[Sean Morgan is a writer in his early thirties who has had published several unsuccessful works of fiction. He has switched his attentions to fact based fiction in order to rejuvenate his career.
Sean enters the living room of the house of Ruby Stark a dishevelled woman who looks much older than her years. Ruby is sitting in an old fashioned armchair and is staring out of the window seemingly unaware of Sean’s arrival. Sean sits down in the chair opposite and sets his digital recorder on the small table between them. He tries to catch Ruby’s eye. They sit in silence for a few moments with the ticking of the large grandfather clock becoming more intrusive in the silence.]
Sean: Ms Stark do you remember me? Sean Morgan from a couple of weeks ago? I am writing my book on urban legends within the area and you kindly agreed to let me write about you.
[Ruby continues to stare out the window and does not acknowledge Sean]
Sean: Ms Stark? [pause] Ms Stark I have the first draft and I would like you to take a look at it. [Sean sets his short manuscript on the table] I have not included any names at this stage. [with a hint of desperation] Ms Stark?
Ruby: [still staring out the window] Well let me read it then.
[Sean hands her the manuscript and to his surprise Ruby starts to read aloud]
“On June 11th 1975 Mr and Mrs ________ left their three year old daughter _______ in the care of their usual sixteen year old babysitter ________. They were due to attend a charity ball in the town hall of Stafford, Connecticut in order to raise funds for the proposed new hospital which was to be built on the outskirts of the small town.
The parents had only been gone for about an hour but the Babysitter could see that the child was falling asleep in front of the television. The Babysitter picked up the child and carried her up the elegant staircase, across the open landing which looked down onto the front door and into the nursery.
The walls of the nursery were baby pink and the furniture was white and included a hand-crafted rocking horse which stood in the corner of the room. In the centre of the room was a large bay window. On the windowsill and the floor around it there were hundreds of stuffed animals of various shapes, sizes and species. Money was not an issue for the family and it showed in the child’s lavish bedroom.
The child went over to the window and picked up her current favourite bedtime companion – a tatty bunny rabbit which was in great need of a wash. The Babysitter tucked the child in, turned on the night-light and went back downstairs to make a start on an English assignment which was due the following Monday and was, as per usual, left to the last minute.
The Babysitter had been working for just under thirty minutes when she heard a crash coming from the child’s bedroom swiftly followed by the child’s anguished cries.
The Babysitter entered the room and found the child sitting by the open window clutching her rabbit. Most of the stuffed animals had been thrown off the sill and onto the floor. The Babysitter picked up the child and asked her what she was doing playing by the open window when she ought to have been asleep.
The child replied “The rabbit wanted to go outside and play but I didn’t want to go”
The Babysitter looked at the rabbit the child was still holding and told the child she had been dreaming. The Babysitter quickly calmed the child in her arms and placed her back into bed.
After looking around the bedroom at upheaval the child had created the Babysitter made a start on tidying up the animals which had been strewn around the room. As the sixteen year old tidied the toys back onto the windowsill she noticed a rabbit almost as large as herself sitting by the open window. This was the first time she had noticed the larger than usual toy but new and extravagant stuffed animals were not a strange occurrence in the ________ household and therefore she thought nothing more of it and continued to tidy the rest of the animals (of various shapes, sizes and species) on top of the larger toy.
Ten minutes later the room was back to normal and after kissing the child, who was by now half asleep, on the forehead the Babysitter went back downstairs to her assignment.
An hour later the Babysitter was once more interrupted by the sound of the child crying. This time when the Babysitter entered the bedroom she found that the stuffed animals from the windowsill were again scattered around the bedroom and the child was sitting on the floor below the window beside the large stuffed rabbit.
The Babysitter struggled not to let her frustrations show as the child did appear to be in genuine distress. When questioned on what she was doing the three year old child answered “The rabbit wants to go outside and play but I don’t want to”.
The Babysitter looked at the large and quite frankly creepy stuffed rabbit which was sitting on the floor and failed to suppress a shudder. She picked up the child and took her downstairs for a glass of water.
This time it took longer to calm the child and as she still seemed agitated the Babysitter nursed her on the sofa until she fell asleep. Once the child was asleep the Babysitter carried her back upstairs. On placing the child in bed she felt a chill in the air and looked up to see that the window was yet again opened.
