This work contains content pertaining to schizophrenia, which some may find distressing.
‘Tell me about that night.’
Thomas’ foot began tapping rapidly as he held both of his hands together in a white ball of twisted anxiety.
‘Start wherever you can.’
He let the conversation fill with silence before he began:
As the owner of a laundromat situated in a town hardly anyone lives in, let alone stays in long enough to use my service, I’d gotten used to being alone for long periods of time. Seeing that woman appear suddenly from the darkness, with blood running down her body, wasn’t what I was expecting.
The dull lights flickered overhead as the bell above the door trilled loudly. She stood in the middle of the doorway as her arms swung beside her. Her straight blonde hair had turned a strawberry colour from the large number of bloody chunks that rested within the strands. She looked from left to right before her gaze found me. She flashed me a smile, her teeth a dazzling white.
‘Are you alright, Miss?’ I asked quietly, my eyes widening.
Her voice was sweet and soothing, like a mother’s. If it hadn’t been for the blood staining her white dress, I would have felt safe.
‘Do you know that road… The one behind Antonian Lane?’
I frowned, speaking cautiously. ‘Yes, I know it. My Mum lives there.’
Her smile extended. ‘Oh, good. I got it right.’
I paused. ‘Got what right?’
‘The house, silly. I wanted to make sure I got mummy out of the picture before I got the child.’
I reached slowly for the cricket bat I kept underneath the front desk to keep the dingoes at bay, as I watched the woman take slow, toying steps towards me.
‘You…killed her? Why?’ I whispered, my hands breaking into a cold sweat.
She skipped a little, the distance between us closing quickly, as her bloody dress moved swiftly from side to side.
‘Why not? Just a bit of fun, really. I like eliminating whole families, like a hereditary extinction. And guess who’s next on the family tree?’
My hand tightened around the grip of the bat, as her bare feet left a sticky trail of blood behind her. I swiped my phone from the bench and bolted to the door of my office. The sound of tapping quickened behind me, as I threw myself into the room, slammed and locked the door behind me. I backed myself slowly into the farthest corner, hiding behind my wooden desk.
My legs had gradually crumbled until I was sitting on the floor with the bat resting coldly against my leg. The woman began to scream ferociously, her bare fists slamming against the flimsy wooden door. I watched as the door flexed, just waiting for the wood to splinter. It took minutes for my trembling hands to press the contact of Uncle Simon, the ringing drones blocking out the noise of my accelerated heartbeat. After what felt like long, painful minutes, Simon finally answered, his voice gruff and slow.
‘Hello?’ he mumbled.
‘Uncle Simon, you gotta help me! There’s a woman who’s trying to kill me!’
Simon sighed heavily on the other end of the line. ‘Tom, is that you? What are you talking about? It’s two a.m., I don’t want to hear your stupid pranks tonight.’
‘No, no, Simon, this isn’t a prank! There’s this random chick and she’s trying to kill me!’
‘Yeah, sure, buddy. Have you ever heard of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?’
‘Simon!’ I screamed down the phone. ‘I’m not fucking lying! There’s a woman in the laundromat who’s trying to kill me! She killed Mum!’
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. ‘Okay, mate. Prank or no prank, you can’t joke about something like that.’
‘I’m not joking, for fucks sake! This is real!’
‘Okay, okay. I’ll be there in ten.’
Before I could reply, the harsh thumping of my office door suddenly stopped. I lowered my phone unsteadily, peeking my head out into the main part of the laundromat. I frowned, breathing heavily. As the silence of the night slowly spread into in my ears, all of the washing machines within the laundromat switched on at the same time.
I crawled to my feet, a frown deep across my face, as I looked properly outside. The woman wasn’t there, and yet every single machine was swishing something inside. As I took a step towards the door, the sound of the small window above my desk breaking filled the room. I screamed as the woman began to crawl through the broken window, the skin around her face stretching against the glass. Her hands were completely covered in small shards, the glass sticking up against her skin as if they were cacti.
I stood, paralysed, watching as the woman began to painfully squeeze herself through the tiny horizonal window. It was only until most of her upper body was through that my legs allowed me to move again. I sprinted for the door, the handle feeling as if it were hundreds of metres away, before I finally grasped it, twisted, and shoved myself through. I thrust the front desk chair underneath the handle, before I turned to face the whirling machines.
