in the mellow
din of the coffee shop, sipping his hot drink as the morning traffic trickled
by outside the window. There was work to be done, documents to be edited on his
laptop in front of him, but it’d become a morning ritual for him to browse
through the newspaper before beginning his daily chores.
sensationalist headlines jumped out at him as he flicked through the pages:
tax-avoiding politicians, celebrity love affairs, global warming threats,
escalating wars, burglaries, murders, and a few crosswords and puzzles thrown
in just to balance things out a bit.
load of old bloody
tosh,’ he muttered, scanning the columns and pictures.
however, that caught his attention: a young woman from Clover Falls had been
reported missing. Clover Falls. The name pulled his eyes towards the
page like a magnet, drawing him in with its ghastly memories and associations.
Clover Falls was a run down town on the western outskirts of Mapharno City, a
place that you avoided like the plague if you had any sense. Seeing the name of
the place printed in the newspaper, Shane was amazed that it even existed
still. He’d been there once or twice during his teenage years if he remembered
correctly, just to explore the endless derelict buildings and warehouses that
were scattered around there. Shithole was the word that sprang to mind
as Shane sifted through his hazy memories of the town, distant memories that’d
occurred during a misspent youth several decades ago.
sweet-looking young lady with red hair was attached to the article, and Shane
read through it with a morbid interest. According to the reporter, the girl was
one of many people who’d gone missing in or around the old town in recent
years, and a full-blown investigation was under way. Interviewed workers at a
local hospital mentioned an incident a couple of days before the latest
disappearance where a “drugged homeless man” was moved on by security after
trying to steal medical supplies from one of their storage units, but the link
between the two events was yet to be established. An adjoining sub article
outlined a brief history of the crumbling town, along with stories from an
assortment of citizens who claimed that pets had been going missing there for
as long as they could remember.
change,’ grumbled Shane, folding the paper up and throwing it down on the table
last mouthful of coffee from his steaming cup, he opened up one of the work
documents on his laptop and got to work.
3am and the
chalky glow of the moon was shining in through Shane’s bedroom window. He’d had
a fairly busy day editing documents for his company, and he really should’ve been
asleep, but he wasn’t. He was usually a heavy sleeper, one of those people who
dozed off minutes after his head touched the pillow, but tonight his mind was
like a bulb with too many volts running through it. After jolting awake again
he sat up on his bed at a right angle, staring into a gloomy corner while beads
of sweat dripped down his back and shoulders.
had rattled him earlier on during the day, but at the time he didn’t really
know why. But now he did. Now he knew. He knew why the name of that rotten
place had sent a shiver up his middle-aged spine. The nightmare he’d just woken
up from had pieced the puzzle together, clicked the segments into place, and
now the memory was there in his head as clear as a highly-polished pane of
glass. Clover Falls. Damn right he’d been there before, he’d been there
more than once during his troubled adolescence, but there was really only one
single time that was relevant to his current state of panic.
there in the
stuffy darkness, his naked body a clammy sack of damp meat, he relived the
entire memory again in all its hilarious splendour. And it was hilarious, too.
At least it was at the time...
years ago; three long decades. Shane was a seventeen-year-old tearaway who
spent most of his days loitering around the local skatepark, getting into
mischief with Vaughn, his partner in crime. They were referred to as the Deadly
Duo by some, Double Trouble by others, and the other names that were thrown
their way by disgruntled enemies were enough to make your ears bleed. They were
skaters, they were drinkers, they were louts, they were thugs, and they were
college dropouts with absolutely no direction and no future plans whatsoever
other than to get wasted and have a laugh at somebody’s expense.
in question, the two of them were in the company of a local skater named
Roland. They’d met Roland a week earlier on the mini ramp, drinking cheap cider
and puffing away on roll-up cigarettes. Roland wasn’t like most of the other
boys at the park. He came from a well-to-do family in one of the nicer
neighbourhoods, and unlike Shane and Vaughn he actually had plans in life. His
weekend drinking and loitering at the skatepark was more of a temporary
rebellious stage for young Roland, a passing fad before moving on to university
to embark on a meaningful career.
