[LINK TO PART ONE]
“I… really am… crazy.”
“Yes, Mr. Jones,” replied the woman with her Russian accent. She tilted her glasses at him. “That’s why I’m here. I am here to help you.”
The man in front of her was a middle-aged man. He wasn’t the kind you would expect to see in an insane asylum. He looked like one of your well-to-do sort of people –rotund, balding gray hair, light scruff that made it clear that he’d only been here a short time. He was the sort of man you’d expect to be seeing running a meeting, not sitting in a straight jacket here in front of her, grinning sardonically, head tilted forward as though he were a vulture staring at its meat.
“You really can’t help twisted,” he replied with a bit of a chuckle. “Not this kind. Some of these people, you know, they’re really not so much crazy as they are tormented. You dig deep into their past, you know, find some trauma that they had as a child or something that fermented and you work with that, but me – I don’t have anything like that.”
“No, sir? You just woke up crazy one day, no real reason?”
“Oh, I didn’t wake up like this. Something caused it – or rather someone.” He looked down in the way that a spiritual man would’ve looked up after saying “God”. “And that can’t be helped,” he continued. She shrugged it off.
“Well, let us get down to the bottom of it, then. What is it?”
“What is what?” he asked, still smiling. “My story?”
“Yes,” she replied coldly.
He leaned back in his chair with a chuckle. “You want to know how I got nuts, huh?” He nodded. “I can tell you. I can tell you all about that.” He took a deep sigh before he began.
“I was your average businessman. I had a trophy wife, some kids, a big house, a church I went to every Sunday – I lived the American dream. I was, shall we say, successful. I did a few shady deals every now and then. Most people do unless you’re one of those few who really make it to the top all by themselves. Wish I was like them, although they disgust me a bit inside, too…”
“Your story, sir,” the psychologist interrupted.
“Woman,” he yelled, “I will get to that!” He sighed and leaned back. “Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, moral businessmen. They’re not the main point of this. There was one day that started it off. A crazy goon had just gotten out of prison. It’s all over the news and such at this point, telling people to stay inside and as always the people who own a few guns in the county have it good. You always expect it to be someone else who gets the problem. But it was yours truly this time.
“He had my sister. She had him call me up, thinking maybe some money would convince him, I guess. But he was a psycho, and didn’t care about the money. He wanted that moment of fame where everyone knew about him. But I listened. I loved my sister, and I wanted to make sure she was safe. I brought the money to the location, all alone, no cops. I was desperate. I put my life over my sister’s at that point, very moral of me. The morality did me no good, as I found two cronies waiting out near my car when I got back. I got sucker-punched, and I woke up with your average long, frizzy-haired wide-eyed psycho staring me in the face.
“He told me to paint a sign of all things, it was like one of those really confusing nightmare sequences you have but barely remember in the morning. But I was desperate, and so I did what he said. I grabbed the paintbrush and began painting some words. I’ll never forget the words: ‘the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.’ One of those weird cryptic things. I wrote it with red paint, which made it look even worse. I don’t know what he was thinking, but after all, he’s crazy, right?
“I did what I didn’t think was right at the time and sent a signal, secretly dialing 9-1-1. He wanted attention and he was going to get it. But I got the sign finished, and just as I was about to speak, I felt the cold barrel of a gun at the back of my head. Trembling, I asked him where she was. That was when he smiled at me. ‘Didn’t you notice? Didn’t you notice your own sister?’ he asked. That was when I noticed the color of the paint. Blood red. It was human blood. I’d been painting the sign with her blood.
“It was at that moment, that all the things I’d learned in church didn’t matter anymore. I knew perhaps it would be better revenge to watch him rot in jail, but I wasn’t about to let that thought stop me. I took what I remembered from my karate as a child, took the gun from his hand and unloaded half the clip into his brain.
“And at that moment, I realized I had enjoyed that. I had enjoyed wiping his existence from earth, and I hadn’t minded sending him straight to Hell for what he had done. It was fun. I almost wanted him to come back to life so I could do it again and again. And then, out of nowhere, I had a voice commanding me to take out the anger on the cops, the asylum workers, everyone who should have been doing their job better and set this monster on the electric chair. They all deserved it, the voice told me. And I didn’t argue. The voices, they took over.
