Lullabye and good fright . . .

Effects May Vary
By David Beers ©2009

Day 1

I guess this is my journal for the next 90 days. I've never kept one before; not because I'm a guy, just never really saw the need. So this is new for me. Still, if I don't keep the journal, I don't get paid.

I moved in today. They showed me around the facility for a bit. Gave me the whole tour thing. The place has a feel of everything just being cleaned right before you walk through. The walls are white; the floors are whiter. They've got a gym. I'll probably be using that over the next three months.

I met the doctor who is presiding over the experiment. He seems like a pretty nice guy: Dr. Stradler. He's younger, probably early thirties. He sat with me and answered any final questions I had, which weren't many. Seven thousand dollars for three months worth of work? Delivering pizzas doesn't pay that well, so I told my old boss to fuck off and that I'd be living in an institution for the next three months. They cover all my room and board, food, and entertainment for the time I'm here. So that seven grand is going directly into my bank account.

Yeah, I didn't have too many questions.

Hmmm...what else? They gave me this journal and told me I'm 'highly encouraged to write down my thoughts. So I got some time to kill. The advertisement for this place didn't say what the goal of the experiment was. Just that we would live on a compound for a few months, and then go home with 7 grand. Of course they said that no one would be harmed, yadda, yadda, yadda They can't harm people nowadays with experiments. Breaks too many laws.

I did ask Dr. Stradler what would go on. The conversation went pretty much like this:

Me: What exactly is going to happen while I'm here?

Dr. Stradler: Well, Richard, that's part of what you signed in your compliance agreement. We can't tell you exactly what we're going to be looking at, or what we're gong to be doing to the participants.

Me: Participants? Like, more than me?

Dr. Stradler: Yes. There are quite a few more participants on the premises. Anyway, we can't tell you exactly what is going to happen. Most participants probably won't notice anything. All I can really say is that you won't be harmed, and will have access to pretty much anything you would have on the outside.

I laughed and asked him if that included women.

It's all right, I suppose. A big paycheck, and three months of relaxation. This is gonna be gravy.

Day 3

What to write about today?

The food here is absolutely amazing. I'm pretty surprised. When you see a place as clean as this, with all the insane asylum precautions (bars on windows, gates surrounding the place), you just know the food is going to blow. Not true here. I won't go into a meal by meal account of everything I've eaten, but steak is on the menu for dinner, and the lasagna last night was delicious.

I haven't seen any other 'participants' yet. I don't know where they keep the others. The staff here is pretty cool though. No matter what room you go to--lounge, weight room, track, cinema, library--there is always at least one orderly there. They aren't the silent types either. Most of the time they'll be the one to initiate a conversation.

I guess they don't want me going crazy from lack of human contact, or something.

I'm not really sure what happened last night while I was sleeping. I could have sworn there was an alarm going off, like right next to my ear. I jumped up, scared out of my mind. The room was silent. I sat up in my bed for a few minutes and looked around.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't. Every time I started to dose off, I'd start thinking about whatever the hell I had heard. I just couldn't fall asleep. Fucking ridiculous. I think I woke up at about 3, and I lay in bed until 8.

I didn't even work out today. I felt like I might fall asleep all damned day.

That's the other thing. I was in the lounge and I started to drift off. Damn it if Dr. Stradler didn't pop up out of no where.

Said, "Richard. How ya doing?"

"Fine. Just pretty tired. Didn't sleep well last night."

"Yeah, I'm sorry to hear that. I need to talk to you for a second though."

"Okay?"

"In the compliance form you signed, you remember that, right?"

"Sure do."

"Well, it explicitly states that no naps are allowed during the day. You can go to bed at whatever time you want, but just during day time hours we can't allow naps. The reasoning for this is we need to be able to judge what you spend your time doing during the day."

I don't know. We shot the shit for another few minutes and then he kinda disappeared. I almost fell asleep a few more times laying on the couch. Every single time I tried though, a staff member would walk up and put a hand on my arm, or head, or shoulder, or where ever. It was weird.

I'm pretty tired at this point. Hopefully I won't get spooked and wake up tonight or something.

Day 7

I met participants, finally. They said they had been in different wings; none of them had seen any of the others either. They were all wondering when they would get to see other people too.

It wasn't all fine and dandy though.

Well, I mean for the most part it was. It's just some of the other people, they don't look too well. Most of them looked just like normal, but there were a few that were different.

