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By Devin ThorpePublished 2 years ago 19 min read

Dr. Dorian Vinnit closed the black journal, closing his eyes for a brief moment to reflect on the words he'd read. The words he'd read a hundred times already.

Dr. Vinnit had read the black journal a thousand times over. The words they possessed were practically burned into the surface of his brain by now. So much so that if the journal were to be stolen from him, he'd more likely than not be able to rewrite its contents from memory alone. Yet here he was, sitting in his office once more, fawning over the contents within.

Back on page one. The first entry. Where the mystery of the child patient began.

Damn Jagen's ambiguity in his writing, Vinnit silently reflected, as he'd done a dozen times already.

The journal told Dorian everything he needed to know. Everything except the specifics. There were no names used. No dates. No locations.

And without those specifics, there was very little that separated the contents of this journal from a New York Times Bestselling horror novel.

The contents of the black book were sinister, but they drew Dorian Vinnit in like no tale of malignant devices ever had. Because the things that were inscribed within this journal were true. The story may lack names and dates and places, but Dr. Jagen was not in the profession of writing fiction.

His words show his intent.

An intent to bring extreme objectivity with every session he held with the child.

This journal stands as a written testament on his failure to redeem the child.

Dr. Vinnit fanned through the pages to the end, the spine of the book worn from Vinnit's obsessive pouring over it.

But what drove him to the brink of madness was the final page of the journal. Or more accurately phrased, the lack thereof.

Dr. Vinnit stared at the torn page at the end of the black journal and let out an exhausted sigh. The final page of what could be the most important psychological document known to man was missing. Whether it was Jagen who tore it or someone else, it mattered not. There was no way of telling where the final inscription hid in this vast world.

The doctor stared long and hard at the jagged edges of ripped paper at the back of the book, as he'd grown accustomed to doing. His imagination ran wild with what contents it could possibly possess. The second to last page ended with such a terrifying lack of resolve, there was no telling what the final page divulged into.

Did it tell of Jagen's demise?

Did it finally come to an accurate diagnosis of the child?

Or did it spiral into further madness, throwing objectivity to the wind in conclusion that the child was indeed possessed but something otherwordly?

Dr. Vinnit had no way of knowing. He had no option but to force his mind to shut down. His brain had grown used to pursuing endless rabbit holes that led to nowhere other than inauspicious dead-ends.

He closed the journal and tucked it back into the briefcase, clasping it shut tight. Dorian leaned back in his chair and briefly surveyed his office, hands resting comfortably on the briefcase in his lap.

The room was plain, as all rooms in this facility were. He had the option to decorate the walls and bookshelves with whatever he pleased, but he'd been too engrossed in this case to focus on anything else. Besides, it's not like anyone outside his professional life would see the inside of his office. The few friends Dorian possessed lived in faraway places, and they were altogether too busy in their own professional lives to journey to North Carolina for a visit. He'd be lucky if they phoned him once a month.

No, he had no reason to decorate this office to liven it up. He had no one to impress. No family. No significant other to come home to. Dr. Dorian Vinnit was a man who had dedicated his life to working, and his personal life reflected it. His phone rarely rang for calls concerning unprofessional topics. His mail consisted little more than bills and spam. His apartment door was only frequented by the knuckles of his landlord and delivery services.

Dr. Vinnit leaned back in his chair, threw his feet up on the desk before him and closed his eyes. He needed to meditate. Needed to at least try. His mind was cluttered with a month's worth of unanswered questions that were beginning to corrode away his brain's health.

Silence the mind.

He'd become close aquaintances with the local pizza delivery girl.

Amanda was her name. Always tipped her well.

She deserved it. The pizza was always on time. Still hot with steam rising from the box when Dorian opened it.

Shhhh. Silence the mind.

Money wasn't a concern for Dorian Vinnit, but it was for single mothers like Amanda, so Vinnit always requested that she be the one to deliver his pizza pies. He tipped her more than she probably deserved, but the woman worked two jobs. Barely got to see her baby girl because she had to put food on the table.

Be quiet. Silence the mind.

Vinnit had little friends in this world to call his own, but he still had a heart. Slipped her a hundred dollar tip whenever she came through. It was the least he could do. He had no family in this world to call his own, so helping this girl provide for her daughter was one of the few things that made his heart feel warmth.

Stop your thinking! Silence the mind.

His apartment was as plain and undecorated as his office. Littered with unpacked moving boxes from weeks ago. Cluttered with wrinkled clothing and half-finished takeout boxes from the Chinese Restaurant down the block.

He lived in what was referred to as a 'Work Hard, Play Hard' development in the center of Covet, North Carolina. Vinnit hated the psychology of Work Hard, Play Hard developments, but he hated even more how easily he fell into the stereotype.

Think of the color black. That will help you silence the mind.

