Just A Taste:
No-one could ask for a better brother.
Most of these works in this small collection were written in my first year of university as either assessment pieces or simply to get my mind rolling when I hit a mental road-block. That’s actually why I’m making them available for free, they’re more a bit of fun than anything else, and perhaps even something that others can look at and flick through when if they’re doing a similar course or just looking to broaden their horizons. I’ve received high marks for most everything in here, so I must be doing something right (the urge to put a pun there is barely being subdued by the fact that people will think I’m illiterate).
Magic Realism 7
Australian Fiction 10
Young Australian Fiction 13
Horror: Hard Arts 26
A Second Helping of Horror: Across The Road 41
I clenched and released my fist a few more times before untying the thin rubber hose from my unstably tense arm. I didn’t need to do this, the bank paid me enough, I was ahead on my mortgage, everything was going great and I knew full well that it was a terrible idea, but the magic that was zipping through my veins was shouting that irritating thing called ‘rational thought’ down into a pit.
“You good?” my partner in crime asked through his clown mask.
I nodded, “I’m solid, let’s rock the house.”
None of the other three said anything, instead we smashed out of the van and got into the bank, blowing the head off the security guard before he could turn around.
“Everyone on the fucking ground!” I shouted as I fired into the door’s camera without looking, while the others pushed past me and took out the all the rest but the one above the tellers, “First face I see is getting a skull-fucking from Chuckles over here! He’s the one with all the cushion for the pushin’.”
After a quick look around to confirm no-one wanted to play hero, I stalked my way over to the teller; a young woman by the name of Helen, teary eyed and hands high in the air, “Put those down.” I said before stuffing the pillow case into her hand, “It puts the money in the bag, or else it gets the-”
“Glenn?” the manager beside her asked.
“Congratulations Phil,” I said mockingly before cocking and giving him a faceful of buckshot, “anyone else want to play ‘Let’s Recognise the Guy with the Gun and the Mask’? No? Good. Money. Bag.”
Helen nodded, emptying her drawer in a matter of seconds and involuntarily sneaking a peek at the body beside her, before tossing the money over to me.
“Cheers love. Lads, you ready!?”
The rest of the gang chucked their bags into the centre of the room in response, and I followed suit.
“There’s your God ladies and gentlemen!” I said with a smile.
I thought those were some solid last words as Rich covered the bags in petrol and Kyle lit the match. I tore off my mask, stared at the final camera, winked, put the gun to my chin, and pulled the trigger.
I continued to desperately type while my character loomed over me, his bloodied axe dripping on my $300 rug, “Would you mind? I’d like to leave something for my family when you kill me.” I said calmly as I wrote.
Jack scoffed, “Really, you’re worried about a carpet? Not even gonna try to change my mind?”
I shook my head, “I know how this ends. How it has to end. I could write you out of existence; have a Bengal tiger drag you through the floor, have you suddenly burst into an innumerable amount of atoms and zip to all corners of the universe.”
He looked at the back of my head confusedly, “Then why not just do that?”
I smiled and looked at you, before returning to my writing, “Disappoint all these lovely readers? I don’t think so. This story has been a bit finicky so far anyway. Hells, it starts with some random standing behind me with an axe. Do you even remember how you got here? I’ll answer that for you; no. I know you don’t. I could write it in for you, but word limits, etcetera, etcetera. So what am I to do when there’s no context?”
“Give it a solid ending.” he said.
“That’s right, thanks. I was worried that that dialogue was riding on for a bit.”
Jack started drawing a bloody circle with his axe, “Why?”
I shrugged, “It’s my job, it’s how I make the dollar-dollar bills.”
“What’s stopping me from just walking away though? What’s stopping me from dropping this axe, walking out the door, and leaving you alone?”
“Me. I don’t even have to do anything tricky to stop you from leaving this room; a magic door that leads right back here, cement your feet to the floor. All I have to do is write it and let it be so.”
He hopped from foot to foot, helping me to not start another paragraph with quotation marks, “This sure is dialogue heavy.”
I nodded, “That’s my style. Now, I’d have you ask if I was ready, but I feel that that line is so ridiculously overused that it’s bordering on cliché.”
Jack laughed, gave me a knowing nod, lifted the axe above his head and, in one heavy swing, brought it down on my hea
“For goodness sake, man! Don’t lock your elbow!” I snapped at my carriage companion, and best friend, Gerald Gutenberg.
He spilled another sizable amount of King’s Own on his lap and yelped, “Bollocks! What are you on about Richards?” he asked bitterly before barely getting a sip past his curled moustache.
“You’re wasting all of my tea.” I said as I lit my pipe.
“Our tea. As I recall it, we bought it.” He did like to remind me that we were in split business venture.
I sighed as he spilt some more, “Quite right, just… try not to make a mess.”
“Oh yes,” he retorted sarcastically, “because I simply relish covering myself in hot water.”
I went to say something witty, but instead wound up rubbing a burning sensation from my eyes as a draught blew through the carriage and wafted a generous amount of smoke into my eyes. Gutenberg had always been a handful, but he had his uses.
I laughed to myself, ‘Like handing me my guns.’
I knew full well that he was much more than a gun-mule, he’d saved my life more than a few times in the past, but lately my patience had been wearing thinner.
Then an explosion rattled the carriage and Burt began thumping his wings, “Burt!” I barked.
“Beg pardon sir,” he called back before returning to his trotting, “but you may want to see this.”
After a few seconds of grumbling I gripped my pipe with my teeth, got to my feet, threw the carriage door open and looked at the clearly still spooked Gryphon as I dangled out in the street. His top-hat was gone, down the road a ways I assumed. An issue for another time I decided, “What is it Burt?”
