Saturday, June 8, 2013
The experiment was a wild success. At least to the observers. Andrew had recently graduated With Honors with his Psychology degree from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. Of course, it wasn't until his second year in an internship for a psych assistant that he got the call for another, surprising opportunity. Andrew hesitated at first. The caller, a Mr. Felder, asked if Andrew could keep a secret. The clandestine nature of the conversation made Andrew nervous. Eventually, though, Mr. Felder explained that the research was restricted, and that only the select few researchers would know the complete details. Being his first real job offer just out of college, Andrew accepted.
A female subject had agreed to spend the week in an isolated testing facility. At first, no other information was provided. When Andrew arrived at the facility the following day, he was given more information. The subject, a Ms. Kennedy Walsh, had signed a non-disclosure agreement, as did all personnel working on the project. And for that week, surprisingly to Andrew, she had agreed to spend the entire time handcuffed in complete darkness. The purpose of the experiment wasn't completely clear to Andrew, but he went along with it just the same. His involvement in a high profile experiment of this nature would definitely increase his chances at other lucrative job offers in the future. How could he say 'no'?
Cameras had been placed throughout the facility, which was no more than the size of a one-bedroom apartment. Day and night, Kennedy would be watched by researchers in her little part of the world. Andrew had never met her personally but she seemed like a nice enough girl. From her photos, he had noticed a series of scars across her body, which made him think of abuse and neglect, although he didn't mention the observation to the other doctors.
From what he was told, Kennedy was a survivor of the New York Influenza outbreak just a few months ago. The plague had all but wiped out a large portion of New York City in just a few weeks, but eventually the virus became less infectious and died out. Kennedy was a volunteer nurse in one of the last remaining medical facilities in the city. She was also apparently immune to the NYI virus. According to her file, ever since the event her behavior had become somewhat erratic and unpredictable. Andrew didn't blame her but then again, he had never spoken to nor met her so it was all conjecture. How does one behave after being holed up in a hospital for weeks, eating the dead for survival, and coming out on the other side only to be told it was just a local thing, and the CDC couldn't get there in a timely fashion? Andrew just shook his head at the failures of the government but in the end it wasn't the government that bothered him. Science will find a way to overcome no matter what. He supposed that it wasn't really his job to question the 'whys' of everything and just get on to the 'hows' and whatnot.
The experiment was simple from an observer's perspective. Ms. Walsh, or K, as she was commonly referred, was to be handcuffed to a stable beam in the middle of a dark room. No one was to come or go except for to offer her food and water. To Andrew, this seemed like an awful waste of time until the variable was introduced. There was a dog, if one could call it that. A dog that was hideously deformed from what amounted to a myriad of scientific experiments. Andrew was appalled at the idea of introducing such a creature into the darkness with the subject. He had heard gossip of what the animal might do to poor Ms. Walsh. Eat her alive was the general consensus. Andrew would have spoken out in protest had it not been for the chief medical officer Dr. Donald Regan expressing his concerns over the livelihood of both patient and project. Little did Andrew know at the time but Kennedy was the project, not the patient.
The dog was named Henry. He belonged to Dr. Regan and while many people would protest the various experiments to which Henry had been subjected, the truth of the matter was, Dr. Regan was trying to cure him. Henry suffered from Canine Influenza, a newer virus that was generally easy to overcome for the animal. Dr. Regan, a firm believer (and probable share-holder) in the unnamed pharmaceutical company had a vaccine administered to Henry when he became ill. In most cases, the vaccine is safe, but there are rare cases where it can cause negative side effects. Andrew didn't exactly know if Henry's current physical state was a result of the vaccine or Regan's efforts to cure him, and he wasn't about to ask. Clearly, the Doctor had a lot of love for that dog. It just didn't seem professional to bring it up.
The main research observation facility was located just a few feet away from the house being used for the experiment. In the event of a problem, researchers could abort the project at any moment to save either the dog or the girl. Or both depending on what everyone expected to happen. The cameras placed throughout the house were extremely sophisticated: thermal vision, night vision, motion-tracking, even electromagnetic field reading. These cameras were accompanied with various audio devices scattered throughout the small building. Every little sound made inside that shack would be recorded.
