Author's Note: Well, here we are, with a story I swore I would never write, or at the very least never post. But, what can I say? I guess this is the product of my inability to track down a BB story that hit all the right spots, OC or otherwise (though if you know any good ones, I love recs). In my head, I wanted this to be a modern twist on the Victorian horror story/psychological drama. It draws heavily from Poe, Wilde, and Henry James. The story forces me to take a few artistic liberties, but I've done some research so hopefully it won't be too far out of the realm of reason. If you feel like I'm toeing that line though, pleaseohpleaseohplease point it out to me. Characterization and believabilty are very important to me. That being said, I'm looking for a beta reader for this, so if anyone's interested drop me a line in a review or PM me. All that aside, I really hope you enjoy this, it's a little unusual, but hopefully in a good way. Feedback would be FANTASTIC. I'm testing the waters with this.
Disclaimer: Death Note belongs to Ohba and Obata (as well as Nishio Ishin to an extent). Any unrecognizable characters, as well as the plot, belong to me. The views inexpressed in this story are in no way meant to offend or insult. It's just a story.
Chapter, the First
(in which there is a great deal of silence)
The complex was deadly silent, something unheard of in a place like this, where bodies were packed one on top of the other like a thousand glorified sardines and the staff made a habit of clanging noisily against railings and concrete and doors without the slightest thought or concern spared towards the rising threat of noise pollution (though, admittedly, that was often the least of their problems).
But, now, it was quiet.
The sort of silence that precipitated events or heralded impending cataclysmic catastrophe. This, was deadly silence. A silence to be wary of. And if there was anything the lone guard observing the ominous phenomenon could be considered fairly adept at, it was the art of being wary.
You see, this particular guard had weathered nearly thirty years in the place, and not for no reason. He had the measure of it, he would say. He knew of every hall and nook and cranny, of every trick and dirty deed, and even most of the faces when they weren't busy rearranging themselves in the maze of it all. He knew the place, intimately. Understood its nuances and the subtle shifts in atmosphere, and he knew, with absolute certainty—without knowing what it was—that there must be a reason for this silence and this unshakeable unease.
And then he heard it.
A soft tap, tap, tap like fingers against a pane of glass or wood knocking against a wall. But as soon as he had made the comparison, he knew that it was not quite right. It was a sound he heard a hundred times a day.
Footfalls on concrete.
Tap, tap, tap.
He stiffened at this revelation, though there was no real reason for it. It was common enough, frequent even, with all these living bodies cramped and shunted about. But it was one of those inexplicable fears, and he could no more bat it aside than he could keep his fingers from creeping unconsciously to his belt.
'Better safe than sorry,' he thought. He thought it quite often, in fact. It was something of a personal philosophy of his, and he couldn't think of a more applicable situation, so he thought it again, 'better safe than sorry.'
And then it came again. Tap, tap, tap. Closer this time, unmistakably. Heading in his general direction.
He was just on the verge of calling out, when the tap, tap, tap sounds swiveled around a corner, and the wary security guard came face to face with quite the unexpected sight.
"Ah—Hello, doctor," the guard fumbled, dropping his unconsciously creeping hand limply to his side, shoulders relaxing themselves noticeably.
"Hello," the doctor returned smoothly, dipping her chin in what could be termed a greeting (albeit loosely), but was really more formality than anything. Under normal circumstances, he might have taken offence at such a thing, but as it were, the woman was something of a new acquisition, and probably, he thought, not yet comfortable with the staff. Of course, there were easily half a dozen reasons why this would be the case—valid ones, too. Gender, age, and stature were certainly at the top of the list.
You see, the doctor was apparently of Ivy League extraction, which is to say she had been hired fresh out of her doctoral program, and though unquestionably qualified, the girl was barely toeing the line of twenty-five, something not unheard of in other personnel, but in a staff psychiatrist? Never.