Or at least
father was a
pathologist, a specialist in his field, and there was pressure on Roland to
attend medical school and follow in his footsteps. This was rarely brought up
by young Roland, unless he was really drunk or stoned, but most of the other
kids knew about it.
mischievous night at the skate park, Shane had managed to get hold of a rare
delicacy: a jar of LSD. This stuff was in liquid form, complete with a pipette.
A local hoodlum who owed Shane money had given it to him as a form of payment,
and he’d accepted it gratefully. Armed with this potent psychedelic, the plan
for the evening’s festivities had been simple: drink some beer, drop some acid,
and then head over to Clover Falls to explore the derelict buildings.
kind of derelict building over at Clover Falls. Being the official toilet of
Mapharno City, it was home to a wide array of crumbling factories, shops and
warehouses even back then. The latest addition to the rotting landscape, however,
was a college. A few of the other kids had been over there a few days before,
and tales of workshops full of tools, a gymnasium kitted out with sports
equipment, and deserted classrooms and offices with discarded furniture ignited
the adventurous spirits of all those around.
to steal anything, they were just going there to get high and explore the
recently-vacated facility in all its decadent glory.
acid before they even arrived in Clover Falls, so by the time they got there
they were pretty spaced out. They were giggling, wide-eyed, and seeing things
through a lens of comical surrealism, walking along the empty streets like a
group of aliens seeing planet Earth for the very first time. With the
hallucinogen working its way around their bodies and distorting their vision,
the empty college building looked like a cartoon funhouse as it appeared on the
near horizon, its various sections and floors leaning and swaying in a wind
that wasn’t there.
of them were
feeling the effects of the drug as they awkwardly stumbled across a messy field
towards the college, but Roland was especially feeling them. Unlike Shane and
Vaughn, he’d only gone as far as alcohol and cannabis in the past, and this
strange trippy feeling taking over his senses was a completely new experience
the college was
easy enough. The last group of teenage trespassers had busted the padlock on
the main entrance doors, so they all walked in without any trouble. The
electric hadn’t been disconnected, so Shane flicked on every light switch that
he passed, gulping down mouthfuls of beer as he led the way through the silent
building. Graffiti already marked the walls and doors but Vaughn added some
more with a pen he brought along with him, with Shane climbing and hopping over
the desks that’d been dragged out into the corridors. Roland was more
apprehensive, tagging along a few metres behind them both while scanning the
rooms through dilated pupils.
minutes or so of messing around, they sat down to smoke some cigarettes in what
looked like an old carpentry workshop.
gettin some mad
visuals here,’ laughed Shane, gazing around at the metal vices and files as
they took on bizarre, mutated forms. ‘Can you see that? I swear it’s a robot or
a clamp,’ chuckled
Vaughn. ‘You’re just tripping. Mind you, can you see that sculpture over there?
Is it a sculpture? Or is it a coat stand?’
idiot!’ said Shane.
‘That’s a...well, hang on. What actually is it?’
think it’s a
sculpture, but I’m not sure. Roland, what do you think that is? That wooden
thing over in the corner?’
turned their heads towards Roland, then simultaneously cracked up with laughter
as they saw that at some point he’d slid underneath the teacher’s desk with his
feet protruding out and pointing towards the ceiling. He was lying on his back
under the desk, staring up at the underside of it which was about ten inches
away from his face.
so much room
under here!’ he cried, staring up at the bottom panel of the desk. ‘You
could...You could build a house under here!’
Vaughn were in
stitches. Holding their stomachs, they rolled around in fits of laughter,
howling and crying at how wasted their young friend was.
a house?’ grinned
Shane. ‘There’s more room than that! You could easily build a block of flats or
something, if you ask me!’
roar of laughter
erupted between them, echoing slightly around the dusty workshop.
Vaughn. ‘Totally wasted!’
OK, this’ll sober
him up a bit,’ quipped Shane, leaning over towards Roland’s beer can by the
side of the desk.
are you doing?’
whispered Vaughn, noticing that Shane had one hand dipped in the pocket of his
pulled the jar of acid from his pocket and squeezed several large drops into
the hole in the top of the beer can using the pipette, a hyena’s grin spread
across his face the whole time.
‘He’s out of it already! He can’t have any more!’
down Mr Square.
It’s just a bit of acid.’
