• T.R. Slauf

The Devil Within: Teaser Chapter

In 1886, widowed psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Grey, Questions his sanity as mysterious events plague his hospital. A new patient tempts his mortal soul, while a maniac mocks his pain. When his eldest daughter is mutilated, he searches for answers, allowing his vengeance to feed his wrath.


He reaches his breaking point when a patient dies in a freak accident, and a maniac set loose on the grounds.


Has he gone mad as his patients, or is something more sinister afoot?



August 14, 1886

Lonely screams and empty moans echoed off the tile floors, filling the empty corridor. Solitary rays of golden morning sunlight fought their way through the small windows. Dust danced in the light between the long, thin shadows where the bars on the windows obscured the pure golden rays from entering. Nothing pure belonged in here.


Opening the grate in the thick door, Wilhelm was assaulted by the stench of stale urine and unwashed bodies. The inhabitant of the room looked up. His eyes were wide. Red lines shot across the whites and encroached upon the blue irises. Crooked and rotting teeth showed brown beneath his manic smile. The patient began to laugh, thick strings of saliva falling down his dirty face.


“Morning, Doctor!” His body trembled on the sleeping mat. “What good soul are we to torture today?”


“I have told you before, Mr. Dunham, it is not torture. I am trying to cure you of your madness.”

Checking the notes in his hand, Wilhelm spoke in an even tone. “Your treatments today are scheduled for just before lunch, so I suggest you eat your entire breakfast this morning, Mr. Dunham.”


“Treatment? What treatment am I to receive at your hands today, Dr. Grey?”


“Based on your reactions to my previous treatments, I believe a cold treatment will do you well.”


“No!” The patient lunged at Wilhelm through the door, beating himself against it. “No! No, I don’t want it!”


“Please compose yourself, Mr. Dunham. If you continue this behavior, I will have no choice but to have the orderlies restrain you.”


The patient wailed. Howls of a dying animal filled the corridors. He threw himself at his door, smashing his face against the cold metal grate. Crimson pooled on his brow, trickling down the side of his face.


Wilhelm yelled for the orderlies. The patient needed to be restrained immediately before he caused further damage to himself. Wilhelm watched from the hallway through the open door while the orderlies wrestled his patient into a restrictive coat.


Once satisfied his patient was in good hands, Wilhelm continued down the corridor. The voice of Mr. Dunham followed him down the empty halls.


“Devil! You’re the devil, Dr. Grey! The devil!”


Turning his notes over Wilhelm stopped, opening the grate on the last door of his rounds.


“Good morning, Mr. Strewer. Will you be eating for us today?”


The young man cleared his throat, a glop of brown phlegm landing on the tile floor.

“Hello, my good Doctor. I hear you upset my dear neighbor today. Would you like me to kill him for you?”


“No, Mr. Strewer. You are not to lay a hand on any of the other patients or the hospital staff. You know this.”


“Oh, but Doctor, I’ve been so good during my treatments. And-and yesterday, I ate my meals!”


“Yes, you did. You made good progress yesterday, Mr. Strewer.”


“Such good progress I deserve a reward!” The patient came to the door, pressing his eager face into the metal bars. “Oh yes, Doctor, a reward…”


“Mr. Strewer,” Wilhelm warned, fixing his patient with a hard glare.


“Please, Doctor. Oh please, just one.”


“Mr. Strewer, the only reason the district attorney didn’t see you at the end of a rope is because I implored him to let me treat you.” The patient whined in response, rubbing his face against the grate. “While in my care, if you are to harm anyone the district attorney will force me to relinquish you to be hanged. Is that what you want, Mr. Strewer?”


“I want!” the patient wailed in frustration. “I want to cut flesh! I want to pull the soft, warm meat from its bones. To feel the warmth of life, thick and crimson, flowing over me once again.”


“Mr. Strewer, you were making such good progress. Don’t spoil it now.”


The patient’s pleas morphed into incoherent cries of bitter anger.


Exasperated, Wilhelm hung his head. Taking a quick glance at his notes he turned away from his patient, walking back to his office. Leaving the cold tile halls of the second floor, he traveled past rooms of dark woods and rich carpeting on the ground level. In one were large chairs surrounded by shelves of books. In another were small tables and a large phonograph. The library and parlor were always empty at this hour.


Passing the empty rooms, Wilhelm walked the halls until they again turned to sterile tiles, barred windows, and lonely screams. Deep in the back western corner sat a closet that was converted into an office. Just large enough for a desk, the room was stuffed with floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets.

