by Jeff C. Carter -
It was too quiet. Nurse Vuong had long ago grown accustomed to the constant tapping and rambling of the patients at St. Christina’s Clinic for the Neuro-Atypical, even the occasional outburst of profanity or violence. For the past two weeks her job had never been easier. The inmates had all been model patients, but that didn’t stop her intuition from screaming that something was wrong. Something terrible was about to happen.
She leaned over her monitor and scrolled through the timeline of the art therapy wall. Red handprints crawled up and swarmed over every inch of white surface. No matter how many times she had deleted the giant touch screen the patients had recreated the same pattern. They were still at it now, reverently smearing digital splashes of crimson across the large surface. Nurse Vuong punched the controls and deactivated the wall, wiping it black and clean.
“We regret to inform you that the art therapy wall is out of order,” she said over the intercom.
The patients drifted away, returning to their rooms or sitting quietly on the Rec Room floor.
Maybe she should call Dr. Loomis and tell him…what? That the patients were too well behaved? Dr. Lev was already well aware. He had been at the clinic all week and seemed delighted with the patients’ progress.
Nurse Vuong rubbed her eyes. She had been on high alert for days now and she was exhausted. She lowered the lights in the Rec Room.
“It’s time for bed, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good night.” She announced.
The patients shuffled to their small rooms in an orderly fashion. Nurse Vuong shivered. She decided to go to her own quarters and try to forget this place for a while.
The clinic was dark and quiet and still.
The vid wall flickered to life, casting its pale light into the Rec Room and onto Dr. Lev. He stood before the projected image of a dark skinned man.
“Dr. Singh, thank you for joining us again,” Dr. Lev said.
Dr. Singh nodded nervously on the large screen.
The patients slipped back into the Rec Room and gathered in front of the vid wall.
“Dr. Singh, will you tell us again about your experience under the ocean? About your vision?” Dr. Lev prompted.
Dr. Singh swallowed and cleared his throat.
“Yes, of course. I feel like it is my duty to share it.”
The patients stared up at the large face, waiting.
“I saw the oceans boil. Everything in the water died. There were tidal waves the size of mountains that erased everything from the face of the planet. The volcanoes all erupted at once, even places were there hadn’t been volcanoes…” he said.
Smudge, one of the bigger patients, began to rock back and forth excitedly.
“The sky was on fire!” Smudge shouted.
A small boy stood up and screamed.
“I can see it!” he said.
The patients all joined in, chanting along with Dr. Singh’s words.
“The planet began to crack. The ground shattered with a furious thunder! Steam hissed into the icy blackness in a vast dying breath.”
The patients jumped and thrashed under the pale light of the vid screen. Their collective madness strained against its leash, lashed into frenzy by visions of destruction and the malignant will watching behind their eyes.
Dr. Lev smiled. Something terrible was about to happen.