It started as a small sore at the top of her head, something that could have been easily ignored by anyone other than Gertrude Wells.
How she acquired this sore was not known, much like many ailments for Gertrude—scratches, bumps, bruises, nicks, and small cuts alike. Often she noticed them after the fact, not realizing she had hurt herself in the first place. She couldn’t even remember doing it.
Her pale liver-spotted skin bruised easily and raised in red bumpy fashion, bleeding without much warrant. A paper cut made her gush.
However, Gertrude noticed the spot on her head right away for one reason alone: it itched. It itched terribly. Located to the left of her part in the middle of her skull no larger than the head of a sewing needle. It was raised slightly, but so small that she could hardly feel it when she coursed her brittle fingers over her pinkish-white scalp.
Once she found the spot, insignificant in size as it may have been, she began to scratch. Scratch and scratch and scratch. She scratched it enough to make it bleed, where it then became tender to the touch, so tender Gertrude’s body shuttered at the pain, head sinking into her shoulders in one jerk.
She’d leave it alone for a day or so, allowing it to heal, a thin scabby layer forming, only to begin scratching it again, the itch insatiable, until that scab was cleaned off and blood formed. She repeated this pattern for several days until both the itching and the pain became a point of mild concern, which led Gertrude to make an appointment with her physician.
Her doctor, Mr. Tom Mallroy, a young (young to Gertrude) and handsome man with graying hair who had treated her for the past twenty years, was not worried. He examined the spot atop her head carefully and diagnosed her confidently—a simple irritation, nothing more. He asked her if she had started using any new soaps or shampoos, or had possibly gotten into something she was allergic to without knowing it. Perhaps she had started a new medication, a new supplement. Gertrude had frowned, thought about it, and shook her head. She wouldn’t have done those things without consulting him first.
Doctor Mallroy smiled at that and prescribed her an anti-itch cream to be applied after the sore had time to heal.
Don’t scratch it, Doctor Mallroy had said and chuckled, it’ll never go away if you keep scratching that scab off and I don’t want to have to see you back here treating you for an infection. Fingernails are loaded with bacteria.
Five weeks had passed since and Gertrude, a seventy-year-old woman living alone in a home far too big for her, had not stopped scratching. She had tried the cream, it didn’t work. The itch seemed worse to her, though part of her thought it was her imagination. Day and night it nagged on her, keeping her awake when usually she’d sleep. She’d begun skipping her usual activities: a brisk morning walk in the park behind her culdesac, Friday brunch with her oldest friend Lucille and the garden, oh God, that garden hadn’t seen water in at least three of those five weeks.
Again and again she’d pick that spot, scraping the scab off with her pointy fingernails and again it would bleed, never fully healing. It hurt to touch all the time now, but that didn’t stop her from digging.
That’s when the ringing began.
At first, Gertrude thought she might have left the television on, or maybe she forgot to adjust her hearing aids. Maybe it was the washing machine or the dishwasher, or the kids next door listening to music too loud, but no.
No practical thing produced the high-pitched whine that swarmed her ears and filled her head. Distantly she remembered that her grandfather suffered from tinnitus, especially in his later years.
Perhaps it was that, but no.
Doctor Mallroy busted her theory when she called him up on the phone.
Normally Gertrude would have just made another appointment, but something had held her back, and when Doctor Mallroy asked her to come in so he could examine her farther and check up on that spot on her head, Gertrude slammed her phone back in the cradle almost angrily with a swell of foreign anxiety rushing through her like blood when she’d stand up too quickly.
No, Gertrude would not normally do that, she would not ever do that. She was not impolite, she was not rude, nor was she impatient or callous. She walked away from the phone frustrated, eyes blank, itching her head.
Later that day, Doctor Mallroy’s office called and the receptionist left a message stating that her annual check-up was two and a half weeks away. This troubled Gertrude and she didn’t know why. She felt the same flash of anger toward the phone again. She didn’t write the appointment down in her schedule book, nor did she make herself a note. She let the message pass over her and didn’t think of it again.
