Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Woe to the Living (Parts I and II combined)

Caine’s Bed was always cold this time of year, a full month before the rest of the nation felt it.  Cold wind whispered through dead leaves, sometimes a sigh and other times a moan, making this autumn night the coldest all year.

The doctor sat at her desk and looked outside the window, glum at the thought of braving the night.  Despite her courage she found it harder and harder to venture out into that bitter Caine’s Bed evening.  She told herself it was the cold, or even just nerves, but neither answer made it any easier.

A glance at her fastidiously neat desk showed that she had somehow powered through the bulk of her work, leaving little excuse left to stall.  Sighing deeply and casting a last hopeful glance at her desk, she stood up.

Her name was Doctor Lynn Christopher and she was a renowned surgeon, artist, astronomer, author, pilot and wife and she was afraid of a little dark and shadows?  Absurd.  Yet, there it was.  Her hand paused halfway to the door leading outside almost of its own will.  Instead of opening the door, she checked her purse again – keys, check.  Mace, check. Phone, check.  Everything was in its place!

If everything was in place, then why did something seem so out of place?  Admittedly she had been all nerves since several staffers at the hospital went crazy and killed themselves.  Rumor had it that they had been dipping into the pharmaceutical grade opiates and overdosed, causing brain damage that ultimately led to their suicide, but that answer felt too pat for the Doctor, who knew them both personally.

Weeks leading up to their deaths, they complained of hearing things, seeing things and feeling like they were being watched.  No one knew for sure, and no one would ever know for sure, considering how quickly they shut the books on that case.

Not that the staffers were the only odd thing about the hospital.  One of the other doctors, who confided in her that he too felt watched, had taken a month’s vacation recently to ‘rebuild and fortify’ his house.  She shook her head sadly to think of it.  Rebuilding and fortifying apparently meant preparing for some sort of zombie attack based on the money spent preparing his home with thick lead walls, independent power supplies and a collapsible bridge system that could isolate his family from the outside world in less than 30 seconds.  If something were indeed after him, they would have an extremely rough go of it.

Despite all of this, she resolved to remain calm and keep her wits.  Others at the hospital needed her level headed guidance, and they would get it.  She had accomplished everything she’d set out to in life, from marrying the man of her dreams to becoming a surgeon and everything in between.  There was nothing in life that kept her from her goals.

Yet.. if that were true, why couldn’t she move her hand the last few inches towards the door-handle?

Then, she heard it..  faint at first, and growing louder; footsteps, coming towards her.  They had a solid sound to them, like someone marching down a tile floor in boots.  Whoever approached was not only moving closer, but also gaining speed.  The boots-on-tile sound was now matched by hoarse breathing caused by running too hard.

Heartbeat racing, and fighting panic, Doctor Lynn Christopher spun around towards the sound, whipping the mace out of her purse as she turned.  She did not wait to see what was there, she simply pressed down on the mace’s trigger, and unleashed a spray of caustic fluid in a loud hiss.

The mist seemed to hang in the air, defying gravity and common sense both, for many long seconds.  When it finally cleared enough to see the hallway, it was sterile and empty.  One fluorescent light, sensing her scrutiny, flickered uncertainly before getting back to work.

Absurd, she repeated to herself.  Absurd!

Spinning on her heel, she closed her eyes and reached for the door-handle.  The chill of the metal handle brought her back to herself with a jolt.  Outside the night was cold, but normal.  She tried to blame the goosebumps on the brisk autumn night, but deep down she knew the truth.

The rest of the evening was a blur.  Surely it was stress that caused her to see things moving out of the corner of her eyes while reading before bed. OR.. Maybe it was lack of sleep that made it sound like footsteps outside her window while she lay sleepless in bed staring at the ceiling.  Either way, she passed the night restlessly with very little sleep.

Caine's Bed seemed colder the next day.  Fine hoarfrost covered the ground outside the bedroom window like a silk blanket.  Groggily, Lynn stumbled about the room, mumbling "Love you's" to her husband and throwing on clothing.  She knew she looked a fright, but couldn't seem to make herself care.

Blurry minutes turned into weary hours, weary hours turned into anxiety wracked days and anxiety filled days turned into weeks.  More and more the day ended in tears.   More and more it was easier NOT to go into the office and stay at home in bed.

This was completely unlike her.  Her close friends and family were concerned, but could do nothing.  They never saw the things in the shadows, the creaking of boards, the breathing against her neck.  To them it was a cry for help - help that for Lynn Christopher, had never been needed before.

Long lists of hobbies and accomplishments faded with the morning frost..  She no longer dared to get into the cockpit of her small plane.  Costly telescopes gathered dust, unused for fear of what might be seen.  The absolute worst was when she put her shaky hand to paper to go through the cathartic process of writing.  All that bubbled to the surface through the pen were..


After the third week, the letters that escaped her fingers were too frantic to be readable, and the words they built made no sense.

Mrs Lynn Christopher was strong enough not to break outright, but not so strong to completely withstand the terror.  Around her, there were many who snapped outright, caving to the stark terror.  Others rose defiantly to shake their fist at the night and gather supporters - refusing to give in.

Not Lynn.  She was too independent to call for help, too strong to bend, and in too deep to get out.

They found her sitting bolt upright in bed one morning, staring at the footprints that only she saw in the hoarfrost outside and muttering "absurd, absurd, absurd" over and over.  Her beautiful and capable mind had snapped in the night.  Now all that she heard was the dark laughter inside her mind.. growing louder and louder, drowning out all other sounds of the outside world.

Outside her window in the cold winter morning, dead leaves danced on the morning gusts.  Woe to the living on days like this...

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