Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

The Grin

Eon Wolfe

The moment the police officers discovered the brutally slaughtered bodies of the Leighs, they’d already made up their minds—clearly their daughter had killed them. It was a clear-cut case. But when she starts claiming, “It wasn’t me… it was the demon!” she’s sent to a mental institution and left under the close watch of David, Michelle, and Dr Hullinsworth. It isn’t long before things start to spin out of control, and they’re left fighting for their lives. Will they figure out a way to help Avita Leigh, or will they end up just like her parents?

Age Rating: 18+ (Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Extreme Violence/Gore, Torture, Violent Death)

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Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

The Grin

Eon Wolfe

The moment the police officers discovered the brutally slaughtered bodies of the Leighs, they’d already made up their minds—clearly their daughter had killed them. It was a clear-cut case. But when she starts claiming, “It wasn’t me… it was the demon!” she’s sent to a mental institution and left under the close watch of David, Michelle, and Dr Hullinsworth. It isn’t long before things start to spin out of control, and they’re left fighting for their lives. Will they figure out a way to help Avita Leigh, or will they end up just like her parents?

Age Rating: 18+ (Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Extreme Violence/Gore, Torture, Violent Death)

1: Day 1

The man clicked on the recorder. “Hello. This is Dr. Chris Hullinsworth here with patient 1005, a patient diagnosed with paranoia and schizophrenia.”

He set the recorder down and clamped his hands together, resting them on his desk. “How are you, Ms.…Leigh, isn’t it?”

“Yes…,” a small voice belonging to a small redheaded girl squeaked.

“Excellent! My memory is still in top condition!” Dr. Hullinsworth joked, then let out a forced laugh. This was his signature icebreaker for new patients. It usually received a dry chuckle.

However, this girl gave no reaction. Her eyes stared distantly at a spot on Dr. Hullinsworth’s desk.

He cleared his throat uncomfortably, then continued, “So, your older sister told doctors you weren’t having these…um…visions a couple of years ago.

“Do you know when they started?” he asked in a practiced, soothing voice.

The little redheaded girl stayed quiet.

The doctor’s long grayish beard and tall, slender physique reminded her of Santa Claus if he’d lost the jolly roundness.

But her little seven-year-old imagination couldn’t use this funny image to ease the void left inside her from that frightful night two years ago.

The stormy gray eyes and cute smile she’d had years ago were now replaced by a distant stare and a worried pout.

“Sweetheart, we can’t make you better if you don’t tell us anything.”

Nothing.

He sighed in defeat and clicked off the recorder. “Okay, you can go, I guess…,” Dr. Hullinsworth said, beaten by the way the little girl was shut off, her mental absence.

She hopped down from the chair and exited the room, never lifting her eyes off the wooden floor.

Once she reached the other side, a tall African American man and a dark-haired, fair-skinned woman met her. They were both dressed in lab coats and khaki pants. They led her down the hall to her room.

“You hungry, Avita?” the fair woman asked her with a heavy British accent.

“No, ma’am,” Avita replied sweetly.

“You want some water? Or juice?” the man asked.

“No, I just wanna go lay down…,” Avita said almost in a whisper.

“Okay…,” he said. For the rest of the short walk, no one said a word. Once they reached the door, the woman opened it.

Before Avita went in, the man knelt beside her. “All right, Avita. If you need anything…?”

“Just press the button,” she finished, giving him a weak smile.

“That’s my girl,” he said, giving her a warm smile and pat on the back. With that, she went inside, and both adults gave her one more look over before closing the door.

“I’m really worried about her, Michelle,” he said with a sigh.

“David, you know she’s a schizophrenic and a ’noid. Plus, she’s seven. She doesn’t know what’s happening right now,” Michelle replied. “Besides, she’s a strong girl.”

“I don’t know, Michelle. She seems so traumatized…,” David said.

“You would be too! I mean, she sees things, for God’s sake! Of course she’s traumatized,” Michelle replied.

“You know, rumor has it she killed her parents. So that might be why she won’t say much. Maybe she feels guilty.”

“I know. I’ve heard what they say, but look at her. She couldn’t harm a fly,” David stated.

He let out a big sigh, then checked his watch and added, “I think we should head back and see if Chris learned anything today.”

“I doubt it; this little girl is a clam,” Michelle said with a weak laugh, starting to head back to Dr. Hullinsworth’s office.

When they reached his doorway, David peeked in. Dr. Hullinsworth was sitting at his desk, hunched over, pulling at his graying brown hair.

“Chris?” David greeted softly. “You okay?”

“This case will be the death of me,” Chris mumbled.

“So I’m guessing the first day of examination didn’t go so hot?” Michelle joked.

