by Julie Jackson
photo by valante
Jeepers Creepers Contest Runner-Up!
“The man with no face is in my house again.”
I asked the caller to repeat herself. I was honestly hoping that I hadn’t heard her correctly.
“The man with no face is in my house again,” she repeated, in a childlike whisper. “He is coming for me, like he came for my children.”
I put my hand over the receiver, and repeated to my trainer what the caller was saying. This was only my third night at the Crisis Hotline, and though I had been warned repeatedly that I may hear the callers say disturbing things, this was unnerving me. My trainer, however, just rolled her eyes.
“That’s Candice,” she said dismissively. “She’s another ‘regular caller’. There is no one there. She is just batshit crazy. Politely tell her to take her meds and go to bed. Then hang up.”
I went back to the caller. “Is your name Candice?” I asked gently. She gasped. “How do you know? How do you know my name?” she shrieked.
“Candice, I need you to do me a favor. Can you do me a favor?” I said my words slowly and carefully, like I was talking to a small child.
“Yes,” she replied, sniffling.
“I need you to take your medication and go to sleep, okay? Can you do that for me? I would very much appreciate it.”
“The man with no face is in my house again,” she whispered, completely ignoring my request. “Do you know what he wants? I can tell you what he wants.”
I looked at my trainer, wide-eyed. She made a motion across her throat to cut the conversation. Candice was sniffling harder. I started to say something else, but my trainer took the phone. “Good night, Candice,” she said. “Take your medication, okay? Sleep well.” Then she hung up.
The “regular callers” were defined as people that called the Crisis Center frequently but were not actually in a state of crisis. There was a little book by the phones that listed several people. Of course there were a few perverts , and there were people that called because they were lonely or bored. There were people who were depressed or handicapped, and felt like the world was tired of them and their problems, and they just wanted to talk. And then there were people like Candice.
According to the book, Candice was a paranoid schizophrenic that resided in a nearby assisted living facility, and she had a phone in her room. She only called late at night, when the after-hours staff did not want to talk to her, or they thought she had gone to bed. She had been calling the Hotline several times a week for years.
I read the full entry and my heart went out to her. Sometimes in the calls she talked about her children, and gave nightmarish scenarios about them. The facility where she lived told the Hotline that her case was especially severe, and despite many drugs and trials she was still no better. I read this aloud to my trainer and she sighed.
“Yeah, Candice is pretty messed up, poor thing. But there is nothing you can do for her. You have to remember that after your training you will be here by yourself, Abby. You do not want to be tied up talking to her when a real-deal suicide call comes in. Just do exactly what you did. Be polite and firm, and hang up.”
I nodded. She was right. The Hotline was running short on volunteers, so most nights there was only one operator in the office.
“I can’t help being curious about what happened to her children, though. If she even really has any,” I wondered.
“Don’t ask her,” the trainer said with a chuckle. “Some of the stuff people say she says might get under your skin. Trust me, you probably don’t want to hear it.”
I was alone on my next shift. Every time the phone rang, I jumped. It was a slow night. Most of the calls I had were people stressed about money or a cheating spouse. One caller was afraid she was pregnant. No suicides. Towards the end of the shift, Candice called.
“You have to help me,” she begged. “He is back!”
“Candice? Can you tell me what is wrong? Have you taken your medication today?”
“He took my children. Have you seen them? Do you know what he did?” her voice was an urgent whisper. I pictured her hiding in a closet, clutching a phone. She was terrified.
“No, Candice, I have not seen your children. But I’m sure they are fine.”
“No! They are at the store, with the meat. They are in the packages. If you look, you will see them. They are ground up in the packages.”
My stomach did a flip.
Her voice was panicky and shrill. Surely someone at her care facility will be in to check on her soon, I thought. But until then, I decided to try to calm her.
“No, Candice. That is not true. I want you to think very hard, okay? Did you take your medicine? I want you to take your medicine. “
“Go see my children. The man with no face took them. Please go see them! The man with no face is going to get me next. I know what he wants! Do you know what he wants? I can tell you what he wants.”
I swallowed hard. Suddenly the office seemed bigger and emptier than ever.
“What does the man with no face want?” I asked softly.
“Candice? Candice!” I yelled into the phone. I heard other voices, far away, and then a throat-tearing scream. Several voices were saying Candice’s name, asking her to calm down. The phone hit the floor and clanged in my ear. Someone with a deep voice was instructing others to hold her still, and in my mind I could clearly see her being given a shot of something to knock her out. Finally there was only Candice whimpering, and then silence. Someone picked up the phone.
“Who is this?” the man with the deep voice demanded.
“C-Crisis Center Hotline. She called me a few minutes ago. Is she all right?”
“She is fine, just a little upset. We apologize if she kept you from other callers. We will be removing her phone now.”
“Wait! What happened to her?”
“Candice is…very ill,” Deep Voice replied slowly. “But she will not be bothering the Hotline again. Good night.”
“But her hallucinations are so vivid,” I pressed. “Please. I am a psych major at the university. I want to help her and others like her.”
He barked a laugh. “You cannot help her.”
“Why not?” I asked angrily.
“You are not a priest,” he said. “Look in the papers for Candice Lyon. Good luck with school.” Then he hung up.
Thirteen years ago, when my mother still protected me from the goings on in the world, Candice Lyon was on the cover of every local paper. The school reported her children to police after they missed a week of school. When officers arrived, they found an absolute bloodbath in the kitchen and the children’s bedrooms. Bowls filled with rotting meat covered the countertops. A commercial-grade mixer with a meat grinder attachment sat in the middle of the red-streaked tile floor.
Candice was in the bathroom, wild eyed and shaking. She was covered in dried blood and bits of flesh and hair. Police approached her while wearing full SWAT gear, including masks, and she went into hysterics, accusing them of having no faces. Finally, one of them took his helmet off, and he asked her what happened.
She babbled about a man with no face. At first, she could only hear the man, under the floor, scratching and whispering. Later she began to see him. Sometimes he did terrible things, and sometimes he made her do them.
Believing that she was a victim of a home invasion, the officer asked if she knew where the man had gone.
“Hell,” she said. “But he will be back to get what he wants.”
The officer felt for her. Police on the scene reported he put his arm around her, and asked her what the man with no face wanted. She whispered something to him. He never repeated what she said.
Later newspaper articles said the young officer complained to the police therapist that he was hearing noises and voices. She prescribed several drugs and took him off of duty, but nothing worked. He killed himself and his wife a month after his encounter with Candice.
I slammed my laptop shut, and scolded myself for reading such a horrific story when I should be in bed. My shift had been over for a while now, and I had class in just a few hours. I crawled under my blankets and yawned deeply. I was almost asleep when I suddenly heard the scratching.
Julie Jackson is 32 and currently resides in North Little Rock AR. She grew up in a tiny town outside of Memphis, TN. She is married with three spoiled bunnies. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, making jewelry, and doing decoupage. She has other works on Writer’s Carnival she would love for you to read, and her story ‘A Trick of the Light’ was published in Aurora Wolf’s April issue. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @JulieEmerson10.