For the second time that night she woke up from a nightmare, her own sweat making her clothes stick to her skin. She sat up silently.
The nightmare hadn't been enough to warrant a scream. Besides, after all she'd been through, she wasn't going to wake up flailing about like some terrified child. She was stronger than that.
Her room was a pale white as always. The rectangular fluorescent lights on the ceiling had gone dark, and it was pitch black outside. Her giant wall-side window that looked out over the lake was more like a dark curtain than anything else.
She let herself relax and lean back against the slightly propped up bed. Sleeping wasn't getting any easier. She still woke up twice a night at the very least and it was all because of the nightmares. Not to mention that it was already difficult enough to fall asleep, or how easily she woke up from a quiet noise or dim light.
The nightmares were on a wide spectrum. Sometimes they were about her, other times her friends, and then those had their own sub-categories. It was almost as if Freddy really could haunt you in your dreams, and she was his new favorite victim. She was willing to bet the nightmares would start to ease up if she was just allowed to see them! But no, out of all the others, she was the one who was forced to be isolated.
All her food was brought to her, but to be fair, it wasn't like she could do much physically anyway. None of them could because their muscles had been suffering atrophy the entire time they were in that personal hell. She could stand, and she could walk, maybe even hop around a little if she was particularly energetic. But after only a minute or two she'd be winded and laying back down again.
That was only when she was in a physical therapy room. She couldn't even get out of bed in her personal one because of all the tubes stuck in her arm. She couldn't be near either group of test subjects either because of precautions the staff were taking. They didn't want to risk any sort of hostility from either side.
So here she was, alone in the middle of the night, barely getting any sleep because of nightmares, and they were keeping her from the few people who could ease her mind.
Megan Thomas was sick of it.
How long had it been since she first awakened? A week? Two weeks? She'd been isolated in this room the entire time, only interrupted by the occasional trip to a testing or physical therapy room.
Although she did comprehend why they were treating her like this, she didn't understand the thought process behind it, nor did she accept it. But of course, she was too weak to be autonomous quite yet, and they were all still convinced she wasn't thinking straight.
She wasn't crazy, she'd told them that so many times, but they didn't believe her. Still convinced she was just suffering from after effects of the trials and twenty four/seven paranoia. Only one of the doctors took her seriously, but there was an undertone of compassion when he was around, almost like someone handling a child.
Meg's fists clenched in the dark at the thought. She was not a child, she was a full grown twenty four year old woman. She'd dealt with almost all the horrors the world could throw at her and she was still sane, just a little rattled at the moment. That was okay though, she was human, not a god.
'It would certainly help if they would just let me see Evan and the others though!'
The thought was a little hysteric, but Meg couldn't help it. She was going out of her mind with worry. After all the days of the same request being denied, Meg was ready to sneak out and find the others herself. She wasn't going to take orders from these people when they were doing nothing but slowly pushing the limits of her sanity.
She didn't know what conditions they were in, or if they were even out of...whatever it was she had been in. All she knew was that she was never going near another one of those freak machines again, and that she was free. She'd been forced to take orders for long enough, she would make the staff regret it if they kept her like this for any longer.
No one was going to separate her and Evan, and no one was going to separate her from her family either. She was going to get out and see her mom again, she was sure of it.
While none of her slumbering dreams were pleasant, her waking ones certainly were. Because with nothing to do beyond sit in bed and think, she spent much of her time daydreaming. Sometimes her mind would wander to her nightmares and the unpleasant thoughts, but she tried to focus on the pleasant futures.
Those futures, if spent enough time daydreaming about, created such a feeling of content and peace that Meg was able to feel emotion swell in her belly. She would smile like a fool as the vivid images flashed through her mind, even getting tingles in her arms through ghosting phantom touches.
She could literally feel what was happening in her day dreams if she focused on it hard enough. She just had to think about what it would feel like until she fooled her brain into simulating it, and it was wondrous. Meg was only disappointed it wasn't real, and that the people in her dreams were either out of reach, or not even born yet.
It wasn't real...yet.
So for now she simply relaxed. Her head rested on the moderately comfortable hospital pillow, tilted to the side so she could rest more comfortably. She closed her eyes for the third time prayed she wouldn't suffer through another nightmare.
It seemed that she had been blessed with her wish, because when Meg woke up the next morning she had no recollection of a third nightmare. She sat up, feeling the strain on her back and arms. The weakness in her muscles was infuriating because not that long ago she'd been in perfect shape, having spent months building up her stamina, strength, and subsequently her physique.
Now, all of it was gone and turned to flab.
Anger coursed through her at the loss of all she'd worked for. Now she'd have to spend a year probably just being able to get back full function properly, much less regain the incredible shape she'd been in.
Meg huffed and looked to the side. She stared through the window at the gorgeous lake outside. The blue water looked like sparkling diamonds as the rising sun hit it at just the perfect angle.
