There’s a famous quote by Robert Evans, “There are three sides to a story. Yours, mine, and the truth.” In my line of work, you come to realize that the truth is rarely an objective perspective. For example, a bloody fight is the result of an argument. One side claims self-defense. The other claims a brutal attack. A camera shows a man striking another in the heat of the moment. Case closed, right? The truth is stored in that digital medium. No. When you look further, what do you find? A lifelong friendship. Betrayal. Months of tension. Threats. A boilover. Maybe the attacker truly believed his life was in danger and mistook the slightest movement as the beginning of a punch. Perhaps he just let his anger at the situation get the best of him. Maybe a mix of both. What’s the objective truth here? And for whom is that truth valid?
When you’re a cop, understanding these nuances in “truth” is critical. And, understanding the power those nuances can have is even more important. Not only when we have to discern whether or not someone’s recollection of events is accurate, but when we lie to achieve a specific response. It’s all something you become very familiar with. For me and my investigations, in particular, this was especially true.
Since my investigation of who I’ve dubbed as “The Watcher,” I had been assigned to numerous cases. Many were either uneventful or too out of our control to do much more than make an unofficial official report. However, during this time, Officer Ryan somehow managed to get into the Chief’s good graces while I was bouncing between the real crimes and looking at unusual occurrences. He, in turn, earned the opportunity to tag along on some of my investigations.
In one instance, we even took a trip to what is easily the creepiest amusement park I’ve ever visited. I believe the name of it was “Cheesy’s World.” Honestly, we could only spend about ten minutes there before mutually deciding to “Nope” out and just tell the Chief that everything was on the up and up. I’m not sure if Cheesy’s is even still around, but either way, I’m not really the guy to tell the story place. The point being, Officer Ryan and I had spent what was becoming a considerable amount of time together, and admittedly… the guy was starting to grow on me.
Because of that relationship, I asked for him personally on my next case. A local hospital had called about a man trespassing in the mental health ward.
Supposedly someone had been spotted inside the ward multiple times. One account from a patient even suggested that the man had been “Sitting on the ceiling.” At first, these accounts weren’t taken too seriously. But when one of the security guards spotted a naked man scale a wall and climb into a small vent in the ceiling, we got called.
Typically, patrol officers respond to these types of calls. However, when information on the stranger accounts of this “man” made its way up the chain of command, I was called in. From an inhumanely loud scream to seemingly materializing into locked rooms, my interest was immediately piqued along with my disgust.
When Officer Ryan and I pulled up to the hospital, things were already in motion. Explanations for why we needed to evacuate the floor and bring in multiple officers were already given. And on our arrival, we were escorted down a set of hallways that led into the mental health ward.
The security guard escorting us referred to it as the “Old Hospital.” Apparently, it used to be the primary set of buildings. As the hospital decided to modernize and expand, they built a new set of buildings on top of the old. This was good for the hospital in general, but it left the older portion noticeably neglected.
The first signs of this were apparent in the rickety elevator we took down to the mental health facility’s main lobby. Admittedly, it was a little uncomfortable going down an elevator that likely hadn’t been serviced in who knows how long. The creaks and moans of the rusty lift only added to my growing paranoia.
Officer Ryan made small talk with the guard as we descended. The guard mentioned how the hospital was storing an overflow of oxygen tank cylinders in the Old Hospital’s storage room. He usually made rounds to make sure that the tanks weren’t compromised. During one of his rounds, he claimed to have seen who he referred to as “the hermit” eating a dead mouse.
The story made my stomach churn a bit, but listening to the guard take comfort in Officer Ryan took my mind off the stress for a moment. I always thought it was fascinating how that guy seemed to be beloved by everyone.
But, when the doors opened back up to reveal a lobby that looked as though it hadn’t been changed since the sixties, my stress levels spiked way back up.
Waiting patiently was Detective Eveline Joss. Behind her were the two officers that I usually saw accompanying The Chief. Detective Joss’ light brown hair was tied up into a bun. Her navy blue attire and dark makeup contrasted with her fair skin and soft freckles across her nose. And of course… She was scowling.