She wouldn’t be going.
Gertrude couldn’t sleep, the ringing ever-more present and her head still itched, so, of course, she still scratched. It had become habitual now, unconscious, slowly overtaking the other parts of her life. She’d forget to brush her teeth, barely eating, her garden out back withering to a pitiful brown, whatever green was left cried out for help. She had itched so neurotically and so hard that she had created a small bald spot over her already thinning hair. The sore was growing. Flakes of her paper skin slough off, eroded by what was turning into a hole, blood so dark it almost looked black.
Any pain Gertrude felt couldn’t compare to the itch.
By the time her annual appointment had come, Gertrude had begun hearing voices. They were thin and high-pitched like the ringing and they didn’t speak in any English she recognized, no language she recognized, though she’d never been much of a connoisseur of anything outside of her fine state of Arkansas. Still, she was certain the voices were there, not just some noise, some indistinct sound.
There was a fleeting thought that those voices may be speaking in tongues, and moreover that perhaps these voices were those of angels, that this was some kind of divine summoning from the good Lord Jesus H. Christ himself.
But Gertrude needed more than mutterings to know, to know for sure, because where Jesus worked, so did the Devil, and He whispered smooth lies, lies soft and sweet and easy to the ear, easy enough for you to fall into entrapment.
So, Gertrude did as she believed she should. She listened and listened hard until the voices made themselves clearer. She sat in her chair and frowned and tilted her head as the rhythmic hum coursed through her, scratching that same spot, forgetting about her annual check-in.
She sat and scratched and muttered to herself. All night she went, ignoring the ringing phone and the subsequent message from her doctor’s office, informing her that she had missed her appointment and that she should call to reschedule. She forgot to put on her pajamas, she forgot to have dinner, she forgot to wish her granddaughter a happy birthday.
Sleep was out of the question. It had been years since Gertrude had stayed up past nine and there she was shuffling around her house with the lights out, digging into that hole in her head with her clogged up, blackened fingernail.
The hole had both widened and deepened alarmingly since its birth, now the size of a quarter, on its way to a half dollar. Black stickiness oozed, necrotic, aged skin swelling around it—a red ring irritated and bloating. Sometimes it would bulge and release, bulge and release so subtly it could not be seen by the naked eye.
Her snow-white curly hair, like a cloud, floated hopelessly above the hole, now noticeable to anyone taller than Gertrude, which was most.
She had left the TV on some static channel, its glow illuminating her footpath as she dragged her feet along and picked and picked and picked, spittle collecting at her crusty, hot, humming lips.
The more she picked, the clearer the voices became—angelic, yes they were, like girls and boys, sweet and innocent.
It was then, amid her clarity, that her phone rang again, pulling her abruptly and painfully from impending realization. It was Doctor Mallroy, a personal call this time. Mrs. Wells—Gertrude—this is Tom Mallroy. I hope I’m not disturbing you so late but I was concerned after, ah, after not seeing you in the office for your check-up today…please feel free to call me on my home phone if you need anything. Aeh-uhm, thank you.
The voices dimmed and Gertrude’s frustration returned. Frustration fixed at her phone and at Doctor Mallroy. She withdrew her fingers from her head, picked up her phone and threw it to the ground where it clattered.
Tom Mallroy, M.D., had been in the business of helping people for nearly twenty-five years. He was in his mid-forties and kept in good shape. He liked to exercise and felt accountable to follow the advice he gave his patients. Eat well, exercise, keep a good sex life, get at least eight hours of sleep, drink your water, the works.
Doctor Tom’s office was located just on the cusp of Sand Springs, a small but busy location, where he had a personal relationship with each and every patient. He knew all their names, and most of the time, the names of their family members. He was accountable, helpful, polite, and he did his job well.