He jutted his beak at the black cloud filled sky.
I turned my gaze skyward, cursing my slack jawed expression that lost me my favourite pipe.
“Blast…” I muttered as I fell back into the carriage.
“What is it?”
“Damned Nazis at it again with their balloons. Gun.” I said with my hand outstretched.
“You can’t be serious.”
I smiled, “Gun.”
With a groan, Gerald handed me my pistol as I returned to dangling, “Don’t get killed.”
I took aim at the big black swastika emblazoned on the side of one of the bomb dropping zeppelins and chuckled, “No promises.”
I held my breath as I heard it draw closer, my back pushed up against a split and burned gumtree while the blood moon tried to spread its glow over my trembling skin. The scent of eucalyptus was smothered by the creature’s odour as it dragged its heavy feet through the dead leaves and twigs in its path toward me, its… presence seeping into me the closer it got.
Gazza and Ems were both gone, I had to believe that, else I was just a terrible person, a monster who abandoned his friends for no reason.
I could still hear her screams.
A hollow crunch growled in my right ear and I began to shakily shift around to the left side of the stump, what little sounds I made were fast buried by the creature’s low groan.
I thought it was all bullshit; Yowies out bush? Would you believe it? But Gazza had insisted that we come out, check his Nanna’s property for ourselves after he made up some story that he’d seen shit lurkin’ outside in the forest. We didn’t believe him, but Ems convinced him that it’d be better if we went during the day, just in case.
Didn’t matter though.
It messes with your head, makes you all confused, and then you’re lost. Night fell and… There wasn’t anything I could do.
I made it around the stump, my heart about ready to slam out of my chest at the thought that I might actually make it out alive, but then, right as I heard the creature shuffling away, my foot slipped and broke a few twigs. How fuckin’ cliché of me.
I didn’t do the stupid thing and hesitantly peak around the stump though, I just fuckin’ bolted.
The creature roared from behind me, but I didn’t hear any thunderous footfalls tearing up the ground, or the cracking branches from its horrifying trapeze. It wasn’t following me, and by the time I figured it out for certain it was too late.
Puffed, broken, terrified, I collapsed to my knees, the dozen or so monsters stalking through the tree line toward me.
Then I heard myself scream.
Bilby puppet on my dick. Dead leaves crunching under me. Southern Cross burning into my eyes through the treetops. Bet you’re wondering how I got there, aren’t you? Well you know what? So am I.
I had a strange taste in my mouth as I slowly stumbled to my feet. Nothing felt quite real, not the wind whipping my brown hair, not my hands twisting my numb cheeks. Then I felt a faint warmth tickle my back and turned to see the orange glow of the bonfire in the distance. That’s when everything came rushing back. I was at Jessica’s party, I’d been doing… something, and then… something else. My head hurt.
“Hey, Matty! You out there?” I heard my best mate Shit-Stain, so named after the big brown birthmark on his cheek, called out with a pubescent squeak thrown in, “Matt!”
I went to call back, but then remembered the Bilby. In a panic, I pulled up my ripped and loose-fitting jeans from around my ankles, stuffing the velvet marsupial in my undies as best as I could before zipping it in.
“Can you at least warn me if you’re takin’ a shit!?” he kid, trying to hide the fact that he was obviously starting to worry.
“I’m here! Just… just gimme a sec…” I trailed off while trying to see if the Bilby was at all visible.
“He-! Whoa…” Shit-Stain said as I spun to face him. His pasty freckled skin was taught and either repulsed or intrigued. Probably some mix of the two. “Were you..? Are you..? Do you need a hospital?”
“You…” he was trying very hard to not gesture to my bulge, “I’m just gonna come right out and say it. Either you have the weirdest erection of all time, or, ooor, you got bit by somethin’.”
I tossed around the thought that I could just try and lie. Pretend I got bit by a Brown Snake or something, but after a few seconds I realised I’d been letting out a steady “Uhh…” since he stopped talking, I decided telling the truth was the way to go.
I looked at my feet and let out a defeated sigh before mumbling “There’s a Bilby stuck to my…”
I threw my head back and groaned, “There’s a Bilby puppet. It’s stuck on my…”
Shit-Stain’s brain took a while to figure out what I was on about, “Oh…” Then his face scrunched up in disgust, “Ew! How the fuck did you manage that?”
“Oh, I don’t know Shits, maybe I thought it’d be fun to molest an icon, and it’s not like Slim Dusty’s around.” I said in what I sure was obvious sarcasm.
But, again, Shit-Stain was slow on catch, “Ah. So you don’t remember.” he said with the pride of someone who’d finished and understood Ulysses.
“Of course I don’t fucking remember!” I shouted as quietly as I could.
My sudden break in temper came from the fact that, at that moment, I was convinced Shit-Stain was literally brain-damaged and the other, more pressing fact that somehow, after shifting my feet a few centimetres, I’d ripped out most of my pubes.
“Don’t get shitty with me!” he shouted back at the same volume as I had, “I didn’t do it!”
I went to shout again but stopped when I realised I had nothing remotely valid to be upset about, other than the Bilby. “Ok, alright, I’m sorry. I’m just a bit-” my crotch itched and I made a face, “uncomfortable.”
We stood there for a minute, me shifting around from foot-to-foot, Shit-Stain eyeing off my balls, and then a lightbulb turned on in his head.
“I could pull it off! I mean, I’d have better leverage and all.” he said with an excitement that made me more than a little uncomfortable.
“Gross dude, do you really want someone else to come out here to find you jerkin’ me off?”
