The elevator lurches to a stop on the fifth floor and the orderly leads me out as the doors swish open. It’s always quiet up here. The carpeted floors, potted plants and framed paintings on the walls almost make you forget that you’re in a mental institution.
Dr. Quill’s office is the last door on the left at the far end of the hall. Harold guides me down; his hand gently gripping my elbow. In the five-plus years I’ve been here, the orderly has always been decent to me.
We stop in front of Dr. Quill’s door.
There are nice, stained-wood doors up here, while we’re stuck with steel ones painted a sterilizing grey.
Harold checks his watch and at precisely 4:00pm, he knocks.
“Come in, please.” Dr. Quill’s voice is faint and gentle.
Harold turns the knob and pushes the door open.
Dr. Quill’s windowless office appears smaller than it actually is thanks to four large book shelves that dominate the far wall. Each shelf is lined with expensive looking medical encyclopedias and I wonder if he’s even read one of them. There are two fake potted plants in the corners to my left and right.
The good doctor is standing behind his desk, smiling.
“Good afternoon, Xavier,” he says.
Dr. Quill nods to Harold who turns and leaves, shutting the door behind him.
“Have a seat,” Dr. Quill says, gesturing to the single chair in front of his desk.
I take him up on his offer and sit. The chair has always been surprisingly comfortable.
“How are you feeling today, Xavier?” he asks, pulling his chair closer by the arm rests. A yellow pad of lined paper sits on his desk with his expensive pens. He takes the cap off one of them and holds the pen in his hand, ready to write.
I smile. “Fantastic.”
“And why is that?”
“Today is the day that all of this ends.”
He begins scrawling his notes on the pad. “All of what ends, Xavier? Our sessions?”
More scrawls. “What time will this occur?”
Dr. Quill stops writing and looks at his watch, then back up at me. His glasses are resting on the end of his nose and he has to tilt his head down to look over them at me. “That’s a precise time… and so soon.”
“He’s waited long enough and sees no point in delaying his arrival any longer.”
“You are referring to…”
“So Sredna is coming at 4:09?”
I nod. “I’ve told you all about him week in and week out for the last five years. I’ve been his conduit and you still don’t believe that he exists, do you?”
“He’s real to you.”
I giggle. “Very soon he will be real to you too, Doc.”
“What will happen when he gets here?”
“He will eat our reality.”
“You say it so matter-of-fact.”
“It’s what he does.”
Dr. Quill writes some more in his notes and is about to speak when he hears it.
A low hum that’s very faint but we both register it. My fillings begin to tingle and my heart beats faster.
He is coming.
A high-pitched shriek cuts through the air and all of the light bulbs explode in a shower of sparks. Dr. Quill jumps back, letting out a cry of surprise as the entire room is thrown into blackness.
“Don’t worry, Xavier. The emergency lights will kick in any minute.”
His voice is muffled and seems far away. I cannot see him anymore in this blackness.
The blackness is moving, almost wriggling with no distinct shape.
I notice my skin is burning. The pain is excruciating yet I don’t scream as Sredna fills my mouth, rendering it useless. My skin dissolves, exposing muscle tissue and it too is quickly eaten away.
In what I can only guess to be a matter of seconds, the burning subsides and then…
…there is nothing.
~ Jon Olson
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