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screaming meemies

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[Our subject is huddled in the corner of the room. He hasn’t moved since I first arrived, hasn’t spoken, and hasn’t blinked. A review of the general public information would place this episode as catatonic schizophrenia, though the psychiatrist caring for this patient would neither confirm nor invalidate this claim. The room is furnished only with a bed and a mirror, the walls padded. Occasionally, he will turn his head and look at the mirror, before flinching and looking away. His eyes are distant, though they also seem extremely tired, as if he hasn’t slept. His hair is in disarray, and there’s a healing scar on his nose. It didn’t seem recent, perhaps a year or two. Since the murders? Perhaps.

Shiro is dressed in a white hospital gown, a nametag strapped to his wrist. It’s odd to see one, though from what the orderlies and attendants have told me – only the more violent patients with the compunction to harm themselves were not given wrist tags. Shiro, other than bouts of nightmares that have seemed to stop just a little over a few months ago, wasn’t known to display aggressive behavior.

An attendant, who did not wish to be named, remarked to me while he and I were smoking outside. “He’s kinda chill, actually. He does what he’s told, he doesn’t give us problems. Rarely, but it happens, he also makes jokes. I guess, other than slaughtering six other people, he’s a pretty cool guy.”

I refused to make note of the slaughter comment, but I have to agree with the attendant. Shiro didn’t seem like he belonged here.]


Shiro? Do you know why I’m here?


[He jumped, eyes widening and pivoting towards me – as if he just realized my presence.]


A-Are you the interviewer?


[His voice was not even. Shaky, tremulous. He seemed agitated.]


Yes, I am.


[He nods and uncurls himself from the corner, walking over to the lone bed and sits down.]


You—you wanna know why I killed those people, right? To, uh, find out the truth?


No, not really. Newspapers, TV reel, media. You’ve had enough of those people coming in and asking you why you did it, haven’t you?


[He looks startled again – either at the words or my direct way of speaking, I do not know. Shiro looks at me, and I feel a bit of discomfort at it. There was a way to his gaze: as if he saw you and saw right through you.]


I’m here to find out your story. I’m here to find out what really happened. After all, you’re the only one that can tell us what happened to you and all those other people. You’re the only one who’s here now.


[He stares at my face, then his eyes flick down to the recorder in my hand.]


You’re here to find out my story?


Yes. We don’t have to start today, if that’s what you want. We can just talk if you’d like, until you get comfortable.


[He blinks a few times before staring at his hands.]


My name is Takashi Shirogane. At least, that’s what is says on my official records, which is everything, I guess. My birth certificate, my Social Security card, my driver’s license. Takashi Shirogane. [He writes his name in the air with his finger.] But in there, everyone called me Shiro. [He shivers.]


In where?


[He ignores my question. His eyes are distant once more.] It started a week before Halloween. Everything seems a little bit darker before Halloween, right? Everyone around me seems to start thinking a little bit darker, to get in the mood of the season. Haunted houses, costumes, horror movies. Thoughts twist, and suddenly, you’re thinking of things like murder, seeing ghosts and spirits everywhere, and everything makes you jumpy.


Is that what happened to you?


No. Halloween’s always been kind of stupid for me. Sure, it’s fun, and it gives kids an excuse to wear costumes and go ask candy from people. For the rest of us, Halloween’s the kind of thing to throw a party for, until you’ve passed out and you wake with a migraine enough to kill you, buck naked in the middle of—well, you get my point. Halloween was fun, but it was stupid. Just something that, you know, gets people in the mood to jump out of bushes and scare others – which, uh, I’ve done.


I see.


My friend always told me it was always gonna come back and haunt me. I didn’t really believe him, until I started having these dreams. I guess, nobody really believes when they’re being told that shit’s gonna come bite me in the ass. It’s just one of those things, right? [He shivers again, this time much more violently. The ‘bed’ is a mattress on the floor because a frame was too dangerous, but I can still hear the springs move.] And they all started out the same way and would go farther and farther each time I had the dream, and I just—


Tell me about this dream.


[He blinks a few times and curls up on his bed, eyes darting back and forth furiously. He looks at my face, then to my shoulder and then over my shoulder. There’s nothing but a wall there, but his eyes flit away quickly. It’s silent for two minutes.] It always starts off the same way. I’m driving down this dirt road by myself. There’s a streetlight somewhere that follows me, but I don’t know where it’s coming from. The road is endless, and I can’t really see anything besides the road and the trees. Then after what feels like an hour of driving, I see someone on the side of the road. I drive past them, because you know, picking up hitch hikers is bad, even in dreams. Then the next thing I know, they’re on my windshield, screaming at me and shit. The car swerves, and I crash into a tree.


