The Grinning Man

            Every mind is a puzzle, a mystery to be solved. Some are like jigsaw puzzles, all the pieces fitting together perfectly to reveal more than one piece ever could. Others, though, aren’t so neat. Others, when complete, reveal things better left obscured.

            My name is David McGuire, and I solve puzzles. At least, I want to. I’m in my second year of grad school at Drew University. I just started an internship at the mental health facilities in Morristown, where some of the worst cases in the tri-state area are sent for treatment. I needed a focus for my thesis, and I was sure I’d find something there.  

            I was right, I guess. I found something interesting, extremely interesting, in fact.

            I’d been spending almost every free day for a month at the facility, discussing patients with the doctors who worked there, looking at files, interacting with patients, and nothing had sparked my interest. There were some very standard, textbook cases, but there were also some genuine enigmas, problems that didn’t fit neatly into a particular classification, problems that couldn’t be easily diagnosed. None of them really grabbed me though. Not until I met Bryant Alec.

Mr. Alec had been a writer until three years earlier when he had a severe breakdown. His books were fairly popular, though he focused mostly on strange subjects:  non-fiction books about UFOs, demonology, cryptozoology, and the occult. He was married and the father of two children. Odd choice of subject matter aside, he had demonstrated no signs of previous mental illness, and among fans of those types of books, he was known for being fairly skeptical and not prone to believing in a phenomena or anecdote without evidence backing it up. 

Then one night he began raving incoherently, babbling fragmented sentences about a strange figure, and weeping. He’d been brought to the facilities after not calming down. He hasn’t responded to psychoactive medication or other forms of therapy.

All this I got from his file. I was intrigued. The abruptness of his breakdown combined with his complete resistance to treatment was extreme. I had to meet him.