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Black Mist in the Air
“Chief Watts here. Can-can you speak up please? A what? A robbery? And a suicide attempt? We’ll get right on it. Thank you.” Patrick Watts, the chief of police of Perryville, Wyoming, hung up his phone. “Sergeant Taylor?” he shouted, his voice carrying out of his office. A thin, blonde man ran into his office, trying to reorganize the papers he was carrying in his noodle-like arms.
“What is it, sir?” Taylor panted, dropping the papers onto Patrick’s desk. Patrick was slightly displeased about a stack or random papers being dropped onto his desk, but there was work to do. He looked at Taylor and sighed.
“There’s been a robbery,” Patrick explained, making Taylor’s eyebrows twitch a little. “And a suicide attempt.” Taylor nodded. They had seen a lot in their town. This was nothing new.
“I’ll get Adams.” Taylor said, picking up the papers from the desk. Patrick sighed as Taylor left. When the call came in, he had been getting ready to leave. His wife, Ariel, was expecting him at home. She always told him he worked too hard and needed to rest more. He wished he could spend more time with her, but the crime rates had been going up in town.
Taylor returned to the office with Curtis Adams, a well-built African-American officer.
“We’re ready, sir.” Adams said, nodding at Patrick. Patrick stood up, walking out of the office. He, Taylor, and Adams got into the police car, turning on the siren, whose red lights highlighted the dust and sand in the town’s warm summer evening air.
A young dark-haired officer was driving, with Patrick riding shotgun and Adams and Taylor in the backseat. Adams grinned at Patrick and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Sir,” he said as Patrick turned around, “I bought these sweet aviators, but they don’t really work on me. They’d look awesome on you, though.” Patrick grinned. Adams always had such a great attitude, but was serious at the right times, which made him an excellent cop. Patrick aspired to be like Adams, but he was more of a pessimist and was serious all the time.
“Sure, why not.” he said, taking the glasses and putting them on.
“Wow.” said Taylor. “With those on you’ll get all the ladies!” The guy driving turned to glance at Patrick and grinned, giving him a thumbs-up. Patrick laughed.
“I’m fine with the lady I have now, thank you very much.” He said. He started to remove the glasses, but Adams pushed them back on.
“Keep those on.” He encouraged Patrick. Patrick was about to protest, but the man driving stopped the car.
“We’re here.” the driver said quietly. Patrick, Taylor, and Adams thanked the driver and walked into the small glass building labelled SafeBank. Patrick snorted. So much for safe.
The situation still seemed slightly funny to Patrick until he saw a small group of people surrounding a man on the ground. Only he wasn’t a man. The white floor of the bank under the man had an ocean of blood, emanating from the man’s stomach. The flashes of the man’s skin visible through the legs of the crowd were moonlight pale from blood loss. Patrick ran towards the crowd. His rule was to try to save the person, no matter what they had done. He was empathetic that way.
“Excuse me-” Patrick pushed through the crowd. “Pardon me-sorry ma’am-I’m with the police-excuse me, sir-” He eventually got to the center of the circle, breathing heavily. He stood over the man, shocked at how awful the sight was. The man’s eyes were closed tightly, his breathing ragged, his mouth stained with blood, which came in large bursts from his mouth.
“What happened?” Patrick heard Taylor say to a pale-faced guard in the corner of the room.
“I-I don’t know to be honest.” The guard stammered, looking like he was going to be sick. “He walked in, seeming expressionless, then suddenly went completely berserk, threatening us with his gun and yelling at us to give him the money or he’d shoot us. Then he went expressionless again, but shot himself in the stomach. I figure it’s something mental, but it’s still strange to me…” he trailed off.
Patrick knelt down over the man’s body. Without warning, the man opened his eyes and gave Patrick direct eye contact. They were black, streaked with red, and had no pupils. Before Patrick could process this, the corners of the man’s mouth turned up, and he parted his lips to show his teeth, stained red from blood. He uttered a word in barely a whisper, but it was unmistakable.