Black. Black. Black.

Apartments such as his own were built over businesses at the heart of a metropolitan area. They were rented to workaholics such as himself, people too naive to know they were overpaying on their monthly rent for the opportunity to live downtown where bars and restaurants were within walking distance.

Shut up! Silence the mind!

Work hard, play hard. That was the concept. Because to afford a place downtown, you most certainly had to work hard. And to relieve all the stress of working long hours in a miserable job, you most certainly had to play hard. The development Vinnit currently resided was filled with mostly recent graduates clawing their way up the corporate ladder. Kids who worked a desk job ten to twelve hours a day and snorted cocaine every weekend to keep themselves from blowing their brains out.

Silence the mind.

Dr. Vinnit didn't fall into the category of playing hard though. He was entirely too busy working hard to have time for partying of any capacity. But he never cooked, so living downtown next to a wide variety of restaurants was a definite benefit of his current living situation. And he never cleaned, so the nearby dry cleaners took good care of him.

Dr. Dorian Vinnit was perhaps the most quizzical psychiatrist of all time. He had an impressive track record with clients, and the course of his career mirrored the trajectory of Jagen's early work life. He was on track to become world-renowned, and this case would be the one to get his name known.

Your ego is terrible. Silence the mind.

But for being so successful at such an early age, he was quite a hypocrite. Earlier in his career, before working fully in mental wards, he took on individual patients with anxiety and depression disorders of various diagnoses. Postpartum depression, PTSD, generalized anxiety, phobias, etc.

Silence the mind.

He advised patients to clean up their diet. Yet here was eating nothing but takeout food.

Silence the mind.

He encouraged patients to exercise. The last time he'd seen the inside of a gym was before he earned his doctorate.

Silence the mind.

He advocated for patients to meditate and journal to clear their conscience. But when was the last time he wrote anything other than a research dissertation? When was the last time he cleared his mind?

Silence the mind.


Dr. Dorian Vinnit was a hypocrite, but he was well aware of it. He used to cringe ever so slightly as he directed others to clean up their lifestyle to solve their anxiety. Felt remorse as he puffed down cigarettes to numb the anxiety that felt like a twisted boulder in his stomach from day to day.

He reflected on all this and more while sitting in the quiet confines of his office, feet up on his neat desk. This was how he meditated on the state of his life. Slowly scrutinizing himself weakness by meaningless weakness.

Reflecting on Amanda's state of single motherhood.

Pondering how many more years he could smoke before the damage was irreparable.

Thinking about anything he possibly could that distracted his mind from the impossible mystery this case created.

But it was to no avail.

He opened his strained eyes and brought his feet back to the ground. Why force his inner self into a state of peace? There was something awry within Seoborn, and meditation wouldn't solve it.

His mind would find no peace today, as it seldom did.

Dr. Vinnit stood, grabbed his woolen sport coat and briefcase and curtly exited the room, locking the office door behind him. On the stained glass were the stenciled words Dr. Jagen. Dorian Vinnit had inherited the office of a legend.

But he knew that very little psychiatric work was done within the confines of an office. It is done when one subjects themself to the real world, where everyone carried with them a tinge of insanity. Observable microdoses of humanity's rainbow-spectrum of insanities. Exposure to such was where wisdom was found.

But more than that. To find what lurked within the walls of Seoborn, Dr. Dorian Vinnit would have to first discover what existed out there. He would have to excavate the story of this child down to its origin. Like an archeologist after finding the pinky toe of a monstrous dinosaur, knowing there was a great deal more to uncover. He must treat this case like a world-class detective tracking down a murderer.

Dorian Vinnit marched through the dimly lit halls of Seoborn Mental Insitute, the weight of the work week being replaced by another weight altogether. There was an invisible clock ticking above his head. A one-week deadline until the court hearing that would decide the child's fate.

But how do you find a child that doesn't exist?

You follow the trail of breadcrumbs and hope they lead to some messy eater.

The ward was altogether filled with eery silence as Dr. Vinnit strode through the front double doors into the blaring sunlight of the early evening sun. A fresh snow laid on the ground, reflecting the light of the sun enough to cause temporary blindness. Big, fat snowflakes still fell lazily, indicating that the snowfall would soon be done.

Once the shocking glare of sun against snow subsided, Dr. Vinnit proceeded. His stylish black boots crunched satisfyingly through the icy ground. For a man born and raised in Florida, seeing snow like this was oddly enthusing to Dorian Vinnit's soul. It was somewhat of a spectacle for him, even if it was only a few short inches. He was like a kid in a candy shop, repressing all urges to defy social norms and plop down and make his first snow angel.

It would be all too fitting, for some unaware bystander to stroll by the local insane asylum, only to find a grown adult out front, alone, making a snow angel. Vinnit chuckled at the thought of the sight, then pushed forward.

