“What do you mean?”
You’re going to do a terrible, terrible thing, and there will be no-one to blame but yourself.
“Well that’s cheery. You should probably go back to bed.”
The man gave a little chuckle. It sounded phlegmy and unpleasant, like dark bubbles popping in tar.
What do you think you’re doing here?
It was my turn to laugh. “I work here. Looking after you guys.”
You really think you can just walk into a job like that off the street? In a medical facility, of all places?
There was no way he could have known about that. The back of his head was as implacable as ever.
It’s not very plausible, is it? In fact, when you think about it, nothing about this place really adds up. You haven’t really thought this through.
I just stood there staring, with the nameless muzak simpering on in the background. Perhaps I was hallucinating again.
“I have to go,” I mumbled, unsure of what else to do. My palms pricked with sweat. I walked on down the corridor, breathing an inward sigh of relief. Strange. The sleepwalkers were usually placid and uncommunicative, locked in their own private little worlds. This man had been downright confrontational.
I walked down to the staff room, my head a fog of speculation and confusion. I was surprised to see one of the nurses seated at the table, a fresh cup of mud-brown coffee steaming in front of her.
She had her back to me. “The patients are lively tonight,” I said.
You can’t hide from things forever.
It was that exact same voice echoing through the softly furnished room.
Sooner or later you’ll have to face reality, and the longer you leave it the worse it will be.
It felt as though an electric shock had jangled through my body. I ran round the table to face her, but when I did I found that her eyes were closed and she wore the sanguine expression of someone lost in a deep and dreamless sleep.
Just then the bank of TV screens on the wall behind me fizzed and crackled, lighting up the cramped little room with a brief flare like a flash of lightning from behind a dark cloud. I turned to face them, and found only static bleeding into the room from each and every screen.
But one by one a picture flicked into life on each of the monitors, each showing a different scene in grainy black and white. It took me a moment to resolve the overexposed images into recognizable shapes and figures. In each screen the camera gave a first-person perspective of someone moving jerkily through an unidentifiable scene, sometimes a hallway or corridor, sometimes a busy city street.
All at once every screen exploded into action, a flurry of manic movement lurching drunkenly this way and that. In this chaos of motion I could see people wide-eyed and panic-stricken, their mouths open in silent screams, staring into the camera with horror in their eyes and fleeing in abject terror. Here and there a hand could be seen on screen, the hand of the faceless protagonist, and on each screen the unmistakeable flash of a large knife cut through the hazy images.
My stomach lurched as my eyes flicked from screen to screen, finding one scene of random carnage after another. The blade swung and stabbed and slashed, biting into flesh with sickening regularity. Black gouts of blood welled from every wound as the unknown assailant ploughed his way through victim after victim. Somehow the grainy low-resolution images lent a further reality to these grim and brutal vignettes, and I felt each and every thrust of the knife with a visceral twist in my own guts.