The Babysitter went over to the window and looked down into the dark back garden. She sighed and closed the window only this time she locked the window, removed the key and placed it in her pocket for safekeeping.
As the Babysitter turned away from the window she tripped over the large rabbit forgetting that it was sitting below the window. She swore and then checked herself as the child had begun to stir due to the noise. After waiting a few seconds until the child settled herself the Babysitter once again tidied up the toys. She looked at the large rabbit and covered it with the smaller toys so that the child would not see it if she woke again.
The Babysitter returned to her assignment. Several hours had passed when the screams of the child rang out throughout the house. The Babysitter looked at the clock in the corner of the room to discover that the time had just passed eleven. Mr and Mrs_________ were not due home for another few hours.
Unable to keep her composure the Babysitter went up to the child shouting “_______ I am beginning to get tired of this”.
On entering the room she was not surprised to see that the stuffed animals had been tossed around the bedroom and that the child was standing in the middle of the bedroom holding the large rabbit’s hand in one hand and her bedtime rabbit in the other.
“_________ enough is enough!” the Babysitter shouted as she picked up the child who replied through her tears “the rabbit wants to go outside and play” and placed her back into bed. The Babysitter sat with her for a few moments and looked at the rabbit and toys scattered about the nursery. As the child appeared visibly shaken the Babysitter decided that she should call her parents for advice or to see if she could at least remove the toys from the nursery.
The Babysitter left the child in bed and went downstairs to call her parents. The phone rang several times before it was answered and it was at least five more minutes until Mr_______ the child’s father came on the line and asked in urgent tones if everything was alright. This was the first time he had received such a call whilst the child was in care of her Babysitter.
The Babysitter explained the situation about the child’s nightmares and the opened windows. As there was silence on the other end of the line she also took the opportunity to emphasise that she had locked the window and removed the key so that the child was not in any danger of climbing out. Although her patience with the child was wavering the Babysitter knew she had done everything she should have to ensure that the child was safe and cared for.
The child’s father asked her to repeat the part about the rabbit and the Babysitter did so adding that she wasn’t surprised that the child was having nightmares due to the intimidating size of the toy.
When she had finished she could hear the child’s mother and father talking to each other in the background in hurried tones with the mother’s voice becoming raised and frantic.
Mr ________ picked up the receiver and spoke to the sixteen year old school girl he had left in charge of his daughter. “_________ I want you to remain calm, go upstairs and get ________ then I want you to take her across the road to the Wilson’s house across the road. Do you understand me?”
The Babysitter asked if there was a problem to which the child’s father responded “my daughter doesn’t own a large rabbit……. My wife is calling the police. Please get my child and get out of the house now!” Mr_______ was beginning to lose his composure.
At this the Babysitter froze and events of the evening began to replay in her mind. The crying child, the large rabbit, the open window and the child’s words “the rabbit wants to play outside but I don’t want to” began to ring through her ears. She could see herself running up the stairs in anger not even fifteen minutes ago to find the child standing in the middle of the room holding her rabbit and holding the hand of………
The Babysitter could hear the pleas of the child’s father down the phone to get his daughter out but her mind was racing and could not hear him. It felt like a lifetime however in reality it was merely seconds before the Babysitter finally processed what she had seen but not noticed. She screamed “The rabbit was holding *her* hand!” threw down the phone and ran towards the stairs."
[Ruby suddenly stops reading aloud]
Sean: If it’s too hard for you I can read it to you.
[Ruby ignores Sean and continues to read it in silence. Sean sits in the chair awkwardly until Ruby sets down his manuscript. As Ruby doesn’t speak Sean begins to feel even more uncomfortable]
Sean: Ms Stark? What did you think about the ending? I assure you it is all accurate and based on the accounts of those involved. It took quite a bit of research to pull it all together and to track you down
Ruby: It is more accurate than most adaptations as you haven’t used the word “clown” anywhere in your story but frankly Mr Morgan it has been told with more heart and horror at a girl scouts' sleepover.
[Sean clears his throat slightly taken aback by her comments]
Sean: Would you care to elaborate?
