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The Twitching Man
My brain is always on. Always working without me even trying. You would think this is a blessing, but let me tell you, it is the complete opposite. It has made my life a living Hell. I live in Lübeck, Germany. It is year 1691. My house was attacked last night during the late hours, when I was asleep. There was a mob of villagers outside shouting and threatening me and my adoptive father, Enzo with torches and knives. They were yelling bible verses, screaming about the devil and how he had taken over my body and how Enzo was a disgrace to society because of the way he looked. The majority of the group were scared parents and people who thought very highly of their religion and the power of God.
I stayed curled up in my bed all night, sleeping soundly through most of the shouting until my brain started overworking itself once again, like it does most nights in my sleep. I shake and rapidly move in my bed. My head thrusts back and my legs kick. I shriek in my sleep. I try my best to calm down but my brain is too strong. As I start getting louder, I hear more yelling outside. Enzo comes walking into my room with a worried look on his face. He says he heard me yelling and has come to try to help calm me down. There is banging on the door and the fragile walls of my old house shake. But I feel safe in my small home with Enzo sitting at the foot of my bed. I feel safe with my doors and windows both double padlocked, my front door with a chair lodged up against the knob. I have learned my lesson from the past attempts people have made to kill me.
I wake up the next morning to the sun rising and birds chirping in the tree right outside my window. As I get out of my bed I see Enzo asleep on the ground.
¨Dad,” I whisper to him.
¨What? Oh, good morning Angel,” he says, his head tilting in my direction. He seems confused and tired, as if he was up all night.
¨Come on, let's get you back to bed,¨ I say, reaching out my hand to help him stand up. I lead him back to his bedroom and he lays down, thanking me for helping him to his bed. I close his door and leave him in peace to sleep.
I sit in my small, dusty kitchen sipping my morning coffee until I hear the daily thud of the newspaper hitting my door from the street. Usually the paperboy would come to the door, but not at my house. Most children don’t dare come close to me. Parents take caution when they know I might be around. No one wants their child to turn out like I did, even though I didn’t choose to be this way.
“Four Witches Burned This Week, More to Come Soon.” the headline roars. I stare at this headline for a few moments before unfolding the rest of the front page.
“YOU’RE NEXT,” says the dripping red ink on the bottom of the thin, off-white paper. I assume it was written by a teenager or a radical priest, just wanting to get attention, but the slowly growing fear inside me expands even more as I read the threat over and over. I make sure to cut up the newspaper and throw it away so Enzo wouldn't see it when he woke up.
I sulk around my house for a while before sitting down in my office to write another piece for the newspaper. Because of our circumstances, no one will hire Enzo or I for any job. So, we work together to write passages for the newspaper under the fake name of Rowland Weber, a highly educated man who taught at KU Leuven University for two years, before moving back to his hometown of Lübeck. No one knows it’s me, the strange, twitching man everyone believes to be possessed or the ¨Town Freak¨, the man with the skin patterned like a cow, with light and dark patches.
As I write yet another article for the newspaper, I start to get hungry. I write a small note saying where I'm going and leave it on the counter for my dad to see when he wakes up. I put on my coat, hat and scarf, as an attempt to hide my appearance, before walking out of the only place I know I’m safe.
I walk down the sidewalk trying to be as small as possible but I still notice front doors closing and kids stopping their games to hide behind bushes. As I get closer to town I see people running into shops and changing their sign from OPEN to CLOSED. I am not welcomed anywhere but I know I need to eat soon.
The general store seems almost deserted when I walk in. I see no one at any shelves or at the desk in the front of the store. I grab the few things I need for lunch and leave money on the desk before I leave the store. I pull my hat lower and duck my head as I walk towards the the sidewalk.
“Hey you!” says a voice I can’t see the owner of. I feel a sharp pain in my back and fall face first towards the ground, my bag flying out of my hands.
“I told you you were next,” says the voice. I turn over and look up to see a man. I recognize his face immediately and match it to the father of the paperboy, who often went on the early morning route with his son. I quickly realize he was the one who wrote the threat on my newspaper this morning. I lay on my back, paralyzed with fear. My stomach does a flip as he glares down at me.
“You better not try anything,” the stern voice demands. He grabs the back of my coat and pulls me to my feet, careful not to touch my skin. He pulls me farther away from the store towards a small, dark alley between two dirty buildings. He pushes me towards a rancid dumpster and I once again fall to the ground. He kicks me in the stomach and I lose my breath. He towers over me and spits on me before he speaks.
“We have had enough of you in this town. We know what you are up to,” he says. He slaps me across my face.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, I promise! I-” He cuts me off.
“Never again will you frighten me, my wife, my son, or anyone!”
He leans in close, almost three inches from my face and whispers to me, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
I recognize this verse from the Bible. When I was young Enzo would read me this verse, and others from the Bible to calm me down at night when there where people yelling outside our house. The thought of him comforts me and I gain the courage and power to push the man off of me. While he is still on the ground I grab his knife and throw it down the desolate alleyway and run in the opposite direction. People have come back outside because of my absence. As I run by, towards my home, I hear women screech and attempt to hide their children. The crowds part as I run by.
When I reach my house I run in and lock the door. I lean against the cold windows inside my house and catch my breath. Enzo stands at the bottom of the stairs with an upset and concerned look on his face. I stand at the front of my house looking back at my father for a few moments before I break down crying, explaining everything that happened. He approaches me and and I lean into his open arms. We stand there in silence, glad we are still both alive. I don’t fall asleep that night. My back aches and I am filled with fear.
I get out of bed the next morning, just as frightened as before. I know I have to do something about what happened to me yesterday. I do it the only way I know how. I call Enzo downstairs and we sit down in my small office once again and start to write. We write about my brain. We write about our views and other’s views on people like me. We use no names of anyone in town. I know to get this published I must make my brain sound like it is sick. Not that anyone who is like me is demented. I need to play the victim, but not the victim of someone’s words, but of some other power.
Our article was published the day after we sent it in to the publishers office. Ever since the article was published, there had been no angry mobs outside at night or threats written at the bottom of the newspaper. It has been about two weeks since we last left the house and we are hungry. We delay our trip to the store as much as we could, but we can’t take it anymore.
We finally gain the courage and leave to walk to the same store I was almost kidnapped two weeks before. Our trip is different this time. As we walk the crowds don’t part, no one runs away in fear. Of course people stare but we are used to it. No one seems very afraid anymore. Even though our piece was put in the newspaper a while ago, it is still on the front page of the paper and is still in the stands on the side of the street. I smile to myself and hold my head high.