“You think I’m a murderer,” Charlie muttered tunelessly.
“No, honey, I don’t, I promise—“
“You think I’m a murderer,” Charlie muttered again as if he hadn’t heard Ruby.
“Honey, I promise I don’t, Mommy was just surprised is all, I could never think you were a—“ Ruby couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence and tears began to leak from under her mascara-laden eyelids. She shut them tight to fight against the flow, but could only keep them closed for a few seconds as it was dangerous to be blind on the road for too long. Sure enough, when she opened her eyes she saw that she had begun to drift out of her lane. Using arms that felt like blocks of lead under weight of her shame, she jerked the wheel and righted herself. She had changed direction too sharply though, and Charlie had swung into the window, banging his head on the cold glass pane.
He made no notice of it, almost like he is dead Ruby thought with a shudder best not to think about death too much she sorrowfully reminded herself. The thought wouldn’t go away though and Ruby could not help but follow it to its natural conclusion.
Death… that horrible word, so full of darkness and mystery. Well, not horrible in of itself, but its relations certainly were. Things such as disease, torture, starvation, dehydration…murder. That last word gave Ruby chills that danced their icy fingers up and down her spine. She felt the tears threaten to spring forth again from their shuttered darkness. With a violent effort, she forced them down where they instead settled in her heart.
The violent strength of will required to stem the salty tide dwelling behind her eyes, left Ruby susceptible to another, different, more insidious tide lurking behind her eyes. Cold shame and worse, fear, thrilled along Ruby’s frame, much the same as those icy fingers had done before. Despite the dangers of the road, maybe it would be better if I crashed and died actually Ruby let herself be swept up and whisked away by that flickering shadow.
* * *
Dr. Seger sat on the monochrome couch, a look of doctorly patience on his face. Across from him sat Ruby and Charlie on a brown couch dappled with spots of gray, not by paint Ruby thought with disgust. Next to her, she felt Charlie shift uncomfortably and stare at his hands. He hadn’t wanted to come here, and looking around at the peeling wallpaper and moldy furniture, Ruby could see why.
“So Charlie,” Dr. Seger began, running his figures over his nearly bald head and leaving them to rest on his prodigious belly, “what seems to be the Problem?”
Now it was Ruby’s turn to shift uncomfortably. Uncomfortably and more than a little fearfully she noticed with bitter despair. The Problem, you could practically taste the capital letters, or more accurately Charlie’s Problem, Ruby reflected. She stopped in her ruminations as she felt that bitter well of despair and fear begin to rise up again. When it had dwindled, she continued in her mind.
Charlie had always been a special kid. Well, maybe special wasn’t the best word…Unusual or Insightful might be better ones, though neither one still didn’t paint a perfect picture. Charlie had always known things he shouldn’t have known, things he couldn’t have known. It was eerie sometimes, how Charlie seemed to be able to read the thoughts and emotions of those around him.
Even now, Charlie had become silent at the sound of Dr. Seger’s voice, as if he was listening to some internal tune that no one else could hear. Ruby even thought she heard him mumble under his breath, “you don’t really care,” but she couldn’t be sure.
The awkward silence that pressed between them finally become too much for Ruby to bear and she started, “Charlie seems to see…things sometimes.”
“Things? What kind of things?” Dr. Seger inquired, leaning forward on the couch, causing it to groan under his girth.
“Well, I’m not sure how to describe them…Charlie? Do you think you could explain to Dr. Seger?”
Both adults fixed their gazes on the slight figure of the boy beside them. While the discussion had been going on, Charlie had begun to play with the couch, picking idly at a loose thread and staring at his feet. Ruby thought he seemed a little pale, and he looked a little green. Charlie did not seem to have heard the two and did not acknowledge their gazes fixed on him. They sat like this for what seemed like an hour, until Ruby had begun to think Charlie hadn’t heard them and she was considering addressing him again when Charlie opened his mouth and the words seemed to flow forth from him with an adult maturity that sounded chilling coming from a 12-year olds mouth.
“They’re like memories,” Charlie began, “except I don’t think they’ve happened yet, but I can feel that they will have a possibility of happening sometime in the future, I don’t know when though.” Charlie stopped and shuddered, his face assuming a blank expression and he grew pale as a sheet. Ruby and Dr. Seger sat frozen, unsure of what to do. Fortunately, Charlie seemed to return to normal and come to his senses, and he continued. His voice had changed though, where previously it had issued forth with a stark, adult clarity and was easily heard, Ruby and Seger now had to strain to hear Charlie speak. “There is this one memory I have, its where-w-w-where, I-I…I s-s-stab M-m-mommy with a knife.” Charlie stopped suddenly and began to sob, great, big sobs that cried to the heavens of their sorrow.
Seger looked over at Ruby, expecting to see her on the couch, her maternal instinct at work, with an arm around her child as he wailed. Instead, Ruby had drawn back as far from Charlie as she could, a look of disgust, horror, and revulsion spread across her face and directed at Charlie. What a poor mother Seger thought before his thoughts were interrupted by Charlie’s voice. To Seger’s enormous surprise, Charlie had ceased his tears, indeed the only evidence of them having existed were two long jagged, wet streaks down his cheeks and a puffy redness around his eyes. He was staring at his mother, an unreadable expression hidden across his face.
“You think I’m a murderer,” he addressed his mother in a tuneless voice that sent chills down Seger’s spine and caused a nameless horror to caress his heart.
* * *
Ruby snapped back to reality at the whine of a stalled engine. Oh God, not now! She cried desperately. “Honey, mommy is gonna go check on the engine,” she called back at Charlie. He made no indication he had heard, indeed no movement at all as he sat still as a stone. With a sense of impending dread she stepped out of her car and onto the lonely highway. Vaguely, she noticed the nearby meat truck crashed in the woods that stood as silent sentinels next to the road. Even more muddled, did she hear the sound of the door of her car slide open and Charlie climb out and set off towards the wreckage of the truck.
Ruby was so intent on examining the stalled engine that she didn't hear the soft footfalls of her approaching son, who had come back from the wreckage. Nor did she hear the soft whisper of the air as it slid over the sharpened steel length of the long butcher’s knife Charlie carried. She did; however, notice when the cold length slid into her body, puncturing her left lung, and notice when it slid out just as easily as it had slid in. Ruby fell to the ground, gasping for air as blood began to flood into her lung, drowning her. She fell onto the ground, a weak gasp of surprise and pain eliciting from her throat as her back crashed to the asphalt. Her vision began to blur and as she lay there dying, she saw Charlie standing over her, a butcher’s knife coated in blood, her blood she realized with dawning horror, in his upraised right hand. His left hand was balled into a fist and hanging limply at his side. The blank, vacant expression on his face had been replaced with a cold, hard look. His eyes glared at her, two deep midnight pools that seemed to scream with pain and rage.
“You think I’m a murderer.”
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King's book The Shining