Such a novelty was she, that she was treated with almost universal recognition throughout the compound (by the staff, at least), inside a week's time. Of course, that's not to say her age was the only thing being talked about. Most of it is easy enough to guess. Others, well, were a bit more unique. Her stature, for instance, was often the topic of conversation, though not necessarily out of any malicious intent so much as out of genuine concern.
The doctor, it should be noted, was uncommonly small—dangerously small, some commented—barely surpassing five feet in height and scarcely outweighing your average middle-schooler. Someone of her stature having dealings with some of the more unsavory residents on a daily basis… Well, you can see why it raised a few eyebrows.
In fact, he had heard rumors that the higher-ups hadn't been too keen on hiring her, either. But the applicant pool that time around had been more of a puddle than anything, and her credentials were simply too good to pass up. And, she had insisted.
Of course, a young woman's insistence doesn't seem like much, but I venture to say you would think differently if you had met her in person. Face to face, the question of whether she was too young or too small or too inexperienced would have never so much as flitted across your mind.
She had all the appearance of a person bursting at the seams, oozing quick, strong energy like a volcano poised to erupt. That isn't to say she was volatile, or if she was, she certainly knew how to hide it very well. But she had an inexplicable presence, an aura that wasn't so much radiating authority and tenacity and unwavering self-assurance as it was broadcasting it to the surrounding area in no uncertain terms.
If she wasn't larger than life, she was certainly larger than her frame belied.
"I will need you to oversee a visit for me—" she declared, with all the force of a superior (in reality, the doctor wasn't really his superior, but so convincing was she that the guard barely remembered this detail), pausing only to glance down at the identification badge clipped to his chest, "Mr. Quint."
"Ah, well—I wasn't aware there was a call scheduled for this morning," the guard, Quint, said falteringly, forehead scrunched up in half-feigned concentration.
"No, you wouldn't be," she replied curtly, though her eyes wavered almost imperceptibly, but it seemed to pass unnoticed by the guard entirely, "it was somewhat spur of the moment. I know how security feels about that sort of thing, but I assure you, it's already been cleared with Dr. Neilson. I wanted to get a feel for the residents before I begin intake next week, and he agreed that it was a good idea."
"Well, that sort of thing isn't exactly protocol," Quint inserted in what he hoped was a tactful way, "I mean, I don't think it is. Normally, it would be, but you're new, so I'm not—" he fumbled, "Wouldn't it be more appropriate for Dr. Neilson or one of the others to accompany you, doctor? Just until you're better—"
"Oh, no," she said, as if he had overlooked something entirely obvious, "they're much too busy for that. Ever since Dr. Markham retired, they've been struggling to stay on top of all the appointments, let alone the paperwork. If they could spare a moment, I'm sure they would, but the sooner I get adjusted the better for all of us. I'm more than capable of this."
Her tone, despite its softness, brooked no argument.
"Ah, well, alright," he assented, pulling the radio from his belt and signaling another guard, "take over for me, Pollock." Whoever Pollock was radioed his affirmative, leaving Quint to turn back to the woman with a sigh, "which ones will it be then?"
"Oh, just one for now," she clarified, removing a square of folded paper from her pocket before promptly passing it to her companion.
Quint unfolded it. Once. Twice. And proceeded to gape at the immaculate row of black figures. This one, he knew by heart.
"O-Of course," he floundered, passing off his hesitation as a hacking cough, "right this way."
B-Block was an unpleasant place. Granted, the places in the facility that could qualify as pleasant (if the term were loosely applied) were few and far between—the employee lounge, private offices, the parking lot as you were leaving. The whole conglomeration was, with its volatile occupants and over-cautious staff, the very definition of tenuous. But B-Block, was something else altogether.
A place for special cases.
A good rule of thumb for what did and did not constitute a "special case" was thus: if the person in question was someone you would very much like to avoid coming into contact with in a dark alley, they were most likely not a special case; if they were the sort of person that made you thank whatever gods may be for only coming across some dark alley miscreant, then there was a strong possibility that a place existed for them in B-Block.
