“Did you see that?”
Faye Morgan turned her head so fast that her friends James, Tony and Maria heard the sickening crack of one of her vertebrae.
“See what?” James asked.
“I don’t know,” Faye said hesitating. “It looked like…” she stopped again.
“Looked like what?” this time from Tony.
“I don’t know,” she repeated. “You guys will think I’m silly or overworked or something.”
“No such thing,” James said. “We know that you’re silly and overworked, but the something…we’re not too sure about.” James Mason was the joker of the group.
“I just saw something that looked like…never mind…I just thought I saw something.”
“Well, I see something,” James replied. “I see the guardrail, I see passing brush, I see trees zooming by. Hey, I think we’re in a car going somewhere.”
Faye was glad that she had not told them after all. I mean, who would believe me? She mused to herself as she turned to look out of the window.
It had started last week while she was driving to work. She’d thought she’d seen something. Though unsure of what it was at first, the more she continued to see it out of the corner of her eye, the more recognizable it had become.
Convinced that she was overworked and needed some rest and relaxation, Faye had asked her three closest friends to take a weekend trip to Diamond Beach. It was a five-hour drive from Concordia City, but worth the ride if only to escape the bustling metropolis. When they’d left, she had begun to feel more relaxed. She knew that for the remainder of the weekend, she would have her mind off her work, her lack of a steady boyfriend, her disastrous finances and most of all, the death of her childhood friend Nancy.
The coroner had said that they could not find the cause of Nancy’s death, so had concluded that she’d simply died in her sleep. Because of the lack of any injuries, the death certificate stated unknown causes.
At the viewing however, Faye was certain that she knew the cause. Perhaps it had something to do with the way the body had been nearly rent to pieces. There had been claw marks criss-crossing the face and torso. Her throat had been torn out and gobbets of flesh had hung loosely in the creases of the wounds.
The sight of her friend mangled nearly beyond recognition had almost made her sick. How the family could have had an open casket viewing, and why the mortician had not attempted to clean the cadaver was something that she could not understand. She was also at a loss of understanding as to how the authorities had come to their conclusion. When she’d attempted to broach the subject, everyone appeared not to have noticed. The whole experience had left her feeling rather shaken.
This weekend’s campout would really clear her mind and allow her to focus. It’d been a year since her last vacation—which was part of the financial problems. She really couldn’t have afforded to spend the money, but Nancy had really wanted them to go to Italy. Now she was dead and Faye had yet to come to terms with the loss.
“So are you going to tell us what you saw?” Maria interjected on her reflections.
“It was nothing. Just something I thought I saw at the side of the road that’s all.”
Best to leave it at that, than to have to listen to James’ sarcasm and the lack of belief from the others.
The rest of the drive was uneventful as were the weekend and return trip home. She didn’t have any more quick glimpses. She also didn’t meet any cute campers, but it was still very relaxing and enjoyable. For once, she didn’t really mind going back to work on Monday.
* * *
On her way into the office the next morning, she saw the same vision as before, and once more when she turned for a better look it retreated.
Obviously, she told herself, the weekend getaway did not solve anything.
At that point, she started to consider her options. If she continued on as she was, it would only be a matter of time before she either lost her mind completely or became so distracted that she hurt herself or someone else. Alternatively, she could seek professional help, there had to be a rational explanation for the things that were happening to her and the sooner she resolved the issue, the better.
Deciding that hurting someone because of her ongoing distractions would be something that she would not be able to live with, she chose to get professional help. It won’t mean that I’m crazy, Faye reassured herself, it just means that I need a little help dealing with all the things in my life.
While at her office, She researched some psychiatrists online and made an appointment for the next day. The sightings continued all the while and on the drive home, it took all of her concentration to keep her car on the road. She glimpsed the apparition, but it had changed. Somehow, it stayed just a fraction longer when she looked over; unlike the first time she’d noticed it.
* * *
The following morning it was worse and an ominous feeling descended upon her. Not wanting to risk what would be a distracted drive into work and then another to the psychiatrist, Faye called in sick. She told herself that she was sick, after all. There would really have to be something wrong with her mind for her to continue to see these images.
