by Rune Cutter
What defines reality? Carolyn is a brilliant psychiatrist, can she save Benjamin?
|Carolyn Evans received the case of Benjamin Wyr on 31 October 1998, Halloween. Doctor Ernest Wayne retired on that date; They gave him a watch and a fishing pole. He gave them the finger.
She spent the next week reviewing the in-patients. Benjamin was the most tragic. His intake sheet reported that he had been found naked on an abandoned property after being missing for two weeks. Blood tests showed the presence of an unknown alkaloid, possibly datura. During the day he slept in the sunlight from the room's single window. As night approached, he would turn on more and more of his specially provided lights, then spasm and twist in front of them. Previous treatment had been heavy sedation before dusk with strong anti-anxiety drugs during the day. The result was a medicated catatonia that required no therapy. Minimum expense, maximum profit.
After studying Wyr through the one-way glass in his door, Carol began cutting his medications.
A week later, she received a call from the nurse in charge of the night shift. Mr. Wyr had become violent during a power-outage. Nurse Birks requested that if he could not be medicated, then he should be restrained to prevent him from further injuring himself. Carol conceded and allowed her to medicate him.
It took another week to get the medications balanced so that Carol could talk to Benjamin and note his reactions. He began to hold her gaze, and he reacted more and more to her voice although it was pointless to try to speak with him unless every light was turned on.
One day she stood to leave, and he said: "Don't go."
"I like listening to your voice; it helps me."
"When you're here, it's always bright, and I can't feel the Piper."
"He hides in the shadows."
"The Piper hides in the shadows?"
"Yes. He is darkness and makes the sleeping dead things dance."
The more he talked about his delusion, the more uneasy he became.
"What can I do to help, Mr. Wyr?"
"Keep the lights on, don't let him find the cracks in the corners."
"We'll leave the lights on, Mr. Wyr, but you can't hurt yourself anymore."
"I didn't hurt myself. I bit them and scratched them off. They wouldn't let go and stuck their flesh in me, so I ripped and chewed it off."
She didn’t want him to re-immerse in the delusion, so she ended the session.
"I have to go now Mr. Wyr; I'll be back tomorrow. You can keep the lights on."
He sat there in the middle of the room, squatting on his heels and rocking.
Progress! It had taken a month but it was a beginning, his thoughts were organized; if delusional. Now to turn him away from this strange path.
The next morning, Doctor Evens came in after a light tap at the door.
"Hello Benjamin, how are you today?"
The young man smiled and said, "I'm still alive."
"Well, that's a good thing. How are the meds working for you?"
"They’re good; I'm not as worried."
"Let's talk about what’s worrying you. How are you doing with shadows?"
"They frighten me, but they can't hurt me, can they?" He sounded uneasy, more like he was fishing for what to say.
"What do you think?"
"No, I guess not."
"What is a shadow?"
"It's nothing; just an image of something caused by light being blocked."
"That's right, it's nothing, it can't hurt you. Benny, I want to turn off one of the lights."
His sudden change of tone troubled her.
"What if you turn off one?"
"You could just flick it off and then right back on."
He didn't answer this time; he was looking at the switch.
"You can do it, just switch one off for a second, there are four lights, and there will still be plenty of light.
"Do you know where the darkness goes when it isn't here Doctor Evens?"
"It just goes away Benny; it doesn't exist."
He smiled at her and switched the light off then back on again.
"That's great Benny you did it!"
"Yeah, I did it, hurray for me."
"Well if it's no big deal, let's turn the other ones off."
"Easy, we don't have to turn them off."
"I don't want them off!"
"OK, I'll make you a deal, I won't turn them off, no one will, but you."
"I won't turn them off!"
"But you turned one off, for a second, you did that."
"Yes, I did."
"I'll see you again tomorrow. If you can try turning off the light a couple of times, it would be great! I couldn't tell the difference between four lights and three. Could you?"
For months they worked at it. He learned to relax, and they made little shadow puppets on the wall. When there was one last light, he refused to shut it off. No cajoling, no reasoning would convince him to turn it off. Carol, lost patience; she could see the goal there in front of her. He was so close to independence, so close to going home. If she could just show him, his intellect would take over. He would dispel the demons that haunted him.
She flipped off the last switch to prove to him that there was nothing to fear.
There was only moon and starlight coming through the window.
A blackness somehow darker than absolute welled up in the four corners of the room. It twisted on itself collapsing and growing taller. It wove itself into existence grasping every shadow of the room and gathering them into itself. Shrill piping filled the room, the masses struck and flowed into Benjamin. They tore into his flesh, flaying him before Carol's eyes. Blood splattered her; it should have been black in the unlight, but the pitch of the shadows was so complete, that it stood out in bright scarlet contrast. As the darkness ripped him away, strands of abysal night sprouted from his organs and writhed about bone giving him new muscles of flat black obsidian.
He stood there in front of her. A thousand tendrils of the void extended from his flesh; reeling and pulsing to the rhythm of the pipes.
"Do you know where the darkness goes when it’s not here, Doctor Evans? It goes inside you."