The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds: Mark Matthews
Abridged First Chapter
January 28th is the first full moon of the year and there is no better date to release my novel, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds.
This novel features my own version of Werewolves ready to howl at the moon. The story takes place in the very real setting of the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital. Kori Persephone Driscoe trespasses inside the abandoned facility, looking for traces and memories of her father, and what she finds is something beyond human. The novel shines a light on the dark challenges of living with a mental illness.
Check out the abridged first chapter below.
Kori Driscoe Visits Northville Psychiatric (abridged)
Everything breathes, everything speaks, with a voice that fades but is never silenced.
Kori’s dad had spoken these words in his manic state more than once, and she was starting to realize what he meant. She could feel the red brick ranch exhale in relief and give thanks as they emptied the house.
Dad’s manic energy still filled the house even though he’d been gone for years. The last time Kori saw him was just a drop-off at the porch during the divorce. She had no idea it would be goodbye. If only she could’ve bottled up his fantastic flurry of enthusiasm and saved it for later, sipping on it when needed—but his bizarre rages and incantations that followed were a horrible aftertaste forever poisoning her life.
Kori understood why Mom wanted to vacate with her new husband, but Kori was ready to fight, not flee.
“Your dad can find us in Florida if he wants to, you know,” Mom said as if reading Kori’s thoughts. “Even if he’s in one of his confusions, he just knows and will find us.”
Kori didn’t argue the point, but gave Mom a hug and left her in the echo chamber. With Hades riding shotgun, she drove off in the Toyota Corolla, her dad’s old car, one of the many things she took ownership of after years of his absence. She wore his old flannel shirts, soaked with his scent, she had piles of his old books, read the notes in the margins. Today she was wearing his University of Michigan hoodie.
Mom was right. Kori didn’t want to go with her to Florida, and still wasn’t sure if she would. She was looking for answers to help her decide, and driving to find them, taking the journey she always took in moments like these.
She pulled into the parking lot of Hawthorn Center, long term psychiatric care for adolescents, and parked on the fringes. Hawthorn was only a few stories high, but sprawled out at least 200 yards, with a fenced-in courtyard, a basketball court inside, and barbed wire on the top.
Shades were drawn on all the rooms, but lights still shone through the slits on the edges. She pictured the patients huddled in their rooms at this hour, having honest conversations, topics concealed and never spoken of in front of the staff. Hawthorn Center was named after the Hawthorn trees in the area but reminded her of the places she’d been to in the past.
Troubled kids like you are sent to Hawthorn, had been the threat. Well, she’d never been sent here. Instead she came here on her own, and was going to walk through the woods to the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, built on the same parcel of land, but closed and abandoned years ago. The place where troubled adults are sent.
The place where her dad was sent fifteen years ago, then never heard from again.
“I’ll be back in a bit. Less than an hour,” she whispered to Hades who sat on a blanket on the passenger side. She was speckled with scars where no fur grew from the night of the attack. Her ears were now forever perked in hypervigilance, frozen that way as if waiting for her attacker to show themselves again. Kori wanted to give Hades something she didn’t have—trust that caretakers who love you always return.
With car doors locked and Hades safely inside, she quickly scurried into the tree line.
Tiny branches bent against her shoulders as she walked, deciding if she should be allowed to pass. The ground was carpeted by the crunch of leaves. Her lantern dangled from her fingers as she tracked through the trees. No need to light it just yet, for the moon shined with glowing fluorescence, a brilliant blue hue.
This area was dubbed The Evil Woods, one of many legends of the area. The trees tugged at her as if trying to stop her travels, but she knew the way through. She came upon a fence, newly constructed by the demolition company. Demolition was starting any day now and the abandoned hospital was surrounded with towering machines ready to tear it down.
Tonight was the last visit.
The fence had been cut weeks ago, but the metallic fibers took all her strength to bend, and when it finally yielded, she had to dart through before it snapped back in place. Last time the metal punctured her ankle and the blood squished under her foot with each step. That hadn’t stopped her from spelunking into the hallways of the hospital and the underground tunnels. This desolate place felt like a second home, one that understood her on a level her own house never could.
With each step the buildings rose before her, turned alabaster by the moonlight. She scanned for silhouettes and shapes of others who might be here. So many times she’d seen shadows dashing to and fro, never sure of their reasons for coming, but they were certainly different than hers.
Red brake lights of a car circled through the parking lot. The guard had just made his rounds on foot. Now he was back in his car, the way he does for an hour or two after he walks about. There were more guards these days, as if fearful of the extra danger once the demolition started and the hospital was ripped open and disemboweled.
It didn’t stop a steady stream of trespassers. She read their graffiti on the hospital hallways, crunched over the shards of glass from their smashed beer bottles, sometimes found a lit candle from a traveler just moments before her. More than once she’d heard feigned, mocking screams of terror echoing down the hallways, followed by too-loud laughter, from those who listened to urban legends that the place was haunted. Like the house she grew up in, it could never be fully emptied of its trauma.
