Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
It was Dr. Evan Turner who found Dr. Harris’ body. He had gone in for a routine meeting and there was his mentor, seated back in his chair, blood on the walls and the gun on the table. There was no note, nothing going on at home, no indication anywhere as to why he did it.
As the attending neurosurgeon at St. Mary’s Mercy Care, there was nobody qualified to take his place; Evan was still in his fellow and wasn’t able to handle the type of brain work required by the hospital. But, until a replacement of Harris’ level could be found, Evan was given the task of putting his mentor’s papers (and their joint research) in order for posthumous publication.
It was lonely work. He had his own office where he could go through everything, but there were still plenty sitting in Harris’ office. Considering the state he’d found him, Evan couldn’t go in there on his own to collect it; the image of his teacher and friend with the back of his head missing was too much to bear. Thankfully one of the janitors on the floor, a high school dropout named Jack, handled all that for him. Jack was really the only person he spoke to much anymore; he was a couple years younger than Evan, but they watched a lot of the same TV shows, and Jack had a very down to earth attitude that kept Evan grounded. He was pretty sure without Jack’s regular visits, he would never be mentally ready to handle surgery ever again.
It was on his third week and sixth box of papers when Evan found the blueprints. Shoved into a folder with a long ago released treatise about the nature of consciousness and the brain, the blueprints were old, probably the middle of last century. It was a diagram of St. Mary’s, but with a large, red circle on a hallway in the basement. It was odd, because there was nothing else to note what the circle meant.
Evan brought it to the break room on the late shift, looking it over, when Jack came into the room. “Hey, Evan. What’s that?”
Evan handed the blueprints to him. “Found it in Dr. Harris’ stuff. Mean anything to you?”
Jack looked them over. “Wonder if it has anything to do with this.” He pulled a key out of his pocket and put it on the table Evan was sitting at. “I found this when I was sweeping up his office and getting some more boxes for you.”
“You found it? Why didn’t you tell me about it?”
Jack shrugged. “Didn’t know what it went to. Could’ve been for his safety deposit box at the bank for all I knew.”
Evan held the key up to study it. The room lights were kept low during the late shift, but even by the light of the Pepsi machine on the wall he could see the key was old and slightly bent. “How much do you know about St. Mary’s, Jack?”
“Not much. I can tell you how much mop water I need for most of the hallways or what the best way to clean up somebody’s puke is, but that’s about it.”
Evan squeezed his hand over the key. If the story was true, that meant big things. “St. Mary’s had a reputation in medical school. There’s stories about a wing that the military occupied during the Korean War. They supposedly used it for psychic research.”
Jack turned his head. “Like The Men Who Stare At Goats movie?”
“2009. Brad Pitt. Jeff Bridges. New Age stuff from the 70s.”
“Kind of. But this was older. There was a program called MK Ultra that was trying to develop a psychic spy. Lots of drugs were involved. It didn’t end on a high note.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Maybe it did, and we just don’t know.” He whistled and blew at the same time, making a noise like a flying saucer from an old movie.
“Yeah, but if they did do it at St. Mary’s, the wing itself was closed down because something went really wrong. Or really right. Nobody knows which, and there’s about as many stories about what happened as there are students going through the program.”
Jack looked at the blueprint, and at the key. “So…you think Dr. Harris found the old wing?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. But I definitely want to find out.”
Jack frowned and looked like he was about to say something, but didn’t. He didn’t have to. Evan already guessed what he was going to ask, and he was right…maybe it would explain why Harris had killed himself.
“Jack, can you do me a favor? I have a lot still to do up here, but if you get the chance…can you check that hallway in the basement and see if there’s anything…”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. If you think it’ll help.” He took the key and the blueprint from Evan, gave a little salute, and went out of the room.
Evan spent the next few hours looking through more papers, and was about to fall asleep on the couch in his office when Jack came in, out of breath, and closing the door behind him.
Evan sat up quickly. “You found it?”
Jack looked at Evan, a little pale. “Yeah. It’s an old hallway off the main junction. It’s mostly used as storage, nobody ever goes down it. But there’s a locker on a wall that was bolted to the wall. Somebody had loosened the bolts, and behind it there was a door buried under a bunch of pried away drywall.”
Evan stood up. “Did you go in?”
Jack gulped. “Kind of. I opened the door, but I didn’t go very far. It’s very, very dark in there, and the place gave me the creeps. I didn’t feel like going in there alone.”
Evan grabbed his phone, charging next to his desk. “I’ve got a flashlight on this. Let’s go take a look.”