Chris shook his head violently. “We barely have any information on her, and she’s mute. How do they expect me to do anything with this?”

“I’m seriously thinking it’s something more than a simple case of schizophrenia, Doctor,” David stated.

Surprised, Michelle snapped her head around to look at David.

Chris slowly raised his head, looking at David with sudden interest. “What would make you say that?”

“I’m saying something about her seems different from our other schizophrenia patients.”

“Well, we can’t just conclude anything based on her actions. This is a mental asylum, after all. If we’re going to make assumptions, we have to get some information out of her.”

“Well, what if me and Michelle could probe and get information?” David started.

“How do you propose you do that?” Chris was sitting upright, staring intently at David.

“Well, right now, she’s a young girl who’s obviously seen some tough things.

“She has no parents, and she’s in a new place with people she doesn’t know, who are trying to make her relive an obviously scary time for her,” David said.

“When she came to us, she was the talk of the Floradian Islands. She was known as the who murdered her parents when she was five years old.

“But I don’t think that’s the case. She’s a tiny, little girl who doesn’t seem to be able to kill a mosquito. But whether she did or not, that moment has left her with a case of PTSD.

“If we want to get any information about that or her visions, we have to get her out of her shell through trust.”

Chris didn’t reply for a really long time. He finally said, “You have a point.” He ran a hand through his hair, thinking some more.

“You want the case? You got it. She seems more comfortable around you guys, anyway.”

“Why do you say that?” David asked.

Chris again paused, then sighed. “Do you want to know why I actually have overseers?”

Michelle and David looked at each other in confusion, then back at Chris.

“Because there’s a ton of patients, and you don’t have time to care for them yourself?” Michelle answered.

“If that were the case, I’d hire other doctors,” Chris answered bluntly. “I’ll admit, though, it can be overwhelming being the only doctor at such a big institution.

“But I love children and want to help the mentally ill kids. I take this job seriously and would rather have it done slowly and right, rather than quickly and sloppily.

“I don’t want them to have to live their whole lives inside a dingy mental asylum. I do everything myself and try to help them gain a somewhat normal life.”

Chris paused momentarily, thinking of how to continue. “But, as a doctor, you instantly become a phobia to them. They see you as some kind of monster with syringes for fingers or something.

That is why I hire overseers, who are like protectors to them from the ‘big bad doctor.’

“You guys care for them, feed them, take them places. They naturally love you and see you as heroes.” He smiled to himself in thought, then looked at Michelle, then David, sighing.

“Anyhoo, I’m giving you two a week to find any pertinent information.”

“A week?” David interrupted, his voice exasperated.

“Let me finish,” Chris stated, causing David to immediately shut up. He continued, “If you guys can find any new information that could help, then I’ll hand the case over to you fully.

“If not, I’ll continue to be on the case, and you two will return to just being overseers.” He checked his watch.

“Now get out of my office and go do your job,” Chris said as he jokingly waved them off.

They turned to leave.

“I do want regular updates. I’m still on the case. Just now, I’m more like the supervisor instead of the lead investigator.” He laughed at his clever comparison.

David turned back. “Wait, Avita’s napping.”

“Oh, well, in that case…”

A loud beeping sound came from David’s belt, immediately stopping Chris from speaking. Everyone turned to David, watching a red light flash rapidly.

“Avita…,” David muttered. He turned immediately and swung open the door. He took off down the hallway, Michelle right on his tail.

They pushed past other overseers and patients walking along the hallways. “Move! Move! Emergency!” They took turns screaming, alerting everyone to move out of the way or get trampled.

Once they reached Avita’s room, David pulled the key card out of his pocket and waved it in front of the sensor. He threw open the door and gasped.

The room was beyond dark; the only light source was flooding in from the hall, creating a path of light in the center of the room.

Little glass shards twinkled on the floor, and the busted light bulb the shards had come from was still in the socket above.

David scanned the room for Avita. He found her hiding in the corner, tucked in the fetal position. She appeared to be sobbing, but when David and Michelle entered, her head shot up.

Her face was drenched in sweat and tears. Cuts lined her arm and legs. David and Michelle assumed they were from the glass.

As they quickly made their way over to her, they couldn’t stop their eyes from being drawn to the drawings all over the wall. Twisted and ominous were the only ways to describe them.

“Avita! Are you okay, sweetheart?” David reached out to touch the girl, but she flinched away, tucking her left arm behind her legs.

She didn’t speak, and her eyes were red from crying. She just looked at him, analyzing his face, it appeared.

“Avita, you pressed the button, didn’t you?”

She nodded.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Michelle asked, standing behind David. For the first time, she was genuinely worried about her.

