Moira lay in bed, propped up by pillows, beside her was a book which had been placed face down on the bed. She picked up her glass of water and took a sip. She was feeling tired and she wanted to have some energy left for when Janice visited. She looked forward to the visits, even if they could be draining. They were a distraction, something to look forward to. Janice would come in, spend some time with everyone. She used to offer to read to Moira, but that was something Moira could still do herself, so mostly they just talked. Today was going to be a big day. Moira didn’t have much time left. She could feel it. A tiredness that made its way through her entire body, a kind of peace that settled over her. She had lived a long time and had a good life, but there were regrets too. So many terrible regrets. She was full of aches and pains and she welcomed the end, there were things she was looking forward to in the afterlife, most of all seeing Tommy again. It had been a long, long time since she had last seen her son. Not a day had gone by when she had not thought of him, of what happened. She had seen others grow old, seen what happened to their mental faculties, their memory’s, but that was a luxury that was not afforded to her. She would have done anything to forget, but she knew she would always remember. It was the greatest punishment of all. Moira knew that even if every memory in her mind was removed, she would never be allowed forget what had happened with Tommy.
Moira picked up the book and placed her bookmark in it. It was a good book, one that she was enjoying, but she knew she would never reach the end. She placed it carefully onto the bedside table, then she folded her glasses and gently rested them on top of it.
It was almost time.
Janice entered the room carrying a bouquet of flowers, Moira smiled, Janice brought flowers occasionally, never that often and never before had she brought such a pretty arrangement. Moira wondered if somehow Janice knew, some kind of precognition.
“How are you feeling today?”
“A little tired, but I can’t complain. Those flowers are beautiful.”
“Beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady.”
Moira laughed, “I haven’t been beautiful in many, many years, but they do brighten up the room.”
Janice carried the flowers over to the window and placed them in an empty vase. Moira knew something of Janice’s life, but not much. She knew that Janice was childless and single, but that was mostly it. She seemed almost reluctant to discuss her personal life. Moira didn’t like to pry and it seemed to be an unspoken agreement. Whenever Moira tried to ask after details Janice would deftly sidestep the question and Moira had stopped trying a while ago. Janice was still young, in her mid-twenties with long brown hair, she usually worse bright skirts or dresses. Moira thought she was quite pretty and thought it unusual that she was single, though she never said so. It wasn’t any of her business whether or not Janice dated, but Janice was the closest thing she had to a friend and Moira worried for her. Moira’s own children didn’t speak to her, though she didn’t fault them for that. Janice moved a chair to Moira’s bedside and sat down.
“How are you enjoying the book? How far have you gotten?”
“It’s good, I’m about half way at the moment.”
“Oh, just wait until the ending, I never saw it coming.”
Moira smiled. Silence fell, but if was comfortable.
Janice looked at Moira for a moment, then frowned, “Are you feeling ok?” Moira looked pale, her skin appeared almost paper thin, Janice had never seen her looking so frail and sickly.
“I’m fine. Just tired. I wanted to talk to you about something. Something I’m sure you’re curious about. I’m sure you’ve heard them talking about me, the rumours? You must have, after all, even I’m aware of it. I want someone to know the truth of what happened and I’m sorry, but there is no one else. I know they say I killed my boy, they say I did terrible, awful things, but I didn’t. When he died he was no longer my son, he was something else, something dark and evil. If you don’t want to hear it, I understand but I ask that you just listen. Please. I know I don’t have much time left and I can feel it in my bones.”
Janice looked at her for a moment, then nodded once. She didn’t know if she wanted to hear this. She had heard the rumours, the nurses thought she was crazy for talking to Moira, but Moira had always been sweet, there was nothing to indicate she was insane, or even capable of the things the nurses gossiped about. Moira didn’t give her a chance to reconsider.