“Do you want to go back to the party with a Wallaby in your pants?”’
“It’s a Bilby.” I snapped defensively.
“I’m sorry, that makes it way better.”
‘Oh great,’ I thought to myself, ‘he learned sarcasm.’
“Look, I just think it’s the best option.” He was clearly starting to sober up, the silly running away from his brain.
“Fine,” I said as I reluctantly revealed the puppet, “have at it.” I looked back at the stars and tried to find some peace, “Just let me know before you- Fuck me in the arse!” I yelped as fell backward. I felt like I’d been circumcised with some kind of super band-aid.
For what felt like hours I rolled around on the ground, clutching my swollen snag and beets while Shit-Stain tried to hide the Bilby in his pocket, “I reckon we burn it.”
I nodded, words refusing to form in my dry mouth.
Then, to my horror, I heard another voice, “Guys? Matt? Are you ok?” It was Jessica, her angelic voice cascading through the trees.
Pain flashed from my body and suddenly I was on my feet, pants up, hands behind my back, a single tear rolling down my cheek.
It was probably whatever little amount of alcohol left in my system bending reality, but I swear there was a holy light surrounding Jessica as she came through the trees toward us, her white button up shirt and rich brown hair floating as a cool breeze flowed past her.
“Thank God… I thought you’d been murdered!” she cried before practically jumping on me with a hug.
Shit-Stain quickly hid the Bilby behind his back and gave me a thumbs up,“I’m fine too.” he said after I awkwardly and painfully hugged Jess back, her denim shorts pushing against my zipper caused some very unwanted friction.
Jess broke away from our hug and tucked her hands into her back pockets, “That’s good too!” she said enthusiastically, “Are you coming back to the fire?”
I tilted my head, “Aren’t you even going to ask what happened?”
She smiled and shrugged, “I figured if I needed to know you’d tell me. Come on, I saved you a few beers.”
She was so cool.
Back then I thought she was just cool with everyone. Turned out I was wrong. Very wrong.
By the time we got back the rugby kids had started burning everything they could pick up and toss on the bonfire.
“Hey!” Jess snapped as one of them grabbed a sleeping bag cover and went to add it to the pile, “What the Hell are you idiots doing?”
A few of them looked over to their pack leader, and Jess’ brother, Liam, who was smiling boldly with his bulky chest puffed out, “Come on, Jess, we’re just havin’ some fun.”
She wasn’t having any of it though, “I don’t care! You throw one more thing on the fire and I’m going up to the house and getting mom.”
With that Liam’s chest and smile quickly deflated before he and his pack walked to a log on their side of the fire and sat down. After she was sure that they weren’t going to get back up Jess breathed a sigh of relief and went to the girls group to comfort one of them who was bawling her eyes out.
“You got any ideas on who did it?” Shit-Stain whispered uncomfortably close to my ear once Jessica was sitting.
“Did what?” I asked in disgust as I tried to wipe off the weird hot air feeling in my ear on my shoulder.
“The… Bilby incident.” he said like it was some kind of secret code-phrase before throwing the cause of so much pain into the fire while no-one else was looking.
On the walk back to the party I hadn’t actually thought about it at all, I’d been too busy awkwardly smiling at Jessica to care. “Um… No.”
All of a sudden Olly appeared next to me, making me jump, “Sup dude.”
Olly was our stoner friend. He was the type of person who’d have these moments of brilliant philosophical genius, followed quickly by “Duuuuude. How weird are nipples?” It was always an experience when he was there. I guess that’s why we kept him around.
“Hey man,” I said once I’d straightened myself up, “how’s it goin’?”
He shrugged, “Not bad, bro. Speakin-a-which, you got any more of them pills bro?”
I don’t know how he made that leap, but I decided to flow with it. “What are you talkin’ about man?”
“The pills you had before, the shit you were sharin’ with Liam and whatever before you disappeared into fairyland.” He stopped and made a face, “Don’t tell me you’re gonna bogart that shit.”
I didn’t care about him thinking I was bogarting anything. Instead I was fuming.
I don’t fully remember what happened next, but suddenly Liam was saying “Yo bro!” and I was head-butting him.
He fell back onto the log grabbing at his nose, “What the fuck!?” he yelled nasally.
The other rugby kids jumped up and grabbed my arms, holding me in place as I kept trying to swing at him, “Don’t ‘what the fuck’ me! What the fuck did you give me!?”
Not that I’m promoting violence, but, at that point in my life, that was the coolest thing I’d ever done.
Liam got to his feet, “I didn’t give you shit, Matt!” he wanted to hit me, I could see it in his eyes, but he wasn’t going to.
“The pills fuck-head!”
“What pil- Wait… Are you talking about those mints?”
I stopped struggling against the pack and they eased their grip, “Mints?”
He raised his eyebrows and nodded, “Yeah bro.”
“But… but… what about how I passed out? And… and the Bilby! What about the Bilby?”
Liam threw his arms in the air, “What fuckin’ Bilby!? Last time I saw you, you came over to hang out, I gave you a handful of mints, you went quiet for a solid fifteen minutes, and then you skipped off into the forest.”
I shook the guys off my arms, “What happened to the rest of the mints then? And where’d you get ‘em?”
“Threw ‘em in the fire with a bunch of other stuff. After your freak-out I didn’t wanna fuck around with them.” Then, out of nowhere, he stopped and cracked me across the jaw and I almost fell over. “There,” he said, “that’s better. Anyway, I got the mints from one of the girls, she said she had a whole bunch of them.”
I wanted to be pissed off with him hitting me, but I understood the urge.
