I’m a psychiatrist… in training at least. I am completing my residency to be 100% truthful, but I am almost there. The stories I have heard within these walls could fill a book, but there is one particular case that has caused me to lose sleep. This story has plagued my mind for far too long. Typing this out is my feeble attempt to make sense of something my rational mind refuses to comprehend.
As stated above, I meet some fascinating characters where I work. For example, one patient will rant endlessly about how a demon named Och won’t stop using his prehensile penis to impregnate her ears with fire ants. But that is a story for another time.
I did my rounds a few months ago with my attending doctor, and came across a new patient on my caseload. She seemed lovely, too lovely in fact. Not much seemed to be wrong with her. She greeted me with warm and accepting eyes upon our first meeting. What I saw before me was a demure woman in her late 30s. Timize Tifyet was her name. She was a Haitian immigrant relatively new to the good, old U.S. of A. I entered her room expecting to be greeted by a raving, paranoid mess, but I was instead introduced to one of the nicest, most refreshingly kind people that you could ever hope to meet at a psychiatric hospital.
We are a progressive facility and allow our patients to personalize their rooms as they see fit. I surveyed her room hoping that something would call out to me and indicate I had a hopelessly schizophrenic person before me to match the chart and information I had been given, but alas, this was not the case. All I saw was a line of dolls on the shelf. I was informed that Timize had stitched them herself.
I marveled at the intricacies of each doll. The attention to detail was sublime on these figures. I immediately began to admire this woman. However, I was reminded that I was here for a reason. We began to talk.
I inquired as to how she was doing. She replied that she was right as rain. There was such a serenity to her demeanor that it was infectious. However, I knew why she was there and began to focus my questioning in that direction.
“So,” I asked. “Can you tell me about your relationship with your neighbor?”
“He a mean ole, evil man. That rotten scowl on his face. He knew what he done…” she paused. “But he smiling now chile. He smiling now.” She said while serenely pointing to the dolls on her shelf.
At the time, I did not get what she was trying to indicate. I went home that night and slept peacefully for what may be the last time in my life.
Lo and behold, Timize showed up on my schedule the next day, something I was happy to note. The mystery of this woman plagued me. I couldn’t wait to unfurl her mind and discover what caused her to do what she did. You see, three months prior to our first meeting she confronted her neighbor with a knife. She claimed that he was breaking into her apartment and moving things around in an attempt to frighten her into leaving. The most bizarre accusation she levied against him was that he had tunneled a hole into her apartment at night and had raped her. This had all the makings of the paranoid delusions of a schizophrenic. In any case, she stabbed him in the chest. Luckily for him, he escaped the building and the wound was not fatal.
At the hearing, Mr. Calvin Caldwell testified to all of this via Skype from his hospital bed. He remarked about her strange and “demonic” religious practices. He shouted that she was a violent psycho and a delusional nutjob. No one spoke up in Timize’s defense. Her state appointed attorney clearly incompetent. He didn’t even allow Timize to testify on her own behalf. The prosecution stated that this crazed foreigner was a menace, dangerous and absolutely unapologetic for her crimes. In a reversal of the usual course of things, Caldwell’s testimony and the prosecution’s evidence were so effective as to proving her insanity that she was deemed not fit to stand trial at the time. As I sat in her room, anticipation coursed through me as I prepared to delve into this woman’s mind.
“So Timize, can you tell me more about the incident with your neighbor?”
She seized up for a moment. Then the smile reappeared on her face lending her the warm countenance I had grown so fond of.
“Not much to say. He know what he did. He was a mean ole man. Never smile once in his miserable life. But he smiling now.” She stood up from her bed and slowly walked toward her shelf of dolls. She picked up one in particular and handed it to me. I looked at the poppet in my hands. It was much more plain than the other dolls. In the belly of the figure was a pin. Connected to the pin was a red yarn. The yarn was pulled upward and created a smile below its two beady eyes.
“You’ll see soon enough. He smiling… He smiling…”
Any further inquiries into the altercation with the neighbor were rebuffed. I wandered the hospital for the remainder of the day with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Timize was odd no doubt, but she seemed way too nice to attempt to kill a man unprovoked. I reevaluated her file in an attempt to wrap my mind around the case. However, her claims just read too much like a persecution complex born from a psychotic break. Even the nicest people can lose touch with reality and act out with violence that is completely out of their character.