“Tommy was my third and last child. He was always so curious and kind. He was only eleven when he died. Looking back now I know when it started, but then I didn’t think twice about it, why would I? Tommy would sometimes tell me that he saw men in suits walking around the neighbourhood. At the time there was some work going on and people were going around with clipboards, doing surveys and such, so I didn’t think much of it. He told me that they would look at people and people didn’t seem to see them. He said they were studying people, making notes. I passed it off as imagination, he was always making up little stories to entertain his siblings and friends. Then the stories started turning scarier. He would tell us that he sometimes saw them looking in the window, staring at night, or that they stood in his room, not saying anything, just staring. Of course myself and my husband would look inside his closet, we would look out the window, but we never saw anything. We tried to allay his fears, made sure his siblings kept an eye on him when they were outside that kind of thing. We even got him a night light, but nothing worked. He became scared and jumpy, he didn’t trust any men wearing suits, would avoid them if he saw them. We began to worry, thought that maybe he was going crazy. I wish that was the case, I really do. It was only a short while after this that my son was gone.”
Moira picked up a glass of water from the table and took a sip, she placed it down again.
“I know I sound crazy. I really do. No one else had seen these men in suits, my husband and I asked around, doing so quietly so as not to create a fuss. No one else had seen them, only Tommy. Then, one day Tommy didn’t come home from school. I wasn’t worried at first, sometimes he played out with his friends. At the time I thought that maybe he was finally going back to normal, that perhaps his fear had actually gone. Then his brother and sister returned home. They hadn’t seen him, thought he had gone on ahead as he had been doing the last few days. I was frantic, I raced around the neighbourhood like a mad woman trying to find him. No one had seen him since school had let out, no one knew where he had gone. There was no sign of him. We called the police. They came and started searching, tried to console me. Five hours later Tommy returned. Came into the house as he always did, as if nothing had happened. The police asked him where he was, Tommy told them he was out playing and lost track of the time. They didn’t question it any further. Why would they? He wasn’t hurt, there was nothing suspicious. I didn’t believe it, but I was just so happy that he was home. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that morning was the last time I had seen my son.
It became apparent over the next few days that he had changed, he had become sullen, distant. He wouldn’t speak to us. One day he looked at me and smiled. I don’t know how to describe it. That smile was awful, terrible. His eyes were cold and it held an almost leering quality to it, it was a look I had never seen on my Tommy before and one I have never seen since. That day was the first day I saw the men in suits. I knew now why they were so frightening for Tommy. There was an air about them, a feeling that something was off, that they were doing something unseemly. They all looked bland, average, your eyes would just pass over them. Then they began to notice me. Staring at me, day after day. I began to see what Tommy had seen. I would be with my family, eating dinner and I’d look up and see one of them staring in the window, but no one else noticed. No one else saw them. Not matter what I did or said to get people to look out the window, no one saw the men in the suits. No one but Tommy. He’d look at me, with a smirk, but he never said anything. When I asked him privately about it, he laughed and told me it was just a trick he was trying to play, that there was never anything there. That the men in the suits never existed. I knew he was lying. I feared the men, I never went anywhere alone. I knew that if I did, they’d do something to me, whatever it was that they did to Tommy. He slowly became meaner, he would lash out at people, verbally and physically, there was nothing we could do to make him stop.”
Moira stopped, she felt so tired. She looked at Janice, trying to gauge how she felt. Moira knew she wasn’t telling it properly, she wasn’t conveying the fear she had felt, the constant paranoia. How Tommy had looked, his evil, knowing glances. She took a deep breath, the continued.