“Took you long enough to get here, Smith.” She said with a very detectible level of frustration. “We’ve already cleared the floor because of the dangerous individual. I’m hoping that you won’t make me do the rest of your job and actually assist in catching him.”
“We can’t all be track stars, Detective Joss.” I joked. “Plus, we seem to have made it before the heat death of the universe, so by my account, we still have plenty of time to figure this out. You’re welcome.”
She rolled her eyes and turned her attention towards Officer Ryan. “Hey Barry, how are you? Did you manage to find a new place for you and your wife?”
Officer Ryan nodded, “Actually, we did! This new set of houses just finished getting developed about six miles north of here. We’re thinking about moving in there.”
“Wait, Barry?” I interjected. “How didn’t I know..? Since when the hell are you two close?”
He shrugged. “We just talk sometimes, I guess. She’s cool, man.”
I looked back at Detective Joss with an eyebrow raised and saw a half-smile was being sent back in my direction.
She then turned to the security guard and said, “Thanks for bringing them down here, Davis. We’ll take it from here. If you want to have guys waiting outside the elevator upstairs, that’d be fine. But we don’t want you guys interfering with anything down here.”
With a nod, he made his way back to the elevator and gave a simple wave as the doors closed in front of him.
“Wait, you want them waiting upstairs?” I asked. “How the hell are we gonna get this guy out of here without them noticing?”
Detective Joss motioned for us to follow her. Without a word, she led us down a dark hallway that ended with a door that had a busted “Exit” sign hanging over it.
“It leads to the back of the hospital. I’m thinking we can corral him through here so that the rest of the staff doesn’t see him. And then-“
“Wait…” I said skeptically. “This hospital is less than a mile from a major highway, and you wanna just send him outside…?”
She exhaled sharply before continuing. “No… Assuming we can’t kill it, we have a couple guys with trucks waiting in the back. Hopefully, we can catch him and move him out of the city and into the woods somewhere to let him run off. We won’t have much time, though. Apparently, Chief has seen this guy before, and he’s somewhat of an escape artist. Best we can hope for is out of sight, out of mind.”
“Out of sight, out of mind.” I scoffed. “Glad we’re really looking out for the people.”
She shrugged. “Yeah, well. I’d love to do more too, but…”
“We’re not monster fighters. I know. Still, just feels empty.”
Detective Joss went on to explain how the hermit has a tendency to fill any enclosed space. When exposed to the outside, he’d likely dive right for the back of the empty truck.
From there, she gave us a tour of the Old Hospital. There wasn’t much to see. Everything was confined to a small floor. We started with the main reception and living area. To its right was a sliding glass door leading to the terrace. And straight ahead, three hallways. The hallway furthest to the left led down to patient rooms behind a locked door. The hallway in the middle contained the security station and a few more unseparated rooms further down.
The last hallway was the most interesting. At first glance, all you’d see is a few locked doors that you could easily pass off as simple janitorial closets and a water fountain. Thinking back on the conversation I overheard Officer Ryan having with the security guard, the door at the end of the hallway provided the most intrigue.
Inside, I found a number of oxygen tanks stacked on top of each other, with other miscellaneous items surrounding them. While oxygen itself isn’t flammable for those that don’t know, it can be incredibly dangerous near flammable materials. Not to get too much into the science, but as an oxidizer, it can cause an existing fire to spread much faster. Not to mention the fact that one pressurized tank exploding due to a rupture could cause some damage. Ten to twenty of them could be catastrophic. Feel free to correct me on the science, but either way, this certainly didn’t jive with OSHA standards. Not only that, but there seemed to be a small hole in the ceiling. A point of entrance, perhaps?
I snapped a couple pictures on my phone. I informed Officer Ryan and Detective Joss about my discovery, but they both largely brushed me off.
“Alright,” Detective Joss began, “Barry, I want you to be at the…”
Before she could finish, a voice that I assumed belonged to one of the officers assigned to watch over us came through her radio. Supposedly, he had heard a loud noise coming from the terrace, and when he went to go investigate, he saw someone sitting outside.
We dashed back to the main hall and found the same officer standing by the terrace door. Detective Joss went over to speak with him, but all I could focus on was the figure sitting in the fetal position outside.
