The Bag SnatchersbyMSTarot©
To: Dr. Tomas McPherson,the chief of Psychiatric Medicine,
Tempest Medical-Anderson State Hospital.
From: Dr Victor Wilhelm, Director of Schizophrenic Research at
Saint Mary's Psychiatric Hospital.
Regarding: Dr. William Atwood, Case file: 17.173,359
Having reviewed the files and watched the video footage, I believe the diagnosis you proposed of delusional schizophrenia has been well established to date. In addition, I find it extremely disturbing that his delusions have a focus on children. For that reason, if no other, I judge him a danger to both himself and the public at large. I have begun the preparation for his arrival and will forward the necessary paperwork to you within twenty four hours.
I also agree with you that discretion is needed in this given that he was a member of the medical profession and that his 'psychosis' could bring harmful repercussions to the profession as a whole.
It is indeed a shame that so brilliant a mind could be lost to us, but the violent nature of his actions leads me to agree that permanent institutional care maybe his only recourse to ever regaining some part of his sanity.
Dr V. Wilhelm
"So Victor, we're getting a new patient?"
Looking up from the computer screen in my home office at my assistant I sighed. In the three years Jennifer had worked with me, I never seem to get used to her ability to walk with making a sound. The first six months she had scared me near to death; now I just found it mildly annoying.
"Yes. He should be arriving on the tenth. I've instructed Mason to get one of the isolation wards ready. I'm afraid he will be a bit violent at first." Sitting back from the screen, I picked up a pencil and absently tapped my left thumb with it. "Given time, I think we will be able to bring his aggressive tendency to an end, but even long term he may be a patient to keep... always... one eye on."
Reaching forward I tapped the mouse to send the E-mail, then moved the little arrow to close out that window. The video clip I had paused appeared from under it .
I nodded as I saw her cover her mouth with her hand. I clicked off the image but it is memory had burned a place just behind my eyebrows. Taking off my glasses I rubbed at the bridge of my nose. A sigh turned into a moan as her strong hands began to work at the muscles of my neck.
"Why don't you come back to bed? Let me give you a real back rub."
Her words spoken just by the side of my ear stirred the downy gray hairs. I grinned.
"You talked me into it."
Closing out the screen, I paused to watch her panty-clad ass as she crossed to the door. When she looked back, she saw the look on my face and grinned. Her hands dropped to the tiny bit of lace and cotton. She stepped out of them, and then let them drop.
"Maybe after the back rub I'll let you rub something for me."
Chuckling, I turned off the light and let the trail of her perfume guide my steps after her to my bedroom.
* * * *
"GET THEM OUT OF ME!"
"Get his feet."
"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET THEM OUT OF ME!"
"I got his arm, you get his feet."
"THEY'RE EATING ME FROM INSIDE!"
"Damn it! Watch his mouth! To hell with this! I don't care what the doc said, let us dope his ass."
"OH GOD, HAVE PITY ON ME! KILL ME OR GET THEM OUT!"
"Get his arm. You heard Dr. McPherson... Okay... I got his feet... We don't know what he's got already in his bloodstream. None of the tests are coming out readable. Whatever he took though doesn't seem to be wearing off."
"PLEASE, KILL ME!"
* * * *
"First interview with patient, Dr. William Atwood."
Taking the little recorder from by my mouth I handed my glasses to Miss Jennifer, and then my wallet, keys, watch and phone. I began to pull off my wedding ring only to feel the bare skin of my finger. I hoped for a second that she didn't see me do that, but the expression on her face said other wise. Memories of the betrayals, the guilt and my divorce flooded though me again. I swallowed down the guilty bile at what I had done, then brought the mic back to my mouth.
"Ninth of November, 2013, 10:45 AM."
With a sigh that only I heard, I nodded to the orderly. He unlocked the door in front of me, and I walked in as calmly as I could. It's an act that I had long perfected, born from the knowledge that the patient couldn't come past the red line on the floor no matter how determined they were. The cable restraint would see to that.
The image from the video flashed across my thoughts as I saw the wild shock of black hair. The eyes that looked like midnight pits in a face almost rictal it was so gaunt. They swung up from contemplating the floor to take in my face.