Vaughn. ‘You total bastard.’
and straightened himself up. ‘Hey, Roland. Let’s go and explore a bit more. And
drink up! Your beer’s gettin flat!’
rose to their
feet, taking in the moving walls and shadows all around them, waiting for
Roland to get up from under the desk.
on, Roland. Let’s
go for a walk. There are two other floors we haven’t seen yet.’
breathing,’ said Roland. ‘I’m sure it is.’
on,’ said Shane,
under his breath. ‘Let’s just leave him to it. He’ll be alright.’
took one last
look at Roland’s feet hanging out from under the desk, then shook his head and
followed Shane out of the room.
wonder why this place
went under,’ said Shane, as the two of them wandered along the college’s
don’t know,’ Vaughn
answered, dizzyingly. ‘They sure had a lot of facilities.’
was true. Roaming
around the old building, they’d seen textile workshops, a lecture hall, a
gymnasium, and now they were confronted with a large drama theatre. To Shane
and Vaughn’s hallucinating brains, the place looked like a relic from another
world. The big curtains flanking the stage resembled tall cloaked guards
watching them silently, and the array of dusty, frayed costumes lying about on
the floor appeared to them as mutated slugs slivering this way and that.
place is crazy,’
muttered Vaughn, the expression on his pale face one of wonder and fear.
that up there?’
asked Shane, gesturing towards the rear of the elevated stage.
one way to find
out,’ replied Vaughn. ‘Let’s have a look.’
movements they climbed up onto the big stage, stepped around the bundles of
clothes, shoes and costumes, then peeked behind one of the big curtains.
shit!’ they cried,
the curtain, just
off stage, a dozen faces peered up at them from the gloom. It was a terrifying
sight, intensified by the tricks both of their minds were playing on them, but
after a few seconds the reality of the situation became clear to them. They’d
found a collection of mannequins piled up in a heap, with arms, legs, torsos
and heads all jutting out from the dust at random angles and configurations.
The sight was so shocking to their intoxicated minds that even after they’d
established the bodies weren’t real, they still kept their distance from them
and spoke tentatively.
clearing his throat.
must’ve been used in plays, and stuff.’
Vaughn, peering down at the smooth, life-like features of the dolls.
I’ve just had an
tell Roland that
they’re medical examiners,’ grinned Shane.
studying to become
a pathologist. Let’s arrange the mannequins to look like university professors
or something, then tell him that they’re here to assess his skills.’
real, will you!
He’s not going to believe that.’
he? He was
talking about building a house under a bloody desk earlier. This’ll be mild
compared to that.’
but as soon as he
walks in here he’ll know that it’s a drama theatre.’
move them to the
lecture hall, then. Dress them up in some of these old costumes.’
was now grinning
like a Cheshire Cat. ‘Come on, then. Let’s do it.’
again like a
couple of schoolgirls, they proceeded to carry the six-foot mannequins over to
the lecture hall, along with a few bundles of clothes and costumes.
never guess wh—’
by the doorway of the carpentry workshop, stunned and stupefied by the sight
that confronted them. Roland was standing upright, facing them, with one arm
extended outwards as though he’d been paused mid-stride. The strange position
he was in was unsettling enough, but it was his eyes that were truly alarming.
They were like two pearly marbles bulging out of his face, displaying a look of
insanity that bordered on being caricature.
An empty beer can lay on its side by his feet.
are you doing,
Roland?’ asked Shane.
come near me!
Don’t...Don’t come near me!’ he wailed, through the side of his tight mouth.
‘And don’t touch me!’
made of glass! I’m
made of fucking glass! Don’t touch me! If you touch me I’ll break!’
the empty beer
can on the floor, Shane burst out laughing. Vaughn followed suit shortly
afterwards, although his laughter was more hesitant. There was a trace of
concern etched across his face, too, as though he could sense things were going
a little too far.
shouted Shane. ‘You can’t mess around like this all night, you need to pull
yourself together! It’s time for your big exam!’
Roland, with the careful lip movements of a professional ventriloquist.
your big chance!
