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Sometimes the supernatural can be absolutely, ahem... shocking.

Faulty Wiring

Shaunna Privratsky

The sun is black at noon, like burnt cinders of hope.

The walls of my room are the pages of my soul, covered in black squiggles.

What do They think I’ll write?  Some cryptic drivel the doctors in their cheesy white coats can hover over, stroking their straggly beards and humming wisely?   They always travel in hordes, never less than three and sometimes more than seven.  I wonder if there is some sort of mystical mathematical equation: 

Q number of doctors times R number of patients equals One hell of a loony bin.

They all have shiny blank glasses that hide their eyes.  It must be some sort of requirement like how McDonalds makes you wear flame-retardant uniforms just in case some lame-brain sets the whole place on fire and turns everyone into McKrispy People.  That is if you weren’t wearing your oh-so-becoming flame-retardant uniform.


1.  You must have a beard, the scragglier the better.  Women may substitute long dangly earrings suitable for stroking in contemplative silence.


3.  You must travel in hordes.

4.  You must perfect your wise, all-knowing looks even if you are as clueless as a brainless idiot.

5.  You must learn to hum in a wise, all-knowing way even if you...etc. etc.

Okay, enough of the cheap laughs.  My “therapist” would say I am using my “avoidance tactics” again.  Maybe They think I’ll write I DID IT!  I DID IT!  I DID IT! over and over again in my blood instead of this idiotic black crayon.  I don’t mind though; it is the color of my despairing soul.

The blue-bellied whale swallows all of her children and floods the universe with her salty tears.

There.  That should keep Them busy for awhile.  I wonder if everyone dreams in color?   I wonder if my dear sweet lost Becka dreamt her nightmares in vivid horrific shades of violent color?  No, I can’t let myself think about my vanished daughter or the husband and precious baby boy I will most likely never see again.  My husband made sure of that when he committed me to this place.  Poor Hunter; does he think I abandoned him? 

They won’t let me out of here until I have written down my version of “THE INCIDENT” so I might as well try to start.  My name is Rachel Ann Brokken.  I used to be pretty, with waist-length dark brown hair and big green  eyes, but They fixed that when They cut my hair down to the scalp in a boyish, easy-to-care-for style.  I still have my nice figure, although there is no one to see or care, least of all myself.  I am thirty-two years old and since December 19,  2000 I have been a presumably permanent resident at the State of Georgia’s Home for the Criminally Insane.   

The sheer beauty of it; the actual screaming joy of it all, is that after eighteen  months in this creepy old crumbling pit I am just beginning to realize how deep and dark the rabbit hole really is.    

It  all began so innocently, almost comically so.  The lights started turning on and off by themselves.  The chandelier’s dimmer switch moved up and down without the benefit of human hands, first throwing harsh shadows from the intense glare then plunging the room into inky blackness.  The VCR rolled a tape in and out of its idiot mouth even when it was unplugged.  Some outlets functioned perfectly  well on the top but not on the bottom.  My husband John hired a dozen different  electricians to locate the source of the problem, but none had a conclusive solution, just vague theories.

“Backwards wiring.”  One of the electricians stated as he meticulously wrote out the bill.

“Loose connections.”  Another one pronounced.  His wide, vacant grin was mirrored unpleasantly by his partially exposed backside, which I was subjected to as he descended the tall ladder.  After heavy thought, he scratched his protruding hairy belly and added,

“Ya could have a short somewheres, but I couldn’t find it.”  

The perplexing problems with the electricity started three weeks after moving into  our trim little home in the city of Burnsville, GA.  Built in 1970, it is a sturdy, modern house without any crooked staircases, drafty attics or haunted root cellars.  Dozens of identical houses dot a six-block area.  The agreeable neighborhood  of young families still rings with playful laughter and friendly greetings, although now I am much too far away to hear.   

In  the beginning we were thrilled with the spacious, four-bedroom house.  It seemed wondrously vast after being cramped in an undersized apartment.  Three-year-old Rebecca finally had plenty of room for all of her toys.  Hunter’s cozy nursery was right next to our bedroom.  The roomy deck, fenced yard and a two-car garage completed the dream.

Gradually we settled into our new surroundings.  I was busy unpacking and decorating whenever I found a spare moment, blissfully unaware that our perfectly normal, mundane lives were about to be exploded into jagged fragments.    Occasionally a door would slam closed unexplainably or a light would click off by itself, plunging the room into darkness.  Sometimes I would feel a chill, invisible finger brush the nape of my neck or a wave of cold passing directly through me.  I rarely mentioned these disconcerting occurrences.  Our future was still as luminous as a rosy dawn, the impending shadows lurking just over the uneasy horizon.

The early signs of a mysterious presence were easy to ignore.  The demands of caring for a three-year-old girl and an infant son occupied every waking moment.

About six months later the children’s grandmother was visiting.  Marcy was idly watching a show in the basement when the VCR began doing its trick, pulling a tape in and out repeatedly.  Then it added a new twist by activating the record button.  Marcy shook her head and pushed the Power button off on both the TV and the VCR.  She dismissed the odd incident, making a joke of it that evening at suppertime.  

A day or so later I rewound the tape so I could record a show, absently noting it was almost at the end.  What I saw playing on the TV screen was impossible.  My blood turned to ice. 

