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The Psyching: A Short Thriller

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The Psyching

A Short Story by Freida McFadden

 

 

The Psyching: A Short Story

 

© 2015 by Freida McFadden. All rights reserved.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever without express written permission from the author

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, incidents and places are the products of the authors’ imagination, and are not to be construed as real. None of the characters in the book is based on an actual person. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

 

“The Psyching” was first published in 11 out of 10, edited by Freida McFadden.

 

 

 

Tonight I am the medical student on call on our locked psychiatry unit at Overlook Hospital. That would be bad enough in itself. I mean, being locked up for 24 hours with a bunch of crazy people is not my idea of a good time.

But there’s something much worse going on tonight.

I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t believe in black cats, broken mirrors, or rabbits’ feet. Well, I believe all those things exist, obviously, but not that they’re associated with any sort of luck in one way or another. But it’s hard not to get a little bit creeped out about tonight.

Exactly ten years ago tonight, two medical students were on call with a psychiatry resident, just like tonight. The unit was locked, just like tonight. And in the morning, the janitor came in to clean the resident room and it was discovered that the resident had hacked to death the two medical students, then killed himself.

Here’s to hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

 

 

3:30 p.m.:

 

“Are you excited about tonight?”

It’s irritating how amused our resident Jack seems about the entire thing. He has literally been talking about tonight nonstop for a week. I think he’s looking forward to it.

“Sure,” I mumble, mostly because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that I’m creeped out.

“You know,” Jack says, “enthusiasm makes up about half your grade…”

I just glare at him.

“Don’t worry,” Jack says. “I won’t let anybody murder you.”

I fold my arms across my chest. “You know that 10 years ago, the resident was the one who killed everyone.”

“Right,” Jack says. “You didn’t let me finish. I was going to say that I won’t let anyone murder you besides me.”

He’s hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

“Who are you on call with tonight?”

“Danielle Gerard.”

“You and Danni, huh?” Jack smirks to himself. “The two of you are going to be together all night long? That is adorable.”

He acts like we’re going to spend the night making out or something.

“Don’t worry,” he says again. “I would definitely kill Danni before I would kill you.”

I don’t doubt that’s true. I’m pretty sure almost every resident has wanted to kill Danni Gerard at some point.

Jack chuckles to himself. “Come on, Wendy, you’re not seriously worried, are you? I mean, that resident 10 years ago had a lot of serious issues. I’m totally normal though.”

I raise my eyebrows at him. “Are you?”

Jack Lawson has been my resident for two whole weeks. I don’t know if I would describe him as normal, but I probably wouldn’t characterize him as homicidal either. Or even psychopathic. I would mostly say that he needs a haircut and a shave—his brown hair is just a little bit too shaggy to be professional, and he sports a 5 o’clock shadow every day until the midafternoon, when it becomes a full-on beard. His green scrubs are really wrinkled, even for scrubs.

“Totally normal,” he assures me.

“Don’t people go into psychiatry as a way of dealing with their own psychiatric issues?”

“Some people,” he admits. “But a lot of us do it because it’s an easy residency and we’re totally lazy.”

“And you’re lazy?”

“God, yes,” he says. “Have you learned nothing in the last two weeks?”

I guess he’s right. He does seem incredibly lazy.

“Anyway,” Jack says, “I’m hoping this is going to be a quiet call. Be warned that if things get really quiet I may disappear to go work on my novel.”

I stare at him. “You’re writing a novel?”

Jack nods. “When it becomes a bestseller, I can quit medicine and live off the profits.”

“Good luck with that.”

 

 

4:15 p.m.:

 

“I’m scared, Wendy.”

Danni is staring at me with her big brown doe eyes. I start feeling irritated. There are 45 minutes before our call officially begins, and I’m already panicked enough without having to comfort Danni.

“There’s nothing to be scared of,” I tell her. I avert my eyes because Danni’s short white coat is so clean and white that it’s giving me a headache. “Jack isn’t going to murder us.”

“He might,” she says.

“He won’t.”

“I never told you this before,” she says, “but I’m actually really psychic about things.”

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.

She reaches out and grabs my arm with her skinny little fingers. “I just have this feeling that something terrible is going to happen tonight. Just like 10 years ago.”

Danni blinks her big eyes at me again. She’d actually be really pretty if she weren’t so annoying. Annoyingness always overshadows prettiness.

