Oct 30: GHOST

 

“It’s experimental,” Whitcomb said.  “So we’re not sure what’s going to come out of it.  It could be about as interesting as giving a toddler a keyboard.”

“You know what they say,” Nicholls joked nervously.  “An infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters will eventually type out Hamlet.”

The electrodes taped to his skull itched.  And his head was cold.  He’d never shaved his head before.  His teenage years had been pitifully lame, spent in the basement reading old horror novels and trying to avoid his stepfather.  Sometimes he had a broken arm in a cast.  Sometimes he didn’t.  At any rate he wanted a warm stocking cap to put over the electrodes, but even if he could get away with doing something like that, it was too late now.  The test was about to begin.

Whitcomb picked up the syringe full of the chemical goop that was supposed to suppress some of the functions of his dreaming, enough so that his subconscious could still access the part of his brain that knew how to type and spell and form words and sentences, but not enough so that he’d get up and walk around or talk in his sleep or anything like that.  She flicked it with her fingernail, then pushed the plunger slightly to make sure no air bubbles had collected near the needle.

Nicholls took deep breaths as she approached him.  “Not scared of needles, are you?”

“Not normally, no.  But this is a strange situation.”

“Unusual, certainly.  Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

“I’ve had writers’ block for ten years now.  Stick it in, Doc.”

They were old friends. She smiled wryly as she gave him the jab.  “I hope this works for you.”

He lay back on the cot, feeling the colder liquid prickle painfully through his veins.  “Me, too.”

In the background, he could hear Whitcomb murmuring to a tape recorder.  But he tuned her out.

He was already falling asleep.

When he woke up, he was shivering.  In fact he was naked, crouched in a corner of the little exam room where the cot had been set up.  He rubbed a hand over his head.  The electrodes were gone, just a half-dozen sticky spots on his skull where the adhesive pads had been ripped off.

The room had been trashed.  The cot was bent and twisted and looked like it had holes eaten in the fabric.  The medical charts had been ripped off the walls.  The walls?  Covered with claw marks.

The cabinets were splattered with fluid, this gray-green viscous stuff.

And Whitcomb lay on the floor in a pool of blood.  Nicholls’s hospital nightgown was wrapped around her throat, but that wasn’t the worst part.  Her guts had been ripped open and loops of moist organs lay around her, like a child’s bath toys that needed to be put away.

“Janet!”

He crawled over to her.  He had bruises all up and down his legs.  How?  How? 

She was dead.

He got shakily to his feet and started to hobble toward the door.  The clock over it said that it was after midnight.

There was supposed to be a camera monitoring him that fed back to the computer that was receiving the signals his brain was sending out.  Writing in his sleep.  Who the hell had thought it was a good idea to…to unleash the creative forces that had been trapped in his skull for the last ten years…it had to be his fault.  Had to be.

He grabbed a robe from the rack as he passed, leaving behind a bloody smear.  First, a phone call to the police.  He didn’t care that he was damning himself.  He was too stunned to care.  He deserved whatever happened to him.

Waiting for the police to arrive, he washed his hands, then went back into Whitcomb’s office.  Gingerly, he sat in her chair and woke up the computer.

His file was open.

Make him stop make him stop I can’t move oh god I have to help her and I can’t move please dear god make it stop no no no

In the end, he had written almost sixty single-spaced pages full of despair and horror.

A tab started flashing on the task bar at the bottom of the screen, a file named with today’s date that was trying to get his attention.

With a shaking hand, he clicked the file name.  It opened, footage from the camera Whitcomb had rigged up in her room.

The ghost had been waiting for her, a sharply-defined but translucent layer of pale green, a figure in a doctor’s coat.  One hand was twisted…skeletal…bearing scalpel-thin claws.  The ghost grinned at the camera as Nicholls lay back on the cot and Whitcomb spoke into her microphone.

Then it turned back toward her as she kissed Nicholls on the forehead and mouthed the words good luck.

This one was inspired by Stant Litore, who was joking that someday he’d like to be able to nap and write at the same time.  “What could possibly go wrong with that?” I asked.  What indeed.