Let Us In

📅 Published on September 16, 2020

“Let Us In”

Written by Tausha Johnson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 12 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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“If the children come knocking at your door and ask to enter, you must never invite them in or they’ll devour your soul.”

 

“Is that what she screams about?” I ask.

“Shh, you’ll unnerve her.” Nurse Monro, the nurse who’s training me on how to handle difficult cases, frowns. She ticks something off on her clipboard then turns and smiles at the old woman in the wheelchair. “Apple crumble’s on the menu tonight. I know it’s your favorite.”

Mrs. Bethlam makes no response.

Margaret Bethlam is Birchwood’s oldest resident and rumored the most clinically insane. Though ninety-five, she’s as hot-tempered as a teenager. I’ve been told it takes “special” treatment, and sometimes a straight-jacket to stop her from banging her head against the wall or to restrain her from biting.

Seeing her now, sitting here as placid as a stone, I can’t imagine it.

“She may look like death, but she’s still got all her teeth,” Nurse Monro says in a low voice, so Mrs. Bethlam won’t hear. “They’re her weapon, her defense against what she believes are foreign invaders trying to get inside her. She once bit off a nurse’s forefinger when the nurse tried to feed her mushy peas, so let that be a warning to you. She’ll rip into your neck if she’s given the chance. You’re a wild one. Isn’t that right, Margaret?”

Mrs. Bethlam doesn’t answer but stares through us as though we are invisible.

* * * * * *

“She thinks we’re all evil black-eyed children wanting to possess her,” Tess, another nurse working the woman’s ward, tells me during our break. “Half a century here and she still believes that. Makes you wonder about all the pills we’re feeding them. At least it keeps them quiet for a while.”

“Black-eyed children? That’s a bit creepy,” I say, hoping she’ll tell me more. I don’t dare ask Nurse Monro; she forbids us from discussing their delusions, says these walls have ears and gossip only encourages neurosis.

Tess smirks. “This whole place is creepy. Don’t you know? The halls are crawling with ghosts.”

I look around, intrigued. Ghosts? What’s she trying to say? Does she think the hospital is haunted? I stare at the bleak gray wall in front of me, waiting, as though it might respond. Nothing. No phantom whispering in my ear. No cold drafts. No white orbs hovering in the shadows. Funny, I don’t feel scared. If anything, I feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Ghosts or no ghosts, I’m convinced I can do good here.

“Listen, this place will drive you mad if you don’t take care.” Tess turns and disappears down a long corridor.

Corridor after corridor. A maze. A communal hive that must be protected.

Inmates, now called “patients,” are here for psychotic disturbance—paranoia, schizophrenia, mania, melancholy . . . I’ve heard strange stories, but their delusions are just that: delusions. Ms. Brock insists the CIA are after her because she knows who shot JFK. She believes Birchwood is a government prison and the food is filled with truth-telling drugs. Mrs. Roth hears voices that tell her to cut herself and pull out her hair. And Katherine Walsh believes someone is trying to control her brain through the TV. But Mrs. Bethlam, her history and delusions are just plain spooky.

Later, when I find Tess in the break room, I convince her to tell me more.

“She was dressed as a witch that Halloween.

“A doctor’s wife and the daughter of a wealthy farmer, she lived a pampered life in a Queen Anne mansion on Warm Springs Avenue. At one end of the avenue was the old penitentiary; at the other, the town’s oldest cemetery. The house, like something out of a Gothic ghost story, was just the kind of place that invited stories about dark family secrets, hauntings,  murders, suicides. Neighborhood kids dared each other to knock on the door and run away. Their scavenger hunts always included an item from the property: a stone, a leaf, a blade of grass . . .

“On Halloween, the dares grew more vicious. They’d egg-bomb the windows, spray-paint Murder Mansion on the lawn. But that Halloween, Margaret Bethlam had her own trick. Instead of candy, she gave them cows’ eyes collected from her father’s slaughter house. The kids, as you can imagine, were not pleased, so in the middle of the night, two children appeared at her door asking to be let in—a trick to spook her.

“Night after night, they came to her door, dressed all in black demanding she let them in. She claimed their eyes were all pupil. Black as space. Full of darkness. Thing is, no one else, not her husband nor her maid, saw them. They said they watched, gobsmacked, as she shouted at the air. No one was there.”

“She suddenly became insane?”

