Lit Mag Short Fiction

Fractured Minds


The rickety old grandfather clock elicited a slight creak as the long metronome flung to and fro. Dust wrapped along the sides of the once golden brown timekeeper, and with each swing, it knocked off a few old remnants. Chalky cabinets, half-filled with books and half-filled with what looked like scribbled drawings, encompassed the other half of the once pristine apartment. The windows of the Grandfather clock were lined with post-it notes, each with an incoherent thought or unfinished message. “SToP,” one said, “StOp LaUgHing,” another wrote. 


Mrs. Anderson, once a prominent figure, lay curled in a ball furiously writing and tugging at the seams of her clothing. She couldn’t have looked a year under 75, and the rest of her body showed for it. Her wrinkly skin oiled and oozed a combination of wet sweat and dry dirt that caked the outer layers of her body. Her gray hair frizzled in a foolish attempt to cover her misshapen bald spots. Hair lined the floor, covering the bloodstains on the ashy red and gold Victorian-style carpet.


She uncurled from the fetal position in which she was laying to shout out, “StOp LaUgHing aT mE,” she rocked and grimminced in pain. She locked her squinted eyes on the clock, which now read eleven past ten, and when that became too much, she shot her head back nervously, cackling, “YoU ThInK tHiS iS FuNnY? YoU WoN’T GeT AwAY WiTh ThIS! I’LL HaVE YoU KnOW-” she was cut off by the overwhelming sense that someone was speaking back to her. Shocked by the sound, she banged her head against the wall emmiting a sound that rocked her apartment. 


“I have, and I will,” a voice seemed to speak to her from the direction of the clock, laughing in between each word. At the position of ten and fifteen minutes, the clock hands distorted themselves into a feverish grin, looking down at the now shaking Mrs. Anderson. “You will never leave here,” the grin extended further, and the creaking metronome brought out a low laugh. 


She defiantly locked eyes with the dark face projected on the clock, “I will leave now,” she demanded. She violently stood up, sending a rush to her head, tilting the room on its axle. She made a run for the door knocking over a bottle of pills and a cup of water that lay on the top of her grimey mess of a coffee table. She tripped on the edge of the carpet, undeterred she clawed at the floorboards begging for their assistance. 


The shadow man leaped out at her from the clock trapping her against the closet door, glaring into the depths of her soul and prying for answers. “I’M SOrRY,” her voice trembled.  The shadow man gave no response and instead stared more intensely as if begging for reasoning. Tears streamed down the old woman’s cheeks begging the shadow man to cast himself  back into the clock.  


Her body shook as if in revelation; her fear replaced itself with overwhelming arrogance; her fists tightened, and her jaw clenched. She released a shrieking howl, “leave me ALONE,” her face contorted, and she smiled menacingly. Her tears dried and were replaced by distant yet still crazy eyes. Then she started to laugh, but her laughter suddenly stopped, and she became silent. 


From her pocket she pulled out a loaded pistol and toyed with it in the palm of her hand. She crept her hand down to the base of the gun. No longer in control, she pulled the safety. “Please don’t make me do this,” she pleaded, “Leave me alone. Go away. I can’t take this anymore”. 


  She pointed the gun at the clock. “Lord forgive me for what I’m about to do,” she cried. BAM.” I’m sorry,” she solemnly spoke towards the clock, “goodbye now,” she turned the gun on herself, winced, and fired. BAM. The gunshots rang through the apartment building, shaking the walls. 

The door creaked open, and a boy entered slowly. His hair was ragged, his eyes bloodshot. Fists were clenched at his side. He snatched the bottle of chlorpromazine from the coffee table and tore open the seal that he had secretly placed. His body jerked as he turned on Mrs. Anderson, drew a gun from his pocket, and maniacally laughed, “Bye Bye Grandma,” He fired, and his eyes flashed white, he collapsed. Cops bursted through the door and picked up the already subdued kid banging him against the door frame as they walked through. 


I picked up my warm cup of coffee and pulled my winter coat tightly around my body. The air in the detective’s room was colder than any of those I’ve visited before. ” Why’d you do it?” I asked as I pulled myself closer to the table to take a closer look at the boy. I thought to myself, there’s no way this boy is a killer.  I was wrong. Jordan, the scruffy young boy in front of me, was capable of unimaginable things that I would never forget. Things that he could not control.

Noticing that he didn’t intend to answer my first question, I pried, “What happened that night?” He looked at me with the type of blank stare you would only see from a fresh corpse, not even noticing that there was another person in the room. I looked him up and down, and for the first time, he made an indication that he saw me.  He looked away. His hair was tattered, and his clothes were ripped, revealing a line of scars along his arm and chest. Now it was my turn to look away. I held back tears. “How could a child do this?” I thought, but at the same time, I questioned, “How could this happen to a child?” 

He maniacally scratched at the scars on his arm and gained the confidence to face me. This time he did say something, “She deserved it! That damn witch!!” Then he said something that sent a shiver down my spine, “You’ll get it too someday. They’ll all get it!” He glanced furtively around the room, pointing at imaginary figures and shaking the chains that tied him down to the table. “You’ll get it too!” he shouted at me. 

I flipped open the folder I had brought into the room. I once again looked at his case file, “Paranoid Schizophrenic,” It read, “In and out of Psychiatric Institutions and Juvies along the East Coast. Released due to lack of institutions and lack of Psychologists”. I had to reread the last sentence; I could not believe they let this kid slip through the cracks. 

In all my years working in the psychology field, I had never seen a case this horrific and a child this neglected. The kid that I was looking at now was forced to move in with his grandmother at the age of 2. His mother abandoned him, left, and never returned. By the age of 5, he started to develop signs of illness. His grandmother, also schizophrenic, never brought him to the doctor and ignored his cries for help. By the age of 7, he was found in a neighbor’s front yard banging a shovel against the ground that he used to “play with the rattlesnakes.” This was the first time he was institutionalized. 

I looked at him again; he was shaking, rattling his chains against the table. I could see the child-like fear behind his eyes that were now looking frantically around, trying to find a spot to focus on. In all my years of taking these cases, the first question detectives and policemen asked me all around the country was, “How could you feel bad for someone like this? How could you care?”  Well if I don’t care for someone like him, who will?

“I have a place I could take you. It is not comfortable, but it’s the best that I can do for you. Let me help you,” I extended my hand. He seemed to calm down, processing what I had said and appreciating the sentiment. He stopped shaking his hands, and the tapping of his foot quelled. “Help me,” he whispered, reaching his hands out towards me. 

I got up, walked to the other side of the desk, and slipped the keys into his cuffs. “It’s okay, son. I’ll take care of you,” I reassured him, unlocking the cuffs and releasing him from the  desk. I helped him out of his seat and  slowly walked him out of the room and through the police station. The policemen stared at the uncuffed child in awe. “Why would you do that? People like that deserve to be put away!” I didn’t respond but instead kept walking out into the rainy night. 

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