I didn't talk to them much. It was weird enough meeting about twenty people in one day; I didn't need to introduce myself to people that were staring at walls. I think someone said her name was Suzy. Her skin looked like it had been stretched across her face, almost like plastic wrap. Her cheek bones jutted out of her face. I wonder if she's hooked on meth or something?

She just seemed to sit in a chair and stare at the wall: the entire time. I don't know. It was just weird. She had dark circles under her eyes, almost like black splotches. She didn't say anything, just stared.

We're supposed to hang out with the other participants once or twice a week from now on. I'm looking forward to it. Just as long as they don't make Suzy and me go on a date.

I haven't woken up anymore since earlier this week. Still though, sleep isn't coming easy to me. I'm tired a lot of the time, and my workouts are definitely showing it. I'm gonna talk to Stradler, and see what he thinks the deal is.

Day 18

I talked to Suzy today. We were sitting in one of the lounges that seems to just populate this place. Everyone was watching a movie, but Suzy was doing her sitting thing again. Just staring out the window this time.

I don't know why I walked over there. I wish I hadn't now. The woman is weird, maybe gone. Her skin looked just as tight across her face as the last time I wrote. Maybe tighter. No one saw me move near here, which is good. Everyone else stays away from her too.

She didn't even notice when I moved next to her. Or if she did, she didn't show it. She kept staring out the window, and I looked with her for a few seconds--wondering if I could see whatever it was she kept looking at. I couldn't.

I said something like, "Hey, how are ya?"

She didn't say anything back, but turned her head toward me. I'd never seen her eyes before, but there were red veins crisscrossing them all over. It made her look like she had no whites. She didn't blink, just stared at me the way she did the window.

"Hi," I said, hoping she would say anything.

She looked a moment longer and then, "I'm sleeping. Please don't wake me."

Her eyes were wide open. Her lips were moving, and she was sitting up in her chair. My mouth dropped a little bit, I'm sure of it.

"Sleeping?" I didn't know what else to say, but I had to say something.

Suzy turned her head back toward the window. I sat there for a few more minutes looking at her. Then I got up and walked back to the rest of the group.

I still don't know what to think. I talked to a staff member about it later. I thought the lady needed some serious help. Hell, I still think it. All the white coat said was, "Mrs. Breecher is fine. She's participated in a lot of our experiments. She is a bit different, but trust me: she's okay."

Who the hell knows?

There was something else I wanted to write about. I can't remember what it was. I am starting to enjoy this though--the whole writing aspect.

I've lost ten pounds since I've been here. I'm pretty excited about that

Day 22

What the fuck? Suzy Breecher, or Mrs. Breecher as the staff calls her, was outside my door when I woke up this morning. She was just standing there, with a white gown on. She must have been looking at the door for I don't know how long and, when I opened it, she didn't even register that the door moved. She stood there, looking at the exact same place she had been before the door moved. That place happened to be my eyes.

We looked at each for a few moments.

"Can I help you?" What else was I supposed to say?

"Were you sleeping?" There was no pause this time. I looked at her face, and was certain that her skin would split open and show her skull at any moment. The white gown she wore looked like it sat atop a coat hanger. There could have been nothing under there but small pieces of wood and I wouldn't have known. Skinny didn't begin to describe it.

I nodded.

She nodded back.

"That's good. That's good. How many days?"

"How many days for what?"

"How many days are you here for?"

It dawned on me that we were actually having a conversation. Something coherent. The woman that was moments before staring at my door, and didn't notice when it opened, was now capable of asking questions and responding.

"Ninety."

I've never marked down the sickest things I've seen in my life, just made a mental note of them. The smile that spread across Suzy's face surpasses any mark that might be in my brain. Three of the teeth in the front of her mouth were missing, and the others didn't look far from the same. The smile seemed to creep from her mouth across the rest of her face like a pollution spill. Her skin looked like it was going to crack. The sad part though--or maybe the scary part-- was that the smile touched her eyes. I saw her eye lids squint up, and for a brief second I saw a glint of happiness.

"That's good. That's good. Not too long. Not too bad. See ya later, Johnny."

"Uhh . . ." she was already walking down the hall. "My name's Richard."

