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It’s a word all of us have heard countless times; it’s hardly scary anymore. Nowadays, the word is often something of a laughing matter. We humans know better than to shit our pants over this unavoidable event which will happen to everybody one day. Perhaps when we were younger, we used to feel anxious when considering the notion that someday, we would forever cease to be conscious. We would not be able to see, hear or smell ever again. The millions of ideas and experiences we’d gathered in our lifetimes would vanish, like they had never existed before.
You would fall asleep, and your eyes would remain shut forever. You would never again feel your fingers move, feel your knees bend, enjoy the taste of food and feelings of happiness. You would never again be able to think.
Everyone who has been in a near-death experience has been through a respectable amount of trauma. The only time I ever considered the aforementioned theories regarding death was when I should’ve died in a motorbike crash a few years ago.
In what were supposed to be my final seconds alive after the crash, all I could remember were my thoughts. In my terror, I completely disregarded any sounds around me, and I was lost, drowned in my worries about death. I didn’t want to go. Things I were usually afraid of; public speaking, spiders, snakes—all trivial crumbs of insignificance compared to the knowledge that in a few seconds, my existence would be snatched away. So many things I hadn’t yet done. So many things I regretted.
Then I closed my eyes. I didn’t notice time pass from then on—when I woke up, it was like I had entered a whole new world in a blink. I was lying on a bed, in a room with a sign which read, "Whitefield Hospital Emergency Operating Theatre". This instantly told me that I was not yet dead. I was relieved, but also confused.
I was wired up to a machine. A surgeon came into the room, and taught me how to administer the painkillers for myself using the machine.
“What happened?” I asked him. “How did I end up here?”
He told me that I had been in a motorbike accident, and it had caused me severe brain damage, which would have caused my death as a consequence. However, the scientific community decided to use me as a guinea pig, and performed the world’s first partial brain transplant on me. He paused there for a minute, allowing that idea to sink in thoroughly.
I had about five ounces of someone else’s brain in mine.
It hadn’t even been an operation—it had been an experiment! The first of its kind! I could not believe it, and I repeatedly asked whether he was kidding. I even told him that I’d sue the hospital if I found out he really was just cracking me up, but he insisted that I really was the subject.
You can imagine; I suddenly had a lot of questions to ask. The surgeon told me that I shouldn’t worry, because the part of my brain that had been replaced only controlled body functions like breathing, excretion, hormones, etc.
“It shouldn’t interfere with your thoughts,” he told me, “just treat it as if you had a heart or lung transplant.” Then, he told me that with my new adapted brain, I should be able to survive at least ten years, if not more.
“Who donated their brain for the experiment?” I asked.
“I heard the donor was just a young man, who had died of a heart attack about two months ago. Foreign researchers sent his brain to our hospital and allowed us to pioneer the experiment, which his family agreed to, and we accepted it, as the brain was in optimal condition for transplant. They shipped us a parcel containing the human brain.
"All we needed after that was a suitable subject, who would be nearly dead from brain damage. Then you came along. You had a skull fracture, exactly what we were looking for. Both the hospital and you became lucky this time. We cut out a chunk to replace the bit you damaged. This is an extraordinary advance in medical technology.”
I smiled. He handed me a note from the researcher who had delivered the brain.
It read, "to receiver: if you can read this note, the operation has been a success. Congratulations! You are the first person in the world to receive a partial brain transplant. The gift of life is precious. Spend the rest of your time wisely. From Mr. S."
“Who is Mr. S?”
“The researcher, I’m guessing. He’s from a different country, and his English might not be great, so that’s probably why the note was written in such a patronizing way. But I wasn’t the one to receive the parcel, so I’m not clear on that.”
“And,” I continued, “How did you do it? How did you connect all the billions of nerves to each other?”
“Medicine is marvellous nowadays. But don’t misunderstand; the procedure took a considerable amount of time and effort as well as decades of research behind the scenes. But some clever thinking and hard work got us there in the end.”
He took off his gloves then chucked them in the bin, and flashed a smile, before leaving the room. Suddenly, I wondered how long I had been unconscious for. I looked at the computer screen, turned on beside my bed. It was now August. About a month had passed since the day of the accident, which I had remembered occurred during mid-July.
It seemed that I had just been in the right place, at the right time. I had never been gladder and more thankful in my life; the hard work of the doctors, the heart attack victim, Mr. S (whoever he was)—everyone in the world that died of a skull fracture around that time had a one in a million chance to be saved by this experiment; yet I was the one who had caught that minuscule chance over all the others. And what were the chances that the experiment actually worked? Multiply those two numbers together, and you get a number so insignificant it isn’t even worth considering. The relief and pleasure of my lucky, seemingly impossible escape was so powerful that it dumbfounded me; human language could not accurately describe such a content feeling.
