The Shut-In

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jeff suffers extreme agoraphobia. He has shut himself in his house and his only friend has to leave on a business trip. Immediately his anxiety kicks into high gear; the ghost of a little girl and a faceless demon don't help matters either.

Submitted: November 04, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 04, 2013





Virginia’s Nissan Altima pulled into the gravel driveway. Anxiously she hummed an upbeat melody to divert her mind. It wasn’t working. The small rocks which made up the driveway crunched beneath the weight of her slow moving tires. She continued to hum, desperate to hide her angst from both herself, as well as Jeff.

She put the car in park and killed the engine. With her hands gripping the steering wheel she closed her eyes tight. She shook her head and let out a deep breath as she whispered to herself. “He’ll be fine. It’s just three days. I will be gone and when I return things will be fine. Don’t worry. If you are worried he will notice and worry too, and this certainly will worsen his condition.”

Overcome she briskly shook her head as if somehow this would empty her mind. She imagined her fears and insecurities falling free like dandruff from her hair. She imagined an overwhelming sense of calmness flowing over her body like water from a shower head. She took a deep breath and let out an exaggerated exhale. She then reached a shaking had to her car door handle and jerked it open.

Jeff watched from the window. He heard her car coming up the driveway. He had decided on gravel so he could always hear people approaching. He didn’t like solid driveways. They were silent and gave visitors an advantage to surprise him. He didn’t like to be surprised.

He watched Virginia’s queer behavior. Thoughts began to develop in his paranoid mind. He knew something was wrong, and being as sick as he was, he expected the absolute worse.

Cancer, Sickle Cell Anemia, Multiple Dystrophy, AIDs

He decided it was better to wait the four or five seconds until she reached the front door. Maybe it isn’t that bad? He shook his head in disappointment. He hated acting like this, hiding in the shadows and watching. He wished he could greet her at the door, just like before. Greet her with a smile meeting her halfway. He envisioned a normal welcome; absent of bizarre rituals of entry and she would suggest they would go out to eat. He imagined the world as it was before, before his mental breakdown.

It seemed like forever to him but it had only been three years since his agoraphobia isolated him from the rest of the world. Three years since he lived a somewhat normal life as an average man with a decent job making pretty good money. Three years since he would smile and be the social epicenter among peers. Three long years have passed since the day he couldn’t get out of bed.

He remembered that day well. Had it been two days before someone noticed? He was catatonic, lying in bed muttering incoherent sentence fragments. He was unable to move. He urinated in his bed, and lay there in his filth for two days, that is until a concerned Virginia came to his rescue.

She called the paramedics, and they took him away to the hospital. He spent a week there before he would be released back to his home. This turned out to be a prison sentence. It was here he remained since, not so much as stepping out the front door. He segregated himself from the world and it was within the confines of this house where he found solace. This was his world, and the only outside influenced allowed in his world now was Virginia.

Virginia truly was a great friend to him. She made sure to visit him every day and bring him groceries once a week. The love he had for her was strong, a bond like brother and sister. Jeff was ignorant, however, of Virginia’s feelings.

She saw their love in a much different light. Where Jeff saw sibling love, Virginia saw a potential for long, everlasting romance. She understood he was unable to commit to any relationship right now, but in time. He was ill, damaged, yet salvageable. His vulnerability amplified her feelings for him as she set a foundation to build passion; one day when he is finally healed she would be there.

And they lived happily ever after…

She knocked softly on the door, careful not to knock to hard. To knock with aggressive force would set Jeff into a panic, and he would retreat to a safe spot in the house. Days would go by before he could be convinced to come out. Batting her lashes she cleared her throat before calling out in a soft voice “Jeff, It’s me Virginia.”

Now came the routine; the deadbolt would open giving Virginia her cue to open it. Jeff never opened the door. His phobias wouldn’t allow him to. He would retreat from the door to the entranceway of the kitchen as he awaited Virginia’s safe entry.