By the time I’d collected myself Jess had come over, a distraught look on her face, “Oh my God, are you alright?”
I nodded, “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. What’s up?”
“Other than seeing Liam hitting you, you mean?” she asked sarcastically.
I was looking at Liam as his eyes darted between me and his sister, but I could almost hear Jessica cringing in anger, “It’s Jemma. She said she…”
Both Liam and I’s attention shot over to Jess, “She..?”
She let out a heavy breath and looked at me, “She… I called an ambulance already but she…” I felt like I was about to have a panic attack, had someone hurt themselves? Was there a snake? “She drugged you.”
“What!?” Liam and I shouted in unison.
“It was an accident. She was… she was trying to use them on the rugby kids. It’s not her fault, she just wasn’t thinking-”
“And that’s the last thing I remember before dying.” Matthew said to his daughter in the back seat.
She looked up from her phone for just long to roll her eyes at her father, “Sure, dad.”
Matthew smiled and adjusted his tweed jacket so he could lean further across the centre console, “Ok, so maybe I didn’t die. But I did pass out again, and if the ambulance wasn’t already on its way I probably would’ve. Point is, I don’t care how much you trust anyone here do not- hey! Look at me.” he commanded sternly, something that his daughter saw as nothing more than an annoyance before locking her phone, crossing her arms, and looking at her father, “Do not take any drinks, food, or anything from anyone tonight. Alright?”
“I’m not an idiot, dad.” she said rebelliously, “We have classes on this at school.”
Matthew nodded, “Good,” he said, trying to think of something more fatherly to say, “good.”
Without a word Matthew’s daughter went to leave the car, but stopped, “Hey… What happened with that Bilby?”
Matthew smiled cheekily, “Hmm?” She’d never admit it, but he knew how much she loved his stories.
“The Bilby. How’d that happen?”
“Olly,” Matthew said, “Olly happened.”
And, with that, a new story started.
Even while Matthew’s daughter sat in the backseat on her phone, pretending not to care, she took it all on. She sat through every preachy life-lesson and lame dad joke, because each story, no matter how boring or weird, breathed new life into her mother.
Darkness clung to the art-strewn walls of Patricia Wulff’s large dorm room while she scrawled images on to her three year old sketchbook. The Jazzy music that normally relaxed Patricia had started to sound like white noise as her seventh hour of non-stop study began. A moth flew into the only light-source aside from the faint blue glow of the television; a dusty desk lamp that lit the room in a soothing incandescent orange.
Graphite faded and splintered as Patricia wore another pencil to nothing, scratching through the final page of her thick sketch book. Her multi-levelled computer desk shook as she slammed her clenched fists onto her struggling project, her blood boiled while her heart raced.
She wanted to cry, or scream, or punch something; she hadn’t decided yet and was silently hoping that someone would knock on her door so she could find out. She spun on her black swivelled chair a few times before stopping herself and facing the dreaded sketchbook.
A single, brown hair floated from her messy free-flowing locks toward the cheap plywood desk, somehow lulling Patricia into a calmer state of mind for the briefest moment before it touched the desk, causing a ripple, like a rock splashing into water. She’d forgotten to take her medication for the third time this week and her hallucinations were becoming more vivid, if she didn’t get on top of managing it she would come back. Patricia pulled open the drawer underneath her desk and grabbed the pillbox labelled ‘Thursday’.
Patricia held the pills in her hand: olanzapine to manage the psychosis and mirtazapine for the depression; both made her drowsy. She couldn’t be drowsy, she needed to have her project done by the morning or she’d lose another credit and be expelled from the university. Seconds passed like hours as her breathing regulated and her heart slowed.
A seesaw built up in her mind: weighing a decent night’s sleep with getting her project done. She could try and get some sleep and get up early the following day to finish but, if previous trends had any correlation with her current state, that was not happening.
A jarring metallic pulse hit Patricia’s ears as her small blue phone vibrated against the half empty energy drink can beside her sketch book. It lit up with an incoming text alert from Daniella, displayed in blue and white on the cracked screen that Patricia had been promising herself to fix since the beginning of the semester.
Bright colours began emanating from the brick-like phone, building into a three dimensional wave that floated up to the white roof before splashing into droplets of red and green. After letting herself become slowly drenched in the delightful display of colours she finally read the text, Daniella would know what to do, she always did.
‘Where are you Pat? You said you’d come over tonight. xoxoxo’
Guilt set in as she remembered her second anniversary with Daniella; a good night’s rest was no longer an option. Patricia pulled open her drawer, swapping her medication for a set of charcoal pencils and set to work on the cardboard backing of her sketch book.
The shaded image of Daniella came to life; nothing could distract Patricia, not the rippling table or the voices that were becoming steadily louder. She reached the final parts of the hyper-realistic hair and finished her energy drink, tossing the can over her shoulder and onto the carpet behind her with the rest. It was almost finished, she knew it wasn’t going to get her a high mark but she would get a pass and that’s all she needed.
Her shaky hand moved to the bottom of the card to sign and date it. The voices rose to an unbearable level. Her phone vibrated as Daniella tried to call. She made the final line of her signature and all of the noise stopped for a few seconds, Patricia breathed heavily, her panic finally gone.
A pop. It sent an icy cold shiver up Patricia’s hunched spine. It wasn’t an electrical pop from her faulty television. It wasn’t one of her joints clicking after sitting still for so long. She hadn’t heard this pop in a long time. This was a bubble-gum pop.
“Hello Patty.” came the beautiful sing-song voice of Lucille Matthews.
