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Schizophrenic

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It’s currently 5:13 PM here. The sun is shining and it’s looking like a great day. At 6:00 PM, I won’t be around anymore. I’m not going to reply to any of you, I have a story to tell and there are so many things left unanswered that I’m too afraid to delve into too much detail. I just don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know if what I tell you could put you in danger. I just don’t know anything... well I’ll get to it at the end. For now I’ll start at the beginning.

I started living at the complex when I was twenty-four. Complex is probably a bit of a strong word, really it’s just an apartment block but it is for the rehabilitation of the mentally unwell. We house all from schizophrenics to severely depressed and everywhere in between. But if I’m going to tell this story I had better start at the beginning. I trained in Australia to become a nurse. I enrolled in a double degree of arts and nursing, and for the arts component of my course majored in psychology, which is where I picked up my interest for psych nursing. I did my placements in psych units at hospitals, and in my final year I had placement specifically in a mental hospital. This is where I met Brian.

He was an interesting case, suffering from what appeared to be paranoid schizophrenia, however he acquired his symptoms somewhat prematurely, or at least before paranoid schizophrenia became apparent, at the age of sixteen. He was multi-drug resistant, and found little to no relief though psycho training and therapy, as well as undertaking a course of ECT to no avail. He had a family that gradually relied more and more on institutionalization to care for their son, and finally at the age of twenty-two had him permanently lodged at the hospital I was placed at, St John of God in Burwood, Sydney.

I was instantly drawn to him from the moment I met him. Although he carried the symptoms common among schizophrenics, if not at a more advanced stage (such as extreme auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations, negative symptoms and often extreme paranoia), I was instantly drawn to him. He was just a normal guy, around my age, with a head of shortish, messy brown hair. He was fairly well built and kept fit by exercising in his room at the hospital. Because he’d been there so long, they allowed him to attach a bar across his doorway and a few other minor adjustments. His room was personalized by the time that I had come to work.

He talked freely with me and I even went down to the smoker’s area during my breaks to chat to him and share a cigarette. I was only placed at the hospital for a month, but they were so impressed by my work that they offered me a job when I finished my degree. I accepted. Brian and I continued contact via email when I left, and we became friends. Another five months went by before I finished my degree, and then another two as I retired over the Christmas break.

Then I went straight to work at St John of God. Over the next two years I became very close to Brian, and learnt more about him. He was very easy to talk to and we shared a lot in common by way of opinions, personality, and tastes. I used to bring him new music, books, TV shows and DVD’s, and we talked about them avidly, as well as the goings on of other patients, etc. within the hospital.

When we weren’t together in the hospital and I was bored in an office, we used to use the hospital's Wi-Fi network to stream videos of ourselves over VLC media player. It was mostly inane bullshit but it used to make me crack up when Brian would stream a video he had just created of himself throwing pebbles at people at the car park and screaming that the voices were back until they ran away in fear. Not very professional of me, but funny nonetheless.

In a new initiative from the hospital, they decided to buy a set of apartments with the aid of government funding and in association with health authorities and other hospitals, which would be utilized as rehabilitation or permanent residence for mentally ill patients who required long term care or were well enough to be integrated back into society. They offered me a position as primary caretaker, which would involve me living on site and taking care of medication, and management of the patients.

It was a huge step at a young age and I told them I would think about it. Later on, during my break and over a cigarette, I discussed it with Brian. He told me that he already knew about the plans, as he was to move there as a long term patient. He told me to take the job. And then muttered under his breath that I would be able to protect him. The interesting thing with schizophrenic patients is that their condition is a reality to them. They believe in all their delusions and are what the voices tell them. Brian would have what we call insight, that is, an understanding of their illness as well as understanding the symptoms and the fact that they weren’t real, and just a part of their condition. So his need for me to protect him came as a surprise.

“What from?”

“The lady that comes at night.”

It isn’t uncommon for sufferers of schizophrenia to build up a rapport with their hallucinations, or to have a consistent one which recurs throughout their illness, one which holds characteristic, names and mannerisms which are entirely unique. Brian had reported being visited and repeatedly seeing, “a lady that comes at night” but upon being told by doctors that this was merely a phantom and a part of his illness, he stopped reporting on it.

“Brian, you know that isn’t real, it’s just a part of your condition, you know that right?”

“It is real.”

That statement shocked me further but I remained calm and asked him to describe for me what it was that he thought he’d been seeing.

“There is no way for me to describe her, unless you see her for yourself. And hear that god-awful noise.”

***

After much debate, I decided to take the job. The pay bump was substantial and really it was the exact type of work that I was looking for. The exact career that I wanted. So I moved out to Camden. Camden is relatively rural while being close to the city of Sydney, and has new developments springing up all the time. The apartments were located quite a ways away from the central district of Camden, in a rather unpopulated area. I didn’t mind and thought that the space and quiet would do me good.