Have you forgotten? There’s a group of medical examiners waiting for you
upstairs! They’re here to assess your operational skills!’
he was going to burst from stress and panic. His teeth were chattering, his
shoulders were shaking, and his legs were quivering like a dog preparing to
defecate. ‘Uhh! Uhn! No! No! Not now! I can’t do it now! Not...Not like this!’
be fine,’ smiled
Shane, walking towards him with a sardonic grin. ‘Don’t worry, we believe in
you. Don’t we, Vaughn?’
anything at first, but after a few moments he loosened up and went along with
the ploy. ‘Yes. We believe in you, Roland. We know you can do it.’
was so off his
face he didn’t even look real. His pasty features were stuck in an open
expression, gaping at the air like a sick fish, a cartoon character who’d seen
a ghost. Shane took another step towards him.
I’m...I’m telling you, I’ll shatter into a million pieces! I’ll—’
on now, Roland.
You’re being a bit silly. The most important exam of your whole entire life
will begin in a few minutes, and you’re rambling on about being made of glass.
Snap out of it.’
Shane eventually managed to grab hold of Roland, and he shook him free of his
psychosomatic glass illusion.
on from the doorway, biting his nails.
even have to do this?’ Vaughn whispered, walking a few paces behind Roland as
they all made their way towards the lecture hall.
don’t know, probably
not. Mind you, there must be some kind of hands-on examination for a trainee
pathologist at some point along the line. We’re doing him a favour, really,’
chuckled Shane. ‘We’re giving him a bit of practical experience.’
looking down towards his feet. ‘Practical experience.’
was that it
didn’t matter one iota how realistic this phony exam was, because Roland was so
high he would’ve believed anything. He was way up there with the fairies,
flying in ga-ga land, sailing along in another dimension. Every single drop of
LSD that Shane had squeezed into his beer was now swimming through his
bloodstream, swirling around his brain, and wreaking havoc with his perception
of reality. It’d taken a full five minutes to get him properly moving again,
and since then he’d claimed to be sinking in mud, melting into lava, growing
extra fingers, and stuck in a giant cobweb that only he could see.
well and truly
this is it,
Roland,’ said Shane, putting on his sensible voice. ‘The examiners are waiting
in there,’ he said, pointing to the closed doors of the lecture hall. ‘But
don’t go in yet. You’re scheduled for 11.30pm, and the time now is 11.25pm. If
you go in too early, it won’t look good.’
the big doors like a condemned man waiting to be led into a gas chamber. His
bulbous eyes darted left and right continuously. ‘I...I can’t do this!
I’m...I’m not ready! I’m not prepared!’
pointing a finger at him sternly. ‘What have I told you about this kind of
talk? Me and Vaughn have complete faith in you. Don’t let us down by having
silly little doubts about yourself.’ Then, after waiting a moment, he added, ‘And
what will your father say if you mess this up? Have you thought about that?’
distraught that Vaughn had to turn and walk away.
noticing Vaughn’s departure, ‘we’ll leave you to it. Good luck! You can tell us
all about it later on.’
Roland was left standing outside the doors of the lecture hall on his own,
searching his spangled brain for the medical procedures and technicalities that
he knew. Meanwhile, Shane and Vaughn sneaked around a corner towards a rear
door that led into the lecture hall from the back. They then quietly entered
the large room and sat down between two wigged, clothed mannequins in the back
row of seats.
hall was as
silent as a tomb, with the dozen or so “examiners” rigidly perched on their
seats, waiting for their student to enter the room. The lectern had been taken
away and replaced with a table, and upon the table lay the cadaver: a naked
female mannequin with starchy red hair and pinky-red lips. An assortment of
kitchen knives from the canteen were carefully positioned around her, complete
with a tattered pair of rubber gloves.
having set the
whole thing up, Shane and Vaughn felt very tense and unsettled as they sat
there observing the fruits of their labour. It felt a little bit too real, a
little bit too elaborate, and there was a sense that the joke had morphed into
something else. In fact, Vaughn actually leaned over towards Shane to voice his
concerns and tell him that things had gotten out of hand, but just as he opened
his mouth to speak the big entrance doors began to creak open.
can’t take this
anymore,’ said Vaughn. ‘I’m going.’
of them had been
sitting in an awkward, guilty silence for what seemed like an hour, watching
their stupid prank unfold into a cruel nightmare. Roland was still up there on
the stage, speaking to the rows of examiners with exaggerated courtesy and
politeness as he hacked away at the plastic mannequin. He was shaking like a
leaf, his fingers trembling as he nervously guided the sea of onlookers through
never supposed to
go this far. They’d expected a few minutes of silly fun, followed by a
transgression into some other joke or adventure in another section of the
building. But there was nothing funny about what they were seeing. They were
witnessing a traumatic breakdown in slow motion, a tragic loss of dignity, a
disintegration of a young man’s soul.
was still as high
as a kite.
beginning to come down from their trips a little bit, sobriety returning to
them as the night wore on, but young Roland was still lost in a chemical haze.
