He stared straight into my eyes.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
“How do I know what you are?”
“I’m trying to help you,” I said.
“Oh, fuck you. I know you aren’t. You are trying to figure me out. How many of us do you keep here?”
“Most are here only for a few weeks.”
“Stop stalling. How many?
“There are several hundred patients on the closed wards.”
“Several hundred! I knew it!”
“That I’m not crazy as you say. I knew I couldn’t be the only one!”
“The only one?”
“The only one that saw them.”
“Them,” he said. “Whatever creatures they are. Bloodsuckers. Vampires. Cannibals. I don’t know. You know. You tell me what they are!”
I looked at Nick’s file and, seeing that there were only a few scribbled words, looked up again. “Paranoid, schizophrenic, dangerous,” said the paper.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.
“Those things you are protecting.”
“Nick,” I said. “I know you don’t trust me, but I am genuinely trying to help you.”
Nick laughed. I ignored it.
“I need to know what happened,” I said. “Or at least why you think that I’m trying to harm you.”
“You’re protecting them,” he said.
“Who am I protecting?”
“You keep them hidden so they can attack us.”
“Nick, who is kept hidden?”
“Those things,” he said. “They look like us but they are something else. I’ve never seen something like that. I never even imagined something like that could exist.”
“You saw one of these things?”
“No,” Nick said.
“No, I didn’t just see one of them. I talked to him. I shook his hand. And then he turned around and did – that.”
Nick sighed. He looked at the closed brown file lying on the table, then at the recorder lying next to it. He sank deeper into his chair.
“Look,” he said. “I was working out in our front yard, clearing the grass from between our driveway stones. We had the house for years and had never bothered about it and it was a hell of a mess. I had to use a small knife to scratch it all out. And there I was crouching on the floor, scratching between the stones, and suddenly this guy stands in our driveway. I hadn’t heard him come and he didn’t say a word, he just stood there.”
“Well, a man. Dark hair, slim and tall. Dressed in a pretty nice suit. No glasses, no facial hair. His skin looked a big yellowish.”
“Okay,” I said. “And he stood there?”
“He stood there, he must have been watching me. I had my back to the street, so who knows how long this guy had been watching me. Maybe I was even his target, you know?”
“And you talked to him?”
“Yes, I mean, what else should I have done? He didn’t really look threatening or anything, he looked like some average banker type of guy. I said ‘Hello’ and he replied and said that my garden looked nice. So I said thanks, got up and said that it was a lot of work to maintain it and the guy took one or two steps and shook my hand and the next moment we were talking about gardening.”
“And you think this man was somehow trying to silence you?”
Nick looked puzzled.
“No,” Nick said. “I mean, he was one of them. He wasn’t human, I don’t believe he was human. Back then I believed it, when we talked about the weather and that it was too dry for propper gardening. He mentioned that his gardener stopped coming because his child fell ill or so and then we had a hearty talk about unreliable laborers and everything. I mean, I was near inviting this guy into my home! Into my home, do you understand?”
“So you didn’t invite him in?”
“No, fuck God, lucky I didn’t. My kid was somewhere upstairs. You know, I never believed in any religion or anything, but since seeing this thing, since seeing what it does and then it turns around and looks normal again, I started praying. I pray that my son is safe and that somehow all this is revealed and that those things are slaughtered the way they deserve and that nothing like this can ever happen again.”
“Nothing like what?”
Nick bit his lips and seemed to disappear slowly into his chair.
“There was this kid,” he said. “A little girl on a bicycle. Probably not even ten. I’d seen her before, although I’m not sure which neighbor she belonged to. She rode up and down the street a few times and each time she did this guy turned around, waved, and then his eyes followed her. She wasn’t loud or anything, I don’t even know how he could have noticed her. I didn’t think much of it; thought just that he was her uncle or something of the sort.”
“And then the girl rode by the last time and this guy turned around and waved to her and she noticed him, stopped her bicycle and waved back. And he just…”
Nick pressed his eyes shut, lowered his head and bit hard on his lower lip.
“What did he do, Nick?”
Nick shook his head.
“I don’t know how it happened. It was all so quick. One moment he was in front of me and said something about watering flowers and the next instant he is there, pulls the girl up and bites in her neck. The girl didn’t even scream. He bit a huge chunk out of her neck and then held her over his neck and her eyes were still open and she was still moving but she didn’t scream. There was just this sucking sound and then a loud crunch and he ripped her head off and threw it aside.”
