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The Gaze of the V
“I call to the stand Doctor Richard Ackerley,” stated the defense attorney.
Doctor Ackerley, a haggard-looking man and diligent worker, came before the judge with troubled expression on his face.
“Your Honor, I evaluated the defendant last week regarding his mental condition. He emphatically insisted on the soundness of his mind.”
The defendant himself sat calmly in his place, his eyes lucid and his clothes neatly pressed. He had none the look of one who had recently murdered an elderly gentleman in cold blood.
“I requested that he recount not only the events of the murder, but the events of his life preceding his murder, to see if I could find a sort of point where the mania would originate. I have already recited his description of the events of the murder yesterday.”
“Doctor Ackerley,” stated the judge, “If you would, please recite to us his depiction of his life before the trial.
“Yes, Your Honor.” Doctor Ackerley cleared his throat. The entire court room waited very quietly, both in anticipation and dread.
“Mad! Why, I never—You fancy me mad?” Doctor Ackerley said calmly, a stark contrast to the way the defendant must have boomed those words. “My past? You wish to hear of my past? Irrelevant. My past has no pertinence here.
“Well, I suppose it could only do me well. Perhaps I will convince you of my soundness of mind.
“My upbringing was a rather turbulent period of time. I lived with my mother and my father, though I seldom caught sight of the latter. Evening after evening, sometimes even still as dusk succumbed to dawn, he would leave our home and seek the aid of his one deadly vice: Drink, why yes, drinking, of course! Night after night he would tip the accursed glass to his lips and drink, and drink again, till he had drunk himself to near destruction. I knew always when he was finally arriving home, for the very chairs and tables would tremble in the wake of his thunderous footsteps!
“As the trembling drew nearer, my selfless mother would warn me to run away and hide, and hide I would, night after night. And as I cowered in my corner of our home, I would hearken to the cries; the ones of despair rose from the throat of my defenseless mother, whilst the ones of livid rage rose from the throat of my intoxicated father. And I heard the terrible sounds of the blows he dealt her, simply because he was too deep into his drunken stupor to realize his wrongdoings.
“And yes, you fancy me mad—But hear this, hear this! Would any other child have kept their head so proficiently during such a turbulent period of time? Nay, would any child still have his wits about him so much as I do after enduring this every single night? Nay, I say, and you still fancy me mad!
“Well, things continued like this for some time, until one night I noticed my father draw something from the cupboard before addressing my mother, and it caught a sliver of light, such a tiny, tiny sliver, and oh! I believe it was the kitchen knife, yes, I believe it was this. And as the bellows rose from his throat, this time I did not cower, did not hide; nay, this time I seemed frozen to where I was standing, and I watched, oh yes, I watched—watched as he drove that knife into my mother’s bosom once, twice, thrice, oh, again and again, he drove it into her bosom, and the crimson blood frothed out of her and stained the walls and the floor and her murderer’s clothes.
“She had barely enough time to cry out before the deed was done, but oh, what a cry it was! Such a high, desperate wail, such as one screams when they have been damned for all eternity.
“You still fancy me mad? Well, would any child—nay, would any person—think as quickly and as cleverly as I did in those very moments? I did not simply stand there; to do such would be to consign me to my Maker. I turned on my heel and ran, yes, how I ran! until I had made my way to the door; I could hear the beast’s footsteps thundering behind me, but I did not succumb to my fears. And as I ran, I cried out, and the neighbors, who had already been aroused
from their slumber by my mother’s wail, had called the police, and the beastly man was cornered and arrested.
“I have since never seen this beast of a man again, but I have heard small tidbits of rumors that he met his fate at the gallows. I suppose it is for the better, for my dear mother can rest in peace now.
“As for my fate; I was sent to live at an orphanage on the other side of the city, and before long I conceived a tremendous loathing for that place. The walls and the floorboards were moth-eaten and various insects made their dens in every nook and corner; meanwhile, rats scurried in and out of the chambers within the walls that they had created.
“The meals were meager to say the least; the caretakers were grim-faced with dirt caked on their hands and permanent frowns burned onto their faces, or so it seemed. They cared little for us children.
“One caretaker in particular was dirtier and grouchier and older than all the rest; yes, indeed, it seemed she was older than the very building itself.
“The one thing about her which unnerved us so, however, was her eye! Yes, her eye, I remember it clearly, pale blue and with a nasty film over it, such as that of a vulture’s eye. And oh, how her eye vexed us so! It seemed to perceive everything at once; it saw through us into our very souls! And we became certain that we must purge ourselves of the eye at once, yes, as quickly as we could! lest we perish and burn for all eternity because of her malicious powers!
“I and the other children constructed a plan. There was a great staircase in the orphanage. It spiraled downwards and downwards forever, even into Hell, or so it seemed. The elderly woman was a bit off her balance, and the rail on the staircase was not so very secure. We would push the bearer of the eye down the staircase, and not a soul would suspect us!
“Now, you still fancy me mad? Would any child have been able to construct a plan as this? Would any child be able to construct a way to rid himself of a threat to his very existence? Nay, I say, and nay again!
