After some years, Theodore saw his hard work rewarded. He asked to work with young patients with strong minds who would have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, paranoia, or hallucinations. Then, he started to torture them, submitting them to endless hours of stress to force them to create worlds with creatures inside, and that way, try to figure out how real these creatures became to them. He put them into hot water bathtubs closed hermetically, isolated them from any sound or light, and removed all medication to be sure that their minds were lucid and clear. The screams were terrible, even after putting them out of the water, and that confirmed to Theodore that he was right: the mind can create worlds that feel completely real for the host. But it wasn’t enough. What he really wanted to know was the real potential of the mind to create a real creature. Can the mind create something that could actually harm the body of the patient? Leaving visible marks that he could document? Is the mind powerful enough to damage the body in order to keep an illusion alive? Or to even give life to those illusions?
Theodore knew that he was close to the answer and he didn’t want to surrender, even when two of his patients killed themselves, tearing apart their veins with their teeth during a session. That’s how real those creatures and worlds were to them. So real, they preferred to die in awful conditions than be trapped by one of them. He continued his experiments, being crueler, and more merciless, with longer sessions and drugs that empowered the psychosis of his patients.
The doctor had a favorite patient. She never screamed, and it was unnecessary to drug her after the sessions because she was always in complete calm. With her eyes lost in the wall, she talked several times about a living darkness. A world made entirely of such a dense darkness that it was like clay. She explained to the doctor that something that lived there said to her that it wanted to get out. That discovery made Theodore focus even harder on the girl, putting her every day on long and hard sessions. He did the same with the rest of the patients, trying to force them to experiment the same as the girl. He didn’t care how many needed to die to prove that he was right and shut up all that laughter that didn’t let him sleep at night, chasing him for the corridors of the sanatorium and resonating in the walls of his head.
One day, the little girl took his hand after a session. She was calm, like always, but this time she was looking directly into the doctor’s eyes instead of just the wall behind him.
“I can make it come out of my head.” She said. “I only need a container and some blood from your dead patients. It’s like a ritual or something like that, said the thing.”
“That’s what it said?”
“Yes. It told me that the horror that your patients experiment in the darkness is what created it. But it still feels weak and needs that blood to eat… or something like that. Do you want me to tell it something back?”
Theodore smiled with nervousness. He was close. He could feel it. He knew that nobody talked with the little girl and that everything that she was saying was a perfect and beautiful product of her imagination. He wanted to try until the end. Even if that meant killing another patient with his own hands, he didn’t care. He wanted to know if she was capable of projecting that thing out of her head. So, he opened one by one the rest of the bathtubs and discovered with joy that the other two patients were dead, so he took their blood with a syringe. When he opened the last bathtub, he saw the open eyes of a young man. They were lost in nothing. His mouth was whispering things with no sense. Theodore looked at the girl and thought that she was the only one that he needed in reality. She was the key to his peace. He put his hand on the head of the man and slowly sunken it. Theodore expected that man to fight back. But he didn’t. He just continued whispering things under the water until his lungs stopped breathing. Then, the doctor took his blood too with the syringe and walked towards the little girl.
“Here, now which container do you want?” She looked around, and after a moment, she took a skull that was on the shelf. “Why a skull?”
“I don’t know. I think that it will like it. I guess it goes with the blood, don’t you think?”
Again, she was looking directly at the doctor’s eyes, and that made a chill run over his spine. The peace and calm with which that little girl talked about such macabre subjects were disturbing. For a second, a doubt appeared in his mind. «Maybe I went too far.» He looked at the last bathtub, the steam came out doing swirls. The room was really hot, steamy, and smelled terrible. One of the patients had peed on the water or maybe something worse, and that disgusting smell mixed with the metal of the fresh blood smell. “Should I stop?” He asked himself. But then again, the laughs in his head appeared, resonating over and over again. Those bodies. Those failures were making the voices gain strength. They were so loud that they forced him to put his hands over his ears. He needed to continue. That was the only way. He needed to prove that he was right. That was the only point
Theodore looked at the little girl. She looked at him and then at the skull. She turned it over and showed it to the doctor.
