The Evil Takes Advantage

Author's Note: Well... really, not much to say. This is a memoir of John's from one of his stints at Ravenscar as a child, before the suicide attempt -- and success -- that condemned him to Hell. The hospitals then weren't pretty even without demons running around... not that they're pretty in any case. It's written in the present tense and in the third person, and although I might have done it in the first-person, this is how I arranged it in writing and it just seemed to have more impact. And with something like this, impact is... the whole point. It's fairly short, fairly intense, and I ought to include a warning that this implies -- albeit not directly -- some kind of non-consensual relations that would qualify as child molestation. However, there is not a single graphic reference, and I think the terror speaks for itself.

Oh, and one tiny 'Writer's Note": Jansen is mine -- after a fashion -- and I would like to keep it that way. It's kinda personal: for a friend.

Thirteen-year-old Constantine, in the shower room: for the 'dangerous ones', there is a very specific protocol. Luckily, the nurse on staff tonight is Jan - Jansen, his name is, and he tells all his patients(teasingly)that if they make fun of his nickname they'll get it - perhaps the one person in the entire hospital that does not condescend to John, nor treat him as "a crazy". It was Jan who brought John out of a two-day catatonia by showing up in his room after lights-out one night with a tiny portable record player, and spinning for him "Big Bad John"... and then, after that, calling the small, quiet, scrawny dark-haired boy "Big John" to boost his morale.

As per protocol - Ravenscar is fucked-up, there is no doubt about it - Jan is in the shower with John, helping him wash while John keeps his hands locked behind his neck and his elbows straight: since he has 'attacked' several orderlies and a doctor, this is SOP. As usual, Jan finally makes the boy smile with a badly-placed uncouth joke: and after a few minutes, John is relaxed enough to loosen up a little, to lose that perenially beaten-dog paranoiac look. To forget, maybe, that sometimes they come in the night - to forget that there is a place without bright lights and mattresses, a place with pipes and horrible nightmarish hissing noises, a place that looks and smells and feels like damp and dirt and despair. To forget about the footsteps, the scaly touches, the fanged grins through eyeless holes and the absolute and utter confidence with which they tell him "No one would believe you anyway: you're crazy, Johnny, remember? They'll just tell you that you're making it up, that you're making it all up, you dirty boy, and it'll be the jacket for you again, the jacket and the white room, and what did we tell you about making noise?"

To forget about the orderlies that will leave his door open after checks for an extra pack of cigarettes or a joint, to forget about the boiler room. Because when you're the only one who can see the evil, the evil takes advantage. He often thinks that if the "world outside" knew this basic fact of life and truth, many people might be safer in the end. Or have less of a desire to die. After the last one, in which he had wandered in a daze back to his room and been caught by the night watch orderly - one of them - and bashed around the back of his legs with the baton it always carried for 'being out after checks', he had tried to do himself in with a plastic butterknife. It had been the quiet room for two days, that time.

But then again, most of the time he himself thinks he's crazy, and that he deserves it. Maybe even likes it, as they say.

As he is finishing up, Jan's beeper goes off and he asks John if he will be all right: with a rare smile, the boy nods - now shyly - and continues to wash, enjoying the rare pleasure of quiet and hot water. With a final admonition to remember to 'wash behind your ears, kiddo', Jan leaves the shower room, promising to be back in time to escort John back to his room.

Head back, eyes closed, hot water pounding on the back of his neck. John never hears the door open again, or the footsteps. He is only aware that he is not alone again when a hand reaches in through the curtain and abruptly cranks shut the faucet - startled, dripping and shivering, John tries to blink the water out of his eyes. "Jan? Hey... Jan?"

The curtain is dragged open with a sound like grinding bones, and insitnctively the boy reaches a hand down to cover himself, trying to squint through water and steam. And standing with one foot propped against the closed door, wearing a perfectly smug smile and an orderly's uniform, is someone...

...some thing.

In that moment there is no breath, no sound, no terror: he has no energy for it, no means of escape. He is a small teenage boy with one hand cupped protectively in front of his genitals, backed into the corner of the shower stall with wide eyes and nowhere to go.

The thing between him and the door does not miss his spectacular, if silent, panic. "Ahh," it says. "So you're the little troublemaker." A wide, endearing it's-just-between-us-boys smile. "You're the one."

John's mouth opens and closes: he sucks in a breath mixed with the water dripping from his hair. "W..." No luck. He grits his teeth and tries again - he cannot truly be afraid now, or at least he thinks he can't: this is simply one more hallucination, one more terror for his weak mind to hold and he will not be afraid. "Where's Jan?"