“Nothing is going to happen,” I say firmly.

“Dr. Sadler is worried too,” Danni tells me.

I can’t help but frown. Dr. Sadler is our attending physician, a middle-aged man with a big doughy face and receding hairline who rarely cracks a smile, much less a joke during our morning rounds. He seems like an eminently practical person, not someone likely to believe in dumb superstition.

“He told you he’s worried?”

Danni nods solemnly. “Yes. He did.” She lowers her voice a few notches. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but Dr. Sadler and I actually share a psychic connection.”

“You’re kidding.”

“It’s true,” Danni assures me. “He says he doesn’t have this type of connection with anyone else, even his wife.”

I cringe. “Oh, Danni…”

“Anyway,” she goes on, “he said that if we feel in danger at any point, even a little bit, I should text him and he’ll come right over to save us.”

“Very reassuring.”

Danni beams at me. “I thought so too.”

It just occurred to me: Dr. Sadler must’ve given Danni his cell phone number. I can’t even begin to deal with that one.

 

 

5:00 p.m.:

 

Lockdown.

The psychiatric ward at our hospital is arranged in a circle. If you start at the entrance and keep walking, you will eventually end up where you started. (This comes in handy if you are a psychiatric patient who wants to go around in circles the entire day.) There’s only one entrance/exit to the ward, and it is now locked. With a key. A key that only Jack and one nurse have in their possession.

“Okay, guys,” Jack says to me and Danni. “Why don’t you two hang out at the nurses station? You can read if you’d like. Just give me a page if you need me.”

“Can we call loved ones to tell them goodbye?” Danni asks him.

“Absolutely!”

Jack starts to walk away chuckling, but then he stops midway down the hall. He turns around, looking thoughtful.

“By the way,” he said, “whatever you do, don’t go in Room 237.”

I stare at him. “What’s in Room 237?”

“Don’t worry yourself about that,” he says quickly. “Just don’t go in there. Okay?”

“Okay!” Danni says cheerfully.

As Jack walks down the hallway, I turn to Danni and whisper, “Don’t you think that was weird?”

“What was weird?”

“That there’s some room that we’re not supposed to go inside. Don’t you think that seems suspicious?”

Danni’s eyebrows shoot up. “Do you want me to text Dr. Sadler?”

I see her reaching for her phone, so I quickly say, “No.” God, no.

A patient that I know only as “Johnny” stumbles down the hall at that moment. Johnny is a big guy, with a moon face and a gray sweat suit, and drool perpetually in the corner of his mouth. He walks towards us, his gray socks padding against the floor. He stops right in front of us.

“Lick,” Johnny says to us, as spittle flies out of his mouth.

He watches us for a moment, waiting for our response, which is obviously complete horror and disgust. Then he turns away from us and continues on his circle around the unit.

This is going to be a long night.

 

 

6:30 p.m.:

 

“This isn’t good.”

My stomach flips slightly as I hear a nurse named Sally mumbling into a phone. While those are definitely the words you least want to hear during, say, a brain surgery in which you’re the patient, you also don’t want to hear it when you’re locked on a psychiatric ward for the night with a bunch of crazy people.

“What’s wrong?” I ask her.

Sally gives me the same look she would give a fly that was buzzing in her face. It’s a special look that seems to be reserved for us medical students. The lines on Sally’s narrow face tell me she’s been a nurse long enough to have perfected that look. “The phone lines seem to be down.”

I stare at her. “That’s not good.”

“No kidding.”

“We’re on a locked unit,” I say nervously. “Isn’t it dangerous if the phone lines are down?”

Sally looks at me for a minute, then her face breaks out in a smile. “Oh right, you’re worried about being murdered tonight!”

And then she wanders away, chuckling to herself.

 

 

7:45 p.m.:

 

The psychiatric unit has one room that is reserved for the residents to use, basically as a hang out. There’s a couch and a computer, and a few chairs, but not much else. Nothing fun, like a foosball table. I head over to the resident room, and find that the door is shut, but not locked. I open the door and discover Jack sitting inside, working at the computer. He seems to have Microsoft Word open, but quickly minimizes the window when I come into the room.

“Mrs. Klein has a headache,” I tell him.

“Mrs. Klein is a headache,” he says. Which is mean but also kind of true.

“What are you working on?” I ask, nodding at the computer.

“My novel.”

He was actually serious about that. He really is writing a novel. “Can I read it?”

