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Is this my 4th or 5th post today? I don’t know. I have been on nightshift and should by now really be asleep. Still, inspired by Craig Hickman’s posting of poetry and [for the sake of our sanity let’s call it] fiction, I thought I would post up my first attempt at a short horror story. I wrote this at about 9am having just got home from work. Hopefully it doesn’t any more sense than it needs to.

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A Dream of Care and Compassion 

They moved around him with the stupid regularity of matter. They were solid objects that could not pass through other solid objects. They moved around one another or else collided. Most of the time they tried to avoid colliding. Most of the time they tried not to notice one another’s presence, unless they had arbitrarily met before and done so on a number of subsequent occasions. After a sequence of these meetings they agreed they knew one another well, and well enough to speak each others names and even hold eye contact for several seconds at a time. Most of the time people agreed on what could be said and done, seen and heard. Those who disagreed were given special rooms in special buildings where they could rest and come to understand their mistakes. This is where he was when he sluiced away from them to the place he couldn’t name.

The days passed here by an anonymous schedule. Each day was the same in structure and routine so that he felt that there were no days whatsoever. Instead there were units of time measured between medication rounds and the large white tablets and the little red and yellow capsules. There were the bigger units between eating sessions. The largest measure was that between the coming and going of the ones who were there to give you the tablets and the caps and the meals. He couldn’t tell if he slept any more, and he was too afraid of windows anyway: night and day were out as ways to track how long gone and how long left.

He’d heard the voices for years. For as long as he could remember. All his life, essentially. They told him he’d been found wandering the woodlands, down where a shallow river cut the tree darkened world in two. He had no idea how he’d got there. He couldn’t remember anything about anything. It was as if he had been born there in the woods. It was as though he was a satyr or faun, disguised as a man and abandoned by his kin. The voices whispered as much to him. They seemed always to be beckoning him back, calling him home.

The nice nurse asked him what he believed. He told him he believed he was a faun or maybe an elf, some creature of the woods that played tricks and caught animals and lured men, women and children into those shaded spots where they would be subjected to ridicules and tortures, and they might be raped and given punishments and raped again, this time in their wounds, before being slaughtered and devoured by him and his merry laughing brother, sisters and cousins. While explaining all this in a rising frenzied manner he had grabbed hold of the nice nurse with one hand, pinning him to the wall, while touching himself with the other. This is when he slept the chemical sleep that sent him deeper than any sleep he knew. Four bodies on top of him and the little sting in his buttock before sliding away into dark, dreamless depths.

Except this time the depths weren’t dreamless. Something stirred down in the blackest fathoms of the tar pit of his unconscious. A black shape moving through the blackness- it was as if the luxuriant fabric of a starless, moonless, cosmos had folded itself around itself. He could feel the blackness moving through the blackness becoming something living but distinctly inhuman. An electric surge shot through him. Was this still a dream? Was he still sleeping? Impossible to tell as the blackness swam inside itself sending pulses of an even blacker luminescence around him. He could hear the voice again. It was the voice of the dark. It was the darkness itself speaking to him. It told him it was sorry. It told him it wouldn’t do it again. It pleaded with him to come home.

A full investigation was carried out. Despite interview and forensic examinations, despite the presence of two nurses in the bedroom, one taking the patient’s pulse and blood pressure, checking his respirations, every 15 minutes no one could explain what had happened. They all reported having heard a terrible scream like that of a hungry infant- but amplified and deepened, as if it had were also that of a man howling from deep within a cavern that descended into the dismal chambers of the earth. They all reported hearing the scream give way to an even more dreadful laugh without any break in the sound, as if the scream melted parts of itself away to reveal a cackling buried inside it like a recording of a voice buried under layers of distorting hiss and fuzz. The oldest nurse was the only one who would speak on record about the voice they all heard. It was his voice, the patient’s voice; but it wasn’t the voice that came from him, it was the voice he described hearing since the day he was admitted- his hallucination. She told them that she heard it clearly, that they all heard it, as thick black viscosity oozed out from his eyes and streamed down his body, caking around him like a second skin…or like his true skin.

His body was unclaimed. He had no known relatives or friends. It was burnt in the furnace at the general hospital that could be seen from his bedroom window, across the leafy avenue. no sign of a puncture wound but no blood left in the body. The verdict was returned of death by natural causes. The nurses who worked the night shift still shudder when they hear it: death by natural causes. They gather from time to time when they can, when they are all out of hospital and well enough to talk about it without fear of lapsing back into babbelling and petrified vacancy. They talk about how they hear the voice; twisted, cruel and mocking: of how it invites them down to the woodlands, where the river cuts the body of the trees- begging them to come, come back, come home… come and play, play, play…