She didn't look back. Just kept shuffling along down the hall, her white gown almost blowing from the small amount of wind she picked up. She reached to the back of her head and scratched. She brought away a thick chunk of hair. It revealed a red and raw scalp. She looked at her hair, and then threw it on the floor. She never stopped walking.

I really need to talk to them about her . . . again. I don't know if they'll listen, or if they'll care.

Maybe she should stay away from my damn door, though. I guess that'll figure itself out.

Two more things.

I met this guy--his name was Lester. We met during one of the participant hang outs. I guess we kind of hit it off. He likes working out; I like working out. He likes football; I like football. Anyway, he hasn't been in the last two meetings. I asked one of the staff, and they said he had been sick the past week.

I'm sure he's fine. Just that shit with Suzy Breecher has me kind of freaking out. There's nothing to worry about. This place is legit; it has to be. I'm sure a lot of experimental businesses get their crazies every once in a while. Right? Right.

The past day or so, I've found myself drifting off. I was watching TV with about ten other guys. I forget what was on, maybe The Office? Next thing I know I feel a tense hand on my shoulder, waking me up. I don't know what happened. I've never been much of a person for naps, let alone just drifting off like a sixty year old man.

I apologized for it, and the staff member (I think his name is Gerald) just smiled and said, "That's fine. It's no problem. That's what I'm here for, to make sure everything goes smoothly."

Only a little bit over two months left. I wish we could call our family, but that's part of the deal. No phone calls. The seven grand is seeming like it might not be worth it at this point, but I've already been almost a third of the way through. Might as well finish it, huh?

I'm down to 215 now. I was at 230. I guess there is a silver lining to the cloud.

Day 35

I'm not really sure how worried I should be right now. I mean, probably not too worried. It's just a little sleep.

I haven't slept in two nights. I'm going on 72 hours.

I don't know why. No noises. No lights. I just stay up. I stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity last night (only eight hours). I feel like my eyes could shut on me as I sit here writing this, but they won't.

Okay, I'm a little worried.

I talked to Dr. Stadler about it today.

"These things happen sometimes," he said.

"They do? It's common?" I asked.

"Well, maybe not what you would call common. But yes, when people are introduced to new circumstances, with new people. Strange things happen. You'll be fine though."

"I mean, even after I've been here over a month? These things shouldn't be strange to me anymore. The only thing that really feels strange is the lack of sleep."

"Trust me. You're twenty two right? After twenty two years of what your body considers normalcy, a month of an environment like this isn't going to feel right. I can have an orderly drop some pills by your room if you'd like, though."

"Yeah. I'd like that a lot. Can you do it tonight? After dinner maybe?"

"Sure, Richard. Don't worry about it. You're going to be fine." He smiled and walked off.

It's ten now. At night. Dinner was three hours ago. No pills are here. I doubt any are coming. I was informed by Gerald that Dr. Stradler leaves around six. FUCK.

What else has happened? I don't know. I'm not remembering everything as clearly as I should. It's gotta be the sleep thing.

Les? . . . All right, had to look back at the last entry. Lester. That's his name. I saw him finally. He's alive, haha. He looks skinnier from the last time I saw him though. We've both lost close to twenty pounds. I asked him about being sick.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, Gerald said you were sick last week."

"Gerald?"

"The orderly," I said.

"Oh. No, I wasn't sick."

"Why weren't you at the the group sessions then?"

"I . . . I . . . I don't know."

I was stunned. I didn't wanna keep asking. I don't know him that well, and it was the first time I'd seen him in over a week. But . . .

He didn't know?

What kind of an answer is that? Did he really not know what the hell he was doing last week? What's crazy, though, is he didn't even seem worried about it. It was like he couldn't remember what he had for dinner two nights ago . . . and it didn't matter.

What did I have for dinner two nights ago?

The page doesn't show it, but I just waited two minutes and I still don't remember.

I hope I sleep tonight. I really, really hope I do.

Day 50

I can see my cheekbones. Not the sexy runway model-type cheekbones. I see them right beneath the dark patches that have formed under my eyes. It looks like someone cut a swath of skin off my face and then stretched the rest around to fill in the gap. I weigh 190.

I slept for the first time in over two weeks today. I slept for what I think was about an hour.

It wasn't right though. It was on the couch in the lounge. Gerald was there, like always. But he didn't stop me. He didn't walk up and put his hand on my shoulder; he didn't say anything to me. He just let me drift off.