A few months later, I returned home with a masses of anti-rejection drugs. Life resumed as normal for about a year, and I couldn’t stop bragging about being the master of good luck. I went for regular checkups, and every time, all was fine. Life had returned to me.
After that year had passed, I started noticing strange events occurring, one after the other. The first memory of a small but odd mind lapse was when I was alone in my house, typing an email to my girlfriend, who I was planning to propose to sometime in the coming month.
After sending her details about a planned date on the beach, I had intended to write, "P.S. I can’t wait to see you in that bikini!" But instead, my mind somehow went on autopilot—I ended up typing, "P.S. I can’t wait to see you TWISTING!"
I had mental lapses before, but this one truly scared me for the first time. I had no idea where I had extracted the word "twisting" from. What an odd word to accidentally type! I wondered whether there was a slightly sexual meaning behind it. I just shook it off, and edited the email, making it read what I wanted. I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened, even long after I had pressed the "send" button.
Sometimes, during the day, I felt nauseous for no reason at all. I heard this moist, raspy voice call my name a few times. It felt as if a man was breathing my name into my ear. Then, worried and startled, I would turn around to see nothing at all.
I was alarmed when that same thing happened again while I was at work. I couldn’t remember why I had taken a post-it note, so in a confused and half-asleep state, I wrote the word "TWISTING!" in caps and handed it to my colleague. He was extremely confused. I apologised, pretending that I had accidentally given him a note I had written for myself, and proceeded to scrawl down my phone number—what I had originally intended to do with the pen and paper.
Soon, ‘TWISTING!’ was taking over me. I was not just writing it and typing it randomly everywhere; I actually wanted to twist things! Food, paper, wires; it became a habit to twist anything which could be twisted. Little pasta-like rolls of paper lay on the floor around my house, and spirally banana peels lay in the bin. I would instinctively twist anything in my hands; it was a habit which was extremely hard to break, like biting your nails or sucking your thumb.
What prompted me to see a psychiatrist was when I twisted my left hand index finger with my right hand so hard that it broke. It was so ridiculous. When I explained it, I felt like an idiotic kindergartener. The psychiatrist asked me why I didn’t stop when it started to hurt, and I simply told her that there was no way I could’ve stopped twisting (TWISTING!) the finger, no matter how much it hurt. I had not been noticing this odd behaviour before, so why now? A year had already passed; it couldn’t have been the brain transplant—right?
She told me to take a week off work and wear some stiff metal gloves she gave me to stop me damaging my fingers again. Then, she also told me not to restrain myself—what she meant was that I was trying too hard not to write down what my brain was telling me. I should just relax, and let it all out, writing what my brain "told" me to write. I found it a little amusing that she actually took me seriously, but then again, psychiatrists must be used to dealing with a few strange patients once in a while.
Talk about not restraining myself. A week later, all you could see on the walls everywhere was "TWISTING!" I woke up one day to the terrifying sight, not knowing what on earth had happened. All I knew was that it was me—I had done that. In a single night, I had written the damned word everywhere on the wall in red and black marker. My house looked diabolical. For some reason, I had chosen to use the red marker near the bottom half of the wall and the black marker near the top, as if I was trying to make my bed look like it was submerged in hellish fire. I was scared and confused. I hadn’t a single clue as to why this was happening, or why my sub-consciousness was so obsessed with this word.
I edged closer to one of the walls, and I saw something which terrified the light out of my eyes. A tiny message, written in jagged and rough handwriting—it looked much unlike my handwriting from some distance away, but as I drew closer, I recognised the distinct upward curving motion of the "y" and the fancy capital "D" as my own.
"Part of the DEVIL is inside you, James. Mr. S."
It was the "Mr. S" part which terrified me the most. I instantly remembered that it was the name of the anonymous researcher who had saved my life a year ago. Why was his name there? How had any of this happened? I tried my best to comprehend it. What did the message mean? Had I written it to myself during the night, whilst the "real me" had been unconscious? It seemed like that was the only explanation. My heart was in my mouth, so I told myself to calm down—panicking wouldn’t solve anything. I would get to the bottom of this problem, which was clearly some mental issue.
