Casi Cline

The Dark Hospital

a very long dream

A neurotic, paranoid-looking man gets off a train, arriving in a dark, Bavarian town surrounded by high mountains. He is a Conspiracy Theory and Paranormal Activity Investigator and he has come to check if there is anything interesting behind a concerned message he had received from someone visiting a relative in the town.

There is an amusement park at the edge of the town at the base of a tall mountain, and all of the residents including the middle aged and elderly are obsessed with spending time there, but noone is allowed to talk about it after they leave. The Investigator goes into the amusement park and it has all of the normal kinds of amusement park things like vomit-inducing, centrifugal-motion contraptions and foods trucks and games and colorful lights, etc.

But there is one ride that appears to be particularly popular: The Health Train. It is an elaborately-decorated miniature train on tracks that lead into an opening in the side of the mountain. There is very long wait, but the Investigator gets in line because he has a gut feeling that this is where he needs to go to find out more information. Eventually, his turn comes, and he gets on the train. The Health Train shudders into motion and heads rather bumpily into the mountain.

The ride starts out by entering a normal-enough-looking mine shaft or cave with some stalagmites and bats and red-glowing lanterns hanging at regular intervals, and the Investigator wonders if it is just going to be some cheap, sorta-spooky roller coaster ride. Within a few minutes, though, it starts to get very misty and soon the man can’t see anything around him as the train continues to hurtle forward at an accelerating pace. The color drains out of the mist until there is nothing but whiteness and the ride becomes so smooth the Investigator can only tell he is moving because of the air passing over him.

Unsure of how much time has passed and feeling suspicious, the Investigator turns in his seat to check if anything is visible behind him. In doing so, his hand touches the hand of someone sitting in the seat next to him which had been empty when the ride started. Drawing his hand back and staring in shock at the white spot next to him, the Investigator waits in motionless and silent uneasiness. As he watches, the mist begins to dissipate, and the figure next to him becomes visible. There is an old man there looking back at him and smiling. He is wearing a grey hat and gray three-piece suit, which all looks very clean and neat.

“How do you like my Health Train?” the old man asks, in a convivial baritone.

The Investigator now recognizes this old man to be the Mayor of the town. He had done his research beforehand and knew that the Mayor, a retired physician, was instrumental in bringing the amusement park to the town and was most likely involved in the matter he is here to look into. His suspicions are clearly confirmed.

Before the Investigator has a chance to respond, he notices that the mist has cleared all around them to reveal completely new surroundings. He is alone with the Mayor in a white, oval craft which is moving through some kind of clear liquid down a pink, fleshy, rippling circular tunnel like the inside of an artery or intestine. Sliding all the way around the walls are white segmented worms, which fill the investigator with revulsion. They pass different kinds of body cells like nerves and fat, which are as big as house cats and all white. The cells have faces and limbs and they can talk. They are, in fact, making a lot of racket and some are arguing with one another about territory. The Investigator sees a white fox curled up behind some big round cells and has a feeling it shouldn’t be seen by the Mayor, so he decides to distract him.

“Hey, what’s all this about, Mister!” he asks loudly.

“Haha, you’ll see! We’re just arriving now,” the Mayor responds, waving his hand to indicate a spot ahead of them.

Up ahead, the tunnel changes into a perfectly smooth, shiny, white cylinder with doors at regular intervals along the sides. The ovoid vehicle stops in front of a brightly smiling nurse dressed all in white who opens one of the doors and gestures for him to go inside. He turns to look at the Mayor, but he has disappeared. With a sigh, the Investigator climbs out and goes through the door. Inside is a little, white room that has a bunk, a sink, a compact toilette/shower closet with a drain in the floor and other necessaries for a spartan sort of existence, and everything is very clean and shiny.

“I just know you will enjoy your stay!” the nurse says excitedly as she shuts the door, after which a series of loud clicks and metallic scrapings makes it clear that it has been locked. There isn’t even a doorknob on this side.

The Investigator has come to expect this kind of thing in his line of work. Everyone is always either trying to keep people in or keep people out. He sets to work snooping around the little room. There aren’t too many nooks to investigate, so he quickly gets to the closet. There is a row of goofy white, adult-sized onesies hanging in the closet and some shelves above with linens. Behind a stack of crisp, white sheets on the top shelf, he finds an air vent. It is a small opening, but, fortunately, due to his regular amphetamine usage, he is very thin.