Ruby: There is no emotion or fear in your story. Have you ever experience real fear Mr Morgan? [Ruby makes eye contact with Sean for the first time] No I don’t suppose you have. I carry the fear of that three year old child with me every day. Can you imagine being so scared that you cannot find the words to explain it? That isn’t what happened Mr Morgan - that three year old girl didn’t know the words to explain it or how to ask for help.
[Ruby pauses and Sean tries to break her gaze but Ruby won’t let him]
Ruby: The child knew that she was in danger and couldn’t make the Babysitter understand this as she was unable to articulate it any more elaborately than “the rabbit wants to go outside to play”. The fear of that child is the first thing I feel when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I feel at night and your story, if you could call it that, has done nothing to highlight the fears of a terrified child.
Sean: [uncomfortably] As I said this is merely the first draft
Ruby: One more thing you didn’t even mention the blood.
Sean: The blood?
Ruby: Yes Mr Morgan the blood. Where is the blood? I assumed that you would have understood graphic nature of the violence which occurred that night but from this [Ruby motions to the manuscript] I have gravely misjudged your talents. A talented researcher you may be – but a writer you most certainly are not.
Sean: Ms Stark I….
Ruby: Mr Morgan the blood is a sight I can never forget. Your darkest imagination cannot comprehend just how much blood can spill out of a relatively small person. I made my peace with the fact that there was nothing I could do a long time ago but that doesn’t mean I don’t relive what I saw over and over and over in my head. I stood in the doorway while that man, in his stupid costume stabbed her again and again and again. I was paralysed with fear unable to move, unable to breathe and unable to look away. Have you ever been so scared that you lose control of your bladder?…… No I don’t suppose you have…….I watched as he walked right past me. He held her hand as he dragged her along behind him. [pause] She wasn’t dead you know.
Ruby: She wasn’t dead when he dragged her across the landing towards the stairs - she was dying but she wasn’t dead. I can still see her staring at me. Those blue eyes stared at me half apologising and half begging for help but what could I do? I followed behind and watched as he dragged her bleeding body, still by the hand, down the stairs. She placed her hand against the wall in a last ditch attempt to fight him or slow him down but all that did was leave a bloody handprint smear along the wallpaper [Ruby moves the palm of her hand in a downwards diagonal motion as she talks]. She was dead before she got to the bottom.
Sean: [quietly] The blood wasn’t in the police report
Ruby: I watched through the spindles of the stairway in the landing as he dragged her towards the kitchen. He stopped and looked up at me. Did you know that Mr Morgan? No I don’t suppose you do…… I looked down and I saw two sets of dead eyes looking up at me - the dead eyes of a killer and the dead eyes of that poor girl and then they were gone
[Ruby pauses and the grandfather clock chimes and makes Sean jump. Ruby smirks at this and continues]
Ruby: Her body was found outside in the backyard on the swing – you got that detail correct. The police came seconds later and I suppose he didn’t have time to take her with him. The adults involved thought it for the best that the details of the horror were kept to its watered down minimum in order to quell the mass hysteria that would have followed.
Sean: They never caught him though – that part is correct?
Ruby: They did find a bloodied costume a few blocks away but no they never caught him. The police didn’t even have a suspect. I mean, just who would you suspect capable of such horror? If they had made the public aware of true events they may have been more vigilant – lord only knows how many times his crimes were hidden from the public in a misplaced attempt to protect the families – perhaps there is more truth to the clown version than people realise...........
Sean: Is there anything else I should know?
Ruby [sarcastically]: My parents never hired another Babysitter. [Ruby laughs but it sounds strained – as though those particular vocal cords have not been used in some time]
[Ruby looks away from Sean back out of the window signalling that their consultation is over. Sean stands up and extends his hand but is surprised whenever Ruby receives it]
Ruby: You are the first person I have told all this too and I hope you will treat the information with respect in your article and not publish a glamorised version of events
Sean: I will Ms Stark. I shall send you the final draft for your approval.
Ruby: There is no need Mr Morgan. There is no need. [Ruby turns to back to the window and Sean leaves without saying goodbye]
[This is the typed transcript of the recording Sean Morgan took of his last consultation with Ruby Stark who died in her sleep several nights later. The cleaner found her in her chair clutching a very old rabbit. Sean Morgan never again tried to fictionalise his research and published his research as and how he found it.]