“Will! William! Wake up! What are you doing?” I screamed at him as I scrambled to my feet and he made his way around of the foot of the bed for another swing. He was moving slowly with a vacant expression on his face that I had never seen before and could not read.
I needed to be on the other side of the bed where we began if I was going to be able to escape and as I did my best impression of scampering as I crossed back over the bed, I was vaguely aware that none of our pets were present for this event. Briefly I wondered what had occurred prior to my waking and had to push these thoughts away very quickly to maintain what little focus I had on the situation.
When I ran into the living room, I was astounded to find our two small dogs and our cat huddled in the corner of the room near the front door. Wondering what I had done wrong that had trained the instincts out of them that I needed right then (at least some barking, right?) and how those apparent mistakes might relate to the fact my son was trying to kill me, I raced to the door and checked behind myself as I unlocked the locks.
William was coming and based on the way he was walking, I finally settled on a working theory for what was wrong with him. It had to be some sort of trance or maybe he was sleepwalking. Either way, William was not home. His eyes were only half opened and when they looked in my direction, it was clear that whatever they saw was very far away.
Half of me knew that I should get out of the house, but the other half, still in disbelief over the whole situation, was determined to stop this madness and restore William to his normal self. As he slowly made his way towards me, I kept my hand on the door handle but turned to face him. In the seconds that it took to determine what I would say, the silence was eerie as if the room were filled an invisible fog.
“William, I want you to stop right there and put the bat down,” I spoke, as calmly as I could. “I don’t know what’s going on right now, but something is wrong and we need to try and fix it, right?”
He took three more steps towards me before stopping. He stood in the middle of the room facing toward me, swaying slightly from left to right as if only his feet knew he had stopped walking. He did not look at me, nor did he lower the bat. But I took it as a sign of progress and continued speaking to him.
“Will, put the bat down now, you don’t need it. We are going to figure this out but you have to put the bat down now.”
William suddenly became very still and for a moment I thought he might not even be breathing. And just when I thought I might have reached him, he took another slow step towards me. It was then that I heard a low pitched howl coming from our ancient rat terrier, Sam. Strangely, I found myself distracted by it because it was the saddest sound I had ever heard in my life. I looked down and Sam had stood and taken several steps towards William, who had once again become still.
I felt like I was in a dream. As Sam softly howled, I began to cry. I couldn't help but feel that Sam was calling to some part of William only he was able to reach. William slumped and dropped the bat. I froze and waited for what would come next and finally he slowly lifted his eyes to mine and spoke.
"Mom? What --," he said as he started looking around, finally seeing the bat at his feet. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure, Will. I think you were sleep walking or something. I woke up and you were just about to take my head off with that bat!"
"Holy shit, mom!"
"Sorry mom but really, what the hell?"
"Ok, ok, let's just both sit down, first of all. Just sit down and breath for a second....oh my god, that was scary," I said as I moved to the couch and sat down on the arm. I wasn't one hundred percent sure it was time to relax just yet.
Will moved to the chair across the room, sat down and then slowly slumped back, taking my level of alarm down about five degrees. "Mom, I think I know what this is about. Are you ok?"
I told him I was fine and not to worry but was eager to hear what he had to say.
Will lowered his head onto the cushion and stared at the ceiling. "I was going to talk to you a while back, but I just never seemed to be able to start the conversation. I felt like I was being stupid and thinking like a little kid who still believes in Santa and shit."
"Ok seriously, Mom? I don't think a few cuss words are gonna hurt. In fact, I think it was you who said they should be reserved for really bad shit so they didn't lose their meaning, right? Ok, I think this qualifies!"
I sat down on the couch and tried to relax a little bit more. "You're right, ok. So go ahead. Tell me about Santa."
"It's Mr. Crawford, Mom. He's fu...effin' evil, I think. Like for real evil like he might worship the Devil or something, I don't know. But it's like every day he gets weirder and weirder and honestly Mom, the only reason I've been sticking with this job is because I was a little afraid of what he might do to some of those kids. Like, he never exactly did anything out of line, like so I would think I could call the police, but it was just a feeling that he was just about to take it too far, maybe the next day. There weren't very many kids coming anymore and I was thinking he'd close the business pretty soon and I'd feel good about waiting it out maybe."
"Wait a second, kiddo. So, first of all, why have you not told me about any of this? I mean, I knew you were getting pretty fed up with the job, but I thought you were just sticking out because it paid so well."
"I dunno, Mom, like I said, I felt like I was being stupid or something. Imagining it. It wasn't like I ever saw any candles or pentagraphs or whatever. He just like oozed it or something. Then I would get home and kinda forget about it until the next day on my way to work. But today after we closed and were cleaning up, he offered me a beer and sta...Mom, stop. Just listen, ok? He started talking like he usually does about all the idealists and how communism is coming and that other bullshit he is always ranting and raving about. So he gives me another beer and..."
"Hold on, Will. Is the beer thing a common occurrence or what? How often have you been drinking with him?
"Mom I swear this was the first time. And now I don't think it was just beer, obviously. I think he's about to do some terrible shit, Mom. After that first beer, when I had barely started the second one, I started to feel pretty weird. Like too weird for just one beer."
"Well how do you know, Will?" I said, half kidding and not really wanting to hear the answer at that moment.
He rolled his eyes, another good sign, and continued. "Mom, he was talking about this old college buddy of his that had moved to Austin. Some biotech dude who did quantum physics or something. He was telling me how he was about to close the batting cages and go work for this guy and that they were going to, quote, fix this shit. That's when I started to get really fuzzy headed like literally there was dryer fuzz in my head. I didn't drink more than three sips off that second beer so there had to be something else in the first one. The last thing I remember before just now is hearing him say something about finding out tonight just how well the product worked."
I sat still just staring at him for moment, my mind racing to assess my son's well-being and state of mind and to comprehend what he was telling me. "Ok, kid. We are gonna need some help on this, I'm pretty sure. Get dressed while I make a call," I said as Sam and Blanca, our other dog, finally jumped in the chair with Will, convincing me finally that I didn't need to call for an ambulance just yet. We were definitely going to get a medical work up on William, but something was telling me that we should be quite careful about getting that done.
I stood to go get my phone, trying to think of one good thing that could come of both the biotech and quantum physics industries. And as I walked past William and the dogs I looked at Sam. He was giving me the look he always does, as if he understands what we say and is just waiting to be asked into the conversation. Maybe we should have been taking him a bit more seriously.