by Thadd Presley
Jack’s mind screamed for him to leave, to run away — this was an evil place –and never return, but he couldn’t look away. The red shock of hair, which hung from the skull in clumps, was too hideous to be anything but real.
“My God, Adam, is that a little girl?” Jack’s voice was only a whisper. “I mean, she can’t be real?”
“No, she can’t be.” He took a small breath, and silence filled the apartment while both men stood silently looking at the skeleton. “But, she is.”
Adam was praying, but also trying not to comprehend that things like this happened all over the world. He didn’t want to know the evils that men wrought.
Jack stood beside him looking at the shackled child in disbelief. His mind halted at the implications, but he was once an evil man himself and knew too well the terrible things the minds of men brought into existence. Men kill innocent people every day. I am a murder myself, he thought.
As Adam prayed, trying to forget the image before him, Jack saw more and more of the room’s contents: a long, black stain ran down the wall behind the skeleton and another black stain was under the small writing desk. The wooden chair, was covered in the same blackness stain, broken to pieces under the desk.
The girl’s screams came to Jack, suddenly. He could hear a woman crying behind the screams. He could see what happened in that room. He was forced to watch.
The black stain, which covered a large portion of the wall, was blood that had dripped from the girl’s shackled wrists. Just a flash of the terrible events showed him enough for an eternity: the girl hanging in the shackles, crying softly, pulling at her own wrists. He saw the blood breaking through the skin, running down her white arms. Her wild eyes darting around, watching, her fear of being trapped… of being unable to escape before she was to die.
The bruises running up her arm had been put there by the woman who now wept for the little girl. The woman was much older than his friend Adam. She had beat the girl earlier with a broomstick and burned her with a hot poker, first sticking the poker to the girl’s legs, which began to blister immediately. Then the broomstick was used on rest of her. The girl screamed and cried as she was beat.
The words flashed in his mind. Help Me!
He knew the little girl’s fate better than he knew his own father’s face. Someone had tortured this girl, long and hard, until the girl found it necessary to saw her wrists on the very shackles that imprisoned her. He closed his eyes to the pain she felt. He didn’t want to see anymore. But, the pain and loneliness of the girl pushed in on his mind.
She was beaten severely before being put into the shackles and hung on the wall to starve to death and hang for eternity, but she ended the misery of hunger by finishing the job herself.
As he pushed the scene out of his head, his eyes fell upon an open book on the desk. From what he could see, it was hand written and in a terrible state of decay. The book interested Jack very much. He had to have to look.
“Do you think anyone knows,” Jack asked, starting into the room.
“No, please. Don’t go in there.” Adam backed away from the room.
“Don’t leave me,” Jack pleaded and grabbed the old man’s wrist. “I think there’s…I see –”
“We have to call the police, somebody.”
“But, there’s something else? If I can just get closer –”
“Jack, please don’t.”
“I have to. You don’t understand. They called me. It was this girl that called out to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it was her. She knew my name.”
Fear filled Adam. He didn’t believe in ghosts, and he certainly didn’t want to hang around while was happening. To even know this had happened ,long ago was to much to face. To know that there was someone in the world that did this sort of thing… and something that called to people and knocked on their walls at night. He tried to force it away, but he couldn’t deny what was right in front of him. This was too real.
Adam grasped his left arm.
Adam’s fall brought his head down on the electric heater and a red stain started to bloom on the carpet.
Jack quickly knelt beside his friend so he could check his heart, but before he could: We need you, Jack. Now.
Jack’s head jerked up, afraid he might actually see the skeleton moving. But his eyes adjusted to the gray figure he’d seen on the floor and realized another skeleton lay there. He could only see the legs sticking out from under the bed. He believed, for no obvious reason, that this was the remains of a woman. ‘We need you, now’ was enough to convince him. He got up so he could see better. Her dress had disintegrated over the years, and her bones had partially turned to dust. But, the two voices had been women, and these were they. He was sure of that.
But, this woman had been stuffed under the bed when she died.
How do you know that? He asked himself these questions knowing that there was no answer. He’d never heard about any of this. How did he know that the skeleton under the bed was even a woman.
It didn’t matter. He just knew. He’d seen it. She was the woman who used the poker to burn the little girl. It washer who beat the girl with the broomstick and put shackles on her wrists.
Again, a vision flooded his mind. This woman, who’d been killed and stuffed under the bed, spoken with a man who sat at the desk writing in the old book. He saw them together, speaking softly to each other so the girl couldn’t hear them.
* * * * *
“It’ll only be one more night,” the man said. He wore a tall hat and sat at the desk. The woman stood beside him. “Tomorrow will be the full moon. We can send her back through the gate.”
* * * * *
Suddenly, Adam’s phone rang again and caused Jack to jump. He looked down and saw the blood flower still growing under Adam’s head. He bent down to search for the ringing phone and tripped over Adam’s foot. He fell hard against the wall. Pain shot from his shoulder into his neck. It caught him off guard, and he found himself on the floor beside Adam.
Seeing the thick pool of blood and smelling the metallic odor, made him realize that it was much more serious than he’d first thought. Adam wasn’t just injured on the outside, the man’s eyes told him he might’ve had a heart attack. He knew he had to do something to help him. The fact of two ancient homicides, less than fifteen feet away, meant nothing to him. The only thing that mattered was Adam.
Moving as quickly as he dared, he felt through Adam’s pockets for the phone. Finally he found it inside the pocket of Adam’s jacket, but not before it had stopped ringing. He forced his eyes to focus on the screen and pressed the buttons to show the received calls. Pushing the ‘send’ button on the first listing, the phone automatically dialed. It was Adam’s wife.
“Where are you…” she started without saying hello. “Lydia, it’s Jack.”
