The Strange Case of Liam Allsace
By Tom Foster
Some people have to be careful of the thoughts they allow into their heads. Take my son for example, good, honest, poor Liam. He was a bit of a problem child when he was born you know, but we still loved him, no matter what. I suppose most parents with problem kids see their lives through a daily routine of choices, what to do with them, how to snap the kid out of their current funk or destructive behavior, but when I say that Liam was a problem kid, I don’t mean in that regard. No, Liam had problems, but they were always, kind of strange.
What’s that? Oh no, no, no no no. Liam didn’t do drugs, hell he didn’t even drink once he came of age, I should know. Why? A mother always knows her child, or at least we like to believe we do. Liam was, well, he was different from a lot of kids. I know, I know, it makes so little sense to say a child is different, we’re all different in some way. But Liam was a bit more than that.
Well, I guess I could explain, but it’s going to sound kind of crazy.
“That’s okay ma’am, we’re used to crazy here.”
Yes, yes I suppose you are. They don’t call it Shady Acres Mental Health Institute for nothing do they? Ha ha! I suppose that you’re also used to people having things happen around them without having any explanation. No? Well, then maybe Liam’s story, which I suppose is now my story, will perhaps be a little beyond what you’re used to. Do you have your pen and paper handy? Oh, you use a recorder now? Oh yes, look at that little thing, how wonderful, the marvels of technology are just growing more and more curious. Don’t you agree?
Well, I suppose I should start, right? I could tell you that it began when my husband, God bless him and all, started working at that awful textile mill out in Happy Valley. It was one hell of a commute from that place to our home and back, but Andy did it each and every day. You see young man, he and I were trying to start our family at that time, we’d only been married two years and were still quite young and very piss poor, as the saying used to go. He worked his fingers to the bone, doing whatever was asked of him, working overtime and coming home at all hours of the night sometimes. He was a good man, a good, honest man.
What does a textile mill have to do with Liam? Oh, nothing I suppose. There’s no mumbo-jumbo going on in a textile mill that would have affected Andy or, by extension, myself. It’s not a comic book case as some of the other doctors would like to call it. But something did happen when Liam was born, something that neither Andy or myself were ever able to figure out. The boy was just, different, from the first day he opened his eyes to the day he closed them finally.
I say he closed them, and I’m not of the mind to become confused or exaggerate. God didn’t close my boy’s eyes, not unless He has a very cruel sense of humor. No one on this green earth closed my boy’s eyes but himself, and why he would do such a thing, I suppose no one will ever know. Andy and myself knew that Liam was troubled, and we did whatever we could to make our son happy, to make him, you know, normal. But that wasn’t enough.
Liam didn’t run around like other children, he didn’t read books, he didn’t like to watch television even when we had one. He just sat and stared at things for hours on end, even when other kids would tease him and poke at him for doing so. I can remember days when Liam would come home bloody and bruised because someone had taken it into their head that he was a retard. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to use that word, awful word it is, especially for a mother to use about her son. But Liam is gone doctor, and explaining why a thing happened isn’t quite the same as speaking ill of the dead. Wouldn’t you agree? Well pfah, even if you don’t it’s not like I need to care about your opinion. Doctors like you are the kind that saw fit to make my Liam’s life even harder when he got older.
“We’re not here to judge ma’am, just to get your story.”
Ha! That’s a good one you damned puppy! Oh yes, everyone is just interested in getting a story, something to laugh about in the faculty offices and pore over as though the subject was something more akin to an insect, just waiting to be dissected. It’s a cold profession that allows a person to detach emotion from what they do, but I suppose you’re used to that. Right?
“Ma’am please, I don’t-“
Oh pshaw! Enough of that “ma’am” crap. I might be old enough to be your grandma boy but I won’t be forced to sit here and listen to some damned kid patronize me. If you want this little morbid bit of entertainment to show to your colleagues and other interested parties you’ll sit there and just shut your mouth. I swear, just because you have a degree you think you can make others feel like they’re idiots. Isn’t that right? No? Well you can fool others sonny but you can’t fool me. I went to school too, back in a day when an education actually meant something, when the money you put in actually went to what it was supposed to. You damned young’uns today don’t realize just what hard is.
