They shamble past the windows and I hide my face in terror, until their shadows cast from the bright, flickering lights cease to fall on me. Even silhouetted against the lights, they sicken me to the stomach at the mere sight of them.
My name is Nathan. I have locked myself in a room, which is seven metres by seven metres and contains very little furniture, all of which I have piled against the door. The door is also locked from the inside, and I don't believe they can open it as I am sometimes awakened by bursts of rhythmic banging, which then stop with no apparent result. Sometimes, one will walk past and pause to look at me. It will usually stay there for minutes at a time. Watching me. I look away until I'm sure it's gone, and then when I look back there it still is.
This is my only means of contact with anyone or anything outside this place, and yet I'm certain it will never be read. I have no idea what the world outside this room and the corridors that surround it looks like, and I have no means of getting this letter out there. The felt-tip stains my finger blue. My hand aches and cramps, but I know I must write it, so that I don't lose my mind completely. Whilst I can keep track of my thoughts, I know they are still mine. Whilst I can write, I am sane.
Something screeches in the distance, inhuman and choked. I know so little about those that surround me, but I will share what I do know, save the details of their appearance which I find too terrible to contemplate for very long. The creatures, such as they are, are tall and hulking, and they walk on two legs, though I usually only see the top halves of their bodies due to the shape of the wide windows on each wall of my room. I have sometimes heard human screams and crying from other rooms here, leading me to believe I am not their only prisoner, but perhaps the only one whose cage is locked from the inside. Perhaps the most chilling information I can glean is that these creatures, so far as I can tell, were once human.
I came here with another. My boyfriend, my love. I forget how we came to be here, but we were together until I found my sanctuary. I am too ashamed to admit what separated us. Perhaps later for that.
But I saw him again. I saw his face, staring at me from one of those bulky, grotesque monstrosities they have for bodies. He watched me, like all the others watch me, and said nothing. He placed a hand against the glass and I wept.
My room is seven metres by seven metres, and those forty-nine metres squared are my heaven and my hell. Here, I am safe. Here, I am tormented. They are my afterlife in its entirety, without the promise of absolution to call it purgatory. I call it such for I am certain I have died. I don't know how I got here. I don't believe I can leave. I am guarded at all times by demon-angels and watched by the fluorescent eyes of God.
If I had to guess what the creatures wanted from me, I would say it was to make me like them. That's what they do with the others, I think,but it's more than that. When they look at me through the glass, it's as though they're waiting for me. They look at me with the expectant gaze one might see upon a hen waiting for her eggs to hatch. But they can't get me in here. A table is pushed against the door, with a chair on top of it. Besides which, the door is locked. For all their throwing themselves against it, the steel hinges refuse to budge. The glass too I believe is impenetrable, as I've had the opportunity to examine its thickness and seen it to be approximately three inches deep. It would take a car – and a fast one at that – to shatter it.
More wailing just now. It pierces my thoughts like a hypodermic needle,and injects such horror that I am paralysed. When I recover, I note that there are no creatures around me at the moment, and move cautiously to one of the windows, where I slowly pull myself up to peer through.
Nothing. Nothing moves in the shadows beyond the glare of stale, green-white light that surrounds me. But something is there, just out of view. I see it catch the light when the bulb flickers. It stands perfectly still. I look at it, and it looks back. The corridors stand in a square around my chamber, and where they cross over at the corners they disappear off into the darkness,leaving a total of eight paths away. I remember running through that black and cacophonous labyrinth when I first arrived at this room, my lover right behind me. His breath was heavy, and he choked on it when he screamed my name and begged me to wait.
I sink back to the floor. He was so beautiful, so clean and human. I will see his face again, but I will never see his smile. I will never hear his voice. I don't think I will ever hear my own name again.
I have been steeling myself to describe these creatures properly for you, and I now feel ready to do so. When I have not looked upon their bodies for a while, they become easier to comprehend without sickness flooding through my veins and terror shivering my skin. The creatures stand on two legs, as I have mentioned, and have human faces, but this is where the resemblance ends. Their legs are skinny and atrophied, yet somehow support a mass of tumorous, distended flesh that glistens moistly in the fluorescent light. This moistness owes itself to the tumours and cysts, which occasionally burst or leak a thin, black fluid that spills gruesomely over their skin and trails behind them like snail-slime. Their faces look out from a kind of depression in the front of their bodies, the mounds of swollen flesh crowding around the face so much it is sometimes obscured entirely. Their arms are vestigial, puny things hanging beneath their enormous torsos and swinging limply when they walk. Their gait is the staccato staggering of a man attempting to carry a grand piano on his back,which is no surprise considering the uselessness of their limbs compared to the burden of their torsos. When not walking, they are capable of standing perfectly still, apparently not requiring to breathe. My windows are stained grey and black where they have leaned against them and oozed their bile.
In my room, the walls and floor are all perfectly sealed, but there is a kind of small vent in each corner of the ceiling, about the size of my head. One of these is shattered, its horizontal slats smashed apart, and beneath it is a pile of matter which occasionally falls from the darkness above. I don't know if it is waste produced by the creatures or something else entirely, but it is fleshy and nutritious and it keeps me alive as much as it makes me gag. When it falls it splashes into a pool of liquid, which tastes somehow milky and
Something is here. A creature stands at the far window and watches me,perfectly still. I hide my face, burying my chin in my neck, and I try not to think about it. But then it knocks.
It knocked. I know it did. It was muffled by three inches of glass but it was a knocking. I look up, reflexively, and I'm transfixed by what I see. My love, returned again to torment me with the memory of his face. What is he
Oh no. Oh God.