I took a sharp breath in at what the machines contained; my lungs unable to exhale from the pure shock. Each machine was full of decapitated human heads, the clear water that normally whooshed around had turned dark with their blood.
A loud crash came from my office as I ran past the gurgling machines and out the front door, the bell singing to the woman that I had left. My boots hammered loudly against the dirt road, my breathing rapid and quick. I was halfway to the town’s Main Street when I realised I had forgotten the cricket bat in my office. From somewhere within the darkness in front of me, a voice screamed for me to stop. My boots crunched unsteadily against the earth as the voices giggled, singing quietly at my foolish instincts.
‘You’re going to die,’ the darkness whispered.
Before I could react, something cold and harsh hit my ankles in a perfect swing. I tumbled awkwardly onto the dirt road, landing on my back to face my attacker. She had a smile across her lips again, the skin that covered her face peeling in strips.
‘Why’d you run away, Tommy?’
I put my hand in front of me in weak defence, my eyes widening as she heaved the cricket bat high above her head.
‘Please don’t,’ I whispered.
She swung it down.
Thomas breathed heavily, the memories of the attack soaking him in sweat. Silence had once again filled the office as he took a few moments to collect himself.
‘I felt every single strike of that bat. I could feel my own blood leave my body. I could feel my brain turn to mush against that lonely road in the middle of nowhere. And above all of the other sounds of my death, I could hear the bitch laugh.’
The woman in the opposite chair took all of this information silently and with a blank face, yet warm eyes.
‘And this episode is why you decided to get help?’
Thomas took in a heavy breath. ‘After my uncle found me outside of the Laundromat, just lying in the dirt, with a perfectly intact skull and no one around me. Yes, I thought I needed to get my shit together.’
‘You mentioned something about pranks as well.’
‘I used to call my uncle, who’s a police officer, whenever I heard strange things. Screams in the distance, things on the roof, whatever. Every time he would come over though, there would be nothing there. They always disappeared by the time he arrived. So I lied. I told him that it was all a joke, when in reality I thought people were genuinely trying to kill me or were hurting somewhere in the bush behind my store.’
‘And your mother, she’s still well?’
‘Yes. She’s the one that drags me here, so…’
‘She seems very understanding about your condition.’
Thomas sighed. ‘You don’t have to say “condition”, I know what I have.’
The woman paused, nodded and then scribbled something down in her clipboard, her eyes warmer with her patient’s progress. ‘Right, I apologise. Your mother seems very understanding about your diagnosis of schizophrenia.’
‘She knew someone that had it, but it was much worse than I was. I guess I’m just not on that level of crazy yet.’
The therapist set her clipboard down gently against her lap. ‘You are not crazy, Thomas. You’re dealing with a mental illness that you can overcome. Through my help and the medication you’re on, you can live happily again.’
Thomas didn’t look up from the carpet. He was rubbing his arms tiredly.
‘Are you still taking your medication?’
‘Yes,’ he murmured, as he looked out the window.
‘You’ll never get rid of me,’ the girl whispered in that soothing, silky tone. Though, this time, it was filled with worry, instead of her murderous lust. Her voice echoed in both of his ears, as if she were sitting right beside him.
Thomas turned to the front, his face draining of colour. ‘What?’
The therapist frowned, as she studied her patient carefully. ‘I didn’t say anything.’
The faint tick of her timer sounded, as she quickly wrote something down in her clipboard again before standing from her chair. ‘We’re done for today, Thomas. Well done. Look after yourself, yeah? I’ll see you in a few weeks?’
Thomas found a faint smile against his face, relaxing. ‘Yeah. I’ll see you then.’
As he left the room, he pushed his shaking hands into his pockets, and let out a breath of relief. He smiled as he entered the waiting room, hugged his vibrant mother and led them both outside into the warmth of a summer’s day.
If you or someone you know is currently struggling, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. Additional resources can be found on the Lifeline website.
Jordan is finishing her three-year journey at QUT as a BFA – Creative Writing student. She has a driving passion for writing thrillers, mixed in with a little dash of dark humour. If she’s not writing, she’s reading just about every genre of fiction out there! Which is probably why her bookshelf is so crammed… You can find more of her work in previous issues of GLASS magazine!