“He scared me…,” she finally said, her voice soft and weak.

“Who? Who scared you?”

She didn’t reply this time.

“Did someone come in here?”

Still no answer; instead, her eyes drifted past the overseers to the farthest corner of the room.

David’s head snapped around, following her gaze. Nothing was there. His eyes then drifted back to the drawings.

He exchanged a glance with Michelle, their expressions a mixture of confusion and worry. David sighed and stood. “You stay here. I’ll examine the room.”

Michelle knelt next to Avita, pulling out bandages and beginning to tend to Avita’s cuts.

As David walked around the room, unease began to develop inside him. The drawings on the wall were dark and had an aura of evil.

They told a story, a story that no girl her age should have been able to capture in a drawing.

There was a drawing of a pig’s head, severed from its body, the spine and organs dangling.

In another drawing, a crowd of people ran from a beast, some shadowed figure.

These were two among a plethora of others.

“Interesting drawings, Avita…,” David started, his voice barely able to leave his lips.

Michelle continued to clean and cover her wounds, but even without looking, she felt the fear in David’s voice.

Avita hesitated before deciding to speak. “Thank you…,” she squeaked.

David continued to examine everything. near Avita’s bed. Scratched dementedly into the wall was HA HA HA HA HA HA. As he read it, he felt he could faintly hear the mad cackle.

It sounded absolutely horrid, even in its low, barely audible tone, unnerving him.

“David!” Michelle yelled, snapping him out of his short trance. He turned around and saw Michelle holding Avita’s left arm. It was the one she’d tucked away from David.

It was bleeding profusely, blood dripping down her arm and onto her dress. Avita’s eyes had drooped slightly, dazed and unable to focus. She’d lost a lot of blood.

David quickly ran over to the young girl and scooped her up in his arms. “Lead us and clear the way, Michelle,” David ordered as he held the girl. “Don’t worry, Avita.”

Michelle nodded and sprinted out the door, turning left, away from Chris’s office. David was right behind her, cradling Avita tightly against him.

Michelle cleared the way, pushing some people out of the way as nicely as she could and yelling at others.

By now, Avita was unconscious, her limp body bouncing as David sprinted, the blood dripping from her arm creating a crimson trail behind them.

David looked down at her, grief mixed with adrenaline pumping through him. He rounded a corner, his speed almost sending them both flying into the wall, but he managed.

“Almost there. Almost there,” David repeated, hoping Avita would hear him subconsciously.

He looked at her. There was a barely noticeable space between her upper and lower eyelids. Her mouth hung open, tiny lips parted but still turned down unhappily.

If she died now, she wouldn’t be at peace.

They continued to charge down the hallways for what felt like ages before they finally burst into the medical center.

Two nurses turned from a patient lying on a thin hospital bed. They looked at the worry-stricken faces of the overseers, then the bloodred arm of the young girl they carried.

“Oh God…,” the shorter nurse said.

“You continue dealing with him,” the taller nurse ordered the other, who grimaced slightly before returning to the patient.

“You two, place her on the bed over there.” He pointed to an open bed across the hall.

“Can you hurry? She’s lost a lot of blood already,” David pleaded as he set Avita down gently.

“I’ll do what I can,” he replied, pulling off his gloves. He slid on another pair and briskly walked over to them. He used a wet cloth to clean the blood off her arm, revealing a massive gash.

Michelle squealed and ducked her head into David. He put an arm around her comfortingly, but on the inside, he was the one who needed to be comforted.

“You two might want to sit down; this might take a bit,” the nurse stated while he examined the wound.

He then walked over to the counter against the back wall and opened a drawer. He reached in and began to pick through the various tools inside.

“Will she make it?” Michelle asked.

No reply came for a while. “It’s a possibility she will, but her pulse is weak. So it’s hard to tell right now.”

David’s heart ached, but he remained quiet.

The nurse finally closed the drawer.

“We’re gonna try to close up that gash and get some fluids inside her and go from there. Now it’d be best if you sat down for a while or went to get something to eat.”

“How long should this take?” Michelle asked.

“Around thirty minutes to an hour.” With that, he lifted his surgical mask over his face and turned to Avita.

David and Michelle lingered for a while. They didn’t want to leave her here, but at the same time, they didn’t want to watch him work on her, no matter how tame an operation it was.

David decided he couldn’t watch and went outside. Michelle followed. David rubbed his short black Afro in worry.

“Hey, don’t worry, Dave… It’ll be all right,” Michelle tried unconvincingly.

“If this is how things are going to go, my goatee is going to end up looking like Chris’s beard,” David muttered.

Michelle laughed weakly.