“Nobody reads it until it’s finished,” he says rather solemnly.

I shrug. “Okay.”

“By the way,” he says, “you didn’t go into Room 237, did you?”

I get butterflies in my stomach at the way Jack is studying my face. Why does he keep asking me about the room? I almost forgot about it until he brought it up. Now it’s going to drive me crazy again. “No.”

“Good.” He stands up. “Let’s go see Mrs. Klein.”

 

 

8:10 p.m.:

 

I’m standing in the hallway when I hear footsteps behind me.

Lick,” someone hisses in my ear.

I turn my head just in time to see Johnny walking away.

 

 

8:30 p.m.:

 

I walk by Room 237.

The door is closed. I don’t hear anything going on inside. Nothing suspicious. Nobody being murdered in there.

I want more than anything to see what’s going on in that room. This is going to drive me freaking crazy, isn’t it?

 

 

8:40 p.m.:

 

“So it turns out,” Jack says, “they shut off the phone lines because several of our patients were calling 911 with bomb threats.”

“Why were they doing that?” I ask.

“Because they’re psychiatric patients,” Jack says like I’m an idiot.

“Well, when will the phones start working again?”

“Right after I kill you and Danni,” he says.

Sigh.

 

 

9:15 p.m.:

 

Sally tells me that our youngest patient, Mike, wants to talk to a doctor. She supposes that I will do.

Mike is 19 years old. If you watch enough movies and TV, you forget how young an actual 19 year old really looks, since most teenagers are played by 30 year olds. He looks maybe 12 years old. A real 12 year old would probably look like a kindergartner to me. And a kindergartner would probably look like a fetus.

Mike doesn’t seem particularly thrilled by my arrival. He hasn’t shown much in the way of emotion since he came here. He was brought in by his parents and is being evaluated for his first schizophrenic break.

“What’s going on?” I ask him, in my “cool voice” reserved for younger patients.

Mike points to the earring going through his left eyebrow. “I think I have an infection, Doc.”

He calls me “Doc,” despite the fact that I’m not a doctor, and am only five years older than he is. But at least I don’t have earrings in my face and my hair isn’t dyed jet black like his.

I examine the gold hoop jabbed through Mike’s eyebrow, all the while making knowledgeable sounds. I can tell he’s pretending not to seem worried. Our attending physicians seem to think that Mike is having his first schizophrenic break. But we medical students are all privately convinced that his only problem is that he’s gay and can’t deal with it or tell his parents.

Not that that isn’t a serious problem. But I don’t think it’s a reason to be hospitalized on an inpatient psychiatric unit. And I definitely don’t think it’s going to respond to dopamine antagonists.

“Let me go talk to Dr. Lawson about this,” I tell Mike.

I go find Jack, and describe Mike’s inflamed eyebrow to him. He doesn’t have much interest in seeing the eyebrow in question. He just shrugs and says, “I don’t know, put some bacitracin on it.”

Jack is really working hard tonight to prove his point that he is more lazy than crazy.

 

 

10:45 p.m.:

 

I hear a scream.

I’m sitting at the nurses’ station, in the very center of the circle that makes up the psychiatric unit, which somehow seems like the safest place to be. I’m playing fruit ninja on my phone. It makes me feel like I’m honing my fighting skills.

At the sound of the scream, I go running. And I actually go running in the direction of the scream, believe it or not. I can’t help but notice that I am headed in the direction of Room 237. I knew it! I knew there was something going on with that room…

Danni is standing in the hallway, screaming her head off. In front of her, there is a set of twins standing there in matching hospital gowns. They both have brown hair clipped behind their ears with barrettes, and are staring at Danni calmly as she continues shrieking.

I put my hand on Danni’s shoulder to calm her down, but I have to admit, the twins are pretty freaky. They just keep standing there, holding hands.

“For God sake, what’s going on here?” Sally comes up behind us, huffing and puffing. “Is someone dying over here?”

Danni points a shaky finger in the direction of the two women.

Sally looks at them. “Anna, Jenny, go to bed.” The two women plod off in separate directions. I noticed that neither of them goes into Room 237, which is still closed. When the women are gone, Sally looks back at us and shakes her head. “What was all that screaming about?”

“They looked like ghosts or something,” I say, now feeling a little sheepish about the whole thing. Okay, a lot sheepish.

