Brian sat at the window watching the birds. He was always there, in his room, watching birds. It was his life. What else did he have to do? He was trapped and alone not just in this place but in his own mind. He was a prisoner his own body, constantly screaming to be free.
“Scream as I scream, but no one listens to me.” He would have said to the empty room, but to talk would have meant he would have to have typed it out using the one finger tip that he did have enough control over to use. It would have been typed, not spoken, and then the room would have heard the computer generated voice that was now what he thought of as his own.
How much of him was even presented to the world? How did the world see him, just the crippled in the chair or did any of them ever see what he was in side.
What did they matter, he was an outcast inside and out…
A new bird chirped as it landed close to other and the two caught over some unseen worm. The fight drew him out of his thoughts though he knew it would only be temporary. He had woken up again in a foul mood. He couldn’t place why he had been waking up in such temperaments, but felt the blame had something to do with his dreams lately. He couldn’t remember them, but would wake up shivering and sweating.
“And how is my young athlete doing this morning?” A booming, chipper voice called out behind him. Brian didn’t turn around to look. He couldn’t, not without moving his whole chair, but he also didn’t have to, to know that the voice belonged to Jerome. “We ready to get up and take on the day.”
Jerome wasn’t this insensitive to all the patients he cared for. He was a good guy, and his jokes were often tailored to his audience. Brian could take the joke and most days the barbs would be returned in a jousting match of insults and sarcasm, all good natured. However today wasn’t a good day. Instead there was an anger that was building, that dark feeling that was following him out from his dreams. It made him want to snarl and lash out at the world, and for right now, the world was Jerome.
“You shouldn’t say that,” Came the computer generated voice from the speaker attached to his chair. It was followed by a single tear that ran down his cheek.
Jerome had continued into the room as he had talked and had gone to the sheet next to the bed, writing in some information into the log sheet there. At the sound of the voice box, Brian watched through the reflected glass as the man looked up in shock at the boy sitting in the wheelchair. Jeromes mouth had opened in shock, and Brian could see how much pain now spread on his face.
“Bro, I’m sorry. You know I was just kidding.” Jerome set down the clipboard and walked over to Brian, coming around and lowering himself so he could look into the boy’s eyes. “You know I don’t mean stuff like that right. We just always kid. Something getting you this morning.”
Brian could feel like more tears threatening to stream out of him in a flood of emotions he himself didn’t even understand. He could feel them right below the surface, but not the cause of why they were there. They were bottling up, just like the anger he was feeling. All of it, fighting as to which emotion was going to break free, and at the same time he didn’t want to release any of it. Not now, not in front of Jerome when it had been Jerome’s own words that had brought all of this to the surface.
“What is wrong with you lately” the little voice inside him asked as he looked back at Jerome. No he glared at him, the anger taking the forefront of the storm. He refused to even reply as he just stared into those dark ember eyes that looked at him with compassion.
The moment lingered and doubt creased along Jerome’s face until he stood and backed away. Brian could tell the big guy was thinking, which wouldn’t surprise Brian as Jerome was a pretty smart guy. He was normally fun and geeky, full of comic book knowledge and always up on the latest movies coming out. Not only that but he knew about stuff and was a deep thinker. Jerome had once told him that he was minoring in philosophy in college before he decided to dedicate himself full time to helping people, and sure while much of that could have been bullshit, Brian didn’t think so. He believed him, because Jerome was also very earnest.
So as Jerome stood up and looked outside, at the grass that was covered in fall colored leaves, Brian knew he was deep into his thoughts about something.
“When was the last time your sister came by to see you?” Jerome asked, looking back to Brian. Brian wanted to scoff. He tried too, and he even typed in “ha, ha” into his little keyboard, but all that came out was the digital laugh that sounded eerily creepy.
“That’s what I thought. Don’t seem right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know her, she’s not my sister, but sure seems selfish how she stays away. Just doesn’t seem right.” Jerome was again looking out the window and his voice had grown distant as he kept his gaze locked on the trees.
Brian looked in that direction and was struck by the shadows. They were dancing. He could first see how the ones that stretched out from the woods into the grass swayed back and forth and gyrated like people in a seductive rhythm. Bodies of darkness were intertwined, wrapping around one another as though moving to their own song. They were beckoning, reaching out to him, he could see it. He could even feel it inside his chest, burning inside his soul. He felt something inside him shift, and though while knowing it was impossible, he could feel his penis growing stiff.
The shadows pulled him in, and he found himself looking at the trees. Was that a man he saw there? It was far enough away he couldn’t be sure. The man was hidden, but somehow Brian knew that if he did see him, he would still not be able to make out any details.
There were other patients, members of the long term care society just like himself. Many of them would be walking along the paths, escorted by one of the many orderlies. They were out there, mulling around like cows out to pasture. Though as they all walked, everyone avoided the shadows. He even watched as Nelson, a zombie of a person so out of touch on med’s that he never responded to anyone, shocked the orderly he suddenly sidestepped out of the path of a dancing shadow that had stretched towards him.
They all were avoiding them and avoiding the woods. What was out there?