“Hey Jeff, how are you?” She called out closing the door behind her. He emerged from the shadows timid, yet excited to see her. She had a calming effect on him, sort of like a drug. This had been the case his entire life. Since children her presence seemed to calm him.

“Oh, you know just another day in my mental little world.” He joked. Virginia forced a laugh although she was uncomfortable with it. She understood that his jokes which made fun of his ailment were a defense mechanism to help cope with the situation. She didn’t have to like it though.

He led the way to the living room. It was bare with the exception of a couple leather couches, a coffee table, and a television sitting on a stand. As always his house was immaculate.

Of course my house is clean I am locked in here every goddamn day. Even a shut-in is capable of developing cabin fever. If it wasn’t for the cleaning surely I would have fallen off the deep end a long time ago.

Jeff motioned for Virginia to take a seat. She took her seat, obeying the laws of Jeffery’s World. Jeff decided who entered his world, as well as how they behaved in it. He always led the way from room to room and gave permission to sit, lean, eat, and drink; or whatever else. Virginia, only one time in the past, sat down without permission. For the next two weeks Jeff sat in a mind shattered catatonia because he lost control of his world.

“I was watching an amazing documentary earlier.” Jeff took a seat in the couch opposite of her. He leaned back sinking into the cushions. “It was on string theory. Are you familiar with it?”

“Yes I am. It involves a lot within it but the bulk of it is the theory of extra dimensions.”

“Yes. I found the documentary very exciting yet frightening. It sure is terrifying to know privacy is an illusion.” Jeff could read the puzzled look in Virginia’s face. He smiled. “What I mean is that in this theory there is other world overlapping our own. We share this space with others in another world. I might be next to another being right now, or inside one. Perhaps those strange feelings we sometimes get, that sensation that we are not quite ourselves, is because we fused two beings together. Our worlds separated by a thin ethereal fabric. I may not like it but I cannot deny the compelling evidence.”

“As I recall many scientists consider it junk science.” Virginia responded shaking her head. “I mean it is a theory not a law.”

“Yes, but hasn’t all science at one time or another been called junk science? Witchcraft or back magic sometimes? Before something becomes law it must first be theory.” It wasn’t what he said that troubled Virginia, but how he expressed himself. He was getting more eccentric, wilder in his expressions. His hands madly flailed with his eyes as his tone took erratic jumps and dives. He looked like a conductor leading an orchestra.

“Well that’s real interesting.” Jeff could tell she was distracted. He studied her and noticed she refused eye contact. She looked at her feet as if somewhere in that general direction was an escape for her; a back door where she could slip out.

“What’s wrong? I can tell something is wrong.”

“As usual you’re right. I do have something to tell you. I got a promotion at work.”

“Well this is fantastic news, but why the sullen look? There’s more isn’t there?”“Jesus Jeff I swear you should become a psychologist when you…” She looked up at him. She didn’t want to finish the sentence. She made it a point to not mention his condition. He held a hand out telling her it was alright. She continued. “I am now the regional assistant director of marketing research.”

“Wow, quite the title, but I don’t see why the sadness inside?”

“I need to take off for a few days” She shot her hand out in a stop motion to prevent Jeff from over reacting. “Don’t worry it is only three days and I will be back. I am going up to New Hampshire.”

Jeff twitched slightly forcing a giant smile as a pathetic way to hide his disappointment. Fears and sadness overwhelmed him. “Ok. Then go.”

“Oh Jeff, don’t be upset. I wish to god I could call or email you.”

“No way you’re getting one of them goddamn computers or phones in this house. They carry cancer and allow the CIA to listen in on your conversations.”

“I know Jeff, I know you don’t trust them I just worry about you and wish I had the means to check in on you.”

“Listen, you go. I will be fine. Christ it is only three days, you think I am that crazy?” Jeff laughed. This time Virginia also laughed. She had to. He motioned for her to stand and she did. He hugged her tight as he whispered. “Now not another word about phone calls or emails.”

