“I don’t want to live in terror no more,” Reina says as the psychologist writes with a pen on notepad paper. He doesn’t look up as he asks, “Are you still having the hallucinations?”
“They’re not hallucinations,” she says in response, adjusting slightly in her chair, feeling awkward, and he notes her discomfort.
“The Grim Reaper does not exist,” he says pointedly, “he’s a figment of your imagination.”
“He’s not a Grim Reaper,” she says calmly with short locks of dirty blond hair tasseled around her face, obscuring her hazel eyes. “He’s much worse. Am I free to go?” She asks, wanting to leap from her chair.
“I cannot keep you here if you do not want to stay,” he says, nudging his wire frame spectacles.
She exits hastily and ambles down the hall – removing her gown; she lets it fall to the linoleum floor.
“Why have you dropped your clothing, Miss Skye?”
Reina turns toward him, fully nude, and exposes her bare chest where gouges, like deep lacerations, extend from her chest to her thighs.
“You have inflicted wounds upon yourself, Miss Skye; you have self-injurious behavior as a result of your delusions,” he says and calls to the head nurse of the asylum. A large woman with pent-up red hair places Reina’s gown over her shoulders, “Come on, Miss Lady,” she says, guiding Reina to her room. Behind her, the head nurse locks the door. Reina finds herself surrounded by four barren walls where a metal bed frame is dressed with a flat mat and a single pillow. Her bed has no sheets, for fear of her suicidal tendencies – the lacerations on her body – they say, are self-inflicted, but Reina’s nails are trimmed and filed weekly.
“I’m not sure how she’s doing it,” Doctor Griffith says to the head nurse, Mrs. Marietta Truman, who assists Reina in all her medical examinations.
“We will have to see what the medical doctor says,” Mrs. Truman admits, shaking her head followed by a sigh.
“When is he due in?”
“Nine o’ Clock AM,” Mrs. Truman says, and meanders down the hall toward the nurses’ station, while Reina crouches in the corner of her insipid quarters, pulling her knees into her chest.
“Enter night,” she whispers and crawls under her bed – she has become numb to the gouges that pierce her flesh – the bleeding has stopped – her wounds are three days old, and Doctor Iseman has not seen her in a week.
In Reina’s cold, deep trance she hums a song softly to herself – a soothing sound of butterflies fluttering their wings enters her mind and she stands to her feet to dance, to touch them, and she extends her fingers to the musty air. She stands on the tips of her toes when the piercing, jarring sound of tires makes her shudder and the butterflies vanish; she finds herself back onto the floor – praying the beast of night will not enter her nightmares tonight.
The monitor of the security office turns to static and the nurse shakes her head as the officer taps on the glass. The night watchman shrugs.
“Faulty equipment again tonight,” Nurse Truman chuckles at her desk adjacent from the security office that is visible through glass.
In the next moment, Reina can be seen standing at the center of the hallway; her head is slumped, dangling off her shoulder with an awkward kink in her neck. Her eyes are rolled back to a visible milky white and she foams at the mouth.
“How did you get out of your room, Miss Lady?” The head nurse says, and quickly goes to her attention with the night watchman tailing behind.
“You know this place used to house tuberculosis patients,” he sniffles, “the residents here say the place is haunted.”
“The place ain’t haunted,” Nurse Truman says, placing her arm around Reina, “she’s just having a seizure – and sleep walking.” She approaches Reina’s room, marked one-eleven, and tries to open the door but finds it still locked.
“How in the world did you get out a locked door?” Nurse Truman says bewildered. She scuffles for her keys in her pocket and locates the one she needs and turns the lock; inside, she notices an odor like rancid socks or worse.
“A bird must’ve gotten into the ceiling and died,” she says, helping Reina to her mat on the metal bed frame and lays her down, rolling her to her side, checking her vitals with the time on her wrist watch. Reina appears clear and has gone back to sleep. Nurse Truman locks the door again, and peers at Reina through the glass.
“This is a maximum security asylum,” she says, a hand upon her hip, “tell me how a patient can get out of her room like that.”
The night officer shrugs, going back to view the monitor; the halls are all clear – the static was a mild curiosity, and he sits back in his chair with a cup of hot coffee to settle his mild interest.
In the daylight hours, Doctor Iseman meets Doctor Griffith.
“The auto accident left her brain fragmented,” Doctor Griffith explains, “she’s experiencing the phenomena of a split brain where one half of the brain does not correspond with the other. Essentially, she will sleep walk, appearing fully awake, and will have no memory of the experience.”