Still, something about this just didn’t sit right. If any of this were true or even if she just believed it to be true, why hadn’t she gone to the police? There were two answers to this: Immigrants especially those not necessarily here in the States legally are reluctant to turn to the authorities for almost any matter. The second option was that she had just fabricated the entire thing in her mind, and a delusional paranoid would be highly unlikely to seek out the help of the police department. I was leaning heavily toward the latter explanation. However, that feeling of unease latched on and remained with me for the rest of that evening.
I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It was 2:34. I am a deep sleeper and rarely get up in the middle of the night.
What could have awoken me?
Soon, I received an answer. Loud scratching noises were filling the void of silence in my bedroom. I brushed it off initially, but the noise persisted. As a matter of fact it only grew in volume and proximity. My heart began to race.
What the fuck is making that sound?
The fact that my room was pitch black was not helping matters. I slowly got out of bed and turned on the lamp on my nightstand. The second the light illuminated the darkness, a crashing sound filled the air. This noise was so loud that I literally jumped into the air. The anxiety already coursing through me reached a fever pitch when I realized the source of that sound.
It was coming from my closet.
I unplugged the lamp, the only thing I could find to defend myself, and carried it in my hands. I slowly inched my way toward the closed closet door. I opened it. Blackness greeted me. With my free hand I pulled at the string to turn on the closet light.
Nothing in the world could prepare me for what lay within.
I dropped the lamp as it shattered into a hundred pieces. Standing in my closet was the doll with the red smile. No longer merely inches big, but life size. Frozen in place, I stared at its face. Its beady, lifeless eyes stared right back. I looked at its stomach as the silver pin gleamed in the light of the closet. Behind the doll, I could see what looked like a crude tunnel excavated from the apartment next door. My mind reeled.
As the doll began to walk toward me, its hands stretched out. The crimson smile grew larger. I kept backing up and eventually fell onto my bed. The doll continued to follow suit.
A hand clasped onto my shoulder.
I turned to see Timize’s smiling face crouched next to my bed.
“Now, you see what he done. No matter… he smiling now… he smiling…”
I awoke to my alarm. Panic seized me. Within moments, I was able to gather my thoughts.
It was just a dream. It was just a dream.
I tried to tell myself this over and over again on the way to the hospital, but I knew better. There was something so wholly visceral and lucid about the experience. It can’t have just been a dream. Plus, there was one undeniable fact that my rational mind could not refute. It was the wound on my foot I received that morning from stepping on my broken lamp.
When I arrived at work, I saw that I would once again be meeting with Timize that morning. Instead of being excited about this encounter, dread filled me. I felt nauseous. I steeled myself and made my way to her room. I opened her door and was greeted with a smile more bright and beaming than usual. Before a word could escape from my nervous lips, she spoke.
“How you sleep last night chile?” she said with a wink.
As unprofessional and cowardly as this is, I ran.
“You’ll see… you’ll see… smiling,” Timize called to me as I rushed down the hallway.
I got into my car and began to drive. I called the hospital to inform them that I was violently ill and would not be coming back that day. With my mind in tatters I parked my car and mulled over a course of action. Eventually, I collected myself.
I knew what I had to do. I had memorized Timize’s address from her file. I was going to confront this “smiling” neighbor of hers and get to the bottom of this thing.
I arrived at her building and buzzed the Super. I was greeted by a surly man in his late ‘50s.
“What do you want?” he said from the doorway of his apartment.
“Sir, if I could just have a moment of your time. I am one of the psychiatrists of Timize Tifyet, and I had a few questions.”
“That crazy voodoo bitch. I’m glad they locked her up. Not my problem anymore. Good riddance,” he said abruptly.
“I was just wondering if you had any insight into her dispute with her neighbor Mr…” I drew a blank on his name.
“Caldwell, and I wish they would lock up that fucking piece of shit too, but I guess being an insufferable asshole isn’t a crime.” The Super seemed to open up slightly finding joy in trash talking the tenant.
