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The Curious Case of Marianne Reynolds

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Imagine I sat you down. Imagine I asked you to describe your interpretation of evil. My guesses would suggest you described to me a shadowy figure in the corner of your eye. A figure with pale white skin, sunken red eyes and a haunting and crooked demeanor. Now imagine if I told you that you were wrong. Imagine I told you that you hadn't the faintest clue what evil was...

I'm not quite sure where to begin. My name is Doctor Scott McAlastair, professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh. And I have seen the true face of evil.

My story begins fifteen years ago, just outside of Glasgow. I was working as a child psychologist, helping children to overcome common childhood phobias; darkness, spiders, the bogeyman under the bed, all the usual things children face during childhood. My expertise at the time was far beyond what I was doing, but knowing I had helped these children meant I was perfectly happy in my job. Happy, until the day I met her. Marianne Reynolds.

Her parents had called me one winter morning, explaining that over the past few weeks, their daughter had become afraid of almost everything. She was afraid to go to sleep at night, she was afraid of empty rooms, afraid of talking to her friends. It was even a struggle trying to make the girl eat. When her parents confronted her about it, she simply told them that she was scared. She would go quiet when asked for an explanation.

Later that afternoon I set off to meet the girl. After a half hour drive out of town, I found myself at a ramshackle old farmhouse alongside the River Gryfe, surrounded by old abandoned stables and grain silos. I knocked on the door to be met by two anxious looking parents. I followed them upstairs into their daughter's bedroom. They opened the door, and what I saw made me feel faint for a moment.

In the middle of the room, sat the little girl. Her knees pulled up to her chest, her shoulders wrapped tightly round her shins. Her head drooped down, long locks of greasy blonde hair shielding her eyes from the room. Her faint voice whispered unintelligible sounds. Wallpaper had been torn from the walls, leaving only small shreds of paper hanging from the plaster. The carpet was in a similar state, only small sections remained, exposing the filthy, ancient floorboards below, engrained with scratches made by tiny hands. In the corners of the room, lay piles of dismantled furniture, broken down by hand into sharp, splintered planks of wood.

"Everything was fine until a couple of weeks ago," her father told me. "At first we thought it was some kind of game she was playing, but her condition has deteriorated ever since."

I found the sight incredibly disturbing, it chilled me to the bone. Her parents led me down into the front room.

"Is there anything you can do for her?" the mother begged.

"I'll see what I can do," I replied, but the truth of it was I felt immediately out of my depth, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I pressed on with questions regardless.

"Tell me about Marianne."

The girl's mother fought back a tear in her eye as she cast her mind back to before everything had happened...

"Marianne was always a normal girl, she was never in trouble at school, she had lots of friends, always tried her hardest. She was completely fine until she started with this whole 'angel' business."

"Angel?" I interrupted.

"Her imaginary friend," Mrs. Reynolds paused for a moment. She went on to explain that the little girl had been out playing in the snow one evening when she claimed to have seen a bright light in the sky. The child had claimed the light came down to her, and said it was an angel lost on its way to heaven. Since nobody else in the family could see this figure, her mother had just assumed it to be a figment of the young girl's imagination and shook it off as just part of a passing phase.

Her mother told me that rather than growing out of the phase like she had hoped, the girl had become more and more insistent that her imaginary friend was real—to the point that she had resorted to violence whenever someone denied the existence of Angel.

By the time her mother had finished explaining, it was getting dark, so I decided to make my way home, promising that I would return later in the week. As I left the house I felt eyes upon me, I turned back and looked at the house, in the top floor window sat Marianne, smiling at me as I drove away.

The country road was dark and winding, lit only by the dim headlamps on my car. Making my way through the narrow lanes, I was suddenly met by an object in the road, hurtling out of the hedgerow at breakneck speed. Its body reflected the dull light from the headlights, creating a truly terrifying shadow on the road ahead. I slammed on the brakes, coming to a halt mere feet from the object which was now slumped in the middle of the road.

Upon inspection, the object revealed itself to be the carcass of a deer, long since dead. Maggots seeped through bald, decomposing holes in its flesh. Flies erupted from sockets that once held eyes and the stench of decay filled the cool country air.