Though he had a large frame, he was skinny with a distended stomach. His head was probably twice as large as an average human head, but most of that seemed to be from his massive forward-hanging brow. His scowl accentuated deep wrinkles, and thin, stringy black hairs fell over beady eyes that were aimed at us with a deep-seated hatred.
Yet, despite the disturbing look, he seemed to be otherwise human. It was hard not to wonder what this whole song and dance was for. Yes, trespassing is a crime but evacuating an entire wing of the hospital and bringing us in here for one human man? It was odd. This could’ve easily been handled by a couple of patrol officers.
I could tell Officer Ryan was feeling the same way, but Detective Joss was on edge. When she finally came over to talk, I almost laughed in her face.
“This is the guy, huh?” I said with a smirk. “Possibly homeless. The man obviously needs help, but we brought out all of this just for him?”
She wasn’t having it. “Do not underestimate this man, Smith. I want you both sharp when we approach. That means be prepared to fire at a moment’s notice.”
I scoffed. “Are you serious? I’ve seen a lot of fucked up shit as of late. I understand when there’s a threat. But I’m not going to assume crazy until I see crazy. Do you know how bad it’d look if we came at an obviously unarmed human man with guns drawn for the heinous crime of sitting…? Could you imagine if one of us accidentally shot the guy?”
“Yeah…” Officer Ryan followed. “You guys haven’t technically seen him do anything wild, right? No reports of threats or him actually assaulting anyone. Sure, the trespassing is bad, but he is just sitting there… If he went to the media about three cops pulling guns on him without real provocation, it’s gonna look bad.”
She shook her head. “Look, I’m not… I’ve done this enough to know. I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m telling you, that split-second difference between unholstering your weapon and firing could be the difference between life and death. If he turns out to be just a guy, then who’s gonna believe…”
“No!” I nearly shouted. “That’s absolutely not the standard we set. We are… Or at least… We should be better than that. I’ve heard the stories too, but we can’t make assumptions like that until we have the facts.”
Everyone went silent for a moment. The tension in the air between Detective Joss and me was palpable. In his usual fashion, Officer Ryan attempted to ease the situation, “So uh… Two beats one? My math is usually pretty bad, but I’m pretty sure we win, so… Yay? No guns.”
“Fine.” Detective Joss said through clenched teeth before calling over the officer she was speaking with earlier. “Murray, take a position where our ‘friend’ can’t see you. If anything happens, then you shoot to fucking kill.” We could at least agree to that.
I took point on the approach with my hand over my taser. Officer Ryan did the same to my right while Detective Joss stood at my left with her hand hovering near her gun.
When we opened the terrace door, there was a tangible feeling that we weren’t wanted. The man didn’t move a muscle or say a word, but it was as if his very presence was telling us to leave. Admittedly, I got a little choked up in trying to speak with him.
Unfortunately, Officer Ryan didn’t pick up on the hostile atmosphere and made the mistake of being the first to communicate. “Hey, man. We got a call about you being here, and the hospital staff has informed us that they’d like you to leave the premises. If you need us to get you some clothes or take you somewhere, we’d love to h…”
“No!” The hermit’s gravelly voice left us stunned for a moment. The sound seemed to boom, but it appeared as though he was barely putting any force behind his words.
I looked over to Detective Joss for a moment and found myself mimicking her, my hand now firmly placed over my gun. I was slowly becoming aware that maybe this guy really wasn’t human and that I had made a grave mistake insisting that we come at him without guns.
It took Officer Ryan a moment to regain his composure. He let out a nervous laugh and tried continuing, “I uh… Sorry. Look, we can’t really take ‘No’ for an answer here. If the hospital staff wants you gone, then ya gotta go. We’d really prefer if you just worked with us here to make it eas…”
“No!” His voice boomed again. “This is my fucking home!”
Before I could even process what happened, he sprung forward with incredible speed. One moment he was sitting on the ground; the next, he was rolling around on the floor with Officer Ryan, beating his face raw.