He had become worried when his patient, Gertrude Wells, did not show for her annual check-up, a woman who he had had many annual check-ups with, none of them ever missed—and if for some reason she was going to miss one, she rescheduled ahead of time, apologizing both profusely and sincerely.
This was not like her.
So, Tom did the only thing that felt right in both his mind and his heart, and that was to make a house call, unannounced or not, he didn’t let that get in the way. A little check-in, that was all, and he was sure there was nothing to worry about.
Nothing at all.
Visiting and finding out that she was fine would provide him with peace of mind. That way, he’d be able to sleep tonight, get his eight full hours.
Since Doctor Mallroy’s call, Gertrude had gone from shuffling to pacing around her home, swollen feet banging against the hardwood floor, begging and crying for the voices of God to come back to her, for those sweet angels to return and sing and tell her what they had promised to tell.
She didn’t realize until full desperation hit her and flung her into the wall, pounding her fists, that since his call, she had stopped picking her head. This realization knocked the wind out of her. She pulled herself off the wall and plopped to the floor, taking both hands to the top of her head and furiously scratching at the spot, grunting and exhaling like an animal.
And soon, the voices returned, floated down to her from the lofty golden gates of Heaven. And she praised and praised joyously, picking some more at the gaping, dark hole in her head. And then, Gertrude began to laugh.
When Tom arrived at Gertrude Well’s home, he was surprised to see all lights out aside from the front porch. He approached the door, raising his finger to the doorbell and then stopped, noticing the door was slightly ajar. Fright stung him and he pushed the door open carefully.
“Gertrude?” he called. “It’s Doctor Mallroy. Just here to check in and make sure you’re alright.”
Tom stepped inside the foyer, flicking on the lights. His mouth slacked and his eyes took up his head.
Gertrude’s home was a mess. Lamps thrown over, couch cushions ripped open, TV cracked, vases split with the water spilled, and flowers laying limp, dead weeks ago.
“Oh, my,” Tom gasped and before he could think to do anything productive, Gertrude came lumbering out. It wasn’t until she stepped into the foray and into the light that Doctor Mallroy got a real good look at her, and at her head.
The left side of her skull was consumed by a gaping concave filled with sightless maggots wriggling in blackness. Gertrude’s eyes were wide and bulged; bloodshot, her mouth wrenched open in insane joy, dentures gleaming white, sparkling up at Tom.
Gertrude’s small frame heaved and her dark fingers wiggled. Tom’s horror held him in place, staring at one of the most lovely women he had ever meant, the same woman he had treated for twenty years, who got her prescriptions from him and sent him birthday cards and checked in on his two girls who were now going into their Senior Year of high school.
Something made him hold his hands up as if to ease her.
“Gertrude.” He spoke softly but shakily. “I’d like to get you some help, is that alright?” Tom didn’t really know what he was saying; the words just fell out of his mouth. His feet were not so quick. He couldn’t move even if he wanted to.
The voices, they spoke louder than they had yet, more powerful, with a clarity that transcended any place or time Gertrude ever hoped to be aware of in this lifetime or the next. And now, they spoke singularly, spoke one word, one command.
And returned to her was Gertrude’s anger, furious and crashing like tidal-waves. Now her eyes were rimmed with bloody murder, now her body heaved with lethal determination.
It is not known why Gertrude Wells, the seventy-year-old woman of Goodwin Loop Sand Springs, Arkansas murdered and cannibalized her doctor, Tom Mallroy, of twenty-some years that night. It is not known whether she was under the influence of some kind of disease or parasitic organism, psychosis, or schizophrenia as there was no history of that in her family, only tinnitus on her paternal side.
By some fringe groups, it is guessed that she was possessed by the Devil, and by others that extraterrestrial beings had taken over her mind using advanced technologies, and by an even smaller faction, that ancient spirits of the god Tull had invaded in the form of worms.
Anything supernatural in nature or otherwise has been unproven or disputed. The horror of Goodwin Loop has been deemed a tragedy, requesting all parties involved are left to grieve in peace.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in