His irises were completely consumed by his ever-growing pupils, his jaw was
permanently clenched, and his entire being jittered and trembled with a
malignant otherworldliness. Watching young Roland relentlessly skittering about
on the platform with his inhuman eyes focused on the blades, a terrifying
suspicion dawned on both Shane and Vaughn, but it was too hideous for either of
them to mention.
comment, Shane said, ‘Yeah, let’s go. This is getting too weird.’
as possible, they both rose from their seats and crept out of the rear door of
the lecture hall, leaving Roland to his incessant cutting, slicing, and
dissecting of the red-haired female on the table. Within minutes they were
hurling themselves down the staircase towards the ground floor, and charging out
of the building into the cold night air.
wispy field on which the college stood, they turned their heads and gazed up at
the lecture hall window from a distance. A series of elongated shadows danced
and bobbed across the visible sections of wall and ceiling as the sole occupant
tirelessly entertained his inanimate crowd, trapped all alone in a seamless
bubble of fear and delusion.
passed since that awful night, and now, sitting in the gloom of his bedroom in
the early hours of the morning, Shane remembered it all in vivid detail. Young
Roland’s drugged face rose up into his consciousness every time he thought
about the newspaper article, the details of the case too coincidental to
ignore. Had he, in a moment of childish mischief three decades ago, created a
killer? The article mentioned nothing of murder, but his intuition was filling
in the gaps.
did get back to
sleep that night, nor did he sleep properly for the next few weeks. The press
continued to report missing people in and around the western outskirts of
Mapharno City, and every time Shane read through the details of the cases he
became more and more convinced that he knew who the culprit was.
couldn’t be true,
it just couldn’t be. It was too ridiculous to even contemplate. Three long
decades had come and gone, the world was a different place, and Shane was now a
middle-aged man with a balding head and a bloated gut. The prank had occurred
in the distant past, during the pre-mobile phone and pre-internet era, a time
when there were only a handful of TV stations to choose from. Could young
Roland still be... The very thought chilled Shane to the bone, but he couldn’t
shake it off.
he do? Go to
the police? Maybe. But his story was just too tenuous to share with anyone,
especially the boys in blue. Contacting Vaughn was also out of the question,
because Shane had no idea where he lived or whether he was even still alive.
Contact between the two of them had fizzled out not long after the night in
Clover Falls, and he had no real way of tracking him down.
that he was wrong. Pacing around his apartment week after week as more and more
victims went missing, there was nothing that would’ve satisfied him more than a
discovery that the perpetrator of the crimes was someone else entirely, proving
his theory to be nothing other than a paranoid delusion.
to be done. For
the sake of his mental health, it had to be done. If he ever wanted to get a
decent night’s sleep again, it had to be done.
to visit Clover
of the trip
was to put his mind at rest. He’d go there, find the old college building—if it
even still existed—discover it was empty, then return home with a clear
conscience, ready to get on with the rest of his life and put these stupid
thoughts behind him.
the old town was
trickier than he thought it’d be. Everything looked so different. A train took
him to the outskirts of the city, but there were no functional stations within
a five mile radius of Clover Falls. After getting off the train he walked
through a series of rough neighbourhoods, with slack-jawed simpletons and
poverty-stricken children watching him from doorsteps, then crossed a number of
overgrown fields littered with burnt tyres and plastic.
Falls was little
more than a sparsely populated rubbish tip, but to Shane’s surprise some of the
old buildings were still visible on the near horizon, including the college.
