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October 4th, 1994:
Dear Dr. Richards,
The following are notes from patient Matthew Wallenberg, Room 11. They were found scattered around his room, along with drawings of a grotesque half-human, half-dog creature. I hoped that you could take a look at his writings, which feature events from his child-hood, and evaluate his current mental state. Several of our men claim that this proves that he is getting worse, but…I don’t know. I believe this may be the most coherent bit of information we have ever received from him. I ask that you keep this a private matter, as letting this information out could cost my career. I don’t think we can afford to ignore this.
October 4th, 1984:
The cellar lights didn’t switch on right away, and I hoped they never would. I was the only kid in my class not scared of the dark, because I knew that it was the things you could see in the light that were the scariest. Dad started nudging me down the wooden steps one by one as the lights all started flickering. When we reached the bottom he grabbed me by the wrist and led me over to a large cage that smelled of sweat and p***. “Open it,” He said, looking and me and showing his yellow teeth.
I did so.
Dad picked up the cage with little effort and positioned is so the opening was facing the floor. He shook it until Shelby fell out, landing face first on the concrete floor. Blood trickled out of her nose. “Stupid mutt,” Dad said and laughed. He turned towards me. “See that stick in the corner over there?” He stuck his head in the direction it was in.
He smiled. It was a terrible smile. “Go grab it and bring it back here.”
I did so. I held it out to him, but he shook his head. He walked over to Shelby and managed to position her to four paws. She started whining, but her muzzle covered most of the sound. Her body was covered with bruises, and her eyes were bloodshot. I couldn’t even stand to look at her.
“Don’t look away! I want you to look at what happens to animals that can’t do anything right. Is this how you want to end up, son?”
I furiously shook my head. Tears trickled down my face, but dad didn’t care. He only cared if I made noise. I saw Shelby from the corner of my eyes, weakly squirming in dad’s arms as he held her up. She really was a stupid dog. Didn’t she understand that her moving only made him angrier. I wanted to yell at her to stop, but I know I couldn’t. It could just as easily be me in her place.
Dad’s hands squeezed more tightly around her waist, finally convincing her to start squirming and rest in his hands, limp. For a gut-churning moment I thought she might be dead, and I was prepared to make a run for it, but I noticed her faint breathing. “Hey, what the hell are you waiting for? You think I’m doing this for my own fun, brat?”
“Yes, sir.” I immediately slapped my hands over my mouth as backed away. I hadn’t meant to say that at all! The next image I saw burned itself into my mind, and I couldn’t bear to look away: Dad’s eyes swelled up and his face turned red as he puffed his cheeks out. He dropped Shelby and stood up. “I’m sorry.”
He kept walking towards me, his face growing more red by the minute. When he reached me he grabbed me by the hips and held me up in the air until we were face to face. The smell of his breath was even worse than the crushing pain in my ribs.
With one hand he continued to hold me still; he brought the other one up to my head and curled his hand into a fist. I shut my eyes, waiting for the pain. “Look at me,” He said. His voice had tuned into almost a low growl. I obeyed. I couldn’t help the tears from running down my eyes anymore, but I didn’t dare make another sound.
“When,” He started, and trusted his fist straight into my nose. Everything was dizzy, and I didn’t even get a chance to catch up. I felt blood trickling down from my nose.
“Did,” Another punch, this time hooking into my left cheek.
“I,” Another, this time the right cheek. I could feel both start to swell up and burn, as it he had lit them on fire with a match.
“Tell,” A fourth punch, this time slamming straight into my gut.
“You,” He must have gotten bored of hitting me at this point, because he threw me to the ground.
“To speak!” I felt the weight of his boot on my stomach. It slowly increased as he placed more weight on it. After just a few seconds I found myself unable to breathe, wondering if he could hear me gasping for air.
After what seemed like hours, he took his foot off. Then, he sat on the floor in front of me and began to cry. “My god…where did I go wrong with you, boy? Why can’t you be more like your mother was? She was so nice…so quiet…so…” His voice trailed off and he broke down, sobbing.
Usually the “breakdown segment” of punishment meant it was over. I hadn’t wanted to receive the punishment myself, but I supposed it was Shelby’s break. I turned my sore neck and looked towards the stairs. My whole body ached and stung, and all I wanted was a rest.
“Dad…is punishment over?”
For some reason, he stopped crying then. For a second I expected that his face would twist up again and he would decide to use his boot on my face next. I tightly shut my eyes, awaiting for him to yell at me for speaking again. He hated it when people spoke. But the yelling never same. Instead, I heard a peculiar sound from his direction—laughter. The kind of insane laughter that most people have enough sense not to try to join. I kept silent, and opened my eyes to see what was so funny. When I looked, his eyes were staring straight into mine. “Over? Now why would it be over after just that? Gosh you sure are stupid sometimes!” He started cackling wildly into the air. I didn’t dare speak back.
