CORNERS

It’s all peripheral.

Dr. Andrew Sidirov walked down the hallway to room 312. The patient in question was one Mr. Maximillian Davies, a former research assistant to the now deceased Professor Angus Macnally.

Andrew flipped through the chart on his clipboard for the times of the various medications his patients were taking. It was not yet time for Max’s daily dosages, so now was the opportunity to talk more to the man before he was sedated again.

Two large and burly orderlies in crisp white clothing unlocked 312 for Andrew and let him into the unusual room. Room 312 was unusual in the fact that it was nicknamed “the Round Room,” mainly for its sphere-like construction and the time it had taken to fit the necessary white safety padding within it. Max was simply too dangerous to be put in any other room, as this was the only room where he was nonviolent enough to be dealt with.

Andrew walked into Room 312 along with one of his orderlies for safe measure. The room itself had nothing in it but padding and a toilet, and even the toilet was padded.

He took out his tape recorder and pressed the record switch.

“August 27th, 1985,” he stated. “Patient ID 159378686, Mr. Maximillian Alexander Davies. Caucasian, male, age 31, 5’10” in height, 183 lbs. in weight at last physical. The patient identifies himself as Max.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” said the man before them.

Max looked to be an ordinary man with a block for a face, black stubble swept across that block, that block of a face surrounded by short black hair that was slightly mussed. His dark eyes were wide and wild, an otherwise out-of-place feature for someone who could have passed for the neighborhood plumber. He was in white patient clothes, a short-sleeved shirt and pants, though he was not allowed socks or shoes.

“I’ll be running the recorder for our session, Max,” said Andrew. “Is that acceptable?”

“Oh…Oh, yes,” said Max with an overly-emphasized, vigorous nod of his head. “Yes, yes. You’ll hear them on the tape. You will…No…No, no…No, you shouldn’t listen. You shouldn’t hear them. That’s bad. Don’t listen to them. Don’t hear them.”

“Hear who, Max?” asked Andrew. “Who will I hear?”

“The Corner People,” nodded Max. “That’s what I call them, because they have no name.”

“Who are the Corner People, Max?” asked Andrew. “Why don’t you tell me about them?”

“They come at you diagonally,” nodded Max. “They…They come out of the corners. You can see them out of the corners of your eyes. You can’t see them when you look straight at them. That’s how I keep them away. I look at the corners before they can get me.”

“I see,” replied Andrew. “Let me ask you a question first, Max…Can you tell me why you’re here?”

“It’s because of the professor,” nodded Max. “It’s because I was there when it happened.”

“Why don’t you tell me what happened, Max?” asked Andrew. “Describe it for me.”

“No, no,” said Max as he shook his head in vehement denial. “Noooo. No, I can’t do that.”

“Why not, Max?” asked Andrew.

“That’s what they want,” said Max quietly. “They want me to confess, but…but I have nothing to confess. I didn’t kill the professor.”

“We know you didn’t kill the professor, Max,” said Andrew. “The cause of death was listed as a single gunshot wound to the head. The coroner has determined that Professor Macnally’s death was a suicide…Do you know why the professor would want to kill himself, Max? Any ideas?”

“He…He…He…” stammered Max.

“Take your time, Max,” said Andrew in a soothing tone.

“He found out about them,” nodded Max. “The professor knew all kinds of things about their kind.”

“So do you, Max, don’t you?” asked Andrew. “You were his research assistant. You should know what he was working on.”

“Yes, yes,” said Max quickly. “I was helping him with his research…with…with the artifacts he was studying.”

“Artifacts?” asked Andrew.

“Yes,” nodded Max. “Stone and fragments from before the Sumerians. They worshipped old, old gods back then. Gods long before the time of man. Gods from…from back before there was light.”

“I see,” said Andrew. “So, we’ve established what the professor was researching, but that doesn’t explain his suicide. Can you enlighten me on why he may have killed himself? That information will help me help you, Max.”

“No, no,” said Max with a shake of his head. “No. You don’t see. You don’t see at all.”

“What should I see, then, Max?” asked Andrew.

“You shouldn’t,” said Max as he shook his head yet again, this time with much more emphasis. “No, no, you shouldn’t. Once you see them, they won’t leave you alone. They hide in the corners, you know. That’s where they live. They wait for you to see them, and that’s when they strike…You can’t let them in. You can’t let them get inside.”