Unlocking the door, Wilhelm returned the key to his breast pocket and checked his pocket watch. It was almost half-past seven; he had time enough to make notes before breakfast would be ready.


Finishing his notes from morning rounds, Wilhelm organized his letters. Stopping, he re-read a telegram from the night before. A new patient was to arrive today after lunch—Miss Mary Clemmons.

Her parents contacted Wilhelm three months ago with concerns over their seventeen-year-old daughter. After hearing their testimonies and interviewing the girl, Wilhelm determined her to have a case of female hysteria.


The girl refused to entertain the suitors her parents presented to her—rather, she seemed more interested in their neighbor’s negro man. She also exhibited frequent bouts of mood swings, restlessness, and headaches. At the height of the parents’ anguish, they caught her with her skirts up and her hand inside herself. Alas, this was nothing Wilhelm hadn’t seen before.


Regardless of their status, female hysteria was common amongst young women. They let their fanciful desires overwhelm them. Too much for the delicate female disposition to handle, it would lead them into the beds of men unsuited to their stations and the occasional negro servant. In some extreme cases, the woman wound up in each other’s beds.


Wilhelm often wondered what drove these good women to such hysterias. After a short deliberation, he concluded it must have something to do with their delicate female will. Women were not built strong enough to house such desires as these; their strengths lay in the physical of childbearing. In the case of Miss Clemmons simple home treatments hadn’t helped, so he recommended she stay at the hospital for a more thorough treatment.


Wilhelm tucked the telegraph into his left pocket so as not to forget to greet her at the gates when she arrived. Locking his office door, Wilhelm left the hospital for the main house and breakfast.


Coming to the doors of the dining room, a grin spread across Wilhelm’s face. He could hear the joyous ring of youthful laughter through the dark wood. Opening the door, his two daughters rushed to greet him. Wrapping his arm around them, Wilhelm pulled them in close for hugs. He kissed them each on the forehead and bid them good morning.


“Good morning, Miss Claire.” Wilhelm bowed his head at the girls’ nanny. “Thank you for getting the girls ready for breakfast. You are free to go now.”


“Thank you, Dr. Grey.” Claire bowed her head, leaving to eat her breakfast in the staff dining hall.


Sitting at the head of the table, Wilhelm loving watched his children. Edith would be eight that fall; she wore her hair in rag curls every night so her long auburn hair fell in ringlets down her back. Agnes just turned six that spring, her thick black hair falling in unruly waves. They both looked so much like their mother it made his heart ache.


With an overwhelming sense of fatherly pride, Wilhelm listened to his daughters talk. They told him in detail the lessons they were learning from Miss Claire and what books they were reading. Edith favored a book of poetry by an Emily Dickinson, while Agnes wondered at an atlas of the African continent.


Wilhelm would have been content to spend the entirety of his day listening to his beloved children, but Miss Claire came to fetch them to start lessons. Kissing them each on the forehead, Wilhelm returned to his hospital.


Walking across the yard, Wilhelm looked up at the brilliant blue skies and thanked God for his daughters and his land.


The asylum sat nestled in the green hills of the Vermont countryside. Wilhelm’s uncle and benefactor, Jeffrey, died while Wilhelm was in his last year of medical school. Being wife-less and childless, Jeffrey left the estate and his life’s fortune to Wilhelm.


Upon finishing his studies, Wilhelm used his new fortune to build a hospital for the insane. The estate mansion adjacent to the hospital was large enough to house Wilhelm and his family and his workers. Wilhelm always thought it prudent to keep his work separate from his home life, forbidding his children even go near the hospital or to enter it under any circumstances.


Returning to his office, Wilhelm donned his white coat and retrieved his notes for the morning treatments. Locking the door behind him, he navigated the maze of halls to the basement. Instead of the warm, dark wood that lined the rest of the building, the treatment room was cold and covered in sterile grey tiles.


Narrow windows lined the high celling, letting in slivers of natural light across the stained tiles. The floor of the treatment room held several gurneys, tables full of equipment, and a large water bath. An observation deck ran across the back wall, overlooking the room that was seemingly always full of scurrying nurses, orderlies, and reluctant patients.


This morning’s reluctant patient was Mrs. Penna. A widow since age forty-one, she developed a case of hysteria at age sixty-seven. The Penna family was not of high birth, and had little money to their name.


