[CONTENT WARNING]: This story contains medical horror. Readers should be advised.
An essay by Max Allaway, as provided by J. Harper
Art provided by Luke Spooner
A deep, groggy breath. I tried to open my eyes. All I saw was black. Had I not opened them? I tried to open my eyes as wide as I could. Had I gone blind? I lifted a hand to touch my face but found myself confined, unable to lift my arm more than a few inches. Something soft but strong was wrapped around my wrists. A noise in the darkness, a groan. I was sore. So terribly sore. I opened my mouth to speak, but the only noise I could make was a hoarse moan. My throat was raw. And my arms felt like they had been severely bruised, a deep-seated pain sat just below my collarbone on my left side, and my crotch. Christ. I felt an uncomfortable pressure and ache as if something was obstructing my urine flow, and my asshole felt … Oh god. Had they put a catheter and a rectal tube in me? Considering the only other alternative I could think of, with shuddering breaths, I could only hope so.
Tears pricked my eyes. I squeezed my eyes shut tight against them, turning my head to my less painful shoulder. Something tugged gently at the skin around my scalp and hairline. Something wet lapped against my face. I swallowed, tried to focus. Cried out instead. I was panicking. Deep breaths dragging in and out as I shouted. Screaming for help, to be let out, for anyone to save me. For any response at all. I struggled against whatever held me, liquid I could barely feel sloshing around me, aches and pains causing me to cry out even louder in anguish as I moved. No one answered, no one came. I screamed until I couldn’t breathe. Until my throat burned and the ache in my limbs and collarbone stung as if down to the very bone. Tears streamed down my face, running in warm rivers to the liquid I floated in. How had I gotten here?
The Hanwell hospital was old, the type you see in movies or Victorian gothic novels, with towering white walls edged in low trimmed hedges and iron bars across the tall windows. It looked like the kind of place you didn’t want to get stuck in, if you were superstitious, like the patients of eras long gone would pop out of the walls to drag you away.
But this was not some cheesy horror movie, and as imposing as the place looked even in the bright sunshine, I’d be damned if I wasn’t going in there. While the hospital now no longer operated for the general public, instead serving special interest cases transferred in from other programs and facilities, it was still one of the largest research facilities in the country. Countless studies had been conducted within the hospital’s grounds, primarily focusing on brain function, perception, memory, and cognition.
I was there because of those studies, as the nearby university where I was an undergrad often encouraged the psychology, health sciences, and biology students to participate in at least one study, providing credits for our degrees in return for each completed study. Up until this point, I had been rather reluctant to participate in a study at the hospital, my grades never suffering to the point where I felt I needed the extra credits, and honestly? The old place gave me the willies.
Everyone local knew the history of the place, and those from out of state, like me, quickly picked up on the weird stories. Back when it had primarily been a mental hospital, it would have been the kind of place people were sent to keep them out of the way and brutalized with treatments now understood as horrific, but back then would have been considered “cutting edge.”
Cutting indeed. Cutting, bleeding, poisoning, and lobotomizing for every case of biliousness, chlorosis, corruption, or hysteria. While none of these practices were still in use, the stories still lingered. Then, of course, there were the local legends, the ones the grad students and undergrad seniors liked to spread around, of students going missing at the hospital after volunteering for studies. It’s all bullshit, sure, but nobody likes to be the white girl in a horror movie.
So why the hell was I standing there in the paved courtyard of the hospital, about to go in and head to the research wing? Because Professor Onassis is an old harpy who decided to make participation in a study a requirement for our practical research and inquiry in behavioral sciences class, that’s why.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2018 collection.
Max Allaway is a 23-year-old undergrad working towards a B.S. in psychology at Arkmoore University. Allaway takes pride in creating and running the University’s first club specifically for genderqeer, genderfluid, bigendered, and transgendered individuals like themself, and would like to pursue further education to become a counselor for LQBTQA+ youth. Allaway disappeared on the way to Hanwell Psychiatric Hospital, where they were scheduled to participate in a research study for class credit. Authorities are still investigating the disappearance, and encourage anyone who may have seen Allaway to come forward.
J. Harper is a 26-year-old queer and introverted witch from the North Bay Area in Northern California, with a B.S. in Forensic Psychology. She was recently accepted into the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Mills College, focusing on her love of horror and sci-fi in her short stories and novels. When not writing about horror, she is often found reading or watching it, painting, or sometimes playing horror video games rather badly.
Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“To See the Light” is © 2018 J. Harper
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Luke Spooner