where the bad kids go
I continued to convince myself that it was an anxiety attack, that I had imagined the whole thing. But then how did his body move from the drawer to the door of the freezer room? Did I lose my sanity for a moment and move him myself? I tried to block out the idea that maybe he really did get up and move on his own, but it chewed at the back of my head as a thought that popped up frequently.
Rick from the funeral home hesitantly called to schedule an arrangement.
“Did he have anything planned for himself?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t care,” I responded coldly. “If it’s up to me, cremate him and do whatever you want with his ashes.”
“That’s all. Email me what you need from me and I’ll stop by and sign the paperwork when it’s ready.”
I hung up as Rick stuttered to collect himself. I was done with this town, with this project of cleaning up the shit that my mother left behind, with this house. This stupid house. I called a contractor to fix the basement, but they wouldn’t be here for another week just to examine it and create a quote. Stupid contractor.
I bought a few large moving boxes and began to pack my mother’s clothes from her closet. She didn’t have much, but the rest of the boxes would be used to pack everything else away once I’d finally sell this hellhole.
I pushed the boxes into the back corner of the closet and stepped outside of it. It looked a lot bigger without clothes inside of it. I took another step backward and continued on until I collapsed onto the bouncy mattress that squeaked beneath me. The wrinkled fitted sheet popped off the top left corner of the bed and revealed a deep slice in the mattress, something I hadn’t noticed when I first changed the sheets.
Curiously, I dug my finger into the cut, made from a knife or some kind of blade. It was a clean slice. I pulled out a few sheets of paper, folded into a wad. I remembered the Bible in the basement that contained what may have been another note or letter, but I planned to look at that later. I wasn’t going back in there just yet.
When I unfolded it, it contained scratchy letters from someone exhausted and hurried. It looked like a note from only a few months before she had committed suicide.
March 4, 2015
It all started when we moved into this stupid house. Stupid house. We needed the space for the baby and a voice whispered in my head and told me to do it, to buy the house. I thought it was my gut instinct or a sign, so we took it. The voice never went away, and It started saying other things once we moved into this stupid house. It told me that Trent hated seeing me fat. It told me that he would run away when the baby was born and that I would eventually kill myself under the stress of taking care of a dumb baby. It told me that my baby would rot in Hell. It told me that I would just be a struggling, single mom that couldn’t do anything with her life. It called me names that I’ve never been called before.
The baby was born and the voice called him disgusting, an insult to society, one that all the kids will bully and that I should be ashamed as a mother to have a child like him. That a kid like him should be kicked and hit and slapped and scratched to punish him for the sins that he hasn’t even committed yet. It told me to burn him and prepare him for Hell.
When I stared at myself in the mirror all I could see was what a dumb, fat bitch I was, who couldn’t lose the baby weight and had a boyfriend that didn’t love her and a kid that cried and cried. I hated him when he cried, which was all the time. The voice told me again and again to wrap my hands around his throat to make it stop crying forever. It said I would be happy again if I killed him. I wanted to be happy again…
I started to drink because the more I drank, the more the whispers changed. It would tell me that I was good whenever I drank, and that I was actually worth something. It said the more I drank, the more beautiful I became. It said that I was an even better mother and that I would actually touch my child after a few drinks. Now that I think about it, I can’t really remember much that happened whenever I drank. It’s all a blur, I swear. Just a blur. But I see flashes of him as I stand over him and he’s crying. I hear the awful things that I’m not actually saying to Trent. It’s saying them, not me, I swear. It’s all a blur.
Usually It shows Itself in nightmares, to make Itself known. That’s when I first saw It, when I had a dream that I was in the crawlspace with Jesse as an adult. I knew it was him, I just knew it. The stupid house was on fire, and he was trapped in the crawlspace surrounded by flames and shadows of demons danced around him. That’s when I saw It, in the corner where the light of the fire couldn’t reach. It watched him burn, and it laughed. It turned to me and then I woke up and I was standing at the crawlspace looking into it. I think It lives down there. It says that’s where the bad kids go.
It visited me in my sleep last night, as It did many times before. The first night, I watched myself sleep, and I watched It walk out of my closet and stand over me next to my bed. It watched me sleep all night long, and I heard it whisper but I couldn’t hear what it was saying. Before morning, It looked up at me as if It knew that I was there, and then It walked back into the closet. When I woke up, I saw two large footprints in the carpet where it stood.
Last night, I was awake when It walked out from the darkness. I couldn’t move. It crawled from the end of my bed and laid on top of me, and It breathed against my neck and whispered into my ear all night long, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I said the Lord’s prayer in my head and the bed began to shake. I thought It was finally taking me away as It promised all along.