In the spring of 1885 Wilhelm received a package of letters from Mrs. Penna’s four daughters and one son, detailing their mother’s illness. Wilhelm’s heart broke, and he offered her treatment at no cost to her children. He’d always made a point of keeping one or two beds open for those who could not afford treatment.


Crossing the tiled floor to Mrs. Penna Wilhelm was assaulted by a waft of putrid air and alcohol, making his nose burn and his stomach churn.


Mrs. Penna sat slumped in her wheelchair, hanging heavy against her restraints. Her face was worn with deep creases of a harsh life, the dim of her eyes hiding beneath her deep sockets. Her frail arms were folded across her sunken chest, her mouth a hard line. Her silver hair stuck out at odd angles, refusing to be tamed.


Sighing to himself, Wilhelm wondered what hardships this woman endured during her life to cause such hysteria. His previous attempts to cure her had proven to be futile; hypnotism, photograph association, and hysterectomy had all failed his patient. Wilhelm grew frustrated with himself. Desperate to cure his patient, he began trying new methods.


Sitting next to her, Wilhelm gave a wave of his hand. The nurses and orderlies paused, leaning against the side walls.


“Good morning, Mrs. Penna. How are you feeling?”


“I’m hungry,” the old woman snarled, baring her yellowed teeth at him, her eyes hard with disdain.


“This treatment needs to be performed on an empty stomach. You will be given food as soon as we are done.” Wilhelm stared into her cloudy eyes. “Is there anything you would like to discuss before we begin? Your children perhaps? Only five of nine survived into adulthood.”


“Hmph. Lucky I says.”


“Why is that?”


“Death is lucky.”


“Do you wish to die?”


“If it’s between death and bein’ here, I choose death.”


“Why do you want to die, Mrs. Penna?”


“Why should I want to live?” Her weathered face turned hard, flushing with anger.


“The treatments will help you, Mrs. Penna. You just have to let us treat you.”


“No!” Her eyes sparked with vigor and fury. She thrashed against her restraints, screaming wildly.

“No. No. Don’t touch me!” The orderlies rushed forward, grabbing her shoulders they kept her still. “Get your filthy hands off me. Unhand me, you devils!”


The orderlies hoisted her small frame from the wheelchair with ease. Placing her on the table, they secured her for the treatment. Wilhelm fastened a leather strap across her forehead. Mrs. Penna continued to howl.


Wilhelm turned on the machine, adjusting the voltage to the precise measurements he’d calculated the night before. Grasping the cold handles, he turned to his patient. His heart ached at the sight of the tortured soul before him.


“Hold still, Mrs. Penna. I’ll make you better.” Wilhelm placed the nodes on his patient’s temples. Her eyes shuttered back, exposing the veiny whites of the delicate orbs. He watched the anger leave her face, the healing electricity melting away the troubles of her illness.


With the treatment complete the orderlies lifted the patient’s listless body from the treatment table, strapping her back into the wheelchair. The old woman lay slack, her eyes glassy and a thick trail of drool falling from her mouth.


Wilhelm placed a gentle hand on her frail shoulder.


“Have faith, Mrs. Penna. The treatment will help. I will cure you… eventually.” Wilhelm turned to the nurses. “Take her to her room, give her a meal. Once she’s awake and eaten, see if she wants to take a walk in the gardens.”


The nurses took Mrs. Penna out the treatment doors, rolling her back into the main hospital. The other workers cleaned up and prepared for the next patient. Wilhelm oversaw two more shock treatments, then prepared for the next treatments. He ordered the bath filled with ice from the kitchens and then topped off with water.


Mr. Dunham was wheeled in, and Wilhelm sighed at the sight of him. Still in the restrictive coat, he had a cut on his nose and stiches over his left eye from the morning’s tantrum.


He inspected the stitches and offered his compliments to the nurse who completed them. “Mr. Dunham, are you ready for your treatments?”


His patient’s lower lip trembled, his face wet with sorrow.


“I am trying to help you, Mr. Dunham.”


Wilhelm nodded to the orderlies, putting the treatment into motion. Mr. Dunham was removed from his wheelchair and carried to the edge of the bath. Upon reaching the highchair Mr. Dunham began to yell, throwing his body against the orderlies, desperate to escape.


Wilhelm checked the thermometer of the bath, 0℃.


“Is he ready?” Wilhelm asked the orderlies, pulling out his pocket watch.


“Yes, Dr. Grey.”


“I advise you to hold your breath, Mr. Dunham.”


