It was fall again. Michael Wallis always dreaded this time of year, working at Creekside Hospital. Creekside was a hospital for the mentally insane and Michael Wallis had been a porter there for twelve years.
During the year, each time there was a full moon, Michael noticed that the residents always acted a little differently than they usually did. At a hospital for the insane, that said a lot!
But there was something about the fall season, especially as Halloween loomed, that seemed to especially agitate some of the long time residents.
Michael prided himself on keeping an open mind about the residents of Creekside, remembering that they were all someone’s baby years before they ended up here. He tried to have as much patience and understanding as possible. Michael himself had come from a violent broken home, where alcohol and abuse were daily occurrences.
As Halloween drew nearer, Michael paid special attention to a particular resident. Susan Priestly. Susan had been a resident of the hospital for a few decades, long before Michael started working there. He’d been told all about her violent history and had been warned to never, ever turn his back on Susan.
Susan had killed her parents and younger sister in a fit of sociopathic rage when she was just sixteen years old! Michael had heard many rumors about the actual story and tried to deduce fact from fantasy.
To look at Susan, you’d never think she had been diagnosed as a complete sociopath. A narcissist from a very young age, Susan’s mind slid easily from narcissism into a sociopathic state. Violence was second nature to Susan, watching her parents fight endlessly. She would spy on them from the upstairs hallway, as their screaming matches became physical, often leaving her mother bruised and her father bloodied from her mother’s nails, scraping his face in attempts to fight back.
Susan’s paternal grandparents had raised their son Jeff to expect his wife to obey and submit. Susan’s mother Marie thought if she could please Jeff enough, he’d change and become kinder and love her. She thought if she had his children, his heart would soften and he’d learn to love and respect others.
When Marie’s plan failed, their arguments became epic. The police often showed up at their front door when the neighbors called, due to hearing screaming and sounds of things breaking.
Susan spent a lot of her time trying to shelter her younger sister Kelly, but as Kelly grew older, she often sided with their father, arguing that their mother should take better care of him and he wouldn’t get so angry.
By the time Susan was fifteen, she’d lost all respect and love for her parents and even her younger sister. She’d retreated into her own mind, shielding herself from reacting to the violence that surrounded her.
The day Susan lost her grip on reality and reason, she killed her family with a large knife when they were sleeping in their beds.
Staggering outside and down the street in the dark of night, it was morning before a mailman discovered Susan, her nightgown covered in blood, the butcher knife on the sidewalk next to her and Susan shivering, staring off into space.
Michael often wondered what had pushed Susan Priestly over the edge to commit such a heinous act and on some levels he felt sorry for her. Still though, Michael never turned his back on Susan Priestly.
Susan had long graying hair, light blue eyes and almost white skin. She spent a lot of time wandering the fenced in yard of the hospital, staring off into space, only speaking if spoken to. Michael, or another staff member, always had to be within close proximity to Susan for the safety of everyone. Michael didn’t know what kinds of medications the doctors had her on, but Susan always appeared to be calm and non threatening.
Until Halloween time came around that is. Michael knew she’d killed her family near Halloween and that added an even more spooky feeling to the story.
The hospital always had little celebrations for the residents for all the holidays and Halloween was no exception. Michael was asked to help chaperone the festivities, as he was a favorite of the residents.
The closer Halloween and the full moon, came, the more some of the residents became agitated and upset. Staff was diligent with medications and activities to distract them from negativity and the party was focused on games, happy music and plenty of treats. No scary costumes were allowed and the residents responded with childlike excitement, especially seeing one another dressed as princesses, cowboys and animals.
Michael and the rest of the staff were dressed in their every day scrubs, so the residents would know who there were and no one would get upset.
Walking around the large room, Michael smiled at the residents who were enjoying games and activities, fun music playing in the background and even a few people were dancing.
Off in the corner, he noticed a woman in a long white gown, a tinsel halo on her head and large white wings, affixed to her back. Of course it was Susan, her long grey hair, flowing about her shoulders. She was by herself and no one else was around her.
Michael decided he’d try to talk her into joining the rest of the group and maybe she’d have fun for once. She actually looked pretty in her angel costume and once again, he felt the kindship of another person who’d grown up with alcohol and violence surrounding their every move.
Susan looked directly at Michael with her light blue, non blinking eyes. She seemed to be challenging him with her gaze.
“Hello Susan. It’s Michael. You look really nice in your angel costume.” Michael spoke quietly, looking directly back into her eyes with his own dark brown ones. He wanted her to understand that he knew who she was, was acknowledging her and not going to hurt her.
Susan didn’t respond. She finally blinked and tilted her head slightly to one side.
“Susan, would you like to come join the games with some of the others? They’re playing a Halloween card game you might like. Or, or you could have a treat! There’s lots of candy and cupcakes. There’s even some punch. What do you say?” Michael held out his hand, a smile on his face.
Michael wanted so much for Susan to connect with him. Get out of her constant state of silence and being alone. He knew all about alone, coming from a similar background. Of course, he didn’t snap and kill his family, he simply grew up and moved out.
Susan continued to stare at Michael’s outstretched hand and then back at his face. She seemed to be contemplating his words, but hadn’t moved a muscle.
Looking back over his shoulder at the residents, laughing, dancing and having fun, Michael turned back to Susan.