"Oh, he had to go." Still that persistent, oh-so-friendly grin. "He's around... somewhere."

Something very small and very sharp pinches at John's heart. His eyes frozen on the thing pretending to be an orderly, a person, he edges ever-so-slightly to the left, trying, trying, to reach for a towel. "So w-where--" trying for surly and almost making it -- "are the rest of them?" For the corridor beyond the shower room had become unnaturally, eerily silent. Swallowing, "The other ones. The n-nurses."

The thing leans forward - instinctively, John leans back, but there is nowhere for him to go. It smiles even more widely, and tilts its head into a conspiratorial whisper.

"I killed them all. Just now."

In that moment all terror that has gone before is nothing - nothing at all but a whisper of a memory of a wind that once was. Breath punched out of him, eyes like saucers and burning with tears of hysterical fear, John simply stares, his muscles tremoring like the shock after a seizure, his heart struggling to find rhythm, to find blood. He thinks - not consciously, because there is nothing in his mind but the rushing wind - that he might simply die of pure terror.

Then the thing smiles again.

"Just kidding."

And the most terrifying thing of all - it might be.

But maybe not.

Then, brisk, clapping its hands: "All right, Johnny, let's go. Can't have you be late now, can we? We might get you in trouble."

Oh, he wants so very much, to cry.

It hands the boy a towel, and not wanting to prolong this hellish, torturous moment any longer than necessary, John takes it without touching any skin he can see... or whatever it really is.

notrealnotrealnotrealnotrealnotrealnotreal...

Drying off, never once taking his eyes off the thing in the uniform.

"All right then!" Friendly, now, as if the two of them have just somehow bonded - through a joke told, perhaps, or a fun, amusing experience. "Shirt? Check. Underwear?" And it raises his eyebrows as John shakes his head no: Nonononono, I will not let it near me, I can't stand it if it touches me, nononono no.

"Now, Johnny," chiding, an overly concerned parent. "You do know what happens to little boys who don't get into their clean undergarments, don't you? They get bladder infections..." The same toothy grin. A hungry one. "And then they have to go to the infirmary. The doctor. And then the doctor has to... open them up and look at their insides."

No more breath. Please God let it be over, let me wake up, let me die. Pleasepleaseplease...

The clothes, then, pulling them on wet, his hair tousled, no breath to scream, to fight, to refuse. The same gray tunic he's been wearing since a lot of his privileges have been revoked... after they had brought the doctor he had accused of 'being a monster' in to see him after ECT and he had screamed himself into a fit and wet his pants.

Four-point restraints, Haldol and Valium and Thorazine.

Out of the shower, slippery and barefoot and the thing's hand around his upper arm, so small, really, so small. He tries to fight it, finally, something roused in him out of rebellion to the slack terror this one last time - "Leave me alone!" - and before he can even blink, something has backhanded him across the face hard enough to bounce him off the wall.

"Listen up, Johnny boy," and now he realizes it fully as if he hadn't before, the hot reeking breath in his ear, on his neck, this tiny little room with the door closed tight and no one, no one to hear or see or help or believe. Alone, completely, utterly alone, and in this moment he simply squeezes his eyes shut and wishes to everything he has ever believed in that he were dead.

"I know that you've been giving some of us some trouble," the hot breath goes on, "And I just thought I'd give you a... friendly heads-up, as it were, kiddo. Some of us don't like trouble. And if you're going to be a little bitch about it, maybe I'll just come see you some night. I hear you're a pretty nice bag of meat, isn't that right?"

Please kill me now. Please just kill me now and let me die.

He is released, then, the door is opened and he begins to shake uncontrollably, terror and reaction and his bladder is suddenly, painfully full and the air after the stifling heat of the shower stall is frigid. Step, walk, step, daze, drag, step, the familiar path and then his door, his bed, the bolted frame and flaccid restraints, and a nod and a greasy smile from the doorway.

"See you around, kid."

And it is to the bed he then retreats: when Jan arrives twenty minutes later, swearing about the wild goose chase he'd been sent on and expecting John to smile at his rants about being the "hired flunky" of the hospital staff, he instead finds the boy curled fetal beneath the covers, his right thumb planted firmly in his mouth. Repeated requests bring no response - his eyes are open, but no one's home.

In four years or so, an encounter like that would leave the threatener no more than a smoking pile of ash - John Constantine learns fast, and brutally, and well. And he has power - even now, he knows it, he feels it. It is him. World-breaking power. But now he is still simply small, and thirteen, and crazy, and terrified.

Such is the way of the world.