Incremental Changes

I remained in my office until just before midnight, double and triple checking my schedules and documentation while I waited for the night crew to be all that remained of the staff on the grounds. The Skeleton Crew, so-called both for their function and their pale appearances, moved like ghosts through the halls of the institution, taking care of any emergencies that arose before the sun.

I suppose that when you work the night shift it’s hard to get a tan but I thought that a poor excuse for their pallor. I’ve heard talk that one of them, Henry I think his name is, might suffer from albinism but I think it equally likely he’s a great-grandchild of Dracula.

Regardless, I did my best to avoid encountering any of those creepy souls as I made my way to Room 333 that night. That room had been waiting for a man like Connor for too long - I’d had to make excuses on more than one occasion in order to avoid having one of the normal psychopaths incarcerated there. I’d spent too much time preparing that room for my experiment to have it wasted on someone who believed his invisible pet unicorn knew the Cadbury Caramilk secret.

I passed several rooms from which crazed mutterings emerged, testing a few locks to reassure myself. By the time I reached the third floor hallway that led to my destination I had probably looked over my shoulder a few hundred times and jumped at imaginary shadow creatures at least twice.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t occur to me then that I might have waited too long and that I would be certified and locked away before my research had run its course.

I pushed the thought aside as I reached Connor’s room, pressing one ear to the door and holding my breath. Hearing only quiet snores I took out my copy of the master key, which all staff have on them from sign in to sign out of every shift, from the inside pocket of my lab coat and inserted it into the lock with sweat-slicked fingers. The deadbolt slid back with a muffled click and I pushed the door open on silent, very well oiled hinges. I had left nothing to chance.

A flickering lamppost on the sidewalk outside his barred window provided the only illumination but it was enough for me to make my way safely to his bedside. I pulled the unscented cloth out of my pocket and placed it gently over Connor’s nose, removing it after he had taken three deep breaths. I jabbed one closed eye with the covered end of my pen to verify that he was out cold before returning to the doorway.

I stuck my head into the hallway to make sure I was alone, then closed it silently and flicked on the light. I moved to the electronic temperature display next to the door and opened it by tapping out the access code on it’s number pad - 66827299938.

I smiled at my own creation, knowing I would never forget it - it spelled out NOTCRAZYYET on a digital phone. Clever, no?

The electronic display showed 72 degrees Fahrenheit - the one on the outside did at least. But then, I had programmed it to always show that temperature. The display hidden on the inside, however, not only showed the actual temperature of Room 333, it also controlled it.

With a press of the down arrow I lowered it to 71 and flipped the cover closed again, locking it away from prying eyes. On a whim I moved to the bedside clock and moved it forward by one minute, making a mental note to record this on the schedule.

I probably should have stuck to the initial plan but I was excited. Not reckless mind you, merely excited.

With a final look around the room I returned to the door, turned off the light, and made my exit, barely containing a childlike giggle.

“Doc Esco?”

If I jumped half a foot in the air it was only because I’m physically incapable of attaining a greater height.

“Doctor D!” I said as I turned to face Dr. Dimitrijevic. Okay, I might have squealed it. “You should know better than to sneak up on people like that!”

“What are you doing here this late?” she asked, trying to look into the room I had just vacated. I smiled politely before closing the door firmly. “Usually you’re in the parking lot by 5:01 and that’s only going by your watch. Which, for the record, everyone knows is ten minutes fast.”

“I was simply checking in on my new patient,” I told her as I took her by the elbow and lead her down the hall. “And I can assure you that I set my watch by the BBC broadcast, just like everyone else. What are you doing here?”

“Yes, I’d heard you’d certified another one today,” she said, pushing her wire-rimmed glasses higher up on her nose. “I’d love to have a meeting with him, he sounds very intriguing.”

“I think you’re busy enough with your own patients,” I replied cheerfully, sweat running like a river down my spine. “Besides, it would only confuse him to meet too many people at such an early stage of his residence. Perhaps later.”


“Good night doctor, I’ll see you in the morning.” I left her at the top of the stairs, her mouth moving soundlessly, and hurried back to my office. When I got there I noted the unplanned time change on my computer and scribbled one more message for myself on a sticky note and left it on my monitor. It simply read, “Get new lock put on Room 333.”

The End

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