Detective Joss already had her gun out, but I knew she wouldn’t get a clear shot without risking shooting Officer Ryan. Instinctively, I yelled, “Don’t shoot,” while I dived for the hermit, tackling him to the concrete. Not only was the strength immense, it felt like his whole body was covered in some sort of oil that prevented me from getting a good grip.
I had done some wrestling in my youth, but I was utterly unprepared for the grappling match that ensued. Eventually, he found his way on top, and I could see his massive hands about to swing down when a loud bang rang out. And then another. And then another.
Suddenly I felt a river of puss wash over my face. When the pressure of him sitting on my chest lifted, I hoped to whatever deity may or may not be out there that Detective Joss had killed him.
I received no such relief when I heard that same booming voice command that we “Leave his home immediately.” Looking up, I caught him squirming his way into a vent that led back into the building.
Though his whereabouts were absolutely a concern, my immediate attention was drawn to my bloodied partner lying just a few feet away. I scrambled to his side, and the damage was apparent. Cuts, bruises, missing teeth, and a severely broken nose.
“Damn it!” I shouted, “Eveline, help me get him to his feet!”
We managed to get Officer Ryan back inside and hand him off to Officer Murray to be taken upstairs and helped by hospital staff. It burned me up inside that I couldn’t go with him. It was my call to go in without guns squarely trained on the hermit. Because of that stupid decision, Officer Ryan could’ve easily received permanent brain damage and likely would need plastic surgery.
We had a job to do, but it was hard not to wallow in my own foolishness. Detective Joss was kind enough to give me some space and allow me to come to her.
It took a few minutes to get myself back together. I found her waiting outside, smoking a cigarette.
“Since when are you a smoker?” I asked.
She flicked ashes and blew out a bit of smoke. “I’m not. At least, not usually. But the more I go on these cases, the more I find myself lighting up one or two to help me think. Or to just deal with the… You know…” She turned towards me and held a lighter out. “I’m trying to stop so here. I don’t have another one, so as long as you have it, I can’t smoke.”
I accepted the “gift” and leaned next to her against the wall. “So, we’re gonna find that thing and fill its body full of lead, right?”
She shook her head. “I know you want revenge for what it did to Barry. Trust me, I’ve been where you’re at before. But that’s not going to work.”
“The hell do you mean it won’t work? He bled or ‘pussed’ like a stuffed pig when you shot him. Between us two and the officer on standby, we easily have enough ammo to put him down. If not, then we go get bigger guns.”
“Two of us. Officer Zhang there needs to guard the elevator. Besides, I think the shock of the moment made you miss something, Smith. I had to be within what? Twenty feet of him? I shot the bastard three times with my service pistol. Three close shots.”
“I was there. And?”
“And after the puss stopped leaking, no wound.”
This information froze me. “I… I don’t understand. He was obviously hurt. How could there be no wound?”
She shrugged. “You ever heard of self-healing fabrics? You can puncture them, but they can fix the hole right after. The bullets definitely went in, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at him. If you stand right up after three hollow-point bullets to the head, how much damage do you really think they could’ve done? I think the most going in guns blazing would serve to do is annoy him. We need a legitimate solution.”
That was tough to hear. I wanted revenge for my friend, and I was finally sure that we had a way to kill a horror just this one time. It took me a moment, but I knew I had to resolve myself towards a different method. “Okay, so what do we do then?”
“Original plan.” She said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “I wanted Barry to operate the security station, but with him gone, I’ll have to do it. Keep your radio on, and I’ll tell you where on the floor I see him. If we can chase him around until he goes to the door leading to the trucks, then we should be okay. Kind of like leading a fly out the window.”
Admittedly, I thought it was a horrible plan. I understood the general concept but playing high-stakes hide and seek with a super hermit sounded like a pretty dangerous proposition.
That danger made itself immediately present when we found him standing at the end of the hallway with the security station. I pointed my gun in his direction and ordered him to stay still.
He never broke eye contact as he spoke, “You two are intruders in my home. You will leave or be punished. I will defend my property.” There was a pause, and I shit you not; the fucker started climbing the wall like gravity was optional and slipped into another vent.