“He ripped her head off?”
“I didn’t even have time to move! It was all so quick! And then he throws the body on the floor and an instant later he is back in front of me, smiling, and saying something about sunflowers. I didn’t even blink, you know? I didn’t blink and this guy just moved from one place to the other.”
“And you kept talking to him?”
“Hell no, I mean, the guy kept talking but I just grabbed the knife and slowly walked backwards away from him. He even looked confused, as if I was insulting him. He took two steps and then stopped following me, frowned and walked back onto the street, right past that girl’s body, and I ran inside and called the police.”
“And the police believed you?”
“They didn’t listen to me. I mean, it was weird. I had the operator and I told her the address and that someone killed a child in front of my eyes and suddenly there was a high-pitched noise and it was a different voice, but she talked as if she was the same person. I explained the best I coudl what I had just seen and she said they would send someone. The operator was really calm, like, as if that was a normal thing for her that some guy kills a little girl.”
“And they came?”
“I think that wasn’t the police, you know? That wasn’t the police at all. They came so quickly, within five minutes but the cars were just black, not police cars or anything. And then two of them came to my door and asked me to come outside to make my testimony and they led me straight to the car.”
“They took you to the station?”
“I don’t know what that place was. I mean, they put me in the car and I saw how they were throwing the girl’s body and bicycle in another car. When we drove off one of them was what looked like sandblasting the street, but with foam rather than sand. The glass was colored from the inside so I didn’t see where we were going, but we took turn after turn for at least half an hour. I think they tried to confuse me.”
“So they were taking you and the girl both away?”
“Yes! I mean I didn’t see the girl again but they brought me to this complex. I don’t know what it was from the outside, but it was just white from the inside. And they kept asking and testing me. They fed me weird pills and told me that I was sick and needed to be cured. They made me take polygraph tests and brain scans while they asked me questions.”
“They kept you there for a long time?”
Nick shifted in his white plastic chair.
“I don’t know how long. In the room where they dumped me the light was always on and when they woke me up and I always still felt tired. I really don’t know, but it was at least a month. Probably much longer. I started saying that I don’t remember because that’s what I thought that they wanted to hear. They still kept me though, until I myself started to believe that I don’t remember – that’s when they moved me to a different place. It looked like a prison but I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. At least they gave me books. And now I’m here, you know?”
“So you forgot about the events for a while?”
“No. I mean, I’m not sure if I remember everything correctly. They fed me so much doubt and so many alternative stories. They tried to convince me that it was a traffic accident, they even showed me a newspaper clipping that had a picture of the girl and said she was killed in an accident. Then they even suggested that I killed the girl, that I pushed her or worse. But I know that’s not true. I remember seeing him there; he was there; I talked to him and the next moment he had his mouth around her neck!”
When I walked out of the room I felt Nick’s stare in my back.
“You’re good,” he had said. “I guess I just wanted to tell someone and you pulled it out of me. I won’t lie anymore. I remember. Go and tell your people that I still remember. I will always remember. I don’t doubt, no matter how much you try to get in my brain!”
The door closed behind me. I walked to my office with the recorder and file in my hand. While I walked along the long halls I had the feeling as if someone was watching my every step. I felt compelled to encrypt the recording.
I sat in my chair, stared against the empty white wall at the opposite end of the room, and heard his words in my head.
I opened the file again, placed it on the wooden table and stared at the admissions form.
“Transfer,” was written at the top of the page. Then his name and details.
“Paranoid, schizophrenic, dangerous.”
At the bottom of the page was the comment box. We usually use it to give each other useful information about patient’s behavior and attitude. Things to use to gain the patient’s trust; things that could help to cure them – or at least to make their stay more comfortable.
It said none of these things. There were only a few words, scribbled in capital letters:
“DO NOT ALLOW MAIL. DO NO ALLOW PHONE CALLS. DO NOT RELEASE.”
There was a phone number.
“CALL FOR RELEASE PERMISSION.”
The internet didn’t show any results for the number.
Just a moment after I hit the dial button there was a high-pitched noise. A female voice answered. She didn’t say an organization name and neither hers. Just two words.
I hung up.