Written by: Sandra Nguyen
Published by: CafeLitMagazine
Todd glanced at the ceiling. He had come to recognize the pair of dark eyes that stared at him, and the vile thoughts behind them. Last time he saw those eyes, they spoke to him, telling him to hurt Jim, his neighbor. The image of him holding the knife, forcing the sharp blade onto Jim's arm, and sliced it open, made him crumble on the inside. Todd never forgave himself for what he did. He never wanted to hurt Jim, or anyone, but the eyes would not leave him alone until he did what it asked for. After that incident Todd decided he needed help. He was a danger to others.
Todd blamed the car accident, in which he sustained a brain injury. He started seeing things, and hearing things, that no one in his surrounding could see or hear. His life spiraled quickly downhill, and soon he earned the nickname Odd Todd when he told people he could see the shadow people, and that they constantly whispered to him. The shadow people reminded him of humanoid figure. Sometimes he could catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of his eyes. But most often, he only saw their eyes. Those things thrived on human suffering. They could attach themselves onto a vulnerable person, like a bloodsucking leech, and fed on their life energy. They would whisper into your ears – forcing you to do things against your will, planting seeds of lies and deception, casting shadows of despair, until you become cripple from the inside and out. They want to keep you in the dark and afraid.
This place was like a feast buffet for the shadow people and there was nothing Todd could do about it. He had his own battle, and was struggling losing the one lurking in the ceiling. All he could do was watching his peers slowly deteriorating as their life force diminished, losing their mind, and become a living puppet. Todd looked at miss Camilla, the young nurse he had come to like. He pressed himself against the wall, both hands on his head, trying to fight off the vile thought. He knew what the eyes wanted him to do. It painted him a very vivid and repulsive vision. A vision in which he could feel his strong hands gripping around Camilla's neck, draining her life essence as she struggled to breathe when he closed off her air pipe. Camilla turned around and gazed at him, her fingers nervously fumbling the cross-necklace, sensing his disturbing thought. Ashamed and angry at the thought of hurting Camilla, Todd made sure he was out of her sight.
Big Danny entered the common room with a newcomer. Holly Hager was her name. She seemed so small standing next to him. She let Big Danny lead the way and seated her in the chair. Todd noticed she did not take her eyes off of the ceiling, shaking her head in protest, as if someone forced her to do something against her will. He asked Big Danny for a piece of paper and some crayons, and began drawing, using only black crayon to draw the eyes and the rest of the humanoid figure. He walked over to Holly when he finished the drawing. She didn't seem to pay him any attention, her eyes still locked on the ceiling. He put his drawing on the table and gently pushed the box of crayons closer to her. Holly stared at him, then picked out a single black crayon. She flipped the paper and started off with few soft streaks, then quickly sped up the pace. His eyes widened when he saw Jim in the drawing, fending off Todd from piercing his chest with a kitchen knife. Holly even drew the dark eyes next to him, whispering in his ears. She pointed to the ceiling and then pointed to the dark eyes in the drawing. Todd was aghast at the accuracy of the drawing, but how did she know?
Miss Katie came into the room to gather her horde for recreational therapy class. It was Todd's favorite activity. He watched Holly, with a mixture of amusement and jealousy, smearing black crayon all over the white paper. He wished he had half of her talent. The drawing depicted Nellie Lindh surrounded by three pairs of dark eyes. Todd traced his finger along the painted tears that rolled down Nelly's cheek. He turned his head and caught Nelly smiling at him, and just like in the drawing, she was surrounded by three pairs of dark eyes. Holly pointed at the clock in the drawing, ten o'clock it said, and then counted down with her fingers – five, four, three, two, one. Todd wasn't sure what Holly tried to tell him, but it left him helpless and horrified. After class he turned in Holly's drawing to miss Katie. She was bewildered when he told her that they needed to keep an eye on Nellie at ten o'clock tonight.
That night, Todd dreaded falling asleep. He was afraid that if he fell asleep he wouldn't see Nellie again. Sweet Nellie who wouldn't hurt a fly. He listened impatiently for any sign of chaos, and then it happened. Someone called 'code blue', followed by footsteps and voices, but these did not belong to the night staff. He strained his ears to catch a sound, but he found himself sinking deeper and deeper in the abyss. The sleep medication was kicking in.
The following day Todd was scheduled to see his therapist Mr. Bentzen. In his hand he held Holly's drawing.
“Todd, I want to talk about the drawing you made in Miss Katie's class,” Mr. Bentzen started.
“It's not my drawing,” Todd replied. “Holly drew it.”
“Who's Holly?” Mr. Bentzen wondered. Todd started laughing hysterically. Was Mr. Bentzen blind? Holly sat next to him.
“Holly Hager, of course. There's only one Holly in this room,” Todd answered.
Mr. Bentzen froze at the mentioning of Holly Hager. He recalled the name vividly. Holly was one of his patients. She was a very special patient, didn't talk much, but used drawing as a mean of communication. Mr. Bentzen carefully examined the drawing again. How did he miss it? The drawing had Holly's signature all over it. She always drew with black crayon. And those eyes she drew, they always made his skin crawl whenever he looked at them. His eyes caught something at the bottom left corner - Holly's signature, H.H. It was barely visible, but it was there. Mr. Bentzen scratched his head. He knew Todd was not artistic, but Miss Katie had insisted it was Todd who made the drawing in her class. He debated with himself, whether or not, he should tell Todd that Holly Hager had passed away five years ago.
“Todd, miss Hager is no longer with us,” Mr. Bentzen decided it was best for Todd to hear the truth.
“I know,” Todd answered. “And neither is Nellie.”
Mr. Bentzen felt a sudden chill surrounding him. He jotted down in his notes 'Dr. Pinsky', and quickly wrapped up the conversation. He thought perhaps Dr. Pinsky could adjust Todd's medication, since his hallucinations had worsen the past few days. Before leaving the unit, Mr. Bentzen made a call to the hospital and asked for Nellie Lindh. His face had turned white as he listened to the voice on the other side of the telephone line.
“Poor Mr. Bentzen, he just found out that Nellie is dead,” Holly said.
“Should we tell him that he has one of those leeches following him?” Nellie wondered.
“Nah, he wouldn't believe us,” Todd said.
- The End -
© Sandra Nguyen