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Male Number 15

Male Number 15

Estimated reading time — 23 minutes

Adam held his wife’s hand tightly as the doctor reentered the room.
“Mrs Hill?”
Adam could see the lump in her throat moving up and then back down as she swallowed. “Just tell me Doc.”
“You do seem to be the next one.”
She hunched over, nearly throwing up onto the white tiled floor below them. Adam put his arm around her, pulling her in tight.
“The good news is that it was caught early. It’s still only the size of a grape, so we can easily remove it.”
“Jamison’s was the size of a grape when you caught it too, but the recovery process still killed him! Same with Martha! And Louise! And Martin!”
Her wails were like a knife in Adam’s ears, arching their way through his head and directly to his heart. When his coworkers finally got it, he didn’t think he ever would. When his neighbors finally got it, he didn’t think he ever would. Now Kate has it… and all he wants is to have it too. A tumor. Then he can perish with her.
Over the course of the last six or so months twenty-three—now twenty-four—have been diagnosed with cancerous tumors in the brain. That maybe might not be a lot for a big city like Chicago ro New York, but here in this town of just a little over five hundred people it was alarming. The EPA has started running tests on the town’s water supply, and have advised all citizens to drink only bottled water brought on trucks from outside town. They’ve shut down the local farmers’ market too and are conducting tests on the soils around town. But they’ve found nothing so far. And now, Adam didn’t care if they ever did find anything because his Kate would already be gone. His only hope was the man who now stood before him.
He looked back up at Doctor Stevens. Stevens was one of the top neurosurgeons in the country that the EPA subsidized to come and live here in this little town while the epidemic continued. He’d performed twenty-three surgeries here in this town in all of six months. Only five of those twenty-three have survived, and two of those five are reportedly in dire health right now. Stevens has performed hundreds of successful surgeries in his lifetime. Adam, nor anyone else for that matter, could understand why all of a sudden every one of his surgeries were failing. It had sent a sense of terror throughout their small community. Whatever was causing these tumors was more than it seemed. Adam and a few others had been advocating for the FBI to get involved, for this to become a criminal investigation, but to no avail. Kate’s diagnosis made it a surefire bet that Adam would be doubling down on that petitioning. Twenty-three was too many. Kate added on top of that made that pile seem astronomical.
“Misses Hill, I swear to you this will be resolved.”
“I don’t wanna die, Adam! Oh, oh Adam! I… I don’t wanna die!”
“Sh, It’s okay, Kate. It’s Okay. Doctor Stevens promised this will all be better. It’ll be okay.”
“Everyone else who’s had it has died! Adam, I’m not ready! I’m not ready to die!”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Adam squealed, unable to hold his tears back any longer. “Misses Simmons survived it, didn’t she?”
“Who knows if she’ll die here in the next week?”
Adam looked back up at the surgeon, biting his lip as the sense of dread slowly enveloped him. His eyes pleaded with the doctor, who could only look on with a somber expression at the sobbing couple.
“Mister Hill, it seems to me that I cannot assure your wife, so I will attempt to assure you. Your wife will not die. I’ve been getting better with these tumors—wherever they’re coming from. The five who are still with us are all some of the more recent victims of this plague, I’m becoming more skilled with these.”
Adam tilted his wife’s head up, looking into her eyes. “You hear that, honey? Things will be okay. Things will be okay. We’ll get this surgery done real fast and before you know it you’ll be on the road to recovery.”
His shirt became wetter and wetter, some from his tears, others from his wife. Whatever the case, he was preparing himself for the worst.

