Project Shadow Case File: Patient 17 is a short story written by Kieran Stott, a second year English and Creative Writing student. It was written especially for the blog.
‘Identify the colour of this block.’
‘Patient 17, can you repeat that?’
‘One more time.’
‘Black. Blackness is coming.’
‘Sorry, what did you say?’
‘The colour is green.’
The scientists stood in the observation room. Patient 17 remained still, his blues eyes transfixed by white plastered walls. His hands twitched, and occasionally he muttered incoherently. All the signs of a mad man, even the prophetic announcement sought to reassure the scientists he was insane. But after multiple brain scans and even using the Yale program to get deep inside the workings of his brain, there was no evidence of mental deterioration, just paranoia.
‘The man is sane Dr Stuart, but unstable. Rehabilitation is what is needed.’
‘What do you think he meant the blackness?’
‘Nothing, the man is mentally unstable but not fully insane.’
‘I don’t know. He sounded scared.’
‘Isolation does that to you, Dr Stuart.’
Patient 17 had forgot why he was here, but he felt a powerful unease that made the hairs on his back stand to attention. After visual analysis, physical testing would begin. He had not seen many return from the Vaults. He heard their anguish, pain and curses. It seemed it was everywhere, and he could only wonder what it was waiting for…
Day came; at least that is what they had told him. He had not seen the sun in years. He vaguely recalled its sparkling glow and warm radiance. It was all a distant memory. The door to his cell opened and he was dragged out by the guards. Dr Stuart shook his head in disgust.
‘Let me remind you, we do not condone the man handling of pris-patients.’
Prisoner? Is that what he was going to say? That thought teased him as they walked through silver lined halls. Eventually they reached a maintenance elevator that was the only known way down to the Vaults. Unlike the clean and sterile surroundings, this lift stood in contrast. The descent into darkness began slowly, all he could hear was the screeching and rattling mesh. It pounded his ears and in a futile attempt to drown it out he clasped his hands over them.
The elevator suddenly stopped, the doors opened and Patient 17 saw that the guards down here were heavily armed, with rifles and protective gear. The walls were also grey, suggesting that this place existed long before the asylum above. He noted the low light, and the dampness of the air. As they progressed forward no one spoke.
They soon reached what was the Shadow’s Den. Guards were stationed above on the gangway that also led into some kind of observation area. The doors slowly parted and in the brightly lit room he saw the dark cloaked figure. The room seemed brighter than needed to be. He could only just make out the tattered hood. The Shadow man stood in one of the corners staring at the wall.
‘Patient 17, proceed to the centre, directly beneath the bulb.’
He did as he was asked. The room was terribly cold, it made him shiver, and as the door locked behind him this was the moment he most feared. He tried to maintain calmness but he could feel sweat pouring down his face.
‘Testing in progress,’ announced Dr Stuart. Suddenly all light except that of the bulb above went out. It left him in the cold iron grip of darkness.
‘I advise you 17 to remain in the circle of light. It is the only thing keeping you alive.’ He remained still, just making out two pairs of eyes. Just staring at him.
‘Why have you come?’ said the deep voice.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Are you the sacrifice? They feed me. They feed me people.” The voice was circling him.
‘What are you?’
‘Like you. A prisoner. A laboratory experiment!’
‘You were – human?’
The bulb flickered, and died.
Darkness swallowed him whole, a black hole of eternal nothingness that clasped onto him and threatened to tear him apart. He heard muffled voices, muffled cries, and the intercom system say it was entering lockdown. He still could not forget the eyes, empty of all emotion. And now as it wrapped around him, he felt his idle mind be lulled, he could move, but where?
It was thick and weighed heavy on his shoulders, it whispered sweetly in his thoughts. It promised freedom. Fresh air. Sunlight.
Dreams long lost flooded back. He felt joy, and happiness. The Bright light was sudden, as the Shadow left him lying on cold hard floor with blaring alarms. The door was partly opened. The Robed man stood over him, with white skin and bony fingers. Too the patient’s surprise, the man knelt down.
‘I give you the one thing you desire most.’ Patient 17 who lay in a foetal position could barely move let alone answer. ‘It’s time to sleep now.’