I can see it in the closet as I write this. It knows that I haven’t had anything to drink in a few days. It’s in the corners of your eyes and It makes sounds around the house to lure you into the darkness. Don’t go into the darkness. It’s this stupid house. It’s a vessel that holds something else inside, and it will continue to bring you underneath its roof until it swallows you whole. I have to destroy It.
The way she ended the note with ‘I’m sorry’ had sparked the image of her black figure standing over my bed with the knife as she mumbled the same words to me. And then her whiskey-ridden voice cried out in my head, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, like a broken record while I had sat in the bathtub huddled behind the frog shower curtain.
I began to suspect that the ‘It’ was an entity that she’d seen during drunken hallucinations, or more likely nightmares that she’d probably believe manifested from within the house since she spoke of it so much. Did she really believe that the house contained something evil? Did it really speak to her?
The second-to-last paragraph sounded a lot like what I’d read online about sleep paralysis. Shortly upon entering or leaving REM sleep, the body produces a certain chemical to temporarily paralyze itself so that one doesn’t act out his or her own dreams. Sometimes the mind would wake before the body, and visual and auditory hallucinations could occur. In some cases, it feels as though someone is pressing down on the chest and makes it difficult to breathe. That was the logical explanation.
I pried the hole in the mattress open and saw what looked like another note deeper inside. I dug my fingers further inside and pulled out a torn piece of paper. It was a short excerpt from what I could only assume was another drunk instance.
stupid kid keeps crying when ever I look at him says im scareing him and i hit him becaus he wont stop cryng
PUT HIM IN THE BASEMENT.
HE IS A BAD KID. HE DESERVES IT.
She had dug her pen deeply into the paper every other line and the ink soaked through; it was also smeared from her intoxicated hands. The words quivered as if she had Parkinson’s, struggled, lopsided, and overly-concentrated on writing each letter completely.
Her conversation with herself reminded me of the many times I had caught her doing the same when I was a kid. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had a drink in her hand as she wrote it, a date with the voices she heard inside of her head. I felt as though I stumbled upon the letter of a schizophrenic fueled by the drug of alcohol, and for a moment that idea didn’t seem too farfetched. It was a depression that had become exacerbated shortly after she had given birth to me, using alcohol as a getaway from the psychosis that eventually dissolved her brain and created voices that only a crazy person would hear.
My mother was crazy.
I tossed and turned into the late hours of the night as I thought about the note. Her writing haunted me, and for a minute, I wanted to believe her.
I finally succumbed to insomnia and lay on my back as I stared up at the ceiling. I began to feel heavy, and my body tingled as static crunched in my ears. The house seemed to vibrate, and it almost felt as if I were glued to the mattress. My heart bumped against my chest and echoed in my ears. I felt hot and cold at the same time beneath the sheets, and I wanted to sit up but I was suddenly held down by invisible hands. My arms wouldn’t move; my feet were frozen in place. I tried to open my mouth, but my jaw was rusted shut. I was a prisoner in my own body, totally conscious but unable to communicate.
Sleep paralysis. It was a reasonable guess as the note from earlier that day had bled into my subconscious.
I looked at the closed bedroom door. The sounds came from the basement. Heavy footsteps.
Something struggled up the steps, and I counted each one.
thump. Seven. Thump. Eight. THUMP. Nine.
I imagined my mother’s crispy body as she lifted stiff legs up each plank. Her crusty, charred skin flaking off and whirling between the steps into darkness. The pads of her feet sticking to the wood and peeling from her body in strings of coagulated blood. Feeling her way up the stairs as her eyelids were seared shut from the flames. Coming for me.
THUMP. Ten. THUMP. Eleven.
And then I remembered The Thing.
wakeupWakeUpWAKEUP! I screamed at myself. My arms and legs were strapped to the bed with unseen rope. Silence overcame the house, and my heart performed a drum solo as it pulsated rapidly. I felt my rib cage caving in, and breathing became a chore. My windpipe seized momentarily, and for a moment I thought I would suffocate. I stared at the ceiling and tried to convince myself that my body was not awake, that it was a dream, that it’s not real.
The thought quickly dissipated when something dragged itself down the hallway, toward the bedroom. I listened as it grew closer and louder, and then it pressed itself against the door. I could hear it wheeze behind it. Agonized. Tortured. Dead.
The handle trembled and the door clicked opened. Screams and tortured shrieking emitted from the blackness that the opening door welcomed into the bedroom from the hallway. The walls caved in and the roof collapsed into a blackness that I never knew existed. I stared down at the foot of the bed, the only part of me that remained in this abyss.
A skeleton hand with spider-like fingers snaked through the crevasses of my covers.
Everything went black.