What? Oh fine, fine, I’ll tell the damned story. Now where was I?
* * *
October 30th, 1954
Liam Allsace was a bit different from other kids, and unfortunately he knew it. His mother and father had done everything they could in his life to make sure that he was made to feel as though he were just like anyone else, but like so many well-meaning parents, they had either failed or made things worse. He wasn’t any closer to beginning a life of his own than he’d been when he’d moved out of the house, surviving mainly on the routine, day to day existence that kept him alive, able to eke out a living and not much else. He wasn’t interested in anything, he wasn’t motivated by anything, and he didn’t really know why.
His father had tried to get him a job with the textile mill that had seen their family through so many years before Liam had even been born, but he’d politely refused, not willing to live his father’s life nor follow in his footsteps in any way. Andy Allsace hadn’t taken any offense to his son’s refusal, in fact he had been quite proud that Liam had not gone the same route he had. But he’d still been concerned, and Liam knew that his mother felt the same way. His parents wanted the best for him, just as any parent would, but they didn’t know enough about why he did and thought the way he did, and they most likely never would. Even Liam didn’t know, and that was perhaps the most terrible thing.
He was about as average as a person could be, he wasn’t tall and he wasn’t short, he wasn’t fat or skinny. Liam was just, average.
There were no goals in his life, but he didn’t wander around like a lump waiting to be cared for, he just didn’t have any motivation in the traditional sense. Liam didn’t know what he wanted to do in his life, he didn’t even know if he really wanted to keep the life he had. It was a terrible thing to think so, but Liam Allsace found himself wondering sometimes what the real point of living was.
He wasn’t suicidal, and it wasn’t just the fact that he was irish-Catholic. Suicide was seen as a mortal sin, a punishment for throwing away what God had given a person. But in his own personal view, Liam had to wonder why anyone would be punished for throwing away a gift. His father had thrown away gifts before, not out of spite, but out of necessity. Too much clutter could become a bother later in life, and in doing so would weigh a person down. Liam could easily think at times that life was all about clutter, that eventually it weighed a person down, no matter how much one tried to even their life out. It wasn’t the accumulation of things or people, it was just the addition of year after year, of day after day piling up on a person. Eventually it got cluttered, things got forgotten, and there was just too much clutter to sift through any longer.
Liam was only in his mid-twenties, he’d not yet taken a wife or even considered having children. Like so many things it wasn’t to spite his parents or because he didn’t feel the desire. He just didn’t have the motivation to go out and get what other people wanted. Instead he went to work each day at his job, a relatively peaceful desk job with an insurance company, logged in his eight to ten hours, and then went home, where he sat and just stared until it was time to go to bed.
He had no real friends aside from his co-workers, and even they kept their distance most times, thinking he was weird or perhaps just anti-social. Liam didn’t really care, what they thought was really of no importance, though he knew they whispered behind his back, perhaps hurtful things or just plain gossip, it made no difference. He was different, he knew it, and he knew that there was little to nothing he could do about it.
Liam had talked to his parents more than once concerning why he couldn’t seem to fixate upon anything but the empty air, but they’d never understood. They’d tried of course, but they still hadn’t been able to understand what their son told them. He didn’t want clutter, that was about all the motivation he could claim. Each day at work he had to interact with others, but after work, the conversations and information he’d received during the day just went away, disappearing until the next day when he needed it. But Liam could always realize that the clutter was there, just waiting to come forth to confuse and crowd in upon the nothingness he found normal. It was always there, just on the edge of his mind, waiting to jump forward like some deranged jackrabbit, stomping all about with its oversized paws, making a mess, letting in the clutter. Liam didn’t like that thought.
Each year it had seemed to get worse, with the clutter closing in around the perimeter of his thoughts, or rather, the absence of thought. Liam knew what happened when he thought about things, and he didn’t like it. The act of thinking was one more bit of clutter that he knew was waiting to overwhelm him, though he could not help it, at least not until he’d become an adult, when his control had grown somewhat. Liam could do things with his thoughts, though they were hardly ever the things he’d really wanted. They were dangerous things, unpredictable things, and things that had almost gotten him in trouble more than once.