“Mine.” He said, breathing metallic air into Patrick’s face. His eyes closed and his body fell to the floor, unmoving. Something that looked like a black mist spread out of his nostrils, and that was the last thing Patrick saw.
Ariel Watts waited anxiously at home for her husband. He said he’d be back soon, but it was 10:00 and there was no sign of him. She had trouble sleeping without him. Why did his job have to be so dangerous? She worried about him constantly. The stress and intensity of his job had seemed to be weighing him down more than usual lately.
There was a knock at the door, startling her a little, but she ran to the door eagerly.
“Who is it?” she called.
“Curtis Adams, police.” said a voice. Ariel opened the door.
“Is everything-” she started, but then noticed her husband standing there, in a pair of aviator sunglasses that brought out his charcoal-colored hair. “Pat!” she exclaimed, running towards him and embracing him. To her shock, he did not return her hug. He just stood with his arms at his sides stared at her. Although she couldn’t see his eyes because of his glasses, she could feel them burning into her. It made her shiver with unease. “Pat, are you ok?” she asked him, putting her hands on either side of his face. He remained expressionless and glazed. She turned to Adams, who was there with a skinny blonde officer. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked desperately, pleadingly.
“We don’t know, exactly.” Adams answered. “He just became expressionless suddenly after examining a body. We think he’s in shock.” Ariel stared at her husband. She knew this would probably happen. He had been acting more and more stressed lately. She sighed.
“Maybe he’ll feel better in the morning?” she said, partially a question. Adams shrugged.
“You know how to make him feel better better than we do.” he said. “Will you be okay if we leave him here with you? You can call us if anything happens.”
“Yeah.” she said, putting on a brave face. “I’ll be fine.”
“Alright.” said Adams. “Goodnight, Mrs. Watts.”
“Goodnight.” Ariel replied.
As if suspended by a string, Patrick walked through the doorway, not showing any expression. He just stood staring at the hallway that led to the bedroom he shared with Ariel. Adams closed the door with one last perplexed look at Patrick, his footfalls walking off into the night, fading away.
Patrick stood staring at the hallway for a few more seconds, then marched into the hallway leading to the bedroom in what Ariel was sure was a perfectly straight line. She shivered. He was even worse than she thought. Cautiously, she got ready for bed.
When she got into the bedroom, he was already there. Just sitting. Staring. It was unsettling, and gave her a panicked feeling that hadn’t come for years. This feeling was what made her see a therapist during her teen years, what made her take Prozac until she was twenty-nine. Now she was thirty-two, no longer seeing a therapist and no longer taking Prozac or doing meditation exercises. But the look Patrick was giving her, the way he was just staring at the woman he had been married to for five years with no emotion, it just made everything come rushing back.
In the low light, his eyes looked darker, almost demonic. Ariel shuddered. It was going to take a long time for her to fall asleep. Reluctantly, she climbed into the bed next to him. He kept staring straight ahead, not moving a muscle or showing emotion of any kind.
“Good night, Pat.” she said awkwardly. He didn’t respond, which scared her even more. The first time they had met, they had hit it off. As their relationship was built, there were hardly ever any awkward moments. They could always find something to talk about, or some joke to make. This was becoming scarier every moment. Ariel turned the light off and closed her eyes. He was probably just in shock and would be better in the morning. This thought flew through her head as she drifted off.
Ariel woke up to a strange sound. Halfway between a growl and a roar. Shocked, she turned on the light. Patrick was in the corner of the room, facing the wall, on all fours. Ariel gasped. She hoped and prayed that it was a dream. Then he turned around. Ariel screamed. His eyes were pitch black, with streaks in them that looked like bright red streams of evil. Patrick saw her and roared, advancing towards her. Ariel rushed to the other side of the room, gasping and panting. She could feel her lungs tightening up and her heart pounding so hard it could have burned a hole in her chest.