“The wounds on her body must be a result of the same phenomena…”
“How is that situation improving?”
“They have been cleaned and dressed, but no need for stitches.”
“The phenomena can account for the lapse of memory recall, but how do we account for the wounds?”
“Certainly the nurse here did not secure the door – I mean, she may have locked it but perhaps she did not seal the door tight as it needed to be.”
“Perhaps,” Doctor Griffith sighs, “I’ll be sure to address the possibility.”
In the common room, Reina chews on her fingers and takes her pills from another nurse who asks her to lift her tongue – no medication is left in her mouth, and the nurse pushes the cart on to the next patient. An elderly woman wearing a blue robe passes by, appearing in her eighties, and parts her lips, “He visits you doesn’t he?” She cackles, grinning while bearing tarnished teeth and her breath smells of medicine like chalk and cherries.
Reina doesn’t speak.
“He stopped visiting me,” she hisses, “now that he has you.” She laughs slightly.
“Stop!” Reina screams, “You shut up!” The elderly woman moves toward the couch where other patients watch the GRIT channel: John Wayne in cowboy gear has the seniors feeling chipper which soothes the nurses, that is, until Reina is discovered screaming in the corner.
“Take him back!” She hollers, “You mean old hog!”
“Miss Lady,” Nurse Truman waltzes into the room, “stop that impoliteness!” She says with soft, pouty lips.
“She knows him,” Reina says, stammering.
“No, she don’t neither,” Nurse Truman goes on, “she is toying with you. But you let that go. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Ruby?”
“I didn’t say a word,” Mrs. Ruby says, tossing her hand.
The common area turns to dark as the lights flicker.
“He’s here. Now.” Reina says slowly “That’s him coming through…”
“That’s nothing more than a power surge, Miss Skye,” Nurse Truman throws her hands onto her hips, but Reina begins to tremble.
“He’s alive like electricity in the night sky,” the old woman whispers, and Reina begins to shake, “He is in you. He is in your soul.”
“Shut up!” Reina screams again, “You old mule!”
“He’ll be in your dreams tonight,” Mrs. Ruby darts a crooked finger.
Then, the lights flicker once more before turning to black. The final nightmare begins.
She had a premonition not to get into his car. Her stomach churned and turned her demise to grief; “I think you’re going to die,” she said as he opened the passenger door.
“What?” He sniggered.
“I don’t know,” she said solemnly, “I just have a bad feeling.”
“Well shake it off and get into the car,” he said, and she huffed.
He closed the driver side door and smiled a toothy grin and her once vibrant eyes looked dim.
“Don’t worry so much,” he said with the start of the engine.
They drove into the night, heading for the college party on Fifth Avenue. His speed reached eighty and his window was down; the freeway was busy with congestion and taillights in view.
“Maybe you should slow down,” she said politely, and he grimaced.
“Cool your lid. Nothing is going to happen,” he said and revved the engine to his 69 Corvette – a love for cars he carried, reminiscent of his father who died behind the wheel of a Shelby GT 500; he was on his way to a gas station when a hauler loaded with contemporary cars pulled onto the two lane freeway making a left turn when his vehicle went straight through the center – taking off his roof.
The screech of tires sounded alarming, jarring the sound of metal; a head on collision, after a black Impala crossed three lanes of traffic because the driver awoke only a moment too late. The right side of the vehicle made an impact with the left side of the Corvette; the Corvette lay on its side after rolling several times. Glass shimmered in the street like diamonds in a mine. His head was bleeding and a large cut across his face was dusted with road debris.
“You’re a witch,” he said faintly, moaning with a sharp pain to his side. “You’re just like my mother – when she told my father not to drive,” he uttered with the last of his breath that lingered with a sigh and he rolled his eyes back and gave her the finger; “Fuck you,” he breathed in a last, subtle exhale.
Reina feels the spot on her head where she hit the windshield and with the lights turned back on she finds herself faced with the elderly woman, “Before you came he always blamed me,” she says, and turns her back away from Reina, away into the night, and in Reina’s dreams he has always been the phantom.
© Candace Meredith
Excerpt from the book “Lost Souls”
Available at Amazon.com
About the Author
Candace Meredith earned her Bachelor of Science degree in English Creative Writing from Frostburg State University in the spring of 2008. Her works of poetry, photography and fiction have appeared in literary journals Bittersweet, Backbone Mountain Review, Anthology 17, Greensilk Journal and The Broadkill Review. She currently works as a Freelance Editor for an online publishing company and has earned her Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMC) from West Virginia University.