A teenage girl is left alone and terrified after the sudden reappearance of her abusive mother.
Narrated by Céline Guild
Written and Produced by Doryen Chin
"Aftermath - Madness Paranoia"
"Departure - Ghostpocalypse"
"Echoes of Time V2"
"Long Note Two"
by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
[content warning: parental abuse, drug abuse mention, police, hunger]
Note: The audio you will hear is slightly altered from the text below, but the transcript is accurate for most purposes.
My name is Jeanette Vaughn. I was sixteen years old when I ran away from home. Almost sixteen. They say that addiction is a disease. But living with an addict isn't just living with a sick person. You're also living with the addiction. I had been living alone with my mother for several years. I think I was maybe, seven or eight when dad left. I know. Same old story. But as mad as I am at him for leaving, I can't say that I blame him. I just kinda wish he'd taken me with him. I'd run away a few times already, before the big last one. At first it was just to like, teach my mom a lesson. If she didn't get clean, if she didn't get better, she'd lose me. It didn't work, of course. I think she knew I was full of it. Even with all the junk in her brain, she could tell I wasn't serious. Until the last time. The last time was different.
She'd just had a huge breakup. For months she was seeing this guy. All sunshine and rainbows. I even got to meet him a few times. And she never brought guys back to our place. I don't think she wanted them to know she had a kid. So whenever she was seeing a guy, she'd disappear. Sometimes for weeks. When they inevitably moved onto something better, she'd suddenly be home all the time. And we'd fight. The fights were always bad, but at least fighting was easy. When you're in a fight, you know what side you're on. It's the in-between times that are the hardest. They remind you there's a person in there. Behind the hateful face, behind the humiliation and constant belittlement. Sometimes I'd pick a fight just because I couldn't stand the silence.
But this one was bad. I was doing my homework on the kitchen table after having spent the entire day cleaning the apartment. My mom's boyfriend was supposed to be coming over for dinner and she kept talking about how this was going to be the one. I think she really thought he was gonna propose to her. So she called my school and told them I was sick so she could make me stay home and clean up for her. I had a friend from school drop off my homework. Well not a friend-friend. Just a person from school I talked to sometimes. Sorry. It was getting late and my mom hadn't showed up yet. The company shut off her phone so I couldn't call or anything. So I just waited. It got dark. Eventually I was too tired and hungry to wait so I just heated up some leftovers and went to bed. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment. For all her faults, she let me have the bedroom and she slept on a foldout in the living room. That meant that when she came home in the middle of the night, I knew I'd find her there. Crashed out. But the next morning the couch was empty. It hadn't even been touched. When she wasn't home that night after school, I called the cops.
Sheena didn't have a great relationship with the cops. She had a record. When I called and told them what happened, they went through the motions. Five foot seven. Long, curly black hair that goes down to her waist. Last seen getting high with some asshole behind a Circle K. It was pretty obvious that they weren't going to do anything. People like my mom go missing all the time and in most cases they're just off somewhere getting so high they forget to come home. They told me to follow up if I heard anything and said they'd be in touch. As much as I hated my mom, she was still my mom. So the next day I skipped school and decided to go pay Mister Perfect a visit. He lived in a pretty sketchy neighborhood, but during the day it was safe enough.
When he opened the door he was surprised. He said I was the last person he expected to see. When I asked where my mom was, he said he hadn't seen her in a couple days. I told him I didn't believe him and threatened to call the cops unless he told me where she was. His attitude changed. He said that the last time he saw my mom, they'd broken up. He broke it off with her because apparently whenever she came over he'd find things missing. Eventually he confronted her about it and she flew off the handle and stormed out. He assumed she went home. Obviously she didn't.
He thanked me for letting him know that she was missing, and told me he'd try to help find her. He even offered to call me a cab, but I said no. On my way home, I stopped by a few places where I knew my mom used to pickup, but no luck. I remember it was really cold that day, the sun didn't even come out. The wind was hurting my cheeks, so as much as I wanted to keep looking, I eventually gave up and went back to our apartment.
The first thing I saw when I stepped off the elevator and into the hallway was that our front door, which was halfway down, looked like it was open. My immediate thought was we'd had a break-in. Wouldn't have been the first time. So I've got my phone in my hand, 9-1-1 ready to go, and when I get to my door, I'm expecting the worst. But when I turn the corner, it looks like everything is right where it should be. Still very paranoid, I go in further, through the kitchen and into the living room. And there, lying in the middle of the floor, is my mom. I rush over to her and see if she's okay. Her skin is ice cold and her jeans are covered in wet leaves and dirt. I try to get her to wake up but she's just out cold. I ended up calling 9-1-1 after all. The docs at the hospital said that she showed signs of exhaustion and dehydration. I told them that she was missing for two days. They examined her feet and found bruising on her heels and signs of extended blistering. Like she had been walking the entire time she was gone.