“They’re sisters,” Sally says. “They both have schizophrenia.”

“I know,” Danni says. “Anna is my patient.”

I stare at her, suppressing the sudden urge to shake her. “Then why were you screaming?”

Danni shrugs. “Twins scare me. I think it’s a psychic thing.”

Sometimes I think Danni is the one who should be a patient here.

I’m about to remark something to that effect, when Johnny walks past us and says in a loud voice: “Lick.”

I wipe off the fleck of his saliva that landed on my forehead.

 

 

11:15 p.m.:

 

Sally told me that a patient named Mr. McGregor wanted to speak to me. We actually all call Mr. McGregor “Spiderman,” because he’s schizophrenic and thinks he’s Spiderman. It’s actually sort of funny in a disturbing sort of way. Especially because he looks so ordinary. Although, in his defense, Peter Parker looked pretty ordinary.

“What’s wrong, Mr. McGregor?” I ask him.

“My webs aren’t working,” Spiderman says in his flat monotone. He always speaks that way, like a robot come to life. Apparently, it’s not uncommon in schizophrenia.

Mr. McGregor thinks that webs shoot out of his wrists, which would be completely accurate if he were actually Spiderman. (He’s not Spiderman.)

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say.

Spiderman holds his wrists out, and says, “Go web.” He looks back up at me. “See? Nothing.”

I’m not sure what to do to fix Spiderman’s defective imaginary web shooting mechanism. More Haldol? “Do you think a Band-Aid would help?” I suggest.

Spiderman thinks for a minute. “It might.”

God, I love it when patients ask for something I can actually get for them.

I head over to the supply closet. I find a Band-Aid, then I take an extra one, just in case he needs one for each wrist. Then I open the door to leave, but it doesn’t turn.

I stare at the doorknob for a second, baffled. I grip the knob with all my strength, and try to wrench it clockwise. It doesn’t budge. Not even a centimeter.

It’s locked.

I feel sick. Someone has locked me in here. The door only locks from the outside. For some reason, somebody wanted to trap me in here. I’m locked in the closet, locked in a psychiatric ward.

Oh God.

I feel around in the pocket of my short white coat and I’m incredibly relieved when my fingers close around my phone. I pull it out of my pocket. I’ve got one bar of reception, but hopefully that will be enough.

Of course, who should I call? I don’t want to page Jack. After all, what if he’s the one who locked me in here and he expects me to contact him first?

I decide to try Danni’s cell phone, but she doesn’t pick up.

The only other person on the floor that I can think of is Sally. Except I can’t call the floor because the phone lines are still down. But I can call the operator and page Sally overhead.

I reach the operator, and ask them if they can page Sally. There’s an awkward moment because I have no idea what her last name is. Who remembers nurses’ last names, for Christ’s sake? But the operator acts like I’m worse than Hitler for not knowing.

I hear the page boom out overhead, even from within the supply closet. Finally, I hear Sally pick up. “This is Sally on the psych unit,” she says.

“Hi, Sally,” I say. “Um, this is Wendy.”

Who?”

See? She doesn’t even know my first name. “You know? The medical student.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Listen,” I say. “I’m sort of locked in the supply closet and I need you to get me out.”

For a moment, I had been worried that maybe Sally and Jack were in cahoots, and maybe she wouldn’t let me out of the closet. But the amount of time she spends laughing after I tell her my dilemma completely reassures me that she is not planning anything nefarious.

“Welcome back,” Sally says as she opens the door to the supply closet, still chuckling.

“Somebody locked me in here,” I say, raising my chin, trying to maintain what little is left of my dignity.

“The handle sticks,” Sally explains. “You have to jiggle it.”

I’m still not entirely convinced.

 

 

11:35 a.m.:

 

I spend about 10 minutes staring at the door to Room 237, wondering what the hell is in there. I swear I can hear music coming from inside. Weird, creepy music.

The ironic thing is that if Jack hadn’t told me not to go into the room, I never would have considered going in there in a million years. Stupid female curiosity. I really hate being a stereotype, but here we are.

I am not going to open that door.

 

 

Midnight:

 

I wander by the resident room, and happen to notice that the computer is on, and there is a jumble of words and paragraphs on the screen. Jack was recently called away and he must have been working on his novel. I guess he forgot to close the document.

I know he told me that he didn’t want anyone to see it until it was finished, but I can’t help myself. I’m curious. If I can’t know what’s in Room 237, I need to at least read this novel.