Over the next couple of years, people came and went, and life flowed on automatically. I built up a friend base in the town, but my friendship with Brian flourished. We lived only a couple of doors apart and would go to each other’s places for a beer or to watch a movie or just hang out (I probably shouldn’t have let him drink, but we’ll save the ethics talk for some other time).

***

However Brian’s condition seemed to be getting worse. He constantly reported of a lady who would visit him during the night, and sometimes during the day. I relayed his worsening state to doctors who would assess him, but state that there was no need to have him relocated to a hospital until his condition worsened still. Brian was no fool, and I believed that he spoke frankly with me, but not with the doctors. He knew that they would change his living conditions, pump him full of more drugs and tell him over and over things he had heard a thousand times. So I did my best to support him, and care for him in the best way that I could.

We shared internet in the complex, so we were able to keep up our VLC streaming parties and get a giggle out of each other every now and then. We pretty much just left the media player open, and every now and then, a random video would start playing. I looked forward to them just as much as I had in the hospital. He seemed more at ease when he was with me, talking of his experiences freely, but telling me that he felt unsafe on his own. It’s difficult to not get sucked into schizophrenic delusions.

Every avenue is taken care of. Each part of the story so detailed and realistic that you find yourself believing what they say, only to draw yourself back and remember the illness later on. He didn’t go into much detail, except on specific occasions, and even then the detail was vague or superficial. He told me that he had measured exactly when he would be visited. He would hear the noises begin at 3:20 AM.

“What noises, Brian?”

“The meowing. It sounds like there’s one single cat trapped in my apartment, but I don’t own a cat and there’s none around here. It’s also raspy. Like a cat with a dry throat I guess... I used to go and check it out, but as soon as I’d walk out or turn on a light, it stops.”

He said that progressively the meows would start far away and then creep along the hallway until they were close to his room. Then he would see her.

“What does she look like?”

Brian physically shuddered and muttered, "dirty," but refused to elaborate or continue, repeating what he said before, "There is no way to explain unless you see her for yourself.”

Time went on and Brian’s condition worsened. He had asked for me to get him a camera so that he could show his hallucinations to me. So that I would believe that something was wrong and that he was actually in danger. I knew that I couldn’t. Brian had money from his parents but I couldn’t do that without affirming his hallucinations and worsening his condition. He became reclusive, reverting to communicating through emails and VLC like we used to, and slowly I only saw him to make sure he had taken his meds and was eating and cleaning himself properly.

***

It was late one night when I returned from a night out with friends from town. There wasn’t much in Camden, but there were a few pubs that turned out alright and we’re relatively clean and quiet. The apartments were dark and quiet as I made my way to mine and entered. I kicked off my shoes and went straight to the computer. It had become a habit. I had missed Brian’s sociality and enjoyed our conversations as an alternative via the web. I don’t turn my computer off. I usually just leave iTunes running and the power cord in, and it stays awake. I sat down and touched the finger pad thing and VLC was still open. I think I was watching American Dad earlier in the day and must have just forgot to shut it down. In the top bar of VLC it simply read, “Xlivid.avi”.

It was an eerie sight. A darkened bedroom met me. The moonlight washed in through Brian’s windows and a soft breathing signaled that he was asleep. The door was off to the right of his bed, and a desk directly in front. I had been there before and realized that he must have been using the camera on his laptop to film his room when I hadn’t gotten him one. The video stated that it went for ten minutes, and I watched the first twenty seconds without anything happening. Then I skipped to one minute. Still nothing. I was about to skip further in when I heard a strange noise. It was almost indistinguishable from Brian's own breathing but it was there. I got some headphones and listened closer.

A crooning came from somewhere outside the room. Then it began to grown in magnitude after a short while. And I released that it was a meowing. I saw Brian twitch and gasp awake as the noise magnified for both of us. I saw his pale face in the moonlight as he pulled the laptop from his right side, tilting it to capture the ceiling and a brief glimpse of his face before training it on the door. The moonlight shone through the uncurtained window. The meowing continued to grow louder and louder, seemingly moving down the hallway outside his room. This went on for about four minutes, until the door handle pulled down and the door swung open. I heard Brian inhale reflexively, and hide away in the top corner of his bed, moving up against the wall. Then slowly I saw a face begin to move into the room.

It moved slowly past the edge of the door at about knee height. But this was like nothing I have ever seen. The head sat locked, staring at the bed and camera from the moment it came past the door, cocked diagonally to the right. It was clearly a female head, with medium length, lank, dirty blond hair hanging down below it. But the eyes were wrong. Gaping black holes. No blood. Just what appeared to be dirt. Like the body had been buried and then dug up. Then the mouth came through the doorway and I had to avert my gaze briefly. The jaw was clearly broken, the mouth wrenched wide and hanging at an odd angle, and drooping downward. Flopping lifelessly and it moved forward and meowed.

The moonlight showed the entire scene as if through a filter, making the entire thing surreal and even more gruesome. Then the girl came entirely into the room and I saw why it was at knee height. It was crawling on its hands and feet, its knees pushed painfully above its back, its back at an impossible and strange angle, bent up in the middle. She wore clothes, a jumper and a skirt, but the moonlight washed the colour from them. She was dirty. All over.