“What happens if they get inside, Max?” asked Andrew. “What happens then?”

“They take over,” nodded Max in strange understanding.

“I think, Max, that we should start an increase in your dosage,” said Andrew. “That should prevent you from seeing these ‘Corner People.’ Then, after we’ve carefully measured your progress, we’ll see about moving you to a more comfortable room. One with more amenities.”

Max’s quiet demeanor turned on a dime. His face twisted in both panic and rage as he shook his head in defiance.

“No,” said Max angrily. “No, I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving here…You can’t make me! I’m not leaving here!”

He rushed Andrew, but he did not make it to him. Andrew’s orderly, a big and burly man a full head taller than Max, stepped forward to block the aggressive patient’s hostile advance. They struggled as Max screamed and shouted in rage, though his babbling was incoherent, incomprehensible.

Andrew stepped out of the Round Room as the other orderly rushed in to block the door. There was screaming and shouting from within from Max, but that brief moment of enraged insanity was stopped as the orderlies stepped from the room and locked the door.

Andrew flipped through his clipboard in order to review what increases in dosage he was going to have to give his seriously disturbed and unstable patient.

“I definitely think an increase to his anti-psychotic is in order,” he muttered. “Obviously, I didn’t bring a pen. I’ll change the dosage in my office.”

“Oh, I’ll get that for you, Doc,” said one of the orderlies, the one that had entered the Round Room with him.

“Get what?” asked Andrew in slight confusion.

“Oh, I have a pen,” said the orderly.

He patted his back pockets but found nothing.

“I thought I had it…” he said uncertainly.

He stared at Andrew in confusion, but the only thing on Andrew’s mind at that moment was panic.

“You brought a pen into the room with him!” barked Andrew. “Unlock the door! Immediately!”

He turned to view the port window to the Round Room, and there was Max, silent but smiling, holding up the ballpoint as if it were his ultimate prize.

“Max, no!” yelled Andrew, but it was too late.

Andrew’s disturbed and mentally unstable patient plunged the ballpoint into his own left carotid artery with his right hand. Blood spurted in a crimson fountain across the pristine white of the Round Room, and Max stumbled backwards to fall to the padded floor below.

Andrew directed his two orderlies as quickly as he could.

“You, get on the phone and send the emergency staff here!” he roared. “You, get that door open now!”

The orderlies rushed to complete his commands, but Andrew already knew it was too late to do anything about this severe error in judgement.

**********

Andrew sat down at his desk in his study and released a long sigh. The day had not gone by quickly, and he wanted to lay blame for the horrendous incident at the hospital upon someone else, but he knew the tragedy was entirely his own fault.

He needed to go over Max’s last words for a variety of different reasons, legal being at the forefront, but he was not looking forward to it.

He studied the timesheet in front of him, picked up his handheld recorder, and rewound the device to the correct time in question.

“What was going on in your mind, Max?” he asked himself. “Why did you and the professor kill yourselves, hmm? If only you could tell me…”

He pressed play on his recorder in order to listen to his brief and violent interview with Maximillian.

“August 27th, 1985,” said his voice on the recorder. “Patient ID 159378686, Mr. Maximillian Alexander Davies. Caucasian, male, age 31, 5’10” in height, 183 lbs. in weight at last physical. The patient identifies himself as Max.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” came Max’s voice.

“I’ll be running the recorder for our session, Max,” said Andrew’s voice. “Is that acceptable?”

“He told you you’d hear us on the tape,” came Max’s guttural, whispered voice. “You didn’t listen, did you, Doctor? He told you not to listen, Doctor. He said so.”

The hairs on the back of Andrew’s neck stood on end. This was not part of the interview, though he was certain Max had somehow altered the recording during their session, but how, he could not fathom. Andrew had been holding the recorder the entire time. There was no possible way he could think of as to how Max could have gotten ahold of the device.

“Hear who, Max?” came Andrew’s voice over the tape. “Who will I hear?”

“We’re coming, Doctor,” came Max’s voice. “We’re coming for you.”

The lights in the study flickered as Andrew looked around in sudden fear. That fear gripped his heart like a vice, but he would not give into it. He would not become one of his own patients, mired in delusions and imaginary thinking.