The very sight of the old college building, now almost ancient in its
antiquity, was like a cold hand gripping Shane’s heart, its mouldy exterior
injecting him with ice.
extended across the field to the college’s entrance.
visible due to the setting sun that shone from the west, throwing a warm hazy
light over the trampled grass. Following the trail, Shane took his chances with
the main entrance doors. They were filthy and covered in grime, but they opened
up with a sturdy push.
quick look around,
he stepped inside.
floor of the
building instantly brought it all back, flashbacks of his younger self jumping
over desks and goofing around. The layout of the place was the same but dust
and rubble coated everything, and a stagnant, stale musk hung in the air.
first floor, he found himself outside a large room that he believed to be the
carpentry workshop. Putting his hand on the door handle, he closed his eyes for
a second and hoped that the old room was empty. He hoped to see nothing but
splintered wooden desks and rusty vices, the innocent remnants of a class full
of aspiring apprentices.
was in vain.
as the door
opened a gassy stench hit his nostrils like a jack hammer, a putrid scent that
made him gag and double over. And then, once his eyes had stopped watering, he
saw the carnage laid out before him. The rows of carpentry worktops were
covered in fleshy mounds piled on top of each other, all buzzing with flies and
maggots. An assortment of anatomical parts littered the desks and tabletops:
calves, hands, forearms, feet, and even heads. Blood-stained saws sat amongst
the decaying clumps of tissue and bone, their serrated edges matted with
powdered bone fragments and pus. Cracked skulls with mouldy skin peeling from
them were wedged in the steel vices, and buckets of sloppy organs and
intestines lined the walls.
several nightmares over the last few weeks, but none of them were as gruesome
as the scene that confronted him right now.
sounded off from
a muffled sound,
a bit like a vibration or a voice. Someone was talking, or… No, it can’t be!
progressively louder as he climbed the grimy stairs, the words vibrating around
the flaking walls and peeling handrails. Upstairs, the lecture hall doors
appeared in the distance like an entrance to hell. He was drawn towards them
like a moth towards a flame, his footsteps carrying him towards the horror that
he knew was waiting for him.
were ajar, and
he peered inside.
were all occupied, smiling faces beaming up towards the stage. The figures sat
with their stiff arms folded on their laps, and wild mops of hair springing out
from their plastic scalps. Dust motes covered the shoulder pads of their retro
outfits, cobwebs stretched across the creases of their ears, and their shiny
features were cracked and dulled by time. Shane recognised them all, their
joyous, comical expressions appearing to him as long-lost acquaintances.
recognise, however, was the one up on the stage.
only after a
certain amount of gaping and squinting that Shane was able to confirm to
himself that it was Roland up there. He had matted grey hair that clung to his
head in greasy knots, a hunched back resulting from the countless hours bent
over the examination table, and lines and wrinkles on his skin that were deeper
than a seabed. The voice that rang out from his chattering mouth sounded like
an untuned, damaged wind instrument, and then...
there was his
away, Roland’s eyes looked like holes in the ground. Exhausted and spent
through years of chemical stupor and insomnia, his entire countenance had a
terminal look to it. There was a rot to his gaze, his wide pupils sitting over
a network of red scraggly veins, psychosis oozing from every watery corner. The
tortured stare of a zoo animal locked in a cage and forgotten about for three
decades would’ve been something for him to aspire to, such was the decay of his
over the table
in front of him, he delicately peeled away layer after layer of skin and tissue
from the slab of meat, cutting and slicing deftly as the dust-covered examiners
smiled and watched from their crumbling seats. Slab of meat. That’s what
it looked like at first glance, anyway. It was only when he noticed the locks
of red hair falling down the sides of the table that Shane consciously realised
who—or what—was on it.
Oh, Roland! What have you done? Now
that the shock and terror of it all was beginning to subside, a sense of
intense tragedy and despair washed over Shane as he secretly watched from the
doorway. The blood, the mess, the horror, it was all...his fault. What have
you done? That was not the correct question, he decided. The correct
question was: what have I done? It was all his doing, all of it.
