Sunday, April 17, 2016
Comb's Dear Nightmare
Another flash fiction challenge from the warped mind of Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com
Pick a title, write a story. I chose:
Comb’s Dear Nightmare
Please excuse my penmanship and grammar as I hastily write this entry, but I fear that it is best that I transcribe this incident as soon as possible, while these sequences of events are still relatively clear in my mind’s eye. An eye that grows more clouded by the hour.
Harold Comb has been a psychiatric patient of mine for the last two weeks. This writing concerns him, or should I say concerns what has happened in his regard. Comb became my patient through recommendation of a colleague, who shall remain nameless, for his protection. My colleague had sent Comb to me with what he said was some reluctance, and I should’ve read more into the waiver in his voice as he relayed the patient’s situation to me. It seems Harold Comb stumbled upon my colleague through pure chance, having wandered, delirious, no less, into a garden party at said colleague’s home. The lady of the house as well as the guests were frightened to the point of near terror, but my colleague was intrigued with Comb’s story and against his better judgement, calmed the poor fellow and even went so far as in offering to take the gentleman home, upon which Comb stated, “I have none!” and consequently fell unconscious. Comb was rushed to hospital and soon after became lucid once again.
This is when Comb, with my colleague and the attending nurse by his side, told his queer tale in further curious detail. Comb stated that he was from the city of Ashtonworth, in the provence of Rhiley, in the country of Saldesta, a country that obviously doesn’t exist. He had no memory of how he came to be in our city. Comb, confused, didn’t recognize the names of any of the countries the good Doctor related to him either, although saying there was a country like “Germany” yet spelled “Jermeny” in his imagined world. Comb became agitated by the Doctor’s inquiries and refused to answer any more questions until his story was heard. The patient became physical and orderlies were summoned to restrain him. Once given a powerful sedative, he began to ramble.
He claimed he was not a man, but a ten year old boy, saying he awoke in this hideous city in the body of a man. Baffled by his whereabouts and repulsed by his anatomy, Comb stumbled through the lamp post lit city streets until, in desperation, followed the sounds of laughter and music, lurching into the garden of the Doctor. At this point in the patient’s story, the Doctor asked what came before… could he remember? Comb lay silent on the bed, eyes closed. Just as the Doctor expected no answer, Comb’s eyes sprung open. He fought and strained against the restraints, clawing at the bed linens. Veins stood out in his neck, Comb gnashed his teeth, grimacing.
“That’s when they came! The ceiling! The melting…!”
At this point, the Doctor felt it best to sedate Comb, and the patient slept through the night with no further incident. The following day, Comb remembered nothing of the previous night. He gave my colleague his address, and even provided identification, which was verified. The Doctor explained his unusual behavior from the night before to Comb, who showed legitimate concern for his actions. He even admitted to suffering blackouts, but being a bachelor and living alone, had no realization of ever leaving his flat. The Doctor calmed him, saying this may have been the first time, but he recommended that Comb should see a sleep specialist, which you already know, I am. The Doctor also explained that he felt my studies and practice of hypnotism may be beneficial. Comb became my patient the following day.
My first session with Harold Comb was uneventful. I simply related what I knew of him and his situation, explaining that through experimental hypnosis techniques I intended to eliminate the blackouts, sleep walking and hypnogogic delusions he was experiencing. Delusions that remained buried in his subconscious; Harold Comb, in his concern for his mental health, agreed, signing the necessary forms of treatment and release. I scheduled Comb as the last patient to be seen today, excusing my receptionist an hour prior to his arrival. Unbeknownst to my receptionist or Comb, my treatment was anything but sanctioned, and the fewer who knew, the better.
Comb showed precisely at 5:30, although he seemed different than he did in our initial meeting. He diverted his eyes and shuffled to his seat across from me, with no greeting. I did get a greeting upon forwarding one myself, however. I quickly went over the procedure that would include a mild sedative. I held back that I would also be administering a dose of a drug that causes temporary paralysis of the limbs. As I stated, this technique was unorthodox, but not without warrant in my studies. Comb took the pills, first putting the pills in his mouth from his right hand, then taking the glass of water from me with his right also, swallowing with one gulp. Comb’s left hand was clenched tight, and must’ve been since entering my office. I proceeded to put him into a hypnotic trance, using a series of suggestions and mannerisms I’ve perfected over the years. Soon he was under my influence. I grabbed my pen and pad.
“Harold, can you hear me?”
“I need you tell me where you are.”
“In your office.”
“Tell me about you. About the boy.”
“Oh my God. I don’t belong here. They brought me. What? Why are you here? I want to go home! This isn’t me! Mommy, this isn’t me! Don’t! Take me home! OH MY GOD THEY’RE HERE!”
Comb sat across from me, trembling, staring passed and above me, frozen stiff in that chair. I turned, instinctively, I turned and looked! I shouldn’t have! I shouldn’t have looked! God help me, a black cloud was forming in the corner of the room. I watched incredulous as slim, smoke like tentacles sprouted from that sickening black mass, tendrils stretching out… I threw myself to the floor, covering my head with clasped hands as I heard the bloodcurdling shrieks of poor Comb! Comb, unable to move, unable to avert or even close his eyes! Seeing it all! Then came the sounds, the guttural sounds of a man drowning, air being forced from lungs… then silence.
I came to sitting in my chair just moments ago, the chair that sat across from where Comb had been sitting, Comb's chair now empty. My shirt soaked through with sweat. My hands gripping the arms so tightly, my knuckles ached upon loosening my grip. I’d fallen asleep. Comb had never been here. It had been a dream, a nightmare, I told myself. Comb had shrugged off the appointment. I felt a rush of relief course through me. Then I noticed something. Lying beside the chair across from me. A small object. I picked it up. A small toy, a little metal car, but unlike any metal I’d felt before. It was ice cold to the touch. Then, in realization, I looked into the corner of the room behind me. There, a small black cloud, the size of a walnut, pulsing.
I still sit here as I write this. The cloud grows ever so slightly by the hour. I feel I should leave, but will that stop the inevitable? No.
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