Pressing the sharp tip of the chisel hard against the young woman’s temple, I screamed at her to settle down and hold still. I was her doctor, I knew best. I kept telling her this, over and over, my voice rising in pitch and volume, my patience diminishing, my contempt for these unruly patients increasing. Didn’t they understand that I only wanted to help them? As I’d told her, I just needed to get inside her brain. If I could remove the plague infected section which caused her insanity, she would be cured, and then we could all leave this god-forsaken island. I steadied the chisel and raised my mallet high to strike.
The male patient on the gurney to my right struggled against his restraints, spouting off some rhetoric about not hurting her. Oh, the cries of the insane, how they bore me! “Leave her alone, don’t hurt her! Please, doctor, please!” Always with the begging and pleading. Such weakness; how it sickens me! I am far above this station –a genius such as myself has no business in these wretched climes. How did I get here?
I felt my hands shaking. A sudden, agonizing jolt wracked my brain. Static, as if that of an olden television set in between channels, spit flurries of white across my vision. The well-lit operating room became a dirty, decaying chamber full of cobwebs and ruin. The female patient in front of me was tied to a grimy, rust-covered gurney, held tight by some type of colorful rope that I did not recognize. The man beside me was also strapped down with a similar colorful rope. He wore strange clothes which I’d never before seen: a coat made of a material unknown to me, orange and shiny and slick, that made odd swooshing noises when he turned beneath his restraints. As well, his shoes and trousers were indeed not from a time familiar to me. He howled at me in protest, his face turning red, spittle flying from his mouth, clenching his fists and struggling. I shook my head and blinked my eyes. It must be the ghosts again, I thought. When will they cease with their torments?
My eyes turned back to the male patient. He was once again dressed in his urine stained gown, his wrists bound with white cloth that held him to an almost clean gurney. I smiled. He screamed. Turning back to my female patient, I raised my mallet once again.
A hard punch landed in my gullet. I doubled over, dropping the mallet and chisel. My patient had somehow wiggled free of her restraints. Curses! Another blow landed hard on my back, sending me to my knees. The woman was screaming. I could hear rustling cloth. She was freeing the male patient. No! They cannot escape! I must complete my work! I cried out for them to halt, snatching up my surgical tools and rushing after them as they fled the operating room.
I gave chase to my patients through the corridors of the hospital, dodging pale and dirty patients who wandered the halls, their black eyes staring. Their mouths hung open, emitting a green vapor and filling the air with moans of pain and horror. How strange, the hospital’s residents seemed to appear almost translucent. Had they always looked as such? As we rushed past, the loitering patients turned to follow.
Determination blazed in my mind –these two would not get away! We scrambled through another short hallway, down several flights of stairs, and burst through a service entrance, out into the night. I grinned. I had anticipated their steps. As I suspected, they were heading for the tower!
The sweet smell of rot and burned corpses filled my nostrils as I ran. The moans of the following patients echoed behind me. The screams of the two escapees led the way in front of me. Sweat poured from my brow, raining down my skin, stinging my eyes. I called out, commanding them to halt. I was their doctor, why weren’t they listening? Without looking back, my two patients rounded a corner and disappeared through the arched tower door.
The ghoulish moans increased behind me, growing closer and closer with every step. I glanced back to see an endless stream of pale, rotted and decomposing patients hurtling toward me. They seemed to move effortlessly, as if floating at an ever increasing velocity, howling, crying out for my doom. Their empty eyes burned terror into my heart. These foul beings were not my patients; these were the cursed apparitions, back to torment me again! But they would not have their victory. I ran on, fleeing into the tower.
Pursuing the living while being pursued by the dead, I pressed on, up and up the tower steps. Finally, reaching the top, I burst into an open room. Cool night air poured in through the open windows that lined the walls. I cried for my patients to show themselves. Without word, they pounced from the shadows, both assailing me at once. Grappling with one another, we stumbled back and forth. The male patient leveled a blow to my side. He screamed fiercely at me, calling me by a foreign name but speaking as if he knew me, telling me that some ghoulish force had taken control of my mind, begging me to halt my rampage. There was another flash of static –fierce and hot- and a quick, jarring memory filled my mind: A chance meeting at a café in Venice, a boat, a secret trip to a haunted island. Then my wits returned. I knew it was but a ruse, for he was my patient and I, his doctor and there was but one objective: to free him from the clutches of insanity.
During our struggle, none of us had noticed the crowd of apparitions that flooded into the room. Icy hands gripped my shoulders, neck, and arms. My patients screamed anew, crying out for help. The female patient shouted in my face. I blinked. I saw her. It was Clarice, an American traveler who, along with her fiance Michael, had befriended me two days prior. We had met in the city. I had invited them to join me on my paranormal adventuring.
I saw my own hands. I saw my own clothes. I remembered who I was. Horror filled my being at the realization that I had attacked my companions. But there wasn’t time to worry about that, for the ghosts were throwing us off the tower.
The three of us fell, screaming into the night. A dense bank of mist which surrounded the tower’s base swallowed us away. I waited for the impact of solid earth and the smashing of my brittle bones but such pain and agony never arrived. I floated in the mist, calling out to my friends, pleading for their forgiveness. Their voices echoed back at me from somewhere deep inside the fog. Then it came- the dreaded crash, only, it was soft. I rolled along the ground and came to a stop. The mist had deposited us at the island’s edge. We three watched in shock as the fog left us, floating out to sea and fading into the night.
It seemed as if we screamed until we had no voices left. Just before dawn we were rescued by a passing craft helmed by local fishermen who were kind enough to ferry us back to Venice. Upon returning, my fellow adventurers and I vowed to never set foot on Poveglia again, the cursed plague island. May its malignant ruins one day be buried deep beneath the sea!