The apparent breaking of physics didn’t seem to bother Detective Joss in the slightest. As soon as he was gone, she went to work pulling up the security cameras. Once she got everything up, she reiterated the plan. Follow her directions and lead him out of the building. We knew that bullets could at least make it feel pain, and the threat of that should’ve been enough to corral him towards the truck. She remarked about how “Simple” it was, and at first, I thought she may be right.
It took some time, but eventually, we saw movement in the hallway containing the patient’s rooms. This was it. As I walked towards my destination, pistol aimed straight forward, I couldn’t shake the growing feeling that this would be the furthest thing from “Simple.”
Making my way through the door, I had to take stock of my surroundings. Inside, the patient’s rooms were open and situated on the right. Simultaneously, there was a mini-kitchen, small television, and nurse’s desk, all in a small area on the opposite side. A lot to be compacted into an ugly-looking hallway but ultimately empty. “I’m not seeing anything,” I said on my radio. “Did he change locations?”
“Negative. He ducked behind the nurse’s station to your left. Likely setting up an ambush.” She replied.
I methodically walked towards the counter, being sure to keep my back towards the rooms. My heart thumped in my chest, and sweat starting to form on my brow. My mind was becoming flooded with all the ways that this could go wrong. When I was level with the desk, I took a deep breath and pivoted towards the desk’s entrance, screaming for that ugly bastard to get out here. Nothing.
Peeking around the corner of the nurse’s station, I didn’t see anything. All it took was one inquisitive step forward for him to spring from his position inside a hollow compartment of the desk and tackle me to the ground.
I immediately felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. His gums had dislocated from his jaw and shot forward like a goblin shark, sinking sharp teeth into my flesh. My screams of pain only seemed to make him bite down harder. Luckily, I managed to keep hold of the gun in my left hand and fire a couple rounds into the first thing I could find.
The pressure on my shoulder lifted, and he reared back in pain, grabbing at his gut. I sprang up and used my good shoulder to ram him into an empty room and shut the door behind him. Luckily for me, one of the few things they had upgraded in the Old Hospital was the doors. They appeared to badge-locked. Meaning, unless a staff member came to let him out, he wouldn’t be going anywhere.
I was hopeful that that’d give me some time to develop a new strategy, but his constant banging on the door made it hard to think.
“Keep smashing away!” I yelled. “You’re not getting out of there unless I want you to!”
Right on cue, he went silent. He inspected me for a moment and then pressed his face up to the small window on the door to speak. “And the only reason you’d want me out is so that you can try and scare me out of my home, right?”
“Your plan, stupid man.” He stated matter of factly. “You think that you can make me abandon my home? You will run out of bullets. It will hurt me, yes. But if I stand my ground just long enough, you and your friends won’t be able to hurt me. I know I can take the pain, but can you survive having your jaw ripped off?” He paused to spit a yellow fluid at the glass. “I’m going to hunt you down first.”
His threat made me take a step back. He fucking knew. This whole time, we would’ve chased him around until the point of exhaustion, and then he would’ve struck.
Detective Joss’ voice came through over the radio. “Smith, I see you have him contained there. Listen, you need to…”
“He knows the plan. We need to try something else. I’ve got him locked up here, but I…”
“Smith! Look down and get the hell out of there!”
Confused, I did as I was told and saw two thin fingers beginning to slide out from under the door. Soon after, his hand followed… I didn’t have much time to think. I sprinted towards the exit and shut the door behind me. Glancing back through the window in the door, I could see his arm had already made it through.
Three options. The exit? No, he simply wouldn’t follow me outside. I could run towards Detective Joss. We could at least hurt him together, but if this guy was a basically living bullet sponge, then we’d both eventually be defenseless. Which left one real option. The beginnings of a plan I didn’t entirely trust started to form in my head. Another quick glance back showed I was almost out of time. He was pulling his legs out from under the door, and I knew he’d be gunning right for me.
I got on the radio. “Detective Joss, he’s coming towards your location! He wants revenge for that gunshot earlier! Take a position outside by the truck!”
She replied with a simple “Copy” just in the knick of time. The man was free and barreling towards the door.
I sprinted towards the open storage closet. Three of my steps must’ve been equal to one of his because I could hear him closing the distance with lightning speed.