“He’s such a miserable fuck sitting up there all by himself. So fucking rude to everyone he runs into with that fucking scowl on his face. Well that’s what you get when you never marry or have kids. Though I couldn’t imagine anybody standing more than two seconds with the guy. I have no idea why he wants to expand his apartment into two units. What use could he possibly have for all of that space? Well, now that she’s gone the board is probably going to approve…”
“Pardon,” I called out as my eyebrows raised.
“Yeah. That’s what they were fighting about. He wanted her unit and she wouldn’t leave. Wouldn’t leave the bitch alone about it.”
I was flabbergasted. “Uh, don’t you think it would have been pertinent to tell the police this? She’s sitting in a psychiatric hospital right now because his harassment of her was thought to be a delusion.”
“Well no one asked me. And to be frank. That’s where she belongs. That voodoo shit she’s up to is insane and fucking godless,” he said dismissively.
“Listen, in our sessions she claims that Mr. Caldwell was tunneling into her apartment. Is there any truth to that? In light of what you just told me that doesn’t seem so far fetched.”
“Well, this is the first I’m hearing about that specifically. She never told me about anything of that sort. I couldn’t stand that woman with her fucking voodoo nonsense and those freaky ass dolls and she knew it. We weren’t particularly close if you catch my drift.”
I was really starting to despise this man, but I pressed on. “There were no witnesses. The case entirely rests on Caldwell’s testimony. What if he really did rape her? What if their altercation wasn’t so clear cut? I could see a case being made for self-defense if he really harassed and assaulted her.” The Super stared back at me blankly.
“Well, don’t you think it’s worth looking into?” I asked with rage beginning to build in my voice from talking to this jerk. He caught a hint of it, and his face turned sour.
“Again, not my fucking problem.” He slammed the door to his unit in my face. I contemplated leaving the apartment building and returning to the hospital to inform my superiors about what I had discovered. However, my feet wouldn’t move to the exit. I recalled what I had seen when searching the buzzer for the Superintendent.
Without fully comprehending what I was doing or the lengths I was willing to go to find answers, I ascended the stairs. As I came upon the door, I took a deep breath and knocked.
I continued to knock and pressed my ear against the door. I waited. Nothing was stirring inside. Figuring the type of man Mr. Caldwell was, trying to turn his doorknob would be fruitless as he would have six deadbolts locked on the other side. However, I gave it a shot. To my surprise the knob turned, providing me entrance into the apartment.
I slowly crept into his dark and dingy abode. I quickly surveyed my surroundings. This place was disgusting. Empty pizza boxes and filth lined the floor of the entryway. The living room looked no different. Trash and piles of dishes lined the ancient coffee table. As I moved toward the kitchen the smell finally reached my nose. It was a pungent stench. Something was rotting. I mused that it would in no way be surprising if a dead animal lay somewhere in the offal of this filthy place.
Jesus, how can this guy live like this, I thought.
I made my way to what must be the bedroom. The door was closed. I made a mental note that this room had to be adjacent to Timize’s apartment. I knocked on the door. Again, no answer. I gathered my courage and turned the knob. The door swung open.
Immediately, the smell made me retch. It was an aroma that lay thick in the air and assaulted my nostrils. My first instinct was to run, but I was so close to finding the truth.
I just had to know. I had to. I felt preternaturally drawn forward.
I placed my shirt over my nose and mouth as I looked around the room. On the wall shared with Timize’s apartment stood a dresser. It was askew, pointing at a 45 degree angle. I circled around and saw what I had hoped to find, a small dark hole lay in front of me. As the smell continued to overwhelm me, I got on my knees and pulled out my cell phone to use as a flashlight.
How I wish I had just left well enough alone, that my curiosity hadn’t gotten the better of me.
As I shined the light into the hole in the wall, pure unadulterated terror washed over me. What I saw there will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Mr. Caldwell sat there in Timize’s closet. He was facing my direction. His beady, dead eyes boring a hole into me. A knife was plunged into his stomach. Through the gaping hole in his gut, Caldwell had yanked out his intestines. Grasping them with both hands, he had pulled his innards across his mouth, stretching them upwards into what could only resemble one thing…
a red, beaming smile.