“Put the blood here.”
He obeyed. Then she walked towards the bathtub, and with care to not spill a single drop of the blood, she entered again with the skull on her white hands.
“Close the door, please.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s what it wants” Theodore obeyed again, and then he sat and waited.
After one hour, the young doctor started to get angry. Nothing was happening. He started to walk up and down. Looking at the bodies on the other bathtubs. Listening to the laughs of his colleagues, laughing at him for having trusted a crazy little girl. Because that is what she was: a fucking stupid crazy little bitch that had lied to him. His eyes went from the dead young man to the closed bathtub. How was he going to explain all the deaths? How was he going to explain that everything failed again? How was he going to face the looks? The murmurs in the corridors? How was he going to be able to look at his mentor again? Or even going to another dinner knowing that he is a failure? And it was her fault. Not his. She lied. She lied. She lied…
Theodore walked then furious towards the bathtub.
“I will kill her too. I will do it. She deserves it. And then I will tell everyone that she went crazy and killed the rest. I will…”
When he opened the bathtub, he saw her floating calmly in the hot water. Sleeping. Without any skull on her hands. He remembered with clarity how she entered there with the skull. Where was it? He was there all the time. Nobody took it. Nobody opened the bathtub. How was that possible then? And then, he felt it. A cold breath in the middle of that wet hot steamy room. He swallowed and turned around slowly. The first thing that he saw was the blood dripping on the floor. A lot of blood dripped from above and rose again. He followed the blood with his eyes, and he saw the skull in the ceiling, with the open mouth facing the ground. Once Theodore looked at it, the skull closed its mouth and looked directly at him. From the back of its head, some arteries and veins started to appear surrounding a growing darkness that formed the silhouette of a long snake. The veins continue growing until they form a sort of kind of wing without a membrane. Around it appeared, one by one, round violet lights that played with his wings. Theodore counted them. There was one for each dead patient.
“Who ar… Who are you?» Said the doctor trying to show his temper.
“Me?” Said a deep and torn voice coming out from the skull. “I am the Blood and Darkness Dragon. I am the Insanity Dragon. You created me, and your patients called me in the darkness of their madness… She told me that you wanted to see me.” The little girl got up from the water, and for the first time, the doctor could see her smile. “She is really special. She never has fear. She had it once, and the darkness cured her. Now she lives there forever, with others like me. She isn’t like you… Why are you shaking so much? Where is the color of your cheeks? You wanted me so much that you didn’t care about the suffering of others, and now that I am here, you are scared? So disappointing…”
“I didn’t create you… She did!”
“No, you didn’t. Your selfishness did. Your disgusting experiment did. All that insanity and suffering did it. I am the darkness that lived in their tortured minds. I am the blood that ran across their veins. I am the pain and the fear from their hearts. The girl only set me free. But you… You are the reason why I am alive!” Said the dragon putting its face over to Theodore’s face. “And now it’s time for you to enjoy your success! Now you will see what the mind it’s really capable of doing!”
The little girl closed the door of the bathtub slowly at the time the dragon opened his mouth again and released a scream that paralyzed the young doctor. Then it wrapped its cold but soft body around Theodore, putting him in the deepest and dense darkness. So thick that he was able to breathe it, filling his lungs with that cold, soft wet darkness. He couldn’t scream. He couldn’t see. His heartbeats were the only noise that his ears could hear. He was trapped like his patients were trapped before him. He was sane, but not for much longer.
The little girl opened the door again, kissed the skull, and walked to her room as if nothing happened.
The next morning, the doctors found the young Theodore Black completely insane, covered in marks of his nails and teeth. Pulling his hair, scratching his eyes and his ears. Clamming that he couldn’t see or hear. Screaming like his patients before him.
When the doctors asked the little girl, she only said: “The experiment went well.”
The doctors isolated him. It was a lost case, even for the Castell Stone Sanatorium.
But he wasn’t alone. The darkness will always be watching.
He will not have the privilege to die like his patients before him.