And suddenly, I’m standing on a sidewalk. There’s only one path, lit by some street lamps. I don’t know why, but I start walking down the path. There’s literally just a path and the sidewalk. The rest is just darkness, even where the street lights are. Then I reach the end of the sidewalk, and guess what’s at the end of the sidewalk?


If I’ve seen enough horror movies, I would say a house.


You’re absolutely fucking right. It’s this creepy ass house on the left with an iron fence around it. It looks like those typical haunted houses you see in the movies, you know? Old dilapidated house where you’re wondering how the hell it’s still standing, or why anyone would walk to go in there, let alone live there. But dreams are like the movies, they don’t make sense. So, I turn up the path and head towards the house. The porch creaks under my feet like the planks are ready to fall apart and send me falling underneath the house, but they hold out until I open up the door and step inside. [He suddenly stops talking coherently and starts to mumble to himself before laughing quietly.]


I’m sorry? I didn’t quite catch that.


That wasn’t meant for you to hear. It would ruin the story. Anyway, inside are the sorriest bunch of people I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s always the same people. The delivery boy, the priest, the crazy son of a bitch, the doctor, the zoo keeper, the model, and me. [He repeats the list once more before shaking his head.]


We all look like prisoners in this house. The delivery boy is sitting in a chair, gripping the arm rests so hard his knuckles are white. The crazy son of a bitch—oh, I mean, ‘fanatic’ is pacing the length of the foyer. He got mad whenever I called him the crazy son of a bitch, but that’s what he was. The doctor is leaned up against the wall next to a lamp with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t even look like a doctor, but he was a doctor. I just knew. The priest is sitting on the floor with the model, and they’re arguing with each other. And the zoo keeper looks like everything is just absolutely fucking dandy. [He pauses to clear his throat.]


The room. The room is already creepy as hell. It’s like a box, you know. The only light we have is this eerie blue glow. It’s everywhere. It’s like if the sun shone blue instead of yellow, or whatever color the sun shines in these days. I haven’t seen it in a while, but the point is, it was creepy, and everyone was nervous.


So, we’re all mulling around in the room, waiting for something. Waiting for what? I wasn’t sure. A door to open? The ceiling to fall? An ax murderer to come bursting into the room and chop some limbs off? Guess what happens?


I... I’m not sure.


[He looks irritated that I didn’t guess.] A voice. There’s a fucking voice that comes out of nowhere, and it tells us that all of us are going to die. We’re all going to die, one way or another. That’s when everyone starts to panic a little bit. I can tell the priest and the doctor are trying to keep calm, but everyone else is flipping shits, especially the model. [He scratches at the side of his face unconsciously, but I notice it leaving red marks in the skin under his ear.] You know how panic feels like, right? It starts off with your fingers – they’re cold – and they start angling up to your arms until your entire body is a block of ice. I knew I was panicking, and I knew everyone else was. It’s just that way with dreams, everything is exaggerated.


Do these people have names?


I’ll get to that. Just listen. The voice tells us that we’re all going to die, one by one. And there’s nothing we can do about it besides prolong the inevitable. But everyone’s going to die. You know what happens when you die in a dream, right? No? You die in real life . That’s what I’ve always been told. It sounded stupid, trust me – I used to think so, but it’s that kind of stupid that you’re fed when you’re young and you ended up believing it anyway. Like not walking under ladders or avoiding cracks on the sidewalk. You die in a dream, you die in real life. Have you ever seen yourself die in a dream? Maybe get close to dying, but you always wake up before you do, right? Of course. You wouldn’t be here if you died.


But... if the voice was right, and everyone was going to die, why aren’t you dead?


[He ignores my question again.] So, after the voice is done talking, we’re all looking at each other with the same thought: who was going to die first? It sure as hell wasn’t going to be me. After that, a door swings open with that cliché ominous creak. How stupid would you be to go deeper into a house where some demon voice told you that you were going to die somehow? Very stupid. It’s the fucking dumbest thing anybody could do, but someone did it anyway. We did it anyway. The fanatic goes first, saying something about rather being somewhere else before something tried to show up in that room and kill someone.