After I really had calmed down a little, I considered the tiny message. ‘… the DEVIL is inside you…’ I looked for more messages around the walls. In every room, "TWISTING!" was on every wall, but no more messages.
I wore the metal gloves from the psychiatrist for the rest of the day. That wasn’t the end of my problems though. Something was whispering in my ear, telling me to take them off. To twist things. But I resisted as hard as I could, despite the psychiatrist’s advice. My safety was more important.
In the afternoon, I was about to turn on the television as I ate my lunch on the sofa, clasping the bowl and pinching the spoon clumsily with the metal gloves. The second before I pressed the "on" button, a smiling face suddenly appeared in the television. Not a pleasant one at all—a bald man with red horns, with crooked teeth, eyes bulging out of their sockets and a skeletal face. I was so startled that I dropped my plate and spoon, and the spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce rolled around everywhere, scattered across the floor.
I looked down at my lunch, now a messy pile of red and white. Not having enough time to panic, I looked back up at the TV. It was all black, and there was nothing there. Suddenly, my walls were all white again. No more "TWISTING!" just white. What the hell was going on? Stuff was appearing then disappearing everywhere! It definitely wasn’t just a trick of the light—I had seen that shit, and I knew it!
The distinct feeling of being watched remained.
I met up with my girlfriend for the final time a week ago. Remember how I’d said that I wanted to propose to her around a year earlier? I decided not to. I couldn’t, with the mental instability that had been settling in at the time. I invited her up to my apartment where we chatted, and I opened my heart out to her. And not in a romantic way at all.
I talked about what had been happening to me. The metal gloves, the writing, the devil. Something to do with "Mr. S". Of course, she seemed sceptical, but I just felt glad that I was able to get it out there.
Suddenly, my house was on fire. Just out of nowhere. My girlfriend didn’t even seem to notice. Though I was screaming and shouting at her, telling her to look behind, she kept on asking if I was "alright". That face—the same devilish face that I saw in the television—it floated in mid-air above the blazing fire, right above my girlfriend’s head. It didn’t say anything—its jaws just moved up and down skeletally as it advanced through the air. Its mouth opened wider than the entire length of its head. It had sharp teeth, separated in rows like sharks’ teeth, and every time it gnashed its jaws, I heard a click. I lay on the ground, watching it draw nearer to me, wide-eyed in silence. My girlfriend was still completely oblivious, and kept on asking me what I was looking at.
I didn’t understand. My attempts to calm down failed, as the floating head bit off my girlfriend’s head in one bite. Silver blood spouted from the stump which was once her neck, and her body fell off the chair, her clothes stained with what looked like gleaming mercury. The face—it kept coming closer towards me. I backed away but it followed me, and I had nowhere left to run. Flames engulfed her body as I dashed into my bedroom, and locked the door. The windows were too small to jump through.
I heard knocking and thumping through the locked door. How the hell was the face knocking? It didn’t even have arms, what the hell? Was it using its front teeth or something? I hid in a wardrobe, shivering, dreading the moment the door would break. From my foetal position, I heard that same moist, high-pitched whisper return:
“TWISTING! TWISTING! TWISTING!” the thing whispered through the crack in the door. I considered punching it with my metal gloves, but then I remembered this thing wasn’t human. I heard the door of my bedroom being knocked down, and the gnashing of the teeth became more audible, as well as the moist wheezing. I tried to stay as still as possible, praying that it wouldn’t smell me. The head looked around the room, trying to spot some signs of life. I almost exhaled in relief, seeing it floating back towards the door again, but it decided to take a speedy turn in my direction at the last second.
It put its face right in front of the crack in the wardrobe door, staring straight at me inside. I almost had a heart attack when its mouth curved into a sinister smile, exposing all its shark teeth. It smiled wider. Then it screamed. I passed out.
I woke up again, seeing my girlfriend, alive and well. She was trying to drag me out of the wardrobe.
“What the hell are you doing in there?” she asked. She sounded genuinely concerned. “One minute you’re staring at my hair, the next, you’re hiding from me in a wardrobe? Jesus, maybe you really are going mad! What is wrong with you?”
I told her to go away. It wasn’t the nicest thing I could’ve said, but I swore that what I saw had actually happened. I needed some time to myself.
I never recovered emotionally from that. It was obvious that something was very, very wrong with my mental state. I knew it was the piece of brain they’d put in me. I never saw these things before. They were crazy! I could never even have dreamt these things up—I had taken LSD once—even that couldn’t do this to me! It had to be that chunk of brain which was causing the hallucinations. The surgeons told me the transplant wouldn’t affect my thoughts, but now, I was certain reality suggested otherwise. The poor guy that had died of a heart attack; what the fuck had he gone through to even be daydreaming about things like this? Had he been a Satanist? Or a religious devil-fearing prick? And why all the twisting?
