Defeated, this weekend, I present a story with some plot holes (according to my husband, Tim). I accept his criticism and post my work anyway; it's the rules! My pre-selected log line is at the bottom, so don't peak! Here's the prompt and the theme is: FEAR
Katie stood in front of the other children, holding and consoling her distraught friend. In the next room, police had Ms. Birch in handcuffs. Katie waved goodbye to the asylum counselor as the police led her from the room and out the building.
Nobody liked Ms. Birch, the newest hire. They all hated her because she never laughed. People who don't laugh shouldn't be trusted anyway. They keep things like fear and anger all pent up inside until one day, they just pop. Just like Ms. Birch did when she went for Susie Cummings and started to choke her.
2 months prior
"Ladies, this is your new counselor, Ms. Lindsey Birch." The staff nurse gave a quick half smile and left.
The girls stopped what they were doing, almost in perfect unison. Whether playing with dolls or reading books, they all stopped with their eyes glued, not on the new counselor, but on Katie Mercer.
Girls ranging in ages 6 to 12 waited for Katie to speak. None looked at the newcomer. It was like she didn't exist.
"I'm Katie." Katie was 8 years old. Her parents had brought her to The Academy at the age of 5. They'd said she communicated on a level so out of reach of normal people that they'd been unable to care for her properly. Studies conducted by the field psychiatrist indicated Katie should remain at The Academy, at least until further studies could determine her level of influence.
"Hello, Katie." Lindsey nodded and acknowledged the girl. The new counselor wore a gray striped skirt suit and her hair was blonde and pulled back in a bun. Her black framed glasses made her look like an old school teacher. "How about we all make a circle with the chairs and let us introduce ourselves."
"We all know each other already." Katie set her hands on her hips and stared at the blonde. The other girls waited, some smiling, others giggling softly into their cupped palms.
“Okay.” The counselor walked over to a work station and set her briefcase down. She looked at another girl and said, “What is your name?”
“Her name is Kendra Stevens,” Katie spat out quickly.
The counselor looked at another, “And you are?”
“That’s Susie Cummings.” Katie again.
“Thank you, Katie. Though, I’d like for the girls to answer themselves.”
Katie looked at Susie.
Lindsey said, “Go on, Susie.”
Susie looked to Katie, expectant.
“You’ll be a toad,” Katie said, and then laughed. The other girls laughed in response, and their collective laughter filled the room with nervous energy.
“What do you mean she’ll be a toad?” Lindsey asked.
Silence spread across the room and Katie walked over to the story station, picked up a chapter book, and read aloud. One by one, each of the girls followed suit, retrieved a book, and read aloud. They all read different books and at different pitches, and before long, the entire room filled with a droning of voices indiscernible from one another.
Lindsey had witnessed a number of distraction techniques in her years of group study, but this was a first for her. Young children were not equipped to understand a collective effort such as this one. An unsettling nerve knotted in her stomach.
For the next two weeks, the sessions stagnated with the same outcome. She would try to interact with the group and Katie would deter the others from speaking. The girl would state they’d become horrible things such as snakes or spiders. Lindsey worked slowly with the group, hoping to assure the girls she was a permanent structure in the room, a technique most effective with younger patients.
Two things she noted in this group. In every session, each girl brought games or books to Katie, but they didn’t interact with each other. Each girl only interacted with Katie. Nobody but Katie ever spoke, and when she spoke, the collective laughter of the girls filled the room. This happened often. It was time to break the ice.
“Good afternoon.” Lindsay greeted the silent room of girls, minus Katie.
“Where’s Katie?” The girl known as Kendra spoke up, almost defiant.
“I asked the staff to let her have a day off from group session. I hope you don’t mind.” Lindsey knew she’d have a productive session without Katie as a distraction, and before long, some of the girls were talking to one another and a handful gave their names to Lindsey when she asked.
That evening, during dinner with her husband, Lindsey went on about her productive day.
“I can’t believe I didn’t think to do it sooner.” She tipped her glass of red wine toward Jack in a salute to success.
He winked at her. “You’re good at your job, Linds. They picked the perfect person to lead this group.”
Lindsey cut into her steak and its red juices poured onto the plate. “The power of suggestion isn’t common knowledge among young girls, though. I was surprised when the asylum contacted me to take this project. Katie has a rare dominant factor and she’s highly skilled with intimidation.”
“Will you work with Katie alone, or will she come back into the group?”
“My instructions to the staff are to keep Katie in her own cell during my sessions for at least another few weeks before introducing her back into the group.”
“Makes sense. You can’t have the lone wolf mingling with the sheep.”
"I think as a group, I can work with them, but when you get that one rotten apple it's almost impossible."
"I know. Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Levey stopped by to drop off the official notice from the Home Owner's Association lien on our property."
"God, she's such a bitch. She instigates this crap with everyone. We'll just pay the fine and be done with it."
The productive day and resolutions they'd brought together created the perfect evening and Lindsey slept hard.
Mrs. Levey screamed but there was no sound. She scrambled for the phone, and still, silence. She had been holding the wound in her stomach. The knife stabbed at her bloody hand and pierced the webbed skin between her thumb and forefinger. She grabbed what she could of the curly cord and fell to the floor, alongside the receiver, which bleeped a continuous drone.
Lindsey woke with a stiff back and slapped the alarm. She made her way to the bathroom, massaging the base of her neck and swearing off wine altogether. It was always the red wines.
When she arrived at The Academy, the girls were already sitting in their chairs, the same chairs they’d been sitting in the last session when Katie was out.
Lindsey could feel the edginess in the room when she walked in. The girls looked nervous, with the exception of Katie, who stood smug as if she couldn’t wait for session to start. Did the staff not adhere to her request?
“Let’s get started, shall we?” Lindsey sat in her chair at the circle, trying to connect reason to Katie’s presence in the room. The staff had been instructed that Katie was to remain in her cell during sessions.
Susie raised her hand.
Katie circled the group, as if waiting for the question she knew would come.
“Are you a murderer?” Susie asked.
“Excuse me?” For a brief moment Lindsey recalled her nightmare from the night before; the surreal murder of her neighbor. So unnerved by the dream, she actually felt the knife in her hand and the warm blood spill onto her fist while shoving the blade further inside.
Katie’s pleasure was apparent and the other girls giggled in almost perfect unison, as if cued by some silent whisper.
“Susie, why do you ask that?” Lindsey held onto Susie’s shoulders and shook her.
Katie grinned. “I told her you would become a murderer.”
When the guards pulled Lindsey off of Susie, she realized she had not been holding the girl’s shoulders. Somehow she’d found her neck.
She didn’t mean to choke Susie; she’d only been trying to get information from the girl. She watched the girls from the glass encased room, Katie consoling a frightened Susie. When the police arrived, they’d already made up their minds that she’d choked the girl intentionally, why else would they put handcuffs on Lindsey?
“Ms. Birch, you’re under arrest for the murder of Mrs. Levey.”
Lindsey recalled, in full detail, every gruesome plunge of the knife and every cry of disbelief uttered by the poor, old woman. Only then did it sink in. She had become a murderer by the suggestion of an 8 year old girl.
Log line: Kids teach a newcomer a valuable lesson in an asylum.