Adam stood in the cemetery the next day, in the section which the town had reserved for the victims of this epidemic. It was a large swath of land, large enough for the whole town. They would be the only people ever buried here. The CDC had declared their community to be under quarantine just last night, and the National Guard had arrived to enforce it. Not a soul would come in or out except through birth or death. But one would have to be pretty heartless to bring a child into this town now. Everyone would be dead within the next few years from this thing, maybe even by the end of six months by how fast whatever this was has been spreading.
Adam was staring at the spot of land next in line to be filled by a headstone. He could already see his wife’s name carved in stone there in his mind’s eye: Katelynn Emily Hudson Hill. Next to hers on the right would soon be a gravemarker saying Adam John Hill. Yep, she’d be sandwiched right between him and Jamison. That was their neighbor of five years who had perished just a week before. He had no idea at that closed-casket funeral that in just a little while longer Kate would be in the same position. And soon he would be joining them.
He began to walk along the pathway, looking at every grave marker which labeled a victim of these brain tumors. He could remember every funeral vividly in his mind’s eye. Watching the casket be lowered into the ground, wishing he could see each of them just one last time.
He turned and looked back into town, the small collection of houses centered around the local church making him wonder how much longer a congregation would be meeting there before everyone was dead. Wouldn’t be too long, he was sure. At any rate, it was getting to be dusk, and the nippy autumn air was beginning to get colder. It would be best to head back home, spend some time with Kate before she was gone. He had been avoiding her ever since he got back from work. He couldn’t bear the sight of her face anymore—it only reminded him of their limited time. But he oughtn’t avoid her forever. He’d regret not spending as much time with her as he could, he knew that. It just seemed like the time they did have was oh so painful.
His mind still racing, he began walking home. Through the small flowerbed at the edge of the cemetery he went, not caring that he stepped on any of them. His head hung down as he walked through the gravel streets of town. He didn’t even look up to see Nick’s vintage pickup truck he’d been restoring. It all just seemed so… so pointless now.
The sun was mostly below the horizon by the time he walked through his front door. He could hear the television on, and the gentle sound of water boiling on the stove. He walked into the kitchen where Kate sat on the counter staring blankly ahead.
“Hey, Kate.”
“You’re coming home late.”
“Yeah. I hit the bar and then the cemetery, I just needed some time to think.”
“You’re so lucky. You get to drink. The Doc says I can’t have anything before my surgery.”
“Well then, don’t have any. Maximize your chances.”
“I’m gonna die anyway, though. Everyone else has followed his instructions to the letter and look where they are now. I may as well just live it up before they shove me into a casket and bury me in the ground.”
“Hey, don’t think that way. Negative thinking is just as bad for your health as a brain tumor.”
“Isn’t that just some old wives’ tale? Pseudoscience?”
“No. It’s real.”
“Well then I guess I have two brain tumors.”
Adam put his hand on her back. “We’ll get through this. The surgery is in two days from now. In forty-eight hours it’ll be over and done with, things will be great!”
“Or I’ll be dead.”
“Hey, honey, you can’t be talking like that.”
She took a deep inhale. “I know, I know. It’s just hard to not to.”
“How about we call Doctor Stevens first thing in the morning and see if he can bump it up a day, eh? Get it out of the way by tomorrow?”
“Wouldn’t it be better to just let the tumor grow? I’d die slower, but I’d get to be with you longer.”
“I’d rather take a chance that you’ll be with me for forever than let you die like that, Kate.”
She again let out a large sigh. “Alright.”
“Alright what?”
“I’ll do it. I’ll do the surgery.”
Adam smiled. “There you go. You wanna do it tomorrow instead of Friday?”
She nodded. “Yeah, best to just get it over and done with.”

Kate stared at Adam from the wheelchair, her knuckles tight as the nurse moved her into the operating room. Adam bit his lip, staring on at the door as it shut. When he had wanted to get this over and done with yesterday he hadn’t anticipated that his stress levels would rise like this. He thought he was already a wreck, like it couldn’t get any worse. Yet, here he was, able to feel his heart beating against his ribcage. Doctor Stevens had assured him everything would be okay. They’d keep Kate here for the next five days to make sure she was okay. She’d be coming home next Tuesday. That wasn’t so long, was it? Five days. The time would go by in a flash. He’d just work real hard until then and it’d all be over soon.
If those next several hours were any way of telling, though, those next five days would not be over soon. Adam swore he’d aged a decade by the time the door finally opened and the nurse stepped out.
“Mister Hill?”
“You’re welcome to come and see her.”
A smile whipped across his face as he leapt to his feet. “She’s okay?”
“She is fine right now, yes.”
He walked right past the nurse into the operating room, looking Kate dead in the eye.
Her head turned, and she smiled at him. It felt like an odd smile, though… almost plastic and doll-like. But he didn’t care. He was just glad she was alright.
“Oh, Kate! I’m so glad you’re fine!”
“Sh, no loud noises please, Mister Hill,” Doctor Stevens instructed. “Please do not touch her either, we don’t want you to jostle anything too hard.”
He nodded, lowering his voice and kneeling by the bedside.
“Thank goodness for these mobile medical centers, huh?”
She continued her smile. “Yes, indeed.”
He chuckled. “Brain surgery got you talking all formal, huh?”
“Yes, it most certainly does.”
Her monotone voice should have worried him, Kate always put twice the emotion into her words than anyone he had ever met. That was one of his favorite things about her. And, surgery shouldn’t have changed that about her, right? Whatever the case, he just passed it off as drowsiness from the painkillers and continued their wonderful reunion.
“Kate, I told you that you’d be okay. You’re okay. See? You’re fine. Everything turned out okay.” Adam wiped his eyes, and the clear vision lasted for but a moment before they were teared over again. “I love you, so, so, so much! Kate, I love you.”
“I reciprocate your affection,” she said, the plastic smile still holding strong to her face.


