It is the judgement of this court that Franklin King be taken to Steadwell’s Home for the Insane and placed in their custody where he will undergo therapy until such time as a doctor shall declare him cured.
That was ten years ago. A lot had changed in ten years. Those who had condemned him had changed. He was only sorry his mother wasn’t here with them. Franklin was slow, Franklin was mean, but Franklin was not insane; not then anyway. The court had made his mother put him in that home when he was eleven. They tortured him, called it “therapy” for the first eight years of his extended stay. He was slow, but he learned that fighting to prove he was not insane just made the therapy worse. He learned and he plotted and he grew.
He stood overtop the bodies of the staff at Steadwell’s and smiled. His face was covered in blood but he didn’t mind. He had toyed with them for the last year, making them think he had been ‘cured’ of whatever illness he’d been sent to them with. He hadn’t been sick when he got there. He was now. Now it wasn’t just one voice Franklin heard, but two. That second voice always knew what to do.
One of the orderlies, a particularly vicious bastard named Ron, moaned and started to move.
Not good, Franklin. Not good at all. You can’t let him live. He would have killed you some time ago if he could have.
That voice was always with him now. It kept him company all these years at Steadwell’s. He had come to think of that voice as himself only smarter, more cunning. He welcomed that voice when it showed up.
Franklin fished Ron’s broken body out of the pile and lifted him as if he weighed nothing. Ron screamed wordlessly in his face, pitching spittle and nonsense at him. Franklin had removed Ron’s tongue with a serrated knife he’d found in the maintenance shed out back when he’d started because the voice told him to. It told him Ron would wake the others and then they would stop him from administering ‘therapy’. Franklin always listened to that voice.
“You had a chance to be nice, Ron. You blew it,” Franklin said and jammed his thumbs into Ron’s eyes. Ron screamed again fighting to get free but Franklin was far bigger than Ron was. He placed Ron’s head between his slab-like arms and began to squeeze as hard as he could. Ron’s skull cracked under the pressure, his movements slowing to nothing more than twitches. Franklin tossed his dead body onto the others unceremoniously and wiped his hands on his shirt.
The judge passed down his sentence without remorse. He hated that boy and he hated his mother. The boy might have been his, probably was his, and he was a mistake. Franklin’s mother was a mistake too, but she joined the church after Franklin was taken away. The judge couldn’t mess with a woman of the church. Some things were just not acceptable. The only way to deal with this problem was to make it go away. In the twenty years the judge had been sending people there, Steadwell’s never cured anyone.
Franklin walked down the whitewashed hallway trying not to rage against the ghost of all the horrors he’d endured. Each room he passed held someone who used to be alive until Franklin had changed that.
The ones that hadn’t been mean to him were killed outright. Most of them died in their sleep, but those who took joy in administering Franklin’s ‘therapy’, they were handled differently. Franklin had taken great care to ensure they had all the attention they deserved.
The voice wasn’t with him, but it had given him instructions on how to proceed and where to find the red metal can in the maintenance shed.
It had been thirty hours and two hundred miles since Ron and the rest of the staffers at Steadwell’s had their own private therapy sessions. Franklin thought he would have found peace in that, but the voice told him he wasn’t done. There was still work to do.
The job is almost done, Franklin. You have a few more hours of work left and then you can rest. We see this through all the way to the end.
“All the way to the end, yes,” Franklin said to his audience.
He began to assemble them when he arrived back in town. None of them remembered him at first but recognition returned quickly when they heard his voice.
Franklin stood on the back steps of the house of his final victim. Franklin wanted to come here first, but the voice insisted. It had to be the judge because the voice told him it was to be the judge. He didn’t argue with the voice.
“Good evening, Judge. I was wondering if you remember me, because I remember you.” He trailed off when the dawning horror crept across the old man’s haggard face. Franklin could smell stale beer and old sex on him as he tried to back away from the door.
“You do remember me. The voice in my head said you would.” Franklin laughed, but it wasn’t a good sound. He removed a large hunting knife from his belt and held it up in front of his face. The greasy lights from inside the broken down old house reflected in the steel; the judge saw blood and hair caked on the hilt. He turned to run, but Franklin was too fast.
Cut him deep, Franklin, but don’t cut the bones. You need the bones. Your work here is nearly done.
Franklin did as the voice insisted.
Franklin sat on his newly constructed throne, naked to the waist and reeking of gore. The bones that supported his frame bent under the weight of his muscle. He hadn’t needed the voice to tell him what to do with all those people who had sent him for treatment. He knew what to do with them. Each of them had played a part in sending him away; taking his home and his mother away. Now, they were all part of his world and he was their king. But, now he was too tired to move.
Franklin slept in the sticky mess that he’d made when he cut out the bones and muscle. He didn’t bother to clean any of it up, but the voice told him the smell would bring the neighbors to the church where his mother had been buried. The voice hadn’t told him it was a bad idea either. In fact, Franklin, rousing from the deepest sleep he’d had in nearly ten years, hadn’t heard the voice since the killing had stopped.
He listened, but the only sound was the sound of the flies lighting on and off the food he’d provided them.
“Are you there?” Franklin asked. He waited for a long time before deciding that the voice had gone maybe for good. He closed his eyes and felt peace for the first time. He dozed off again.
The sound of the flies grew louder as the day’s heat began to seep into the fabric of the old church; so did the sound of the siren headed his direction. Franklin knew that only one officer ever drove the town police car, and that was the sheriff. He hadn’t been home when Franklin stopped by to visit.
He’s the last one, Franklin. You know what to do.
Franklin stood, stretched his aching muscles and picked up an axe that had been in the shed out behind Steadwell’s. He liked the weight of it in his hands so he’d kept it, and as a car door opened and slammed shut in the old church yard, the voice told him he’d only need to swing it one more time.
Franklin smiled, knowing the voice was right. It was always right.
~ Christopher A. Liccardi
© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.