I sit down in front of the computer and start reading.

 

 

12:30 a.m.:

 

“So what do you think?”

I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of Jack’s voice. I tear my eyes away from the horror that was on the computer screen, and back away from the monitor. “What?” I say innocently.

Jack raises his eyebrows at me. “My novel. You were reading it, weren’t you?”

“No,” I say quickly. I jump out of the chair, preparing to bolt from the room. My legs feel like they’re spring-loaded. “I mean, I just glanced at it. That’s all. I swear.”

Jack smiles crookedly. “It’s almost done, you know.”

“You don’t say,” I mumble.

“I just need a title,” he says. He takes a step towards me. “Any thoughts?”

I back away from him. “Not really. I’m not a creative type.” I glance down at my silent pager. “I actually have to go. I was… you know, paged.”

Jack raises his eyebrows at me, but thank God, he lets me out of the room.

 

12:45 a.m.:

 

As I back out of the resident room, I hear a voice coming from the right: “Lick.”

It’s Johnny, whose lips are a horrifying six inches from my ear, close enough that I can actually feel his hot, malodorous breath. I nearly jump out of my skin, but manage to keep from screaming through the grace of God. I give Johnny a dirty look, then quickly hurry towards the nurses station.

Danni is sitting there, messing with her phone. I hope she isn’t texting with Dr. Sadler. More importantly, I hope she isn’t sexting with Dr. Sadler.

“Hey, Wendy,” she says. She flashes me a sleepy smile.

“Hey,” I say, sliding into the seat next to her. “I just saw the novel that Jack has been writing…”

Danni stares at me. “And?”

I heave a sigh. I’m not sure I can trust her, but I can’t keep this to myself any longer. “Danni, it’s awful. It’s the worst written piece of drivel I’ve ever seen. It’s about this detective who doesn’t play by the rules, but he always gets the job done. It’s so painfully clichéd.” I wince at the memory. “There’s even a detective who’s one day away from retirement and then gets murdered.”

Danni frowns. “Did you tell him how bad it was?”

“Of course not,” I say, shaking my head. “Do you think I want to fail this rotation? I ran out before I had to tell him. Anyway, I’m sure he could self-publish it or something.”

“Yeah, probably,” Danni says. She gives me that disturbing, doe-eyed stare. “By the way, there’s something really important I have to tell you.”

I raise my eyebrows. “What?”

“I don’t want to freak you out…”

God, Danni is so melodramatic. “Just tell me.”

“So…” Danni takes a breath. “You know that patient who keeps saying ‘lick’?”

Is she kidding me? Does she think it’s possible that I could’ve been on this unit all night and not know who that patient is? “No, I’m both blind and deaf.”

Danni frowns. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand the concept of sarcasm.

I sigh. “Yes, I know who you mean.”

“I just realized something scary,” she says. Her eyes widen into nearly perfect circles. “What is ‘lick’ spelled backwards?”

What?”

“What is lick spelled backwards?” she repeats.

I roll my eyes, and think for a second. “‘Lick’ spelled backwards is… ‘Kill,’ I guess…”

“Exactly!” Danni says. “What if that patient is psychic and he’s trying to give us a message?”

“Um, then why wouldn’t he just give us the message ‘kill’? Why would he spell it backwards?”

“The mind is very mysterious,” Danni says sagely.

“It seems just like a really dumb way to convey a message,” I comment. “How did you even notice that ‘lick’ spelled backwards is ‘kill’ anyway?”

“I always reverse words in my mind,” Danni says. “Ever since I read The Shining.”

“Great.”

Even though I think what Danni said was beyond ridiculous, I’m embarrassed to admit that I get a little bit creeped out by it. It does seem like Johnny might be trying to give us some sort of message. I mean, what sort of person walks around saying “lick”? (Well, other than a psychiatric patient.)

What if Danni is right? What if “lick” really means “kill”?

 

 

1:45 a.m.:

 

And now, Danni has suddenly disappeared.

I can’t find her anywhere. This is a locked unit, so I know she must be somewhere. But I feel like I have checked every crevice of every hallway, and she is nowhere to be found. She just suddenly vanished into thin air.

What if she’s lying dead in Room 237?

Yes, that seems unlikely. But not impossible.

I finally worked up the nerve to ask Sally about it and she laughed and said, “I’m sure she’ll turn up.”