“No.” Patricia locked her eyes onto her sketchbook while praying that Lucy would disappear. Tears welled in her eyes as memories came pouring back.
“No? Now that’s not right, is it lovey? I’m pretty sure you’re meant to say ‘Oh Lucy, how I’ve missed you, it’s been so long’. Let’s try again, Hello Patty.”
“Fuck off Lucy.” Patricia forced her eyes closed to hide her tears.
“Tsk tsk, what would your dear old mumsies say about that language? Be civil and just look at me.”
Another pop shook Patricia to her core, “I’m not talking to you.” Something small bounced off of the floor behind Patricia’s chair causing the immediate reaction of spinning to search for the disturbance.
She realised her mistake once she saw two sets of feet; one, Lucille’s adorably petite tootsies, rocking back and forth while Patricia’s own large, angular feet had a ball bounce in between them. Lucille giggled and dropped to a cross legged position.
Patricia closed her eyes just in time to block out Lucille’s face. “I always knew how to get your attention Patty, now open those eyes of yours and let me see how beautiful you’ve gotten.”
Hours dragged on for the hallucinating student while the rhythmic ticking from her clock indicated that just 45 seconds had passed for the rest of the world.
In a moment of weakness, mostly from a pain that Pat only got when she held her eyes open for too long, Patricia weakly fluttered her eyes open and saw Lucille in person for the first time in years.
Bright blue eyes that contrasted with brilliant red hair locked with Patricia’s. Lucille was everything that Patricia wanted to be; pretty, witty and smart. She even had all of the clothes that Patricia had wanted over the years. Today she’d gone with a particularly short plaid skirt and white tank top that Patricia had been eyeing off earlier in the week.
The two worst parts of her basically stealing her ideal outfit were, a; Patricia couldn’t even afford to buy it, and b; Lucille made it look amazing. Lucille had always done that, since the first time that they had met five years ago.
It was the crisp winter morning of Patricia Wulff’s 15th birthday when she discovered the cold body of her mother in the bath. Patricia stood frozen in place, looking over the naked and lifeless body of her mother. To her this was the equivalent of seeing god die.
Her mother was meant to be a constant and unbeatable force; someone who could, and would, protect forever and always. This was when Patricia learnt the irrefutable truth that everyone dies. This was when Patricia first became alone in the world.
For less than a minute.
Pop. Pop. Pop. The last of the air in her mother’s lungs escaped into bubbles which popped on the surface of the water. Pop. Pop. Phwaa-pop. That’s when Lucille came into the world, that one pattern breaking bubble-gum pop.
Patricia turned to face the sweetest face she’d ever seen, the owner of which proceeded to comfort Patricia and guide her through the stages of grief. After an hour of this she then showed her to the phone and helped her through the process of calling an ambulance. When they finally arrived Patricia learned that no one else could see Lucille. Something that Patricia figured she should have known based on the mysterious girl’s sudden arrival.
Patricia decided not to tell anyone about Lucille. Not even her grandmother, whom she had been sent to live with after the death. She stopped talking to her high school friends, preferring the company of her ‘perfect’ imaginary friend, someone she could really relate to. Lucille was like a fun-house mirror to Patricia.
They were so similar yet so different. Lucille had tenacity, fervour, things that Patricia had wanted. Lucille would help her with her homework, her lies, even her makeup. Eventually Lucille took control of Patricia’s life. Told her when to eat, when to sleep and, on the day of her 16th birthday, when to die.
Lucille used her connection with Patricia to exploit her feelings around the death of her mother. Through subtle hints and minor conversational leading, Lucille managed to convince Patricia that she was the reason for her mother’s death.
Lucille never directly blamed her for anything; instead she posed questions for Patricia to linger on, suggesting that if she’d been faster maybe her mother would’ve survived while asking why it took so long for her to investigate.
After letting Patricia to brew on this for a few hours Lucille stated the final line that would push Patricia over the edge, “I don’t think I could live with having that on my conscience, I don’t think anyone could.”
After a failed attempt at suicide led to the discovery of Patricia’s imaginary friend, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia.
She was medicated and monitored for three years. While in the hospital she missed the election of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, the ‘Double Rainbow’ sensation, and the death of her grandmother which left her alone. Again. Patricia didn’t mind much though; she was 17 and ready for the world.
She began her first career as an apprentice chef for two years but felt her life was lacking a future.
A pathway program at her local university opened and she decided this was how she was going to find the future she craved as well as an opportunity to start life as a young adult instead of diving into the deep-end. That’s where she met Daniella. Her life was boring, poor and slow. Patricia loved every second of it. Until now.
Patricia spun back around and found her pills, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Lucille giggled and Patricia heard the shuffling of cans behind her.
“Of course you don’t, I’m not your conscience or anything, I can chatter away for hours with your other delusions. That’s how we know you’re a psycho.”
Patricia stood up with her art book tucked tightly under her arm; the medication in one hand and a can of energy drink in the other. “Goodbye Lucille.” She popped the lid of her drink and swallowed the pills while skolling the entire can to wash it down.
Lucille began mimicking the Wicked Witch of the West in a somehow sultry manner, “Oh I’m melting! I’m melting!” she started giggling and straightened up, “I always wanted to be an actress. You know just as well as I that those things take a while to kick in, and I’m not just going to vanish because you asked me to. I’ve been lonely.”
Patricia crushed the can angrily and threw it on the pile with the others. “Jesus Christ Patty! How many of those things have you had? I mean, I count at least seven; I’m honestly worried about your health. I know that mentally you’re gone, but physically there is still hope.”
“Whatever Lucille, I’m leaving.”
