“Is he with us now?” Sister Dixon asked, leaning in towards me so that she rested her elbows against her knees and the blue dress lifting a little against her shins. Her expression that I could not read. Her eyes that were narrowed and her pupils that had dilated so that it appeared that the whole of each eye was completely black. The copper strands of hair that danced behind her head where the silver needle held the bun in place. The darkness of her gaze that remained fixed upon me. The sense that someone else studied me from behind those dark eyes of hers.
“Who?” I asked, remembering the ruined body of Taylor when the guards had finally arrived at the sound of my screaming for help. But it was too late. And Taylor’s throat that had been sliced open as she had struggled against the razor tipped wire. The blood that had run down either side of the iron gate she had been climbing to escape the cemetery.
And the memory of the shadow I had seen briefly chasing Taylor across the cemetery. The sinuous movement to the shadow-form as it seemed to leak out from beneath the darkness of the Yew Tree somehow. To seep out and up from the twisted roots. Taylor peering back behind her as she raced towards the gate and the fear that was stretched against her face. Her eyes that were wide and round as two conker’s as she screamed with all her might.
The shadow form that closed in behind her.
“The demon.” Sister Dixon said, and her voice barely louder than a whisper so that it felt that she was reciting some prayer. I shook my head. My skin beginning to itch. The temperature in the room beginning to increase and my hands that were clammy and warm. The buzzing of the hornet’s wings against the insides of my ear as I shook my head and Sister Dixon’s words away.
“No.” I said, my voice firm and my eyes that were fixed upon Sister Dixon. Her face and her skin that was flawless as though she had been dipped from head to toe in wax. “What demon?” I said, blinking briefly and the memory returning of Taylors haunted cries as she fled from the chapel and the shadow I had spied out there that was chasing her down against the heels. The slate grey scales that seemed to shimmer against the shadow-form.
And sister Dixon wasn’t buying any of it I don’t think.
She wasn’t buying a single word of garbage that was flowing from between my lips.
And fair play to her for that at least.
I watched as Sister Dixon lowered her hand towards the pocket of her blue uniform and grasped something in there. My eyes widening as she removed her hand from her pocket where she proceeded to remove an object. And half of me expected that she would reveal the set of keys that the guards had removed from me back there at the Chapel and rattle them before my face and tease me with them. But instead, she slowly allowed her fingers to unravel so that a silver crucifix was revealed. The chain dangling out across the edges of her hand and coiling against her fingers in my direction.
Sister Dixon brought the silver crucifix around and into her fingers as she lifted it to show me. And if it wasn’t for the chains against my ankles and my wrists, then I reckoned I might have sprung forwards towards her there and then. That I would have closed my hand against the little silver cross and shown Sister Dixon what’s what. And the thought lifted my lips into a thin smile, which I had no idea where it had come from because there was not one thing that was funny about any of this.
“Is something funny?” Sister Dixon said
Yes. You bitch!
I shook my head and edged away a little from Sister Dixon and the silver cross that she held before her as though that would do any good. Against me.
“No.” I said, turning my face slowly from left to right and studying the four corners of the room and lifting my gaze up towards the ceiling and the timber joists up there and noticing a thin strip of windows that I reckoned I’d be able to squeeze through and be done with this place once and for all. And I might just do that I thought, I might just do that. Because I was bored of this place now, real bored. And needed to get out of here and say my hello’s to Eddie.
“Nothing’s funny.” I said, and I meant that bit at least.
Sister Dixon leaned in a little closer towards me. The silver cross against the palm of her hand. The darkness that flickered against her gaze. The sensation repeated through my mind that someone other than Sister Dixon peered out from behind her black eyes. Something familiar about her eyes that I couldn’t quite grasp. As though I had been scrutinised by them before. A scent that lifted from her that registered against my brain. The smell of lavender perfume that had been used to mask the smell of smoke and soot.
“You were telling me about your sister?” She said, the silver cross still held against Sister Dixon’s as she lifted it towards me.
“Was I?” I asked, as I edged back a little in the metal chair and a sharp screeching grate as the metal legs snagged against the black and white tiles.
“Yes, you were Mandy. You remember? You were playing by the well you said?”
“Oh right.” I said, and the sickness that was rising against my throat and Sister Dixon with her silver cross and silver words and the thought that I might just projectile vomit there and then.
“What happened to your sister back then?” She asked. And I burped and chunks of food that lifted from my gut and burnt against my tongue. I shook my head from left to right and Sister Dixon leaning into me with that pesky silver cross of hers. “As you played by the well?”
“I don’t remember.” I said, which was as downright lie. But who cared anymore?
Sister Dixon blinked and leaned in a little closer.
