SPFBO Edition: Paul Freeman

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One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!

Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…

The Author

Paul Freeman - Paul FreemanPaul Freeman is from Dublin Ireland. He is the author of three epic fantasy novels, Tribesman, Warrior and Blood Of Kings: The Shadow Mage. A zombie apocalypse collaboration called Season Of The Dead, a general fiction novel about a Dublin taxi driver, titled TAXI and a dystopian vampire novel After The Fall: Children Of The Nephilim.

The Setting

Paul Freeman

The Scene

I have this recurring dream, I’m twelve years old and walking the Coast Road. The path winds into the distance an old stone wall a barrier between the road and the drop onto the beach. It’s late, overhead is a clear, dark sky, pinpricked by countless shining stars. A round yellow moon hangs low in the inky blackness illuminating the sea. I can hear the waves lap at the rocks below the seawall. It’s winter, I can taste frost on my tongue, feel the chill in the air stinging my nose and ears.

I’m frightened, I don’t like the dark. I don’t like being out at night when there is nobody else around. I don’t like the feeling of being watched from the darkness. My heart beats faster, I can feel myself close to tears as I quicken the pace, constantly looking over my shoulder. I imagine being pursued by wild, rabid dogs, a pack working in unison, stalking me. An empty crisp packet is blown along the footpath by the breeze, making me look sharply in that direction. I jump at every sound.

I can see Robswall Castle now, its great bay-window hanging over the footpath. More of a tower than a castle, converted into somebody’s house, it sits on a bend on the road, overlooking the Irish Sea. That’s when I hear the clicking sound. Click- click, click-click. It sounds familiar but I can never place it straight away. I’m running by the time I reach the castle, the cold winter air freezing in my throat as I gulp down as much oxygen as a terrified, twelve year old boy can. I sense, more than see the curtains move. Then another sound joins the clicking: creak-creak. This freaks me out more than the thought of the feral dogs chasing me, or any other terror my young mind can conjure from often heard tales—banshees, ghouls and vampires—stories to feed the imagination and night terrors of a young boy. I can see clearly now, how, I don’t know. I’m still outside on the road, but I can see beyond the huge window, right into the room. I see an old woman, rocking back and forth in a rocking chair.

Creak-creak.

In her lap is a ball of wool, her hands work furiously with a pair of knitting needles.

Click-click.

This is no kindly grandmother knitting a pair of socks for a baby grandchild. One look from her and I know my blood will freeze, one glance from the black eyes in her head and I will lose my soul forever.

On and on the needles click, as she rocks back and forth. Forever in that bay window, waiting for unsuspecting travellers to wander by on dark cold nights.

“Is this why you killed those women?” The shrink’s monotone voice interrupts my retelling of the dream, breaking my concentration.

“No, the Devil made me do that,” I answer, keeping a straight face as he scratches into his clipboard with a plastic biro.

The Devil never made me do anything in my life, at least I don’t think he did, but it amuses me to give these morons what they want. Tell them what they want to hear, the stupid fuckers.

“How did he do that, does he speak directly to you?”

Oh for fuck sake.

I imagine taking the pen from his fist and jamming it into his eye. Why not, what else can they do to me? A smile almost touches my lips as I imagine the pandemonium caused by his screaming and the blood spraying all over the orderly.

Take that fucker!

“He talks to me all the time, I try to shut him out, but he is too strong … too strong.” I close my eyes, for effect, and bang my head off the table.

“Do you feel anger when he speaks to you?” He adjusts his glasses and waits, pen poised. I could smell the stink of body odour from the orderly and expensive aftershave from the shrink. I wonder if his wife bought it for him on his birthday? I wish he’d give some to that fat fucking man nurse.

My mind starts to wander again. I’m sitting on a train, it’s pissing down outside. Green fields flash by in a blur, populated by sheep, cows and God knows what else.

Is it a memory, am I alone? I can’t tell anymore, they pump me so full of drugs my brain can no longer tell what is real and what is imagined. I struggle and fight with them but they always get the needle in somewhere. Especially if that fat fuck sitting in the corner is administering it. He sits on my chest and clamps my jaw shut while holding my nose. One day I will kill that bastard.

Sometimes I will be woken in the middle of the night, to find a team of white-coated doctors surrounding my bed, with a needle ready to jab into my arse.

In the early days, before they became wise to me, I would get a few of them. I would punch and kick, bite and scratch. I can still picture the satisfying crunch of broken noses under my fist, my jabbing fingers finding tender eyes, and licking the blood of others from my bare hands.

Back on the train. My mind wanders so easily. Bumpity-bumpity-bumpity, there is such rhythm to riding a train. It helps to calm me, to help me focus on this thing I have planned. This thing plaguing my mind and my imagination for as long as I can remember. I try not to look out of the window too much while travelling on trains, or any form of transport for that matter, the motion makes me sick, always has, always will I suppose. Where else do you look though if you daren’t make eye-contact with strangers riding the train? I have to look out at the landscape flashing past, in a blur, it calls to me. I follow individual drips of moisture as they slide down the window, snaking a course between other droplets until finally colliding with each other. I can smell the musty odour of the rubber seals, the staleness of the cushioned seats, that unique train smell, the same anywhere you go.