He was to blame. Him and his stupid prank.
through his own quivering lips. ‘It’s all because of me.’
back from the
doors of the lecture hall, he gulped a few lungfuls of air and tried to get his
wits about him. A tremendous weight was pressing down upon him, the weight of
guilt and responsibility. He wanted to leave, to run away and once again forget
that any of it had ever happened, but he was tethered to the horrific affair by
his guilt and culpability.
a while for
Shane to work out what he needed to do, but eventually the idea came to him
like a crystalline epiphany, a ray of light that promised to make amends.
that rattled through the lecture hall was punctuated by sickly wet cutting
sounds as more and more sections of the cadaver were dissected. A stuttered
commentary was given to the examiners as each organ and piece of muscle was
lifted away, a brief explanation for each slice and cut. The examiners, for
their part, were watching the student’s performance in silence, giving off an
air of detached professionalism. The student had no idea how long he’d been up
there for. Minutes blended into minutes, hours blended into hours, and his mind
as usual was a continuous fog of shapes and colours. The examiners never spoke,
the examiners never moved, but he knew that they always watched him intensely.
there was some movement. One of the examiners cleared his throat, then rose
slowly from his seat. Raising a hand in the air, he halted the student’s
man. That’ll be all. Well done, you’ve passed.’
in motion, the
student gazed out towards the lines of medical examiners, his jaw hanging loose
like a slack door hinge. His red, bulbous eyes surveyed the room with the
controlled intensity of a tightrope walker tip-toeing on piano wire, then, with
his pained, piercing voice, he said, ‘OK, sir. Thank you very much,’ before
placing a dripping kidney back down inside the gaping hole in the corpse’s
stomach, and walking gingerly out of the room.
of police cars
and a sizeable crowd of curious locals and press reporters were gathered
outside the cordon of the college grounds, and an air of excitement resonated
amongst everyone. After the local constabulary received a call from a man
claiming to be behind the spate of disappearances in the area, word soon spread
and details were passed around. They all watched on as armed officers charged
across the field towards the crumbling building, ready to make their arrest.
didn’t have to
wait very long for them to return. Within five minutes a cluster of people
could be seen emerging from the old college, pushing a cuffed man in front of
got him,’ they announced,
as they drew nearer. ‘We’ve got our man.’
shouted another officer, who was in charge of controlling the crowd. ‘Stand
back and make way!’
obeyed the order, but the press reporters moved closer to the action like
hungry flies buzzing around shit.
called one of them, holding a microphone.
any of the victims
still alive?’ yelled another, with a chunky camera in his hands.
safely secured in the back of one of the cars, the officer in charge of crowd
control tucked a loose part of her shirt back in, straightened her belt, then
addressed the assemblage of people.
‘We’re not in a position to disclose any
information at this point, but please rest assured there’ll be an official
announcement at some point over the next couple of days.’
many victims are in
there?’ asked a reporter.
really can’t say
right now. Sorry.’
been in there for?’ asked a local, leaning over a cameraman’s shoulder.
all of your
questions will be answered in due course,’ replied the officer. ‘The forensics
examiners need to go in there and check the scene for—’
already in there,’ came a jumpy voice from the crowd.
stumped and confused after being interrupted by such a random comment, scanned
the bustling crowd to try and locate the person who’d said it. But there were
too many people there by this point, too many jostling heads, and she gave up
after a few seconds. Clearing her throat and gathering her thoughts, she
carefully continued: ‘The...The examiners are not here yet. But they will
arrive shortly, and so we need you all to move on and clear the area for them.
Please return to your homes. Thank you.’
people breaking up and going off in their own directions. The reporters got
back in their cars and sped off with their photos and recordings, the locals
returned to their doorsteps and living rooms, and a couple of the police cars
drove back towards the local station.
however, along the main avenue that led to the district hospital, a lone figure
walked proudly off into the sunset. A wide, satisfied grin lit up his twisted
face, illuminating his aged features. All of his hard work had paid off. He’d
He’d passed the
James Flynn grew up in the suburbs of South East London.
His ultimate dream as an
author is to cause a reader to be sectioned under the mental health act and
confined within the walls of an asylum after reading one of his stories,
although he admits that this is a bit optimistic.
James's work has appeared
Black Petals Magazine, Yellow Mama Magazine, The Scare Room Podcast, Patty’s
Short Stax anthology, and the Local Haunts anthology.
His books, The Hand That
Pulls You Under, Conservation, The Edge of Insanity, and Swarm can all be found