Upon arriving for her appointment—a half hour early—she was informed that Dr. Dillington was with a patient and that she could either come back or sit and wait. Faye was so distracted that the information had to be repeated before she understood. She decided to wait at the office. If she continued to be distracted by the apparition, then there was the possibility that she could miss her appointment. Taking a seat on the black leather couch in the anteroom, Faye began to absent-mindedly peruse a magazine.
When her time arrived, the secretary appeared to restrain herself when she realized that the information questionnaire had not been completed. Faye had to concentrate in order to even remember having been given the clipboard and document.
When at last it was finished, she was admitted into the Doctor’s office. The secretary handed him Faye’s clipboard and exited the room, closing the door gently behind her.
He was not as she had expected. In her mind she’d pictured him as an older graying gentleman with large-framed glasses and a Polk-a-dotted bow tie. He’d be either seated behind a large oak desk or directly beside a white leather couch. She had envisioned a wood-paneled office adorned with numerous credentials from all of the most famous institutes.
To her surprise however, the doctor did not seem to be much older than her own twenty-nine year of age. In place of the paneled walls was a neatly painted blue room. The credentials were there of course, though not as many as she had thought. Instead of a large oak desk, there were arrayed around the room a variety of chairs—two in particular sat on opposite sides of a stylish coffee table.
She also couldn’t help noticing his magnificent green eyes, and instantly found him attractive. This helped to ease her anxiety a little. At least about seeing a shrink, anyway.
“Ah Miss Morgan, have a seat.” he said, not indicating anywhere in particular. Most of the trepidations that remained instantly melted away after hearing this rich seductive tone from so handsome a man.
Faye chose one of the chairs at the coffee table, the doctor took the other.
“Now, before we begin, I just have a few questions.” the psychiatrist said as he looked from Faye to the clipboard and back again.
She nodded so he proceeded.
“How old are you, Miss Morgan? If you don’t mind my asking.” the doctor quickly added.
“That’s okay. I’m 29.” Faye replied.
“Have you ever seen a psychiatrist before?” he asked as he made a note on the document.
“Are you currently taking any medication that I should know about?”
“No.” Faye said again.
“Okay then, the rest we can tend to later. So…why don’t you tell me about what brings you here today.” he said.
She took a deep breath before beginning.
“I think there’s something wrong with me.”
Instantly she realized how it might sound to the psychiatrist but it was too late to retract the words. His raising an eyebrow confirmed that she’d been correct as to the way her statement could be interpreted. Faye tried to cover her minute embarrassment with a little cough.
“It’s okay, Miss Morgan. I understand. Most people are a little nervous when visiting someone of my profession for the first time.” Doctor Dillington reassured her.
Faye wasn’t really sure how to respond so she simply stared at her hands for a few moments. Visions of her friend streamed through her mind and she tried to steady her breathing.
“That’s fine, Miss Morgan. Please continue when you are ready.” he tried to reassure her again.
“As I said,” she resumed. “I think there’s something wrong with me.”
“That might be a very harsh description. What makes you say that?”
“I think I’ve been hallucinating.”
“You think…or you have been?” the doctor asked.
“Well, I…I…” Faye stammered. She didn’t miss the hesitation in his remark.
“Please try to relax, Miss Morgan. My job is not to judge, but to offer assistance.”
Faye breathed deeply again. She began to wonder if in fact she were doing the right thing in visiting a psychiatrist. Maybe it was just the stress of her disastrous life recently that was the cause of what was happening to her. The things she had seen and were seeing couldn’t truly be possible.
“Okay,” she tried again. “I have been hallucinating. But I think that…I mean, I’m sure that it’s only because of all of the stress I’ve been under lately.
“When you say hallucinating, what exactly have you been seeing?” he asked.
“Well,” she began. “It looks kinda like…kinda like a claw. At first it was only at the corner of my eye, and every time I tried to get a better look, it always vanished. I should say it always had vanished. Now, it seems to be staying longer and…” she trailed off.
“And?” he prompted.
“And,” she resumed. “It seems to be getting closer.”
“Can you describe it to me—I mean…what…kind of claw is it?” the doctor asked.
