**The following is an excerpt from the novel I’m working on, Common Street Secret, in response to a prompt from TipsyLit.
Synopsis: Vincent Gallows, a middle-aged psychology professor, suffers from restless nights and immobilizing migraines triggered by dreams. Pressure from the university administration has led him to find new material for his lectures. After a bit of research, he finds his mother’s name on an employee roster at the City Insane Asylum in New Orleans, LA. His discovery causes his dreams to get worse, yet somehow he gains more clarity. The new puzzle of their meanings ultimately driving him mad, Vincent becomes determined to solve the mystery of his mind. He makes a trip to New Orleans to try to find more in depth case files from the mysterious patients of the doctor in his dreams. His life-altering discovery is a killer!**
The screaming is incessant around him. Something has gone horribly wrong. He can feel tension creep into his bones. The air buzzes with the excitement of the residents. He is running, the dirt floor muffling the slap of his wing-tipped feet. He yells for others to move out of his way, shoving those too catatonic to heed his warning. One man’s head hits the wall with a deep resounding thud. The Doctor doesn’t stop. He has to get to her. He knows he will pay dearly later, but it can’t be helped. He hurries on his path, turning sharp corners with reckless abandon. The Sister is not far behind, pausing only to direct others to clean up the destruction left in his wake. He stops dead outside the door. The Doctor tastes bile in his throat and his eardrums bleed as he takes in the shrieking erupting from the room before him. He places a crestfallen hand on the knob and turns…
Vincent awoke to pain so blistering that the stark light of the desk lamp temporarily blinded him. He clinched his eyelids in hopes to regain some of his vision. The pain eased with each passing second. When he was finally able to form conscious thought, he realized he was still at the library. Pages from various books stuck to his face as he gingerly lifted his head. The darkness of the room let him know it was well after hours. He glanced indolently at his watch. 11:53 pm. His bones aching from the awkward sleep, he moved to stretch his feeble body. In his incoherent stupor, he knocked various books and files to the floor. He slumped to his knees to gather the strewn pages.
Sorting through them, a name caught his eye. Caroline Byrnes. Frozen, staring at the offending name, Vincent prayed it was a coincidence. He began tearing through the strewn sheets searching desperately. The page was a part of the employee log to the New Orleans City Insane Asylum. The name in question belonged to none other than Vincent’s estranged mother.
He was seven years old when his father took his mother away. Her mind had been weak, like that of a small child. Caroline Gallows, formerly Caroline Byrnes, used to be a strong woman, a devout churchgoer, and a loved member of the community. That is, until the day she received the letter. Even after all these years, Vincent still did not know what the letter that caused his mother’s breakdown contained.
They found her one evening, stripped bare and glistening with sweat in front of the stone fireplace, laughing hysterically as the letter burned between her fingers. When Vincent had tried to go to her, his father wrapped his iron arms around his waist and quickly locked him away in his room. The fear in his father’s eyes was terrifying, haunting him still. He watched through the keyhole as his father carried his mother up the stairs, her cackle ripping through the air. He could hear her repeating in harsh, mocking tones, “The Doctor will see you now,” sending her into another round of hysterics.
The next morning, Thomas Gallows loaded his precious Caroline into the family car and drove away. He didn’t speak of her much after that, but Vincent often heard his tearful prayers late at night. In college, he had tried to visit his mother. The event horrified him so thoroughly that he could not bring himself to go back.
Vincent stared back down at his mother’s name. A chill ran down his spine, but he knew what he had to do. He was going to see his mother.