"I know you," he said softly. "We met at a conference once years ago. You gave a speech on Schizophrenia and new drug treatments to cure it. Sorry if I've forgotten the name. I've been a bit off my normal patterns of thought... of late."
The calm flatness of his tone was possibly more frighting than primal screams of rage would have been. That face shouldn't have been delivering words with that much sanity.
"That's quite alright, Dr. Atwood. I forget it myself at times. I'm Dr. Victor..."
"Wilhelm! Yes, now I remember. I would offer you my hand, but its a bit unavailable at the moment." His coal black gaze dropped to the white vest that was holding his arms crossed under his sternum.
"We might be able to work on that, Doctor, if you remain as stable as you seem now. I want..."
I paused and just observed as the laughter got the better of him and he began to cough. I tried not to let the disgust show at the greenish bile-like spit that was soon hanging from his bottom lip. After a moment of gasping breaths, he looked up at me from under his eyebrows.
"Do I look fucking stable to you doctor?" His grin, with those implausibly white teeth, split that wasted face. "If this is what stable looks like, then we need to open the doors and let all the lunatics out."
I calmly looked back at him, letting nothing of my inner thoughts show.
"I would like to ask you several questions, Dr. Atwood... may I call you William?" I watched his face as I said his name, trying to judge reactions. They will often give far more lead into the inner working of a deranged mind than words spoken. For the most part all I saw in his face was the resigned look of a man broken in some way, and who had given up on ever being fixed.
Slowly those eyes went to my face. I looked into those dark balls of torment and did my best not to flinch away from what I saw. Madness. Not simply some form of psychosis, but deeper, unsettling thoughts, running like a panting dog just behind that gaze.
"Ask your questions. Call me what you will. I'm rotting meat filled with the bastard children of an unnatural mating. What do I care what name you put to me?" he said softly.
"William... I would like to ask you about the... discoveries... you documented in your journal The ones that led up to the events of the thirty first."
A slow smirk gave his face a more evil look than I would have though possible. If not for the restraint, I would have fled the room and resumed this questioning from behind plexiglass.
"Why? You don't believe them? What difference does it make?" Looking away from me, he began a mindless pacing from side to side, the type I would not have found uncommon in a caged predatory cat. "Why would the mindless ravings of a Delusional Disordered Schizophrenic be of any meaning?"
Again the calm tone. The voice an emotionless monotone. Memories of the conference he spoke of came to me. Memories of me speaking to an extremely bright young man with a voice that rang with passion. This sad remnant of that man tore at my heart.
"They may help me with your diagnosis and help me find what combination of medications will best work towards a treatment for your problem."
"HAHAHAHAHAHA! BEST TREATMENT?" He paused in his pacing for only a moment. His eyes judging the distance between us and taking in the red line a good four feet in front of me. "How about a .357 placed just under my chin? That would be the prescription I would write for me."
"Well then, William, it's a good thing I'm your doctor and not yourself. That sounds like a permanent solution for what I hope will be a very temporary problem." I started to go on with my questioning but stopped when he looked at me suddenly.
"Very temporary. YOU have no idea how temporary. I can feel them growing in me constantly. They move and eat and find new places to nest. In the soft meat, in the red marrow, in every joint and vein. It won't be long now." His words faded off into a mumble.
"William? I want to ask you about the children. The ones you were stalking." I drove the question in hard and fast, not giving him time to think.
His head snapped around.
"Children? Did you not read what I wrote? You said you did! They were not children! I know I wrote that. I know I wrote that!"
"Yes, William, I did read it. You said they were some kind of... creature. A creature that disguises itself with Halloween costumes to trick or treat on Halloween night. That when they can't find enough homes giving out candy that they will snatch bags of candy from children."
"YES! Yes... they find old costumes. They dig in our trash for them every year. They get the discarded ones our children cast off because they out grew them. They take them and put them on like a snake using another snake's skin... snake skins and... and they use them the next year to get the candy they need!" his pacing speed doubled and then he stopped, almost falling and crouched down looking up at me. His head tilted, taking in my white coat. His eyes focused on the name tag.
Not blinking, his eyes stayed focused on my name.