Tess shrugs. “We prefer to use the term mentally disturbed. Remember, we must never let them hear that word. Especially around Nurse Monro. Besides, they don’t need to know. Most of them think they’re in a country club. It’s better they believe that.”

* * * * * *

I’ve been assigned to clean Mrs. Bethlam’s room. She’s apparently less “disturbed” when we only enter to clean. Treatments and injections enrage her. While insulin and electric shock treatments would shatter her bones, she’s the ideal patient for drug therapy. With the recent breakthroughs in anti-psychotic drugs, she can be pacified. Still, she puts up one hell of a fight when it’s time to take her meds. Luckily, I’m not allowed to administer Mrs. Bethlam any drugs until I’ve been properly trained.

“Do you know budworm girdle trees while laying their eggs on the underside of needles?” Mrs. Bethlam says as I change the bedding. “They’ll feed on the ends of needles causing the tree to die after repeated infestations, especially if attacked by the larvae. The larvae are the most destructive.”

I glance around the room, cautious. Is there anything besides her teeth she could use as a weapon? A razor under the mattress? How long are her nails? But Mrs. Bethlam doesn’t look like she could kill anything, not even a bug. She’s weak and defenseless sitting slumped over in her chair. Looking at her, I imagine she must’ve been attractive in her youth. Now everything’s brittle and gray. Sunken.

“I didn’t know that,” I say.

“You young people don’t know very much, do you?”

A laugh of relief escapes me. “You could be right about that, I don’t even know what a budworm is.”

She stares at me as if contemplating whether to trust me or not. “It’s a caterpillar.”

“Well, see, I know now. I have you to thank for it.”

“Hmm.” She remains quiet as I finish tidying the room, though I know she’s watching, on guard in case I try to give her an injection.

When I finish, I gaze out the barred window. The sky is a cloudless blue. The apricot trees are in bloom, and the magpies have made their presence, squawking for food. It’ll be summer in no time. “What a beautiful day. Maybe you’d like to go outside and get some fresh air?”

Shocked by my suggestion, she takes a sudden sharp breath and holds it for a moment. I wonder when she went outside last. They couldn’t have kept her inside all these years, could they?

She doesn’t answer my question but asks, “I’ve never seen you before. You’re new, aren’t you?”

“You’re very observant, Mrs. Bethlam. Yes, this is my first week. I’m Nurse Anderson, but you can call me Clarinda.”

“Clarinda?” She stares at me astonished; she’s confused again.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“But how can that—what happened to the other girl?”

“Who?”

“The other nurse. The tall one, the blonde.”

“I don’t know.”

“I know,” she says. Her hands tremble, like something’s under the skin twitching to get out.

* * * * * *

After a week of cleaning Mrs. Bethlam’s room, I’m promoted to giving her baths and meals. She doesn’t object to the baths, but mealtimes are a struggle. Like Ms. Brock, she believes we put drugs in the food that alter her thinking. Or, as she says, make her “brain dead.” Even though I tell her there are no drugs in the food and that she needs her nutrients, she’s still suspicious.

I’m trying to spoon feed her mashed up meatloaf and potatoes when she says, “I’ll eat if you promise to take me outside.”

According to Nurse Monro, Mrs. Bethlam hasn’t gone outside the woman’s ward for years on account of her panic attacks. Just leaving her room causes fits. The only places she ever goes are to the dining hall or to the baths for water therapy. Even then, safeguards have to be taken so she won’t harm herself or others.

“Last time she went to the dining hall she thought the rice was full of worms trying to get inside her. She caused absolute chaos. Chaos. Now we can’t have that, can we?”

#

When Nurse Monro isn’t around, the other nurses get a kick out of talking about the patients’ illnesses. Honestly, I’m disgusted by how they speak about Mrs. Bethlam. Like they’re all desperate for her to die. Like she’s a burden and a waste of breathing space.

The truth is, I enjoy my time with her. In some ways she reminds me of my mother, my gentle, kind mother who was my closest friend before dementia ate away her brain. As difficult as it was watching her lose herself, it made me want to become a nurse and help those who are on the edge of this life and the next.

“But doesn’t she have any family who visit?” I ask some of the nurses as we have our lunch in the staff room.

“No. Not unless you count her black-eyed children who keep coming around,” says a boisterous nurse named Penelope.

“Black-eyed children. I’ve heard about them,” I say. “If the children come knocking at your door and ask to enter, you must never invite them in or they’ll devour your soul.”

