Monday, October 29, 2012

A halloween inspired Tale


The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes. That was the first thing Detective Kelly noticed as watched her. Her eyes were glazed over, the pupils constricted down to pinpricks. “She’s on drugs.”  He noted to himself as she began to speak , her voice oddly detached and calm despite the fact her hands never stopped moving beneath the table she sat behind.

“It started out as an itch.  That’s all, just a simple itch, the kind you get when you walk into a spider’s web and can feel it brushing against your face. Even after it’s gone, you still feel it there, like a whisper on your skin that just won’t go away.  But now the itch is so much more than that, and I can’t stop scratching, rubbing, clawing, the itching won’t stop, and I’m afraid of what is underneath the itch. Underneath it is something else, something dark, and it wants to be free.”

She smiled again, a grim smile that didn’t seem to move past the twitch of her lips. “But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  It’s just that my time is running out, and I want this story told before I’m gone. I’d been working the emergency room for nearly ten years when he came in, and we could hear him scream and thrash on the stretcher before they even got him through the doors. He’d been restrained, but he was still clawing at his arms, his chest, anywhere he could get a hold of his own body, and oh dear god what he had done to himself.  Blood seeped out over his clothes; his hands were covered in it. Everywhere I looked his skin was flayed away to the raw flesh beneath, blood and pus weeping from everywhere. We filled him so full of tranquilizers he should have stopped breathing, but instead it only took him down to a fitful doze,  and even then his fingers never stopped twitching, trying to scratch."

"We spent half the night patching him up, suturing what we could, bandaging what we couldn’t and wondering all the time what possessed someone to do this to themselves. If I had known the answer to that question, I’d never have touched him. I’d of broken every commitment I’d had as a nurse and left him to rip himself to pieces if only I could have guessed the truth.  But I didn’t, I couldn’t have, and now it’s far too late to worry about if only’s and what ifs.” The woman sighed and quieted for a long moment, as if trying to focus. When she started again her voice was less detached, the grim smile gone. 

“When my shift ended I headed home and tried to get his screams out of my head as I showered, scrubbing my skin until it was pink and almost sore.  I still wonder now, if that was the start of it.  I’ll never be sure but I think so. I’d worn gloves and a mask, but somehow, someway, I’d been infected.”  Her voice filled with pain and grief for a moment, her eyes narrowing as she sighed.  “Remember that will you?  Gloves and masks aren’t enough protection, its important. After the shower I went to sleep, hell I think I was out before my head hit the pillow, and I slept, truly slept, for the last time.”

“It was the itching that woke me up.  Even before I opened my eyes I realized my left hand was scratching at my left, brushing and rubbing at some phantom sensation that wouldn’t go away.  I figured I had slept on it funny, that once the blood started flowing properly it would stop.  Only it didn’t, not really.  It was a pretty normal day you know, housework, errands, I grabbed lunch with a friend, heard all about her new boyfriend. Totally normal stuff, but all the while, my fingers kept worrying at my hand. Rub, scratch, rub, scratch.   I grabbed some ice packs, more cortisone, went to bed.  The itching wouldn’t stop.  I barely dozed, tossing and turning as I tried to find an escape."

"Each time I awoke, I found my fingers busy again, but now it wasn’t just my hand that itched, it was my arm.  More dozing, more itching,  it spread again,  higher, further,  it was poison ivy,  ants crawling over your skin,  pins and needles,  only it was all of them and none of them at the same time.  I took a sleeping pill and went back to bed, and when I woke up, I was bleeding.  Just a little bit, a gouge on the back of my hand, a furrow where a nail had dug too deep.  It was then I remembered the patient.  Funny how he’d slipped my mind until then, all that horror, locked away so I didn’t have to think about it. Maybe that’s part of it, I don’t know, the forgetting until its too late.”

She shrugged, sighed, the hands beneath the table seemed to be moving more now,  there was a gleam in the glassy orbs of her eyes that made Detective Kelly unease. Every time she mentioned the itching he felt his own skin crawl in sympathy.

“Next morning I got up and called work, asked about that patient. That’s when they told me he was gone. Ripped free of restraints that should have been able to hold down a rhino, but he’d gotten loose anyway, no one was sure how.  He’d vanished, leaving a trail of bloody skin and torn clothing behind him. Cops hadn’t been able to find him. Doctors swore he’d been so doped up he shouldn’t have been able to move, never mind walk out the door, but he had. They’d found the girl later, outside in the hospital parking lot.  I saw it on the news while I paced around my apartment, I paced and scratched as I heard them describe the girl’s murder. They said she’d been mutilated, torn apart, body was scattered over several parking stalls, no suspects in custody.” She smiled then, a new smile, with an icy certainty to it.

 “I know now, not all those body parts were hers, were they? Some of them belonged to him, the missing man.”  She switched back to her story again, but now there was a tremor in her voice.  “The itching got worse, maddeningly worse.  I couldn’t stop scratching anymore, and I knew I was tearing myself up, but I didn’t feel it.  That’s the strangest part, the lack of pain.  There was, there is…only the need to scratch. It’s been two nights now, since he was brought in.  There’s been another murder, a family out stargazing in their backyard last night. It’s nearly forty miles north of here, but I know it was him.”  She paused, took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, her pupils were wider, the glassy look fading to something more frantic. 

 “I can feel him in the back of my mind, another sort of itch, a whisper in the dark.  I’ll be following after him soon, I can feel it. Not yet though.  I have a little time left. But not much. The drugs slowed it down a little, but not enough. Never enough to stop the itching, but I never went mad with it, not like him.”

It was then that the woman on the video tape stood up and shed the bath robe she’d been wearing, letting the camera capture the damage she’s done to her body, damage that was hidden until now.  Gashes and tears marked her skin, her arms raw and bloody from finger to shoulder.  Blood wept down her breasts and her body was painted in gore. “I can feel it, under my skin.  It’s coming out, and when it comes I’ll be gone and only it will remain."

 She tore at her flesh again, unflinching as she ripped strings of flesh away.  Don’t let them touch you, don’t let their blood or fluids contaminate you, or you’re lost too.”   She tore loose another ribbon of skin with nails that suddenly looked too long, too sharp.  “I’m going now, I’m sorry for what it’s going to do when I’m gone.”  

 The speakers filled the room with a screaming howl that made the detective flinch. The camera was knocked over, the video only capturing shadows and blood as it sprayed over the lens, and then something passed across the screen and was gone.  He replayed it, once, twice, a third time before he froze it at just the right moment.  There on the blood splattered screen was a clawed foot, black as night and covered with fur.  He looked from the video tape to the crime scene he stands in, his eyes tracking the blood stained paw prints that lead away from a gory pile of shredded clothes and other, unnameable things and out a broken window, into the moonlit night.