‘… the DEVIL is inside you, James.’ What else could that mean? I was even writing on the walls, warning myself that the new chunk of brain was doing things to me. How much of a hint would I need to get that there was something very wrong, and it was related to that transplant?
I never really thought about things like the devil. Now, it was everywhere. The hellish fires, the face with the horns, screams, messages—my mind had become hell itself.
I decided I was going to get my brain sorted out a few days ago. I booked an appointment with my doctor, which I’m supposed to be going to today.
However yesterday, I finally gathered up the courage to film myself asleep using my night vision camera; to be honest, it was something I wanted to do ever since the writing on the walls appeared, but I was always too afraid. Afraid of what I would see the next morning as I replayed the tape.
I’ve just eaten a little for breakfast. Preparing myself physically as well as emotionally. My finger slides over the slowly disintegrating stitches in my head, wondering what could’ve gone wrong. There was nothing written on the walls this morning, but I have a feeling that piece of my brain had tried to slag me off in some way. I check for hidden messages on the floorboards, underneath the tablecloth, in my email. Nothing.
I play the tape. Nothing odd seems to be happening during the night. I skip the first few hours, which show me in bed, sleeping as usual. Things start to get weird in the morning, just before I woke up. At 7:00, I slowly get out of bed and walk backwards towards the camera. Then I stand unmoving at the foot of my bed for about five minutes, facing away from the lens.
At 07:05, something so weird happens that I scream, and drop the camera in panic. In the video, my body and shoulders don’t move, but my head twists a full 180 degree turn to look directly into the lens. My eyes are black and there is a toothy smile on my face. As I watch, I feel cold and shivery. I begin to sweat.
Demonic sounds exit my mouth.
“James. Part of the Devil’s brain is inside you. All the visions you see—they will become real. They will happen in hell. You cannot escape them. Mister S will get you.”
I shudder, upon realising that this chunk of brain had been taken from no human. "Mister S"—Mister Satan. And all that rubbish about some poor guy that died of heart disease.
I now knew that this was not luck—the devil had planned this. If anything, I had the worst luck in the world. ‘The brain was in optimal condition for transplant’, just the right size, age, preserved perfectly and flawlessly in the accident. I was stupid to believe that sort of luck was possible.
In the video, at exactly 07:06, my head starts to spin around on my neck extremely fast like a spinning top, whilst the rest of my body stays still. I laugh, but not the sort of low, demonic laugh you might expect from the devil. The sound is scratchy and high-pitched; it sounds like those cartoon skeletons advertising those "Build-a-Body" toy sets.
My neck gets longer like a giraffe’s, and my head is still spinning, suspended in the air by my elongated neck. I look stringy, like an alien. Then, my head is carried forward and closer to the lens by my neck. My face is nearly touching the lens. It suddenly turns into a front of flesh, as if it had been sliced off my head. It stays there, the eyes two black voids, watching me.
I make the mistake of blinking. I know this camera can’t cut scenes and films continuously, but as soon as I open my eyes again, I’m lying back in bed in the footage. I am too scared to touch the camera to skip it or turn it off, so I simply sit opposite the screen and watch in silence. In the video, about half an hour later, my alarm clock sounds and I get up to stop the camera.
So then I discovered; part of the devil’s brain is inside mine. All this time I was seeing what he wanted me to see, allowing myself to be scared shitless, and unconsciously carrying out his evil deeds. That small, foreign part of my brain was determined to terrorise the original, like a bully in a playground—and it did that well. For a year now. The devil likes twisting me. He had entered my head, he had used me to scare myself. He fed off my confusion, despair and terror during those horrible months. My fear turns him on.
The seemingly never-ending battle between us had happened inside my body. He had enjoyed feeding off my anxious confusion for a long time, but I was never frightened enough to satisfy him. To him, it was like constantly nibbling bits of snacks, but not being able to eat a meal. That video was the turning point—he knew that nothing would scare me more than the truth about what had happened to me, thus he allowed me to find out.
He tells me, whispering in my ear, that I can still fight back if I want. I tell him not to worry; I’m still fighting. But now, I don’t even know whether these thoughts are my own, or whether that part of my brain is making me believe that I still have some hope; so that he can feed off my pain and disappointment when that little bit of hope is finally crushed.