David rubbed his muscular arms anxiously. The faint cackle he’d heard earlier returned, causing a chill to shoot down his spine.

Michelle looked at David worryingly, but she didn’t know what to say.

She wasn’t as good with comforting people as David was. All the times he’d managed to make her smile when she was down, and she never could return the favor.

David could tell she was concerned; he was extremely skilled at reading people. But he knew her so well he could easily read her every emotion better than anyone else’s.

He could notice a slight alteration in the way she carried her short figure and easily tell if she was upset or not.

He felt like he would notice if her long, straight brunette hair that reached midway down her back was even a millimeter shorter.

He remembered back when she used to move self-consciously because she was unhappy with her not super chubby but not super skinny body size.

That was back when she wore makeup too; now she didn’t, and she had a lot more confidence in her appearance.

“But you know you shouldn’t worry about me,” he said and gave her a smile.

She concentrated on him. She was no mind-reading prodigy, but she tried her best. Even though she’d known David for years, he was an emotional blank.

She would observe his tall, muscular physique and get nothing. She would turn to his face, his goatee that made his cheeks appear fuller than they actually were, his dark eyes and full lips.

They all told the same blank-paged story.

“Fine, if you say so,” she said finally in frustrated worry. She checked her watch and sighed.

“How long has it been?” David asked.

“About ten minutes.”

He let out his own sigh before letting himself fall to the floor, leaning against the wall. Michelle sat down next to him, resting her head on his shoulder.

They sat in silence, patiently awaiting the outcome.

Avita watched as the door began to close. Her overseers slowly moved out of view, their warm smiles turning into half smiles and then nothing but a steel door in their place.

She sat there for a moment, staring at the door. Then she slowly began to wander her room. She’d called this place home now for almost four months, yet she still hadn’t felt “at home” in it.

She finally made it to her bed and hopped on it and lay down. She stared at the blank ceiling, and her mind began to wander.

She began to think about dogs, cats, unicorns, castles, kingdoms, then…the outside world. Would her sister ever get her out of this awful place? It had only been four months, but it felt like forever.

The worst part was she was never allowed to go outside. The only outside she could see was from the windows in the common room.

They hadn’t deemed her “situation” dangerous enough to cut her off from that, at least.

“Why am I even here?” she began to wonder. “Why do they keep saying I have schiza…sch…whatever they call it. What does it mean?”

Her thoughts were interrupted by a whisper. “Avita?”

“What, Oriah?” she responded, looking around for her friend.

“Do you wanna play?”

“I’m not in the mood.”

“Aww, but I’m bored…”

Avita sighed, then rolled out of bed. “What do you wanna do, then?”

There was a long pause. Avita began to wonder if she’d run off her only friend with her lack of enthusiasm and was alone again

“Aha. How about we draw something?” Oriah finally replied.

Avita got up and began to wander around her room, looking for some markers or crayons or even a piece of chalk.

Nothing.

“What are we gonna use?” Avita asked.

Another pause.

She continued to walk around, ending up in the middle of her room, “Oriah?” Avita called. She received her answer when the light bulb above her burst, the light around her disappearing instantly.

Darkness filled the space. Avita squealed, her skin cut in the darkness by falling glass. “Oriah! Why did you do that?” she scolded.

Tears of pain started flowing from her eyes as her arms, legs, and forehead began to feel the sting of the cuts.

Blood trickled down her skin as she began to rub her cuts in a desperate attempt to soothe the pain.

In the darkness, the silhouette of a figure could just be made out as it began to crawl out of the farthest corner.

Avita sniffled as she turned to look at it. “Why did you burst my light bulb?” she asked, squinting to see the dark figure.

“I’m sorry, friend,” it hissed, bending to pick up a shard of glass, then standing up.

It slowly wandered to one of the walls and began to etch something into it. The sound of glass scratching against concrete filled the air.

Avita walked over to her bed and turned on her night-light.

She then walked over to her friend and watched in wonder as he began to etch ominous pictures of dark woods and the night sky among words like darkness~ and ~help me~ on the wall.~

She stared as his pictures gradually became more elaborate and dark. His writings turned into barely legible scratches.

His drawings were barely able to be called drawings, but they were rather a two-year-old’s demented scribbles. He began to whimper and breathe heavily.

She quickly walked up to him and grabbed his arm. “Oriah, it’s okay!” she said as she tried to comfort him.

He let his hand fall to his side and stood motionless.

She squeezed his arm. “It’s okay,” she said soothingly.

He snapped around quickly, swinging his hand with the glass shard. The glass dug into her skin and slashed open a line in her forearm.