Adam got ready for bed quickly that night, he had had a very emotionally exhausting day and was looking forward to just putting his head on the pillow. He wasn’t sure how well he’d be able to sleep, though. Afterall, Kate wasn’t out of the woods yet. But, the most stressful part was over, now it was just a matter of whether or not she’d join the five other survivors or end up like everyone at the cemetery. A chill ran up his back as the images of those gravestones flashed again through his mind. It seemed like everything reminded him of them lately.
He finally did climb up into his bed, yawning and stretching before shutting his eyes and putting his head on the pillow. The room felt vacant without his wife by his side to comfort him. It almost put him on edge. He just tried to focus his thoughts on other things to keep himself from crying. Oh, how he did miss her. But, no matter, he’d be able to go and visit her in the mobile medical center tomorrow. He’d be with her then. Everything would be fine.
He was nearly completely asleep when his phone suddenly began to ring. His eyes flew open, and he looked at the screen. An unknown number.
He groaned, hanging up on them and shutting his eyes again. The number called him back not even a minute later.
“Yes?” he mumbled, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“Is this Mister Hill?”
“Mister Hill, I’m terribly sorry to inform you but…”
His heart clenched, and he lost all feeling in his lungs.
“What? What’s happened? What’s going on?”
“…your wife, she…”
“No. No. No no no no no no no!”
“…she passed away about twenty minutes ago.”
He dropped the phone on the floor, falling over as everything went black.

He awoke to a knock on his door just a few minutes later. He climbed to his feet, dizzy. What was he doing on the floor just then? And who was knocking at this hour?
The recollection of what had just happened suddenly came back to him, and he broke into a sprint as the tears and sweat began streaming down his face and forehead. He got to the door, opening it with swollen red eyes.
“Mister Hill?”
“Yes, that’s me,” he groaned.
“Mister Hill, I’m one of the nurses from the center. I came over when you suddenly stopped responding over the phone?”
“Yeah. I guess I passed out.”
“Are you alright?”
He sniffed, wiping his nose on his arm, not caring that it was now covered in a layer of mucus.
“No, I’m not alright. My wife just died!”
“Mister Hill, I’m so very sorry. Doctor Stevens was performing a routine test with her to see how she was holding up when suddenly she flatlined.”
Adam fell onto the nurse, sobbing into her shoulder. She placed a hand on his back, patting him gently.
“There there, Mister Hill. Everything is alright.”
He wailed, his cries flowing into the night air like the shrieks of a dying animal.

