Lifting her hand, Lorraine paused for a moment, second and third thoughts chasing themselves before she finally took a deep breath and knocked, waiting for either silence to send her back to her own bedroom, or the hoped for voice to grant her access. When the voice came, she glanced over her shoulder down the dark hallway behind her and then turned back to push the door open.
Her uncle was sitting on the side of his bed, watching as she entered. He looked concerned and she didn’t have to ask why. It was late. After three in the morning and here she was, knocking on his door instead of in her bed sleeping like she should be. “Hey, Rainey.” He greeted softly, not pushing her to tell him why she was there. He never did. He let her tell him everything in her own time.
“There’s…” She had to stop and swallow hard, sending another glance back toward her own bedroom before she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her, stepping away from it. Moving to climb into the chair beside his bed, she tried again, eyes dropping before she looked up to continue. “There’s something in my room.” She whispered, not sure if she really wanted to be heard or not, but scared and sure she was right.
He didn’t ask if she was sure, didn’t ask if she had been sleeping and maybe just had a nightmare that had frightened her. “Did you tell your parents?” He was always there for her, but it was her parents she should go to first. He believed in family and he knew that he would want his own children to come to him with their troubles, just as Lorraine often felt that she could.
Lorraine nodded, her gaze dropping again. “Mom just told me to go back to bed.” She murmured, frowning as she remembered how her mother had just brushed off her fears and concerns. “She said I’d just had a nightmare and needed my sleep.” She sighed a little. “Dad went to look and didn’t see anything. He wasn’t happy, and told me the same thing. To go back to bed and not bother them with this again.”
She plucked a flower from a vase on the nightstand and absently twirled it in her hands, still looking down. “I know I should listen to my parents, but…I’m scared.” She admitted softly. “I don’t wanna stay in my room by myself…” She shouldn’t have bothered him, but somehow he never made it seem like she was. She had gone to her parents and they had reacted like she said and she didn’t want to needlessly scare her little sister or brothers with something like this. She hadn’t known where else to go and so here she was.
“You don’t have to.” Her uncle spoke simply and without any judgement at all. He didn’t say he believed her, but he didn’t say he didn’t. “You can stay with me tonight.” It wouldn’t be the first time he had offered her some comfort that her parents didn’t. He treated her as he would his own children and was one of the few people she trusted fully because of that.
As her gaze lifted one more time, she looked hopeful and grateful at the same time. “Yeah?” She hadn’t wanted to ask, but she really didn’t want to be alone and he made her feel safe. She shifted to drop the flower back into the vase before moving to crawl into bed beside him. He scooted over and made sure she was comfortable before laying down beside her, with her next to the wall and himself protectively on the outside. It made her relax more than she had expected because she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would never hurt her. She wasn’t sure he believed her…but he believed that she believed and that seemed to be enough for him.
By the time she was eleven, Lorraine was spending as much time at her aunt and uncle’s home as she was her own. Her cousins were her best friends, girls she was almost closer to than her own siblings. They weren’t extended family, they were just family. She loved visiting and looked forward to it every time the idea was mentioned. Her uncle William was like another father, sometimes more of one than her own, though she would never tell anyone that.
Lately, however, Uncle William was…different. He was more quiet, more withdrawn. She couldn’t pinpoint just what was going on, only that it wasn’t right and it worried her because she loved him so very much. Voicing her concerns did no good, however. She was assured that he would be fine and just had some stresses in life that she didn’t need to worry about. She convinced herself that they were right because she wanted them to be. Nothing really bad could be wrong with her uncle. No matter what she really felt deep down inside in that place that no one understood or listened to.
Racing through the house, laughter rang out as she chased her younger cousins through the living room in a game of tag that they both seemed unusually good at. Or maybe she just let them think they were good at because what was wrong with letting them win now and then? Stumbling into an end table, there was a crash and the sound of shattering glass that was followed by absolute silence from all three of them.
Lorraine’s eyes widened and her hand lifted to her mouth because the vase she had just broken was one of the most important things her uncle possessed. It was given to him by his mother who had died before Lorraine was even born and meant the world to him. Her heart dropped because she knew there was no way she could fix this and she dreaded seeing the disappointed and sad expression on his face when he found out.
She was still standing stunned when William came to see what all the noise was about. “I’m sorry!” Lorraine blurted the words with devastation. “It was an accident. We were playing and…” She didn’t try to explain more because that wouldn’t make it any better. She looked down, not wanting to see how upset he would be and expecting a lecture or being sent to her room or even silence. That was the worst. When he didn’t say anything at all, he just looked at her and her own mind made up the words for her.
What she didn’t expect was the crack and the shooting pain that accompanied his hand meeting her face. Tears filled her eyes and her heart constricted with shock and disbelief. He had hit her! Never in her whole life would she ever expect such a thing. No matter how mad he got, he never hit her, never hit any of them. As far as she knew, he never even thought about it. He was never violent. Never.
Breath hitching on a sob, she slowly looked up, her own hand moving to her cheek as the tears began to fall. “Uncle Will?” She was confused and devastated and scared and she had no idea how to react and later, when he joined her outside and tried to apologize, she didn’t know how to answer. She couldn’t say it was okay because it wasn’t. With that one action everything had changed.
Avoiding looking at him as long as she could, she tried to come up with some kind of rational explanation. People said and did things they didn’t mean when they were mad. But, he wasn’t just people and she couldn’t believe that of him. When she finally did look at him, he was watching her with an expression that frightened her even more than she already had been. It wasn’t a smile, but it wasn’t remorse. She couldn’t describe it if she had tried and when she finally met his eyes…it didn’t look like William looking back at her.