Patrick was still advancing towards her. He lunged forward, grabbing her by the wrists and baring his teeth. Were they sharper? Ariel thought it had to be a dream. But she took in all of Patrick’s facial features, and everything she knew was there. The round eyes. The thick nose. The fleshy ears. Even the mosquito bite he got the night before, which she had forgotten about. Tears began to stream from her eyes.
“Pat,” she sobbed “Pat, please, it’s me!” He growled and jerked his head back as if he intended to bite her.
Then suddenly, it stopped. Patrick stepped back and let go of her wrists. The angry look on his face faded back into a neutral expression. His eyes stayed the same, but seemed less evil and demonic. Ariel cried even harder. What had just happened? His condition was even worse than she thought.
He started walking back towards the bed. Ariel grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911 in less than two seconds.
“911 operator, what is your emergency?” said the voice on the other end.
“Um-uh-hi.” said Ariel, still panicked. “There’s-there’s something wrong with my husband. He’s conscious, just unresponsive and sometimes violent. There’s some kind of weird substance in his-in his eyes-”
“What’s your current location?” The operator asked.
“78 West Vine St, Perryville.” Ariel answered. “Please hurry!”
“Don’t worry, ma’am, we’re sending an ambulance right now.” The operator reassured her.
“Thank-thank you.” Ariel stuttered, hanging up. She looked at Pat. He was sitting in the same position he was in when they went to bed. She decided to be brave, to get him to the hospital without having another panic attack. “Pat,” she said, not wanting to let him hear her voice shake, “Can we go out and sit on the couch?”
Patrick stood up and walked out to the living room in a perfectly straight line, as if he was a soldier. Ariel sighed and followed him. He sat down on the couch with his back perfectly straight.
The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and Ariel lost track of the emergency vehicles in front of her house, and the men who came in and attempted to talk with Patrick and eventually carried him away on a stretcher. He showed no response to them talking to him, touching him, and even strapping him to the stretcher.
The ride to the hospital was a blur, with Ariel seated in a police car behind the ambulance. She was told she would get updates during the ride if Patrick showed any improvement, even the slightest signs of improvement. No updates came.
Doctor Russell Keller was working the night shift and enjoying it immensely. He always wanted to be that hero doctor, like on TV. It always gave him a thrill to think of walking on the street and hearing whispers of “There goes Dr. Keller. He gave the King of Mozambique a heart transplant and saved his life.” He wished the King of Mozambique or anyone important could find their way to Perryville and meet him. That way he could prove that he was one of the best doctors in the world. He wasn’t handsome, short and skinny with wisps of white hair covering his balding head, but that was the only bad thing about him, he always said.
He was busy thinking about this as he walked to go look at a man who had been brought in around 2 am. The room number was 239, he remembered as he walked down the hall. Wow, he sure was good at remembering things. He smiled to himself as he walked into the room.
There was a pale woman with hair of no special shade of brown standing in the room, looking very distressed.
“Hello, ma’am,” said Dr. Keller. “Are you the patient? Because I’ll help you and you’ll tell all your friends how smart I am.” The woman shook her head and pointed at a man who was sitting at the edge of the bed. The man was tall and looked about 36. He had dark hair and- wait, what was wrong with his eyes? They were dark. Black. With red streaks in them.
Dr. Keller had never seen anything like it, but he had to prove that he was the most amazing doctor in the world. Then maybe he would gain some popularity and become a celebrity doctor.
“Good morning, sir.” He said. “My name is Doctor Russell Keller, and I’m very, very qualified to help you. Why have you come to the hospital this morning?” The man just stared at him. A wave of unease swept over Keller. This was one of the strangest things he had ever seen. And with almost 30 years with a medical degree, he had seen a lot. Still, he could solve it.
“I’m guessing you’re his wife?” He said to the woman. She nodded. He smiled. “I knew it! In case you haven’t noticed, ma’am, my intelligence is above average.” The woman looked back at her husband, looking put out. “What’s your name, ma’am?” Keller asked her.
“Ariel Watts.” the woman said quietly. “That’s my husband, Patrick Watts.”
“Patrick Watts?” said Keller. “Like the chief of police?”