A short list of all its residents would likely turn up a proverbial grab bag of drug kingpins, domestic terrorists, violent sexual predators, murderers for hire, high profile bank robbers and embezzlers, and of course, serial killers. The stuff of mass media infamy. The sort kept from general population for fear of corrupting the corrupted.
It was virtual isolation, and for one main reason.
In B-Block, the cells were not the open-faced, barred alcoves that were the norm for the rest of the facility. Instead, they were long, narrow, one-person rooms; barely wider than an office cubicle and twice its length, closed off by thick, metal doors with only a horizontal rectangle of Plexiglas and a metal slot for food trays to break up the steel face.
Each door was a sort of Pandora's box, which concealed inside it a kernel of human depravity.
And it was towards this sort of cell that they were headed.
Now, generally, when a staff psychiatrist is to meet with an inmate, which is a fairly regular occurrence (due in equal parts to public insistence on prisoner reform and the government's desire to free up more space within the system), the inmate is transferred to a room in the medical wing where they are shackled, in reasonable comfort, to a chair a more than respectable distance from whomever they're seeing for an hour weekly or bi-weekly or what have you. But, this is not always the case, for whatever reason, so sometimes these visits take place in cells or other offices or any number of places, under the close supervision of a security guard. Preferably a thick, intimidating one.
This, of course, was what the doctor had in mind.
And so, the pair plodded quietly through the corridors, Quint nodding gravely to passing staff, knowing that the deadly silence of moments ago had, in fact, heralded something unspeakable.
"Here we are," the old guard said, stopping before a metal-plated door, "up against the wall," he grunted, rapping against the Plexiglas. This was protocol in such situations, and only partly the product of his anxiousness.
Though the doctor couldn't quite see through the little rectangle of glass, she assumed the cell's occupant must have obliged, as her escort proceeded to feed his pass card into the mouth of an electronic box mounted beside the door. After a short beep, he pulled it back out with a clumsy flourish before punching in a quick code on the keypad.
Another short beep was followed by a metallic click that signaled the release of the door's locking mechanism.
"Alright," Quint said, stepping inside the cell, the young doctor right on his heels.
Her shoulders shook with some undefined emotion. Fear, or perhaps anticipation.
"Charles Quint," a soft monotonous voice issued from the back of the cell, though it had the curious quality of seeming to come from all directions at once, rebounding and repeating itself a dozen times, each softer and shorter than the last. It was merely a simple trick of the cell's acoustics, of course—all that metal and concrete. A simple trick, but no one failed to notice the poorly suppressed shudder that rippled down the addressed man's spine, "what a pleasant surprise."
As one may have guessed, the doctor's eyes had not failed to fix themselves on the figure immediately. After all, it had been she that had arranged for the meeting, but she had not quite expected what she found.
The man, for he was unmistakably a man, though she would have known that anyway—there was no other sort kept here—was difficult to look at, and not because he was swallowed almost entirely in his own clothes, with only his fingers and toes poking out, There was another distraction.
He had, she thought, the appearance of a candle. A candle that had been snuffed out only to solidify again in thick, wax ripples.
Everything about him sagged to an extent—his mouth, his cheeks, the skin of his neck. It was as if he had melted—though she had read enough to know that wasn't far from the truth. His hair stuck up in dark, unruly clumps, his skin had an almost shiny quality to it, and it was obvious that he had undergone major reconstructive surgery, though it seemed to have been only moderately successful. It was a half-human face. A bit of canvas that had slipped and slumped and the artist had only just managed to fit it back over the frame.
Horrible was not the right word for it, but it was the word that came to mind.
In fact, the only thing seemingly untouched about him was his eyes—thick pools of ink that were fixed, much like her own, on the figure before him. On her.
Like something out of a horror movie, his mouth took on an upward tilt before he spoke.