Fairfield Hills State Hospital was a terrifying place for the twelve-year-old to visit. But, it was also a terribly sad place because it was now the residence of her favorite uncle. She had been convinced that something was wrong with her uncle from the moment he had started acting differently. When she had seen…something that wasn’t him looking back at her through his eyes, she had risked everything to tell her aunt, her parents, anyone who might listen and be able to help because helping her uncle, getting him back was all that mattered, no matter what anyone might think about or do to her.
They hadn’t listened. William had a lot of stresses in his life. Stress led to anger, anger led to violence. It was simple to understand. Even if it was completely against character for the person in question. Even if those close to him were merely in denial that anything else could possibly be happening. Unable to continue to justify the ever increasingly violent behavior, they had turned to blaming drugs or alcohol. Anything that might make logical sense because nothing else could be the answer.
Extensive medical testing revealed nothing, however. There were no signs of the substance that might cause such behaviors, no medical explanations at all. He appeared physically healthy in every way and that made it harder and harder to believe that it was simply the stresses of life making the man turn to things he normally wouldn’t, and yet they persisted because the idea that some other outside force was causing this was impossible, no matter what one of the people closest to him claimed she saw and felt. No matter that she had become afraid of the one person she had trusted most in the world. No matter that this wasn’t the first time she had claimed something that was impossible to believe…and been right.
Now, here he was. In an asylum for the criminally insane because he had shot and killed his wife and children.
Shock rocked the community and the only logical answer was that he had completely lost his mind. There was not medical explanation, but that didn’t mean that there was no mental one. He had gone crazy, that was why he had changed so very much seemingly without anything to originally push him in that direction. It was tragic, but it wasn’t the first time such a thing had happened and it likely wouldn’t be the last.
Lorraine diligently visited him, even here. As often as she could get someone to bring her, she came. No one could understand why, though no one really stopped her either. They had been extremely close and perhaps such visits would make her see that her claims that something else was controlling her uncle were just an attempt to give reason to something that really had none. The man was insane and perhaps these visits would convince her that there was no other explanation that could possibly exist.
The last time she saw him, she knew that it wasn’t him. It hadn’t been him for some time, but she still hadn’t been able to prove it and so she had stopped trying. Insanity was easier to believe than the unseen and unacknowledged. This time was different. It felt like everything had been building up to this and a dread rested in her stomach and heart as she entered the room where her uncle waited.
He stood by the window, hair unkempt and greasy, beard unshaved, hands clasped behind his back. “Hello, Lorraine.” Even his voice somehow seemed different and it made her tense more than she had been, a frown gracing her features as she hesitantly stepped forward. He hadn’t looked over to see who it was, but that didn’t really mean anything. He had either been told she was coming or just knew that it was her because she was his only visitor. No one else ever came.
“Uncle William?” It came out more frightened and childlike than she wanted, but she couldn’t help it. She was scared. Something said this was the last time she would see him and it terrified her because she didn’t know what that meant and when he turned, she froze. His expression was calm, almost amused. Something she hadn’t seen since before everything had happened. It seemed out of place, wrong.
His hands were still behind his back as he approached her, glance sliding to the orderly watching closely near the door. They never let her visit alone. There were safety precautions to keep, after all. But, that didn’t matter. They wouldn’t interfere if he didn’t make any sudden moves and if he didn’t try to hurt her. Which he, surprisingly, never did.
Looking up at him as he seemed to tower over her, she swallowed hard, trying to suppress the tears in her eyes because meeting his eyes, she saw only darkness. There was nothing left of her uncle at all and whatever it was that was looking back at her was evil. It left her chilled and afraid and at a loss because no one else could see it or sense it or believe it was there. She was completely alone with whatever this was.
It studied her for a long moment, expression still amused but otherwise unreadable, and then it leaned down to whisper in her ear, making sure that she was the only one to hear the words. “I see you, little girl. I see you and I know things that no one else believes. This game no longer amuses me, but it’s not over. Not even close.”
Stepping back, he finally unclasped his hands from behind his back and gestured to her. “We’re done here. Take her away.” He didn’t wait for the orderly to quietly move to guide Lorraine out of the room before returning to his place by the window, a smile lifting the edges of his lips as he watched their reflections in the window.
Not another word was spoken between them as Lorraine left the hospital. The last thing she heard about her uncle was that he had somehow gotten his hands on a gun, which he had turned on himself as soon as he had the opportunity. Supposedly the guilt of killing his family had finally gotten to him. It was tragic, but not unexpected. Insanity did that to people.
“Just like that, an upside down cross appeared.” Lorraine gestured to the video that was playing on the projector she and Ed had set up for their seminar at the University they were lecturing at. They often told of this specific exorcism when trying to demonstrate the seriousness of such things.
The exorcism itself had been an intense one. Oh, they were all intense, but something about this one was different, harder, something that Lorraine couldn’t explain if she had tried. They hadn’t performed the ceremony themselves, but both had been there to assist. Lorraine hadn’t felt right about it from the get go. Something had been wrong – something besides the obvious – and she never did figure out exactly what it had been.
“What happened to him?” A girl near the front had raised her hand when Ed had asked for questions and she had been chosen to ask hers. With a glance in Lorraine’s direction, Ed stepped forward to answer. “He took a gun and killed his wife and kids and then turned it on himself.”
Though she didn’t show it during the lectures and she didn’t speak of it later, she hated this specific example because it brought back her childhood. It reminded her of her uncle. Oh, Maurice looked nothing like William had. He didn’t sound or act like him or come from anywhere near where they did. The invasion of her own mind had shown her that it wasn’t even the same entity. But, there was something else.
There was the knowledge that no matter how much you tried, how often you fought…the good guys didn’t always win and the past never stayed fully in the past.