“No sooner had we conceived this plan than we were forced to execute it. The rest of the caretakers were absent, as there seemed to be an epidemic of the flu in the city, which provided the perfect opportunity! I myself was bedridden with the flu, and as such took no part in the execution, but I witnessed the deed as I lay in my bed. The elderly caretaker ascended the stairs, and oh! How her eye seared me so even from the distance at which she stood! The oldest and biggest boy gave her a great shove, with a passionate cry of, ‘Begone, Evil Eye!’ and she hurtled down the flight. A few seconds later, an unnerving, thunderous crash reverberated throughout the walls of the entire accursed building.
“The children gave out a great cheer! We had rid ourselves of the Evil Eye! In the morning, when the landlord came to check on his property, we would recite to him the tragic tale of how she had staggered and fallen to her death down the colossal flight.
“I had thought I would sleep with peace that night, but nay! I feared the eye would come alive again and persecute us all! So silently, so, so very silently, I crept near the staircase and peered so cautiously, so very cautiously, over the edge to where her body slept.
“And oh, how my blood ran cold! There, where she lay, her body a crumpled, defeated heap, the eye remained open! I screamed, I wailed! And I ran, oh, how I ran! I struck my head unintentionally on a wall as I blindly sought the comfort and security of my own bed, and I collapsed and lay right there in that spot. Finally, I slept.
“The police suspected nothing, as we had expected. The days drew on without event, wanton and blissful. But as one day led to the next, I loathed that place more and more, yes, I loathed it all! The walls! The rats! The insects, the floors, the moth-eaten holes and the entire aura of despair that hung over the entire accursed place! I loathed it all!
“But hope was not yet gone! For I began to realize that in some fantastic miracle, my senses had been sharpened beyond belief! I heard voices that could belong to none other than angels whispering gently in my ear, while no one else could hear them, that all was well and that my troubles would end soon. And surely, people began to visit and began to inquire about us children, as if their intention was to adopt us! I spoke to them openly, I boasted! How I boasted of my acute senses! They would smile at me, and nod, but I would never hear of them again after they left. They must have fancied me mad, as you do! But how am I made to be mad, with such sharp and intuitive senses?
“The days dragged on, and my loathing worsened, worsened, until it seemed I should claw my own insides out with my burning hatred! But the angels gently told me to wait and to be patient and that my redemption would come.
“And oh, did it come! On one fine, idyllic morning, an elderly gentleman visited. He talked to all of us and played with all of us, but I knew with a single glance that he fancied me most. He winked at me and said that I was a good boy, said that he would bring me home with him.
“He certainly kept his word. After the paperwork was filed, the old man brought me to his home, and never had any home seemed so wonderful to me as this one! The old man informed me that he was growing weaker, and that he could no longer care for himself so well, so I would have to be responsible for this task.
“Now, you fancy me mad? Well, you would not have fancied me mad had you seen how meticulously and carefully I executed these tasks; if he wanted three tablespoons of sugar in his tea, I would measure three tablespoons and not a bit more nor less; if he desired a paper to read in the morning, I would give him three different ones in case one was not to his liking! Yes, indeed, I was so very careful and conscientious, whereas a madman would have not a care in the world for these tasks!
“I did not mind these mundane tasks. In fact, I enjoyed them. The old man was so very, very kind to me, never did he give me any reason to bear ill will towards him. Our affection was mutual; he began to call me son and I began to call him father.
“However, the old man’s condition deteriorated; he remained in bed though rays of sunlight penetrated his windows. Every time I saw him, he lay in bed, his eyes closed. On one occasion I did see him with his eyes opened, and I fancied there was something subtly different in his face, and he mentioned that he couldn’t quite see me very well.
“The angels began to warn me; ‘It’s the Evil Eye,’ they said, ‘The evil is blinding him! You must rid yourself of the eye before it rids the world of you!’ Yet I tried not to pay them any heed, for there was not yet any concrete proof.
“One night, as I cautiously entered his room, carrying a pot of tea and a lantern, I shone a tiny, so very tiny sliver of light on his face to check whether he slumbered, and oh! How my blood ran cold! For there, upon his face, was a pale blue eye with a film over it—like a vulture’s! Yes, like that of a vulture’s! And good Lord! how it stared—right into my very soul! The Evil Eye had found me once again!”
Doctor Ackerley paused and cleared his throat. The entire courtroom sat in stunned silence.
“At this point,” concluded Doctor Ackerley, “the defendant was practically in a frenzy, and I was forced to halt evaluation. I believe that witnessing two murders, as well as trauma to the head, is enough to contribute to the mania in the defendant.”
“Thank you, Doctor Ackerley,” the judge murmured.
All eyes in the courtroom were on the defendant, who sat calmly as ever, seemingly unaffected by the tragic events of his own life.
For three hours, the jury debated, but at last they reached a verdict. The entire courtroom held its breath in anticipation.
“We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty on account of criminal insanity. The defendant will be incarcerated in an institution for the criminally insane as quickly as can be arranged.”
The defendant was infuriated. “You still fancy me mad?! You—Yes, you, all of you in here—You are the true madmen!” He screamed and frothed and fumed until officers escorted him from the courtroom.
That evening, as Doctor Ackerley bade the judge farewell and exited the courtroom, he sensed a pair of eyes gazing at him.
Turning around, he noticed a disgusting atrocity of a bird leering at him from a fence. It blinked once before flying off, a bloodcurdling squawk rising from its throat.