by Martin James Hunter
The tiny window at the end of the room disappears and I am again left shivering in the dark. Only a dull headache reminds me that I am alive.
I have no idea where I am, or why I am here. They say those lost to madness are oblivious to it, however I worry about it very often. My straightjacket and the cushions against my bare legs are damp and always have been. Something is terribly wrong with this place.
The room carries the stench of a neglected basement, leaking like one too. An intercom above the door crackles incessantly. It used to bother me at some point. Now it only does when it emits voices that stop when I lean closer.
Every time the observation window disappears I know someone is checking on me. This happens regularly and leaves me feeling helpless. I hear strange voices too, which I assume come from the doctors. They whisper obscurities through the glass, or sometimes just laugh at me. Once I am certain I was being masturbated over.
Soundlessly, my observer steps from the window and I can just see again. Sickly shades of yellow and brown stain and speckle the floors and walls of my padded cell. The only world I exist in now appears to be the bowels of hell.
I wish they wouldn’t watch me when I sleep. When I slip from my dreams into the darkness of the cell it takes a moment to realise I even exist at all. Sometimes I wake thinking everything is alright. That I am home and my beautiful wife is beside me. Then the stench returns and I realise it has been a long time since I could even remember her name.
I feel my eyes closing, my brain promising me a blissful escape instead of its usual twisting nightmares. As I drift off, the shadows in my peripheral vision elongate as though reaching for me. Again I have been betrayed.
I awaken to the squeaking of the door wheel. For a moment I am not sure how to react; the door has never been opened while I have been awake. Then I remember the evil these men are capable of and suddenly my heart is forcing itself through its ivory prison.
The door groans open and I am greeted by the silhouettes of two doctors observing me. No longer separated by iron, I watch like a child caught misbehaving. I am lifted to my feet with strong hands and led slowly from my cell into the corridor where a half inch of freezing liquid laps at my feet.
As we traipse on I glance at the doctor to my left, then look away immediately from the thing that appears to have been hit by a car. I remain fixated on the floor. We carry on down the corridor past old hospital equipment and upturned wheelchairs and graffiti until we come to a set of stairs which we descend.
Eventually we enter a room containing a trolley bed and a curtained wall. The straightjacket is removed from me, revealing two skeletal arms, aching legs, and a protruding network of ribs. For a brief moment I am ashamed at my miserable body.
One of the creatures points to the trolley. I try not to focus on their faces as they strap me in, staring at the amber ceiling fan above me. Beside me are three large cylinders filled with black liquid and an old heart monitor.
A grimace as two needles are poked through my wrist and watch in my peripheral vision as more wires are attached to various points on my body. The heart monitor crackles until they tune it into my heartbeat.
The curtains slide open revealing a large observation window. Disorientated and confused, it takes me a moment to see through the glass at the attentive room of abominations and faceless creatures. I focus on one of them, a hunched thing dribbling from every pore and almost too soft to live, then I squeeze my eyelids closed. The heart rate monitor updates the room.
The doctors speak to another in a tongue I fail to understand, then I hear what sounds like a single pump from an iron lung. I open my eyes and turn to the three cylinders of liquid as one of them begins to empty into me. The black chemical travels down the IV until it reaches my wrist.
Nothing happens until the blades of the ceiling fan trail hazily and my ears ring and I start sweating despite the cold. I turn to the creatures at the other side of the mirror and watch as they meld and fuse and swim together like reflections in a disturbed puddle. My body begins to shake uncontrollably.
There is another hiss as the second cylinder begins to drain. It takes only a moment for the chemical to take effect. My digits tingle first, then my limbs, then I am my grating my teeth. I jerk from a wave of euphoria – pause – then an orgasm hits sending the heart monitor wailing with me. I buckle and kick at my restraints as black cum pumps over my belly.
I am lying there confused watching my stained abdomen expand and retract when I am suddenly aware of the creatures laughing. I avoid looking at them. The last cylinder empties into me with another hiss. Exhausted, I watch it, dreading this final third act. I can feel my dark audience on the edge of their seats.
Spears of glass shoot through my arm and torso and spread to the rest of my limbs and face, traversing my every vein and artery and rupturing organs and spilling their contents over another until my lips split with all the screaming. I grind my teeth so hard some of them shatter and are swallowed and sever tissue as they descend. My body shudders and kicks and I retch and squeal and spray saliva and beg to be put out of my misery and then I am.
As I lie there barely conscious watching the ceiling fan drift in and out of focus, I notice the shards in my throat for some reason cause no pain. The two creatures continue to monitor me without expression. I want to ask them if their game is over.
There is some commotion from my audience through the glass. I peer at them and notice they are standing, rapturous and enthusiastic in their applause. I assume the sounds from their unnatural throats is their own form of cheering.
Despite the situation, an unexpected sentiment comes over me. It is then I realise the fitted tuxedos and dresses over their tumid bodies, and the jewellery around their strange necks and wrists. And it hits me. This is their Hamlet, their Death of a Salesman – and I am their star.
My split gums draw back revealing shattered ivory. My wish to deliver a final bow, to lower my hat, or to perform an encore is limited by my restraints and the light-headedness. As my eyelids draw closed like a final curtain, I am certain my dark standing ovation will continue long after my death.