Looking at the rain on the window brings me back to my childhood, sitting at the window for hours just staring out onto the rain-soaked street, everything dull, everything grey. Wishing I could get out there, to break free. I’m sure my mother would not care if I never came back, she probably wouldn’t even notice. I wonder why she makes me stay in when it is raining, it only makes her angry when I am around. If I stay by the window maybe she won’t notice me, maybe she will leave me alone.

I suppose that is where this journey started all those years ago. Every beating, every foul-mouth tirade, every scornful sneer as she took pleasure in telling me how useless I was. It was back then the fantasies began.

They started simple enough, I imagined standing up to her, instead of running with tears streaming down my face to hide quivering in a corner. I imagined standing tall and simply saying, ‘that’s enough.’ I can hear my manly voice commanding her now, ordering her to cease and leave me alone. I never did though, that’s the thing about fantasies, they rarely become real.

As I became older those fantasies changed, I’m not really sure the exact moment or what age I was, sometime in my early teens I suppose. We had a neighbour, Lizzie Carroll, she was a little older than me and beautiful. She used to sunbathe out in her back garden, I would watch her, imagining going down to her, putting my hands on her freckled shoulders, turning her around, my fingers encircling her pure white throat; of squeezing the soft flesh, her eyes pleading for mercy while she choked. It excites me even now to think of her, tears streaming down her face, her eye make-up smudged, struggling to take a breath, knowing she is about to die.

Yes indeed, I’ve followed the fortunes of Lizzie Carroll very closely. I know where she lives, where she works, where she takes her kids to school. No one could excite me quite like Lizzie Carroll. There have been others of course, all through school and my working life. Women and girls have sneered at me, laughing behind their hands. Let them, they don’t know what I’m thinking when I smile back, they don’t know what I have in store for them … for them all. The train pulls into the station, another crowd of anonymous commuters waiting to board. I spot a girl dressed in a smart business suit exiting the train, her red hair reminds me of Lizzie Carroll. I am hundreds of miles from my home, no one knows me here. I get up and follow her. I am so nervous I can hardly breathe, or even swallow, I feel the adrenalin flowing through me. The thought of what I am contemplating sends a delicious shiver through my body. I am a man now, I am in control. Feel me pressing against you as I wrap my fingers around your throat.

Here it begins.

Maybe if that fool of a shrink hadn’t interrupted me, he might have gotten to the core of me. I snap out of my daydream … or memory, whatever it is. I can hear that terror inducing noise, that click–click. I look up and there she is, sitting in the corner rocking in her chair, with those dark baleful eyes … watching me.

“No!” I scream, the shrink sits back in his chair, suddenly anxious. His one track mind uncomprehending.

I’m screaming my lungs out now, petrified I jump from my chair and back against the wall, I have to get away from her. The nurse jumps up, kicking over his chair. His massive bulk suddenly panicked into action, it would be hilarious if I wasn’t so terrified. Even funnier is the shrink trying to escape out of the door.

The fat nurse tries to grab me, not this time fucker, my fear and the adrenaline coursing through me has increased my strength. He lunges for me, throws his arms about my body, pinning my arms to my side. I bring my head back and bam! He lets go, staggering back while clutching his face. I can taste his blood as it slides down my forehead and into my mouth. I would have enjoyed it more if I had not been so preoccupied with trying to get away from the old woman.

I can see her staring at me with her black eyes, she’s still rocking back and forth, the needles clicking in her hand. Suddenly I know what she wants. She has come for blood, but it’s not mine. I look at the injured nurse still swaying, his hands holding his ruined nose, blood dribbling between his fingers. A smile crosses my face.

I quickly take the few steps needed towards him and bring my foot back. I deliver an unmerciful kick to his bollocks, the force lifts him off the ground. The cry that comes out of him is pitiful as he drops like a sack of spuds. I pick up the chair and bring it down hard on the fat bastard’s head. He grunts but does not move, probably not easy with two crushed testicles, even for a pig like him. I move quickly now, striding across the floor, I jam the chair under the handle of the door, just as it starts to open. I hear a yelp from the other side. Then I hear a clicking noise and it is as if the world slows down. On the table the dopey shrink’s biro starts to roll, ever so slowly. It’s like I am threading through water as I reach my hand out to catch it. All sound, the banging at the door, the groaning man on the floor, all other movement is blocked out as the biro rolls from the table, my arm reaches out and I scoop up the plastic pen.

The world speeds up again.

I have eyes only for the bulk of lard lying on the floor, I kick him in the back for good measure, a solid boot to the base of his spine. He lets out a roar of pain. I’m laughing now as I bring my foot down on his head. Another whimper escapes from the pitiful lump. I hold the pen in my fist, pointed down like a dagger. I can hear banging at the door and shouting from the other side.

