I was 10 when I first heard rumor if it. “HOG WASH,” my father had said. “It is just Tim and Marjorie making excuses for how Claude is.” The rumor circulated through our small community for about a year. Then like that, it was over.
I never gave it another thought growing up. I never even gave it another thought through my years in nursing school. Since I started at the asylum, I have been haunted by that day every day for the past twenty-seven years.
Claude’s story always starts the same. “I was squirrel hunting on Mr. Vincent’s farm when I saw it. I was hunting along the base of Morton’s Bluff and had just shot my fourth squirrel. I was bending down to pick it up when I caught a glimpse of something shiny inside the cave at the base of the bluff. It was the devil’s staff. The staff had a blood red serpent with coal black eyes winding around the center. The eyes of the snake pierced my soul like a sharp dagger. On top of the staff was a black iridescent stone.
The stone was shiny like a mirror. I looked into the stone and saw the reflection of the sun and trees, but not my own image. I could immediately feel my heart darkening. Soon I felt as if my heart was as empty as a dry well. No feelings, no emotions, just an empty tomb inside my chest.