No doctor can save me from this infection. If I’d known this was going to happen, I would’ve chosen to die in that motorbike crash any day.
The "larger" part of my brain (that was the original me) has a plan. I will write a note to warn others; I will tell them how he wants humanity to suffer, and what he has done to me. How he has ruined my life, and how he has eaten my emotions. ‘The devil is a twisting bastard’. Yes, that is what I will write.
His vision blurred as he scrawled down a note on a piece of lined paper, sobbing as he recounted the events leading up to that moment. Somehow, he knew the end was near. He placed it on the mantelpiece, where it was clearly visible.
Something black shifted into the corner of his square of vision. He turned.
A foggy black figure stood before him, holding a large box-cutter. He fell over backwards, a surge of panic stunning him still and silent. The black figure’s slimy lips curved into a pleasured smile upon smelling his fear, and it stamped on his chest. The figure turned him over and violently shaved off a patch of hair on the back of his head, then made an incision with the serrated edge of the blade. After the skin and flesh had been cut apart, the figure sawed through his skull. He screamed continuously, clawing at the attacker to no avail.
The inside of his head was now exposed. Despite the pain, more painful than anything he had ever felt before, the metallic smell of blood still made him want to throw up. The last time he had nearly died, the pain was not so bad; thus it allowed him a few seconds to fear death, to feel bad for himself, to ponder about his life. Now, he could not think of anything but the pain.
His last moments were spent feeling a bony hand reach inside the wound in his head, inside his skull, and touching his brain. He felt as if he was being raped in the skull. The hand was green-grey and grimy, and had dagger-like fingernails. The part of his brain which had been gingerly attached in the transplant was ripped out of his skull through the hole.
His life flashed before his eyes as his heart stopped. During his last seconds, he stared at the figure’s feet. It walked away, cradling the small piece of brain in its hand, coming down from its high. It was now full, having fed on the delicious outburst of terror from the mortal.
Suddenly, the blood around him disappeared. So did the figure. He no longer felt a pain in his head! His wounds had somehow healed, as if he had never been attacked at all. As if the figure had never come. As if none of it had ever happened.
Just a light thudding in his chest, which gradually faded. He exhaled for the last time, then collapsed on the floor, dead.
Police found the body of James McCarter in his apartment, lying face down on the carpet, after being alerted by his girlfriend. His body was completely intact and there was no blood at the scene. A post mortem examination concluded that he died of a heart attack, which had nothing to do with the serious operation that had been performed on him around two years ago.
However, examiners were extremely confused to find that there was a chunk missing in his brain. It was as if the surgeons had cut out the old malfunctioning part, but had not replaced it. The hospital insists that the operation was completed successfully and have no idea why this is the case.
Policemen discovered a note placed on his mantelpiece. The note was written in red ink and read, "THE DEVIL IS A TWISTING BASTARD".
They also discovered a video of him on a night-vision camera. He had filmed himself sleeping for seven hours. No irregular activity was spotted in the playback. However, despite his rather commonplace cause of death, the note and the strange behaviour reported by his girlfriend are concerning. As no evidence of criminal activity can be gathered around the area, it seems unlikely that McCarter was the victim of an assault or poisoning, however his death is being treated as suspicious.
Police will continue to investigate.
Partial brain transplant operations had become a huge success across the country, and many were taking place every day. They were the newest topic of discussion among medics.
The surgeons at Whitefield hospital received another parcel from a previous supplier. It contained a section of human brain, each nerve flawlessly severed, ready for connection during transplant. It was rare that suppliers would take such trouble to make life easier for surgeons.
Following all the registration numbers, information about the donor, addresses and medical categorisation in an envelope attached to the parcel, was a note which was intended for the recipient of the transplant. It was a creative and thoughtful personal touch; one of the reasons the hospital loved this supplier.
The brain surgeon opened the note, though it was not intended for his eyes—he was curious.
"To receiver: if you can read this note, the operation has been a success. Congratulations! Your donor was the first person in the world to receive a partial brain transplant. The gift of life is precious. Spend the rest of your time wisely. From Mr. S."
For a moment, he thought there was something odd about that note. It was much like the note which had been given to James McCarter. Re-reading it, he finally understood, and smiled. The supplier had accidentally copied and pasted, forgetting that this was a new patient.
He knew what those mental lapses felt like; perhaps "Mr. S" was just tired. It was likely—researchers never had enough sleep. He crossed out the misfitting sentence and carefully folded the note back into the envelope, calling his next patient into the operating theatre.
Written by Rinskuro13