“Who are the Corner People, Max?” asked Andrew’s voice over the tape. “Why don’t you tell me about them?”

“We see you, Doctor,” said Max over the tape. “We all see you now.”

Andrew immediately hit the stop button and shuddered uncontrollably in his seat. He closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, and pulled his wits back together to calm himself.

“It’s all in your imagination, Andrew,” he whispered to himself. “You’re tired, and you’re letting your imagination run wild. Don’t become one of your patients. You know better.”

He took in another deep breath, released it, and opened his eyes.

“There’s no way Max could have recorded anything like that,” he said with a grim smile. “Don’t give in to sleep-deprived hallucinations. He never once had my recorder. There’s no possible way Max could have done that.”

Andrew nodded once to himself in determination and then hit play on his recorder.

“Max is dead,” said Max’s voice over the recorder. “Who do you think you’re talking to, Doctor?”

Andrew hit stop on the recorder as the lights in the study flickered and dimmed. His hands trembled as he set down the recorder upon his desk and pushed it away.

“This is ridiculous,” he said in a shaky voice. “There’s no such thing as the Corner People.”

The lights dimmed further but did not go out. He heard a whispering around him, low at first, a sibilant muttering at the back of his mind, and then the voices picked up, unintelligible, a language that should have never been uttered by anyone.

He could see the dark corner of his study on his south and west walls, the shadowy edge at the top of his room, and then two pinpoints of crimson light, watching, like eyes fixed upon him. He snapped his head to stare into that pitch black of the corner, but there was nothing there.

“Ridiculous…” he choked out.

The whispering grew louder as he struggled to ignore it, but he could see the red pinpoints on the other side of the room within the dark recesses of the top north and west walls, but this time, he refused to look.

“There is no such thing as the Corner People,” he said in a shaky voice. “There is no such thing…”

The whispering was deafening in his head as it threatened to overwhelm him. The pinpoints of red light in the north and west wall corner grew larger, more piercing, but he would not give in to delusions and madness.

“No…” he choked out. “I will not…give in…There is…no…such…thing…”

His shrill, high-pitched scream echoed round the study as a bony, ebony shape with red eyes and long black claws leapt out from the dark corner, leaping out toward him with a loud screech of its own, its gangly arms stretching forth, its knobby hands ready to grasp and rake with elongated fingers.

**********

Andrew whistled a tune as a he walked the corridor of the hospital, his medication chart and tape recorder in hand. He was headed to room 201, but the patient in question was quite harmless, and she had been for some time now.

He stopped in front of her room and motioned for his two orderlies to step back.

“Alice is not a threat,” he told the two burly men. “She has had episodes of sporadic tantrums in the past, but these have ceased within the last four months. Nevertheless, I’d like you two to wait outside the door in case I need you. I believe I can handle her on my own, but I’ll call you in if I need any help.”

“Sure thing, Doc,” said one of the large orderlies.

Andrew nodded once as the other orderly unlocked the door for him. He stepped inside and hit the record switch on his tape recorder as the door shut behind him.

“August 28th, 1985,” he stated into the device. “Patient ID 159378597, Miss Alice Elizabeth Lourdes. Caucasian, female, age 23, 5’4” in height, 111 lbs. in weight at last physical. The patient identifies herself as Alice.”

The young woman before him sat on her bed and stared up at him with eager and interested eyes.

“I’ll be recording you today, Alice,” smiled Andrew. “I take it you have no issue with that?…I ask this every time, but you know I’m required to ask you, right?”

“Yes, Doctor,” nodded the young woman. “I know…I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. I’m better now…I am. I just wanted to say that I’m…I’m doing much better now.”

“I know, Alice,” smiled Andrew. “You’ve been taking less of your medication as recommended, and you’ve improved quite dramatically. However, I think further steps need to be taken.”

The young woman’s thin face wilted in visible disappointment over this news.

“Further steps?” she asked. “I thought I was doing better. I thought I was going to get out soon.”

“Oh, no, dear,” grinned Andrew as he shook his head in denial. “Oh, I think you’ll be here for a good long while…”

Alice’s eyes widened in sudden fear, her mouth dropping open in a silent gasp as Andrew stepped forward, his own eyes glowing with two bright pinpoints of crimson light.

Corners Copyright © 2021 Matthew L. Marlott

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