B.S. Lewis presents: Moonlight So Nada

Published on 4 June 2024 at 13:53

Manny had been comatose for more than three years before he told me about the trolley man. I wish he had kept his mouth shut.

 

When I started at Black Stump Psychiatric I knew that I needed to have thick skin. Not just because you’re going to hear every curse, slur and threat known to mankind, no. You also need thick skin because you’re going to get bit. A lot.

 

There were many deranged minds trapped within the sometimes padded walls of BSP, and not all of them were patients. Every day you’re there you think about quitting. From the moment you clock in til the moment you clock out, it is total chaos. Except in Manny’s room.

 

Emmanouēl Selinofoto was a complicated mind with a complicated name to match. He suffered from a cocktail of mental problems, which eventually led to catatonic schizophrenia. So by the time mutism and a deep stupor had led to a vegetative state, we figured he wouldn’t mind if we called him Manny.

 

His room became the only quiet respite in the entire ward. It was an island of calm in mad sea. It was an oasis, a rest stop for a staff member teetering on the edge of being pushed into another career or an adjacent padded cell. And, if I’m being honest, it was also a great place to sneak a smoke. 

 

Manny had been in a state of catatonia for over three years when he suddenly decided to get up. And of course, it just had to be during one of my smoke breaks.

 

I was sitting on a Cortech Radial Rocker Chair, which is behavioral health furniture speak for an uncomfortable piece of polyethylene shit. It’s durable, stain resistant, flame retardant; everything that you want in a chair except for comfortable. I was rocking in place and smoking my third Gauloises cigarette of the day, which I had been addicted to since my French ex girlfriend used to blow them in my face in college. It was at that time that Manny sat up.

 

He didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t say anything. He just sat up. Then, a moment later, he got up and went to his desk. His eyes were still closed yet he navigated his way perfectly. His muscles hadn’t been used in years yet he didn’t stumble a step. He just walked directly and confidently over to his desk and pulled out few sheets of scrap paper and a blue fountain pen. Then he started writing. When he was done, he went back into his bed and resumed his vegetative state. It would be an understatement if I told you that it scared the absolute bejesus out of me.

 

I stood up in a haze, and I don’t mean the smoke from my French cigarettes. It was my mind. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I couldn’t believe any of it. I had seen it, yet I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t. 

 

Or could I?

 

I peeked over at the desk. At the scrap paper which now contained..something. Was it some horrible shocking truth? Was it pure gibberish? Was it not even words? I mean, the guy did have his eyes closed.

 

Summoning all the nerve I could, I sucked down the last of my cig in one huge puff and ran over to read the written words. They were blue and they were clear. And they were the same words over and over again. 

 

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

 

I felt my skin break out in goosebumps. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I had to get out of here. I had to get out of here right now.

 

I spun and took only half a step before coming face to face with Manny, whose eyes were wide open. They were so bugged out and bulging that they seemed ready to burst. Two tight-skinned grapes, ripe with terror. His mouth opened and putrid breath poured out with each high pitched word that he screamed. The trolley man is coming! The trolley man is coming!

 

It didn’t matter how many hours and cigarettes passed after that. I only heard those words in my head. When I got home all the whiskey and weed in the world couldn’t help either. I only heard those words. I could smell them too. When I closed my eyes, I could see the words too. Scrawled out in blue ink. The trolley man.

 

I slept eventually. I wished I didn’t.

 

When I slept, I dreamt. And those dreams felt like days. My dreams all began in the same place. They began in an open field under an angry brown autumn sky. The field was full of pennisetum setaceum, red grass, which made the expanse look as if it were covered in chunky blood.

 

The grass grew everywhere. It formed arches and clumps and walls. I slowly picked a path through it until I came to a rocky incline. The face of the small mountain was peppered with caves, the entrances like dark gaping hungry mouths. I climbed as quickly as I could while avoiding the black mouths which all beckoned me to oblivion in their abysses. 

 

At length I came to the peak and the climb leveled off. The flat table of rock was awash with the pale light of the moon. I searched the entirety of it with my eyes and saw not one living thing sharing that space with me. There were no plants or any type of insect. No birds, no scurrying of critters across the rocky surface. Even the wind felt empty, desolate. There was only me and the moon.

 

Off in the distance, wavering at the very limit of my vision, I saw a trolley car.

 

I headed back down the steep slope, heading ever in the direction that I saw the trolley. I hoped against hope that it wasn’t some sort of optical illusion, like walking towards the horizon just to never reach it. After I walked a long distance, however, I noticed the changes in my environment. 

 

Above the trees, humming with electricity and intent, I saw a thick coil of electrical wire. Soon the trees and the red grass gave way to bare patches of dirt and long vertical wooden poles. I inspected one of the wooden poles closely. It was worn and rough. It was populated with little holes, more tiny gaping mouths, these ones formed by wriggling worms which were eating the poles from the inside out. As I walked, the poles became shorter. The wire hung limply and lower to the ground. I didn’t know what I was heading toward, but I knew that I was getting closer.

 

Soon the path I was taking was littered with abandoned trolley cars. The strangest part about that was the variety of them. There were broken down black ones and red ones from the 1890s. There were yellow vestibuled cars and green double deckers. They were all strewn about, rotted and rusted and ruined. Approaching swiftly in my vision was a solo car ahead of me. This one was empty but it looked new. The paint was fresh. The wire above it hummed with life and potential for movement. The air-brake beneath the car throbbed and crackled.

 

I decided to climb aboard.