Patricia stepped forward but Lucille quickly moved into her path, “I’m coming along.”
Patricia sighed, “No you’re not.”
Lucille blocked Patricia’s path again as she went to walk around her, “Yeah I am, no stopping me.”
Patricia went to move around her and Lucille got in the way again, “Fine, but I’m not listening to you.” Patricia became impatient and decided to simply walk through Lucille, a process that was interrupted as if she had a physical body, causing Patricia to stumble as she made her way to the door.
“Oh silly Patty, I’m not a ghost, I’m a figment of your over-active imagination. To you, I’m real.”
Patricia was done talking to Lucille and was seconds from being free from her study addled room.
“Hey Patty, I know you’re all for leaving and whatnot, but how are you going to manage that with a heart attack?”
A wave of confusion hit Patricia, “What? I’m not having a hear-” pain replaced the confusion as it tore through her entire body.
“Weeeell, you kind of are sweetums.” Patricia’s hand shot to her chest as she fell to her knees, her art book landing with Daniella’s graphite visage facing upward.
“What are you doing to me Lucy?” Her pained words escaped between halted breaths.
“Me? Nothing at all. Two litres of sugar and caffeine however, that’s made you go tachycardic.”
Patricia was panicking; she desperately tried to think her way out. Then she remembered the paramedic student that lived two doors down, he’d told her to call if she had problems with her pills, surely he’d be able to help in this situation.
Patricia reached for her phone and scrolled through her contacts list and found his number. She hit the little green call button; the pain had become mild enough for her to function. Another wave of pain hit as he answered, causing Patricia to double over and drop her phone.
She tried to scream but nothing came out, “Hello? Hello? Is that you Patt? Are you there?”
Then there was a tiny squeak; the last sound that Patricia could make before slumping over on the floor in pain.
“You think he’ll get here in time Patty? Or are you going to do the good thing and just die?”
Everything in Patricia’s body felt like it had pins and needles, some parts literally.
“Don’t listen to her darling; just hold on for a few more seconds.” Daniella’s soft voice came from somewhere beside Patricia, “Not long now, he heard you, you’re going to be fine.” It was coming from the art book.
“Oh shut up Danny, I knew I wouldn’t like you. Don’t make her fight any more than she has to already.”
Patricia lost feeling in her fingers and she began to feel faint.
“Are you listening to me Patt? You’re going to be fine, just don’t fall asleep.”
Lucille came storming over to the book and planted one foot firmly atop it, muffling Daniella’s words, “Now you listen to me Patty, I’ve been gone for a long time and now I’m back at the moment of self-destruction, if you ruin this for me I’l-OW!” Lucille hopped away while clutching the foot that had sat on Daniella’s face, “You bloody bit me you twatting knob!”
There was a loud thumping coming from the door, “Ignore her Patricia, you’re going to get through this. You hear that? He’s here; he’s going to save you.”
A cracking sound ripped through the room as the paramedic in training began smashing through the locked door.
Dark tunnels began closing around Patricia’s vision, “Look! She’s going to do it!”
The door flung open as the student came barging through, “No Lucy, I think she’s going to make it.”
Patricia’s practically useless body was rolled over onto its back and the paramedic pulled open his medical kit.
All sound was lost as blindingly beautiful light flooded Patricia Wulff’s eyes, closing with a quiet flutter as the paramedic went to work.
“This is Dr Erin Thompson of the Portland Psychiatric Institute. The date is July 18 1984. Patient appears agitated despite ten cc dose of morphine. Would you please state your full name for the record?”
“Heh… Hehehe… She’s heeeere…”
“Please state your name for the record.”
“Eh-heh… You’ll see her… You’ll see her when she wants you too…”
“There’s no-one in here with us, Mr Dower.”
“She wants yoooou… hehehe…”
“Mr Dower, there is no-one here.”
“…That’s what she said…”
“Your wife? Do you remember what you did Mr Dower?”
“DON’T TALK ABOUT HER!”
“Alright Mr Dower, calm down, what would you like to talk about?”
“Heh… Doesn’t matter anymore…bye-bye Eri-berry… ”
“[_ How did yo- Oh my God… Somebody help m-!” _]
It was a rare warm night in Portland, Maine when I first saw the town. I naively thought that that meant we were in for a lucky streak, that a detail as insignificant as the weather was a good omen. I was wrong.
Jake and I rolled onto the street of our first home; a steady but welcoming breeze flowed through our ten-year-old, wood-panelled sedan’s open windows. To be perfectly honest I had no idea how we’d gotten this far, what with Jake’s diagnosis and all. The fact that he was infertile had put an immense amount of pressure on our marriage, but we were in love and nothing would ever change that.
Maybe buying a house in the throes of the worst month of our lives was a bit of an over-the-top coping mechanism: Jake’s argument for it was solid though; ‘It’s not like we need the room,’ he’d said, ‘besides, don’t we want the security?’ I think that’s why he’d decided we should do this, to try and wrest control from the bitch known as chance and have some dominance in his life, something that had most definitely spilled into the bedroom.
“Heh, old lady Rhinehart.” Jake said through a throaty chuckle as we pulled up next to the gutter. Our gutter.
I looked around confusedly in the short range of our headlights, “Hmm?” I asked after squinting into the distance.
Jake pointed up at the empty second storey window of the house across the street from ours, “My brother and I used to make up jokes and stories about a woman like that who lived on our street. Always looking out her window whenever someone drove up…” he paused for a second, a sombreness filling him, “Dad used to say it was because she was waiting for her husband to come back.”
I wanted to comfort him, but he’d already shaken off his grey cloud, “Must be a thing women do when they start to dodder.” he said with a wink.