As she got closer, she felt the beating heart inside the brick compound go thump-thump, thump-thump. The past lives of the patients inside tugged at her chest. The building had its own gravitational pull and energy that radiated. She touched the brick, made one last scan of the area—no sign of life—then pulled the door handle, one of many entrances pried open over the years.
Her own entrance, her own reasons. She stepped inside.
The trapped air of the abandoned hospital surrounded her, each particle like it was alive, inspecting her skin.
Who is this intruder? Wait, we know who it is. You’re his daughter. He was here for years. Please join him.
It took minutes before the air settled, before her breathing and heart moved in unison with the blood circulating through this place.
Accepted inside, Kori flicked the green Bic lighter and lit the gas lantern. Its glow brought the place to life. She’d brought flashlights in the past, but the beams felt unnatural, intrusive, making her just another security guard rather than a native of this land, someone who spoke its tongue. The lantern felt so right, evidence she was a friend, and each step she took brought the darkness of the halls into the light.
The first floor was a dark cave. Below her, the tunnels that connected these buildings were black as a tomb. On the roof was a suicide-proof deck, fully exposed to the stars, and tonight, certainly aglow under the full moon. She’d been through all the levels, breathed it all in. It filled her empty spaces, the loneliness she felt in her stomach and stuck to her spine.
To her right, she saw fresh graffiti on the wall and held the lantern to read the passage; You Can’t Scream with Your Lungs Full of Dirt written in red bubble letters. She pressed a finger against the letter ‘Y’ and found the paint was dry. She’d come across wet paint often, trailing the artist by just moments.
A noise unnatural up ahead.
The quick patter of footsteps ricocheted down the hallway.
She stayed completely still, trying to hear better, but the noise vanished.
Just one person, Kori could tell, but fast and light on their feet.
She waited a bit before moving on. She wanted to be alone on her last visit. She stepped softly to avoid detection, but the crunch of her footsteps on rubble broke through the silence of the hallway. The crackling noises reminded her of thin ice she might fall through if her weight became too much. She walked past a plastic chair tipped over in the hallway and imagined who had sat in it last. She stepped on a discarded hospital smock that lay on the ground as if the last of the employees had to evacuate without warning.
The lantern light illuminated them all like a chunk of the moon had been brought inside.
She came upon a rusty old file cabinet that had been dragged by scrappers but then discarded when the effort became too much. Like every cabinet she discovered, Kori had already emptied its contents, ransacking for documents then folding them up into her backpack to examine at home in the light of her bedroom, as if translating ancient scrolls. She’d found inventory sheets, psychiatric evaluations, progress notes, some of it indecipherable from stains or from doctor gibberish, but all of it fascinating. Incident reports explaining why a patient was put in restraints or injected with Haldol to calm them down; just a small written history of the anguish here, the universes of thoughts in their heads, one Big-Bang expanding into a cloud of trauma.
In all her time visiting, she never found what she really wanted—an imagined dirty manila folder with “Peter Driscoe” written on the white label—and inside would be all sorts of psychiatry notes about how the man thought of his daughter, “Kori Persephone Driscoe” every day. How he missed her and wanted her to visit. She never found it in the written word, but imagined she could feel his presence through the asbestos-laced oxygen she breathed in, or that she could hear the bipolar buzzing sound that seemed to surround her dad right before he was hospitalized.
Dad’s hospital stays always seemed to come like monthly menses. The first sign was his speech. He talked faster and faster until words ran into each other in nonsense, strung along with loose associations, speeding down a river full of rapids and rushing to the waterfall. He was awake for days, drinking coffee out of the white ceramic mug Kori gave him years ago for Father’s Day, World’s #1 Dad written across. The mood of the whole house lifted, as if from a tornado, getting sucked out of Kansas into the colorful splendor of Oz.
And it never lasted. It crashed down, depressions led to suicide attempts, mania to aggression, and hospitals took Dad through their locked doors. Kori and her mom waited to get summoned to one of the nearby hospitals where he stayed sometimes for three days, sometimes fourteen—but one time, at Northville Psychiatric, he was never heard from again.
She wondered if her dad felt safe here when it was open and running. If she just listened in the right spot, the message would come to her, she knew it. The noises of these hallways were the same thing she heard inside her own skull, her own inner ear. And as if the compound knew tonight was different, she could feel a thicker buzz of electric current zipping through the air. The leftover scent of suffering lingered.
One last message, one final SOS, since tonight was goodbye. Time to demolish this broke-down palace. It’s not safe to keep it here, the city decided, but Kori feared little inside this place of dust and melancholy gloom, besides the random security guards with their sterilizing flashlights.