After Virginia left Jeff quickly dashed off to the kitchen and reached for the drawer. In the drawer he keeps a collection of pills. There were bottles of paroxetine, diazepam, clonazeopam, buspar; and then he found it hiding in the corner, alprazolam. He pulled off the top to his favorite little anti-anxiety and popped two into his mouth. He shook his head.

“Three days. Three days and she will come back. She has to. But what if she has a car accident? What if she is kidnapped, or raped? If she was raped she could develop a major phobia of males, thus she would stop seeing me altogether.” He shook his head as he softly hit himself with a closed fist. “Stop it you are doing it again.

The what ifs always help you lose control. TV! Got to watch TV!”

He stumbled back into the living room and plopped himself down on the leather couch. He reached for the remote and turned it on. It was the news. The newscaster looked into the camera with a stern look.

“A young woman was found today murdered in the Raintree Village projects in Brockton MA. The woman was believed to be a police informant responsible for a raid on a drug house on Winthrop Street last month. The woman was found execution style with four gunshots from a .22 caliber handgun. Her hands were tied behind her.”

“And I am the crazy one for not leaving my house. Terrorism, shootings, gang banging, the whole world goes to shit but still people flock in record numbers to buy more bullshit, yet I am the disturbed one.” As he talked to himself and the pills began to take hold he heard from upstairs the patter of small feet running across the floor. He shook his head, ignoring it as a side effect from the pills. It was the undeniable laughter of a child which made him shoot up. “What the fuck?”

Terror overwhelmed him. He felt his heart speed up considerably. He pulled himself from the couch and slowly made his way toward the staircase. The sounds of the feet ran back and forth accompanied by the laugh of a little girl.

“Hello? You’re not supposed to be here.” And the running stopped just like that. He gripped the railing with a shaking, white knuckled hand. There was nothing now, nothing but empty silence. He shook his head letting out a nervous laugh. “These fucking pills, I’ll tell you…”

“You’re not fun anymore Jeff.” A girl’s voice yelled behind him. Spinning around he lost his balance and fell to the floor. He scanned the area but saw nothing; no girl.

“It is the pills; don’t freak out. There’s no one in this house, especially not some child. You are tired, it has been a long day and you just took two real strong pills.”

Of course it is just the pills you dumb shit. Look at you.

Jeff laughed as he pulled himself up. “These fucking pills will…”

Suddenly something whizzed past his head at a high velocity; smashing against the wall into a million pieces. Jeff spun around to see no one behind him, just an empty end table where there once was a ceramic vase. Jeff walked across the room and looked at the broken object.

“Just the pills? How the fuck can you blame the pills on that?”


Don’t worry Virginia, you’re almost there. Check into the hotel; take a shower and then crash. A good night sleep is all you need to get you through tomorrow. She desperately tried to trick herself into thinking she was worried over the class; anxious over the promotion. She could be nervous over the economy, the war, terrorism, fucking aliens…but she could not admit she was worried about Jeff. To admit this would raise panic. She cared too much for him.

The mountains of New Hampshire were overwhelming, they looked like massive sculptures carved by the mighty titans in Greek Mythology. The sun had already begun to sink behind them. As the daylight began to disappear and make way for the night, a sense of dread tore through her. She felt the hairs on her body stand on end as her mind began to race.

As she struggled to stabilize her thoughts the radio went to static. Startled yet annoyed, Virginia immediately reached down and turned the station. More static is all she got. She got a collage of broken notes, chopped voices, and ominous static. Frustrated she turned the radio off.

Silence. She could deal with silence.

“Mountains must be blocking…” but before she could finish the radio shot back on. Static, noise and voices.

“You…can’t save…dies along…Jeff…will you try…collapse.” A voice spoke between the static. Suddenly the static dropped and the song “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison played.

Panic ran through her body as she stared at the radio. Did she hear that right?

The radio mentioned Jeff by name.

A horn honking pulled her attention back to the road. Headlights were barreling toward her and she jerked the wheel hard, narrowly missing the head on collision. The car spun out in three complete circles before coming to a stop on the side of the road. Virginia sat there pale, her hands cemented to the steering wheel.