“When the cops came, it was me they had to deal with. I began using the rest of the clip to fire at the cops. When I was finally brought in, I was saved by way of the plea of insanity. It was correct, after all. Sanity is a very fragile thing. It’s like an egg. You drop that egg for a second and it’s…” He made a motion simulating an explosion. “…it’s gone.”
“And that is why I’m here. I dropped the egg, and I’ve never regretted it.”
The psychologist leaned back in her chair and relaxed. “How very interesting. So you believe these voices lead you on?”
“Yes, I believe they did,” he responded casually. His voice tone didn’t sound insane. It sounded calm, almost disturbingly so.
“You wouldn’t, perhaps, have heard voices in your head before this, would you?” she asked.
“Save my conscience, no.” His smile showed only in the corner of his mouth now. “But that’s not what you should be worried about. There’s something else here, in this asylum. There’s a presence, and it’s going to start killing the inmates in this building very soon.”
“Sir, you do not have to kill inmates to make me listen to you,” she answered calmly.
“I didn’t say it was me,” he answered. His face contorted oddly as he said this.
“Sir, if you have the name of a would-be killer, it would be smart to say who it is. There is great confidentiality in this room, no other inmate will know who told us. You will be safe.”
“I’m telling you, it’s not a person,” he restated, “It’s a presence.” He leaned in close. “Do you believe in spirits, madam?”
“No, I believe in what I see, and unless you show me one in the flesh I will not give it a second thought.”
“That is very unfortunate. Because that means you will never see it coming, and by the time you realize it’s not your psycho regular patient, it’s going to be too late.”
She tipped her glasses back fully onto her nose. She frowned slightly. “Sir, please do not threaten me. It will only make this harder on both of us.”
“Oh, I’m not threatening you,” he said. “I’m warning you. Be careful. You don’t want to find… it.”
She bared her way through the final parts of this interrogation. As she left, cackling laughter filled the halls. She turned to her patient, who was sitting as calmly as could be, eyebrows raised slightly in amusement, perhaps in an “I told you so” sort of manner. She shook a bit as she walked out quickly.
As she left the asylum, she noticed once again the Madonna statue that stood affront the asylum. It had originally been put there to keep the more religious patients calm, make them think there was an presence guarding them, but it only served to cause a freak-out among the ones who thought they were the devil incarnate. She smiled at such ridiculousness, but they were crazy, after all. Some had even claimed that it had tried to kill them.
She clicked her car keys. It madea faint “beep” as she headed toward her Alfa Romeo Montreal. As she did, she heard something, like footsteps on pavement. She turned around. She could not believe her eyes.
It looked as though the statue had tilted its face, ever so slightly, in her direction. That was enough talking with crazies for the day, she imagined, it was time to head home and get away from this nonsense. She began walking towards the car when she heard it again.
She turned around to see it had moved from the platform to the ground. She yelped, but perhaps it was some trick of one of the patients, which was honestly just as terrifying, as it meant one of them was out of their cells.
She walked backward towards her car, punching in the number on her phone as quickly as possible for the local police. She kept her eyes forward, looking out of the corner of her eye to make sure the numbers were correct. She kept another arm at the level of her eyes to ready herself for anything.
The phone rang. A voice answered it. “Hello, please state the nature of the emergency.”
“Yes,” she answered frantically but still quietly, “this is Dr. Genrich from the Jersey Sta…”
That was when she realized… she had taken her eyes off the statue.
She looked up.
It was a foot from her, hand raised towards her throat.
She screamed and rushed into the car, slamming the door behind her.
“Ma’am?” the operator asked.“Hello? Can you hear me?”
The statue was at the car door now, looking as though it was about to open the door. She screamed and put the car in reverse, getting out of there quickly.
“Yes,” she said into the phone, “Dr. Genrich from Jersey State Asylum. There’s something on the grounds, a patient, something, I don’t know. Send backup.”
She looked up again, seeing it having appeared in the driveway, its mouth open unnaturally wide as both arms reached for the car. She screamed again, driving around it with incredible reflexes.