He didn’t get much sleep after the nurse had left that night. He had tried to lay down in bed and shut his eyes but he just couldn’t make himself tired enough. He couldn’t. He couldn’t. He couldn’t he couldn’ he couldn’t he couldn’t…
He took in another shaky breath, whimpering as he let it back out again.
“Kate…” he muttered. “Kate… it really happened. It really happened, didn’t it? You’re gone. You’re gone and I ought to be next!”
He began banging his head on the window to the front of his house, the tears falling off his chin with each pound.
“Kate! Kate! Oh, Kate!”
He looked up through the window, blinking the water in his eyes onto the ground. The world outside was still, nothing moving. It was dark, illuminated only by the moon and the short, stubby street lamp on the corner of their block. Nothing moved, and it seemed like his heart didn’t either. Nothing had any life, just like everything inside of him now. His life was essentially gone. Without her, what was the point? Nothing mattered. Nothing—
He rubbed the tears from his eyes again, blinking several times before squinting out the window. There was a figure standing there… standing right in his front lawn. He couldn’t make out any of their features, except the fact it was most definitely human.
“What the?”
He looked to his right, reaching for the switch that would turn on the porch light. He flipped it up, and his front lawn was covered in a soft, yellow light.
He only saw it for a second before the figure turned around, but their face remarkably resembled… resembled Kate’s.
“I’m hallucinating,” he murmured. “I’m in so much grief that I’m hallucinating.”
The figure began to walk away, the back of their body looking again so strikingly similar to his wife’s.
“No. They’re… they’re still there?”
Adam stepped to the door, opening it and walking out into the cold air of the autumn night. He questioned whether he should call out to the figure. To… to the ghost? No, ghosts weren’t real. This wasn’t a ghost. It was just someone who looked just like Kate standing out front of his house?
“Kate!” he yelled out. The figure continued walking. “Kate!”
His legs began picking up the pace as he followed her down the gravel road, his bare feet somehow not feeling any of the pain the sharp rocks created as they stuck into his soles. The figure out ahead of him began moving faster too. He picked up his pace again, and so did she.
“Wait! Stop! Whoever you are!”
They suddenly burst into an almost inhuman sprint, flying at a speed Adam had only ever seen in the Olympics. The air was sucked out of his lungs as he began running faster than he ever had before, out of breath before he could even turn the corner.
“Wait!” he wheezed, turning the corner. The figure was still running dead ahead. Adam made every effort to run faster, catch up with the girl, but he found himself failing in his strength. His feeble legs continued to pump harder and harder but she stayed ahead of him no matter what he did.
The figure suddenly turned to the left, sprinting right up to a house with all of its lights on still. Adam kept up his pace, gradually losing his strength and slowing to a stop as the door opened. A man stood there in the light, illuminating both his face and the face of his dead wife. The man… he… he had the face of Jamison. His brow ruffled and he strained himself to call out.
“Kate? Jamison? Wait! Jamison, is that you?”
He had seen the casket being laid into the ground. He knew Jamison was dead. And so… so was Kate….
Kate stepped into the house, and Jamison closed the door behind her. Bewildered, Adam began stumbling to the front door. Panting and sweating buckets, he knocked on the door. The lights were still on, and he had just seen someone there at the door. Someone was here, he knew it.
“Hello?” He began banging as hard as he could, but to no avail. He used both fists, pounding with all the force his weakened body could muster until the sides of his fists stung.
The lights suddenly turned out, and he jumped.
“What the?” He kept pounding. “Somebody answer me! Hello? Someone is in here! I know it! Answer me! Hello? Hello!”