She didn't regain consciousness until the following night. When she finally woke up, I was asleep in a chair next to her hospital bed. And the first thing I hear, I swear to god. she's cursing at me. Shouting. Asking why the hell she's in the hospital. The nurses come in to see what's going on and I'm crying and she's screaming, belligerent. We all explained to her what happened and she just starts like ranting about how she doesn't need any doctors and she's not going to be paying for any of this. She demands to be discharged immediately and storms out, practically yanking the I.V. out of her arm. I grabbed her hand to try and stop her and she looked at me, like right in my eyes, and. I let go. I had to. It was like I had just put my hand around a hot curling iron. Like not physically, but like, the feeling in your heart? That jab of pain and fear? That's what it felt like.
I could barely keep up with her all the way home. I kept trying to get her to slow down, but she wasn't listening to me at all. She was nearly barefoot. She didn't have shoes or socks or anything. The docs had given her these like, paper hospital slippers but they weren't really meant to be worn outside. They'd practically fallen apart before we were even halfway home. She didn't seem to notice. Finally we make it back to our apartment and she just goes into the living room and stands there in the middle of the carpet. Staring out the windows. I ask her how she's feeling, if she needs to lie down or if she's hungry, and she doesn't seem to hear me, she's just blank. Like she's asleep or something. So, after standing there for a few minutes trying to think of what to do, I sort of gave her a poke. And she shouts and jumps like I'd startled her, and looks at me like she's scared and says, "Baby, where've you been?"
It scared me because, it was like she had suddenly become like a kid. A child. And I was like, "What do you mean? I've been right here at home alone. Waiting for you. I've been looking for you all over the place. Don't you remember?" She didn't really answer, just sort of stared at me and then out of nowhere she says she's thirsty. And hungry. So hungry. So I have her sit down on the couch while I fix her something to eat.
It was. it was a trip. I'd always like, taken care of her, but this was weird. It wasn't like taking care of someone who was a grownup that got sick. She really was like a little kid. Her eyes were big and for the first time in my life I realized that I was actually a little taller than she was. You know, physically. She finished her food before I had barely sat down to eat myself, and she chugged an entire pitcher of water straight from the pitcher. When she was done, she asked if there was any food left, and I told her that I didn't think she'd be so hungry so I only made enough for just the two of us. I don't remember what it was. Just that I gave her a little of what I had and she sort've sulked like she was still hungry. I guess it kinda made sense, right? I don't think she ate or drank anything the entire time she was gone. That night though. that was...
I was sleeping in my room. And like, I don't know why I woke up. It was really late at night, maybe even early morning. And I'm lying there suddenly awake and I'm sort of dazed because I was sound asleep, like deep asleep, and it takes me a while to realize that I'm even awake. But when I do, I open my eyes to look at my clock, and I scream because I see a person. Standing right in my doorway. All the lights are off and I can just barely see the outline. I almost pull the lamp off my nightstand trying to turn it on, and I realize that it's my mom. Curly hair all disheveled, hanging down around her face.
"What the hell?" I ask her. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" And even though she's staring straight at me, it's like she's frozen there. Like a statue. It's just like when we got home the day before. It suddenly occurs to me that maybe she's sleepwalking. She never did it before, at least, not that I knew of, but something new had obviously happened and maybe sleepwalking was like, a side-effect of whatever was going on.
So I get up out of bed and approach her. As I do, I notice her eyes, which were staring straight at me, stay fixed on the spot on my bed where I was laying. I very, very gently put my hands on her shoulders and try to guide her back to her foldout in the living room. The whole time she keeps her eyes locked on that spot. Even when she can't see it. I help her lay back down and it was almost like putting a doll to bed. I reach down to pull her comforter up and tuck her in, and when I glance back at her. she's staring at me again. I try to stay calm and pretend like everything's normal so I don't accidentally startle her awake. Because I still think she's sleepwalking or whatever. I tell her to get some sleep and to have sweet dreams and then I slowly, carefully, back out of the room. I guess I was afraid to turn my back on her. When I get back in my bedroom, I lock the door and put my clothes hamper up against it.
When I woke up the next morning, it took me a second to remember that what happened the previous night was really real. I stayed in my room for a long time, afraid of what might happen if I didn't. But I was getting really hungry, and I had to use the bathroom, and eventually I just couldn't wait any longer and realized that I just had to do it. Just face whatever was going to happen. I told myself that it was just my mom, and I was being stupid. So I go out there and I find her. Lying on the foldout, just where I left her. As I crept over to her bedside, it looked like she was very still. Like, almost too-still. Suddenly, I'm worried that she might be. you know, dead. And I lean down, as carefully as I can, to her nose. To see if I can hear her breathing. All of a sudden there's a knock on our door. It scares the shit out of me. I look through the peep hole and see this police officer standing there in the hallway.
I put on the security chain and pop the door open like, "Can I help you, officer?" He says he's here to follow up about Sheena Stempelton. That's my mom's maiden name. And I'm like, "Oh, I forgot. It's been a really weird past couple of days. We found her. She came home. He asked if he could come inside, and I think to myself "Why do you need to come in?" But I don't say that out loud. I say, "She's sleeping right now. Maybe later?" He gives me this weird look, like he's trying to read my mind. He tells me he tried to call several times but got no answer. I say yeah because our phones are still shut off. Then he asks me if I'm okay. But he didn't say it like the word, "okay," he said it like you could hear the two letters. O then K. "Are you O.K.?" And. I wanna tell him I'm not. I wanna tell him that I'm scared. But. People like my mom. People like *us*. It's like I said. My mom has a history, a record. So I tell him I'm fine. Everything's fine. He can come back tomorrow if he wants. He thanks me and walks away. I watch him go until I can't see him anymore and then double-bolt the door when he's gone.