The grown, overeducated man did his best to not appear naive or immature as he proceeded towards the ward's outer gate, but it was as he marched through the drifts of unmarked snow that a voice called to him.


Vinnit stopped, looking around. There was no one around him that could have been responsible for the greeting. A groundskeeper shoveled snow nearby, but he was much too busy cutting a path through the snow for foot traffic to notice Dorian's presence.


Again, the same voice, this time even closer.

Dorian spun around, confused thoroughly where the voice could originate from. There was no one within a hundred feet of him, so why did the voice sound like it was calling distinctly for him?

The doctor shrugged the interaction away and continued forward, approaching the groundskeeper on his way to the front gate. The man's shovel cut into the snow mercilessly, scraping the cobblestone beneath with every strike. The sound of metal grating against stone made Dr. Vinnit cringe.

"Are you alright?" the voice called again, this time asking a question instead of issuing a greeting. Dorian had been watching the groundskeeper this time, and he was now certain that it wasn't the old man shoveling snow who called for him.

The doctor stopped once more, embarassment rising into his cheeks. His inability to locate where the voice was coming from was becoming a nuisance. A nuisance made more humiliating in the presence of the groundskeeper.

"Hello! Are you alright?"

An audible grunt of frustration puffed from Dorian's mouth as he manically surveyed his surroundings for the person responsible. In that moment, it felt as if some cruel joke were being played on him for reasons unbeknownst to him.

The groundskeeper ceased all digging and leaned on the handle of the shovel, watching with a look of humor at the doctor's manic state. The man's smile lifted his face's many wrinkles into a look of adoration. Like a father watching his son take his first steps.

The onlooker's amused gaze only added to the doctor's frustration, though he pretended to not notice how the groundskeeper now watched him.

"Hi!" the voice called, this time high-pitched, almost like a squawking child.

"Has anyone ever told you it's bad luck to not answer a raven?" the groundskeeper called out.

Dr. Vinnit looked at him and saw that the old man pointed up to the sky. Dorian followed the direction of the finger, eyes scanning through the pale, overcast sky scattered with overhead foliage. And then he saw it. It was hard to miss, if he had only thought to look up instead of around.

The black feathers stood in stark contrast to the snowy branch the raven sat perched upon. It jumped from one branch to another, a small tuft of snow falling to the ground upon its landing. The bird resembled a muddled mass of shadows no larger than a football. It bobbed up and down excitedly, its head twisting side to side so its eyes could each peer down at the doctor. Neck craning back and forth, legs bobbing like a cockatoo that's just heard its favorite song.

Not exactly the way Dr. Vinnit expected a bird associated with bad omens to act. But as with humans, perhaps birds had the potential of being mislabeled as well. Can't judge a book by its cover, or at least that's what Marbek's Theory would suggest.

"Hi!" the bird called, this time sounding more like a bird's squawk than a human's monotone voice. As if the urgency of being answered was causing the bird's facade to slip.

"Hello, bird," Dorian answered, smiling briefly at the ridiculousness of the situation. Here he was, a docket of important things to attend to, getting distracted by a talking raven on an early Friday evening.

But the response sent the raven into a delighted frenzy. The feathers atop its head and at the base of its neck flared, eyes dialating in and out, focusing in on Dr. Vinnit.

Then, with its head lifted, its throat let out a series of different croaks. One, which sounded similar to a human clicking their tongue repeatedely against the roof of their mouth. Then another that sounded comparable to the evening call of a bull frog, only deeper and darker and more sinister.

"I haven't seen Shadow get this excited to see someone in years," the groundskeeper called to Vinnit, then continued, "He's normally impartial to those passing by."

Dr. Vinnit shifted his attention away from the dancing bird back to the groundskeeper. "And you are?" he asked in a polite manner. He was busy, but not to the point where he would ignore social cues. Dorian Vinnit had met plenty of rude doctors who talked down to simple folk such as the old, weathered man who now stood before him. He would not behave inhumane, as the overeducated are often prone to do.

"Bartholomew's the name. But I prefer Bart," he said, pointing to the four-lettered name tag stitched over his heart on his jacket. "I'm head groundskeeper here at Seoborn. Been that way since '92. And that up there is Shadow. Pretty unoriginal name for a bird black as coal such as he is, but its how I tell him apart from the others."

"Others?" Dr. Vinnit asked, a quizzical look forming on his face.

"Have you never seen them?" Bart asked, somewhat dumbfounded. "This place is crawling with the black birds. I'm constantly havin' to clean their shit off the headstones in the cemetery. Damn birds are everywhere. Shadow's the only one I like. Made him my friend, I did. Met him about five years back I'd say. Stupid bird follows me everywhere while I'm out here working."