“Send backup now!!” she yelled into the phone.
She sped out onto the road, looking back. She looked forward and then back again, hoping, praying, it wasn’t as fast as a car. But it stood there, looking as upset as a statue could look. One hand pointed down, the other hand pointed towards her. It stayed in that position each time she looked at it.
The next morning she had come in bright and early. She had nothing else to do. She had been having fitful nightmares the previous night. What had the statue meant when it had pointed down? Could any of this religion crap be true? She rethought that… stuff, not crap. She didn’t want to offend Him if this God really existed.
She was in a session with a patient who was normally very vegetable-like. He didn’t really respond to anything, just continually muttering repeated unexplainable phrases, including occasional references to him being cold no matter how they changed the temperature for him. He’d apparently murdered some couple, claiming to be a demon in human form. What nonsense, she thought.
But now something had changed.What was normally just the average cell was now spattered with blood and writings. She wasn’t really paying attention to the wall, trying to get her mind off of it and pay attention to her patient.
“How are you doing this morning?” she would ask him.
However, this time he looked at her with a face that clearly showed recognition. She raised an eyebrow. He was foaming at the mouth, but his words did not sound insane at all, even though they should have.
“Clara,” he said, in a voice that did not sound like his regular voice at all, “The beast. The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. Please don’t…”
At that point, he returned to his insane ways. His regular, high-pitched voice returned as he spewed what would normally be random phrases. This time, however, they were not random. She remembered them from her days in church as a child, long before she had become an atheist.
“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” he said, “Do not let the sun…”
She joined him. “…Go down while you are still angry, and do not give…”
He finished, sitting up in his seat wide-eyed. “…The devil a foothold.” He stared at her. “There is still time for the unbeliever.” He appeared deadly serious as he yelled the next words. “Don’t give him a foothold, Clara!”
She looked puzzled. “I don’t.”
“No, no!” he exclaimed. “You do! You do!” He tilted his face, his expression earnest. “It’s here! It’s in the room!” He whispered, “It’s with us!”
She stepped back and observed the walls. Above a bloody pentagram were the words: “The beast that ascendeth”. She wondered, had Jones said something to a fellow inmate?
She rushed from the cell as she heard his yells to her.
“Clara!! Don’t give him a foothold!!” he screamed. He heard a light sobbing from his cell.
She was sitting down with the head of the asylum now. It was a small room, a small glass window to her right.The head of the asylum, a big and bushy-mustached young man, sat down at a very large desk with his name on the front. Meanwhile, she sat in a smaller chair in front of him.
“So what seems to be the matter?” he asked, his hands folded in front of him.
“Sir, I believe there is a murderer in this asylum.”
“Certainly,” he admitted. “Many murderers find themselves here. What’s the issue?”
“No, sir,” she explained. “There is a murderer working in the asylum, slaughtering the patients.”
He leaned in close. “And you know this… how?”
She also leaned in. “There was blood all over one of my patient’s walls. That was no simple cut from the wrist that made that much blood. Someone is dead, and multiple patients are telling me the same. And I found one of our new ones…” she paused. “He had a gash across his neck. He’d been bled out.”
“You’ll have to show me the patient,” he said in clear serious tones. “I’m amazed this has gone on without our immediate knowledge. I’ll get the police involved, we’ll find our murderer man in no time.”
“That’s the thing, sir,” she said. “It’s not human.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Pardon me?”
She leaned in close, her eyes wide, their noses almost touching. “Sir, do you believe in demons?”
He remained calm. “No,” he said, pushing her face back with a finger, “But I do believe in overworked psychologists. Just yesterday we had police investigating our Madonna coming to life, and there was nothing. I think you are very good at your job, but you may need a break. Please, take the week off.”
He put a finger up to his lips.“No, trust me, Clara. You deserve this. Take the week off, please. We’ll get this figured out.”
She left the asylum that day, looking at the statue. It didn’t move. She sighed and drove home.
