The Man Within, Chapter 5 – a novella excerpt



Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

I’m woken up by screams. I look at the clock beside my bed—11:42 p.m. It must have been a dream, but my heart beats a mile a minute. I lie on my back and breath slowly to calm myself. Then I hear them again. Except this time, it’s no random person screaming—it’s mother. I immediately jump out of bed and race to her bedroom.

“Get out,” she screams.

“Leave me alone.”

Then I hear a crash just as I reach her door. I barge into her room, ready for confrontation. But when I get in, all I see is her, alone on her bed. There’s a splash of something on the wall next to the door. It looks like water. Then below the splash, I see shards of the water glass which she must have flung at the door. I’m suddenly more afraid. A physical assailant is one thing but one confined to the mind is as elusive as he is dangerous.

“They are after me,” she screams at me frantically.

“They won’t rest until they have me.”

“I can’t go back to work tomorrow. It’s too dangerous.”

None of it makes sense, yet she is ghostly pale and trembles like a leaf. I should have insisted on her going to the hospital when she didn’t make the appointment two weeks ago.

“I don’t understand. Who’s after you?”

“It’s them, William. Craig must have sent them. They won’t stop. Even now I hear them.”

Her gaze sweeps the room, eyes bloodshot and wild.

“Maybe it’s too late. Maybe they already have me. Why else won’t their chants stop?”

I move closer to her but cautiously.

“Them? Who is them?”

“The humanoid automatons that want to control me. They want to inject nanomolecules into my brain.”

I don’t know what to say. But I make sure not to display any shock on my face. I only continue in a casual tone.

“Are you sure about this? Are you sure you’re not . . . mistaken.”

I move a few steps closer.

“Of course I’m sure. They were right in here. I can still hear them.”

She touches her temples.

“It is inevitable; you can’t fight inevitability, they keep on chanting. It’s maddening.”

She actually believes what she is saying. There is nothing I can do for her except calm her before calling the hospital.

“But they are not in here right now.”

“Yes, they must have jumped through the window before you came in,” she says desperately.

I look at the windows and they are closed. There isn’t as much as a breeze seeping through their hinges. I feel a stab to my heart. I can’t lose her too.

“Maybe it was a bad dream. Maybe Craig doesn’t really want to control you.”

She looks at me sharply.

“Why are you defending him?”

“I’m not defe . . .”

“Are you even my son?”

I hesitate. She grabs the lamp on her night stand. The lamp shade falls to the floor. She pulls the cord from the wall socket and the room gets a little darker. She holds the lamp stand like a weapon. I move back.

“He must have sent you.”

“Of course I’m your son,” I plead with whatever reason is left in her.

“Or he has already infiltrated you,” she says like she talks to herself.

I’m now afraid—for her and for myself.

“Don’t you see that you’re acting crazy? Put down the lamp before you hurt someone.”

She only glares at me.

“I don’t know who to trust anymore,” she mutters.

“Get out of my bedroom,” she says in a measured voice.

“What! Mom, I won’t leave you like this.”

“I just need you to leave,” she says forcefully.

“Mom . . .”

“Get out,” she screams, the little composure finally gone.

I just stand there. She throws the lamp and it hits me on my left arm. I immediately leave her bedroom. It is only after closing the door behind me that I feel the sharp pain. When I look at my upper left arm, I see blood. It’s just a scratch. It must have been the wire support for the lamp shade that grazed me. I head straight for the phone in the hall. As I call for an ambulance, I hear her lock her door.

With the ambulance on its way, I silently stand outside her room. As distressing as it is to hear her whispering to herself, it is infinitely better than thinking of her hurting herself. It is like my ears become only fine-tuned to her and ignore every other sound. Hearing her, alive, becomes the most important thing. The seven minutes I wait for the ambulance are the longest of my life.

When the ambulance arrives, the paramedics have to break into her room. They practically carry her out, with each paramedic firmly gripping each of her arms. She frantically screams at them to let her go. I go to my room during the episode, unable to watch. I only come out when I can’t hear the screams anymore.

When I go outside, they have just placed her on the bed at the back of the ambulance. They strap her arms to the bed’s side rails. She only fidgets her arms but to no avail. I almost cry at the sight of her strapped to some bed like a criminal or lunatic. I’m glad when they sedate her. The thought of her struggling all the way to the hospital is heart-breaking.

It is only after they are done with mother that the paramedics turn to bandage my arm, which I tell them is not really necessary. They go ahead and do it anyway.

I ride at the back of the ambulance with mother. When I look at her lying on the bed and her hair looking crazy, I don’t recognise her. I have just lost both my parents.

“I have just lost both my parents.”

Even when I say it out loud, I can hardly believe it. I cannot hold back the tears. I cry into my hands, wishing that everything would disappear.

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