None of the three subjects had been checked on by any members of staff overnight, at my request; I had genuine fear over what they may find. I arrived at Subject A’s door and entered slowly, only to find that he was not in his bed. The room was not large; if he was in there at all he could only be in the small bathroom adjacent to the bed. I called his name; no response, though the bathroom door was ajar. I nudged it open, and witnessed Subject A standing in front of the mirror, observing himself, in what I can only describe as how you would perceive your reflection had you never seen yourself before. He appeared conscious but utterly vacant, impervious to my presence. It is my duty to report that he had all the hallmarks of a sufferer of Neurological Zombosis. I stepped slowly back from the room, and summoned my team to lock the door. I checked upon Subjects B & C. Both had identical expressions, though they had remained in bed and were staring directly forward, unblinking, and staring at nothing. A trance-like state this did not resemble, because in those scenarios, the subjects are emotionless. Here, there was a unique expression, one I can’t properly diagnose or describe. The word I’ve used most frequently is foreboding – unfortunately I can’t offer any more clarity than that.
I gave my staff implicit instructions to keep all three patients locked in and to alert me if any of them questioned – using their voices – why they were being sequestered in their rooms. Delirious, I made my way to Dr Banks’ room at the other end of the corridor.
I was initially relieved to find her sitting up in bed, taking notes. But her arm was heavily bandaged, and her demeanour was frantic; she appeared to me to have been scribbling furiously throughout the night. She was extremely keen to converse about our findings, but firstly she wanted to examine Subject C. When I explained to her that this would not only be extremely difficult but also highly dangerous, she demanded to see her. Eventually I obliged, though only through the circular window on the door to his room, through which she could observe C staring forwards, unblinking, unmoving and unresponsive. A most peculiar expression drew across Dr Banks’ face. She said nothing, returned to her own room and began collecting her things. I followed her – I wasn’t willing to let her leave. Though I had trust in her integrity as a professional that she would not divulge what she had seen and heard on the ward, the possibility of jumping to any kind of conclusion over the ramifications of this situation and it becoming public knowledge was simply too much of a risk. I was also concerned over her state of mind and I was as keen to observe her as I was the remaining subjects. I managed to persuade her to stay an additional night by promising that we would continue our research the following day, and that I would grant her access to C’s room, with the patient in restraints. I had no intention of allowing this to take place, but it was my only option to ensure she remained in the hospital.
Many scenarios continued to wrestle for my attention, but the most abundant and worrying was the concept that these three subjects had descended so deeply into Category II PZSD, that by some quirk of the condition, they believed they had contracted Neurological Zombosis despite still being very much alive and having never been bitten. Had the lucid dreaming test triggered something?
With my head churning through the possibilities I approached my team, who confirmed that not only had none of the three subjects engaged in any form of communication, it was reaching close to thirty-six hours without any consumption of food or water. I asked my team to prepare three meals and wait for my signal, as we would approach each subject with safety in numbers. I asked about Dr Banks, and was informed that she had been asleep for much of the evening.
Before approaching the subjects, I decided to visit her first, alone. When I arrived at her room I peered through the glass circle and could see her, curled in the foetal position, facing away from me and towards the window. I opened the door tentatively. There was no movement from her as I edged closer. I called out her name, and the response was negative. I made my way around the bed, and when I could bear witness to her face, my heart sank. She had descended into the same catatonic state as the other subjects. I sat down before her but she continued to stare as if I was completely transparent. She responded to no stimuli. I stood up and returned to my team, telling them that they should not enter Dr Banks’ room without my express permission.
My team and I readied ourselves to approach subject A with sustenance. Subject A, it appeared, had been standing in front of the same mirror in the bathroom since when I had entered previously, well over a day ago. This time, however, when I opened the door to enter he responded with a moan all too familiar to me and to anyone forced to confront Neurological Zombosis. He staggered out from the bathroom and into my path, with less than six steps between us. He looked human; no white eyes, or rotting flesh – how could he have, he hadn’t been in contact with the disease – but everything else was in place, including, it seemed, a desire to bite me. He staggered forward with mouth open, and immediately I retreated and closed the door tightly. He continued to come, pounding on the inside relentlessly, but methodically, as a Zombie would.
The doors for subjects B & C were parallel to A, and the most astonishing event occurred – a commotion could be heard inside the rooms of both B & C, and they too emerged to press their faces up against the glass viewing windows on their room doors, clambering to get at the people on the outside, my team. The synchronicity of the events simply could not be coincidence. Somehow the environment in which these three subjects had existed had moved them to an altogether evolved state of the disease. I feel it can only be described as Psychological Zombosis.
I gathered my team together and they unanimously warned me that they did not feel safe and, furthermore, were also concerned as to my state of mind. They felt that my own sleep deprivation issues had clouded my judgement. Why hadn’t I contacted the Preservation? Why had I simply left them in their rooms without further analysis?
In my ethereal state I attempted to explain that time, nothing else, would be our best indicator as to what we were dealing with. I urged them to remain by my side for a few more days. I believed I had convinced them. Unfortunately, I was wrong.