Upon arriving home, she dialed a number she had been given by an inmate before she left. He was a little kooky in the head, talking about people rising from the dead and such and how the whole world was going to end soon, but he did have one thing right – the number for a local reverend. He’d originally given it to her to attempt to get her “saved”, but now it was time for something else.
The phone rang for a bit before she heard a scratchy, tired voice on the other end.
“Hello?” asked the man.
“Yes,” she began, “is this Father Croce?”
“Pastor Croce,” he corrected, “but close enough. What’s the matter? Who is this?”
“This is Clara Genrich from the Jersey Asylum. I am calling to see if you do exorcisms.”
“An exorcism?” He chuckled lightly. “Sounds intriguing,” he replied, “but that wasn’t exactly in my training. People hardly believe in demon possession nowadays. It is real, though, you can trust me on that one.”
“Oh, yes, sir, I believe in demons now.” She paused. “I used to be an atheist. I don’t know if I’ll believe in your God just yet, but I believe in them.”
“Yes,” he said, “occasionally there is faith by sight.”
“I’m just wondering,” she asked,“if you could do one tomorrow at the Asylum? There’s been some crazy things going on, maybe you could, I don’t know, bless the asylum or something like that, anything, but soon.”
“Why are you so…” He paused. “Someone’s dead, aren’t they?”
She was quiet.
“Yes,” she said. “He was… one of my patients. He’d given me your number before he died.”
He sighed. “Jonathan. He’s the only one who would know that. I’d heard he’d been put there recently. He was a good guy before he… you know; went nuts.”
She nodded. She knew he couldn’t see, but she felt it right to do so.
“Will you be there tomorrow?”
“No,” she admitted, “I’ve been put on leave. They think I’m insane, too.”
“I don’t.” His voice sounded very soothing. “I can come over there in the morning, probably early. I’ll let them know your suggestion, and if they agree, they agree.”
“Thank you. How much…?”
“Money’s no option. Jonathan was a great camper back when I was a counselor there at the summer camp. I might as well do something besides his funeral.”
“Thank you,” she said.
She hung up.
He awoke from his slumber. The alarm clock glowed its red numbers in the darkness. 3:00. It was morning. He looked around at the inside of the house, smiling deviously. They wouldn’t be expecting this one. He checked himself out in the mirror. Not a bad body to choose, either. He laughed to himself.
He checked around for knives, guns, something to help in his plight. He would kill them all. If the virus spread, people would be flocking to churches, and that was a definite no-no from the one below. He would be seen as a hero, or rather, the one who’s body they stole would be a hero. And hopefully, if he kept this gig up, they would never learn of a way for him to be removed.
He found a knife – a butcher knife. Perfect for slicing necks. He grabbed the keys to this human’s car and turned them in the ignition. Well, this was a terrible vehicle. How on earth did this human get from place to place? Classics may have looked nice to human eyes, but they weren’t always much to drive in. He made his way to the Asylum.
Upon reaching the asylum, he looked up at the Madonna statue. She looked down at him disgustedly, but it wasn’t allowed to do anything this time, and it knew it. He laughed the cackling laugh that he’d done for that stupid psychologist earlier. No time to send shivers down her spine now.
He watched the door as it opened in front of him. He tiptoed through the halls, so not to wake up the patients as he went by. The lights began to flicker as he passed down the hall as stealthy as a black cat under a new moon. He passed by patient among patient until he found one in particular. He smiled a great, big, awful smile as the doors opened in front of him.
He walked in slowly and distinctly, putting his feet in places so as not to make a sound.
“Cold,” the patient murmured, “So cold.”
He chuckled to himself, realizing how soon that would be reality for him. He pulled the knife from his human shell’s pocket, raising it high in the air above him. Suddenly his victim’s eyes opened. His laugh had awakened him. The patient almost yelled before he placed his shell’s hand over the patient’s mouth. The patient’s eyes grew wide as they watched the knife come higher and higher.
“Yes,” he whispered to the patient. “You know me. And you’ll soon be wishing you’d done a better job of convincing her.”
The knife swung toward the patient’s neck. Suddenly a bright light came from the hall. The lights had turned on. He stopped the knife a centimeter from the patient’s neck.