Bloggers and YouTubers loved to tell a different story about the danger here, spelunkers leaving here maimed, of hearing noises otherworldly, sounds unnatural. I heard chains clanking, being dragged. I smelled bad breath. My legs got scratched with claws from little baby creatures who seemed like elves. They chased me away through the Evil Woods. Each blog post trying to outdo the next one, demonizing the true hurt and sickness that used to live in these walls, bullshit easily seen right through.
The noise returned. This time zig-zagging for a quick dash. Someone hiding, moving from one shadow to the next. She was going to see them, and thought about calling out as she moved on. She knew the creaks of this place, knew the ruckus of high school revelers, or of couples walking slowly, hand in hand. The slow descent of the bricks settling, a bit deeper into the earth as the eons passed. She heard it all.
“Madness is but an over-acuteness of the senses,” her dad had told her. “That’s Poe,” and then he moved on to other quotes too florid to discern, the tipping point when his thoughts spilled over into a howl.
She could still hear this howl from the night he exploded into anger and grabbed her by the arm and Mom called the police. Police tasered him when he ignored their commands, but it did nothing. They passed a bullet through his shoulder. That was the only time Dad had put a hand on Kori and it rushed everything faster down-current towards her parents’ divorce date. Dad promised to ‘get right’ in front of the judge, but instead Kori saw him only a few more times before he decompensated again and disappeared into Northville Psychiatric Hospital.
And now Kori followed in these same hallways, years later, after Dad had been discharged into a “transitionary program” because the hospital closed. They couldn’t share what happened to her dad because it was PHI—protective health information—and Dad had refused to sign for any information to be released.
Her memory of standing in the lobby once when the hospital was open was so vague, she often wondered if her mom was lying. “You went there once, remember?” her mom told her. “I tried to give you a visit. They refused. They only let you look around, and it was too much. I have kept you safe,” her mom reminded her. “He’s gone now. I bet they helped him and he’s doing fine.”
Rather than constantly scan the crowd of faces at coffee shops and grocery stores looking for her dad, she came to the last place she knew he’d been. Sometimes she went up to the roof to bathe in the night air, imagining the moon and burning stars tanning her skin, but tonight she was headed to the tunnels. No other area summoned her the same—the deepest part with the biggest pull. So she descended down into the depths.
The tunnels were built to connect the many buildings, to transport staff and supplies, and to move the heat through massive piping. They were the intestines where waste travels through. No windows, low ceilings, thick moisture clung to the dust, asbestos stirred up by scrappers who’d been taking out chunks to sell for scrap metal cash. She kept walking through the remains. The lantern was more brilliant down here, but could still only illuminate a few feet ahead. Every step she craved to see Dad’s face in front of her, or hear the beat of his voice, but all she heard were deep, empty echoes—the sound of her own footsteps.
Following the pipes that ran like veins along the wall gave the illusion of moving faster than she was, like running down a hotel hallway. She ran the tip of her finger along the cement wall, kicking rubble down the hallway, dribbling it like a soccer ball with her feet.
After tonight her dad’s memory would be buried, a chunk of her life taken away. They were demolishing her refuge, and she might be in Florida with her mom and miss the burial.
I don’t want to go to Florida, I want to stay here.
Just like these buildings, Mom was slowly cracking apart. Kori didn’t blame her for moving to Hollywood with her new husband. Not the real Hollywood, the fake one—Hollywood, Florida. Not a real person, just a fake one. Her mom knew Kori well enough to realize, Kori may never join her. The journey to the south felt like a refugee march, while walking down these hospital hallways felt like home. With each step she took down the tunnel, she was accepted by the dark that wanted to show her things the surface could not.
As if the building came to life, a flashlight beam shined from behind her.
The sound of someone moving with speed.
The security guard. He found me. He followed me.
Instinct took over and she dashed down the tunnel, lantern bouncing in her hand. Her thoughts fast-forwarded to being caught and her goodbye visit destroyed by a night in jail for trespassing, broken promises to her mom and broken promises to Hades.
She would not be caught.
The chase began.
You can read the Kendall Review for The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds HERE
The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds
Kori Persephone Driscoe suffered through her dad’s mental illness. All she wanted was for him to get better, but instead he disappeared. Kori trespasses into the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital, the last place her dad was treated, seeking solace and traces of his memory. What she finds instead is something no longer human living deep in the underground tunnels.
During the last days of the hospital, a roque psychiatrist had been manipulating the mood swings of the mentally ill, transforming patients into savage, manic creatures who seek justice by the light of the full moon. When the creatures hunt for prey, only an escaped patient and her beloved child can help Kori survive—but they better act fast, because the creatures want blood, Kori wants to save her dad, and the whole hospital is about to be blown to pieces and bury Kori alive.
Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, Body of Christ, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, as well as the editor of Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.
You can find out more about Mark by visiting his official website www.wickedrunpress.com
Follow Mark on Twitter @matthews_mark