A Tale of a Man

Michael Parke, Staff Writer

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Just north of a small fishing community on the coast of one of the New England states bordering the Atlantic stands a structure upon a harshly defined hill. Surrounding it is an almost impenetrable forest, and the only saving grace is a single road. The road spirals up to the structure, a large mansion currently owned by a family who became well-to-do after striking it rich in some industry. At the time of this story it was owned by the state government; the mansion at the top of the hill wasn’t the lavish center of attention it is now. It was the Jon Rhoades Institute for the Mentally Insane.

If someone had taken the road through the forest and to the estate, he or she would’ve seen the brick walls, columns and statues. A large lawn sloped down towards the sea. There were stables for horses—many of which ran on the lawn—and a variety of flowers. But for all the beauty there was darkness, for screaming constantly pervaded the otherwise still atmosphere. One could’ve seen through the cleverly reinforced windows scenes of unimaginable horror. Ethical practitioners of the medical field had no place here. There was only one entrance and one exit for the members of this house, and through this door came Mr. Walker.

Mr. Walker had taken a long shift at the Institute and was going home. He carefully walked down the granite stairs that were illuminated only by the incandescent flashlight he carried. He made his way over to the car. He unlocked the door, got it started and waited for it to warm up. At night it was cold, and the woods were an even more impenetrable mass than in the day, for no one tree could be separated from the other. He looked at the sky. The stars were out, and a crescent moon grinned down upon him. He looked back down and put his hands over the vents. Warm air was coming out. He shifted the car into first and pulled out of the lot.

His way down the road started poorly. The car sputtered about a quarter of the way down the hill. At about the halfway point the engine died completely and the vehicle stopped. After parking it, Mr. Walker turned the key repeatedly in an effort to get the pistons moving. They remained still.

Over the trees were lights that marked a city. How far away they seemed.

He cursed the moon and got out, then grabbed his flashlight from the carabiner he had hooked it on and opened the hood. The light shined over the spark plugs; they were fine. He moved to the belt. That was fine too. He checked every component of the engine and nothing seemed out of place or missing. Mr. Walker scratched his head.

“The gas should be all right.”

But since everything upfront was fine it seemed to be the only other problem. He wiped his forehead and closed the hood and made his way to the back when he saw something.

At first it seemed to be a large rock in the center of the road. Then his eyes adjusted a little more to the night and it seemed to be an animal. To his horror, Mr. Walker realized it was a young girl. She was clad in a sea-green hospital gown, and it had polka dots and a red smear across the front that was beginning to turn rust-brown. He could see a mass of hair that partially obscured her face, which had long and bleeding cuts from either side of her mouth to her ears. She was covered in dew like the pavement and her feet made little noise as she slowly began walking, then jogging, then running towards him.

“Halt!” he screamed. But as he did he frantically dove back into the car and got a revolver out of the glovebox. He looked through the back window. She was coming. He rushed out.

“Halt!”

She kept running towards him making soft thuds on the road. He fired. To his amazement she didn’t stop or slow.

His feet unconsciously moved his body away from the car and all the while he fired. He kept shooting and shooting at the girl until the gun clicked. Mr. Walker checked his weapon for rounds that weren’t there. Then he looked up from the object to see where the little girl was and noticed that she had stopped. She stood in the middle of the black road and grinned at the running man through her hair. He could see her eyes. They reflected only the darkness of the night before her. He suddenly went numb, and it was at this moment that his legs made contact with the guardrail. The girl commenced to spin out of sight, and Mr. Walker fell off the side of the road into the forest below.

 

Some time later, two boys from town entered the area searching for birds. Near the base of the hill they stumbled upon the dead body. The neck had twisted and bent backwards, and the vertebrae that made it were exposed. The boys leaned against some trees in shock.

“Tom,” said the first boy. Tom looked up.

“Yes?”

“What the hell is that doing here?”

Tom looked at his friend.

“How should I know, Jack?”

They stood quietly.

“Tom, look at his face.”

Jack pulled him over to where he was standing.

“All right, I see it.”

“Take the paper out.”

Tom kneeled down and opened the canvas bag he used to hold extra ammunition for his rifle. He rummaged through it and got a folded paper from the bottom. He closed the bag, stood up and unfolded it. They looked at the paper then the body.

The two boys stood at the base of the hill above Mr. Walker, former resident of the Jon Rhoades Institute for the Mentally Insane.

 

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A Tale of a Man