A bedridden patient receives a terrifying guest.
|When your eyes reveal a truth is it madness if no one else can see? At what point does a man acknowledge his senses have taken leave of reality and are communicating things which cannot be?
These questions have plagued me since first I encountered the thing that torments me, the abomination perched at the end of my hospital bed each night.
It has been five days since my nightmare began. Yet, it seems only last night I was awoken by the piteous cries and woeful moans from behind the curtain on the far side of the room. My financial means did not allow for a private room. Instead, I share my recovery space with another; Mr. Eugene Gray; an older gentleman of declining health and noisome kin.
During that first encounter with the horror, I held no fear for myself, only a mild aggravation at being awoken at three a.m. by Mr. Gray’s outbursts. I attempted to wake him by calling his name but received no reply. Instead my attempt was met with a chitinous clamor and the shadowy vision of some...some…thing clambering up the curtain and disappearing beneath the ceiling tiles.
The sight was shocking beyond compare and I immediately rang for the nurse. Of course, my explanation of an intruder was met with looks of disbelief. In retrospect, I don’t know how I expected any other reaction. Yet when the nurse threw back the curtain to check on Gray, she discovered he was quite dead.
A flurry of rushing nurses and doctors soon followed, ending with Mr. Gray being ushered out of the room never to return; leaving me in an alarmed state of disquiet.
In my bed-ridden condition, I considered the possibility of the vision being a dream. A roguish apparition heralded by my neighbor’s rather vocal demise. My roaming eyes, however, soon caught sight of the panel above Mr. Gray’s bed. It lay askew to the others. A minor imperfection in an otherwise pristine checkerboard of white. Then, suddenly the board slid into place sending a fine shower of dust drifting to the floor.
The next morning had me writing the experience off to pain killers and bad dreams. Then, the hospital’s newest patient, Joseph Miller, arrived. He shared the same unfortunate spinal injury and associated waist down paralysis as I. Unlike me, Miller had many callers; his wife and three daughters along with a hodge-podge of well-wishing friends.
When night came, I was once again awakened by the mournful outcries of my bedfellow. My eyes leapt immediately to the tiles in the ceiling. A black opening gaped there, a slender thread, alabaster in the open window’s glow, dangled to my guest’s bed.
The curtains between us lay open and I noted the dark mass perched atop my roommate’s torso. The things segmented legs extended like a beetle's from its bulbous black body, the triangular head pressed against Miller’s rising chest. I had no doubt the revolting creature was feeding, its body pulsing in heartbeat rhythm.
My throat dry with fear, I coughed out an alarm, poked repeatedly at the nurse’s call button. The thing turned, its legs articulating like the slow moving fingers of a severed hand, and mounted the bed rail before ascending the string.
As the nurse burst in and flicked on the lights, the filth peered from beneath the tile. Its eyes gleaming in sudden illumination, reflecting the light in a prismatic spray of color.
“It’s there!” I screamed, jabbing a finger at the gaping ceiling. The creature was as clearly visible as the nose on my face.
Yet, the nurse did nothing. She paused for only a moment to follow the direction of my extended arm, then she was beside Miller calling a Code Blue over the hospital PA.
For a second time, in as many days, a roommate of mine had died. I’ve seen now the nature of their killer but no nurse, no doctor will heed my claims. I can see the pity in their eyes when I tell my tale but they do no more than pat me on the arm and tell me it will be okay. Perhaps it’s a fear of my declining mental health; maybe they consider me an agent of ill fortune. For whatever reason, the last two nights have found me alone in this room.
Of course, I could not sleep. During the night, I hear the thing’s scrabbling in the ceiling, saw the panel crack open and the silken thread drop from the hole. The creature lurks at the edge of my bed now, waiting for sleep to overtake me. Even as I write, it waits, knowing full well there is nothing I can do to stop it, no one who will believe my ravings if ravings they are.
The only test is to sleep. If I awake in the morning then I am most certainly mad. If I do not wake…then the world is mad and God save us all.