“Yes.” said Ariel, sucking in her lips and looking at the floor.
“What’s wrong with him exactly?” Keller asked.
“I-I don’t know.” said Ariel.
“Could it be that he’s not good enough?” Keller suggested. Ariel looked at him.
“Excuse me?” she said. He could see the venom in her eyes. It was like the venom of a bee; not strong enough to kill you, but strong enough to give you pain.
“Well,” said Keller, “Being a cop doesn’t require a very high IQ. Maybe his intelligence faded and now he’s just a mindless drone. Being a doctor is better. I happen to be one of the smartest doctors in the world-” Ariel stepped forward in fury, as if she wanted to slap him.
“If you ever talk that way about my husband again, I’ll report you to the hospital management.” she snarled through clenched teeth. “My husband is the chief of police, he could get you fired! Just stop thinking too highly of yourself for two seconds and help my husband like the hospital hires you to do!”
Keller was speechless. How dare she put him down! Did she even know who he was? But then he remembered that geniuses are not well understood by average people like Ariel. He turned away from her and prepared his stethoscope.
“Ok, Mr. Watts,” he said to Patrick. “I’m just gonna take your heart rate.” Patrick didn’t move. Keller walked towards Patrick, holding the stethoscope.
Patrick suddenly let out an earsplitting, bloodcurdling scream that could have broken the windows. He rushed towards Keller with outstretched arms. Before Keller had time to react, Patrick had flattened him against the wall. Ariel screamed. Keller gasped. Chief of police or not, this man was going to have a huge punishment for hurting a genius! Before Keller could think about what kind of punishment Patrick would get, Patrick grabbed the sides of Keller’s face. In one swift movement, he twisted Keller’s head with a sickening snap. Keller dropped lifeless to the floor.
Ariel began to cry. Patrick turned to look at her, calm and expressionless once again.
“Pat,” she sobbed, “What’s happening to you?”
Patrick didn’t answer. He just stared, which made her cry harder. Patrick looked away from her, his attention on the surgical tools on the table next to the bed. In a perfectly straight line, he walked away from Keller’s body, which was creating a puddle of blood on the ground. He stopped, standing over the table. He picked up a scalpel.
“Pat,” said Ariel, her voice shaking. “What are you doing?” He raised the scalpel, not aiming it at her, or Dr. Keller, or anyone. He was aiming it at his wrist. “Pat, no!” Ariel screamed, rushing towards him. It was too late. He fell to the ground, blood rushing out of his wrist.
Ariel screamed louder than she ever had before. She started crying hysterically, rushing towards him. Kneeling next to him, she cradled his head in her arms. Still crying, she looked down at his face. He was coughing and wheezing, with color draining from his face. His mouth opened.
“Mine.” he wheezed. His eyes closed. Black mist was coming out of his nostrils. Ariel stopped crying.
Nurse Mabel Gleason was running. She had been told to investigate the screams coming from room 239. Panting, she got to the wing where the room was and scanned the sign that told which rooms were where. It was only her first month working at the Perryville Hospital, having just graduated college, so she was still figuring out how to navigate the building.
Finally, she found the room. Wheezing, she thrust the door open and screamed at the sight inside. The body of Dr. Russell Keller was on the ground in a puddle of blood. Dr. Keller wasn’t the most popular doctor. Mabel had never talked to him, but had heard from the other nurses that he was extremely self-centered, and also ugly.
A few feet away from Keller’s body was the body of a dark-haired man. Patrick Watts, the head nurse had told her his name was. There was a woman next to his body kneeling. She was probably his wife.
“Ma’am?” Mabel stammered. “Are you alright?” The woman stood up and turned around to look at Mabel. Mabel gasped, too terrified to scream. The woman’s eyes were completely black, streaked with red. The woman stared at Mabel, then smiled. The smile could have killed any plant, any animal. It was not a nice smile. It was evil and made Mabel take a step backward. The woman stopped smiling and walked out of the room in what looked to Mabel like a perfectly straight line.