My mom just slept through the whole day like that. Around dinner time I wake her up to see if she wants to eat, but she's out cold. If the phone was on I would've called the doctors or something, but the only way I could get ahold of anyone now was either to ask my neighbors if I could use their phone, or to call 9-1-1, and honestly neither of those options sounded very good at the time. So I told myself I'd give it one more day and then if she still wasn't back to normal I'd figure something out.
I took a shower before going to bed, hoping to be able to unwind a little bit after all the weirdness and whatnot. But as I'm rinsing off, I hear the bathroom doorknob jiggling like someone is trying to open it. I shut the water off so I could hear better, and it stops. So I call out, "Mom? Is that you? I'm in the shower!" and wait for a response. And it's quiet. Just totally silent. But then I hear this little shuffle, and it's not through the wall or like outside the door. It's the sound of someone's feet, shuffling on the bath mat right outside the tub. We had one of those opaque curtains, so you couldn't see through it. So I'm like, standing there holding my breath and freaking out because somehow there's somebody in the bathroom with me and they're not saying anything. The shuffling stops and everything is quiet again. It's quiet for such a long time that I start to think that I imagined the whole thing. I feel like an idiot for standing there for so long and finally go, like in my head, "if they wanted to hurt me they could've attacked me by now and they didn't." So I pull the curtain back and. how do I explain this. There's someone standing, naked, on the bath mat in front of me. I scream as loud as I can and. I punch my mom in the face so hard that I could feel her teeth behind her cheek.
I slipped and fell backward in the tub, holding my hand which I was certain was broken, and hit my head on the soap rack as I curled in a heap in the draining water. And then. as I'm staring up, horrified at my mom, blood is just pouring down her face and down her breasts and I'm in pain. the door. someone starts knocking on the door. Really hard. Like slamming their fists against it over and over. They're banging on it so hard I can see it shaking in the doorframe. I can hear the doorknob rattling and all I can do is scream. I screamed and screamed until I lost my voice. There was nothing else I could even think to do. I mean, what would you have done?
You can't even imagine what it was like. My mom, she's still just standing there as this is all happening. And she turns around to look at the door and she begins to raise her hand, like reaching for the doorknob. And I beg her, beg her not to open it. To leave it alone. I tell her it's not safe, I just start repeating that phrase. It's not safe, it's not safe. The door opens. And. It's my mom's ex. Mister Perfect. He's standing there in the doorway. Holding a baseball bat, ready to swing. My mom just collapses, like passes out. He catches her as she falls over and he realizes there's blood everywhere. All over him, the floor. And I'm just like, curled up in the shower butt naked hiding behind the blood-soaked shower curtain. I can't imagine what it must've looked like.
He says he got worried after my visit and since he hadn't heard anything in a couple of days he thought he'd come over and see if there was any news. I wrap myself in a towel and try to explain what just happened, but I don't even know where to start. Nothing makes sense. He says when he came in, he heard screaming and banging coming from the bathroom. I ask him, you weren't the one banging on the door? He just looks at me. He lets me dry off and get dressed while he calls an ambulance. Then, as I'm dressing, there's a knock on my door. I tell him I'll be out in a second, and through the door he says he can't find my mom. And I'm like, weren't you just out there with her? He says he had to go outside to get better reception and when he came back she was gone. I follow him out into the living room and there's just a pool of blood on the carpet where she was lying, and no sign of her anywhere. We start looking for her and I'm calling out like "Mom? Where'd you go? The ambulance is on its way."
We split up to try and see where she went. I'm like, outside in the cold barely dressed, and just as I'm really starting to freak out, I hear him start shouting. And it's like he's scared, the way he's talking. I rush over toward his voice, thinking something's wrong with my mom, like maybe she got hurt even worse somehow, and I see him. Like, in my doorway. But it's not right. His... his feet... He was dangling in the air. There's this awful gurgling, crunching sound, and he's trying to scream but it's all choked and quiet. Then he goes limp and he suddenly drops to the floor in the doorway.
I start to get closer to see if he's okay, but then I see this, shape, this shadow, that I can't quite understand because it looks like... hair. Long, stringy, curly black hair, descending behind the top of the doorframe. It's kinda wet, there's something dripping from it. Then, peeking out from behind the hair, I see my mother's eyes. Wild and open. Staring at me. Her body continues to descend, head first. And, God... she begins to crawl out of the door. Upside down, on the ceiling. Toward me. I was so scared that I couldn't even scream. The next thing I knew I was flying down the stairs, practically leaping from landing to landing.
I guess because of all the noise, a few of the other tenants in the building came out to see what was going on. I knocked over the superintendent as I ran outside into the street. Behind me the whole time, I could hear her... shrieking. Calling my name. But I don't look back. I never looked back. I just ran. I kept on running. I've never stopped.