“It’s green and reptilian looking with really sharp-looking nails. I can see it, and I can see the arm but nothing more.”
“Hmm,” he replied. “Tell me, have you undergone any stressful or unusual events recently that you’ve not mentioned?”
“Well,” Faye began, then paused.
She thought about lying, or maybe omitting what she had seen at the viewing. What would he think if she really told him everything? Would he have her committed? Maybe placed under suicide watch? What would her friends say about that when they found out? So many different scenarios warred within her mind.
Finally Faye decided that if she wanted help, truly wanted help, then she would have to tell him everything.
Steeling herself, she proceeded with caution. “My long-time friend Nancy was buried a couple of weeks ago, and…”
“At the viewing…” Faye shuddered as she recalled the damage inflicted on her friend. In the back of her mind she prayed that he would believe her.
“What of it?” he prodded.
“That’s just it…it was weird.”
“In which way?”
“The body…it was…it was hacked to pieces.” Faye started to sob and search her purse for a tissue.
Doctor Dillington reached under the coffee table and placed a box of Kleenex within her reach. She pulled two and dabbed at her eyes and nose, thanking him.
“I don’t understand Miss Morgan. If the body was…hacked…to pieces, they would not have an open casket viewing.” he replied.
“I know, I know, but they did. And worse, no one seemed to notice. They were saying they couldn’t find the cause of death. That she simply died in her sleep. Everyone was commenting on how peaceful she looked. It was like they didn’t see it.”
“How could they not?” she asked. “Were they blind?”
“Tell me Miss Morgan—”
“Please, Faye.” she sobbed.
“Okay. Tell me Faye, were you seeing this…claw before or after this situation?” he asked.
She thought for a moment. “I’m not really sure,” she replied. “I think it may have been after, but I can’t really say with any certainty.”
At her quizzical look he continued.
“I’ll explain in a moment. How has your sleep been prior to and following this tragedy?”
“Well, as I’ve said, I have been under a lot of stress lately. I’ve also made a complete mess of my finances. It’s so bad that I’m barely making it by month to month. And…”
“And…well, I’ve been kinda lonely lately. I’ve not had a boyfriend for a long time now, and I find that I think a lot about both almost every night.”
“I see,” he said. “Do these thoughts keep you awake?”
“Sometimes,” Faye responded.
“What about your dreams when you are able to sleep?”
“I’ve not…I don’t think I’ve been having dreams.”
“Hmm, that’s not good. The body needs sound sleep. REM Sleep. If you’re not dreaming then you’re not entering that phase. Without it the mind begins to break down and we start to hallucinate. I’m going to recommend some sleeping pills for you.”
She started to object but he raised a hand to forestall.
“Don’t worry they’ll not be addictive. They’re just so you can sleep and most importantly, dream. Over all I think that it is your subconscious reacting to the loss of much-needed rejuvenation. The next time you see this…claw, I want you to concentrate on it and try to determine what it and the arm are attached to. Once you can confirm that there’s nothing there your mind will realize that it had hallucinated all the events and the apparitions will fade. I think we should schedule follow-up appointments.”
Faye agreed and left the office feeling relaxed.
That night with the help of the medication she slept better than she had in a long while. The following dawn she was very refreshed and ready to tackle a hard day’s work.
On the ride into the office, the vision came again and as usual vanished before she could get a good look at it. The second time she saw it however, she did not look over as quickly and tried the doctor’s suggestion. She concentrated and the image started to move from her periphery to her central vision.
Then she realized, but it was too late. The demon was upon her. Razor sharp talons started to hack and slash at her face, breasts, and throat. She raised her arms in an attempt to ward off the blows but soon they too were torn to shreds. The last things she heard were her own agonized screams and the crashing sound of metal on metal.
* * *
One week later James, Tony and Maria were standing over Faye’s open coffin at the funeral home. People were commenting on how peaceful she looked.
To James she did not look very peaceful. He couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Could they not see the rends in her flesh, the bits of skin dangling from her cheeks, her opened throat? What kind of an undertaker would prepare a body for a viewing in such a way? He was disgusted but did not want to upset her family or friends, so he kept quiet.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw it.