“Dr. Clara Genrich,” said a familiar voice from behind him. It was that praying man she’d been talking to on the phone. He should have convinced her not to call!
He spun around, hiding the knife.“Oh, Pastor Croce!” he said with her voice, “You’re here very early, in fact. That’s not quite as early as I meant.”
“Why are you here?” The praying man asked raising an eyebrow.
He stared ahead, and started to speak before that despicable man interrupted him.
“I already know. You’ve let him gain a foothold, and I’m here to remove him like poison from a wound.” He drew a sword from his side and pointed its hilt in his direction.
“Fool,” he replied, “You can’t defeat me with physical…” It was then that he saw what was engraved on the sword – a cross. He screamed, his voice mixing with his shell’s voice. The demon began babbling in an angelic tongue and screaming obscenities in three earthly ones, one of them being English just to spite this man of God.
“I command you to come out of him!” yelled the holy man.
He… she… screamed.
Pastor Croce watched as the demon convulsed and yelled. He was surprised only a few of the patients had woken up. Perhaps they were used to nightly screaming. The demon looked straight into his eyes. He noticed the eyes had turned pure black.
“You’re going to have to work harder than that, saint!”
The lights shut off. When they turned back on, the possessed woman was gone from her regular spot. He looked around. The lights shut off again. When the lights returned once more, they began to flicker. The pastor looked around quickly, trying to remember that demons were not allowed to possess believers; but terror them, that they could do.
He looked to his right and saw the outline of her body. The lights flickered for a moment. She was smiling; her eyes still dark as night. She cackled before the lights turned out again. She was gone when they returned.
He began praying quickly now.
“The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit…” he heard from his right.
“Shall make war against them…” he heard from his left, far down the hall.
“And overcome them…” he heard from in front of him.
“And kill them!” he heard from behind.
He whipped around, ripped a bible from his coat. She wasn’t there. He held it high. “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ…”
“No!” he heard her yell. He was flung to the ground, the wind knocked out of him as she began screaming in his face, clawing at him, punching him. He put the bible in her face. She screeched, falling backward and clanging into the cell door. After recovering, she started to move unnaturally, crawling up the wall and above him, her outline nearly covering the flickering light. Her head spun around towards him, as an owl’s would. She cackled, a giant tongue coming out of her mouth.
“You may be able to fight me, saint,” she exclaimed, “but you cannot fight us all!”
The patients all around him began to open their eyes. Their cell doors slid open as they walked out, eyes black.She laughed, they all laughed. In the flickering light their bodies became unnatural, supernatural horrors, cackling and walking towards him, hands outstretched to murder him. He looked around, as the psychologist slowly drew the knife and began to let go of the ceiling she clung to.
She dropped towards him as he pulled a gun from his bible, launching it into her heart. She grabbed her heart with both hands, allowing him to dodge the knife and fling her to the ground. He lifted the bible again.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave these people!”
The people screamed and howled.
“In the name of Christ!” he repeated. The cross on the front seemed to almost shimmer in the darkness.
The people fell to the ground, unconscious.
Croce let out a long sigh. He wiped the blood from his face. He pulled out his phone, clicking some buttons and putting it to his ear.
“9-1-1?” he asked. “I’ve got a dead body down here.”
The police were on the scene soon, some crime scene tape was laid out, and officers flocked everywhere. It was probably the most unusual night of Croce’s career to date.
“Well,” said an officer, “We can barely make heads or tails of the security cameras, but it was clear that the killing was in self-defense.“ He chuckled. “That was pretty intense down there for a holy man.”
“Yeah,” Croce agreed. “Definitely that. Wasn’t expecting her at all.”
“Nobody expects crazy,” admitted the cop. “And sometimes they aren’t as crazy as they seem. One of them didn’t even walk out of his cell when all that was happening. He vouched for you by the way, in his weird way of doing so.”
Croce shook his head. “Oh, really, one stayed in? How’s he doing?”
“Cold,” said a man in his cell. There was dried blood behind him, still not cleaned from the earlier day. The words and the pentagram hung behind him as he lay on his side, shivering. And his eyes… there was something about his eyes…
“I feel so cold…”