The orderlies pulled a large lever beside the highchair. With a terrible groan of gears, the chair lifted and plunged backwards into the icy waters. Wilhelm counted the seconds ticking by.


32

33

34

35


“Up.” The gears creaked and cranked, lifting the chair to its starting position, allowing Mr. Dunham to breathe.


Sputtering, Mr. Dunham shivered against his restraints. Wilhelm started counting again. For the treatment to be successful, the patient need not fully recover.


13

14

15


“Down.” With a sharp intake of breath, Mr. Dunham was plunged back into the frozen waters.

Wilhelm began to count again. The ticking of his watch filled the silent room.


43

44

45


“Up.” Coughing and gasping filled Wilhelm’s ears and he counted again.


13

14

15


“Down.” Wilhelm counted while the desperate face of his patient disappeared beneath the ice.


54

55


“Up.”


Wilhelm counted to 15. “Down.”

Wilhelm counted to 65. “Up.”

Wilhelm counted to 10. “Down.”

Wilhelm counted to 65. “Up.”


Looking up from his pocket watch, Wilhelm inspected Mr. Dunham. His patient’s lips were turning blue and his skin was a sickly grey. His eyes were bulging and bloodshot, while his shivering lips sucked in air.


“He’s done for today. Take him back to his room, feed him lunch. Don’t let him outside until he changes into dry clothes, and give him blankets. We don’t want him catching cold.”


The orderlies nodded. Unhooking Mr. Dunham from the highchair, they placed him in the wheelchair. Wrapping him in towels, the nurses took him away.


Wilhelm saw to two more ice treatments after Mr. Dunham.


While the orderlies and nurses cleaned up the treatment room, Wilhelm gathered his notes and thanked his staff for their good work and left the treatment room for his study.


Unlocking the door, Wilhelm removed his white coat and set to work on his patient notes. He kept scrupulous journals detailing each patient’s progress while in his care. His small office was lined with file cabinets full of patient journals. On some days when working late and overwhelmed, he grew claustrophobic and imagined them closing in on him.


Lost in his current papers, a small rapping at his door made the doctor jump.


“Come in.” Wilhelm looked up to see a nurse carrying a tray.


“I brought your lunch, Dr. Grey. Along with this morning’s mail.”


“Thank you, my dear.”


The nurse set a try with a pile of envelopes and a plate of cut turkey and boiled potatoes on his desk. Mumbling his appreciation, Wilhelm set back to work. For the next two hours he went through the hospital mail, finished his patient notes, organized the next week’s worth of treatments, and absently picked at his meal.


It was two-twenty-five when Wilhelm locked his office door, leaving his empty lunch tray on the floor outside. Making his way to the front gates, he prepared to meet his new patient.


Wilhelm stood on the stone steps of his hospital, an orderly and a nurse at his side, the height of the great building offering them shade from the afternoon sun. Glancing over the lawns, Wilhelm watched his patients enjoying the weather.


Even though many were still in their restrictive coats and wheelchairs, Wilhelm was happy to see them outside. He firmly believed that regular exposure to sunlight and fresh air was crucial for his patients. He always saw a great deal of improvement in them after a turnabout in the gardens or a picnic on the lawn.


Crunching of wheels on stone caused Wilhelm to turn his attentions to the front gates. A lone carriage navigated the long road to the hospital. Pulling into the cul-de-sac, it halted at the front steps. Wilhelm stepped forward. Opening the door, he offered his new patient a warm smile.


“Welcome, Miss Clemmons.” Helping the young woman from the carriage, Wilhelm noted her eyes were red and swollen and she wore a sullen expression upon her face. Poor dear; instead of flaunting her youth and entertaining suitors, she was sent to a hospital. Wilhelm was determined to treat her as quickly as he could.


The carriage pulled away, leaving the young girl alone in the drive. Her evergreen petticoats were muddied at the hem and wrinkled. She clutched her carpet bag close to her chest, looking mournfully up at the hospital, reading the inscription above the door:


HEALING FARMS

Hospital for the Mentally Ill

Dr. Wilhelm Grey


“Please, walk with me.” Wilhelm gestured for Mary to follow him into the gardens. The orderly stepped forward, taking her bag.


Wilhelm led his patient under the warm afternoon sun and into the gardens. Mary’s hair shone golden in the sunlight and her tear-stained face softened. Strolling along a path lined with hedges, the nurse and orderly followed behind them.


