Author's Note: I originally wrote this for last Halloween, but had been uncertain of its quality at the time and didn't post. Wanted to put something spooky up this year though, so (lacking anything new/short) looked over my old piece. Made a few adjustments, still not entirely sure how it'll go over but not as nervous about it as I'd been before. Anyway. XD Happy Halloween everyone!
My mind plays tricks on me at sundown. Walls here don't whisper, but sometimes I imagine there's a faint scratching between the bricks. Like somebody is dragging teeth or nails over cement. People scream, and I don't know whether to be alarmed or grateful. It could be a lot worse.
You see, he visits occasionally. My guards let him in, or don't notice, or don't care. I've pretended to be asleep before but who can ignore the tap-tap-tapping of those impatient leather shoes? Stopping, shifting, waiting. "Good evening, Patient 5576. Sit up." Boys who disobey deserve to be punished, and I'd really rather not. My blanket is cheap, but the room feels much colder without it.
"Hello, doctor," I murmur, studying moonlight as it bends across my knees. He sounds like influenza or pneumonia, possibly summer drought. Every breath rattles, every pause starves, every word grates. Dry, hoarse, gentle as a slow-slit throat.
"Your progress today was not impressive," rasps the voice. I remember each needle plunged into my arm, imagine them sliding through veins, cracking bone, emerging glorious and gory out the other end. A dull ache registers, but remains untended. Maybe…maybe it didn't really happen at all. He moves closer. I can feel hot, moist breath on my ear. "We will have to do something about that."
"No, there's really no nee—" Already his poison is sliding down my throat, smoother than fog, more dangerous than drowning. He infects me—lashing into skin with a whip's precision, violating lips with blood or old perfume. I grow heady on the flavor of fear. Acidic, chemical, exhilarating, nauseating. His noose wraps around my neck. I can't breathe. Tonight he is going to kill me and there is a strange euphoria in it all. Oil bubbles from behind each eyeball and still I can't breathe.
"Wait it out," he says calmly, trapping both hands behind my back when the thrashing begins. A burlap bag is pulled over my face, dragging me into the mattress below. I'm blind. There is no air. Children laugh their high-pitched laughter while I burn and my story burns and my very name burns. Familiar bodies lace their fingers up my legs and they won't stop! STOP!
Spine arching, a whimper (or a whisper) shreds through brain and body at once. I sink my nails in—I rip that filthy visage from my own. It hurts. Chunks of flesh and hair and insects come away under fingertips, and my lungs are full of cinders when I finally scream.
They don't believe me in the morning. They think I'm sick, or lying, or mad. The Scarecrow hasn't left his cell. Jonathan Crane spent the evening by himself.
We know better.