He awoke the next morning cold and shivering on the front porch of that house. He looked up to the Friday sky, teeth chattering as the sun slowly warmed up the world around him.
Was that real? He was on the porch of that house, surely it must’ve been real. But… but it just didn’t seem so. How could he see both Kate and Jamison last night? Surely he wouldn’t have hallucinated both of them. The door did open, and the lights did suddenly turn off while he was knocking, that he was sure of. But… then… why? How?
The door behind him suddenly opened, and he fell backwards.
“My! Mister Hill, what are you doing here?”
It was Doctor Stevens.
“Doctor? You live here?” Adam gasped.
“Yes, I do. It was the best empty house the city could offer me during my stay here in this pleasant little town.”
“Doctor, I saw her last night! I saw Kate!” Adam exclaimed as he stood up. Stevens frowned a little, placing a hand on Adam’s shoulder.
“Mister Hill, it is quite natural for you to—”
“No, I saw her. She came right here, to this house! Last night she came right to this house!”
“Mister Hill—”
“And—and Jamison opened the door. Mister Walker, as you know him. He was there! He opened the door for Kate! I saw them! I… I… I saw them both….”
“Mister Hill, it is not quite uncommon to perhaps… for lack of a better term, hallucinate family members after they die. It happens all over America. It’s sometimes just the body’s way of coping with a difficult loss.”
Adam nodded. “But then… why did it feel so real?”
“The mind is good at fooling us. The brain is quite a powerful organ, you know.”
Adam looked Stevens square in the eye. “Am I going crazy?”
“No, Mister Hill. You’ll be fine. You just… need to process this loss. Things will be better, I promise you.”
“You promised that Kate wouldn’t die, too.” He bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Doc. I didn’t mean to—”
“Quite alright. I’ve heard worse. Come on, let’s get you home, Adam.”
Stevens places his arm around Adam’s shoulder, and began guiding him down the street.
“I can make it home by myself just fine. You’ve got work to do, I’m sure.”
“I can be late. It’s better to comfort you right now.”
Adam nodded, not sure if he ought to be grateful or creeped out. Something about this whole conversation just seemed… just seemed off.
Nonetheless they reached the Hill residence, and Stevens walked Adam right up to the door.
“Good luck, Mister Hill.”
He nodded, opening his door and stepping inside. “Right, thank you.”
“Someone will be with you later today from the center to help arrange the funeral,” Stevens mentioned. “Best to keep your hallucinations to yourself, hm?”
Adam nodded, slowly. He shut the door without thanking Stevens. It seemed… odd that one of Stevens’s employees would be coming to arrange the funeral. He’d have thought a mortician would do it. Then again, the nearest mortician lived two towns over and they were under a quarantine right now.


Adam found himself staring out the window for most of the day that day before the nurse arrived. He went to let them in, recounting the expected pleasantries: saying hello, shaking hands, inviting her in to take off her shoes, the usual.
“Well, I appreciate you coming to help me with this,” he sighed. “Especially since this is probably your first time doing this.”
She smiled. “Oh, no worries. I’ve done this many times before.”
He swallowed. “You… you have?”
“Yes, I’ve been helping with all of the funerals in this town since the tumors started.
He raised an eyebrow. “Why… why hasn’t a mortician been doing it? We’ve only been quarantined a couple of days now.”
“Doctor Stevens just feels that it is best if he oversees them all.”
“Of no concern for you. Now, let us begin discussing, shall we?”
He nodded, slowly.
“Since no family will be able to make the trip into town, we can have this fairly quickly. Shall we say, tomorrow afternoon?”
He swallowed. “Is that enough time to embalm the body?”
“Yeah. I want an open-casket funeral. Will that be enough time?”
She smiled. “Yes, dear. Yes.”
He stared at her straight, white teeth, something making him feel offset about her plastic smile. Her dead eyes. Something was weird here.

Adam couldn’t sleep that night. He laid in bed, staring at the ceiling blankly. No, his brow was furrowed. He wasn’t quite feeling any feelings of mourning right now. He really couldn’t. He wasn’t sure if Kate was truly dead or not. That… hallucination… had felt so real. It couldn’t have been fake. There was no way. Was there?
After what felt like hours of laying there he finally got up and went to put on his shoes. He put a light jacket on and headed out the door, marching for Stevens’s house.
“What is up with this?” he muttered. Thoughts raced through his mind the whole way there, none of the logical ones winning out. Nothing right now seemed to make sense. None of it. It was all… all too weird. Yeah, sure. He had hallucinated Kate. He was in mourning. He missed his wife. It made sense he might hallucinate her. But Jamison? Yeah, he was shocked, sad, downtrodden, depressed when his friend died, but it wasn’t the same as his wife. Why would he hallucinate Jamison, too?
Adam rounded the corner, getting to Doctor Stevens’s house. He stood there in front of it, the lights all still on. The blinds on the large window by the door were still open, and he could see into the empty living room. Just a rugged looking couch sat across from an old box television, with the kitchen in the background. Nothing. Nobody was in there.
Suddenly a figure walked across the kitchen, a very tall figure. Adam jumped back, somewhat alarmed by it. He… he had the same profile as Evan Wells. One of the first ones to get the tumors. He died just hours after his surgery. But who else in town could possibly be that tall? And who else had the same muscular profile?
Adam jumped, letting out a small scream as Evan suddenly stepped in front of the window. He glared out at Adam, snarling before suddenly closing the blinds.
In a frenzy Adam ran up to the front door and began pounding.
“Let me in! Let me in! You had better open this goshdarn door before I break it down you cretin!”
His knocks were answered when Doctor Stevens opened the door.
“Mister Hill! What on Earth are you doing at this hour?”
“Doc—I swear. I swear I’m not crazy. I just saw Evan Wells through your window.”
“Mister Wells? Why, Mister Hill, he’s been dead for months! What on Earth are you talking about?”
“I saw him—I saw him! Doc, you’ve gotta believe me! You’ve gotta let me in! I’ll show you where he is!”
“Mister Hill—”
Adam pushed right past the doctor, bursting into the room in a fury of panicked rage.
“He was here! Look, I’ll show you!”
He started heading down the hallway, his head rotating every which way as his eyes scanned for any sign of anyone he knew to be dead.
“I think that’s quite enough from you,” Stevens growled as he grabbed Adma’s shoulder.
“No! I’ll show you!”
“Mister Hill, stay out of my house! The funeral is tomorrow, I’ll see you there!”
He thrust Adam through the front doorway, slamming it behind him.
“No! Let me back in! I’ll show you! I’ll show you! They’re not dead! They’re hiding in your house! They’re… they’re…” Adam slapped himself across the cheek, shaking his head viciously. “What am I doing? They’re all dead. They’re… they’re not hiding in his house! Oh, gosh, I sound like a lunatic!” He looked behind him, ready to turn and walk home. Almost out of instinct he turned back to look at the house to see a pair of eyes glaring at him between the blinds before they pulled away and the window was completely cut off again.