“The hospital gardens and lawns are open to all patients, under supervision that is. I never want to restrict my patients from feeling the warm sun on their faces, or a cool breeze through their hair. I believe that would be ungodly cruel.


“However, if the safety of my staff or the other patients should be threatened, I will have no choice but to restrict these privileges. But I do not fear you will give us trouble, Miss Clemmons. Your case is not so serious, and I have high hopes for your recovery.”


Gazing into her face, Wilhelm couldn’t place the emotion glaring back at him. After a short deliberation, he determined the sweet young woman was simply scared and confused.


“Fret not, Miss Clemmons. You are young, and your condition was caught before it became too severe. I plan on having you fully treated and back home before Christmas.


“Now that you’ve had a chance to stretch your legs after your travels, the nurse will show you to your room. You will have today to settle in, your treatments won’t start until tomorrow morning. I encourage you to explore the library and the parlor; this will be your home for the time being so there’s no need to be shy.” He smiled warmly, leading the party through the gardens and back to the front entrance.


Wilhelm didn’t notice the dark look coming across his patient’s face, nor her hard grey eyes boring through his smile.


“Toby!” an old woman beckoned Wilhelm, her wheelchair swallowing her frail and withered bones. A great nest of white hair was piled atop her head, her smile a bright and toothless grin.


“Afternoon, Doris.”


“Oh, my dear Toby, have you seen my parakeet? He seems to have flown off again.”


“Ah, here he is Doris. No need to worry, he’s safe at your side again.” Wilhelm retrieved a stuffed parakeet from where it lay in the grass, securing it to the arm of Doris’ wheelchair.


“What would I do without you, Toby? You are the best grandson I could have asked for.”

The old woman clasped Wilhelm’s hands gratefully before turning to her bird. She cooed at it lovingly and gave it crackers from her pocket.


Chuckling, Wilhelm returned to his party. “Her grandson, the real Toby, told me she never had a parakeet in her life. But when she came here, she insisted she had one and was distraught that he’d flown off. The poor woman was beside herself and we couldn’t do anything to console her. Then one of the nurses found a stuffed parakeet at a store, bought it, and brought it to Doris straightaway. Now the old woman is happy as can be.”


Leaving the gardens, Mary regarded the doctor quizzically. Ascending the stone steps of the hospital, the tall brick building loomed over her, causing a pit to form in the bottom of her sour stomach.


Wilhelm opened the doors for his patient and his staff to enter. “The nurse will escort you to your room on the second floor. The library and the parlor are both on the first floor. And Miss Clemmons, if you should have any questions or you require anything, please do not hesitate to call upon any of us. We are all here to help you get better.”


Wilhelm watched his patient ascend the grand staircase with the nurse, the orderly following behind them with her bag. They disappeared into the second-floor corridors. Wilhelm had a good feeling about Mary’s recovery.


On a high note, Wilhelm returned to his office and prepared for the afternoon treatments.

***


Two vases sat upon the dining table, each haphazardly filled with wildflowers overflowing onto the polished wood. The sun shown above the western sky, pouring into the dining room it illuminated the water in the vases with a deep orange glow, as if fire was cast into a gemstone.


“Daddy!” Edith jumped up and down, her ringlets bouncing around her face. “Daddy, look at my flowers!” The girl pointed to the vase full of blue and purple flowers.


“Me too!” Agnes cried out. “I picked some, too!” Her small hand pointed to the vase full of red and pink flowers.


“And they both look beautiful! Just like my girls.” Wilhelm pulled his giggling daughters in close, giving them each a kiss on their foreheads.


“The weather was so fine this afternoon, I took the girls out after lunch,” Claire said with a smile.


“As always, excellent job Miss. Claire. You are free for the evening, my dear. Thank you.”


Bowing her head, Claire left the dining room.


Tucking into the dining table, the girls detailed their afternoon picking flowers with Claire. From there the conversation turned to their studies. Wilhelm lightly quizzed them on geography and history, then the girls took turns reading poems they’d written that morning.


Swelling with pride, Wilhelm admired the progress of his daughters’ studies. He reminded himself to tell Claire exactly that.


With dinner eaten, the small family moved into the sitting room. Edith and Agnes grabbed their favorite dolls and sat on the carpet. Wilhelm lit his pipe and sat in his chair to read the paper.

Listening to his daughters play, Wilhelm absently wondered what brilliant futures awaited them. Each of them brilliant and beautiful, and so much like her.