Brian adjust his wheelchair so he could see Jerome who was still looking off to the woods.
“Jay.” The digital voice called out for Brian. “J-man, come on.”
Jerome looked at him, the jolly smile Jerome normally had was spread wider into an unnatural tooth filled grin, and there were so many teeth. Brian was sure there were more teeth than what was right and that there might have been another set of teeth buried deeper within. Jerome’s kind eyes were gone, burned away by a purple flame that burned in his eyes.
Brian’s friend was disappearing before him and something else was replacing him. It wasn’t the thing in the woods, as Brian was convinced that he would never see the things features had the shadow man been in there.
Why are you so sure of that? He didn’t know, he just was. This was something else, and it was wrong to this world.
“Hey B-dawg, what’s wrong.” The thing said, its voice stretched and broken, somehow rattling as it spoke. It was like the voice was formed as wind blowing through broken glass, shaking then shards as sound stretched into words.
It sent a shiver through Brian. He knew he should run, and he did want to get away, but he also knew how pointless that would be. Even now as terrified as he was and shook in terror, none of it was visible as his body trapped him. He had nowhere to go. He was more a prisoner in his own body than he was to the room around him. He had been trapped long before this creature appeared.
“You see me…” the thing spoke, but Brian noted the surprise when it struggled with the words. Each syllable was slow and paused. It reminded Brian of how his older speaker system had been, when the system spoke each word as he typed rather than waiting for him to finish what he had typed. It had made for long stretched out sentences all because the machine kept saying a word, pause, then say another word.
“You see him too.” The creature who had once been Jerome looked towards the trees much as Jerome had before this thing took his body. “It thinks it is master just because it found it first and has been here longer.”
The creature looked back to Brian and Brian knew Jerome was lost. The burning eyes were melting away the skin around the sockets and the mouth that had torn wide to accommodate the new set of growing, sharpening teeth was continuing to bleed. Blood was dripping from its gums and now the lower jaw was red as it spat out when the thing spoke. There was no returning from this.
Brian knew he should be scared, and for the skip of a heart beat, he had been. Then he hadn’t died. The thing was there and it wasn’t attacking him. So the fear slipped to the back of his mind, still there, but lulled as he watch the thing talking to him. Maybe it was part of his condition, or it was because he was used to being trapped within himself and that was worse than whatever this thing could do. It could just be that logic had won out and he realized that if he was alive and this thing was still talking to him, then it needed him. Whatever was the case, he found himself not the terrified mouse looking back at the predator, but as the grizzled vet, staring at the end of his life.
It knelt down close and Brian could smell the blood on its breath as it spoke.
“It does not control me. It wants you.” Blood spattering Brian’s face as it spoke. “It wants you to its collection. Some think it be a trickster, but I’ve known it too long. It be a collector. It wants you for its collection.” Brian felt the chill from the thing’s eyes and wished he could turn his face away. He couldn’t. He was locked in and his eyes were fixed on staring into the cold flames.
How could cold burn into him? He wasn’t sure, but he felt it. There was no getting away from what he felt. As much as he wanted to, there was no escape.
“I’m not going to kill you. If I kill you, then you become a part of it’s collection.” It said as it backed away from Brian. Brian tried to take in a quick gasp of air in relief, but found that his body was fighting him. Instead, his breathing was still quick, struggling to keep up with his racing heart. He was more terrified than he realized, but it was all alien to him. His body reacted, but his mind felt detached. Like it could watch this thing as it moved and transformed, while still being able to study it and think rationally. The thing had just told him it was there to kill him. Then why was it there?
“What then? If you are not going to kill me?” Brian asked. He did. It took him a couple seconds to comprehend it, but he had said the words, not the speaker. He had not taken the time to type the message out, but instead had just blurted it out. Something he hadn’t been able to do for over three years, but yet the words had come to him, and they had left his own lips.
He felt the tear as it stung his cheek, and knew there would be a tidal wave behind it. He had spoke. That was a miracle, and one he had given up on long ago. He had moved more than just a few muscles. If he could do that, then what else could he do?
The thing was looking back at him, and that wide, tooth filled smile stretched wider, tearing more skin.
“I want you to get something for me.”
“You can. What would you do to have your body back? Would you kill?”
Brian shook his head ‘no,’ before he realized he was doing it. Then his eyes opened wide in disbelief and suddenly he wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t kill to have his body back.
“You would. I can see the doubt. You think you wouldn’t, but you would.”
“No.” Something about hearing his own thoughts come from the thing’s mouth gave Brian a new found resolve. Having his body back would be great, but he realized he would never be able to live with himself if it meant taking another’s life.
The thing just nodded and went back to walking around the room. Brian hadn’t noticed before, but even when it had been close to the window, it still moved to stay away from any direct source of light. It always moved around them, working to stay in the shadows, even if the shadows were faint in the well lit room.
It went to the door and closed it.
“No? Well, we’ll see, but I don’t need you to kill. I just need you to get some things. Things that it can’t get. Things that we want. Things that we need. Things that a few people have…including your sister.”