Adam was standing next to the table with Kate’s picture on it, staring into her eyes. She had died Thursday night and here he was at the funeral Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t had any time to process this. None at all. It’s all happened so fast. He would have liked the funeral to be later, to give him some more time to digest it all. But the nurse seemed adamant that it would be today. He got everything else he wished for, though. Tulips everywhere, Kate’s favorite flower. They were serving deviled eggs as well, Kate’s favorite d’oeuvres. Playing in the background was the gentle piano music of Mozart, her favorite composer. She had been a classical woman. She liked the arts, especially from that time period. Always found them interesting. Adam never really did, but he always admired her for it. But now with that tumor having killed her…
Adam looked up, seeing one of Stevens’s nurses walk in. He got up to go and greet her.
“Hey,” he said, nodding his head.
“Why, hello Mister Hill!” she exclaimed, her plastic smile sending a shiver down his spine.
“Um, will she be here soon?”
“Yes, Doctor Stevens is just helping to unload the casket now. Would you like to go and help him?”
He nodded, though nervous to confront Stevens after he barged into his house like that last night. He went anyway, seeing Stevens and a few others carrying the casket.
“Don’t worry, Adam, we’ll handle this.” He turned to the other gentlemen following him. “Just come in and set her on the table inside.”
Adam’s eyes followed as they passed by, and he couldn’t help but notice the lock on the side of the casket holding the lid to the bottom. Eyebrows raised, he followed the crew into the small room they were having their service in. The four men placed the casket on the table up front, all of them going to sit in the audience.
“Doctor Stevens?” Adam said.
“Ah, Mister Hill. Look, if you’re going to apologize for last night, there’s no need. I ought to be more sensitive to someone whose—”
“I asked for an open-casket funeral.”
Stevens paused. “Excuse me?”
“I asked for an open-casket funeral. The casket is closed.”
“Oh, I’m… I’m terribly sorry. My nurse reported back to me that you had said a closed-casket service.”
“Open it.”
“I think you can stand to be a little kinder right now, Mister Hill.”
“Open it, please,” he growled.
“I’m afraid it’s already locked shut. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Adam clenched his fists, sitting in the row behind Doctor Stevens. He suddenly felt a tap on the shoulder.
“I wanted an open-casket service for my little Toby,” came an elderly voice. “But they wouldn’t give that to me, either. Don’t take it personally.”
Adam looked on at Doctor Stevens. What was going on here?