I want to talk to her more about the whole lick/kill thing. I feel like if I talk to her about it, she’ll say something so stupid that I’ll realize that I’m being ridiculous to believe her. Plus I want to verify that she’s alive and not hacked to bits.

Where are you, Danni?

 

 

2:35 a.m.:

 

As I walk by Room 237, I see Johnny standing in front of the room. He gives me a meaningful look, then says, “Lick.”

I had gotten used to Johnny saying “lick” over and over. But now that stupid Danni said that to me, all I can think is that it’s a warning.

What if “lick” means “kill”??

Johnny steps away from the door, and I am face-to-face with Room 237. I hear that soft music coming from inside again. I know Jack told me not to enter this room, but I’m not sure if I can help myself. I need to know what’s inside. My self-restraint disappeared around one in the morning.

I put my hand on the handle to the door and push it open.

Oh my God, there is blood all over the floor.

No wait, there’s ketchup all over the floor. And mustard. And mayonnaise. And pudding.

I lift my eyes and see a morbidly obese naked man in the middle of the room, covered in ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. And what appears to be chocolate pudding, oozing out of the fat folds on his abdomen. He’s dancing around to that bizarre music. When he sees me, he smiles really wide. I see that he has cream cheese all over his face like war paint.

He holds out his hand to me. “Come join me, young girl!”

I know the wise thing to do right now would be to run. But somehow I’m paralyzed by the weirdness of it all. I can’t make my feet move from that spot. (But at least I don’t join him.)

Then I feel a hand pulling me out of the room, saving me. The door slams in my face, blocking out the horrible sight of that naked man covered in condiments. I look up and realize that the hand belongs to Sally.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she snaps at me. “Didn’t Jack tell you not to go into that room?”

“What was that?” I ask shakily.

Sally shrugs. “That’s Mr. Torrence. He does that every night. We just stay out of his way.”

She gives me one last look, then shakes her head at me and walks away. I guess that solves the mystery of Room 237.

 

 

3:05 a.m.:

 

Where the hell is Danni? Seriously.

 

 

4:15 a.m.:

 

I tried to grab a few hours of sleep in the resident room, but the couch in there was really uncomfortable and smelled like moldy cheese. Sally offered to let me sleep in a patient room, but that frightened me far too much. I mean, what if somebody mistook me for a patient and I ended up locked in here forever? At the time, it seemed like a really real possibility.

So that’s why instead of sleeping, I’m wandering around the locked psych unit in circles like a zombie. (Or a schizophrenic.)

But I’m not the only one.

As I walk down the hallway, I see Johnny stumbling towards me. “Lick!” he says, more forcefully than I would’ve expected. His eyes are wide, almost frightened. I look behind me, at where his gaze is directed, but there’s nobody there. Nobody I can see, anyway.

“Lick!” he hisses at me. The urgency is clear in his voice.

I feel goosebumps travel up my arms. Is Danni right? Does “lick” really mean “kill”? What is Johnny trying to tell me?

He stops about a foot away from me. I can smell his sweat, dripping down his temples, rolling down his cheeks. “Lick,” he says, in a crackling voice that comes from deep in the back of his throat.

He leans forward. Before I can think to leap away, his broad hands grasp my shoulders so I can’t escape. His moist tongue shoots out of his mouth, and faster than a bullet, that tongue is on my face. It’s everywhere—on my cheeks, my forehead, my chin. He’s licking me! Lick doesn’t mean kill! Lick means lick!

Oh God, lick means lick! Lick means lick! Somebody help me!

 

 

4:30 p.m.:

 

“It’s not like you’re the first person to be licked by Johnny,” Jack tells me, as I scrub furiously at my face with antibacterial soap. After pulling Johnny off me, Jack was kind enough to escort me to the staff bathroom. “He’s a serial licker.”

“Why didn’t you warn me?” I groan. I wonder if there’s a way to take a shower without having to go into a patient’s room.

Jack shrugs. “Well, the guy has been going around saying ‘lick’ all night. Wasn’t that warning enough?”

I decide not to tell him how I had believed Danni’s stupid theory. It’s just too embarrassing. I think I’ve already experienced enough humiliation for one night. I may have broken some sort of record.

“Anyway, you’re lucky I got there when I did,” Jack says. “You only ended up with a first-degree lick. It was just a superficial licking.”

“What would count as a non-superficial licking?”