Wilhelm opened his paper to the headlining story. The Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway in British Columbia was finally completed. On 13 August John A. MacDonald used a silver hammer to pound a golden spike into the railway, ceremoniously completing the construction of the year-long project.


“Daddy,” Edith said. “Can you tell us a story?”


Wilhelm peeked around his newspaper. Two pairs of beautiful brown eyes stared up at him. Smiling, he folded his paper and tucked it away.


“What would you like to hear about?”


“Momma,” Agnes said, her eyes wide with hope.


“We want to hear more about Momma,” Edith added.


“Was she pretty?” Agnes asked. “I bet she was the most beautiful!”


Wilhelm smiled, bittersweet emotions filling his tired heart. He opened his arms and the girls crawled into his lap.


“Your mother was the most beautiful woman you’d ever seen. She looked like an angel. You two look just like her, large brown eyes full of wonder and life. You two are her little angels.” Wilhelm kissed each of their cheeks.


“Let me think… There are no stories I can tell you that you haven’t already heard.”


“Did she like flowers? What was her favorite?” Agnes asked.


“She loved all flowers, but daisies were her favorite. She would wear daisies in her hair, weaving them into her braids. She would fill all the rooms in the house with vases full of flowers. All the potted plants in the house are here because of her. If it were up to her, we would all live in a meadow.”


“Why did Momma leave?” Agnes’ small voice pierced Wilhelm’s heart.


“Oh, my dear. She didn’t want to leave, she loved you and your sister more than anything. She fought so hard, but bringing another life into this world is hard… She would have given anything to stay here with you two.”


“Tell us more about her, when she was our age,” Edith requested.


“When she was a girl, your mother lived in Scotland.”


“I want to go to Scotland!” Agnes said, her eyes bright with adventure.


“Me too!” Edith exclaimed.


“Scotland is a beautiful green country, full of magic and wonder. Your mother always wanted to go back there once you girls were grown. Perhaps next year I’ll take you two there. But now it’s late so off to bed, you two. Sleep well, my little angels. We can talk more about Scotland tomorrow.”


Wilhelm kissed the girls goodnight and bid them off to bed. He sat alone in his chair for hours after they left. Fingering the ring on his hand, he was too overwhelmed with grief to finish his paper.


Midnight

The cold blue of night filled the tranquil room. Agnes’ small body lay tucked in her quilts, enveloped in the stillness of slumber. But beneath her lids, terror wracked her dreams.


Her body was small and helpless. Covered in blood and fluids, she cried. She didn’t know what else to do, everything around her was so new. So painful.


Her wide eyes struggled to understand what was surrounding her. Everything was a blur of color and light. Everything except her.


A woman lay upon a bed, her face ashen and slick with sweat. Her long dark hair made a tangled halo for her too-pale face to rest against.


Agnes somehow knew this woman. Her very essence was a familiar comfort in the chaos. But the woman was in pain. Something was wrong. Very wrong.


Agnes’ gaze shifted to the large pool of crimson growing in the woman’s lap. The same crimson Agnes’ skin was slick with.


Agnes awoke with a sob, her small heart hammering against her ribs. Brushing tears from her face she sat up, hugging her pillow close. She’d had nightmares before, but nothing like this one. It was so vivid. So familiar.


Looking to her window, Agnes froze. The blood drained from her face, taking the sorrow with it. Ice ran up her spine and through her veins. A pair of glowing red eyes stared back at her from the window.


A form clung to her window. Neither human nor animal, its flesh moved as if made of smoke, darker than the deepest pit of the earth. Two glowing red orbs were suspended in the shadow, and they were fixed on the small girl in her bed.


‘Why do you cry, child?’ a voice echoed through Agnes’ mind.


“My dreams scared me,” she whispered to the emptiness.


‘Your dreams show you things, things others dare not tell you. Your dream showed you the truth.’


“What do you mean?”


‘You weep for the life you took to live. You killed your own mother.’


“But…Daddy said—” Unable to finish, Agnes’ lower lip trembled, tears falling freely from her eyes.

‘Your daddy.’ The shadow laughed. ‘He knows the truth. You took your mother’s life, his love, so that you could live.’


“No!” Agnes sobbed, holding her face in her small hands. Was she really the reason her mother died, the reason she and Edith didn’t have a mother, and the reason Daddy didn’t have a wife?


‘I can make the pain go away, child. I can fix it all.’ Agnes stopped crying. Lifting her head, she gazed at the red orbs. ‘You just have to open the window and let me in.’

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