Despite the pain, I opted to dive for the opening, spinning around as I landed and shooting a warning shot in his direction to hopefully slow him down. It did the trick. The bullet missed, but I knew he didn’t want to take unnecessary damage. He ducked behind a water fountain leaving me enough time to get to my feet, pull out the lighter Detective Joss had given me, and point my gun to one of the oxygen tanks.
“Hey, you bastard! Get out here!”
He raised up slowly and walked towards me. He was ruby red, and I could tell from the look on his face that he was absolutely livid. “You stupid man. You’ve put yourself in a corner. I’m not afraid of a little fire.”
I spat on the ground. “I don’t give a damn about a little fire. Lotta flammable shit in here, though, don’t you think? What do you think happens if I start shooting oxygen tanks while I have this flame lit?” Admittedly, I wasn’t even sure if the science was correct, but my bluff seemed to make him take pause.
“What do you plan to do?” He said cautiously.
“You’re obviously an intelligent guy. More intelligent than a lot of the things I’ve dealt with. So let me put this in terms you’ll understand. Oxygen tank plus bullet plus fire equals boom. And when boom happens in an old space with flammable stuff… Well… I don’t know if you can survive a fiery explosion, but it doesn’t matter because your precious ‘home’ won’t.”
“No!” He shouted, throwing his hand forward. “You’ll die too! You wouldn’t do this! Not to my home!”
He was partially correct. I wouldn’t risk hurting the people in the hospital if this crazy plan would’ve even worked. But that didn’t matter so long as he believed I would. “I don’t give a damn about your home! Either you kill me, or the explosion does. Honestly, I think I prefer this death over whatever the hell you’d do. Plus… It’d be way more satisfying to know that you don’t get shit after this.” I squeezed my finger on the trigger just a bit. “You take another step closer, and I swear to the universe…”
“Stop!” He screamed. “Don’t destroy my home. What do you want?”
“Look, I’m a fair guy… There are some new empty houses six miles north of here. I’m not sure how you’d plan to get there, but they’re empty. So let’s make a deal. You can’t have this home, but maybe you find yourself one over there. You do that, and we’ll leave you to your own devices.”
He contemplated my offer. “I go there, and you stay away from my new home?”
I nodded in response. Seconds passed in silence. The sense that I would have to re-adjust from my bluff seemed to become more real every moment. But eventually, after what felt like minutes of tension, the hermit took off in the other direction without a word.
I took the most enormous sigh of relief I’d had in my life and flopped onto the ground, grabbing at my shoulder. The pain seemed to be coming on more intensely now.
Detective Joss’ voice came through on the radio, “Smith. We saw him come outside, but the little shit went down a storm drain on the sidewalk.”
Eventually, I had to fill Detective Joss and the Chief in on our conversation. She was displeased that I essentially just shifted the problem somewhere else and absolutely livid that I changed the plan without telling her. But ultimately, she was proud of me.
The Chief was more outwardly appreciative of my quick thinking. This way, we knew exactly where he’d be, and we could prepare for his presence. And dealing with him in an empty house seemed far more ideal than dealing with him in a full hospital.
Despite all I had been through and the loose ends to still tie-up, there was still one thing at the forefront of my mind.
By the time I finished everything with the Chief and the hospital staff, Officer Ryan already had a room, but I wasn’t allowed to see him… At least not officially.
I snuck past most of the staff to get to Officer Ryan’s room. The ones that saw me didn’t ask too many questions given my badge. He was in rough shape and had already been put on some heavy drugs, but he was at least coherent, which was an excellent sign.
“Officer Ryan… er… Barry…” I began. “Look, I’m sorry, man. I messed up. I should’ve known the danger and had us prepared and…”
All he could muster was a weak “Shh.” The gauze and swelling made it hard for him to talk—the words coming out a bit muffled. I could only imagine how hard it was for him to find the energy, but he fought through the pain and simply said, “Don’t blame yourself, man. You did the right thing.” I nodded and bent down to put my hand on his shoulder.
Knowing I should let him rest, I began to make my way outside, but a weak call stopped me at the door. “What’s up?” I asked, spinning around.