When the Henderson’s dog had gone missing after enough people had complained about its barking? That had been Liam, though he hadn’t meant it. He’d gotten tired of the barking too since the dog’s yard and favorite spot to voice her complaints to the world at large had been not far from his bedroom window. Too many nights he’d been woken by her bark, though never once had he complained. Dogs barked, sometimes for no reason at all, that was just how the world was sometimes. But Liam had wondered what it would be like to not hear Isabelle anymore, and the next day, she’d been gone.
Little Danny Henderson had been more than a little upset over the loss of his dog Isabelle, a Scottish Terrier and a good friend besides her incessant nighttime ritual. No one had ever really known why Isabelle had barked so much, but it had been enough to get the Henderson’s in hot water with their neighbors more than once. Isabelle had been gone, and Liam, as well as the rest of the neighborhood, hadn’t had to listen to her anymore. And why? He’d wanted to know what it would be like to not hear the terrier anymore. In truth it had been kind of nice, but the tears on Danny’s face hadn’t been all that nice. No one had ever found the dog, no matter how hard they looked or how many pictures they’d put up. Isabelle, and her barking, were just gone.
There had been other times when Liam had harbored such dangerous thoughts, but he’d kept himself in check thankfully more than once. He’d wondered things about other people and the smaller inconveniences of life that he’d quickly reigned in, fearful of another repeat of the incident with Isabelle. To do something like that to a dog was bad enough, but to do it to a person would be a damning act he was sure. Liam had never ascribed to the whole idea of God and the holy trinity as his parents had done, but he had still been young enough to be wary of defying something he could not understand. Anyway, he’d kept his thoughts light and in check when he had them for many years, with only a few random occurrences taking place and far from any prying eyes.
He’d never had a doubt that he had been the one who had made Isabelle disappear, though he’d never told anyone either. Liam knew he would have gotten in serious trouble, and that was the type of attention he liked to avoid. In fact, he liked to avoid attention whenever possible, except when his parents were around. They were good people, he knew this with all his limited heart, and they wanted the best for him. But Liam knew in that same location that he was not meant for this life somehow. He just knew he wasn’t supposed to be here, and for some reason he knew that today was the last day he had.
His parents would be sad of course, it was the way of parents to care about their children. Well, at least the way of good parents. His would no doubt cry their eyes out and lament his passing, perhaps thinking that they might have been able to help him somehow. There was nothing to be helped though, he just wasn’t meant to be here. If he’d been able to find a means to just erase himself from this existence he would have already succeeded, he’d tried. But it didn’t look as though he would be able to, whatever had given him this strange ability to direct his thoughts upon reality had seemed able to deny him such an escape. So Liam had come up with another method.
Seated upon his only chair within his small apartment, Liam focused as he always did on nothing, delving into his own mind as he did. This was not the first time he had done such a thing, but it would most certainly be the last. He just couldn’t let the clutter get him, not like it had everyone else. He wasn’t meant to be here, and the clutter of his life wouldn’t be allowed to fall on anyone else, not if he could help it.
Allowing his arms to lay upon the armrests of his chair Liam let his gaze become unfocused, his mind going blank as he began the process he’d been thinking upon for nearly two years. It was something inventive, something that he was almost sure no one would be able to understand. It was also something that would erase him from this world almost entirely, if he was successful. Liam couldn’t possibly erase all that he’d done to influence the lives of others, he’d tried that too. Somehow though, he felt as though only two people in this world would remember him after a matter of months, and those two would have more right than any to do so.
As Liam Allsace settled himself within his chair, his favorite chair he realized, he began to think the thoughts that he’d practiced for the past several months, hoping against all hope that it would work. The shock upon his body would be absolute, but at the very least it would erase the clutter, along with everything else.
* * *
“That’s, not possible.”
