In the darkest of times, your body is put under extreme pressure. Stress levels are raised and rational thinking is thrown out the window. Eventually, this panic turns into true madness. It is no longer about fight or flight, it is about hiding the terrible truth to save you the pain. A trauma that does more damage than we can conceive.
In short, there is a point where your mind is no longer your friend. It is the false embrace of reassurance, the sweet lie to smother the bitter truth. The question is, what could drive someone to this point?
The year was 1938, a young man by the name of Maurice Robinson had his reality broken and his mind with it. He woke up screaming in his apartment. At first, the roommate thought someone had broken in and assaulted Maurice. With an empty beer bottle in hand, the roommate ventured into the darkness to find Maurice going from throwing fists at the air, to falling on his back, to shaking as if every muscle in his body was spasming, till he finally opened his eyes, quiet and calm.
The roommate told the police that Maurice was screaming ‘no’ at first, then he was begging. To add to the harrowing situation, a particular name was mentioned, one that was foreign to everyone who heard it, but vaguely familiar to people like me.
It is a name that was quickly erased from the records thanks to Julian Wright, an infiltrator under my employ. With charisma and manipulation, he ensured the police didn’t think on the name but focus on another case instead. Nevertheless, those who heard the name would be observed for three months to ensure the name isn’t spread further. At that point, the name will most likely be altered by fading memory or forgotten completely.
What matters now is Maurice. Our infiltrator heard he was to be taken to a mental institution, so Julian cleverly took the burden on his shoulders and made the call. However, instead of a mental institution, he called us. Unfortunately, he didn’t know there were two major institutions in the city, Summerstone and Morningside.
I sent Elliot and Bill to Morningside and Riley and Eliza to Summerstone. Later, we learned Summerstone was closed in 1927, over a decade ago, but the city records hadn’t been updated. It would have been a problem if we didn’t have Elliot and Eliza join us a week before.
The police arrived at Morningside with Maurice in the back of the car. He didn’t struggle, in fact he seemed catatonic. Guided by one officer straight into the hands of Elliot, who slowly guided Maurice towards the entrance until the police left. Once the police had turned the corner, Elliot and Bill gathered Maurice in their arms and carried him into their car. It was a clean operation, saving us time.
I sat that same evening in a dark observation room, watching Maurice through one-way glass. His eyes wandered here and there, a thousand-yard stare at all times. There wasn't much in the bare room for him to look at and luckily it seemed like nothing would interest him. It was saddening to see someone so broken. He seemed like a man down on his luck, with his last hope dashed. I had seen my father with the same look when my mother died, his eyes drifting from his drink to me, staring through me.
Yet, I would say Maurice only appeared that way. It felt like he knew he was in a room, but perhaps he saw more than I did. I realised this when his eyes drifted to me and focused. He stared straight into my eyes. In confusion, I cocked my head a little to one side only to have him mirror that movement.
That alone sent a shiver down my spine, which in turn made the darkroom I was standing in feel a lot more hostile. It was when Maurice mouthed what I thought was 'hello' that I felt something darker behind it all. Maurice didn't seem confused then, he was calm, confident. His look was condescending but mostly neutral. As if I were an ant, insignificant to him and my fate was of no consequence at all.
Maurice stared until he lost interest and his eyes drifted back to the corner of the room, a thousand-yard stare returning. It was a smooth, but sudden change. My peace of mind didn’t return so quickly, which is why I jumped when the door clicked and swung open to the observation room.
“Mr Edwards, you called?” Elliot asked.
“Y-yes. Fetch the others, will you? I want them to watch as I interview the subject.”
Elliot Ward left quickly. His readiness to obey orders only made me think of him less. Insubordination in most cases shows intelligence, that there is a brain behind those eyes. A brain that’s constantly working, studying it’s superior and evaluating their orders. I didn’t get that impression from Elliot. He was a dog waiting for the stick to be thrown.
Elliot’s sister, Eliza Ward, had the brains. I felt those eyes on me as everyone entered the observation room. Elliot and Eliza stood by each other, while the older part of my team, Bill, Riley and Julian, stood closer to me. I explained that in my line of work, proof is needed to show the importance of what we did. Once I made my point, I left the now silent and thoughtful room.
Stopping before entering the holding cell, I collected myself. A strong mind is needed in such situations, breathing helped keep me calm. With speed and confidence, I soon closed the door behind me and stared at the subject. Maurice remained, unmoving and cuffed to the fixed chair.
“Maurice?” I began, hoping to get his attention, as much as I could.
The subject simply stared into the distance. Only now, in his presence, I didn’t pity him. Instead, my senses were detecting a threat. A voice at the back of my head kept repeating ‘danger’, but I only ignored it. That feeling of unease is common, expected in my line of work.
“Right, well, let’s begin shall we?” I murmured, checking the cuffs around Maurice’s wrists and legs. “Bill, the lights.”
I looked up at the one-way mirror as I stood behind Maurice. For a brief moment, I thought they didn’t hear me, but then the lights went out. The room wasn’t thrown into pitch, but it was dark enough. The only light source now was the dim glow around the door frame. I could make out Maurice’s shape, the faint lines outlining the glass and even the walls.
The voice calling ‘danger’ grew a little louder.
“Gaurloskoth?” I asked the darkness more than I asked Maurice. “It’s a name I am not familiar with...but I know the origin.”
I didn’t receive a response, Maurice unmoving.
“Gelkerot, does that sound familiar?” I continued, breathing deep. “It’s a name I know you’re all familiar with. I would like to know if it’s a name you fear or admire?”
Still no response. I needed to know now if I was barking up the wrong tree. If the reports were inaccurate, I could be talking to someone truly mad.
“No, not Gelkerot? Perhaps...Remilotka?”
Nothing. I stared at the back of Maurice’s silhouette and was disappointed. Walking past him, I made for the door. It’s only when my hand clasped the handle that I noticed something different. The voices warning me before were now silent, yet...I still felt the undeniable presence of something.
“Gaurlo-” I murmured before I felt a pressure wrap around my throat.
My voice was silenced as a new voice filled the room. It was almost indescribable. Loud, yet soft. Weak, but strong. An anomaly of sound, but in every aspect, threatening. I felt it overpower my body and mind, I felt helpless.
“Remilotka is waiting for you, Outsider.”
I wheezed as I resumed control of my mind and quickly, my body as well.
As I regained control, I felt a falling sensation. My feet touched the ground and I breathed easily once more. It had lifted me off the ground and I barely noticed. Maurice, from what I could see, remained chained to his chair, but I wanted to make sure.
The darkness was vanquished by the startling lights. I blinked quickly to regain focus, catching images that I barely understood before I saw clearly. Maurice remained in the same position, staring sleepily at the corner of the room. Lowering my eyes, I saw the cuffs that chained him to the chair were still in place.
However, there was water beneath his chair. For a moment, I thought Maurice had relieved himself, then I saw the puddle recede, vanishing as if it were a fading spot in my vision. My sense of calm faded with it as I left the room. Once outside, I saw my team gathered in front of me. Only Julian and Bill seemed calm, but concerned. The Ward's and Riley had their eyes widened and skin pigment lightened.
When my eyes met Julian's, I could tell he understood the significance of the exchange as much as I did.
“Remilotka...why couldn't it have been Gelkerot?" I mumbled.