 

Once onboard, I chose a seat near the front of the car. I sat down and glanced around. I saw that none of the upholstery was cracked or worn. There were advertisements lining the upper echelon of the transport, snappy and colorful pictures of hamburgers or celebrity gossip or lawn services. The biggest advertisement hung over the sole door of the car, making sure that anyone entering or exiting the trolley car would see it. It was a large black square, like a patch of night sky without stars. The square was overlaid with faint blue lines of text, which curved and faded and brightened and swirled. If you took a step back, the words seemed to form the shape of a moon. Or then again, maybe it was a face. The words were the same ones, repeated ad infinitum, in a light blue color, almost bordering on periwinkle.

 

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

 

I knew right then I had to get off of the trolley. At that same moment, however, I heard the telltale swishing of doors opening.

 

With wide eyes I searched the wreckage and the tall red grasses surrounding the trolley. Illuminated by a sickly blue glow from the moon overhead, I saw a dark form materialize from seemingly nowhere and step into the open and waiting maw of the trolley car.

 

The dark shape faded in and out of focus, like a thought not yet fully formed. Atop the black shape I saw a hat take shape. It was between an orange and a brown, a shade between bronze and apricot. It was a canvas material that looked rough to the touch. White thread showed seamlessly around the borders, interrupted only by bright red snaps and a thick black cord wrapped around button of the same color. It was a trolley driver hat.

 

The shape below the hat slowly took form. A big white smile formed before the rest of the face. The rest of the face, which didn’t contain eyes but rather a long snout and a quivering nose.

 

The trolley man sniffed rapidly and then threw his head back, hurtling a blood curdling howl at the blue moon overhead. Then, he dropped on all fours and started to run directly at me.

 

I immediately leapt up to my feet and, before I could think it through, I threw my body whole heartedly against the window until it gave way, sending my sliced up body spiraling to the hard earth below. 

 

I ran without looking back. I ran without knowing if he continued to chase me, running on all fours like a hound, like a madman, like a demon. I ran until my lungs were on fire. I ran until the throbbing in my temples hammered my head into submission, forcing me to slow down and down until I collapsed beneath the black sky, only the moon and no stars above.

 

Eventually, it stopped. Eventually, I remembered it was a dream and I woke up. Upon waking, my nightmare still continued.

 

The alarm clock told me it was 10am. I was late for work. I showered and dressed quickly, the soap and the haste making the plethora of tiny cuts across my body burn and scream with protest. When I ran inside to clock in at Black Stump Psychiatric, my coworkers looked at me as if they saw a ghost.

 

“I thought you quit,” my manager said, shock apparent on his face.

 

“No, I didn’t quit. I’m only two hours late. I would have called but I slept right through my alarms, I’m sorry.” The shock on my managers face gave way to confusion, and then worry.

 

“It’s more than two hours…,” he trailed off and looked at me with a grim expression. “You haven’t shown up the last three days.” My ears buzzed and my stomach turned to sour soup. “What day do you thi - ”

 

Fear fueled my pace as I tore away from my manager and bolted right for Manny’s room. Manny, that Greek bastard. He must have something to do with this. He must have some answers. 

 

When I got to his room, it was empty. Scattered across the desk top were numerous scraps of torn paper, all bearing blue proclamations. I grabbed a handful and skimmed them.

 

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The trolley man never tires. The trolley man never sleeps.

I can’t run from him anymore.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

The world is empty. There’s only the trolley man.

March 16th 2020, it happened again.

 

The last note grabbed my attention and I began to read the full inscription. 

 

March 16th 2020, it happened again. It’s the same dream, the same place every night. Each night I find it harder to awaken from this nightmare. Each night I find myself an inhabitant of his horrid world. An empty world, save for the trolley man. There is no light, no stars, no life, no freedom. There is only the trolley man. The trolley man that runs on all fours. The trolley man that emerges from the shadows with a wicked smile and an ear-splitting howl. The trolley man who chases, who never relents. The trolley man that runs me into the ground.

 

The note ended and I impatiently searched around for the next sequential sheet. Finding it, I read on.

 

It takes longer to awaken every time I sleep. I fear that soon, the doctors here will force me to sleep. They will drug me up and then I will disappear, for they know not where they are sending me. They think it’s delusion. They think the whole thing is merely the hallucinations or a deranged mind. I’m afraid that nobody believes me. 

 

The first time I fled from the trolley man I didn’t wake up for two days. Then four. Then a week.

 

I gulped and shivered uncontrollably as I read on.

 

According to the dates in the papers, this last time I was asleep for a year. They think it’s catatonia. It isn’t. It’s the toll of the trolley man. Everyone pays. Everyone pays eventually.

 

I ignored the shouting at my back as my confused coworkers, looking to escape the chaos for a while and sneak a smoke or two, all see that I’m back and I’m pillaging the papers in the room that used to be Manny’s. I am only dimly aware of what they are saying. I search until I find the final entry. It was dated around the time I started working at BSP.

 

According to the best guess I can make, the next time I sleep it will be for over two years, maybe even longer. That entire time, I will be running for my life. Every nightfall takes me there and threatens to keep me in darkness forever. I do not know how long I can outrun him. It. That dreadful thing, howling in the moonlight and flashing big white teeth in my direction. Elpízo na xypníso xaná. Se parakaló min ton afíseis na me párei.

 

The shouting at my back changed in pitch and intensity. I spun around, panic gripping my heart and squeezing it for all it’s worth.

 

I saw Manny in the doorway. I saw only his big white smile, the rest of his face was obscured by the downward tilt of his trolley driver hat. 

 

As he howled, I cried.

 

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Comments

Charles
a month ago

It’s the 5th sense!

Jermaine
a month ago

he runs like a hound! lol

Rebecca
25 days ago

Great now I’m scared to go to sleep