She screamed, the stinging sensation spreading. She looked down at her arm, her eyes wide, filling with tears as she watched the blood pour from the slash.

She peered up at him through blurry eyes and saw his head creepily tilted to the side. He watched her for a moment, unmoving. He was entranced at the dark-red color flowing from her olive skin.

In the back of her head, she could hear demented cackling. The cackles were psychotic and echoed loudly off the wall, drowning out the soft whimpering of her pained cries.

“Shut up,” Oriah shouted, and the cackling died down. He stepped toward her and knelt so he was eye level with her.

“Does it hurt? Does it sting? I hope it does, because this feeling right now is how you’re gonna feel soon if you keep pandering to these doctors here, thinking they actually care about you.

“By locking you up like some sort of zoo animal, you think they’re helping you, curing you?” He paused till he felt his question had registered in the young child’s mind.

“These people think you’re crazy, insane, dangerous. They think you seeing me is just some disease, that I’m not your real friend, but just a creation of some sort of false diagnosis.

“They don’t understand that I’m more real than any of them out here. They think they know you. They think they know what’s best for you. They want nothing more than to steal you away from me…from us.”

He then grabbed the young girl by her shoulders and pulled her toward where his mouth would’ve been. “I won’t let that happen; we won’t let that happen.” He then let her go.

Avita was scared. She backed away a few more steps.

Oriah stood up straight. “You will not disclose any information. Do you understand?!”

Avita nodded. She began to sweat from fear.

Oriah turned around to face the wall again. He stared at his work for a moment and didn’t say a word. He slowly bent down and picked up another piece of glass and again began to work on his drawings.

“You know…D-David and Michelle aren’t that bad,” she whispered.

Oriah clenched his fist, and all she could hear was glass crunching, then it was completely silent except for the dripping of blood from Oriah’s now cut fist. He sat there motionless for a moment.

Avita quickly realized her mistake, twitching slightly.

Oriah giggled. “Ah, the male and the female, huh? Is that their names?” he asked, still facing the wall.

“No!” she said looking away.

He quickly snapped around once again. She tried to run, but he was too fast.

He gripped her by the arm, blood staining the remaining clean skin. “Don’t lie to me; friends don’t lie to each other, do they?”

She shook her head, wincing from the pain of the cuts and his vice grip.

“So tell me! Is it or isn’t it their names?” he growled.

“Yes, that’s their names!” she whined.

He quickly released his grip and giggled. “Thank you,” he said and turned to his drawings, nodding.

Avita fell to the floor, holding her arm, her face full of sweat, blood, and tears. She could barely see now for the salt from her tears and sweat.

She wiped her face on her pink shirt, trying to clear her vision, but it was still blurry from blood loss. She searched her room, looking for her friend, but Oriah had already left.

She scooted herself to the corner with her good arm and began to cry. She was alone again, but this time it was worse.

“David…,” a distant voice called. “David!” it repeated louder.

David slowly peered upward and saw the nurse standing over him. “Is…is she all right?” David asked, exasperated, quickly rising to his feet.

He nodded, crossing his arms and leaning his shoulder against the wall. “Michelle’s already inside with her. He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.

David quickly brushed past the nurse and entered the small hospital room. “Avita? Avita? I’m here, honey.” David’s eyes drifted around the room in a panic.

His eyes scanned around, then locked when they saw the young girl on the hospital bed, her arm wrapped in a white bandage from her wrist to her elbow like a cast.

Above her, Michelle was running her hands through her red curls soothingly. Michelle looked awkward. She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the young girl.

As Avita heard the voice call for her, she blinked and looked around for its source. When she saw David briskly walking to her side, she smiled weakly to acknowledge she heard him.

David looked back at her, worried. “How you feeling?” He silently cringed at the clichéd question.

She shrugged gently.

“Are you hungry? We can go and get some food from the cafeteria, if you’d like,” Michelle said.

“I’m sorry; she can’t leave the room for at least a day. She’s too weak to walk on her own, and I’d just feel better if she remained here,” the nurse interrupted.

“Can we go fetch her something to eat and bring it back?” David suggested.

The nurse nodded.

“We’ll be back, Avita,” David said, hating to leave the girl so soon.

“Okay,” Avita muttered and closed her eyes, shifting into a more comfortable position.

David and Michelle lingered for a moment, watching the young child drift into what they hoped was a peaceful slumber before they began to head out.

“I’m glad she’s okay,” Michelle started.

“She’s not really okay, Michelle. I don’t think anyone in such a predicament would be,” he replied dryly.

“You know what I meant,” she stated. “I’m just glad she’s alive.”

“Me too,” he agreed. “We’re lucky we found her before she bled out.”

