Unexpectedly, unintentionally, and unfortunately, the man with the terrible eyes wakes from a nightmare and finds that the dream hasn't ended. He looks up, eyes barely able to focus, and sees a ceiling, a ceiling with rectangular tiles and fluorescent lights, quickly passing. He can't lift his head. He can't feel his arms or legs. He's on his back, and half-blurry figures tower above him.
"What's going on?" he slurs as they roll the gurney he's on through tall double doors. The hazy figures pushing him don't answer.
He tries to remember.
It had been his day off. He'd spent it all inside the house, worrying. He'd eaten. He'd fed the dog. He'd read a book. He'd tried everything to keep his mind off Bridges and monsters, and then he'd gone to bed. That's it. And now he's here.
"Why?" he says.
They do not answer.
Inside the room are sterile white walls, spotless gray floors, fluorescent lights that blind him when they enter, and medical equipment. Huge machines he doesn't know the names of that hum with- what? What do they hum with? Are they supposed to hum? They wheel him over to a metal table and strap him down.
"Stop," he says weakly.
They all ignore him, save for one woman. She's upper middle age, has dark skin and darker hair tied up in a ponytail, and glasses with pointy frames. She wears no nametag, and he doesn't remember ever seeing her in his life, but a name floats to the surface of his mind, almost within reach.
She smiles at him, but it's a sad smile.
"Don't worry, kid," she says, though nobody's called him a kid in years."It'll be over soon."
"Joanne?" he says.
"Hey, you remember me this time. That's nice of you, but it means we'll probably have to up your dose." She marks that down in her clipboard while someone else, some faceless, genderless being in a lab coat wheels over a tray full of needles.
They take his blood. A lot of it, and they replace it with strange, colored liquids. Ten injections, two in the veins on his arm, two on his side, and the rest on a spot on the back of his neck. Whatever's inside them bubbles in his veins. He can see it when they inject his arms. His skin twists and stabs upwards, like something inside is trying to get out.
The technicians talk amongst themselves, but the talk becomes as ill defined as their faces after the second injection. He can't even speak anymore.
They move him into a chair with straps for his head, wrists, waist, and ankles. They stick something that feels like, well, stickers onto his temples and behind his ears. He feels the cold metal of the chair, even through his pajamas. In front of him, they place a monitor and a machine with a light bulb screwed in.
"Make it light up," says a figure beside him.
He can't. He can barely keep his head up. His eyes can barely focus. And the command confuses him. Light bulb? Flick a switch or something.
The man makes a mark on his clipboard and then presses a button on the machine next to him.
Ten thousand volts of electricity course through his veins. He does not know how he knows it's exactly ten thousand, but he does. He cannot yell. He merely strains in agony until it stops. When it does stop, the man, he knows it is a man, now, says, "Make the bulb light up."
He can't. Again, the button is pushed. This time, the electricity lasts longer. The process repeats itself for the next twenty minutes.
"Why?" he asks when the ordeal finally ends and they drag him away.
"No point in telling you," the man says tiredly. "You'll just ask again next time."
Next time? He wants to ask. There's going to be a next time? But he can't ask, because the man has already wandered off.
The tests make no goddamn sense.
They attach monitors onto him and have him run on a treadmill for 20 minutes. They make him look at bright lights until his eyes water, then take eye-tests with machines found in any optometrist's office. They put him in a dark room and have him navigate an electrified maze, then to it again while wearing a blindfold. They make him sit in a lightless, soundless room and do nothing for a half hour, until he starts hearing things, then make him record everything heard. Picking, poking, prodding, cutting, tearing, and there is always electricity.
"It's for the best," one man says. "We're doing this for you."
"We're helping," says another.
They make him look into a puddle of black goo, and when he does, the goo tries to leap out of the container and attack his face. It's stopped by a flash of light he assumes came from one of the technicians. After that, they make him look at more of the Goop stuff. Every bit of it tries to attack him. All the people in lab coats think it's interesting and murmur excitedly to each other.
Periodically, they check the back of his neck. "Any growth?" they say.
"None," will respond the person checking. They sound disappointed, and will usually stick him with something else.
They speak into recording devices, listing off test results. All he knows is that he hurts. He's afraid. And he's so, so tired.
"Please let me go," he says when they take him to another examination room.
"No can do," says this technician. She's more chipper than the others.
They make him lie down on a bed-like extension of a giant machine and slide him inside. There's whirring, and noise, and clanking, and then, suddenly, pain. So much pain. He screams and he kicks, but they tied down his feet before he was sent in.
Light. Light floods his vision. It burns. It burns so badly. Like white hot needles being pierced into his eyes. He screams for them to stop until no more sound can come out, because there is no sound, there is nothing but the light and he is so far away-
He wakes up surrounded by people prodding him with doctorly tools. There's an IV attached to his arm, and someone is checking his heart, but he barely notices.
Standing not two feet away is his Supervisor, who is looking over some papers that have been apparently given to him by the technicians.
"The dog's going to be a problem," his Supervisor says, half to himself. "We'll have to deal with that eventually."
"Help," he rasps.
His Supervisor looks up, sees him, and smiles. "Glad to see you're up," his Supervisor says, his voice full of warmth.
"What?" he says, panic blossoming in his chest. "Get me out."
"Don't worry," his Supervisor says. "It'll be over in another hour or so. Then you'll be back at home, right as rain."
He stares at his Supervisor with unmitigated horror.
"I've heard that before." He chuckles as though it's funny.
"Oh God. You're insane. I'll call the police-"
"Honestly, it's always the police with you." His Supervisor shakes his head. "I don't know if it's idealism or something your parents ground into you or what."
Another technician appears and quickly injects something into his neck. He gasps in pain and fire spreads down his back.
"Don't worry," his Supervisor says, patting his shoulder. "Remember; I'm always watching out for you."
He wants to say something. He wants to tell his Supervisor to go to hell. He wants to curse and scream and roar at the top of his lungs how much he hates them all. He wants to beg them to stop. But he can't. All he can do is twist weakly away and wait for the next series of tests.
* * * * *
The noise is so bad his ears start to bleed
electricity why did they keep shocking him with electricity
there must be a reason
no please stop please don't
It's alive, the black stuff is alive and it
i'm sorry so sorry just stop
the light burns
injection after injection
blood blood it's in my blood
it wants to eat it wants to be whole it needs to be whole
The knife comes down. A lab coat shakes his head and sighs, examining the bloody microchip in the tweezers he's holding. "You need another chip," it says. "The last one shorted out- again."
We need to be whole
it's not my blood its
in there but its not
What are they putting in my blood?!
make us whole
STOP TOUCHING MY NECK!
He wakes with a jolt in bed, heart pounding, blood rushing through his ears. Then, after a moment, he falls backwards. He's forgotten almost everything by the time his head hits the pillow.
Just another nightmare.