“The changes became worse. Animals started disappearing form the neighbourhood. The longer I could see the men in the suits the more they changed. It was subtle, at first they just looked slightly off, then, they started to look less human, more twisted. Tommy was changing too, not just mentally, but physically. No one else seemed to notice. There was a growing feeling of fear in our home, one that was just ignored. I walked in on him once, he was dissecting the Tanners dog. He had always loved that dog before, used to play with it for hours, and there it was, stomach ripped open, its insides on display. He was laughing while he did it. When I walked in he turned and smiled at me, blood on his hands. The men in the suits had taken away my son, they replaced him with something else. Something evil. I knew it every time I looked at him. There was nothing left of my son, not in that creature. We lived like that for months until I couldn’t bare it any longer. I never laid a hand on my son, but it was my fault he died. There was a step, going down to the basement, it was loose, it shifted when you stood on it. I kept meaning to tell my husband so he could fix it, but something stopped me. One day I was home alone with Tommy when I heard a scream followed by some thuds. I raced to see what had happened and I found him at the bottom of those stairs. His body was twisted and broken, there was blood everywhere, but he was still alive somehow. Blood bubbled from his lips and he was laughing. Blood splattering the ground in front of him. I was afraid. I’ll freely admit it. I backed up the stairs, horrified at what I was seeing, I knew I had to call someone, get help. Then he spoke. “It doesn’t matter. More of us will come. You’ll see. Soon you’ll join us.” His voice was hideous, It chilled me, deep down to my very soul. I closed the door to the basement and turned to find them at the windows, staring in. I already knew what I was going to do. I could see people out there, behind the men in suits, going about their business. I went out the front door and across the road to Sally, one of the neighbours. She invited me in for coffee and we sat and chatted about mundane things while that creature died at the bottom of the stairs. It was my daughter who officially found him. I told the police that I had gone across to Sally’s and left him playing in his room. They didn’t believe me, but they couldn’t prove anything. People talked. Said I pushed him down the stairs, or threw him. My family didn’t believe I wasn’t there. I didn’t cry at the funeral, that just made the rumours worse. My son had died a long time before, I had already grieved for him. My husband told me he believed me, but sometimes I would see him looking at me while I was doing something. A questioning look, like he was rethinking everything he knew about me, dissecting my behaviour. They knew I thought Tommy was different at that point. My children grew and moved out. They talked to their father, but they rarely talked to me. I haven’t seen or spoken to either in twenty years. The last time was at their father’s funeral, he died of cancer. I’m sure that they blame me for his death. The men in suits never went away, they followed me. I was never alone though, they never had a chance to take me. I was careful. As I grew older I saw them less and less. I think they became less interested in me. After all, what use would they have for an old woman? I’ve been seeing them again lately though. They don’t look at me, but I know its them.
I wanted someone to know what had happened. The full story. I know it sounds crazy and I know you probably don’t believe it. But I had to tell someone. I needed someone to know what happened. I didn’t kill him, but it’s my fault that he died.”
Janice didn’t know how to react. She felt a thread of revulsion growing in her stomach. How could a mother leave her own child to die like that, no matter what she believed. She thought that Tommy would probably have died from his injuries anyway, but to leave him there, to not even try and get help. Moira looked at her pleadingly, so old and frail. Janice knew it would be the last time she saw Moira. Feeling sick she reached out and gently placed her hand over Moira’s. “I’m sure Tommy forgives you, where ever he is.” She didn’t want to say it, she wanted to tell her that she could never be forgiven, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it to a dying woman.
“I know you don’t believe it, but thank you for saying it.”
Janice stood and left the room. Moira had expected yelling, disgust. She didn’t expect that. Not that she blamed Janice. Moira lay her head back on the pillows and closed her eyes. It wouldn’t be long now.
Janice walked through the halls in a daze, she had just listened to a woman describe her descent into madness that culminated in the death of her child. She didn’t know what to do. Should she report it to someone? Who? Moira didn’t technically break any laws that Janice knew of, besides that who would prosecute a woman who might live for only another year or two? She didn’t notice the man until she had walked into him, so caught up in her own thoughts. “Sorry.” Janice kept walking, she didn’t notice the odd look she got from the nurse nearby. The man turned and looked at her, a faint smile on his face. She stepped outside into the sunlight, letting its warmth soothe her. She had planned to stop into a few of the other residents, but it was starting to get late and after hearing what Moira said Janice didn’t think she’d be up for visiting others. She needed a break, maybe a drink or two. Janice began to walk towards her car, she didn’t notice the men in suits as they turned to look at her. She didn’t notice the stares as she drove from the parking lot. All she wanted to do was get home, have a glass of wine or three, and watch some shitty TV with dinner.
Moira took a deep breath, then opened her eyes. “I did what you asked. Are you happy?” The man in the suit smiled at her and nodded. Moira sighed, she didn’t want to do it, but she had to, there was no other choice. “Will I see him again, after?” The man in the suit nodded again. He reached out and caressed her face, his touch was cold. Moira shuddered then lay still, her face going slack, the steady rise and fall of her chest stopping almost instantly. The man in the suit removed his hand from her face, then he turned and left, unseen by the residents and nurses that roamed the halls.