“Yeah. I wonder why she was hiding her arm, though.”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t think she tried to kill herself, do you?” she asked. “You know, from guilt or something.”

David’s eyes snapped toward hers, glaring daggers. His stare scolded her without the need for words.

Michelle immediately crawled into a proverbial shell, her lips sealing themselves as she looked away from his knifelike gaze.

They walked in silence for a while before Michelle tried again. They were only a few hallways away from the cafeteria at this point.

“What do you think she’ll want to eat?”

No response from David.

“What if she turns out to be vegan or something?” She chuckled to herself but didn’t get even a blink from him. “David, come on. I didn’t mean it earlier…”

“We’ll pick out something on the inside; and she’s not vegan, Michelle. She ate eggs this morning.”

“I meant vegetarian.”

“She also had bacon. She loves bacon, Michelle. You’d know that if you came to eat with us in the mornings, or even at lunch.”

“You know I don’t like the cafeteria food.”

“You could bring some food into the cafeteria…,” he muttered.

“Why are you being like this?”

“You claimed she tried to kill herself.”

“I apologized for that already. I didn’t really mean it, but we have to face the possibilities.”

“It’s like you don’t even know the girl!” David found himself screaming and paused. “Actually, you don’t know the girl…at all. Because you don’t care!” He was once again yelling.

“That’s a lie, and you know it.”

“What’s her favorite ice cream flavor?”

“Vanilla?”

“No, cookie dough. What’s her favorite color?”

“Blue?”

“Pink. What’s her favorite animal?”

“Easy, a brown bear, just like her stuffed teddy bear.”

“False. It’s actually the unicorn.”

“A unicorn isn’t even a real animal!”

David scoffed, speeding up his walk slightly. Michelle reached out and grabbed his wrist, and he turned around.

“You know, sometimes I worry about why you even took this job as an overseer, because it’s like you don’t even care about the children.”

“That’s not true, David…”

“Sometimes I think it would have been better for you to just continue your studies in college and take the job of a psychiatric doctor here or even at the health facility.”

Michelle felt nothing but pain as his words cut her down.

David looked over for only a moment before he tightened his lips and turned away, speeding up his walk again.

Once they reached the cafeteria, they walked straight up to the register and looked over the choices before settling on chicken nuggets and apple slices.

As they waited, Michelle tried to talk to him again but received a cold shoulder. When the food came out, David flashed Avita’s patient card. He grabbed the food and left the cafeteria.

When they reached the hallway, they stayed silent for the duration of the walk.

The door to the medical center was mysteriously closed. David hesitated before placing a hand on the handle, but a man called out to him, “Don’t go in there!”

David turned. “Why not?”

He just shook his head, his eyes clearly showing anxiety. He made his way toward the door, closing the gap between them.

David shook his head before opening the door. Michelle screamed, and David instinctively wrapped his arms around her in comfort.

The nurse slid a hand over his balding head, letting out a sigh. “I tried to warn you.”

On the floor, blood was splattered everywhere, small crimson droplets turning into puddles the closer they got to the source.

The smell of iron permeated the small room strongly, causing the duo to wrinkle their noses. David put a hand over his nose to block out the smell, peering inside to look for Avita.

She lay in the small bed, sound asleep, her head turned toward the wall. There was no blood on her or the white sheets she’d covered herself with.

Across the room from the sleeping child, the corpse of her nurse sat, head down against his chest.

Blood poured from a large slash in his neck, drenching his white lab coat. His eyes were drooped shut, his mouth dangling open eternally.

“Y-you… Did you do this?” David asked accusingly.

“Me? No, are you insane?” the shorter nurse asked.

“Then how do you explain that?” David gestured inside the room.

“I haven’t the slightest clue. I just left to turn over the other patient and his medication to his overseers, and I returned to this.

“I just returned from notifying Chris,” he claimed, but his eyes told a different story as they watched the young girl sleep.

David followed his gaze, then snapped back to the nurse, “I hope you aren’t thinking what I think you are.”

The nurse lowered his voice to a small whisper. “You’ve heard the rumors, haven’t you? I assume you have, being her overseers.”

“They aren’t true!” David shouted, causing Avita to stir. She rolled over to see the man across the room, covered in blood.

She whimpered softly, pushing herself to the opposite wall with her uninjured arm.

“Don’t be naive,” the duo heard the nurse call as they quickly went over to comfort the young girl, who had her face buried into the wall, tears of fear falling down her cheeks.

“Eh, whatever. I’m gonna go get the guards to come check this out.”

David attempted to wrap his arms around Avita, but she swiped him away and continued to cry.