I tried to distract him. Whatever thought was playing behind those eyes wasn't healthy. I slowly crouched down, my aching knees giving me pangs of guilt about the late nights I'd been spending with Jennifer.
"William... why do they need the candy? That wasn't in your journal." I asked.
"They need it so they can mate of course. They're like...like... like insects! The kind that eat their mates! The females..."
I watched him shudder in horrible, convulsive seizures for a second, and then panting he looked back at me.
"I followed two of them to their caves. They use our storm drains to access the surface. I... went in after them. They... they give the candy..."
"William, would you like to sit down? That doesn't look comfortable." I gestured to the way he was standing. The predatory nature of the crouch his body had taken on was far too easily read. I patted the padded floor. "Let's sit, and you can tell me your story. I'll listen. I promise."
"YOU... you'll listen?"
"You promise to really listen?" There was a desperate need to his question that shook me.
"One doctor to another, William. I promise."
He nodded and sat down. I noticed an involuntary rocking start within seconds.
"It was early October..." he began, and then swallowed. When he looked up at me his eyes went to my half-kneeling stance. I eased down onto the floor myself.
* * * *
Journal entry October 12, 2013
The events of last night are still fresh in my mind. They may always be. I was on my way home from work when pulling into the side parking lot of Walmart, my headlights caught the movement of what I took to be a small child climbing into the dumpster behind the 'Spirit Halloween' superstore.
Memories of my early years working in the battered women and kids' shelters awoke at that image. I slowed and pulled my car back around till my lights shown on it fully. I got out and walked over to the dumpster to offer the child some money for food and to try to get him or her some help.
When I lifted the lid and looked into it, what looked back at me sent me stumbling away to crash onto my butt on the pavement. The lid of the dumpster popped open, and trailing torn rubber masks and bits of costuming, a scurrying shadow leapt away into the deeper shadows. I was still backpedaling on my butt to try and get away from it when I saw that hideous face again, peeking around the corner of the dumpster. Then that torn mask was pulled over it, and it disappeared.
By the time I got to my car, my heart was in my throat, my whole body was in fight or flight mode, with flight being the most likely. I was a shaken wretch. I tore out the parking lot so fast I nearly wrecked my car. As it was, I ran the light going out and the next two as well. A police officer stopped me less than a quarter mile away.
He thought I was drunk given the hour and how badly I was shaking. He made me blow in a tube till he was satisfied that I was sober. He gave me a ticket and a warning of worse to follow if I didn't head straight home, but it was only half heard.
That grotesque face was all I could think of.
It took me days to get over that sight. Then I began to question what I had seen.
My health, always a concern since my diagnosis as a type 2 diabetic, took a downward turn. I was constantly having to check and adjust insulin. I took to carrying a bag of hard candy in my pocket at all times.
Who would think that something like that could save your life... and that it wouldn't be from a diabetic emergency.
Around the twentieth I saw these creatures a second time. It was very late at night I was off shift, again heading home, when I caught a flash of movement out the corner of my eye. I was sitting at a red light and just happened to see it come from behind a store and crawl into a storm sewer. Only the light playing off the sparkly fabric it was dragging after it gave it away.
Doubting my sanity I drove as quickly home as I could. I did not sleep that night no matter how exhausted I became. The next day I had locksmiths at my home adding extra locks and a security system. He joked about the fact I was doing this just before Halloween.
"Afraid of trick or treaters?"
That statement got me to thinking. Both times I had see these things they had been carrying something like Halloween costumes. The one at the parking lot had even pulled on the mask when it saw me looking at it.
* * * *
"Did you tell anyone about these things?" I asked him softly.
William looked up at me and after a second sneered.
"Would you have?" He smiled. "Think about what that would have been like. 'No really, I did. I did see a hideous monster about the size of a child."
I hid my sigh as I saw just how much this delusion had him in its grip.
"Please continue, William."
* * * *
Before the twenty ninth, by keeping my eyes open, I had just managed to catch sight of them once more, again by the 'Spirit Halloween' store's dumpster. This time there had been three of them together. They, working together, lifted the lid, and two slipped inside. They handed out torn fabric and trash to the one outside. Sitting in my car with headlights off and the doors locked, I watched.
