He wakes up suddenly. As he looks around he realizes that he can’t feel the night. Beads of sweat well up along his temples and he looks up at the ceiling fan whirring with no audible sound or apparent movement. He can’t feel the waves of air it tore through the room, just up till a few hours ago. There is a certain light coming in from the window, shining across his face. He feels a slight tightness somewhere around his cheeks. For no apparent reason he finds an overpowering sense of fear coming over him along with a heightened sense of emptiness and he realizes, he is aware of nothing.

He turns to look at the large, heavy red wooden cupboard with its enormous, grandfather clock sized mirror, shining. The mirror has no frame, no external border, wooden or otherwise. Nor is present, any ornamental and intricate metalwork mount around it. It shines in a grayish blue stillness of its own.

As he faces the mirror, he notices a beam of night-light, coming in from one of the slits between the curtains, a swirling inconsistent mass of dust particles. His face begins to twitch a little underneath, as he places his gaze upon the reflection in the mirror. He looks like him, but there is a wide stripe of what looks like clusters after clusters of abscesses, running across his face. He turns a little to see, the stripe is going around his head, through the forest of his hair, tiny follicles cholerically inflamed red, as he imagines them to be; and appearing from his left temple, going across his nose and cheekbones to his right jaw, across the other cheek.

He slowly makes his way out of bed and walks over to the lavatory door, attached to his room. He hits a switch for the light bulb inside, and steps in closing the door behind him. As he turns around to face the shower, he finds himself in a large room, with a low ceiling. The dim, overbearing light seems to be present everywhere, illuminating every corner. He can’t find the source but knows it is omnipresent. The walls are painted a deep green, almost fluorescing but without an apparent pulsating glow. The paint is beginning to peel off in large patches at many places, fluid droplets on the black walls below, due to moisture precipitation.

There is no distinct smell, nor the lack of it, and no other objects except the sound of water, moving. As he walks towards the sound, he begins to feel a familiar feeling. The green walls, the cold air and the light, remind him of a place. The hair on the back of his neck stands up, erect, sending a wave of horripilation down to his fingertips, from shoulder to touch, when he lays his eyes upon an open water tank, with a rim. He sinks into himself knowing, he is inside a sanatorium.

He walks towards the open tank, filled with discoloured water and looks across. In the corner he sees a young girl, sitting on the lap of a man. Her legs are spread apart wide open and she has wrapped them around him, she is denuded from waist below. He cannot see the man’s face, but feels like he knows him. As he turns his head a little to get a look at him, the girl turns around, her eyes gazing directly at him.

Her torso is draped in a septic pink piece of cloth and her head is buried under a thicket of seemingly fake ash blonde dreads, split and shredding at the ends, her lips covered in fluorescent coral, part as if she is releasing a vapour. The dark kohl around her eyes has bled out enough to make them look like cavernous orifices, from the distance.

She blinks with an almost machine like motion to her eyelids. There are large windows in the room but nothing is visible outside. As he stares at her from across the water, he begins to feel certain, about knowing that man. He walks a few steps backwards, unknowingly, with a steady gaze and is bewildered at the realization dawning upon him.

That man, across the water tank, who the creature is sitting upon, is I.

As he paces backwards, he can hear a distinct wet noise, accompanied with a periodic splatter sound, followed by an eerie sliding and a repeated thudding. He turns around with shaking reluctance and lays his eyes upon something he has never seen before. Not even in a dream.

There lay in front of him a giant octopus, inverted, turned upside down, overturned, tentacles rising and falling, flailing while its exposed underside lay open, vulnerable. A pair of rows, of large suction pods ran along the length of each tentacle. The enormous parrot like beak parted like vulva and its colossal mantle covered in pachydermic layers of dark tissue, flattened against the floor, eyes peering out in fury, siphon opening and closing in continual convulsive choking and gasping. To his dismay he began feeling an implausible urge, and after a moment’s deliberation, he inexplicably decided to sit on the defiled openings, on the underside of the octopus, behaving as if sitting in a chair.

He sat at the corolla of tentacles, convinced that the man across the open water tank is he. He turned to face his right and noticed a large open door, with an old white frame, the entrance barely illuminated. He could barely see beyond the open door. Everything beyond it was pitch dark but he knew, it was hollow and he could walk into that space.