Andrew stared at the bank of monitors inside the observation room in awe. He suddenly began to wonder why he was actually here. What was a Psych major doing in this room with all of this technology? No one had ever really given him clear instructions on what he would be monitoring. For the second time, Andrew thought about how this would boost the hell out of his resume' and decided not to question it. Movement on the monitor shifted and caught Andrew's attention. They were bringing her in. This was the first time Andrew had actually seen K in person (well, via camera at least). She seemed calm and willing. That made Andrew relax just a bit. Then he watched as the guards pushed K to the ground and handcuffed her to the beam, leaving one hand free to feel about in the pitch blackness.
Without a word, the guards left and K just sat in the dark room. Andrew could tell her eyes were trying to adjust to the darkness, but he knew probably before she did that she wouldn't be able to see anything at all no matter how hard she tried. There was simply no source of light. Every single crack, window, doorway, and splitting seam of the old house had been meticulously filled in. She might as well have been blind. But yet, she did not seem panicked or afraid. Perhaps living through a biological disaster somehow strengthened her against such fear. Andrew would never know the answer as to why she wasn't afraid.
There was a back entryway into the house that was separate from the main quarters, with a double door access to keep out the light. Apparently that was a very important part of the experiment. Andrew watched as a second team of guards brought in Henry. He was even more hideous than his photos. 'Jesus' Andrew thought. How is that thing still alive? Henry limped into the first entryway, gasping and heaving through tumors sprouting around his snout. His body was half-limp like a stroke victim, but he managed to drag his legs, covered in oozing boils, across the linoleum and into the second door. The guards closed the first door to keep out the light, and the opened the second to let Henry loose inside the house; the very same house where K found herself handcuffed. Andrew couldn't help but sit down in a chair in front of the monitor. The gravity of everything hit him all at once. Suddenly, he felt like he was watching a horror film.
Henry sniffed around the room, seemingly aware of the presence of another creature. His movements were slow, and looked painful to Andrew. After several minutes of walking/crawling around in front of the second entry door, Henry decided to make his way into the main living area, which is where K was handcuffed. Andrew could tell K also sensed something. Suddenly realizing he couldn't hear anything, Andrew grabbed a pair of headphones and threw them over his ears to get the full experience.
"Hello?" K asked into the darkness. Her voice carried a slight tone of concern at not knowing who or what was in the room with her. Apparently she had not been told the details of the experiment. Upon not getting a verbal response to her question, K repeated herself. "Hello? Who's there?" Andrew noticed on another screen that her vital signs were also being recorded. He could see K's heart rate and pulse climbing rapidly. She was afraid. Then the grotesque sounds of Henry's heaving and squishing along the floor became more audible. He was moving toward the sound of K's voice.
K squirmed against her handcuffs, flailing an arm out into the darkness to try to feel whatever was around her. She was out of reach of everything. The bed was just a few feet in front of her but her reach was just not quite long enough. Andrew wasn't sure she would be reaching for the bed if she could see anyway. He did think she would probably be reaching for the nightstand where the baseball bat rested. Wait. A baseball bat? Why was that there? Was it part of the experiment or just a simple oversight by the setup committee? Suddenly, a thousand unanswerable questions flooded Andrew's mind. One particular question stood out among the others. Why was he in here by himself? Where were the other researchers? Andrew had become aware of certain things that did not make sense, and had the sneaking suspicion that he was also a part of this little experiment somehow. Still, he could not take his eyes off the monitors despite his own fears. He had to keep watching.
Henry, the monstrous dog, made his way around the beam where K was cuffed. He seemed to be able to see her in the pitch black of the house. The dog stopped to study her. Andrew and K could both hear the sick sounds of Henry's raspy breathing. No doubt at this point, K could probably feel his hot, stinking breath wafting across her face. She didn't move. Andrew glanced quickly at the vitals monitor and saw that her heart rate was spiking. Her pulse was elevated. She was indeed afraid. But Henry just sat there and stared at her until he eventually got tired and laid down on the hardwood floor in front of K, and fell asleep. His snoring wasn't any more pleasant to listen to than his breathing, but it sounded more subdued. K's vitals evened out a bit once she realized that death was not immediately forthcoming. She too fell asleep. Andrew could hear them both snoring in a cacophony of snorts and grunts. He looked at his watch. It was 2 AM. Andrew, all by himself, settled in to a reclining seat in front of the monitors and dozed off. It was the scream that woke him.