He was in a white room. He noticed it was dirty- dust and cobwebs in the corners, or at least the one in view. Could he move? He didn’t know. There was something in one of his eyes, sticky- he couldn’t get his eyelids to separate all the way. It blocked his view but he didn’t know what it was. Where was the cat?
Or maybe it was a person. He couldn’t place the sound. It didn’t sound human, but it wasn’t a clear meow, either. It was like a muffled growl or something . Just then he heard the growl change into what must have been words. He couldn’t make them out, but there were real words. Mumbling from somewhere. Where? He finally managed to turn his head and pain shot through him as the dark, sticky goo holding his eye half-closed split. His whole face felt like it was on fire. But not really. Almost like he’d been hit really hard, like a stinging burning. Where was he?
He managed to lift his head and look around. All he saw, everywhere, was garbage. An empty plastic laundry detergent bottle. An empty paper cup with a straw sticking out of it. Newspapers, magazines, fast food paper bags and cardboard boxes. He tried to think but it seemed to make his head hurt worse. It was then that screaming began.
Shrill, ear-piercing screams with intermittent whimpers. He looked all around trying to figure out where it was coming from. It sounded so close, but there was no one there. Just a sea of garbage. Where was he? Had he been kidnapped? Did some thug knock him out and drag him to this… crack house? It seemed like the kind-of place where people would smoke crack or something. He’d seen one busted on the news once and it’d looked like this.
He thought, tried to remember where he’d been last, how he could’ve ended up kidnapped and dragged here. But there was no memory, nothing. Just random clips like some fast forward music video- he couldn’t make sense of the images flashing behind his eyes. The screams grew louder and he tried to block out the sound by cupping his hands over his ears. He pressed in with his palms. And he could still hear the screaming, but it was a bit quieter with his hands there. Where was it coming from?
It only then occurred to him to be scared. It hit him so suddenly he couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been there as soon as he opened his eyes. A room he didn’t know, disembodied screams, disappearing legs- fear should have been the first thing to hit him, but it wasn’t. And even then, when he recognized how valid the emotion was, it went away. Like he wanted to hold onto it because it seemed so logical, but he felt too confused to keep grasp of it. He tried, but it slipped away like the stinging in his eye. When had he opened them?
He felt himself moving forward, less because he meant to and more because he just was. Like floating, an unconscious reflex propelled him out of the garbage-filled room and into an equally frightening hallway. But here he could make out a ripped carpet that might have been tan at one point but seemed more gray. Tan? Why would he think that? Had he been here before? But the screaming distracted him again.
He moved forward again in that same, involuntary way and he saw movement to his right. It made him jump and he hit the wall behind him. Looking straight ahead he could make out some sort of shape, but he didn’t know what it was. Was that the screaming person? He reached out to touch the far wall and was relieved to find it was real. Why hadn’t he thought it would be? He saw the hand that touched the wall. Was it his?
It was bloody- thick, black liquid under the fingernails and claw marks on the skin. Had he been in a fight? He must have tried to fight off his attacker- that made sense. He felt an instant rejection of the theory, like his mind wouldn’t accept his own logic. Why couldn’t he think straight? The screaming- if the screaming would stop, he could think again. But where was it coming from?
Then another sound. A knocking. Someone had to answer the door. Where was the door? He felt himself moving again, back down the hallway. It opened to his right to a door. The door moved as the banging grew louder. He reached out to open it and the bloody hand surprised him again.
“Ben, Ben are you in there? It’s Mary- from Sister St. Catherine’s? Ben, please open the door!”
He knew the voice was coming from the other side of the door. He saw the bloody hand grasp the doorknob and turn. There was a woman there with long dark hair and glasses. He knew her somehow, but he didn’t know how.
“Oh, Ben,” she said in shock, a look of horror on her face. “Ben can you come with me?”
He felt himself moving forward again, toward the woman. He didn’t want to. But he saw the woman coax him forward, concern on her face. He kept moving, feeling like he had to. He stepped out onto a landing with a metal rail, like outside of some hotel.
Just then gloved hands grabbed him on either side.
“Oh my god- did he do that to his face?” came a male voice.
“Yeah, he’s a scratcher, be careful!” Mary said. “We gotta get him to the hospital. Oh, Ben, how could do this to yourself?”
He wanted to struggle but the hands held him, wrestled him to the ground.
“It’s ok, buddy- just stop fightin, we’re gonna get you to a better place,” said the man holding him down.
He didn’t believe it.