“A candy colored clown they call the sandman, tiptoes into my room every night, just to sprinkle stardust as he whispers, go to sleep, everything is alright.” Roy Orbison sang as Virginia sat there, still in shock of the radio message as well as the near death experience she just had. She beat her hand off the steering wheel.

“Fucking goddamn it Virginia. Get a grip on yourself. You are nervous, you are distracted and exhausted. The hotel is close. Let’s just focus in order to get there. Now get your fucking head on straight and just drive.” She sat up tall and put her car back in drive and pulled on. As she cut through the New Hampshire night to Roy Orbison she could not help but wonder about that voice on the radio.


Jeff, in a desperate attempt to distract his mind, ran his finger across his record collection. Although he loved all his records, among his favorites were records from the 1950’s, the golden age of rock. He read the titles. The Mad Lads, The Platters, Buddy Holly, The Spaniels, The Duprees, Dion and the Belmonts, each record was like a time machine to an era he wished he could live.

Jeff picked up a record by The Duprees and placed it on the player. He dropped the needle as the song Have you Heard dreamingly slipped out his speakers. He lay down on the couch and closed his eyes.

He lost himself in the song as he envisioned himself alive in the 1950’s. He owned a Chevy Fleetline. The color was black with a red interior. The glow from the radio lit up the cab as she stared into the eyes of a high school sweetheart. They were at a secluded area, lost beneath the endless stars and intoxicating moonlight. The girl had beautiful green eyes and black hair was all done up, she was…

“Virginia.” Jeff whispered as he let Virginia’s face enter the blank canvas of his fantasy girl. He ran his hand through her hair as he took in her perfume. The gentle breeze creeps into the vehicle as Jeff runs his hand down her shirt and cups one of her ample breasts. As he kisses her neck he hears her moan. When he lifts his head he catches a glimpse in the rearview mirror out the corner of his eye.

In the back seat is a little girl. She is no older then nine. She has long brown hair which reaches down to her mid back. She is wearing winter clothing, but she is soaking wet and her skin is blue. Her dead, glassy eyes stare up at the ceiling of the car.

Virginia turns to see what is distracting her lover. She sees the dead girl in the back and laughs. “Oh come on Jeff, she is dead and that’s a long time ago. Don’t let that spoil our evening.”

Jeff’s eyes shot open. He expected to see his living room as he left it moments earlier, however instead the little girl from the dream now stood over him, except now she appeared to be alive. Jeff, startled, pulled back and clawed his way up the couch.

“Who the hell are you?” He called out. He felt foolish, still convinced this is all a hallucination from his meds, but he decided to just go with it. What was it his doctor had told him once?

These pills, they might make the world a little funny. You may see from time to time things that are not there, or hear things that are not there. Keep telling yourself it is just the side effects from the drug. You are not going insane. If need be, just go with it and allow your brain to believe as not to frighten or confuse it. Do this in desperation when you just can’t shake the hallucinations.

This certainly seemed like one of those moments. He tried to tell himself it was not real but still she remained before him. He will just go with it and play the game.

“Will you play with me Jeffery?” the little girl asked. Her voice was distorted, similar to a cassette tape in a player where the batteries were running low.

“How do you know my name? How did you get in here?” The needle pulled across the record as the music stopped. His living room melted away all around him. The windows, the furniture, the walls, the ceiling, it all melted like the Salvador Dali painting with the melting clocks. He now stood in a playground in the middle of winter. Snow was everywhere and the cold icy New England wind tore though him. “What the fuck is going on?”

“Ok Lydia, I’m coming!” a little boy yelled from behind him. Jeff stepped back, barefoot in the snow, as a child in a thick New England Patriots winter jacket ran past him toward the little girl. She ran as the boy playfully chased her.

“My god, that that’s me. How is this possible?” He shook his head laughing. “I have truly gone insane. Fucking insane. I have finally gone off the deep end.”