Instead of prying like I perhaps should have, I gave him a light slap on the arm, assumed he could see something I couldn’t and nodded. He always did have better night vision than me.
We stood in our fifteen foot-by-fifteen foot lounge room, our three recliners in a semi-u-shape on the brown and stained carpet around our tiny television. The pink-painted walls seemed to close in on us more and more as we unpacked our furniture and photos. But we didn’t mind. Made it feel cosy.
“You’ve got to see her now, I mean, she’s right there.” Jake said with a laugh as he cut open another box of books.
I looked out through the window to the other side of the street and, for the third day in a row, saw no-one, “I’m telling you bun-bun, I can’t see anyone. Maybe you’re stressed.”
“Yeah, the guy who got through ’Nam with a smile is stressed out from moving house.”
He was right, apparently of his entire battalion Jake was the only one who didn’t give in to the pressure, even after he ended up in a POW camp.
I smiled and shrugged “Maybe I’m the one who’s stressed.”
“Maybe.” he said with a smirk.
He knew I wasn’t talking about the move, but I understood he just wanted to be happy, and the more I tried to subtly dredge up the past and talk about our feelings the harder it got for him to stay that way. Things always end up surfacing though, and never how I’d expect.
Jake sat in his chair and looked through the slightly open curtains in our lounge room. The afternoon’s sun sent a beam trickling through the dusty air and lit up his weary eyes, “Why is she doing this?” he asked the dust.
“Honey, it’s been days, you need to-”
“Need to what!?” he barked at me, “Need to find some other way to entertain myself!? Because, believe me, I’d love some fucking suggesti-!” he stopped himself as he turned to face me, “I’m sorry baby I just…” his face dropped into his open hands, “I don’t think I’m doing so good.”
I felt like I was losing him, even the hug he gave me as he made his way to our room seemed empty and without love. I wanted to believe that he was simply going through a brief spat of ‘moving madness’, but I knew I was lying to myself. My husband needed help, and he couldn’t get it from me. We needed a doctor.
“I don’t know what to tell you ma’am, but your husband seems absolutely fine to me.” the doctor said in response to my third ‘Are you sure?’, “Aside for a distaste for the art in my office I’d say he’s completely sane.” he laughed.
My husband shared the chuckle, “I just think we have different meanings of the word ‘art’.”
I don’t know why, but this sudden turn, this happy joking man, it unsettled me. It felt as if this was just some elaborate trick, or worse, what he was at home was. I found myself questioning if I was the one in need of help. But then Jake squeezed my arm tenderly and everything went away.
“She is right though, doc. I have become a bit of an oddball around the house, seeing people that ain’t there, hearin’ voices, stuff like that. Doesn’t that at least warrant some kind of treatment?”
The doctor shrugged, “Could be late onset post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s rare, but it does happen.” The doctor, clearly seeing the confusion on our faces, jumped back, “Shell-shock son, PTSD is what the big-wigs have started calling it though. You served, correct?”
My husband and I both nodded, Jake’s hand had moved his grasp to my hand and had started squeezing tightly. Clearly he didn’t like the sound of ‘PTSD’ either; shell-shocked seemed so much less sinister.
“I reckon that’d be the problem, I’ll write you up a script for MDMA and we’ll check-up again in a month. I can write up a referral for a specialist if you’d like?”
“Ha! On my pension? Yeah, I’d love to have some hippy tell me what to do and how to be happy.” Jake said with a smile.
“Too right!” the doctor said cheerfully, “See ma’am, your husband’s fit as a fiddle.”
Jake was clearly making an effort to not look through the window, his eyes weren’t his to control though. I wanted to pull the curtains closed, to give him some kind of freedom, but he wouldn’t have it, stopping me with bizarre and random excuses like ‘We need the air.’ and ‘What if someone tries to break-in?’ The doctor had said to wait a full two weeks before expecting any long-term results from the medicine, but, if anything, he was getting worse.
“Why don’t we just go over there?” I asked hesitantly.
Jake shook his head fervently, “No, no, no. I don’t think that would be a good idea, no. It’ll just upset he-… Me. I mean, in my condition. I’m not even looking any more. I just thought I saw a dog.” It was as if he was having an argument with himself, and he was losing. His lips continued to move long after he stopped speaking and he looked like he was being scolded.
“Well, perhaps I should? You stay here and I’ll go over?”
That was almost enough to bring him to tears, “No…” he almost whispered, “She’ll hurt you… She doesn’t like you.”
I looked across our small, circular dinner table as Jake smeared blood across his lips with his freshly gnawed fingers, “Honey, you have to stop biting, you’re getting worse.” I said as sweetly as I could with a clenched jaw.
“I can’t help it… Something’s crawling under my skin.” he chittered over his untouched meal.
I’d reached the end of my tether, I really didn’t want it to get to that point, but I was out of options, “May… Maybe we should get back on the grass…”
“I mean… We only stopped because we started trying… And yo-… we were so much more relaxed. It could be good for us.”
Jake started shaking his head, “No. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fin-”
He shot up, like I’d woken him from a dream, “Hmm?” he asked before looking into the lounge room, “Oh baby, the curtains are drawn. Don’t worry, I’ll get them, wouldn’t want to run out of air, would we?”
My hypnotised husband narrowly missed my mumbled “Jesus Christ…” as he plodded toward the curtains which he’d shut not ten minutes prior. I was starting to wonder if I could still handle him.