There was no way that this deer had jumped out in front of me. I went back to my car, opened the glove box and pulled out a small hand crank torch. I turned the handle of the torch and light began to radiate from the bulb. I shone the ray of light against the bushes on either side of the road, the shadows of thorns and berries dancing as the glow passed over them. I was about to turn my attention to the other bush when the dancing of the hedgerow stopped, and the beam of my torch found its way through a clearing in the shrubbery, lighting up the cornfield behind.

In the distance was a darkened figure, too far away to distinguish any features. I only caught a glimpse of it before my torch faded away, leaving me in darkness. I furiously cranked the handle some more and light began to illuminate the field once more. The figure had disappeared, leaving no trace of itself in the corn. Deducing that I was the victim of a random, albeit strange act, I kicked what was left of the deer aside, climbed back into my car and carried on my journey.

The rest of the week passed by fairly uneventfully and the following Tuesday I set out once again to see Marianne and her parents. There had been a large snowstorm the evening before and the roads were covered in layers of thick black ice. As a Scotsman, I wasn't going to let a little bit of snow stop me from doing my job and set off despite warnings on the news of unsafe driving conditions.

I got to the old farmhouse late that morning. I asked her parents if there had been any change in their daughter's condition. They both looked at one another with apprehension.

"She's started drawing again," her father said, forcing a smile. "She's really quite good," he chuckled.

I asked if I could see her drawings, often a child's drawings can tell you a lot about what's going on inside their head... I wish I had never asked.

First her father handed me an old Auto-Trader magazine, directing me to page 23. An article about the development of the modern car braking system. But scribbled over the article was a crude drawing of a man in a suit. A man with fiery orange hair, cut short at the sides and swept back in the middle. It was me. I smiled nervously.

"That's quite a likeness," I said, handing back the magazine nervously.

Her mother then avoided eye contact with me as she handed me a torn piece of wallpaper from Marianne's room. On the back was another drawing. My blood turned cold in my veins, sending a shiver all through my body. On the paper was a crayon picture of a dismembered deer. Maggots seeping from its open wounds, flies hovering around crossed out eyes. Above the deer stood Marianne, holding hands with a tall shadowy stick figure.

The existence of these drawings disturbed me. I asked if I could go speak to Marianne. Her parents hesitated, before leading my upstairs to the child's room. Upon entering the room, she was sat upright against a radiator by the window. I barely had time to say anything before Marianne spoke.

"Go away, mummy and daddy, let me talk to the man."

They both instantly obeyed, quickly closing the door and dashing downstairs as fast as their feet could carry them.

"What are you doing here?" Marianne asked, in a tone far from the sweet polite demeanor I had expected from a girl her age. "You might as well sit down if you're going to be here."

I moved closer to the girl and sat down on the floor in front of her.

"No, not there, Angel doesn't want you to sit there," she snapped.

I shuffled backwards along the floor, increasing my distance with Marianne until she finally spoke again.

"There, that's far enough."

I opened my mouth to speak to the girl, but before I had a chance to talk I was interrupted again.

"You shouldn't even be here."

Shocked by her attitude, I tried to reason with the girl. I explained that her parents were worried about her and her imaginary friend.

"They don't believe that Angel is real," Marianne scoffed.

I told her that Angel wasn't real, that he was just a figment of her imagination. I told her that it was all just part of a game she didn't know that she was playing.

"So you don't believe me either?" she yelled. "All he wants is for you to believe. We showed you that he was real."

The drawing on the wallpaper suddenly came to mind. I tried to rationalize, there was no way she could have been involved. I became lost in my thoughts for a moment, until Marianne's voice brought me back to reality.

"The deer," she said. "Why don't you want to believe?"

I was truly terrified, every instinct I had told me to run. To leave the house and never come back. But I pressed on, asking the girl more and more questions. Avoiding the subject of Angel, I asked her about her friends.

She told me her friends didn't believe her either. And that they would never be real friends, not the way that Angel was.

"It doesn't matter if they don't believe me now though," she smiled.

"What do you mean?" I replied, dreading the answer the girl would give.

"Because Angel showed them. It's just a shame the dead don't remember."