He knew the park from his youth. It was in Middleboro, near the town pool. He played here a lot, but he didn’t know that little girl. A headache tore through his brain as he clawed at his skull in desperation to release the pressure. The image of the little girl flashed through his mind, memories of birthday parties and recess with the unknown girl. He saw his mother picking her up in their 1988 Honda Accord. She enters the car and smiles at him. He closed his eyes.

“I don’t know Lydia. There is not Lydia!”

Classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, Christmas, Easter…all these memories of childhood come flowing through his brain with this girl placed inside them, however he didn’t know her.

 He heard his record playing again. He opened his eyes and he was inside his living room again. There was the couches, the television, the table, it was all here. He sighed with relief but his relief was short lived, for in the corner of his eye he saw a figure.

What stood just across the room was something beyond reason. This was an ash or granite colored, hulking figure; a towering six feet of sinew. It had not features, just a silhouette like a three dimensional shadow. Where its eyes, nose and mouth would be was nothing but a dark, black void. The creature was surrounded by a red aura that intensified and dulled. This aura seemed to be feeding the creature and it seemed to be siphoning from an aura which came from Jeff’s own body.

Gooseflesh covered him as his jaw quivered. He swallowed as he tried in desperation to control his breathing; he pulled at the collar of his shirt trying to swallow the lump. As his fear increased, the aura grew a deeper red. Jeff closed his eyes tight.

This isn’t real. Get your shit together. This is ridiculous. The girl was one thing, but now you are seeing monsters that do not exist? You will now open your eyes and it will be gone. Simple as that. This is a side effect from the drug. Open your eyes.

Jeff opened his eyes and saw himself staring directly into the dark void. He saw himself staring at endless, eternal emptiness that sent a chill throughout his bones. Jeff screamed out but all audio went mute. He collapsed to the floor as the aura turned to the deepest shade of red he ever saw. The shadow creature didn’t move, just fed off Jeff’s fear.

Get the fuck out of here. Get upstairs!

Jeff scrambled to his feet and fell backwards, knocking a table containing a vase on the floor. It shattered in silence; no sound just the slow motion crash of ceramic. Jeff clawed up the wall to get back on his feet as he silently screamed. He turned and ran up the stairs. Looking back once he saw the shadow figure didn’t move. As soon as he reached the top of the stairs he took an immediate left into his bedroom and slammed the door shut. As the door slammed he could hear again and screamed out.

“Help me! Fucking Christ I am losing it! Help me Virginia!”


She checked into the hotel around nine and immediately crashed onto her bed. Her mind was anxious, swimming with worries but also burnt out. Within minutes she was asleep.

She dreamed of a little girl from her childhood. It was Lydia Hull. She was standing on a hill holding in one hand a red balloon. She giggled as she brushed her long brown hair behind her ear.

“Hey Virginia.” She called out to her waving. Virginia waved back, shocked to see her hand had shrunk and fit into a small Barbie winter glove. She looked down and saw a Barbie shirt beneath a pink winter jacket.

“Hey Lydia” a child’s voice escaped Virginia’s mouth. She approached Lydia who continued to wave and smile to her. “I thought you were dead.”

“That’s not funny at all.” Lydia let go of the balloon as she placed both hands on her hips and crunched her face in disapproval. The balloon climbed higher and higher until it was lost in the vast sky. “You don’t joke about death Virginia.”

“Your balloon!” Virginia pointed up. Lydia looked up and laughed.

“Don’t worry Virginia it will come back down, they always come back down eventually.” Virginia looked around. All around them was endless grassy hills.  There was not a tree, not a house, nothing as far as she could see.

“Why are we here?”


“What about Jeff?”

“He is in peril Virginia. If you are a friend you will help him, but disappointment is the only ending, regardless.” Lydia spoke but now her voice was distorted and watery. Her skin took on a wet, blue look. Wind began to pick up. It was gentle at first but soon took on a hurricane force. She began to shake as water leaked out of her pores. Crying she collapsed to the ground.

