When John opened his eyes, he was in a dark room. There was water dripping somewhere overhead. His skin crawled, as though things were scurrying across him. He tried to slap at his arm to stop whatever was biting into his wrist, but his arms were restrained. His mouth also tasted like cotton and after pushing his tongue around, he determined that the reason was a cloth stuffed inside his mouth. Whoever had brought him here wanted him to be quiet.
He decided his best defense would be to stay still and wait. While he waited, John listened. There were other sounds besides the dripping water. He could hear the murmur of voices, but they were far away and every now and then the shriek of an alarm. The familiar klaxon jolted his memory and he knew where he was. He was in the state hospital. Why, he still didn’t know, but he had an idea. Then, as his ears became more attuned to his surroundings, he heard ragged breathing. Someone was in the room with him.
Suddenly a bright light came on, blinding John after having been in the dark for so long. He closed his eyes, but even through the lids his eyes hurt. He felt fingers poking at him. Harsh hands pried his lids open and shined a light directly into them. He couldn’t see anything beyond the light and then his captor released his hold and he closed his eyes again, grateful for the reprieve. Fingers forced their way into his mouth and the gag was removed.
“Would you like some water?” The voice was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He’d heard it recently. His mind went back to the apartment where he’d been attacked by someone he couldn’t see, someone claiming to be Dan Brown, but that voice had been deeper, more harsh.
“Yes please,” he said. The pain in his eyes was beginning to ease. He felt something at his lips and realized a straw had been pushed into his mouth. He took a long pull and then gagged. Whatever the liquid was, it wasn’t liquid. He tried to roll over, but his arms were still restrained. He coughed, trying to clear the thick liquid from his mouth. “What the hell is this?” He asked when he was finally able to speak again.
“A concoction I came up with… it’s mostly water. You don’t want to know what the other ingredient is.”
John’s eyes were no longer burning. He opened them only to see hands reaching for him. His mouth was forced open and more of the liquid poured in. Then his jaw was forced shut so hard his teeth nearly bit into his tongue. He tried not to swallow, but then he felt the liquid sliding down his throat and his reflex took over.
“Don’t throw it up or I’ll have to make you swallow some more.”
His captor stepped back and John got a look at his face. “Dr. Mendler?”
“That’s one of my names. Another is Dan Brown.”
John felt the blood drain from his face at the mention of Denise’s rapist. But no, that couldn’t be correct. He’d seen pictures of Dan Brown and he looked nothing like Dr. Mendler.
“I see you’re confused. Let me explain. A few years ago I was approached by the Defense Department to help come up with new interrogation techniques… something more effective than torture, which isn’t as effective as they would like. Torture someone long enough and they’ll tell you anything you want to hear… or die. That’s where I came in. They wanted to know if there was a way to access their memories after death.”
“That’s… that’s insane.”
“We live in insane times. While I was there I met a scientist named Dan Brown. He was working on another project for the military…”
“An invisibility cloak.”
“Yes, exactly. He was having some difficulty with it, while I was having some success with my project. Oh, no, I didn’t find a way to access memories after death, but I had found a way to bring the dead back to life.”
The doctor laughed when he saw John’s reaction to that. “I see you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t either, if I hadn’t seen it myself. But it wasn’t all a complete success, there were problems.”
“Did they want to eat brains?”
“No, John, nothing like that. It took a lot of electricity to bring them back… their brains were pretty much fried. They couldn’t tell me anything. Then I got an idea. I approached Brown and offered to help him with the cloak.”
“No, John, you don’t, but you soon will. I believed that electricity was the key to making the cloak work. I also hoped that the cloak, once activated, would protect the brains of the dead I was experimenting on. It didn’t quite go as planned. Dan put on the cloak and I hooked him up to my machine. The cloak had been modified so that the electricity would affect only the cloak and not Dr. Brown.”
“Let me guess,” John said, feeling ill, “something went wrong.”
“The cloak caught fire. I tried to turn off the electricity, but as soon as I touched the controls the electricity jumped from Brown to me. We were connected by the surge in power and I could hear his thoughts, and he could hear mine. It only lasted a few seconds and then the power failed. I should have been dead, but I wasn’t. What had happened to Dr. Brown though, I didn’t know. At least not right away. He had simply vanished.”
“The invisibility cloak?”
“That’s what I thought and that is partially right. It wasn’t until later I found out what happened. At first I thought I was losing my mind. I would hear his voice in my head and then the pain started. I was losing large periods of time. So I locked myself into a room with a camera, and recorded what happened.”
“And what did happen?”
“I watched my body change. One moment I was me and the next I was Dan Brown. But only for a moment, only during the beginning of the metamorphosis. He was hideous looking, the cloak had fused to his skin, reshaping the way he looked. Once the change was complete though, he… we became invisible.”
“You’re saying your bodies were fused?” John shook his head, refusing to believe that. Dan Brown might have created an invisibility cloak, he knew that was true after his experience at Denise’s apartment, but this, no. “That’s crazy… it’s like something out of a science fiction movie.”
“I know you don’t believe me, that you think I suffer from a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde Syndrome, but you will. The metamorphosis happens every sixteen hours. Dan Brown is due to make his appearance… or disappearance, depending on how you look at it, right about now.”
Dr. Mendler’s body began to contort. John struggled against his restraints, trying to get loose. It was clear to him that the man was as insane as some of his patients, maybe even more. Then he saw the shape of the doctor’s head change. It wasn’t really a transmutation, but more like a cocoon opening up and something else emerging. Something hideous and deformed. And then the creature vanished.
To Be Continued: