Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
It was just like any other day when I received the call. I had been sketching the horizon for the past hour when my phone began ringing with an unfamiliar number. I would have ignored it if the call hadn’t been from my home town. Fast forward 24 hours later, and I’m sitting in a stark conference room and waiting for a team of doctors to arrive. I would have never imagined myself in this position. Who could? My mind was racing, and I wished that the doctor had given me a clearer explanation over the phone. This is all I know. I’m here to oversee my twin brother’s transfer from Charity Medical Center to the New Eden Psychiatric Hospital.
As you can imagine, I was freaking out. My knees were quivering uncontrollably beneath the table to say nothing of my hands, and I only had framed, black and white photographs of Charity’s grand opening to stare at. If my brother had a history of medical problems, I probably wouldn’t haven been as terrified, but James always had a clean bill of health.
I blame myself for allowing this to happen. I know it’s a stereotype that the older twin is supposed to be the role model for the younger twin, but I was always the responsible one. When my parents left the picture, I tried to pick up the slack, and it worked for a little while. At the same time, it just meant that I had to become more of a leader than a brother. I think James resented me for that. It’s part of the reason that when I left for art school, we lost contact with each other. My brother was very simple-minded with limited goals in life. He stayed in our childhood home, probably got himself a local job, and hung out with his remaining friends that hadn’t left our small town. I should have tried harder. I should have been the bigger person.
When the team of doctors, therapists, and other specialists arrived, I was on the brink of tears with worry. They gave me a few moments by gathering files together before introducing themselves. To some degree, I sensed that nobody knew where to begin; they all looked collectively lost. I spoke up first.
This seemed to be a question that the lead doctor could answer. “If you’ll save your questions for the end, Mr. Harrington, I’ll be able to explain everything to you.”
I nodded solemnly and clenched my hands tightly beneath the table.
“I’m first going to start with how your brother came under our care. James and a few of his friends were out partying at a family farm, and drinking and fireworks were involved. The farm was very isolated, and they planned to shoot off the fireworks. As you may not know, fireworks are illegal in our state. There was an accident. One of the larger explosives was not set up correctly, and needless to say, it exploded in a very close proximity to everyone there. James was the only survivor.” The doctor paused and allowed me to process how I nearly lost my only brother. Before I could say anything, the man continued.
“This case is one of the most bizarre we’ve ever seen, and I don’t mean to alarm you. When two officers went to investigate the area, they reportedly seized after going approximately thirty feet near the blast site. The station sent professionals to the area, and they recovered seven bodies. Six of them were covered in acid burns while your brother was untouched by comparison. The police theorized that it must have been a chemical within the explosive that shot outward. Samples were taken for testing, but we still have not heard back from the police. We gained some insight when your brother came to. Within a day, he was talking to our resident therapist, Dr. Marshall, and describing what he remembered. James mentioned that he felt uneasy about exploding the fireworks in the first place because one of his friends got them discounted from some street salesman. He said when the accident happened, everything was enveloped in a powdery smoke, and he could remember being unable to breathe.” At this point, the doctor sighed and shifted his glasses to the bridge of his nose.
“We found no clear physical injury. James complained of having terrible headaches, and we quickly diagnosed him with a concussion and performed the necessary tests to determine if there was extensive brain damage. We found nothing. James’s only other complaint was that his arms ached, and he had trouble moving them. We quickly learned that he had full control of his arms. There is nothing wrong neurologically. For whatever reason, he felt opposed to using them, and so he heavily relied on our staff.”
“We were in the process of preparing a series of therapies for him and were considering discharging him when he began showing new symptoms. He began refusing to sleep, and he was reluctant to say why. Asking him about it seemed to upset him. We eventually began inducing sleep which is something we normally do if patients are having trouble resting. It only seemed to worsen his condition. Oddly enough, we linked this to his pineal gland. This gland is located within the brain and produces melatonin which regulates sleeping patterns. It was likely that this part of his brain became damaged during the accident. We assumed that he wasn’t “feeling tired” without the hormone alerting his brain. Even with us trying to induce sleep, it stopped working.” The doctor paused and removed his glasses, releasing a sigh and rubbing his forehead.
“It was at this point that he began babbling to himself. We considered it harmless at first until he began saying things that he couldn’t possibly know. He predicted one of our nurse’s parents having a car crash where three people would die. He predicted six deaths through our emergency services and the exact causes of death. He predicted seven suicides, all in different states, down to the date of death, cause of death, and reason for committing suicide. He also predicted my sister’s lung cancer which she had told nobody about not even me.”
“Shortly after he began making these predictions, he began complaining hysterically about eyes staring at him and being all over his body. He wouldn’t stop screaming until we bandaged his arms completely, so they wouldn’t be able to stare at him any longer. Of course, there was nothing there. Since we’ve called you, he’s been in a catatonic-like state, and we believe that he might have developed a form of schizophrenia as a result of the accident. That’s why we asked you to come, and I apologize for not alerting you sooner. We are a clinic. We are not equipped to take care of your brother which is why I feel transferring him to New Eden would be more beneficial toward his health and recovery.”
I didn’t say anything for a long time. The entire team of doctors seemed exhausted by the explanation, myself included. I couldn’t fathom how something like this could have happened. There was only one thing on my mind though. “Before I sign anything, I want to see James.”
The lead doctor opened his mouth, and I knew that he was going to deny my request. That’s when Dr. Marshall, my brother’s therapist, cut him off. “It would do James some good to see some family.”
And with that, our meeting was temporarily adjourned. I would follow Dr. Marshall to visit my brother while the necessary paperwork was gathered and prepared for our return. I didn’t know what to expect. The doctor’s story had been extremely difficult to believe, yet the grim expressions surrounding that conference table made me feel ill. It was much, much worse than I could have ever imagined though.
My brother had been placed in a private ward where he could be monitored 24-7 by the attending staff. A nurse was actually sitting just outside in case James required anything. There was a large window along the wall that allowed anyone to peer inside. The lights were dimmed, but I could clearly see my brother through the glass.
“What the hell is that?” I demanded, glancing between Dr. Marshall and the nurse for an explanation.
“What?” they replied as if they had no idea what I was talking about.
“You don’t see it?” I asked breathlessly. They looked at me as if I were insane.
I turned wordlessly back to the glass and stared at my brother’s rigid frame. He was sat criss-cross on his bed and facing us, but he wore a blank expression as if he were staring off into space. I was more focused on the crimson eye sitting in the middle of his forehead and studying me.
Credit: Ariel Lowe