What really gets me is that they didn't wake me up either. I woke up on my own.

Dr. Stradler was sitting in a chair across from me when I opened my eyes. He had papers in his hand.

"Hi, Richard."

I tried to talk, but my mouth was sticky and nothing came out.

"What were you doing?" He asked.

"'leeping," I said. My tongue still wasn't working right. I wanted to close my eyes again--close them and never open them.

"Why?"

"Tired." I felt them closing again. I knew it wouldn't matter, that I wouldn't be able to sleep. I knew that this time would be just like all the other times.

Someone grabbed me under my arms. I looked up and saw Gerald grabbing my feet.

"What thhhhe fuck?" I couldn't find the energy to move. They were carrying me. Forward.

"This is your fifth infraction, Richard. The fifth time we've caught you sleeping during daylight hours. We give you ten hours a night to sleep and the contract that you signed states that sleeping during day light hours is strictly forbidden. Sleeping on our time is strictly forbidden, Richard. You know this."

"Put me the fuck down." Whatever semblance of coherence I could gain was coming back. We were heading down my hall, Gerald walking backwards carrying my legs and someone holding me by my arm pits. Stradler was following us.

"It says right here, right where you signed, that infractions of this multitude and seriousness can result in either termination of the experiment or other drastic measures if the doctor administering the experiment deems it necessary."

We were at the door to my room. Dr. Stradler stepped up and opened it.

"In your case, I think it's best we keep you here. You're in confinement, Richard. The lights will be on twelve hours, off twelve. Two weeks. Food will be delivered, and you already have access to the bathroom."

"No! What the fuck are you talking about? I took a fucking nap!" I was finally understanding what was happening. The orderlies dropped me on my bed, and turned to the door. They walked out with Dr. Stradler following.

"You can't do this," I said.

"I'm afraid we can, and we are. You've given us no choice," Stradler said.

The door shut. I never even tried to move forward. I heard the locking mechanism turn for the first time. It was shut, and I was inside.

It's been about five hours since that happened. Dinner was delivered through a slot in the door I never knew existed. Seems like they had figured something like this might happen from time to time.

I don't know how this is going to work. I don't even know if I'll make it. There's no TV, no books, just this pad and pen.

The lock is moving again . . .

Day 68

I don't know where to start. They've tried to up my calorie intake to combat my weight loss. 160. It won't work because I'm not hungry.

They let me out of the lock down. Two weeks to the day. They came in . . . I guess the last time I wrote. They took the pen and pad. Two weeks. Walls and bed. And Suzy. Jesus.

It's just so much, all of it. 22 days left. I can't even keep my thoughts together, in line. It's been a month. I've slept an hour in a month. Is that how long it was? An hour?

I don't think I slept during the lock down.

Suzy showed up, though. I don't know if it was day or night on the outside. I know that the lights in my room were off when I heard her voice. She sat outside my door. They never caught her. She showed up a few times. I hate her.

"How long's it been?"

I didn't need to ask what she meant, so I told her how long.

"You'll be fine. You'll make it. Just a few weeks. A few more weeks."

"How long has it been for you?"

"I sleep every day."

"No you don't."

She didn't say anything. My back leaned against the door and I stared at where my bed would be. I knew it wouldn't bring any comfort.

"I killed Lester this week?"

"What?"

"Lester. You knew him. Were kinda friends, right?"

"Yeah, I knew him."

"He's dead."

"Why?"

"Because I killed him."

"Why?"

"I was supposed to."

"No you weren't."

"Yes, I was."

Lester was dead. In the blackness of my room, it was the only truth that I could find. Suzy killed Lester; I couldn't sleep. I couldn't leave my room.

"He's not coming back," she said.

"I know," I said.

Time passed. I don't know how long. The lights were still off when she spoke again.

"You'll make it out," she said.

"I hope," I said.

She came and went those two weeks. Sometimes I'd hear her voice and I'd go to the door. Any kind of contact is better than none. Lester was the only person she killed during those two weeks--at least, the only one she told me about. I didn't feel for Lester. No tears, no frowns. Just a sense of finality. And a little envy.

At least he was closer to sleeping than I was.

Another time Suzy came, I asked, "Is everyone else like me? Not able to sleep? Like me and you?"

"I've told you, I sleep."

"Well, then, like me?"

"No. They're like me. They sleep."

"You don't sleep, Suzy."