“Come on Susan. Just for a little bit. If you don’t feel comfortable, I’ll walk you back to your room.” His eyes searched her pale ones. She leaned to the left, looking around him, toward the group on the other side of the room. Blinking, she readjusted her gaze, looking at Michael. Finally she took a step toward him, although she didn’t take his hand.
Michael was thrilled that he was able to get her to join in the party and slowly walked with her toward the group.
Susan stood near the table, watching a group of residents playing a simple card game at one table and over at another, people were coloring pictures of pumpkins to hang on the walls.
Michael stepped over to the refreshment table, poured a cup of punch, took a cupcake on a plate and walked over to Susan. He offered it to her, but she simply stared at him.
He set the cup and plate down on the table next to her and told her she could have it later if she wanted.
Susan just looked at him, her eyes empty, staring and blank. Michael couldn’t begin to guess what she might be thinking. He asked her if she would like to dance, but she continued to stare at him, not speaking a word.
Suddenly, Susan turned quickly and started heading out the door to the hall.
“Hey, Susan, wait up. I’ll walk you to your room.” Michael called after her, walking quickly to catch up.
Susan walked swiftly down the hall toward her room. It was way down at the end of the hall and around a corner. The evening lights weren’t very bright and Michael felt as if he were following a ghost, with Susan in her long white gown.
As he rounded the corner, Susan was just walking through the door, into her room. She turned and stared at Michael, again silent. Her eyes catching the light from the light next to the doorway. Michael shivered as the dim light shone, reflecting emptiness in those icy blue eyes.
He found that he still felt sorry for her. He couldn’t quite understand how anyone could actually kill their family, but he could also connect with the feelings of being abused by parents who only knew violence. The feeling of just wanting to be loved and cared for. He hoped he could somehow help Susan know that she mattered.
When he followed her into her room, she stood with her back to him. Arms at her sides. She seemed to be staring at the wall, seeing something he could not see.
Walking around in front of her, Michael spoke quietly.
“Susan, can I get you anything? I’m sorry you left the party. I can go get a nurse to help you get ready for bed if you’d like.”
Susan continued to stare at the wall, but was wringing her hands together. Michael noticed as her knuckles turned even whiter than her already pale skin. He hoped she wasn’t getting agitated, thinking of her family and what she had done.
He decided he’d help get her night clothes out before calling in a nurse. Maybe Susan just needed a little time to decompress from being around a large group of people.
“Here, why don’t you sit down on your bed and I’ll get your night clothes and slippers out. Then I’ll go find a nurse to help you with your costume. You sure do make a pretty angel.” Michael smiled at her, trying to put her at ease.
Susan slowly turned and tried to struggle out of the wings strapped over her shoulders.
“Oh, here, let me help you with those!” Said Michael. He unbuckled the metal hooks, held by thick nylon straps. He was thinking to himself that the wings were quite well made and wondered where the activity director had found them, as the director was in charge of all the costumes.
Setting the wings down on the bed next to Susan, Michael made the fatal mistake of turning his back to pull open a dresser drawer and get out a nightgown.
Instantly Susan grabbed the feathery wings, stretching the nylon straps between her hands, she threw her hands over Michael’s head, pulling the strap tight across his neck!
Michael was taken so unawares, that he didn’t know what was happened and couldn’t react quickly enough to yank the strap away from his throat!
Susan silently held on, pushing her whole body weight tightly against Michael’s back, pulling the strap tighter and tighter against his throat!
Michael struggled, trying to pull away, which only made the strap tighten, cutting off his airway! All he could think of was how stupid he’d been to turn his back on Susan! He knew better than to every leave her unguarded! But he’d been trying so hard to befriend her, he simply forgot.
Blackness started to edge into the corner of his vision. Susan was almost as tall as Michael and she’d had the element of surprise when she’d attacked him. He couldn’t believe her strength, as the strap cut into his throat.
Trying not to panic, Michael threw his elbows back in an attempt to break her grasp.
In retaliation, Susan dug her knee into his back as hard as any man, which caused Michael to fall forward, slamming his head on the edge of dresser.
As he began to lose conciousness, he heard Susan speak for the very first time.
“You don’t love me.” She whispered. With that, she yanked the strap back with unheard of force, finally choking Michael to death.
His last thoughts were of how sorry he was that he couldn’t help her, even after all of this. He couldn’t reach her broken heart, her broken mind. He knew he was dying, he knew it was his own fault for turning his back on her. On some level, he didn’t blame her. Susan had never known love, only pain.
As he slipped away, Susan felt nothing. Letting the strap fall, as Michael’s body slumped to the floor, Susan stroked the white feathers on the angel wings.
Her mind wandered to the day, all those years ago, when she’d killed the others who didn’t love her. They had to pay for not loving her. For always fighting and hurting her and each other. No one would be allowed to care for her, because if they cared for her, they would hurt her. She couldn’t let that happen.
Looking down at Michael’s body, Susan felt nothing. She turned, walking out of the room and further down the hall toward the end of the unit where the nurses’ station was.
Reaching the desk, Susan looked down to see the night nurse smiling up at her.
“Susan, are you done at the party? Are you ready for bed?”
Susan just nodded, waiting for the nurse to take her to her room. She wondered idly if this nurse would walk out of her room, or join Michael on the floor.
After all, it was Halloween, a night for tricks.