The silver crucifix that was lifted out towards me now.
The chains that rattled against my ankles where they had been fastened and bolted against the steel clasps. The metal down there so flimsy and brittle looking I realised. And the thought occurred to me from who knew where that I could snap the legs clean from the chair with one kick of my leg and pull the steel chains apart with a flick of my wrists. And then I would be completely free in here with Sister Dixon. And what fun that could be had with her then.
What fun I could have with Sister Dixon then.
Sister Dixon scrutinising me. But something off with her expression. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. The sense that she was testing me. Teasing me somehow. The inscrutable expression that remained fixed upon her face and the alabaster skin that was smothered beneath a layer of thick makeup. The darkness of her eyes. And the strangest notion that suddenly popped clean into my head. That Sister Dixon wasn’t sister Dixon at all. But something else. Something ancient and dark and riven like twisted chunks of oak.
Something like me.
“How does the crucifix make you feel?” She asked, leaning closer towards me and the silver cross that she held.
“What do you mean?” I asked, pushing back and away as far as the steel chair would allow.
“Do you fear it?” She asked.
I shook my head, and giggled a little, and the sound of my voice sounding lighter that it should have done I thought.
“No. Why would I?” I asked, edging further backwards. The screeching of the metal legs against the black and white tiled floor.
Sister Dixon turned her face a little and studied me keenly. Her eyes that remained narrowed. Her voice that remained strangely calm. Subdued.
“Some psychological disorders provoke a fear of such symbols.” Sister Dixon said, leaning a little closer towards me with the silver cross so that the gap between the two of us was less than an arm’s length now. “Schizophrenic entities that exist within the mind that convince the host that they are possessed by demons. Alter ego’s that have fractured within the mind of the child when in distress and the mind convincing itself that it hears voices. That those voices are not there’s at all but someone else’s. The young mind a sponge and susceptible to external influence. The fractured entity within the mind convincing the host that they are possessed by demons. Is that what happened to you Mandy? Do you believe to be possessed by demons?”
Kill the bitch. Kill the bitch now!
“No.” I said shaking my head from left to right. But I didn’t have a god damned clue what the crazy woman was talking about. But still she, she was kind of pretty, so I allowed her to indulge me with her tricksy words a little longer. She leaned in towards me and motioned with the silver crucifix towards me.
“Clinical studies have shown that schizophrenics that are raised in religious households are more likely to develop possessions than any other grouping.” She explained, leaning in towards me with the silver cross still further. The distance between the object and my forehead less than half an arm’s length now.
My skin ablaze with flames it seemed to me. My body itching from head to toe. The buzzing of the hornet’s wings against my ears. And a voice that hissed against the insides of my ear.
She’s talking bullshit. Don’t listen to her.
“Really? That’s interesting” I said, my hands clenching into fists and the chains that were biting down against my wrists and pinching at the skin. And a sudden desperate fear that washed over me and flooded through my veins like cool waters. And how much I longed to be out of this place and spending a bit of fun-time with Eddie. Away from this woman and her words.
“It is interesting, isn’t it Mandy.” Sister Dixon continued, leaning ever closer towards me with that little silver cross of hers. “Was that what happened to you Mandy?” She said, “Your Father? Your home. Is that how this began?”
And I shook my head and this woman’s words away and forced my eyes to close. The tears I could feel burning against the insides of my eyelids and a taste of acid against my tongue. An image of my Father’s face that flashed before my eyes from the distant past. And he was smiling. And he was dressed from head to toe in black. And around his neck he was wearing a white collared shirt.
“No.” I said, shaking my head from left to right and the chains rattling against my ankles where I struggled against the chair I was shackled to. I lifted my gaze towards the wooden beams overhead and the windows I could spy up there and the sky that was blue and the clouds that were white.
“Let me out!” I said. I screamed. The words burning against my tongue as I writhed from left to right so that the chair almost toppled clean over. The memory of Taylor that flashed through my mind suddenly. The girl running with desperate fear away from the Chapel and towards the rusted iron gate. Her body hanging lifeless against the metal razor wire. And Rag n Bone lying beside me with the packet of biscuits that had been forced down his throat. And the sense that evil resided here. That evil resided in Deadwood Hospital.
“Let me out!” I screamed.
And Sister Dixon leaning in with her little silver crucifix that was held before her and her face behind that was painted on and her eyes that were black and the smile that was creased against her lips.
“No.” Sister Dixon said, leaning closer towards me with that silver cross of hers. “You’re never leaving here Mandy.” She said as she thrust the silver cross towards my forehead, and I kicked out with my legs so that the chair toppled over and went crashing to the floor.
“We’re having far too much fun to finish yet.” She said.