Jack led him down into the basement and into the hallway. It was deserted, just like Jack said; over the years, despite it being a hallway, it had become a dumping ground for all kinds of old equipment and junk that no one apparently wanted to throw away. Evan recognized an x-ray machine that hadn’t been manufactured since the 1960s; he hoped that it didn’t give off any radiation even while it was unplugged. But the lockers were there, and behind was the door.
A lot had been done to hide the door. Besides the lockers and the drywall, there were holes in the door frame that looked like they had held nails not too long ago (a quick look around confirmed there were a couple of boards that had been removed). Evan opened the door, and beyond, there was pure darkness.
Shaking his phone to turn on the flashlight, Evan shined it over the space. It was another hallway, leading to a set of double doors that had been pushed open. The place smelled dusty and dry, like an old bookstore.
A horrible feeling came over Evan. The excitement he had felt about uncovering a secret wing here in the hospital was overwhelmed by why it had been clearly closed off. The boards, the drywall…there was definitely something wrong here. But at the same time, he had to know. The image of Harris in that chair still sat in his mind, and somehow this place was a part of it.
He stepped into the hall, shining the light at the double doors ahead. He heard Jack a few steps behind him, following.
The hospital, for as old as it was, had always been renovated constantly. This wing, walled off from the rest for so long, looked like it hadn’t been updated since the 1920s. A lot of the rooms were group rooms, with space for multiple cots, while private rooms were small, barely enough to house a cot and a small closet for personal items.
They then came to a bigger room, almost like a waiting room. There were tables in here, covered with papers and photographs. Most were pictures of individuals and physical charts, but one showed up over and over again. There was nothing special about him on looks, but information about him was everywhere.
Jack, looking around nervously and staying well within the light of the phone, suddenly pointed next to the table. “Wow. What do you think is on that?”
Evan put down the papers and swung the light where Jack was pointing.
Off to one side of the room was a rolling table, on which sat an old recorder. It was a reel-to-reel, with the tape wound all the way to the end, though it didn’t seem very long.
Evan went over to it and smiled, and started clicking the giant buttons on it.
He jumped back as it rewound. But there was no electricity here. There was no way…
He shined his flashlight down to where the plug would be. There was a power pack attached to the plug. It was very modern, certainly not something that would have been available back then.
He played the tape.
There were two voices on it. One was a researcher of some kind, asking questions to the second voice. No matter what the question was, the answer was always the same.
“William Waites, United States Marines, Service Number 55-217…”
Evan fast forwarded. Now it was just one voice.
“Let me out of here! I’ve done nothing wrong! No, stop, no more inject…AAAAAHHHH!”
Evan fast forwarded again. He missed the question, but he heard most of the answer.
“…world beyond what you know. There is something there. They worship it as a god. I’ve seen it. Would you like to meet it? Just let me open your mind. My fingernails are ready to help.”
Fast-forwarding. Sobbing this time.
“*sniff* Seven…two one…five…sevens…seven seals, seven days, sevensevensevenseven…”
Jack made a face. “What the hell were they doing down here?”
“I don’t know, but I’m glad they walled it off.”
Suddenly, the tape made a skip sound. Another voice came over it.
“Dr. Turner. I assume you’ve found this by now.”
Dr. Harris. He taped over the end of the recording.
“I’ll cut right to it. My father was a physician here, many years ago. When I was a boy, he suddenly was not able to tell us about his work. I went to go visit him, and saw a lot of military people around the hospital. Then, one day, he didn’t come home. We were told he was attacked by a crazed patient. There was a funeral, and for years we thought nothing of it.
“I followed in his footsteps, and joined the staff here at St. Mary’s. I worked quietly for years, never suspecting anything, until you and I began our research. I then wanted to find my father’s old papers, to see what we could learn from him. But his work was gone. All gone. Only his published work survived. And I knew something wasn’t right.”
Jack suddenly grabbed Evan’s arm, and he stopped the tape. “What?”
“We’re the only ones in here, right?”
“Should be. Unless somebody else found the door.”
“Well, maybe it was just the light, but I thought I saw something move in that room over there.”
Evan shined the light over to a door. It looked like all the other private rooms, except for a pile of boards next to it, and several bent nails on the floor.
Evan shivered. “Even behind all this stuff, they still sealed that door. Dr. Harris must have opened it.”
Jack went over to it, looking in the window. “Hey, there’s definitely something in here. I…I think I see an arm.”
An arm? Evan started to walk over, but thought for a moment, and hit play on the tape recorder again, turning up the volume so he could hear it as they worked.
“I knew the rumor of the wing must have been true, and he disappeared because of it. And I found it. It took time, but I did. And inside here is the work they did. Most of them died, from their treatments but one didn’t. William Waites.”