He then gently pressed his hand on her back and rubbed softly. “Don’t worry, don’t worry. We’re here,” he soothed.

The girl continued to shake gently as she cried, the two never saying a word, just watching her cry. She never looked at them, but stared into the shadows against the wall.

Her red hair covered her face, and her heart beat with horrid memories.

The nurse soon returned with two short, chubby men dressed in black security suits on either side of him.

“We’re gonna need to ask you guys to leave the premises. This is now a crime scene,” one of the two guards claimed in a bored and uninterested tone.

The nurse checked his watch. “It’s time for you two to head home anyways.”

David peered at them, then back at Avita. She was finally calming down, but tears still formed in in the corners of her eyes. “Come on, Avita,” David said softly. “We need to go.”

Avita turned her head slowly, her eyes shut tight.

“Here, you can put your face against the side of my jacket so you won’t have to see,” he suggested.

She hesitated, not moving from what had become her safe haven in this hell.

“Here, I’ll be your eyes; don’t worry. You don’t have to look.” He slid his hand around her wrist and guided her off the bed.

She grabbed onto the sleeve of his coat with her other hand.

He let go of her wrist and let her pull his arm over her eyes, and the trio walked out of the little room, sliding past the nurse, who watched them leave.

As they rounded a corner at the end of the hall, Avita finally removed David’s arm, peering at the bland walls around her.

No posters, no pictures, no patterns. Only beige paint to the fake wooden baseboards.

David looked down at her emotionless young face. A sort of extreme apathy had replaced the earlier flowing emotions. Now they were once again suppressed.

The three rounded a few more corners in silence until they were outside her room. She waited for David to open the door, but he lingered. “I’m sorry we have to leave you again.”

She gave a weak smile.

“We’ll be back first thing in the morning.”

She nodded.

He let out a sigh before opening the door. She began to walk inside, disappearing into the darkness before Michelle stopped her.

“Your food,” she said and held out the bag of food they’d gotten her.

“I’m not hungry…,” she said, trailing off, and turned to head inside.

They peered inside and saw her silhouette getting smaller inside the room before sitting on her bed. It appeared she was staring at the small light that seeped onto her floor from the door.

David lingered a moment before he closed the door, letting her disappear. He paused and stared at the door before him, then he felt a hand on his shoulder. “David, we need to go see Chris.”

He turned and looked at her, stress visible on his face. He nodded, and they turned to head to Chris’s office.

Once they reached Dr. Hullinsworth’s office, David knocked softly. He peered at them through the glass and waved them in.

“You’ve really started off with a bang, haven’t you?” he greeted.

“Avita did not kill that man,” David stated defensively.

“I don’t think she did,” Chris stated.

David’s eyes involuntarily squinted.

“What do you think happened, then?” Michelle asked.

“I believe Owens did it.”

“The shorter nurse?” she asked.

“Yes. He’s been having trouble with his colleague’s ego and was upset that I wouldn’t transfer him to another floor,” Chris stated. He didn’t sound at all worried or surprised.

“So what now?” David asked.

“I’ll have to let him go.” His tone was flat. “It’s too bad. They were both good nurses.”

The two stared at him. His casual tone and body language unsettled them.

He fell back in his chair and let his hands fall into his lap. He looked at them through his glasses and let out a dramatically heavy sigh before checking his watch.

“Well, you two better be heading home before traffic backs up.”

“Uh, okay,” David began. “Well, night, Chris.”

“Yeah, night, Chris,” Michelle said.

“Night, you two.” Chris then stopped them. “Hey! I want you two here early tomorrow, okay?”

They both nodded as they exited.

When they left the room and made sure the door was closed, they began to walk down to the elevator.

“Well, that was…odd,” Michelle said.

“None of today has made any sense,” David said.

“Well, yeah. But I expected Chris to be a little more upset over the death of an employee…,” Michelle stated.

“Yeah—I mean yeah, at least be upset over the potential lawsuit,” he stated.

“Exactly, but no, he’s just talking about letting him go, which is outrageous, because if what he thinks is true, he’ll be a lot more than ‘let go,’” she said, her voice involuntarily rising.

David stayed quiet for a long time before he said what they were both thinking. “And what if he didn’t do what Chris thinks he did…?”

“Then who could have?”

“Don’t say it…”

“David, I don’t believe it either, but it’s a possibility that they’ll think so.”

“Then we just have to prove she didn’t do it.” He pointed behind them. “Or kill her parents.”

They reached the elevator and pressed the button for the garage. “How?” Michelle asked.

“By simply doing what we said we were going to do earlier.” He gave her a hard look. “We’re going to help this girl get out of here and live a normal life.”