Why were all the caskets closed? That was the only question he could ask himself that night as he lay in bed. The more he thought, the more he recalled that every funeral for these tumor victims had been closed-casket. Jamison. Misses Simmons. Evan. All closed-casket. And Misses López, today, she had said she wanted an open-casket service for Toby but that was closed as well. And so was his. Was he just being paranoid? Or was something going on here?
He had called the Sheriff today. But he said he couldn’t come into the town because of the quarantine. He explained the situation to him, but he was just written off like he was insane. This wasn’t fair. None of it was. How did this make sense? Every one of those funerals were closed-casket, and now he was seeing their bodies walking around in Doctor Stevens’s home!
He resolved that night to head back out to Stevens’s house. He would look and see if he saw anyone else. He knew he would. It only made sense that he would. He had so far, afterall. Why would these so-called hallucinations stop now? He knew that he had seen Kate. He knew that he had seen Jamison. He knew that he had seen Evan. He saw them all. Something was going there, something he didn’t trust.
The clock was nearing eleven at night, and he slipped on his shoes and donned his jacket.
“Here goes nothing,” he stammered. He went through his front door, the pit in his stomach growing with every step. Was he really doing this? Was he really going to the surgeon’s house again just to see if he could find a ghost? A ghost that he was likely hallucinating? What was he doing! He was in mourning, of course he was going crazy. Surely anyone who loses a loved one starts to see things and go crazy, right? He ought to just stay home, not do anything. Let it pass. Wait until he got a brain tumor. Drink the city water. Eat home-grown vegetables in this “contaminated” soil all around him. Expose himself to as many people with the brain tumors as possible to get sick. However these things were spreading, he needed to just get one and get it all over with. Yet… he found himself compelled to continue walking forward, on and on towards Stevens’s house.
He rounded the next corner, feeling a chill as a small gust of wind blew between the buildings. The street lamp bathed the landscape in a yellow glow that Adam could only see as being ominous. He pressed forward, Doctor Stevens’s home coming into view.
“Alright, Stevens,” he spat. “What’s going on in your house?”
The lights were on. He walked closer, crouching down as he came into the field of view of anyone who might be in the window. He got right below it, standing in between the old, crusty rose bushes below the living room window. His head turned upward and his eyes began scanning the living room. He was too low, he could only see the ceiling. He extended his legs, slowly, little by little until he could get a clear view into the house. There were two people standing there. Doctor Stevens was there, smiling as he talked to the other one… Kate. She wore a plastic smile, and her eyes were wide and dead. He could almost hear her robotic responses to the surgeon as he talked with her, nodding just so, smiling all the while.
“Kate…” he murmured. “Kate, are you really alive?”
He rubbed his eyes, slapping himself across the face. No, this couldn’t be. He had seen them bury her that day! In a… in a closed casket. In a closed casket, that was right. How could he know that it was really her?
No, no. He was going insane. He could feel it. This wasn’t normal. He was losing it! Absolutely losing it! But… but was he?
Kate’s head suddenly turned to face him, and she extended her arm towards the window. Stevens turned his head to look right at Adam. He ducked, and began running as fast as he could crouched over. He went around the corner of the house and hid behind a bush there just as he heard the front door opening.
“Adam?” It was the voice of Doctor Stevens. Adam held his breath, shutting his eyes tight. The silence lasted only several moments, but those moments felt like they could have been years. The door closed again, and he let out a gasp.
There was a sudden banging, and Adam turned around to see a hand on the window behind him. Jamison stood there, grinning like a madman at Adam. His lips began to move; he was screaming something. Adam burst into a sprint, dashing down the gravel road back towards his house. He rounded the corner and made a beeline right for his front door, out of breath and a sweaty mess by the time he got there. He didn’t waste a moment catching it, though, he opened his door right away and leapt inside. He deadbolted the door behind him, something he had never done before in this small community. He went around the house making sure that every window was locked and every last one of the blinds were shut tight. He climbed in his bed, Holding the sheets over his head like he did when he was a child.