"Well, they sleep. To them, you've become ill and are in the infirmary," she said.

I nodded although no one could see me.

I still don't know what it all meant. Maybe Suzy wasn't there. Maybe, I imagined the whole damn thing to keep me company. I saw her when I got out of confinement yesterday. She didn't say a word to me, just stared out the window.

I walked up to her, "Suzy . . . "

She didn't even answer to tell me she was sleeping--just kept her grim face staring ahead.

So maybe I did imagine it.

Except Lester hasn't come to any group activities.

Gerald says he's sick.

Day 87

There's a body in my room. Gerald's. He's a big black man and so he was heavy to carry down the hall. There was a long stream of blood that leaked from his head following me up the hall. I wiped it up, though. That's why there is a pink-tinged cloth sitting in the corner.

Dr. Stradler asked me about it. For about fours hours.

I sat in his office; there were two orderlies on either side of me. Someone else stood behind him. I'd never seen him before.

"Where's Gerald?" Stradler asked. He wasn't angry, just curious.

"I don't know," I said, and I didn't.

"We know you killed him. We know he's in your room. You hit him with your plate when you were done eating. You beat him until he was dead, and then you dragged him up the hall. We saw the blood and we saw him lying in your room."

"I . . I have no idea what you're talking about." This was all news to me at that point.

"Just admit it. Admit that you killed him, that he's in your room, and we'll be lenient with you. But you have to admit it, you understand?"

It went on for a long time. I didn't remember killing Gerald until the end. Then I did and I told the truth. I'm sitting in my room now and Gerald is looking at me. Well, not really. His head is just tilted towards me and his eyes are still open. Gerald isn't looking at much anywhere, now.

I'm almost done though. Stradler says they won't prosecute me. He says I'm going to be fine. He said I can even see Suzy later, but that group meetings are over for me. That's okay, though, because there are only 3 days left. Then I get something. I get . . . well, I get something. Maybe I'll get some sleep. That would be a nice gift.

Day 89

I get out tomorrow. I would, but Suzy is outside. She said she's supposed to kill me now. So maybe I won't be getting out. She said I can sleep though. She said I can sleep as much as I want when I'm dead. She says sleep comes easy for the dead; it's the waking that's the hard part.

That sounds just about like what I need.

Title: Experiment #546579

Hypothesis: Confirmed

Trial: 90 Days

Confirmation Date: Day 87

Synopsis: Written by M. Stradler

Patient R performed as expected. We have previously confirmed that subtle noise interruptions below the decibel level (DL) for humans disrupt sleep patters indefinitely as long as they are continually used. This was shown again with Patient R.

There were new developments along the lines of the sleep deprivation, however. Apparently Patient R could fall asleep when the DL was taken away for more than an hour. Only Patient R could sleep for no more than an hour at a time. Somehow it disrupted his sleep patterns for an extended period of time. More research is needed in this direction. If less of the DL is needed to disrupt sleep patterns, than that shall make it easier for any practical uses the military can find for the research we're doing.

Also, when Patient R was placed in lock down without any kind of recreational device, he remained awake for two solid weeks with the continued treatment of DL.

Patient Z, Patient S, Patient S2, Patient X41, and Patient MO9 already confirmed the hypothesis of willingness to act under sleep deprivation. We have seen murder, lies, theft, and unheard of physical prowess after suggestive methods have been employed. Patient R was a different case. The goal was to see if--with a severe degree of sleep deprivation--we could make him believe that he did something he did not actually do. After four hours of constant interrogation, Patient R admitted to the murder of an orderly.

At first, we did not believe Patient R to be honest with us. The time period for interrogation was too long, and any person--whether or not sleep deprivation was used--would be tempted to admit to the crime. However, after further investigation of the remains of Patient R's room, we found that he did indeed believe he saw the dead orderly. The patient also seemed to believe he cleaned up the blood that was left in the hall.

The hypothesis was confirmed: sleep deprivation can lead a person to believe that he acted in ways he actually did not.

Patient R was disposed of by another long term patient of our experiments.

We all are eagerly awaiting the move forward in the experiments, General Bradford.

Respectfully:
Mark H. Stradler, MD; PhD.

x x x

A story with promise, albeit a bit rough, this tale of evil government experimentation gave me pause. What ifs make up science fiction--and this what if seems less far fetched these days. Your comments, anotherealmers. -GM

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