“Lydia what’s wrong?”

“Mommy, he put me in the barrel. I was alive. I am dead now. Jeff, please help me!” From the sky fell thousands of black balloons. They fell in a continuous rain upon them. Lydia’s eyes sunk into her head. “I told you they all come back down eventually.”

Virginia shot awake and sat up so fast she almost gave herself whiplash. She was back in her hotel room. On the television screen was an infomercial about a new vacuum. The man was a fat guy with a bad comb over stuffed into a cheap suit. He bounced around with energy a man of his girth rarely exerted.

“This vacuum will suck up water, oil, dirt, grime, and it doesn’t even require the use of a bag. Simply rinse in your sink and use again and again.”

Virginia pulled herself from the bed and walked over to the little desk where she had her laptop turned on. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she sat in the chair, lost in the glow from the screen.

Lydia Hull. What does she have to do with Jeff?

Virginia pulled up a search engine and typed in Lydia Hull Middleboro MA 1986. She pressed enter and suddenly the screen filled with websites discussing the young girl. Virginia clicked on a link and pulled up an old news article.


Young Girl found Dead in Barrel

The body of nine year old Lydia Hull was discovered inside a metal drum full of water. The drum was located in the back yard of a house belonging to a factory worker named Daniel Phillips. Phillips claims he has no idea how the girl got in the drum.

Evidence from the medical examiner report states that Lydia was hit in the head with a rock or other similar object, and lost consciousness. She was placed into the barrel of water and the top was put on. The top had fasteners which locked it shut. It was in this water which Lydia drowned.

David Phillips has been arrested and charged with murder. A young boy said he witnessed Mr. Phillips walking off with Lydia. The boy said he never saw her after that.

“A boy?” Virginia shook her head. “Who was the boy? I don’t remember.”

“This will be the last vacuum you will ever need. Just three easy payments of 29.99. But wait! Call in the next fifteen minutes and receive this Big Toms Carpet Odor Eliminator absolutely free as our gift to you.” The man with the bad comb over continued to holler as he bounced around the screen.

Virginia scrolled down the page until she saw another article.


Boy’s Testimony Delivered, Dan Phillips Convicted of Murder

A young Middleboro boy’s testimony was all the evidence the jury needed to convict Daniel Phillips of First Degree murder in the death of nine year old Lydia Hull. The boy, ten year old Jeffery Peterson, told jurors how he watched Daniel Phillips lure the girl Lydia with promise of free toys. Jeffery states she went with him to his house just across the street from the park.


The infomercial guy continued to yell about how amazing his vacuum was as Virginia stared at the computer screen in disbelief. She put the pieces together and laughed a little.

It makes sense. That is why he is suffering. He watched Lydia walk off to be murdered. He must have suppressed the memories of that day and years later it came back.

She began to cry as she imagined how horrible Jeff must have felt after Lydia’s death. She figured this was it; this is what she needed to pull him out of his fears. Once she forces him to face the suppressed memory he would slowly get better. In time the possibility of romance would now be within her grasp. Her happy ending was now within reach.

Or maybe it will make him worse. He suppressed the memory for a reason. Don’t you think to bring it up might send him over the edge?

“This vacuum will not let you down!”

“No I need to see him now. This is it, the key to help him. I can help him now. I been looking for a way to help him and I may finally have it.”

Don’t be silly, you got the workshop in the morning.

“It even comes with an extendable hose for those hard to reach areas.”

“Fuck the job. I’ll tell them I had a family emergency. This is more important. I need to see Jeffery right now.”

“There is no point; he has already gone over the deep end cunt.” The voice was that of the fat infomercial salesman. Virginia turned to the television and saw the fat little man continue to jump around. “I am so excited to show you this amazing deal, available only from TV.”

I am going.

Virginia pulled open the drawers of the bureau and threw clothes into her suitcase. She packed everything into her Nissan, got behind the wheel and drove into the night.