Dragging the heaps of costuming, they shuffled off into the darkness, but again the glittery nature of the fabric gave them away. I saw them going up the slight hill behind the store, and then disappearing into the concrete drain channel that runs down the hill behind the store. Finding my courage, I got out the car, and followed.
I only just did see the last one of them going underground into the storm drain.
I didn't see them after that. No matter where or how I looked. I didn't see them.
Till I opened the door Halloween night with a bowl of candy!
* * * *
"It was the mask! That torn mask I had seen the first one pull over his face! When I opened my door, I recognized it in the back of the pack of the children I was handing out candy to." William looked up at me, his eyes wide. "There I was with handfuls of candy and all these smiling kids in Power Ranger costumes, My Little Princess outfits, and standing not three feet from them with an old cloth bag was a DEMON FROM HELL!"
"William. Calm down now." I made pacifying gestures with my hands. "Just be calm. I'm listening. Just tell your story."
Rocking back and forth, Dr Atwood slowly nodded.
"He walked up last and held out his dirty bag to me. He croaked out 'Trak Tret' It sounded for all the world like a child's voice, maybe one slurred with a speech impediment."
"What did you do?" I asked.
William looked up at me then, and I noticed a single tear running down his face.
"I gave him candy."
* * * *
My hand shaking, I dropped three pieces of orange and black wrapped taffy into the bag.
Shaking, I nodded and watched him go. The creature ran to the house next door and wormed its way into the back of the little group again. I watched as my neighbor laughed and handed out candy to all the kids.
And to that thing that just looked like a kid.
Grabbing my keys I locked my door and followed it. Just why I did that I don't know. Curiosity? A desire to make sure it didn't hurt the children? That desire to know the unknowable maybe? Every doctor has that, right?
House to house, block to block, this little pack of kids, with a few of their parents following along, made their way through my subdivision. I watched the young children running door to door and that 'THING' doing the best it could to copy them. It walked strange. Like a child with leg braces maybe. Images of Forrest Gump came to mind as I trailed after them.
Then I saw another one. It appeared from nearby and tried to join in. The first one hung back a bit and then there was this hissing sound that even twenty feet away I heard. It brought to mind the sound a hissing cockroach makes. I felt shivers even where I was.
The newcomer crouched and then, its ragged and torn pirate costume flapping, it darted into the pack of kids and grabbed two bags. With kids and parents howling in anger behind it, the thing ran around the side of the house and disappeared into the backyard. The sound of a dog barking from the backyard started and just as quickly stopped with a yelp of pain from the dog.
The first one was looking around, and I think it was then that it spotted me. It stood there for a second and then took off after the other one.
With the parents conversing angrily and deciding to call it a night, I managed to slip away in the dark. I went around the backyard across the empty driveway and into the thicket behind the fenced-in yard. The trees ran down into a little culvert, and at the end of it there was the familiar square opening.
Barely lit by the street lamps, I could see that there was a gathering of five or six of these things! Some were costumed. Others were not, but were trying to pull the costumes off the ones that were. They squabbled with each other in a frantic haste. Then I saw one of the ones from earlier. He came running through them, clutching his stolen bag to his chest. They all made that hissing sound, hearing it now brought more to mind the cicada's nightly song. Some tried to grab at him, and several followed him into the dark tunnel.
Hidden among the trees, I watched them coming and going till well after midnight. Costumes were ripped away from those returning, and sometimes bags and buckets of candy were fought over. All around me as the night got older, that sound of cicadas hissing got louder or faded. I sat shivering, fearing discovery, when I heard the leaves shifted by one of them. They never broke a stick or snapped a branch, just rustled the leaves, their feet shuffling with that awkward movement of theirs.
Then, on the nearby street I saw a police car come driving by. The officer had his spotlight on and was checking out the trees. The... 'things' saw this and tore off down their hole faster than Bugs Bunny.
It was as I stood up to go closer, that the bright spotlight from the car blinded me. I realized as he called out to me over his loud speaker what he had been doing with the spotlight on. He had been looking for me. Someone, probably one of the parents, had reported that a strange man had been following their group around, and then disappeared off into the woods.