burning him from the inside out as he waved the surgical tool feebly at the dark. “It’s time…” Step, crunch, squish. “…to be…” Step, crack, ooze. “…with mommy.” The bodies were being pushed up against Daniels feet now. He could feel her breath again; it smelled like copper. She had to be only a few feet away.
“Baby-Doll…” he whispered hoarsely. “Please…don’t.”
“Oh daddy…” Her face was right in front of his, the heat of her words burning his cheeks. Staring into his eyes she began to caress his check with her index claw. It was pin-needle sharp at its point but she had yet to break his skin. “I have to do this because I love you…silly daddy.” With eyes that had long since adjusted to the dark Daniel could see thick wads of saliva dripping from her many rows of teeth; somehow able to take note of the increasing light shining through her. She was so close to fading out now and she didn’t even know it!
“You don’t have to do this, Sophie!” He was just trying to buy time at this point. “You need to listen to your daddy if you want to be a good girl!” Before he could even hope to have success he was cut off by that nauseating noise that the beast passed as laughter and it was even worse in person and up close; a demonic chortle of malicious intent and set forth with destructive vibrational waves. Just hearing it would sicken anyone, like audible chemotherapy, and Daniel lost his words…as well as his resolve. Leaning his head back in acceptance, he watched as Sophie unhinged her jaw. He saw the rows of teeth, came to terms with them being the means to his end and closed his eyes to wait for the inevitable.
But, for the second time, the savage death Daniel was expecting did not come. There was no tearing of flesh and feeling his life-blood flooding away while hearing his organs crunch between teeth. There was…nothing. He opened his eyes and jerked his head back, smacking the concrete wall behind him, from the shock of the sight. Sophie’s visible form was still there…somewhat, slicing and snapping at his face but she no longer had the depth of matter to make contact. Her claws sliding through his neck like a mist, her mouth biting at every limb yet making no contact; she was enraged and working herself into a hateful, yet ineffective, frenzy.
The sight of her inhuman face mercilessly trying to remove his was the last sight Daniel Winchester had in his mortal life on Earth. The air embolism that had been playing teeter-totter in his left pulmonary vein finally reached its vacation destination in his heart; killing him instantly. It was painless; his heart just stopped. It took a few seconds for his brain to realize as the world just kind of faded out of existence and in that short time he felt…comfort. Grasping that Sophie would no longer be a danger to the lives of others he was…ready. It was what he had been waiting for.
The Man Dahari Medical Center was razed to the ground the following year which was about how long the investigation lasted. Eighty-seven doctors, nurses, technicians, interns and patients slaughtered without anyone knowing why. Surveillance video from before the power went out seemed to suggest some type of wild animal was involved but key sequences mistakenly “disappeared” from the evidence lock-up leading to many wild conspiracies involving aliens or Bigfoot. The “official” story was that the occupants of the building had fallen prey to wild wolves that had somehow gotten into or had been let into the small clinic.
A prevalent theory that never took flight was that there was a serial killer who had trained his dogs…or lions…to maul his victims. Apparently there was an incident in a park the day before the murders that may or may not have been connected. The two murder sites, though separated by some distance, shared similar killing modus operandi including body mutilations and victims having ostensibly been…eaten. In both circumstances there were multiple homicides with the victims having no obvious connection with one another other than having been in the same place at the same time.
There was an unusual connection between one of the Man Dahari victims and the other crime scene in that it was close to his home and when searching the residence police found the remains of yet another graphic murder. It took DNA analysis to determine the identity of the casualty there to be the wife of wealthy eccentric who was also deceased. While the connections were made they yielded no results.
The investigation coming to a close brought no one peace in the community and so the Man Dahari Medical Center was bull-dozed to the ground. The acre lot sat empty for three years growing wild and giving refuge to the homeless community and underage kids looking to drink outside the public’s watchful eyes. In the fourth year someone somewhere decided enough time had passed and construction began on a new facility.
The building of The Saint Mary’s of Upper New York School for Girls Dormitory took two years and included extensive funding from an anonymous donor who gave in memory of a Mary and Daniel Winchester (victims from the previous tragedies). There was to be no expense saved in the construction of the all-girls orphanage and school. It took another six months to paint, furnish and provide basic amities to the dorm rooms, common rooms and cooking facilities. Six months after that, exactly six years to the day of the massacre, the first group of girls moved in, ages six to sixteen.
It could not have been more modern and beautiful and the first day was one to remember with the girls gushing over everything. They were all so happy; feeling like the luckiest kids alive. Their first night, however, was a different story. The girls thirteen to sixteen were given permission to have an overnight, “move-in” slumber party. Sister Maggie, the head mistress, was convinced that, with the excitement of the day, they wouldn’t make it past a few hours anyway.
Several hours after the Sisters’ had turned in the girls were in the main common-room listening to music too mature to play in front of the Sisters and dancing with socked feet. The radio began to flicker in and out drawing the girls’ attention in its direction where a massive black shadow lurched in the corner around it. The entire room, eighteen girls in all, screamed in terrified unison and the undefinable specter fled across the room, disappearing into the far wall.
Two days later a precious nine-year-old named Deborah, who was called “Little Debby” by the other girls, was alone in the second floor bathroom when a set of vaporous black arms reached out from a bathroom stall and tried to drag her in to no avail. It was effective enough to bring about a broken wrist, however, when Little Debby fell backwards onto the hard floor in reactionary shock. Five hours after that twelve-year-old Charlotte tumbled down a flight of stairs, fortunately not breaking any bones but would later swear to Sister Maria, “There was a ghost and it tried to get me.”
More and more reports of sightings started to pour in. Girl after girl, swearing on their Bibles, told stories more at home in a haunted house than in a brand new school. The very last report before the students moved to a new home came from Sister Maggie herself who swore to seeing the “glowing red eyes of the devil” watching her sleep.
The building remains vacant now. It’s a very popular sight with thrill-seekers and “ghost hunters” and has built a viral reputation for its ghost. No one knows exactly what it looks like but there are many rumors. Said to appear mostly as a shadow large enough to fill the corner of a room, people have provided many varying descriptions and details; often heard are “black arms”, “large claws”, “glowing red eyes”, and “looks like the devil.” Ironically less threatening is the name the thing is said to go by: Sophie.