Everything was raggedy and worn. Her face never left the bed and laptop. And she started toward them. Her face growing closer and closer as she edged nearer, until it was obscured from vision by the bed. I sat terrified, unable to move. Silence washed over everything, except for Brian’s rapid breathing. Then the girl rose up. It was excruciating. The meow became more violent and loud as her bones snapped and cracked back into place to allow her to stand.

It all happened so slowly that it was mortifying. Then she turned and sat on the bed, her back facing Brian. The meowing calmed. But I was shocked and terrified beyond belief. Then after a minute, she went silent and still. I thought that it was over and she was about to snap back down and crawl away. And then with a loud snap, her head pivoted and fixed on Brian, the broken jaw fixed in what I could only describe as some sort of horrific smile.

It was then that I knew I had to get to Brian. The video still had another minute or two to go but I didn’t care. I just bolted through my house and out the front door, nearly skittering over as I turned a sharp right and ran the two doors down to his place. I hammered on the door and yelled for him to answer. When he didn’t, I simply shouldered it until it bust open.

The house was silent, and I ran directly to his room. The door was already open. I ran in and looked around. Brian was on the bed. The laptop shut next to him. His eyes stared blankly and the window and I said his name softly, trying to get a response. But none was given. I moved slowly to him. And then reached out and touched where his jugular would be. A single tear fell from his eye as he turned his face to mine. He was alive.

***

Brian remained unresponsive as I tried to rouse him. Just cried silently on the bed. Catatonia is another part of schizophrenia, however, after the video I had just witnessed I wasn’t sure if he actually had the condition or not. I searched the room and the rest of the house, turning on all the lights and being absolutely cautious as I went around. But nothing came to me. I called the authorities and told them what had happened. They came by shortly after and I made my statements as they double-checked the apartment.

They were stiff and rather standoffish. But even I couldn’t deny that the whole situation was entirely farfetched. In fact I started to doubt it myself, even with the video on my computer. They took Brian's laptop as evidence and suggested I call the hospital.

They said it was clear that Brian had had a serious hallucination and didn’t seem well at all. My heart sank as I knew that they didn’t believe a word of it. I asked if they wanted to see my computer as well but they said that it wouldn’t be necessary. They’d go through Brian's laptop and get back to me with what they found. I insisted that the video came up on my laptop as, “Xlivid.avi”, and that they should search for something by that name.

I called the hospital and told them that Brian had had an extreme hallucination and needed to be admitted. I didn’t bother saying anything about the girl. I was so unsure now of what I had seen that I felt a little insane myself. They asked if he was a danger to himself at that time and I said that it was likely.

I didn’t want him to be in the house to be honest. I wanted him safely in an institution. Looking back, I’m not too sure if I wanted that so that he would be safe or so that he was away from where I was. The hospital said that they’d send someone over. It was almost morning anyway. I could see the hue of the sky changing to give way to the day to come. I hung up and the officers bayed their goodbyes and told me to call should anything change or happen. Then I went back inside to Brian.

He sat, unmoved from his last position, the tears still dribbling slowly down his face. It would be an hour or so before anyone from the hospital got here, and it would have been negligent and unprofessional of me to leave Brian on his own. Apart from that, he was my friend. And I wasn’t about to leave him by himself.

We didn’t talk. And I didn’t bother trying. We just sat until the people came and took him away.

The police never got back to me.

***

I ended up quitting my job and moving back to where I was born to live with my parents. Then I moved out again to live in a place of my own. I’m currently renting an apartment in Orange in NSW. I was working here, but since that night I have lived in hell. I’ve since stopped working. I’ve stopped everything. And that is my story. I see her now. At first it was just the soft meowing. I used to hear it and sit bolt upright and convince myself I had heard it in a dream.

Then I used to hear it when I was already sitting bolt upright. And now I see her. Always in houses or buildings. Never in the outdoors. She comes to me in the day and the night. It’s begun not to matter. Just the cracking of bones and the shrill cry she gives. That is all I hear now. She tried to speak to me. But just gargling. Like her lungs are full of water and it’s just trying to come out of her mouth. I don’t know if she wants to hurt me, or if she just wants me to help her.

I am telling this story. I don’t really know why. I would like to warn you. But I don’t know what from. I don’t know anything. I don’t know why this is happening. I keep thinking to every horror story or movie I’ve ever encountered and think on what would cause something like this to happen to a particular person. It could have been the video. But I don’t have it. It might have been me responding to the cat-like noises in my house. But I didn’t. I don’t know why this has happened. But it doesn’t matter now.

I haven’t heard of Brian since I left Sydney. He could be dead now. Otherwise he is still in St John of God or some other asylum now. I wish him the very best. The video is most likely on Brian’s laptop in police custody at Camden police station. But I don’t know. I don’t care. She’s here now. I am in the basement. I know that she will crack her neck and gurgle up at me as I stand up there. She will watch me drop. And then? I don’t know.

Goodbye.

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