Penelope laughs. “So the old crone Bethlam told you, eh?”

“No, Tess told me.”

“Tess?” Penelope’s eyes widen. The room is so silent I can hear the florescent light above us buzzing. Muffled cries echo down the corridor.

“Yes, Tess. She told me the story.”

The nurses exchange sideways glances.

“Oh, honey.” Penelope bites her lower lip before continuing. “Tess isn’t here anymore.  You’ve taken over her position. You must mean someone else.”

I don’t understand. I’m sure I spoke to a nurse who said she was Tess. “A tall woman with blonde hair. Forty something?”

“You must be seeing a ghost, darling. Tess passed away weeks ago.”

* * * * * *

I promised I’d be responsible for any problems that might occur if I took Mrs. Bethlam out for a stroll around the grounds. She walks at a snail’s pace, and she’d be in her wheelchair anyway, so what could happen?

In my opinion, nothing outweighs the positive effects of fresh air and physical exercise for sound health. This proves to be true for Mrs. Bethlam. She blossoms. Her gray becomes a stunning silver and, during her bath, I notice she is gaining color.

Nurse Monro remains emotionless about Mrs. Bethlam’s improved state. No pleasure. No gratitude. In fact, starting next week, she wants me working with another patient; she’ll be taking care of Mrs. Bethlam for a while. I get the feeling she’s jealous or doesn’t believe the old woman’s peace of mind will last long.

It doesn’t.

I wonder if Mrs. Bethlam senses I’ll be leaving because on my last day with her, she has a relapse. I’m giving her a bath when she becomes agitated and asks if I’ve seen the children.

“The children? No, I haven’t seen them.”

“If you do, don’t let them in. They’ll ask and ask, but you mustn’t let them in.”

“Okay, I won’t let them in,” I promise, and she’s calm again.

I sponge off gray flakes of skin. My senses may be deceiving me, but the new skin looks pink and feels soft as silk.

* * * * * *

The other nurses are exchanging stories about the patients again—Jessica Thompson believes Joan of Arc is sending her messages in her coffee; Mrs. Roth was found eating her own feces; Mattie McBride thinks she’s the Virgin Mary—when I blurt, “I wonder why she sees black-eyed children?”

As if I’d asked the forbidden, they all hush.

Penelope finally breaks the silence. “Don’t you know?”

“I only know she’s a patient here because she thinks she sees children with black eyes.”

The nurses stare at me, unblinking, like they’re trying to figure out if I’ve lost my marbles and believe in these black-eyed children. After what I’d said about talking with the dead nurse Tess, they probably think I’ve got a screw loose.

“She thinks she’s talking to her dead children,” Penelope whispers just loud enough so we can all hear.

“I, I didn’t know she had children. They’re dead?”

She nods. “They’re buried in the cemetery down the road from her mansion. She’s the one who killed them. Drowned them in the bathtub. She said they weren’t right, said they wanted to possess her.”

I’m speechless. Why hadn’t anyone told me?

She thinks they’re still alive and believes they’re coming back to take her with them. She’s raving mad.”

Penelope goes on to tell me the idea of black-eyed children is not something invented by Mrs. Bethlam. Apparently, it’s a kind of legend, like vampires and werewolves. Stories have been told around the world of these children showing up at door-steps, demanding to be let in. Legend says that once you hear about these children, there’s a greater chance they’ll appear. They’ll come knocking at your door, and they’ll enter if you invite them in.

“And what happens if you let them in?”

“Dunno. But Mrs. Bethlam claimed her children were evil, otherworldly creatures. Then she murdered them.”

“My God. People actually believe these kids come to their houses asking to be let in?”

“Yeah, but you know they’re all crazy. Too many crazy people in this world if you ask me. But look on the bright side, we’ll never have to worry about not having work.”

The next day, I’m assigned to take care of fifty-eight year old Shirley Duncan. Mrs. Duncan is in for manic spells. Most of the time she keeps to herself, doe-like and mumbling. However, if she has an episode, she’ll self-harm by throwing herself repeatedly on the floor or into walls. When that happens, she’s immediately taken to the treatment room and given 15-20 minutes of electric shock. Sometimes she ends up with broken bones, but we don’t know if that’s from the ECT or from her falls. After the treatment, she’s calm again and no longer a threat to herself.