I pounce on the slob, jabbing the pen into the side of his head with all the strength I can muster. He screams and cries for help, tries to bat me off with those over-sized hands, his struggles are useless. I jab at him again with the pen and it snaps, his face is covered in blood now, I can smell the acrid stink of piss as he wets himself while crying for his mama. The chair buckles and the door flies open. The fat fuck is still moving though, and I have almost run out of time. Dropping the pen I push his arm away from his face latching onto the folds of flesh on his exposed throat, I squeeze with my teeth. Blood gushes into my mouth. He kicks and bucks but I twist and bite a lump out of his neck, his pitiful screams turn to a whining gurgle.

Arms grab me and shove me backwards, I’m beaten and pushed to the ground. There is no need, I’m done. I glance over to the corner of the room, looking for approval from the old woman. She’s gone. I hear a woman’s scream and retching as I spit out a fatty lump of flesh. Blood pours down my chin onto my clothes and onto the floor. A needle comes at me, I don’t struggle. Let it come, I’m ready to go wherever it takes me. My legs and arms go numb, I let my body go limp in the rough arms wrapped around me.

First the darkness, then the nightmares return.

I sense the grey shapes that come to administer to my needs, to shine bright lights into what they think are unseeing eyes, to bathe and change me, to pull and prod.

Where am I? And how did I get here? I can no longer remember, sometimes I think I have memories but I confuse them with my dreams. I do sleep you see. I’m aware of the lights going on and off periodically. Although I cannot make out their features or make sense of their words I know the shapes discuss me. I try to communicate, truly I do, but it’s useless. It’s hard to explain. Imagine living in a dark rabbit hole with barely enough room for your body, you can see the light at the entrance but it’s covered by thick glass, all you can hear are mumbled sounds and see blurred images.

Everyday the entrance to the rabbit hole gets farther away. At first I fight it with everything I have, willing myself towards the opening, pleading with the grey shapes to hear my cry and pull me free, to rescue me from the darkness, to liberate me from this black prison. At first I wanted to be free, unchained from this living hell.

Time becomes meaningless to me, days blend into night and became weeks, maybe months or years, but then again maybe not, maybe it is just one night. It has become irrelevant, I neither know nor care. I no longer call out to the shapes, or scream, as I once did when the lights were turned out, not to leave me alone to face the terrors that come to visit.

Nightmares conjured from my own imagination; demons and monsters taunting and tormenting me. Trapped, I am easy prey to them; they feed off my fear and loneliness. Dark winged creatures with red gaping maws and fangs glistening with poisonous secretions, bone white man-shaped hideous beings with claws and grotesque bulbous heads. Fat, scaly, bloated shapes with dagger like teeth, bulging eyes and flickering forked tongues. Every horror my imagination can conceive, every night time terror I ever had, come to life, made real by my confinement.

The lights go down, I struggle to break free, invisible bonds hold me tight as they approach. I can hear the rustling of leathery wings, the click of talons on the floor, the terrifying sound of their growls. I imagine their claws ripping my flesh, their sharp fangs sinking into my exposed throat.

Where can I go? What can I do? Nothing, nothing but retreat. Retreat? I flee, get the hell away, deeper and deeper into the cavernous expanse of my uncharted mind. How can I run from my own imagination? Can I escape from my own thoughts, my own dreams? Not with the horrors of my own creation feeding off me.

I can hide from them, there are places inside my mind that only I can go, but it takes me farther away from the light. I imagine a vast ocean, a huge expanse with warm, welcoming water, protecting and sheltering me. It’s there now, waiting for me, a calm friendly place where I can go, where the demons cannot follow. The temptation to walk into the water is huge, to keep walking until I am submerged beneath the rippling waves.

I step closer, I can sense the terrors tensing. I can hear the voices of the grey shapes beyond the light as they become animated and excited, I still cannot make out the words. Another step, the water swirls around my feet, lapping at my ankles. The monsters writhe and scream as if I am causing them agonising pain. They need me, they need to feed off my fear.

Up to my waist and I can hear a very loud, high pitched noise. I need to cover my ears. The grotesque creatures are all writhing on the ground in agony. The noise is coming from behind them, from beyond the opening of the rabbit hole. A hand reaches out from the light, I hear a voice calling to me, urging me back, calling for me not to give in. I start to walk back, but the creatures stir, gaining strength as I come back out of the water.

I’m afraid. They snarl and roar, their hunger driving them wild.

“We’re losing him.” The first words I can make out, I can see a face peering through the hole. One of the creatures opens black leathery wings and starts to rise.

I can’t go back. I can’t face them. I walk back into the water, I won’t stop. If only I could put the lights out forever.

 

Author’s Note

Keep going and don’t look back when you hear the needles clicking.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can find Paul Freeman on social media:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Paul Freeman entered After The Fall: Children Of The Nephilim, a dystopian vampire novel into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover:

After the Fall

You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!

 

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