My eyes struggle to open.
I blink several times, trying to take in my surroundings. A stark white ceiling looms above me. Even from a distance, I can make out the little cracks that scour the surface; hundreds of tiny passages into darkness. Shifting around a bit, I feel the starchy sheets beneath my outstretched hands. They feel stale and unwashed. Unsurprisingly, the rigid mattress beneath me is no more comforting.
I slowly lean up and glance around the room. It’s dimly lit – a single desk lamp rests on a table in the far corner. A few books are strewn across the table’s surface, none of which are recognizable from where I’m sitting. The table looks worn down, as if it’s been there for decades. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the wall next to me. Its covered in black etches and scribbles. My eyes wander across the remaining walls, but I soon look away. The same markings enshroud the entire room.
I begin to sift through my memories, trying to remember what could possibly bring to me to such a place. But, to my horror, I can recall nothing. Scarce images float to the surface, yet nothing concrete enough to be considered sensible. My heart begins racing. My temples throb as I clench my palms to the side of my head. Where am I? More importantly, who am I?
Deciding I need to do something, I slide myself off the bed, feeling my body creak from the sudden movement. As my bare feet hit the ground, a shiver shoots up my spine – it’s freezing. I feel uneasy… something doesn’t feel right. I creep towards the table, unable to shake the dread that’s suddenly washed over me. I look at the three books on the table, searching for something that might be helpful, but the covers are so worn the books are unrecognizable. Just then, I notice a folder underneath one of the books. I hastily slide the book onto the floor and grasp the folder. My eyes bulge. Written in fresh blood are the words “Open Me” followed by a crudely drawn exclamation point. It’s odd, but I can’t help sharing the writer’s excitement.
My hands tremble as open the folder. Inside is thick stack of papers, wrinkled from time. As I begin to rifle through the pages, I find it’s compilation of files on someone under the alias of “patient thirty-seven”. I continue to read through the entries… “aggressive…highly intelligent…violent…murderous…masochist”. I cringe. To my horror, the entries go on and on; countless recollections of unprecedented brutality and terror. Pictures of mutilated bodies plague the folder. It’s almost as if I can feel the blood of the victims seeping through the pages.
After what feels like hours, I get to the last page. On it is a picture of man, if you can call him that, in his late thirties. The eyes are sunken and dark, with shadows engulfing them. The nose is jagged, clearly broken earlier in life. A twisted grin covers the bottom half of the face. The hair, to my surprise, is neatly combed to the left; a stark contrast to the rest of the image. As I continue to look at the portrait, I can’t help but shudder. There is something almost… inhuman about the man. My eyes wander and I notice the dark red at the bottom of the page …another note, but this time it exclaims, “Come Find ME! :)”
I drop the folder and stumble backward. I suddenly feel nauseous as I’m hit by a crushing wave of fear. This man… this… murderer, wants me to come find him? Thoughts start swirling in my head. I drop to one knee; confusion overwhelms me. Why would I seek him out, this, patient thirty-seven? What does he want with me? Claustrophobia kicks in. I look to the door beyond the bed. Gritting my teeth, I stand up and trudge towards the closed door.
My hand tightly squeezes the door handle. I stand there panting for a bit; sweat drips down my forehead. There is no way of knowing what’s on the other side. I close my eyes and turn the handle.
I’m met by a narrow corridor. The lights above flicker, giving off just enough light to see. There is an intercom on the far side of the wall. The right light below the speaker blinks rapidly. Just then, music begins to play throughout the entire hallway. The soft keys of a piano… simple, but beautiful. I recognize it – Faure’s Nocturne no. 1 in E-Flat minor, opus 33 no. 1. I put my hands to my head… why do I know this song? Why is it playing in such a wretched place?
Continuing to struggle with my thoughts, I walk through the corridor, feeling strangely guided by the melody. The hallway is barren, just like the prior room. No sound can be heard except for the rhythmic fingering of the piano keys. Oddly, there are no windows, just white walls. I walk over to one of the walls and brush my hand up against it as I walk. The pattern gives off a soothing sensation on my palm. I close my eyes and continue to walk.
My eyes jolt open as the pattern on the wall changes. The silence is broken as my hand slides through something wet. I quickly pull my hand back and stare it in the quivering light. It’s covered in blood. I let out a shrill as my eyes dart towards the wall. Drawn on the surface is a thick red arrow, pointing in the direction I’m walking. I look onward… a body lies on the ground. I rush over, but immediately notice there’s no hope. The man’s eyes are gauged out and a knife protrudes from his stomach. Without thinking, I grab the knife’s handle and pull. Blood erupts from the wound and spatters on my face. I cry out and I frantically wipe it from my eyes. This is disgusting. This can’t be happening. Where the fuck am I? I need to get out of here. Clenching the knife, I move forward.
I pass a large front desk on my right. An elderly woman lies facedown, a pair of scissors impaled in the back of her head. Blood pools around her face. A security monitor is on the wall behind her. Nothing but static. I grit my teeth and look down. I need to keep moving.
As I reach the end of the long hallway, I see another arrow, this time pointed to right. Written above it reads a message, “Almost There!”. What kind of sick fucking game was this? Who would do something like this? Yet, I can’t help but follow the direction. I’m nothing but a man lost in a strange world. I turn to the right, and see a green light coming from an opening at the end of the hallway. I approach carefully, being lured like an animal into a cage. Once I’m close, I notice it’s an entrance to a bathroom. I can make out shapes on the ground, but I’m too far away to see what they are. I shudder… based on past experiences, I know it’s not going to be pleasant.
In the doorway now, my eyes scan the room. Bodies, at least 5, cover the floor. The entire surface is covered in red. I can barely make out a clean spot on the once white floor. It’s grotesque, yet I can’t help but move forward. The melody continues to propel me into the unknown. The bathroom lights flicker while I navigate around the bodies. Looking around, the room is a pit of despair. Blood is spattered across the walls; the once pristine tiles now unrecognizable. Strands of meat hang from the stall openings. Dark liquid curdles on the floor beneath them. This… can’t be real. Can it?
Just then, I notice a message on the mirror. I can’t make it out from my angle, so I step closer. My heart is racing out of my chest. Thump… Thump… Thump… The adrenaline surges through every ounce of my body. I inch closer and closer, trembling more with each step. Once I’m directly in front of the mirror, I stop. I can make out the letters. I read the message on top of the mirror. My heart slows. My breathing calms. I stare into the mirror and slowly exhale… written above my head are three simple words. “Hello Patient Thirty-Seven”.
Everything stops. Silence.
A twisted smile creeps across my face. A whisper escapes from my mouth.
“I found you…”