That was one question too far. I pulled myself up as fast as I could and left the room. Leaving the house, her parents stared at me and asked where I was going. I swallowed the lump in my throat and told them I was done for the day. I was going home to review my notes and see what I could do for their daughter. The guilt was incredible, knowing deep down that I had no intentions of returning to that house ever again. I climbed in my car, driving away as quickly as I could down the icy country roads.

The winding road eventually led to a hill. I slowed down to avoid slipping on the ice before heading down the hill, gently pressing down on my brake to slow my descent. To my horror, the brake did nothing. My car carried on down the hill, spinning and increasing in speed as the distance between me and the old oak tree and the bottom of the incline drew ever shorter. Pulling myself free from my seatbelt and reaching for the door, a sharp pain shot through the side of my ribcage followed by a powerful jolt, causing my body to collide with the side of the vehicle and whatever sharp object was impaling it.

The last thing I saw as I blacked out was a shadowy figure, walking down the road, slowly disappearing into the distance as my vision blurred and I lost consciousness.

I remember very little from this moment. I remember watching strip lights fly by, as various doctors shone torches in my eyes and pumped me with enough morphine to kill a horse. After that all I remember is waking up in a hospital bed.

It had been two weeks since my accident when I finally came around. Upon awakening I was greeted by Marianne and her parents. They told me how lucky I was to be alive and how sorry they were that my trip out to their house had almost killed me. They told me to take some time off to recover before heading back out to help them with their problem.

"Fuck," I thought, remembering all that had happened, wishing that the accident had killed me.

"Come along Marianne, we'll let Mr. McAlastair get some rest now."

Marianne's parents left the room, leaving me alone with their daughter once more. Her hair was a mess, her clothes soiled and her arms and legs appeared weak and malnourished.

"You see now? Angel is real," she said, before following her parents down the hallway.

It was several months before I was well enough to get back to work, and enough guilt had built up inside me to force myself to go back to that godforsaken house.

It was one summer's day when I finally decided it was time to go back. I made my way out of town back to the old farmhouse where the family lived. I spoke with her parents on arrival, who told me their daughter's condition had deteriorated further. Going against all my instincts, I asked to see the girl. I was taken upstairs, and once again left in her room with her. Alone.

When I entered Marianne's room she was facing out of the window, her back turned to me. I sat down on her floor where I had months prior and she turned to face me, sitting with her back against the radiator. She looked different, her hair was clean and elegantly plaited. She no longer appeared malnourished or weak as she had the last time I saw her. I asked her how she had been, hoping from her appearance that she had improved mentally.

"Oh I've never been better," she smiled.

Her manner was different, she was polite and sweet to talk to. Her behavior allowed me to let my guard down a little bit, maybe seeing what happened to me had helped her overcome her imaginary friend. Maybe my accident had shown her that the things that happened were just coincidence, and that Angel was her way of understanding the strange things that happened in her life.

"You're like a different person," I laughed.

"I feel like one," Marianne said.

"And there's no more Angel?" I asked her.

A beam of light shone down through the skylight, the girl sneezed, burying her face in her hands. As she lifted her head, her eyes were black. The girl shook her head, her eyes returned to normal.

"Don't be silly. Me and Angel are closer than we've ever been." The girl smiled a wide smile. "You were right about one thing, Mr. McAlastair."

"And what's that?" I began to feel nervous again.

"Angel was a part of me. But now, I'm a part of Angel."

I recall an intense feeling of dread at this point.

"Angel came to me from the sky. He'd traveled the whole of space to find a friend like me. He needed a body, and I needed someone to share my mind with."

I began to question if there was anything left of the girl that the two concerned parents downstairs had called me about.

Marianne's eyes turned black again.

"Marianne is dead," she said. "She's with the angels now."

This time I felt no guilt in leaving, without a word to her parents I left. I left that house and never went back. I have no idea what happened to Marianne or her family, and I don't have much of a desire to know either. All I can hope is that the past stays buried after I am done recalling this story to you now.

But no matter how hard I try to forget, no matter how many therapists I see, no matter how many nights I wake up screaming, there is one thing I have learned that I will take to the grave.

Evil isn't always your enemy, sometimes, it can be your friend.

Written by SlendyStoleMyNormalUsername95
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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