Jack just gives me a look. Ugh.

I turn the water off, then dry my face with a paper towel. I just want to go home at this point. But I guess I’ll stick it out for the next few hours.

God, I’m tired.

I turn to leave the bathroom, but then I discover Jack is standing in front of the door, blocking it. That’s when I notice that he has turned the lock on the bathroom door. It seems like sort of an odd thing to do. Why would he lock the door to the bathroom? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Then I see the crooked grin on his face and the glint of a knife in his hand…

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

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In the meantime, please enjoy an excerpt of my complete novel Suicide Med…

 

 

Suicide Med

 

“I wish I had become a ballet dancer instead.”

I use the back of my forearm to swipe at strands of dark hair that have come loose from the tight bun at the back of my head. The attempt fails and the escaped locks fall back into my field of vision just as my glasses slide down the bridge of my nose. This is getting annoying—I wish I could use my hands to clear my vision. Unfortunately, my hands are clad in two pairs of latex gloves that are covered in preserved bits of Agatha’s insides. Agatha is dead.

“Or maybe a figure skater…”

I try to tune out the ramblings of my lab partner, Wendy Adams. It seems like Wendy’s irritatingly bubbly voice has been a soundtrack to every dissection I have ever done. It might have been more tolerable if Wendy offered to help. Instead, she sits perched on a stool, intently watching my handiwork. I’m tempted to rub my dirty gloves in Wendy’s face.

“Anything but a doctor,” Wendy concludes.

You’re not a doctor yet, I nearly point out, but I hold my tongue. I need to focus right now and the last thing I want to do is to get drawn into an argument.

It’s close to midnight on a Saturday night, and Wendy and I are the only two medical students in the first-year cadaver lab. I specifically chose this time, because I knew the lab would be quiet and free from any distractions. I was right—all I can see are rows and rows of dead bodies covered in a layer of clear, thick plastic to prevent desiccation; all I can hear is the whir of the fans working above my head. It would have been the perfect studying atmosphere if Wendy hadn’t insisted on coming along.

“I had a dream about Agatha last night,” Wendy says in a hushed voice, even though we’re the only two people in the room.

During the first week of anatomy class, we named our cadaver Agatha. I hadn’t wanted to name her—after all, this had once been a real person who had a real name of her own. But I felt silly voicing my objections, so I stayed quiet as the other members of my lab group tossed around name suggestions. It had eventually come down to Agatha or Medusa. I was relieved when the group settled on Agatha.

Agatha does seem like an appropriate name, somehow. “Agatha” is a frail old woman who has metal rings around her sternum and blood vessels grafted onto her heart. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure, but I can make an educated guess that Agatha died of heart problems.

I try to imagine what sort of woman would make the decision to dedicate her body to a medical school. After everything I’ve seen this year, I know that’s one thing I myself would never do. The last thing I want is a bunch of snotty twenty-two-year-olds making fun of all my subcutaneous fat.

“Do you want to hear my dream, Lauren?” Wendy asks.

Do I have a choice? “I’m trying to learn the brachial plexus,” I mumble.

“It was so freaky,” Wendy says, shivering under her green scrubs. “I was lying in bed and I saw Agatha walk into my room. Alive. She was wearing this long, fancy dress, but the weird thing was that she had gloves on her hands. Then she told me…” Wendy leans forward, her blue eyes wide, “that she was going to dissect me. That’s when I realized that I was actually on a lab table and I was naked. And my abdomen was—”

“Listen, can we focus, please?” I snap. I don’t want to admit how disturbing Wendy’s dream is, especially in a deserted cadaver lab on a Saturday night. Since I started gross anatomy class, I’ve had many dreams that it was me or a loved one lying on the table before me. “Our final is Monday morning and I don’t want to fail, okay?”

“I’m going to fail anyway,” Wendy sighs. “I just can’t… focus.” She picks up the lab manual and flips through it. “This is like gibberish to me. It’s impossible.”

I hold up the musculocutaneous nerve between my forceps. The nerve is thick and yellow.

“I’m hungry,” Wendy announces. “Are you hungry?”

“You’re kidding. You want to eat in here?”

When I’m in the anatomy lab, food is the last thing from my mind. The smell of formaldehyde combined with the image of lacerated flesh is enough to kill any appetite I might have had. A few times, I’ve seen one of my classmates popping candy in their mouth and I’m always in awe.