Fucking Bitch, he thought, shut up a minute and listen. And she was a fucking bitch. He’d known her for a year now, and his opinion of her never improved. She was a nag, a pessimist, and she always needed control over everything. She never gave Adam credit for what he had achieved, neither with the ministry, nor his work with the rehab center. She constantly put others down to make herself look good. Jack realized the way she was as soon as he had met her properly.
“Please, Lydia shut up.”
He heard her gasp and took the moment to keep talking. “I got a big problem here.”
“Where is Adam? Put him on the phone.”
“Did you hear me? I have a problem and I need you too…” The phone clicked in his ear.
Perfect, he thought. Just perfect. What a bitch. He looked at Adam. “You’re gonna make it pal. Just hold in there. You’ll make it just fine.” But the blood on the floor tried to tell him different.
The phone rang in his hand and he jumped. He knew it was Lydia. He answered, “Adam is hurt Lydia. I need you to listen.” She was silent. Good, he thought. “I’m calling the ambulance, but I need you here. Do you know where my apartment is?”
She was silent. “Do you….”
“Come downtown. It’s right across the tracks at the Wartzburg building…”
“But…” Then she started to cry.
“Are you coming?”
The phone clicked in his ear. He lowered his hand and just looked at the phone. He didn’t call 911 right away. He couldn’t. What would he say? He didn’t know how to begin. He wanted to make sure Adam was awake when they got there, so he could explain the situation himself.
When Adam fell, the sharp corner of the heater punched into his skull. The bone was cracked open, but at least his brains weren’t o
zing out. Jack couldn’t leave him to bleed to death, so he pulled the quilt off the couch and put it under his head. Then, he pulled it tight and redoubled it, tying a bow with the corners to hold it in place. Tucking more of the blanket under the bow, he tightened it to be more of a tourniquet. He thought about using his belt to tighten it further, but didn’t think it would work unless he put it around his neck.
A cold draft forced his mind back to the dusty room and the decayed skeletons. He turned to close the hallway door and stop the draft, but it wasn’t open. The cold was coming from the room.
Help us, Jack.
Jack felt himself go a bit light headed, but he tried to stand up anyway. It was a maneuver he couldn’t manage without leaning against the wall. The cold was bitter and overwhelming. He felt it seep into him, chilling his bones, draining him of his thoughts and energy.
He slowly moved toward the room, admiring his handy work on the broken door frame. I’ll have to fix that, he thought and found it funny. The light-headed feeling had returned, or had never passed, and he found himself leaning on the wall again for support. His thoughts were on the woman and child. He thought of Caroline.
What state was her body in, he wondered. Probably rotting with worms eating away at her.
Suddenly, he was filled with an urge to enter the room, to get close to the girl. It was a feeling he found absurd, but, none the less, could not fight. The room and the girl were the most important things in his life now. He had to help her anyway he could.
The phone rang again. He knew it was Lydia, but didn’t see the point of answering it. She was either on her way or not, simple as that. He couldn’t make the situation any more clear to her. He’d forgotten to call 911 and wanted to, although, now he didn’t think he could. He had so much he had to do. They need me, he thought. They need my help.
He found strength in wanting to help them; enough to walk out into the hallway. He took the hammer out of his tool bag.
Moving slowly, walked across the threshold back into his room. Upon entering, the cold blasted through him again. In his mind’s eye, he saw the girl screaming and the woman crying. He wanted to help them. But he didn’t know how.
He did know that they would tell him.
It was so cold in the room that Jack shivered violently, and his teeth chattered.
* * * * *
A vivid scene embraced him. He found it impossible not to see the brutality of it all, and he knew he would never unsee it. It filled his aching mind. The man with the tall hat was beating the girl. She was chained to the wall, crying for him to stop. He was a brute of a man. He put his hands around the girl’s throat and choked her until her face turned blue. Then he laughed at her when she came to.
Then the scene changed and the man was dressed in a blood drenched smock, leaning over the red-haired child. She was tied down to a wooden table with leather straps. Jack watched as she screamed and kicked. The table rocked with her strength, and the man held a knife to her stomach, chanting in a language Jack couldn’t recognize. His voice rose in wild octaves, words he had never heard filled the room. It sent chills through him.
The man took the large blade and pulled it smoothly across her abdomen. It was a quick, deep cut that gaped open; his hand moved with the precise skill of a surgeon, but this man was no doctor.
The skin pulled apart on its own, and he reached into the incision, lifting out a gray deformed child. Blood dripped from the man’ s hands as he continued to pull. She screamed, and Jack tried to block the image.
Help us, Jack. We need you.
More and more the man pulled, until finally the large hands and feet of the child were free from her. A thick organ came into view, plopping to the floor. It was her placenta. The blood ran black, spilling from the table onto the floor along with some of her intestines. Strings of black and green hung from the child’s large head. As the man tugged, the girl kicked her legs and flexed her arms. She never stopped twisting on the table. His hands were back inside of her now, groping around. He had placed the baby on the table beside her.
Then, he smiled and the girl stopped moving. “It is working,” he told someone. Jack couldn’t see who else was in the room. “The gate is opening. Soon we will have the gate open and have our daughter back.” He withdrew his hands from the girl’s abdomen and shook them off, splattering the table with tiny clots of red and black. “A life for a life,” he told the unseen listener. “This girl for our girl.”
Jack could stand no more. This had to stop seeing this. He searched his mind for a way to save her; he realized he’d just seen an abortion. But the child was not human.
Then, as if answering the questions forming in his mind, the girl looked toward Jack. “We need you,” she said and passed out.
The man in the blood covered smock shouted. “Soon Tabitha will return. Our daughter will be with us again.”