I meant to post earlier but ended up spending my day off doing a combination of running errands, playing video games, being a bum, and cooking. And then over the weekend I spent about 10 hours in a car, and the rest of the time was spent at the Penn State game or potato-ing from exhaustion. I did, however, manage to get some writing done on my phone, courtesy of the WritingPrompts subreddit. So below is the piece I wrote!
Meal times at Asch’s were usually uneventful. The patients were always grateful for their dinner, politely thanking me every time I delivered their trays. Most of the patients I served had some type of social anxiety or other reason they couldn’t eat in the communal area, so I would bring their food to their rooms. It was always the same: I knocked, they answered, I set them up while making small talk, and then left with a wish for them to enjoy their food.
At least it was, until now.
The last patient on my rounds is an elderly man named Walter Johnson. Mr. Johnson is a special case at the hospital. He’s been around for years, committed back in his 30s. The staff talk about him all the time. He claims to See things – fairies, trolls, creatures haunting and mocking him day in and day out. A lot of his time is spent sleeping, since that’s the only time he’s at peace. I’ve always felt sympathy for him. Whether it’s all in his head or not, his torment is very real.
Tonight he’s sitting in bed, quieter than usual. I try to make small talk.
“Hi Mr. Johnson. Hope you’re hungry. It’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes today!” Setting the tray on the table by his bed, I smile. “How are you feeling? Rebecca told me you were under the weather.”
“The usual, Ms. Ava. My headaches come and go, but they’ve been getting worse.” He looks at me with a certain amount of gravity.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe some food will help. I was told you haven’t eaten all day.” I sit at the edge of the bed. This wouldn’t be the first time I have to coax him to eat. “It’ll only get worse if you don’t eat.”
He smiles at me, but makes no move for the food. Before I can say anything else, he starts convulsing. He’s had seizures before, but something about this one is different. I jump into action almost immediately, calling for help before turning back to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Out of nowhere he reaches out, lucid for a brief moment, and grabs my hand. An electric shock runs through me, going straight to my temple.
I jump back, startled, in time for the doctor and two nurses to show up and take him away. Everything else is a blur then. All I can focus on are the shadows that litter the room. Shapes and sizes of all kinds – I’m afraid to focus on them. At some point my shift manager escorts me out of the room and lets me go home for the night. By the time I’m home, my head pounds with each step.
Though I’m alone, I can’t help the feeling of being watched. I’m on edge the rest of the night, so much so that my phone nearly gives me a heart attack. When I pick up, it’s Rebecca.
“Ava? You okay?”
“Yeah. How’s Mr. Johnson doing?”
“He’s…he’s gone.” The rest of her words almost go unregistered. Mr. Johnson died. He’s dead. I try to continue the conversation, at least long enough to know what happened, but all I can gather is that the seizure triggered a heart attack, or that’s the theory. When I hang up, all I can think about is going to bed. But when I get to my room, there they are again.
I ignore them. Some part of me knows they’re the same things that tormented Mr. Johnson, but I refuse to acknowledge them. It almost works, until one hops onto my bed. It’s small, round, and such a deep blue it’s almost black. Its skin resembles the night sky, solid but with a constant glow that makes it seem alive. A pair of eyes – two foggy, white and silver globes – look up at me from it.
The others, still formless shadows at the edges of my vision, hang back, as if making way for this particular creature.
“Hello. I’m sorry to appear this way. Walter left you a message.” Its voice echoes in my mind, a twinkling melody that vaguely resembles a child’s.
“Yes. He’s sorry.”
Look for more pieces inspired by Reddit prompts in the future! Tomorrow I’ll be trying to pick up on the daily pieces.
As always, think happy thoughts!