He smiled at me.
His mouth moves again. I hear nothing but I see his tongue press against his teeth and it's my name he's saying my name he's saying my name
he knows me and he knows what I did
and he's smiling
I'm struggling to put into words what has just happened, but I will try and maintain a level head as I write. I am reeling. I feel as if my brain has been plucked from my skull, spun in a centrifuge, and placed squarely back into my body.
When I saw my lover smiling, I was overcome by it. This page is still wet with tears. I squeezed my eyes shut, but I could still see his face smiling out from that disgusting mass of flesh. And I saw us again,running through the halls, pursued by groans and strangled moaning. I saw myself slipping further and further away from him, heard his voice calling me again and again, saw my feet bolt into this room and my hands slam the door shut behind me. And then I saw myself, as though I were watching it from outside the room, sinking to the floor and clasping my hands over my ears to block out the sound of his screaming. And when I saw all this happening again behind my closed eyes I knew I deserved to join him in his fate. I threw the chair and table away from the door and twisted the lock open, then pulled on the handle.
And nothing happened.
The door remained locked.
I tried it again, but as much as I twisted it the steel bar in the lock remained in place. The handle swung uselessly as I pulled it again and again. I banged the door with my hands in desperation, a curious inverted echo of the creature's sounds reverberating around my cell,and tired myself out. Now I return to this, to you. And I don't know what to do.
Something is here again, attracted by my banging. My lover disappeared when I ran to the door, vanishing into the darkness. I retreat into my corner as it approaches, and prepare myself for the clamouring of flesh against steel, which may last anywhere from a minute to an hour. As I cover my head with my hands, I can't pull myself away from the horror of this realisation. All along, I thought I held the key to this room, that my staying here was a matter of choice, albeit one made largely for me. But in reality I am truly a prisoner. I couldn't leave if I wanted to. And as little as it changes, that makes it so much worse. As I write this now, I tremble and cry and I realise that these creatures are the only things that will ever read this note. One day I will die and you will pool your efforts and bring the door down and find this letter and will you even read it?Will you know what I am saying? Will you even be able to understand any of this?
The door clicks.
Oh God, the door clicks.
Not a bang. The click of a lock. Oh God oh god oh g
A pair stands together in a bright, warm room. The pale rays of an early, autumnal sunset come through the window and find them looking over a group of pages together. One of them begins to cry.
'If you need a moment, we can carry on later. I know this is very shocking and disturbing, and I can't imagine what it must be like for you to read it.'
'No, no, please, I can take it. I want to know.'
They return to the letter, crumpled and dirtied at the edges by the frenzied gripping of ink-stained hands. The handwriting is agitated, blue scratchings in capital letters. In places, it trails off.
'What's this about his food?'
'We're not sure. He gets his meals on paper trays that he leaves in the corner, so that's probably what he means by that, but I can't fathom why he thinks they fall from the sky. We just slide them through a slot in the door. We clear the corner out when he's sedated, but there's no evidence that he knows where it all goes.'
'What about the furniture?'
'Sustained hallucinations are very common in such advanced cases of schizophrenia. You've seen for yourself there's nothing in there, but he thinks he sees it and he thinks he can interact with it. I would assume it just makes him feel safer to think there's more between us than the door. We installed a fake lock on the inside for the same reason.'
One of the men folds the letter up and places it inside a brown paper folder. He then scribbles something on a notepad drawn out of a pocket inside a long, white coat.
'Mr. Brennan, I know you've refused it before, but support groups and counselling for people in your position are available and they're very, very helpful. It would make me feel a lot better if you'd at least take this.' He extends a hand with the note, which has an address and a time written on it. After a long hesitation, the other man silently takes it.
'And we'll keep you updated on any progress. You'll be the first to know.'
'Thanks,' mutters the other, staring at the note. He sucks his lips and folds it in half, sliding it into a pocket. 'You've been a massive help,doctor. I know you're doing your best. But I just can't see any changes since when he first came in.'
'Brain damage as severe as his has very unpredictable and often permanent effects. I wish I could tell you it was a matter of time, but that's not always the case.'
'I just wish he could give me something. When I saw him earlier, he...he recognised me. I know he does, he's said as much in that letter. But I'm not human to him. I only want him to know that's not the case.'
'It'll just agitate him more to engage him. We took a big risk letting the orderly retrieve the letter without sedating him first, and he almost had a heart attack as a result. Besides which, I don't know what damage it's done to his delusion to know we can go in there. We'll give him some more paper and his pen, and maybe we'll be able to do something productive with what he writes. This letter we have now has been extremely helpful.'
'Felt tip again.' This was not a question.
'Yes. Anything else is too dangerous.'
'I know.' One of the men shrugs on a blazer and moves towards the door.'I'd best be going now. I'll be back again next week, though.'
'Thank you again, doctor.'
'You're welcome, Mark.'
'Take care of him for me.'
'We'll do our best.'
With a nod, and his gaze turned downwards, the man leaves. The doctor opens the brown paper folder and looks over the notes, before opening the crumpled letter again and scanning it from page to page. After a few minutes, he retrieves a blank sheet from a stack on his desk, and picks up a grubby felt-tip pen, before leaving the office. Clean, white tiles pass him as he makes his way through corridors populated by orderlies and doctors, and soon he comes to a square room with thick windows on each wall. The sole occupant sits hunched in the corner furthest from the door, shaking visibly in his green shift. The doctor stands, his expression blank, and watches.