He looked much more vibrant. Colour had returned to his sunken cheeks and a smile to his dry and cracked lips. It was similar to when he returned home from the war and knocked on my apartment’s door. He’d looked like he was about to explode when he saw me, dropped to his knee and pulled out that ring. ‘Promised you, didn’t I?’ he’d said instead of outright asking for my hand.
“Mmhm, this steak is delicious!” Jake said between mouthfuls, “I mean, honestly, best steak ever right here. Thank you so much darling, this is exactly what I needed.”
I was reluctant to believe that everything was just fine at first, but his smile had this way of tearing down those feelings, “I’m glad, and you’re sure you’re alright?”
He nodded excitedly, “Oh yes. Your food is absolutely magical, always has been. First breakfast in bed, now this? What did I do to deserve such a perfect wife?”
I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t so perfect, that this happy and seemingly glowing moment was due not to me, but to the putrid smelling junkie who I’d met on the corner and his ‘special herbs’. But Jake couldn’t know that, no, it’d ruin everything, so instead I smiled and nodded, “Just wait ‘til we get to the brownies honey-bun.”
I threw open the doors to the walk-in wardrobe and found him bawling again, his sallow eyes filled with absolute terror. “Come on, honey, let’s get back into bed.” I said as I reached for his hand.
He retreated toward the darkened corner “You don’t understand! She’s watching me! She’s calling for me!” he shrieked. It wouldn’t be long before his screams became nonsensical babble.
The neighbours would undoubtedly call the police again, fearing I was abusing my husband. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I also didn’t want to go to prison “There’s no-one watching us, come on, everything’s going to be fine.”
He couldn’t see through the falseness of my worn tone though, he only saw the hope. He reached out with a trembling hand and grabbed my wrist before struggling to his tired feet. We stumbled to our fluffy bed and collapsed together, ‘I’ll board up those damn windows in the morning,’ I told myself, ‘and then everything will be OK.’
Jake sat balled up on the windowsill, rocking back and forth while wrapped in a blanket, “There is a darkness there…” he whispered as he pointed out into the empty house across the street, “It feeds on us…”
I blocked my ear with my free hand and continued to speak into the phone, “Isn’t there something you can do?”
The deputy on the other end of the line let out a heavy sigh, “Listen lady, we’ve sent out three patrol cars in the past two weeks and each time you’ve assured us that your husband is fine. Now, I’m asking you plainly, is he a danger to himself or others?”
It was a loaded question, I knew that. I answer yes, they send out a squad and lock Jake up, I answer no, they think I’m being hysterical and stop answering my calls. “He’s just ill. I’m sure he’ll come around. Sorry for wasting your time.”
“Alright ma’am. But you listen to me, if he goes anywhere near that house I’ll have to bring him in, understand?”
“Yes sir, thanks again.” I said emotionlessly as I dropped the receiver in its place.
Jake pulled the blankets tighter around himself, “Are they coming for me?”
I walked over to him and embraced him, “No. No-one’s coming for you.”
“Get out here you old bitch!”
I heard Jake scream from the middle of the street. I leapt from bed, and ran out the front door to see him staring up at the window.
“Come on! You want my help so bad!? Come get it!”
“Jake!” I snapped as I approached him from behind, “Get back inside, now!”
A few seconds passed before he spun on his feet to face me, tears and a look of defiance smeared across his face. But, after I made it clear I wasn’t backing down, he stormed past me and disappeared into the house behind me. I looked up into the window that was becoming my husband’s obsession. I couldn’t believe what was happening to him; it’d been years since the war so shell-shock didn’t make sense to me and he seemed to be getting worse at night.
Then I saw something. Probably just my eyes playing tricks on myself I’d told myself. But it had definitely, in that split second, maybe even a fraction of that, looked like a veil.
I rolled over half-consciously and went to hug Jake, but he wasn’t there. I let out a sigh and got out of bed and checked the wardrobe, expecting to find him weeping away again. Empty. He wasn’t screaming, which, as far as I was concerned, was a good thing, but I figured I should check the street anyway, for safety’s sake. That’s when I saw it. The door to the house across the street was wide open.
I wasted no time in shooting down the stairs, my heart ready to pound out of my chest; I should’ve noticed the missing knife.
Jake hadn’t turned on any of the lights, a good sign that no-one had seen him yet, all I had to do was find him and bring him home before it was too late.
I stood at the threshold of the house for what felt like hours. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to enter someone’s home without their permission, it was like I waiting for its permission. I’m aware of how odd that sounds, but that’s how it was. Eventually I gave up on waiting though and crossed the barrier, a feeling of dread and emptiness filled me as I did.
I didn’t feel like I was in house, it was more like Hell, a pitch-black Hell. Just out of view, figures ran around, silent screams and whispers pervading the dark-world that I’d found myself in. Only one of the dozens of figures was clearly visible in my peripheral vision; an old woman standing at the head of the stairs. I wanted to scream and flee into the night, but I needed to find my husband.
I ignored the woman, who I’m pretty sure had started following me, and began walking around the house while trying to call out for Jake, but something had a grip on my voice and was keeping me silent.
I see my husband now though, he’s right there, standing in the kitchen. I still can’t speak, but I’m reaching for him. My hand’s touching his shoulder! And now… Now there’s something cold inside me… It’s less a feeling… It’s more of a sound…
Jake’s crying… I’m on the ground… There’s so much blood… Jake’s holding me now… He’s asking someone what they made him do… I’m confused…
Something’s dragging me… There are hands around my ankles… Jake’s trying to hold onto me… He’s screaming… Why is everything so dark? Where am I?
There are some new people in my house now. I wonder if her husband will help me?
The Mulligan Planet
The Mulligan Planet 2
THE WASHBURNE CASE FILES