“Don’t call me ‘Barry,’ man. It’s weird as shit.”
“I was trying to be respectful, ya blonde bastard, but alright. Officer Ryan, it is.” I replied, smiling.
He gave me a thumbs-up. Knowing he’d be okay, I finally made my way outside.
The night had been awful, and I was more than ready to go home and sleep off the trauma. This is why I was less than thrilled to see a hospital staff member running after me in the parking lot.
The woman looked to be in her late twenties, maybe early thirties. She was on the shorter side with dark brown hair. Her badge signified that she was a nurse working at the mental health hospital. Which immediately suggested that this would be another situation where someone would ask questions I really didn’t want to have to answer.
I didn’t even get the chance for a proper greeting before she was standing in front of me. “You were one of the officers dealing with that guy from earlier, right?” She asked in an accusatory tone.
“I was, yes. Did you need something?”
She looked at me like I was crazy. “Did I need something? Are you serious? You know what went down in there, and you’re just going to play it off?”
“Not exactly sure what you’re referring to, but if you have information you’d like to share, I can give you my…”
“Bullshit!” She shouted while pointing a finger in my face. “You don’t think I know about that man in the Old Hospital? A human man that scales vertical walls and fits into tiny spaces a child couldn’t make it through? Or that fucking voice of his? Your Chief comes through and says he was just a homeless man living in the building and expects us to believe it.”
“No! They didn’t believe me when I said I saw him. Do you know how terrifying it is to have that thing stare at you from down the hall, just inside the camera’s blind spot, only to disappear when you go and get help?”
She knew. I wasn’t going to convince her that what she saw was normal by any realistic metric. But still, I needed to know where exactly she was going with this. “I agree that what you saw was strange, ma’am. But I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for all of this. With him in custody, we’ll eventually find those answers. But what good does telling me all this do you?”
She scoffed. “What good does it do me? Depends. Getting national media attention for a fucking monster stalking our hospital could bring me some solace. Especially if I knew the police lying about what they saw were grilled by every major outlet in the world. Or… You could tell me just what the hell is going on.”
I knew I couldn’t lie my way out of this. The only thing I could really think to do was try and divert the conversation. “You know, storing a bunch of oxygen tanks in an unsafe manner is definitely a breach of OSHA standards. I think the news would be far more interested in that than a silly monster story.” I waived my phone in her face to emphasize my point. “Especially with evidence.”
But this didn’t phase her in the slightest. “You think I care? That security guard is a nineteen-year-old kid. Don’t you think I could convince him to pull up footage from today? Hell, I’m sure he’d love to be on TV to say what he’s seen. And he’s not the only one. Yeah, the oxygen tanks look bad, but which do you really think is gonna be a bigger story?”
“Why push this? Why do you want to know so badly?”
“Because!” She shouted again. “My sister is a patient at the Old Hospital. What if he had hurt her? What if he had hurt my co-workers or me? I think as someone directly involved, I deserve to at least know.” She took a moment to breathe. “I’ll make this easier. You tell me, and I promise, I won’t speak a word of it to anyone else. Just, please… Tell me what’s happening.”
Honestly, at that point, I was done. Emotionally, exhausted, physically hurt, and just so fed up with the lies. Who the hell was I to hide something like that? Why should I have to pretend that what we saw was normal or that it wasn’t out there waiting for someone else to hurt? We’re not monster hunters. I get it. But is telling the truth too much to ask? Or at least my version of the truth? At least this one time…
That night, I made the decision to tell her. I swore her to secrecy, but I informed her about everything. Honestly, I think it ended up being catharsis for me more than anything. But I like to think we both walked away feeling better. Or at least with a greater understanding.
She didn’t thank me, not that she needed to. She was owed my truth. Everyone was. And as she walked away, I reflected on what I had done. The fact that there was so much we still didn’t know. More monsters, more secrets, more things hidden just outside of where we can see. I can only hope that she used that knowledge to protect herself.
I thank you all for giving your time to another one of my stories. I only have a couple more for you, so hopefully, you stick with me through those last two. As always, stay safe, everyone.