He pries off the vent cover with a spork from the mini-kitchen with some effort, working up a sweat in the process. He begins to feel unbearably sticky and grimy. He looks in the mirror on the closet door and is repulsed by his grungy, sordid appearance: oily, blemished face; greasy, unkempt hair; stained shirt; wrinkled trousers; muddy shoes. He doesn’t remember being this loathsome. Unable to stand it any longer, he takes of his clothes and gets in the shower, washing himself with water as hot as he can stand and scouring his entire body with the strong soap and exfoliating bristle brush that had been provided. After he has scrubbed himself completely several times, he feels the desire to be cold, so he turns off the hot completely and stands in the freezing water. Cold, so cold, cold and clean.

He eventually gets out of the shower, making sure to avoid stepping on his filthy clothes, goes to the closet and puts on one of the nice clean onesies from the closet. It even has rubber-soled footsies and gloves at the ends of the arms. Very hermetic. He isn’t totally against it, seeing as he is about to crawl through an air vent. However, when he looks inside the vent, he is a little surprised to note that it is completely clean without even a particle of dust. He climbs up and squeezes himself in the opening.

The Investigator crawls around in the air duct for awhile, looking into other little white rooms and uninteresting places. He comes to a vent into an office, a very nice office with fancy furnishings and medical apparatus, which he surmises could belong to the Mayor, and he decides to check it out. He looks through the desk draws and files cabinets as thoroughly as he dares with the appearing/disappearing Mayor about somewhere, eventually finding a document that details the plans and purpose and nefarious intentions of the entire organization. He has uncovered this kind of scheme before and is a little disappointed by its banality. He tucks the folder inside his onesie and leaves through the door.

He walks out into a large, bright space with an immaculately landscaped garden under a massive white dome curving down to the perfectly trimmed lawn from high above. There is a big, round swimming pool in the center and other people in pristine, white onesies are napping around it in lounge chairs or strolling around.

As the Investigator starts to walk toward a door in the far wall that he hopes is an exit, the disembodied voice of the Mayor booms out from somewhere above his head.

“I know what you want.”

“Is that right? You know what I want? And what would that be Mr. Mayor?” the investigator snarkily retorts while looking for some kind of speaker hidden somewhere.

“Oh, yes, believe me, I know. And I can give it to you, too,” the Mayor says with a laugh, “But… I have one condition.”

“Mmmhmm, what’s that?” asks the Investigator half-heartedly as he sidles toward that-door-which-is-a-possible-exit.

“Well, before I can give you what you want, you will have to give me something of yours. Don’t worry. It is nothing you really value much anyway. It’s just…your life.”

With a disbelieving scoff, the Investigator ask, “Oh, ok, and what is it you think I want that would be worth giving you MY LIFE?”

“The Dark Hospital.”

The Investigator freezes, divested of his sarcastic facade and his misanthropic air, he is left standing there in his onesie like a child staring at his closet door in the long and hideous night. His eyes are dark, moist, animal eyes, wide with awe, worshipful and afraid. He hadn’t known if he would ever find it, and he hadn’t thought to find it here. But here it is.

“Yes, ok, then. Take my life.”

“There’s a good boy. Now go over to the pool and dive in. Don’t be scared. You’ll only feel a little pinch.”

Quietly, the Investigator walks over to the pool, and, as he gets close, he sees that, in sharp contrast to all the whiteness of everything else and even the walls of the pool, the bottom of the pool is the most perfect, deep black he has ever seen. He takes off his onesie, tosses aside the useless files, which he now realizes is just a decoy anyway, and steps onto the diving board. All of the people around the pool cheer and congratulate him.

“Any last words, son?”

Looking up, the Investigator opens his mouth to speak, but closes it again and shakes his head.

“Ok, then please take out your tongue.”

The Investigator reaches into his mouth, takes out his tongue, which detaches bloodlessly and painlessly. He looks at it lying in his palm and it disappears.

“Good, good. Now you’re free of that, you can go on in. And, I just want you to know that I will enjoy your life much more than you have, and I am grateful for the opportunity. So long!”

The Investigator dives into the pool and is immediately unable to see anything. He loses his sense of direction and thrashes about in confusion. After a couple of minutes, he gives up the struggle, and lets himself go limp. Letting himself drift passively, he begins to float up to the surface. But there is something attached to his belly that keeps him from going further. It is a rubbery tube, which he realizes is an umbilical cord.

The voice of the Mayor comes to him in a muffled whisper, “Just a little pinch.”

And that’s all it is. Just a little pinch, and the cord is cut, and the Investigator floats up to the surface face down. The bottom of the pool is a terribly bright white that hurts his eyes. He turns away from it, looking up out of the water. All around him is the black expanse of space studded with tiny stars. And, there, in front of him, hovers a monumental building with walls painted a darker black than the black of space and all the windows, doors, and corners outlined in glittering christmas lights.

The Investigator drifts weightlessly out of the pool toward the open doors of the Dark Hospital.