“Of course I wouldn’t eat in here,” Wendy snorts, even though it wouldn’t have been the most ridiculous thing she’s ever done in anatomy lab.

I find it most bizarre that Wendy always applies a fresh coat of make-up just before starting lab. Although the uncomfortable heels Wendy wears to lab are a close second. I always wear sneakers and haven’t put on so much as lipstick in months.

“I’m going to the vending machines,” Wendy says. “You want something?”

“No,” I say. Take your time, I’m tempted to add.

Wendy hops off her stool and clip-clops out of the lab. I hear the heavy metal door slam behind me and the room is plunged into complete silence. It’s heavenly. I let out a deep breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding.

Our final exam in anatomy is on Monday. It’s the biggest exam we’ve taken so far in the short course of our medical school career and I want to do well. I’m not as competitive as some of my classmates, but I hope to land a position in a good neurology program when I graduate. As part of our exam, we have to go around this very lab, identifying labeled structures on different cadavers. I have to know every identifiable structure back and forth if I want to do well.

It’s not that Wendy is a bad person, but I’ve always considered myself a loner. I prefer solitary activities and I hate when solitary activities turn into group activities. I definitely consider studying a solitary activity.

“Now it’s just you and me, Agatha,” I whisper. I add apologetically, “Although I know that’s not your real name.”

I dig my fingers into Agatha’s forearm, attempting to separate the muscles. When I tug on the muscle I’m holding, Agatha’s fingers curl into a partial fist. I shiver slightly.

I hear a loud noise and look up sharply. The door to the anatomy lab is opening slowly. I glance at a clock up at the wall and see that only a few minutes have passed. How could Wendy be back so quickly? The nearest vending machine is all the way across the building and Wendy always takes forever to choose a snack.

I squint through my thick lenses and see the unshaven face of one of my classmates. Wonderful. It’s bad enough that I have to share the lab with Wendy, but now there’s going to be yet another person here to distract me. Still, it’s pointless to get upset about it.

“Come to study?” I ask him, forcing a smile.

He’s dressed in filthy street clothing, which I find odd. Nobody wears anything but scrubs to lab. But he’s dressed in jeans and his hands are shoved deep into the pockets of his dark brown jacket. He walks towards me, his expression blank.

“Is it raining out?” I ask him.

I posed the question because his hair is so damp that it’s plastered to his skull. Then I reason that if it were raining, his jacket would be wet. His hair isn’t wet from rain—it’s sweat. As he approaches me from the other side of the lab table, I see a drop of saltwater trickle down the side of his face.

“Mason, what—”

Before I can complete my sentence, something dark obstructs my vision. I instinctively blink and take a step back. That’s when I realize that there’s a gun pointed at my face.

I feel my knees go weak and my bladder trembles. I grab on to the edge of the table, trying to keep myself upright. I lower my eyes and see Agatha’s mutilated corpse, clearly unable to offer anything in the way of aid. The gun is inches from my forehead and I can feel the heat radiating from it. Why is the gun so hot? What does that mean?

Oh God. I don’t want to die like this. Not here, not now. It can’t end this way. I know I’ve done some bad things in my life, but I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve this…

All I can think about is how pathetic it would be to die in anatomy lab on a Saturday night. The janitor will probably discover my body tomorrow morning. Will he even notice that I’m a medical student and not one of the bodies?

Wendy, where are you? Get your goddamn cheese doodles and come back here!

Of course, maybe Wendy isn’t coming back. Maybe he ran into Wendy first and she’s already dead.

“Please…” I whisper.

His eyes are as black and impassive as the barrel of the gun. When he speaks, his voice is flat and toneless: “Do exactly as I say if you don’t want to die.”

 


The Psyching: A Short Thriller

Jack Lawson's job as the psychiatric resident at the Overlook Hospital is perfect for him. As the overnight resident on call at the psychiatric ward, he'll have plenty of time to spend teaching his medical students, Danni and Wendy, and working on his writing. And most importantly, sleeping. But as the evening wears on, the idyllic psych ward feels ever more boring… and also more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook Hospital is Danni Gerard, a uniquely gifted 24-year-old medical student.

  • ISBN: 9781310800344
  • Author: Freida McFadden
  • Published: 2016-01-17 02:05:08
  • Words: 6934
The Psyching: A Short Thriller The Psyching: A Short Thriller