Adam hadn’t bothered to put on his Sunday best the next day. He went to church with no shower, no order to his hair, no order to his body or life. He walked right in wearing the same thing he woke up in: old tennis shoes and a ratty shirt paired with work pants. He could feel the stares of his friends and neighbors as he sat down in the front pew. He stared straight ahead, glaring at Reverend Caddel. He made eye contact with Adam, scowling at him with an obvious sense of abhorrence for his appearance. Adam didn’t care, though. No, not one lick. He simply waited for him to finish his sermon, then marched right up to the pulpit the moment he closed. The congregation was still saying Amen by the time he got up there, the wildness in his eyes sending a streak of fear throughout the benches. But they’d be thanking him soon enough, after he warned them.
“Doctor Stevens is a madman!” Adam shouted. “Do not trust him! No one is dead! No one! He’s keeping them at his house! I’ve seen them! I’ve seen them! Don’t let him operate on you! He’s doing something!”
The firm hand of the Reverend found itself on Adam’s shoulder, and a strong nudge followed.
“Come on, Mister Hill, let’s get you out of here.”
“No! It’s true! It’s true!”
“Mister Hill, please! Come with me!”
Adam began squirming, growling and kicking as he was guided out of the hall.
“You’ll see! He can’t be trusted! None of them can! I’ve seen them!”
“Mister Hill, if we weren’t in a strict quarantine I’d call an exorcist! Get back to your home, I’ll come and pray over you later today.”
“But Reverend—” He slammed the door, and Adam turned around with his fists clenched. “I’ll show ‘em. I’ll show ‘em good!”
He was shaking, unsure what was happening. He suddenly collapsed to the ground, tears shooting out from his eyes.
“Oh, I’ve gone insane! I’ve gone absolutely insane! What… why did I do that? Oh… oh goodness… I’m a crazy man!”
There was a rustling in the bushes, and Adam looked up. He blinked the saltwater from his eyes to see two men approaching him. Jamison, and Evan. Their smiles were the smiles of madmen, their wide, dead eyes piercing Adam.
“Come with us, Mister Hill,” Jamison chirped. Adam was frozen, he found himself unable to get up and sprint the other way as they clasped their hands around his arms.
“No!” he suddenly cried. He began kicking and screaming as the two men dragged him away. “No! I won’t go with you! Leave me be!”
Their grips tightened, and he felt the blood circulation in his arms stopping. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe!
They went right up to the front door of Doctor Stevens’s house. It was opened by another, their plastic smile wide and their eyes brimming with death.
“Master Stevens is waiting,” the butler grinned. Adam was brought through the doorway and they marched him around a corner, right to a door. They kicked it open, revealing a dismal stairway leading into a basement.
His body became cold as they entered. He couldn’t tell if he was shivering or trembling from the sense of deep dread that had come over him. They got to the bottom, and cast him onto the ground. He looked up, seeing an operating table placed in the center of the room. Doctor Stevens stood there, a surgical mask on and putting on latex gloves.
“Well, Mister Hill,” he began, “I was going to do this after diagnosing you with a tumor, but seeing as how you’re spreading rumors about me, I can not wait.”
Adam swallowed.
“Get him on the table.”
A hand grabbed him, and he looked up to see Kate.
“Kate! Kate, you’ve got to help me!”
“Oh, she won’t help you, Mister Hill. After the surgery, she is mine.”
She began dragging him towards the table, a sudden inhuman strength being exerted on his arm as she lifted him onto it.
“What? No, Kate!”
“Kate is no longer. Only drone number F-17. Isn’t that right, F-17?”
“Yes, master.”
Adam felt a strap tightening across his chest, and another one across his legs. The table began to lift him up into a sitting position as two more were tightened across his arms.
“We’ll tattoo him after the procedure,” Stevens said to someone standing off to the side. “Excellent work, F-1.”
The nurse nodded, stepping back. Adam then noticed the tattoo on her shoulder that read F-1. And on Kate’s, who was standing to the side, was a similar tattoo reading F-17.
“No. No! You can’t do this to me, Stevens! You monster!”
“Oh, am I a monster? No, M-15. I am a man of science. Don’t worry, after the surgery you won’t be calling me a monster. You’ll be calling me master, and thanking me.”
Adam couldn’t stop shaking, he was hyperventilating. He felt a sudden pain in his arm, and his body began to slow down as he lost feeling.
“There were never any tumors, were there, Doc?” he muttered.
“Ah, smart man you are, M-15. You will serve me well.”
There was a dull pain on the top of his head as the scalpel began slicing down towards his neck.

Credit: The Quiet One

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