Evan shined his light through the window. He saw what Jack was talking about, but he still couldn’t make it out. The room inside did look a lot bigger than the others, though…this one seemed a lot more like a full-sized, modern room.
“He developed the ability to see through the eyes of those who touched him. But he also saw other things. Things that shouldn’t exist. It drove him insane. And then there was more.”
Evan opened the door, and they could see into the room properly. It was an arm. Based on the desiccation, it had been down here awhile. But it was the body it was attached to that made Evan reel back. It was mummified and wore Korean War-era fatigues.
As did the ten or fifteen other bodies that the light of the flashlight revealed. They were all gathered in a pile. All except two.
Evan gasped. Jack fell back. “Holy shit!” He got up quickly and got back in the circle of light. “We gotta get somebody!”
Evan shook his head. “These guys are about seventy years too late to get help from anyone.”
The tape continued. “William soon learned to do more than see through people. After one soldier shot himself, they realized he could control those he touched. All those he’d been in contact with needed to be sealed away, so he could no longer infect others.”
The other two bodies were on a cot, and in a nearby chair, at a desk. The one at the desk looked like the ones in the pile, but the one on the cot was completely different. He wasn’t mummified. He wore no fatigues. He was shirtless, and blackened with rot, His jaw hung loose, at an angle, like he had tried to tear it off, but was unable to finished the job.
It made no sense. Why was this body rotting and bloated and slick with decay, and the others mummified?
“I’ll be dead soon, Evan. It was good to know you. Because you see, I didn’t do any research on William to know who he was. I know because he told me.”
Evan and Jack both turned back to the recording. Jack moved to the doorway. “What did he say?”
“Evan, in all my years, I never knew the mind could survive such torture. Our research could never have uncovered it on its own. But I know this because William has been locked in here for over half a century. And I touched him. And I see what he has seen.”
Evan and Jack both heard a noise in the room with them.
“He is still alive. And if I don’t kill myself soon, he will…he will…”
Behind them, the corpse on the bed sat up. It looked at them, ichor pouring from its eye sockets.
On the tape, Dr. Harris’ voice changed.
“He…I willl…Willlll…William Waites, United States Military, 55…55…55…” The tape then ended.
Evan and Jack slammed the door shut behind them as the corpse moved from its cot, slowly, almost painfully, and shambled towards them. Evan went to push the rolling cart with the tape recorder in front of the door, and as soon as they did, another face appeared in the window.
One of the mummified corpses in the room was also now standing. Its teeth ground together. And then it spoke. “William Waites, United States Marines, 55…55…William Waites, United…”
Jack backed away from it. “Shit! Shit! SHIIITTT!” He grabbed Evan, who was still too stunned. “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!”
They turned to go, running back through the hallway, when doors along the hallway flew open, and more mummified soldiers came from places they hadn’t even seen.
So many. So many he had been in contact with. Evan turned back for just a moment. Even without his light to shine, their eyes glowed in the darkness. He thought he could see, for just a moment, several wearing physician’s outfits.
He wondered if any of them were Dr. Harris’ father.
They were almost out when Jack twisted and landed with a thud. Evan shined his light and saw a hand had reached out from under an overturned gurney and had tripped Jack, holding him tight. Evan reached out for him, but more corpses grabbed hold. Jack screamed and tried to fight them, but there were too many. With unnatural strength, they pulled Jack away into the darkness.
Evan reeled back, but recovered himself enough to look around and see the light of the hallway. The hospital.
He burst through the door into that disused storage hall, and he slammed the door shut. He pressed the locker against it, then the old x-ray machine. Everything and anything.
There were some sounds of pounding, but it began to fade. Despite all their strength, they didn’t have the leverage to force open the door. At least, not yet.
He ran. He ran back to his office, grabbed his things, and left the hospital. He spoke to no one. He wasn’t interested in explaining himself. He just knew he needed to get away from there, and prayed that whatever was in that wing, stayed there.
Evan stayed in his apartment the next morning and ignored his ringing telephone. He didn’t care if he was fired; he was done with medicine. Maybe he could find a diner somewhere and just be a fry cook. They still had those, right?
He thought nothing would replace the sight of Dr. Harris. But seeing those things carrying Jack away into the darkness would not leave him.
His phone finally stopped ringing. He began to pack his things up, planning to take only what he needed to survive.
He needed a distraction. He turned on the TV.
There was breaking news. Something had happened at St. Mary’s. Nobody could explain. It was just labeled an incident.
The reporter on the scene was behind yellow tape, and she mentioned how she was able to speak to one of the people who got out of the hospital. She put him on the microphone and asked his name.
It was Jack. But it wasn’t his voice.
“William Waites, United States Marines…”