He, with purpose got off the octopus and walked straight into the door, unable to see anything, his arms spread out before him by reflex and he fumbled about in the dark till he reached another large doorframe. It looked identical to the one he had walked in a few minutes ago; white wooden scaffold holding it in place, a greenish blackness beyond. He kept walking forward, crossing door after door, through a series of dark rooms. His heart was pounding against his ribs, the raging hammering of his heartbeats, almost audible. His eyes opened wide as he entered another room. There was a distinct smell, one he was acquainted with all too well. The soles of his shoes, stuck momentarily to the floor with every step he took.

There is some kind of fluid layering the floor.

He felt something move and instinctively reached out to his side, towards the wall, placed his hands on it and felt something elongated, seemed like a handle, a large wooden stick. He lifted it up to realise, it came off a mount in the wall and had something very heavy on one end.

He heard footsteps and swung what he held in his hands, with force in front of him. He heard a noise and knew he had hit something, and what he was holding, was caught in it. He pulled back with great force and held his weapon upright, running his fingers along to the heavy top. It felt like a metal hatchet, an axe.

He heard more footsteps approaching and began to swing the axe in different directions, precisely hitting something every time, and felt a spray of a hot fluid hitting his face, neck and apron after every few blows. He looked down at himself for a brief moment, to find he is wearing an apron. His eyes trace in the dark, about three more aprons with bodies in them, lying on the floor around him.

They are doctors, like me. Where am I? Why am I…

His hands began to quake uncontrollably as another one approached him from a direction he was not sure of. His hands felt heavy as they swung the axe in the air from one side to the other in panic, his fingers barely able to hold the weapon in place, or control it.

With every blow he delivered to the living, walking body in front him, he let out suffocated howls, which echoed briefly in the dark chamber around him. He could feel the warm blood, seeping through to his skin underneath as it soaked through his apron and trousers. He lets him fall, swinging his axe into him repeatedly, hacking him down to stumps.

Releasing several agonised wails at the end of the ordeal, he lets the axe drop from his hands and walks over the slippery floor, to the door that just appeared before him. He crosses it and instantly a bright light dissipates the blackness. He finds himself in a long passage, a corridor with many people seemingly scurrying about in frenzy, with writing pads in their hands, pens and thermometers.

I am back inside the hospital…

He keeps walking, as nurses and orderlies nod their heads in acknowledgement and approval, before him.

Who are all these people?

He smiles at a nurse as they walk across each other and he begins walking past windows, of single room wards for special patients, along the corridor. After walking determinedly for a few feet, feeling complete in his form, Dr. Holt realises that he is being followed by his reflection, along side, along the length of the entire corridor.

He stops in his tracks and turns to face the glass of a patient’s room. He is looking directly at the patient, who is now bracing up, struggling to sit upright, looking back directly in his eyes.

The patient’s face was still for several paused seconds before it contorted into an expression of dreaded foreboding, soon morphing into the face of aversion and perverse fear. The heart rate monitor inside the room, plugged into nodes on the patient’s wrist and neck, began beeping hysterically, leading into what seemed a crescendo of tones before flat-lining into a singular, insufferable continuous wave. As he stood still, his eyes intently gazing at the morbid death of the patient, what became clear to him, on the glass, was his own reflection. His face and jaw smeared in cruor, soaked into his apron and the shirt underneath, the white of his right eye swallowed his pupil in acute internal haemorrhage. His face held the expression of panic, terror and torment altogether, accompanied by an almost paraplegic shake on his right shoulder. He took a few steps back, eyes fixed on his own reflection, astounded and stupefied. He looked down at the floor, turned around to face the people in the passageway and walked ahead, noticing how no one seemed to react to him. He walked steadily towards the end of the corridor and disappeared into the Department of Empirical Psychiatry.

24th March 2013
Siddharth Pathak



~ Self-coined; a state of dreaming as described in present/ past continuous tense – Comparative usage; “I was asleep.” – Proposed usage; “I lay on my bed, adream.”



  1. Excellent ambiance, but the jarring quality of the vernacular hampers with truly setting up a mystique. Use words that truly inspire doubt and let that doubt itself accumulate into fear..right now I kept reading and whenever I was engrossed, a misplaced word brought me back to square one.

    But a very good effort as far as the content and the characterization is concerned. My special compliments for the way you set up the scene with the little girl.

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