Dorian paused, looking back up at the bird. And then he swiveled around, taking a good hard look all around him. Bart was right. There were ravens everywhere. All along the trees, spread sparcely across the upper quad. All of them silent, their watching eyes looming like aerial cameras in a supermarket.

"How can you tell this one apart from the others?" Vinnit said, returning his gaze back to Bart. It was a good question, considering that there were no physically defining features that set this bird uniquely apart from the others.

"Shadow! Shadow!" the bird squawked, almost as if on cue.

Bart chuckled. A deep-set, wholesome laugh. The groundskeeper shrugged his shoulders, knowing that the bird had beaten him to the punchline. "It's all he ever says. Don't know who taught it to him. He was saying it the same day I met him. Silly bird. Only knows how to greet you, ask how you're doin', and scream 'shadow'. None of the other birds say it. They all got their little catchphrases they're partial too. But this one is funnier than the rest. More personality too."

"Hmmm. Interesting to know. Well I must be on my way, it was nice to meet you Mr. Bart. I hope to see you around," Vinnit said.

"Oh but where are my manners? I never caught your name," the man said with audible frustration; a child chastising themself for forgetting to say thank you after a courtesy was extended.

"I'm Dr. Dorian Vinnit, Dr. Jagen's replacement, if you've heard the news."

A look of despair overcame the groundskeeper's face. He sighed. "Jagen was a good man. One of the only people inside that building that treated me as an equal. Seems fittin' that the man replacing him does the same. I appreciate the conversation. If you ever need someone to show you around the town you'll know where to find me. My office is at the back corner of the cemetery. And if you ever need a hot meal, my wife Lucy is a helluva cook."

"I'll keep that in mind. Might be a nice change of pace from all the fast food I've been eating lately," Vinnit replied, laughter in his tone. He extended his hand to the old man as humans are accustomed to doing upon meeting one another. Bart quckly brushed his splintered, calloused hand off on his leg and gladly met the courtesy, shaking Vinnit's hand firmly, but not too firm, as a person with a heightened ego would be prone to do.

"You're welcome any time, Dr. Vinnit. A friend of Shadow is a friend of mine. Now you travel safe, the roads are getting icy. North Carolina doesn't prepare well for snow like them northern states do."

"I'll drive slow, thank you," Vinnit replied, brushing past Bart, eyes now focused solely on the wrought-iron gate ahead.

"No shadow! Now shadow!" the bird above screamed, its voice now sounding panicked and spooked. The slur of words were accompanied by a series of harsh, uncomfortable clicks and croaks of its throat.

Dorian Vinnit stopped in his tracks, a freezing gust of wind passing through the upper quad in that same moment. The cold ripped through his woolen sport coat straight to his skin, causing goosebumps to raise.

"That's odd. Never heard him say that before," Vinnit heard Bart whisper to himself in the background. Dorian looked up at the bird. Its feathers were ruffled again, but their appearance had lost their playful manner. The bird looked as if it had just seen a ghost. Its eyes were no longer friendly. They peered down with menacing ferocity. Staring with scruitiny into Vinnit's inner being, it seemed like.

Dorian looked up in the sky towards the sun which was beginning to set, its light now ripping through the overcast clouds above the mental institute. The light was brilliant, and it shined so bright that it turned Bart's body into an unidentifiable silhouette. Attached to Bart's feet was a shadow. One that stretched long in the area his body blocked from the sunlight.

Vinnit turned slowly, examining the ground around him. A knot rose in his stomach as the bird screamed once more. "No shadow! No shadow!"

And then Dr. Dorian Vinnit walked away, his mind puzzled by the twofold scientific spectacle he was experiencing. Firstly, because the bird was right. His body currently gave off no shadow, when all laws of nature would dictate that it should be. And secondly, and more frighteningly, the bird who was coincedentally named Shadow had accurately spotted the phenomenon and vocalized it, an action contrary to even birds of the highest intellect.

And so Dorian Vinnit quickened his pace, lowering his head to the ground, walking away from the sun in the direction of the gate. His soul cringed all the while, hoping Bart wouldn't look his way and connect the puzzle pieces himself. He needed to leave, before Bart realized that the bird above wasn't speaking just to speak, but that it had taken horrific notice in the fact that Dr. Dorian Vinnit possessed no shadow.

"No shadow! No shadow!" the bird screamed once more as Dr. Vinnit exited through the rusted, heavy-iron gate.

Silence the mind.

Silence the mind!

Silence the mind, damnit!

Dr.Vinnit fought an internal war for some much needed peace, but no amount of meditation could drown out the sense of impending doom that weighed within him.


About the Creator

Devin Thorpe

I am a 22-year-old recent graduate from Mars Hill University. I have a double major in Criminal Justice and Religion & Philosophy. I also played collegiate lacrosse! In my free time you can find me writing fiction and hiking with my dog.

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