The delivery boy runs after him. The zoo keeper and the model team up and head out, leaving me, the priest, and the doctor left in the room. I told them I wasn’t going to wait for something to come get me and headed through the door too, to see them following after me apprehensively.


The doctor said that we should have a plan. Be as quiet as possible, avoid open spaces, and look out for signs of movements and doors. Avoid the doors. Who knew what was going to be waiting behind one of those doors? The priest agrees, and he takes the rear. I’m in the front, and the doctor is in the middle. All of our eyes are moving, never stopping, searching for any sign of anything. It’s funny when I think about it, because it’s a dream and we have a plan. Shit happens in real life, nobody has the time to plan for anything.


Through the door, there’s a hallway. It looks twisted, I don’t even understand how you can twist a hallway like that. There’s broken glass, flickering lights, and even a few bloodstains on the ground. They weren’t even pools of blood or anything, but finger trails, you know? Fucking drag marks leading into the rooms. It hurts, to think about it, right? Just the thought of your finger nails scraped like that – and God, I could hear it and feel it. It didn’t help, none of it did. Every now and then, there would be a crashing noise, followed by a door slam. All three of us would freeze, huddle together back to back, looking for the source. I don’t think my heart has ever beat so fast in my life.


There would be paths branching off of the main hallway. There wasn’t a light source down those hallways, so we avoided them. Do you have any idea how hard it is to inch down a hallway like that, afraid that something was going to come out and kill you? Probably not, stupid question. But we’re inching down the hallway, and suddenly, the door next to us flies open.


None of us even have time to yell before this mass of bleeding hands comes reaching out for it. I bolt, but the doctor, he decides to be a hero or something and grabs the priest's hand, pulling him back out of the mob of hands. I double back and grab the priest’s waist and pull him back, out of reach of the arms. Oh god. The arms. They were circled around an eye, this huge gigantic, bloody eye, and...


The door closes. And there’s no more noise. All three of us are on the floor, breathing hard. The priest’s arm is bleeding, but the doctor says he’ll be fine. And we believed him then, because he was a doctor. What did either of us know? What did any of us know in a place like this?


As soon as our hearts died down though, there was a dinging noise. The kind that you hear whenever an elevator reaches your floor, and your door opens? You know? The voice comes back, and he’s laughing. You know what he says? [He starts shaking for a moment before a dark smile comes to his face. It’s terrifying, the smile. His dark eyes seemed dead, and his grin was vicious.] One down, six to go. That fucker got somebody. I think it was the scream we heard earlier. Maybe it wasn’t. But if it was the scream, then why’d it take so long for him to announce that someone was dead? I voiced that thought with the doctor and the priest, and it was the priest that went pale.


Maybe he’s torturing before he kills, was what he said. Boy, that thought didn’t settle well with me. If I’m going to die, please make it quick and painless.


So, whoever the voice was, took his first victim already? He died?


Dead as dust. After that, there was a rumbling noise in the house, like it was getting ready to fall apart. Then I woke up.


Did you ever find out who died first?


You know who died first. If you’ve been following me like everyone else has, you know who died first. You know, I thought it was crazy. When I woke up, I was in my bed, sweating like I’d just worked out for a few hours. My first thought that it was some really scary ass dream. I was going to be jumpy all day, but after that adrenaline started pumping, it felt good. I don’t really know how to explain it.


I was eating breakfast when I turned on the news that morning. I dropped my cereal bowl to the ground, and it went fucking everywhere. On the news, they were talking about a gruesome murder of some kid, barely eighteen years old. A fast food delivery boy, dragged into an alley. The police said it looked like he was clawed to death. One of his eyeballs was gouged out, and they said they even found whole fingernails embedded into his skin.


They wouldn’t show the pictures of TV, so I bolted towards my laptop and pulled up the news report. His eyelids were ripped off, leaving one eye staring out into the distance like he was eternally surprised. They shoved his other one, the one they gouged out, into his mouth and had it propped open for everyone to see.


They showed a picture of him, what he used to look like, after they identified his body. The kid’s name was Hunk Garret. Eighteen. Fast food delivery boy. I couldn’t fucking believe it. He was the delivery boy from my dream.


[There's a buzzer, and one of the orderlies comes in, telling me my time is up. He's holding a tray of food and pills for Shiro.]


If it's okay, I'll be back tomorrow.


You'll need to come back. I'm not done with my story yet.