The scene was a dark room.  After a few seconds I recognized the vague, hulking shape of our furniture and the children’s rocking horse.  It was a view of our basement.  Dim light filtered from the room’s single window, turning the familiar room into murky shadows fuzzed with motes of trapped sunlight. 

All of a sudden I saw a fleeting wisp of white flash across the screen.  It was vaguely human-shaped but lacked a face or any distinguishing features.  The furtive way it flitted across the room suggested malicious intentions. 

I stared without comprehending.  I replayed the eerie scene several times; watching intently as the insubstantial figure darted across the room again and again.  For some indefinable reason, I became convinced the figure was singling me out, taunting me.  I quickly stopped the tape, trying to shake an uneasy foreboding.

At  the time I tried to ignore it.  Foolishly I taped over the ghostly scene without watching the rest of the tape, trying to deny the evidence of my eyes.

Becka started having trouble sleeping.  About four times every night, in the midst of innocent slumber, she would suddenly scream a heart-stopping cry of pure terror.  I was up and running to her room almost before I was awake, my heart racing,  adrenaline pumping into my veins. 

When I’d reach her, Becka would be sitting up with her huge, beautiful brown eyes staring sightlessly past me, through me.  She would be screaming or whimpering in fear, in the grip of a terrifying nightmare.  I’d do my best to soothe her.  Usually she quieted in a few minutes and peacefully returned to her slumber.  Becka would wake the next morning completely unaware of her disrupted sleep,  or what caused it. 

Becka’s symptoms increased distressingly.  We took her to several doctors and they concluded that she suffered from night terrors.  I wonder if she knew what was going to happen to her?  I wonder if those early hints were a warning of the coming tragedy, or only an enigmatic signature of the vile force that took everything I cherished away? 

I was utterly exhausted.  Day after day, the hopeless desert of grainy sleeplessness  dragged me down into the sucking black hole of sleep deprivation.    Becka’s loud cries were keeping everyone awake, so she began sleeping on the couch in the living room, only six steps down from our bedroom.  I noted that the lights mysteriously turned on and off more and more frequently.  Since the electricians had explained the probable causes, I tried to dismiss it.

Then the unimaginable happened.  I put the sleeping baby in his crib and double-checked the locks on the doors and window.  For once, Becka was sleeping peacefully so  I went to bed yearning for an hour or two of uninterrupted sleep. 

Just before I dropped into dreamless slumber I saw the lights downstairs brighten dramatically, like a dying star flaring one last time before winking out of existence.  A vast shapeless shadow flitted through the light spilling across our bedroom ceiling.   I groaned inwardly and waited for Becka’s expected cry.  There wasn’t a sound.  I closed my eyes in relief, wanting only the oblivion of blessed sleep.

Now I spend whole days and nights agonizing over that moment.  If only I would’ve gotten up in time, maybe I could have saved Becka.  Maybe I could have saved myself.    

Sometime later I awoke to a nightmare of strobing red and blue lights and urgent raucous voices.  Two police cars were parked in front of our house, the front door giving easy access to the avid stares of the neighbors.

John called to me, the desperation clear in his voice, “Where’s Becka?  I can’t find her anywhere!”

My  heart stopped cold and then began to pound furiously.  I made a whirlwind search of the entire house, ignoring John and the milling policemen.  A suffocating feeling of dread cut off my air and I was suddenly, coldly convinced that my child was  gone forever.

A cop grabbed my arm, momentarily stilling my distraught flight.

“Were you the last one to see her?” he asked.  I nodded, my eyes filling with inconsolable tears.

“Don’t worry, Ma’am.  We’ll find her,” he assured me, but he was wrong.  Dead wrong.

They still haven’t found my sweet little girl.  After an endless search They turned to me as the prime suspect, as if I would ever harm my precious darling  little Becka.  My increasingly frantic insistence that a malevolent spirit took  my daughter led Them to lock me away in this repulsive, rotting “rest home”.  There was no trial.  If only I had saved that tape as proof. 

It’s been eighteen months since the mystifying, tragic night Rebecca Lynn Brokken disappeared.  The rigid lines of reality have skewed and blurred.  I do not know if they will ever return to their rightful, sane positions in the universe or if they are as lost as my beloved little girl. 

I am beginning to think that They were right; I must have had something to do with it, something inside of me must have set off the presence in our house.  Yet I do  not think I am insane.  I do not feel insane, only doomed.

The pale smoke of nightmares strikes a cord in the darkness of forgotten dreams.

Ever since I decided to cooperate more, at least outwardly, peculiar things have been happening.  It’s funny how the lights in this ancient building sometimes flicker on and off by themselves.  It’s too bad that uppity Miss Little Spoiled Brat down the hall got such a terrible shock when she plugged in her new radio.  I only wanted to borrow it for an hour or two. 

A trickle of hope has sprung to life in the acrid desert of my heart, like phantom rain.   An inkling sizzles ceaselessly up and down the wires of my nerve-endings, connecting the synapses of my brain in new, uncharted pathways.  Maybe I can find my precious Becka and save her.  Maybe I will someday see Hunter again.  Will he remember me?  My empty arms ache when I think of my lost children.

Maybe I will get out of here yet, one way or another. 

I pause in my writing to watch the electrician.  He is muttering to himself, digging at the wires behind the light switch in my room.  I smile behind my hand when the  man gets a violent shock, even though he assured me all the breakers for this wing were safely turned off.

“Faulty wiring.”  I hear him say.