Humph, you science types are all the same, doctors or no. If someone gives you a case that you can’t understand you just parrot back “That’s not possible.” Well I’ll tell you something boy, none of us thought it was possible either, back then or even now. Wishing yourself out of existence, that seems like something in a fantasy story doesn’t it? Then I guess my Liam must have been a pioneer in that particular field, because he sure as hell enough found a way to do it.
Not possible? You tell that to the medical examiner that opened my boy up to determine the cause of death. Liam wasn’t dead when they brought him in, but no one could explain why his body seemed to be just tip top but his reactions and other functions were next to nil. The body takes a while to die sometimes I suppose, but in Liam’s case, they couldn’t figure out a damned thing wrong with him save for the fact that he’d somehow gone catatonic.
The technology in those days wasn’t as up to snuff as it is now. The doo-dads and gee-gaws you kids have got now are a damned sight finer and a lot more confusing than anything they had back then. Maybe now if Liam were still alive you could’ve told just what was wrong with him, without cutting him open that is.
“But ma’am, the case report states that your son suffered blow to the head. There’s no record of-“
Oh be quiet boy. I know what the report says, I read the damned thing more than once, and I found it so much crap that I laughed and cried and then laughed some more. It was no blow to the head, no conspiracy to get rid of my Liam and no random mugging like they thought it might be. Liam, rest his soul, for whatever reason figured that this world wasn’t for him, and he found a way out.
“But you’re suggesting that he-“
Punched his own ticket, yes I am. You damned well bet that I’m saying that. Liam found this world wanting and he took the only way out he could. From what the medical examiner told me, that man had balls enough to tell a mother what happened to her boy, Liam’s brain and spinal cord were as smooth and unlined as possible. There wasn’t so much as a groove in either his noodle or his backbone, as though each one of ‘em were like clay just waiting to be molded. The examiner, he was a doctor in his own right, claimed that without the proper equipment to either part, the body couldn’t function, and that was why Liam had died. But he hadn’t ever seen the like, I’m sure no one had to that point, and probably not even now. You believe what you want kid, but I tend to believe a man who will come straight with a mother when everyone else decides to pull the wool over her eyes. I didn’t doubt that man, and I don’t doubt him now.
“I, I’m sorry, I just can’t-“
Believe? Back then neither could I, but damned and hell if I don’t believe it to this day. My son wished himself out of existence young man, and for reasons that no one can possibly understand. Andy and I never tried for another child after that, we couldn’t bear the heartache of something like that happening again. But the odds must have been astronomical right? Who could possibly have a child like my Liam? Who could possibly have another one like that? I tell you this boy, my Andy and I didn’t want to take that chance.
Andy passed on only about ten years after Liam, leaving me alone to this day, without children or any sort of legacy to pass on. And you know what? I’m just fine with that. My legacy died with my son, as did my husband’s. We did our best to bring a child into this world and raise him as best we could, and in part we did just fine. There was something more to Liam, some part of him that maybe didn’t figure he belonged here, and there was nothing we could do about it, no matter how hard we tried.
I loved my son, just as much as I loved my husband. As a family we were always close, no matter how far away Liam seemed to be. He loved us just as we loved him, but it wasn’t enough. I’ll go to my grave and before God and the angels to tell my story, and I can only hope that He has already accepted my Liam and my Andy. Maybe they’ll be waiting for me up there at the pearly gates, and maybe then we can all settle down and tell the story of my Liam’s life, without nosy parkers like you trying to get a kick out of it.
Oh don’t give me that look son, I know what you came for. The story of my son’s life and passing is something of a medical impossibility, along with many others that have occurred over the decades. You aren’t the first to come my way seeking the odd and the macabre, but damned and hell if I’ll have to listen through one more of you white-coated clowns. I was born in Albany, New York, and moved out west with my family at a young age. I’ll die here in Portland, Oregon, most likely in the small room I was given so many years when I was placed here. And you know what? I’ll do it my way, with the names of my son and husband on my lips when I go. As for you and any others that try to spin the story of my Liam, well, I hope the ink runs dry before you get the first word down.
I’ve said my peace, now leave me be.