The house was unnaturally silent. The normal noises, the ones expects from a house were absent. He strained his ears in a desperate effort to find evidence of the world outside, a world he feared yet yearned to hear. There was nothing. No sounds of automobiles, no sounds of barking dogs, not even the sound of the wind.

It’s the meds. The meds are fucking you man. This is not real, this makes no sense it is all in your mind.

He found it impossible to convince himself of this anymore. Sure he experienced side effects from time to time but this was different. There was something real, supernatural, but real about all this. He ran his fingers through his hair as he yanked on it. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he battled with conflicting thoughts in his mind.

This is not real.

This is real.

This is not real.

This is real.

Not real.


Not real.


I am losing it. Here comes that deep end and I am falling over. I am finally breaking. I was slightly damaged, now I am fucked, my mind is fucked, and there is no turning back.

Deep end, here I come.

“Virginia! I need you!” He hollered and then stopped.

Virginia. Of course, she has been here every day, and that is what changed today. My mind is lost without her. It is true, I am insane. None of this is real I am insane. Give me pills and lock me away. I am insane but safe!

“Denial.” The little girl’s voice filled the room and was all encompassing. It surrounded him. Desperately Jeff swung his head looking for the little girl.

“You aren’t real, I am insane. I know now you are just in my fucking head!” Jeff hollered as he squeezed his eyes as tight as he could and shook his head violently. “Get our of my head bitch!”

“You really tried to forget it didn’t you Jeff? You did a good job but memories do not stay suppressed forever. The time has come to remember.”

Jeff opened his eyes and the world around him was gone. He now sat in an empty, dark room on an old rusty metal chair. Before him, suspended in the dark was a giant video screen. Jeff slowly rose to wobbly knees as he watched in tranquil amazement.

On the screen was the little boy from earlier. It was him again, as a child. He wore a knit hat and that New England Patriots winter jacket. He was on a swing at that playground.

I…remember this.

“Jeff let’s go on the slide” The voice came from behind the boy off screen. The girl ran into view past the boy with her long hair flowing behind her. “Race you.”

Suddenly the view switched to a first person view of the child Jeff. The boy ran after her, both laughing uncontrollably. Finally Jeff tackled her and both collapsed in the snow.

“Lydia…do you have a boyfriend?” The boy asked shyly. She shook her head no. The boy smiled as he saw this to be his chance. “Could I be?”

“Jeff you are a friend, a good friend, but just a friend.” Lydia’s cold response left Jeff shattered. The room’s temperature dropped dramatically; his breath was visible. She closed her eyes deep in fantasy. “Besides I am waiting for Timmy.”

The boy’s thoughts raced. Rejection was alien to him, and he didn’t know how to take it. He shook his head as an overwhelming anger developed. Just a friend? What is that suppose to mean, I am not good enough to be anything more?

Just as his anger continued to boil he saw a rock the size of a softball sitting in the snow. He reached out a hand and picked it up. He rubbed his gloved hand over the edges as he watched Lydia out the corner of his eye, still lost in her day dream. Jeff sat up still facing her.

“No, I remember this now. No more!” Jeff hollered at the screen. He reached for the chair and tossed it at the screen but it didn’t break it, just absorbed it.

You are in pain. She caused the pain and she is joyous. A little skank lost in her mind, thinking about people other then you. You are not good enough for her, so make her understand hurt.

He brought the rock down with all his might.

Blood exploded from a gash in her head. Besides a quick yelp she didn’t do anything else. She was still, not moving.

“I killed her.” The boy said. He stood up.

“She is breathing you fucking idiot. Get help!” Jeff screamed at the screen like a frustrated audience member watching a movie; a movie where the main character did something outside what the viewer hoped. “What are you doing?”

The boy was now dragging the unconscious Lydia by a leg. She made a trail in the snow; but light flakes fell already began hiding it. All sorts of conflicting thoughts went through his head. He felt sick, he felt strong, he felt guilt, he felt pride, he felt what he did was wrong but most importantly he feared Juvi.