“What did you think I was doing all of that for, boy? S***s and giggles? None of that had to happen, and you know it. That was just your extra punishment for back-talking me. C’mon, get off of the ground. The real show hasn’t even begun!”
I tried to do as he told me and at least push myself to my knees, but I couldn’t even force myself to do that. Dad quickly yanked my arm and pulled me to my feet, clearly impatient. I saw that he still had the stick that I retrieved from the corner of the room; he handed it to me and smiled once more.
“Now son,” He said. “Do you know what I want you to do with this?”
I gulped and nodded slowly.
“And why am I making you do this?”
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure whether the question was rhetorical or not.
“Answer me, boy! And make it quick.”
I gulped again. Sobs suppressed themselves as I opened my mouth to speak. “Because I broke your beer bottle.”
“Good.” He motioned at the dog, which was still lying limp on the floor. We were both beat up about the same amount by now, although it seemed I had a slight more amount of strength than it did. Poor Shelby. She had been with us for years. As long as I could remember my dad being there, I remembered Shelby too, and that awful muzzle that she always had to wear when I saw her. It was a hideous contraction, and I wouldn’t know how to get it off of her if I tried. But I don’t think I would, anyways. As much as I love Shelby, her whimpering is torture to listen to. After all, better her than me. Dad told me once that they eat dogs in China, and it’s not like he thought about doing anything like that to Shelby. “There was plenty left in that bottle, and you just had to knock it off of the table. Well guess what? I’m going to give you a choice. Either you can use that stick to beat yourself some more, or you can use it on that mutt over there. Your call, brat.”
I mumbled my answer.
“What was that?” He made an exaggerated gesture as if he was trying extra hard to hear me.
“The dog…” I said.
“Good! Now, take that stick and raise it in the air.”
I did as I was told. At this point I could see that Shelby was perfectly aware of what was going on, because her eyes widened and made quick whimpering sounds from behind her muzzle. She was a beautiful dog, and I really was sorry, but I had no choice after all.
“Now hit her with it. Hard. I want to be able to hear it!”
There was nothing I could do anymore—I brought the stick down on Shelby’s torso with all my might, slowing down only when I felt the resistance of her skin hit the stick. She jolted around a little, but remained still afterwards. She probably hurt too much to be able to put up much of a fight. I didn’t need dad’s instructions anymore, either. I brought the stick up again, then down, in a repetitive motion until I could feel my arms were tired. If I was as strong as my dad I probably would have killed Shelby with the first strike.
I took a break, admiring my handiwork. Shelby’s stomach was bruised and cut and bleeding from a few spots. It was a miracle she could even live. What gave her the strength to keep living like she did? Even now I have absolutely no idea.
Behind me, dad was laughing up a storm. “Good, good!” He kept repeating this word—good—as if this was the best possible thing that could have happened. He looked at me. “I’m going upstairs to grab a beer. Look after the mutt while I’m gone. Have at it if you want to.” I nodded at him. My eyes were probably as animal-like as Shelby’s were at that point. I looked at her dad’s footsteps slowly disappeared in the upstairs hallway. Then…something odd happened—Shelby’s muzzle fell from her face.
There was an odd silence, and I’m unable to completely verify what happened next, but if I really do remember correctly, the seconds after Shelby’s mouth opened were the most terrifying of my life.
She spoke: “M-Matthew!” Her voice was weak, but the word still escaped from her lips fluently. My eyes widened, and I backed up, getting ready to scream. “Matthew, please! Don’t go. Don’t you know who I am? It’s me, me! Oh my god…please, tell me you know who I am…I..I…” She was interrupted by a spasm, during which she began coughing up an abnormal amount of blood.
Shelby continued to speak in between her coughs: “Matthew…run away…as far as you can…please get help…police, doctor, anyone…we aren’t safe here…tell me that you know who I—!” She started coughing more blood at the same time I heard Dad rushing down the stairs.
“Get away from him, you hairy mutt!” He jumped from the steps and landed on the cellar floor with a thud.
“Don’t believe him, Matthew! Please! It’s me—“ She tried to speak more, but dad caught her by the throat before she could do so. With his free hand he grabbed the muzzle and forced it back on to her. Of course she was still much too weak to protest.
I sat there, huddled on the floor, trying to make sense of what I saw. “Dogs can’t talk…dogs can’t talk…dogs can’t talk…” I heard Dad force Shelby back into her cage and slam the door shut. There was a little protest on Shelby’s part, but not much. She was a dog, after all. What could she do?
Dad walked me and placed his hand on my back. “I’m very sorry you had to see that, son. I promise you’ll never have to hear that mutt again.”
“Dogs can’t talk, right Dad?”
My speaking seemed to annoy him, but he didn’t say anything about it. “That’s right. So just forget about it. We’ll go out and get ice-cream. We’ll tell them it’s a treat for my trooper who hurt himself falling down the stairs.” He paused. “Your mother would be very proud of you.”
“I love you, Dad.”