A smile slowly developed across Michelle’s smooth cheeks as she saw the determination flash in David’s eyes.

“There’s the smile!” he exclaimed, giving one back as the elevator stopped on the ground floor. The doors slid open, revealing the parking garage.

Around them, cars filled every spot. It was Friday. Every overseer worked late on Fridays, stressfully working, trying to make it so they could go home earlier on Saturday.

That was, everyone but David and Michelle, who actually didn’t mind being at work and even enjoyed it.

“Well me and ‘the smile’ are going to head home now,” Michelle joked weakly, pointing at her mouth. “See you in the morning, and drive safe.”

“I always do,” David said, waving to Michelle before turning in the opposite direction and heading to his car.

Michelle watched him walk for a while before heading to her car.

On the way to his apartment, David drove his old, beat-up car with the windows rolled down, letting the cool night breeze circulate.

The radio blasted new pop songs as he sped down the surprisingly empty road. “Must be a full moon!” David joked to himself, trying to clear his head from the day.

He looked above him at the completely black sky, in search of the invisible orb. “Hmm, must be a new moon.” He shrugged. “Time for a new lunar cycle.”

Michelle was ever so slightly unnerved by the completely nonexistent Friday night traffic.

It usually took her close to an hour to get home on Fridays, but tonight she hit every green light and managed to get home in a little over thirty minutes.

She pulled into her parents’ driveway and turned off the car, then made her way to the door. She tried the knob, which easily twisted, and opened the door.

She shook her head and let out a frustrated sigh. “Guys, you really need to stop leaving the door unlocked.”

There was no reply.

“Guys?”

Still silence.

A feeling of fear settled over her. She quickly set her keys on a hook next to the door and stormed straight up the staircase to the second floor.

She made her way to her parents’ bedroom and flung open the door. It banged into the wall as it swung.

Her father, a chubby man, basically flew out of the bed, his flabby arms swinging in every direction like something out of a Chinese martial arts movie.

He tried futilely to stand up, but instead, he caught his foot on the bedsheet and tumbled out of bed, kicking his wife with his free foot in the process.

His wife immediately shot up, grunting in pain. She observed the unusual situation, holding her side.

She saw her husband, half naked in his underwear, rolling on the floor and holding his back. She then looked up and saw her daughter standing in the doorway, frantic and confused.

“Mum? Dad?” Michelle started slowly, embarrassed for being so drastic with her actions.

“Michelle? Have you lost your mind?” her mom asked in a British accent similar to her own.

“You better have some grand story to explain you busting in our room at God knows what time like that,” her dad added, stumbling to his feet. He had a gruff voice with a heavy British accent as well.

“You left the door unlocked, and when I called your names, you didn’t answer,” Michelle defended.

“Well, as you can see, we were obviously sound asleep before you woke us up by busting in our room like an officer on a drug bust.”

Michelle tried to think of something to come back with, but the more she thought, the more she began to see how ridiculous her actions had been.

“Now, Michelle, we’re glad you’re worried about us,” her mother started.

“Speak for yourself,” her father interrupted.

Her mother ignored the statement and continued, “But you can’t bust in our room like that, love. You really need to stop being so paranoid,” her mother said.

“I mean, you can’t even live on your own as a twenty-two-year-old,” her father muttered. Her mother reached over and put her hand on her husband’s shoulder, slightly digging her nails into his skin.

He winced and gritted his teeth.

“What your father is trying to say is we love having you here. And you can live with us as long as you want. You just need to stop being so paranoid all the time.

“We can’t have you busting in here like one of your patients who’s just escaped and is on the run. You could give us a heart attack.” She gave Michelle a smile.

“Or a visit to the chiropractor,” her father interjected, stretching his back and letting out a grunt.

Her mother rolled her eyes. “Dinner is in the refrigerator. Warm it up and let us get back to sleep.”

Michelle’s cheeks were burning red, and she still couldn’t speak. There was nothing to say.

She’d just busted inside her parents room in a panic, injuring both her mother and her father in the process.

This further validated her father’s belief that if she ever tried to be independent, she’d never make it. She silently nodded and slowly exited, closing the door gently behind her.

She heard her father make an unintelligible noise before finally saying in something just above a whisper, “There’s a dent in the wall too! This child…”

David pulled up to his apartment complex and parked in front of his apartment. He turned his car off and hesitated. He usually had to park farther back in the lot.

However, tonight it was empty except for a few cars here and there. He shrugged it off, not putting too much thought into it, and proceeded up the staircase to his room.

He entered his bedroom and made his nightly call to his parents back in America, then boiled himself some noodles for dinner.

Afterward, he changed into his pajamas and fell into an eerily quiet slumber.

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