I am not going to Juvi. The kids in jail are rotten and will kick my ass every day. Some killed parents or raped siblings. I don’t belong there. I didn’t mean to kill Lydia.

“She’s not dead you fucking asshole, get help before I come through that screen and kick the shit out of you!”

The scene changed to the boy dragging the body up onto a back porch. The hair collected later from this scene would be used in evidence wrongfully convicting Daniel Phillip. Once he got to the top he saw the bucked was the same level as the porch.

They will never find her. This barrel has been here forever. They wouldn’t open it, it would make no sense.

The boy hesitated for a moment as he thought further into his decision. Feeling that there was truly no other option he pushed the girl into the barrel of water. Quickly he reached for the lid which locked into place by three large winged screws. Once the lid slid over the top the boy secured it.

Inside there was suddenly a struggle. He heard Lydia flailing and hitting the walls of the barrel.

She wasn’t dead.

Frightened, the boy turns and runs away as the screen fades to black; the only sound was that of a projector running an empty reel. He could not believe he forgot the memory for so long, nor could he believe his hands were capable of such a horrible thing.

A glow made Jeff look up as he saw a soaking wet Lydia standing before him. Next to her was the shadow man. His empty void stared at Jeff making him uneasy. He began to cry as he looked at her blue skin and her body shaking. How could he be such a monster over something so ridiculous?

“You took two lives Jeff. You took mine and Mr. Daniel Phillips, that is who stands next to me. Two years after being incarcerated he took his own life. He died for your crime.” Blood ran down the walls. At first it was a small stream or two accompanied by drips, but soon the wall was covered in it. The blood collected on the floor as it began to form pools.

“Please, you need to believe me Lydia, I am sorry.”

“That is all we ask for, but there is only one way I am afraid to make this all stop; you must admit your guilt to the world. You must admit you are responsible for the deaths of both Daniel Phillips and I; then we will be released into the afterlife. If you do not admit your guilt we will be here all the time, until your mind finally does go over the deep end.

Jeff looked at the shadow man. He thought of the boy in the video. “I am not him anymore. I am not that boy.”

But he knew what he had to do. He wanted a shot at a normal life again. He wanted a job; he wanted to go out to dinner or to the movies. He wanted to find a woman and settle down. He wanted a normal life. If this is all it took, to admit to something he did wrong when he was ten years old, then so be it.

He rose from the bed and stood before Lydia and the creature that once was Daniel Phillips. “Alright. I will confess.”


Virginia pulled the car onto Limewood Ave as the sun showed slight evidence of its presence. Her heart pounded in her chest as she anticipated the best from this great mess.

You will rescue him. How could he not fall in love? You have been with him everyday for the last three years and now you might hold to key to reverse his condition. He couldn’t find a better woman.

Virginia guided the car onto Jeff’s street. She turned the steering wheel into his driveway, pulling in faster than usual. She couldn’t help her excitement. As she put the car in park and turned the key she saw the front door fly open. To Virginia’s shock, Jeff ran out for the first time in three years.

He flew down the porch stairs and collapsed onto the concrete walkway. Her eyes swelled with tears of joy as she pulled the handle to her door. She could hardly believe it, to see him outside his house. Her emotions overwhelmed her as she cried.

“You did it Jeffery, you finally did it.”

Jeffery turned toward her with an upsetting, serious look on his face. He looked lost, distant, aged…worse. She expected a healed man to be standing there, instead he was beyond broken…he was demolished.

“What’s wrong Jeff?”

“I killed Lydia Hull.” He mutters, laughing a little. He repeats it a little louder, and again even louder. Soon he is screaming between the hysterical laughter of a lunatic. “I killed Lydia Hull.”

Virginia was at a loss. She didn’t know what to do, how to react. She stood there as the sun rose and neighbors flocked to their windows to witness the commotion outside the home of Jeffery Peterson. She was reminded of what Lydia said to her in her dream.

Disappointment is the only ending, regardless.

© Copyright 2018 Putignano. All rights reserved.

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