Shattered

Chapter 1

Nine months was an awfully long time, especially when full of nightmares.

He had done his best to keep up the acceptable front of a man actually looking forward to fatherhood. No one suspected otherwise--- particularly his wife, who should have known better.

'If she really ever loved me, this would have never happened.'

Living with a doctor, and having had years of treatment from their kind, it was only natural for Norman Bates to have picked up a few tricks. Apparently, he had learned well; the fa├žade held, and no one imagined how the man inside might be suffering. Or perhaps they just didn't care to know?

'Why am I the one who has to compromise? If she wasn't so damn selfish-- if she hadn't lied---'

He was always pleasant and smiled whenever he spoke about the up-coming birth. He was attentive to his wife's needs and took on even more of the household responsibilities as her term progressed--- he even took to sleeping on the couch to avoid disturbing her, he said. As far as Connie and friends were concerned, Norman was the perfect doting husband and loving father-to-be.

As far as Norman was concerned, he was living a lie with a stranger he did not-- could not-- love.

It was eating away at him, but he had resolved to let her have her way. She could have her all important baby, but from the moment that decision was made, she would no longer have him.

'How could she do this? How could she lie-- just to trick me into fathering her child??'

During those nine months he had privately thought it out. His doctor wife, with her biological clock ticking away, found a suitable victim in a vulnerable patient she found physically appealing. She had seduced him with words and kindness-- the worse sort of lies. She preyed on his weaknesses under the guise of 'rehabilitation' and like a lamb to slaughter, Norman walked happily down the last mile. It was alright for awhile-- he even loved her and their new married life. Then she pulled the rug from under him, robbed him of every hope, all his trust-- just so she could get pregnant.

'We talked about it-- it was settled-- she agreed to it before we were married-- No kids! She knew-- and then she used me anyway and thought she could convince me---'

Inside he seethed, struggling to remain calm and nod in agreement while she selected wallpaper for the nursery, or placed orders for cribs and highchairs. Not once did he object, or even state an opinion. If it was what Connie wanted for her baby, then she would get it.

Nine months was a long time to continue the charade, but continue he did. It proved enough time to plan a disappearance.

He would keep his own counsel, confide in no one and-- yes-- lie when he had to, to escape an even bigger falsehood.

The answer came to him finally, when he returned to the motel.

It was when Connie was three months along, still not showing, and continuing her regular routine of going to work, even taking extra hours when available. Norman had been tinkering on the laptop she'd got him for his last birthday.

That was when the truth came out, and he foolishly thought that burning the past would clear it all away. But after the smoke cleared, Connie was still pregnant, and a new nightmare begun.

He didn't care much for the wonders of technology, but he discovered one could do a lot of research on limitless subjects, without getting off the couch. A computer could prove an invaluable resource.

He stared at the screen, tempted to type in a name he had not heard or thought of in years. Why did that come to mind just then?

Before he knew it, he was leaving the house, and driving to Fairvale. His boyhood home, the site of past crimes and personal horrors-- the house had burned, the motel fallen to ruin-- much like his dreams.

A cloud of dust surrounded the car as he came to a halt in front of the motel office. For a brief moment he imagined what it would take to bring the business back to life. That was how his mind was working these days-- scattered ideas and momentary diversions to drag him from the pain of current reality. A few coats of paint, cable TV, maybe some kitchenettes? It was a passing thought, extinguished by the sound of an open cabin door bumping on the breeze. He studied the collapsing porch roof, the graffiti, the broken sun chairs, wondering how much had been stolen or vandalized, taken as morbid souvenirs by the locals?

Norman's life wasn't much different than his motel. It was started with best intentions, and fell victim to its own imperfections. A relic of the past, now broken, useless, lonely and completely unloved. He slid from the driver's side and stood, squinting against the sunlight at the bones of his family home, sticking stark and charred black against the cloudless sky.

He would not climb those stairs again. He would never return to that cemetery of memories. It had been intentionally torched, the demons put to rest-- but no one had ever warned him that life would be worse once in his right mind.

He stepped up onto the office porch, peering through the boards meant to obscure the windows. The panes were broken and dirty, and what he could see of the rooms beyond were just as depressing. Most of the furnishings had been removed years ago, and a layer of dirt and dust seemed to had settled everywhere. One or two keys still dangled from their pegs, a haunting reminder that this had once been a business, after all.

There was nothing to be gained by staring into so hollow and bleak a memory.

Stepping back, Norman saw the cardboard notices, posted by the sheriff's office. Stapled up on the doors and cabins down the length of the porch, they warned the casual visitor that the premises were condemned, deemed unsafe for habitation, and scheduled for demolition. Trespassers were in danger of arrest and prosecution.

There was perhaps a time when the notion of the place being condemned and demolished would have filled him with dread, even panic. Now, it seemed the only fitting end for the Bates Motel--- and perhaps the man who had once cared for it for so long.

Norman moved without thinking to the door of cabin one. It was partially opened, but wouldn't budge until he pushed hard against it with his shoulder. An overturned bed-table had landed against it, requiring the extra effort. He stood motionless on the threshold for a moment, studying the ruin that his own troubled brain had ultimately caused.

Floral wallpaper dangled in strands and strips from the plasterboard, and the scent of mold tainted the air. Across the room, the window had been broken, and tattered curtains danced in on the breeze, from a dislodged curtain rod. An old mattress lay in a corner, and there was evidence that the place might have been used by partying teens. Someone had spray painted one wall with red, but Norman did not notice.

Instead, he saw the summer sun spilling through the lace sheers, the room clean and perfect for the motel's grand opening. He saw the Audubon prints on the wall, smelt the flowers growing out back, felt the softness of the new carpet under his feet. It was a wonderful new bright beginning, at a time when the family was happy and very wonder of life lay ahead of him.

He crossed the room without realizing it, stepping into the bathroom where the toilet had been removed. Loose tiles littered the floor and cracked under his feet as he stepped to the tub. He turned the handle and the faucet spit out air and brown water. Full of rust from pipes, the water spurt and belched, but eventually flowed clear.

He stepped back into the bedroom and almost mechanically began loosening his clothes. Standing, he pulled off both shoes, then socks, and set them beside the mattress. As he undressed, he laid his clothing on the mattress as neatly as if it had been his own bed. His mother would have been proud of the care he took .

He returned to the bathtub, as if being drawn by some unseen force. The broken tiles cut his feet, but he was oblivious to this. He flipped the lever to start the shower, and stepped into the cool spray.

Norman turned his face up toward the showerhead and began to sob. Hot tears mixed with the cold uncaring rush of water, to be carried-- worthless-- down the drain, with twisting red tendrils from bleeding feet. He had burnt away the past-- was it possible to wash away the present pain?

Wracked with despair, he could no longer stand, and crouched to the bottom of the tub. There he sat in the hard cold torrents, hugging his legs and howling in his private misery.