I find her in the common room, docile, sitting in her own piss. I get her cleaned up and brush her hair, which she seems to enjoy. For her age, she has lovely hair, though we have to keep it short since she once tried to strangle herself with it.

I wonder if Mrs. Duncan has ever seen black-eyed children, but I don’t dare ask. “Once you hear about these children, there’s a greater chance they’ll appear. I don’t want to put any ideas into her already unsteady mind.

She looks up at me and smiles.“You’re one of the good ones.”

“Aren’t all the doctors and nurses good here?” I ask jokingly.

She quickly looks around the room, making sure no one is listening. Her voice quivers as she whispers, “Some of them are monsters.”

“There are no such thing as monsters, Mrs. Duncan. Even if there were, I promise you, there are none here.”

“They all start good. But they change. You won’t change will you?”

“Of course not, Mrs. Duncan. I’m here to help you.”

“Because they become budworms.”

“Pardon me?” I ask, not sure I’ve heard correctly.

“Budworms.”

“What about budworms?”

“The larvae are the most dangerous.”

* * * * * *

As days then weeks pass, Mrs. Duncan and I grow closer. Sometimes she hallucinates and mistakes me for her daughter. It’s not recommended to become too attached to patients, but at Birchwood we believe by gaining trust, the quality of their lives can significantly improve. So, I don’t correct her when she calls me Miriam.

Although a bond is growing between the two of us, I haven’t forgotten Mrs. Bethlam. Unfortunately she’s confined to her room again, so I can’t see her as I would have liked. When I finally do get to see her, it’s only because she’s having a psychotic episode and Nurse Munro calls for me to help.

In a straight-jacket, Mrs. Bethlam hisses and screams,“No, you can’t come in. Go away!”

She believes she’s talking to her dead children. She thinks Nurse Monro is one of them.

I’m stunned when Nurse Monro uses the story to try to sedate her. “We are here to help you. If you don’t let us in, how can we help you?”

“You’re not my daughter!” Mrs. Bethlam scratches the air. I’m not exactly certain if it’s me she wants to attack or some thing only she can see.

“Hold her arms down, and do not let go,” Nurse Monro commands.

I do as I’m told and hold tightly onto Mrs. Bethlam’s fragile wrists. She’s surprisingly stronger than I would have ever imagined. The savage strength of a trapped animal fighting for its life.

“You’re making this much more difficult than it needs to be,” Nurse Monro says then leans in and whispers in the old woman’s ear.

Seconds after the injection, the old woman is smiling. “Clarinda.” Her voice floats, wind like across the room. “Ah, you’re back. Where have you been?”

* * * * * *

In the morning I ask about Mrs. Bethlam and Nurse Monro smiles. “After years of resisting, Margaret has finally succumbed.” Her voice is monotone, robotic almost. “The disturbance that plagued her mind is now gone.”

“Gone? How? What does that mean?”

“She’s in peace. We know the cure. We have the cure. If only they would stop fighting it. We are here to help them.”

I don’t understand what she means by saying she’s in peace, or we have the cure. Is Mrs. Bethlam dead? Or is she miraculously cured?

“May I see her?”

“Nurse Anderson, we have a purpose here. You have a purpose here. There’s something about you they trust. How good you are at bringing them to their senses. You can be assured Mrs. Bethlam is fine. You need to help Mrs. Duncan now.”

I am here to help, I tell myself as I search from Shirley. I find her in the common room, knitting what looks like a baby blanket. When she sees me, she smiles and waves for me to come sit on the bench beside her.

“What a lovely blanket,” I say. “Who’s it for?”

“Why it’s for you,” she says. “For my beautiful baby girl.” Looking at me, her smile suddenly fades. “Daughter, what, what’s happened to you?”

The terror in her eyes is so similar to Mrs. Bethlam’s, I worry she may be on the verge of an attack. “Nothing’s happened to me. It’s me. I’m the same as ever.”

“No.” She shakes her head, back and forth, back and forth. “You’re different. You’re not my baby girl. You’ve changed.”

“I haven’t changed.”

“But you have.” She trembles and gasps. “It’s your eyes. What’s happened to your eyes?”

I take a deep breath and smile. “Mother, it’s me, Miriam. I’m here to help you. If only you let me in.” My voice becomes insistent. “We are here to help. Come now, let us in.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Tausha Johnson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Tausha Johnson


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

More Stories from Author Tausha Johnson:

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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