Her room still had it's pale and fluorescent lights on, but nothing could illuminate quite like the sun. It made her room feel a little more peaceful, a little more bearable while she waited for the day she could reunite with her family.
Her eyes grew moist at the thought of her mother. Meg knew she must have been waiting on her the whole time she was in there. Her heart broke a little when she thought about how long her mother had to stay by herself with no one to help her with the cancer. Was she okay? She must have been worried about her.
A familiar unease crept into her gut, poisoning any pleasant warmth she'd previously felt and making her temporarily forget about her daydreams.
'She has to be okay'
Meg didn't want to even entertain the thought of her mom being dead or dying. What was she going to do without her mom?
'Well I guess that's a stupid question'
It was hard to articulate just how much she loved her mom. It was a unique type of love from the rest of her family, like how she didn't love anyone else the way she loved Evan. However, she knew she could survive without her mom.
She just didn't want her to go yet.
Meg had to remind herself that she still had Bill and that he himself held a special place in her heart. That should have been obvious to her by now, she'd called him dad for crying out loud! And she'd even meant it!
How would her mom feel about Bill? Would she approve of her choice for a stand in father? Would she approve of her choice for a boyfriend?
Was she even still alive?
Meg stopped, clenching her jaw in annoyance. Because there she went, dwelling on the thought of her mom potentially being dead when she'd just said she refused to think about it.
She took a deep breath in, trying to calm herself down and rewind to just a few minutes ago when she was daydreaming about the future. She needed to think positive right now, think about Evan and her friends, and about all the time she'd get to spend with them.
Meg let herself sink into the bed as she thought of the different things she'd get to do with them all. Trips to the mountains, the beach, getting to go out to restaurants and see movies with them all. It was enough to make her smile just imagining all the fun to be had, not to mention all the memories and inside jokes they'd make.
The door to her room opened, and Meg looked over to see the only doctor she didn't despise entering. Doctor Forsyth was the stereotypical doctor you saw in movies. He was the positive side of doctors, compassionate, attentive, and someone who came into this line of work because he genuinely wanted to save people's lives.
He wasn't the like the others at the hospital. Meg wouldn't even qualify all of the staff as medical professionals. A decent amount were just scientists, or errand boys.
The best example of the latter was the nurse who they must have assigned to her. She was an unassuming brunette woman who could not have looked more bored about her work even if she tried. Every day she came in, checked Meg's vitals, drew some blood, and left without saying a word or much attempt to respond to Meg's conversation starters. She was unbearably dull, and she obviously only cared about getting paid.
On the other end of the spectrum, the other staff there just made her feel like a lab rat. It was like she was just a means to and end for the sake of their precious experiment. Meg didn't appreciate it.
She especially didn't appreciate not knowing if Evan and the others were also being treated like animals.
"Ms. Thomas. How are you this morning?" Dr. Forsyth asked politely, shutting the door behind him and grabbing one of the chairs by it, bringing it by her bedside. He sat down, turning on the tablet he'd brought with him and quickly checking the screen before looking back at her.
"I'm fine." Meg said without much enthusiasm. She didn't want to come off as irritated or difficult to the man, there just wasn't anything in particular about today that was any different from the last fourteen. She'd spent all of it being stabbed with needles, sleeping, daydreaming, and worrying.
As odd as it was, being in The Entity's realm was almost more tolerable than her current conditions. Yes she had been feeling quite a lot of pain every day from being hooked, but at least the trials kept her occupied and she had people to talk to when she wasn't in one.
This was death by boredom, inactivity, and loneliness.
Dr. Forsyth seemed disappointed. "I understand you are frustrated Ms. Thomas, but we have isolated you from the other patients for your own safety." He explained for the millionth time.
Meg had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes, an effort in which she ultimately failed. She set her deadpan gaze on him, practically oozing sarcasm and passive aggression as she spoke.
"Yes I know, I've heard that a thousand times already. How many times do I have to vouch that they won't hurt me before you let me see them?" Meg said irritably.
"I don't wanna sound ungrateful, because you are certainly the only doctor here that I appreciate, but the survivors are my family, and not all of the killers want to rip my throat out." Meg said firmly, setting her face in a clear sign that she wouldn't listen to any sort of disagreement he had to offer.
Dr. Forsyth was quiet, contemplative. His attitude seemingly different than what Meg has dealt with in the past. Before he had seemed almost too nice, as if he was treating her like she was fragile glass. Now however, he seemed to be taking her more seriously.
"Could you describe to me the various situations you experienced. So as to determine which people it would be safe for you to be in contact with?" He asked, tapping a couple of things on his tablet before looking back up at her. It was a silent thumbs up that she was good to start listing things.
Meg's eyebrows shot up as she looked at him. Was he finally going to take her seriously?
"What you and the other patients have undergone was for your own survival. You are not the first person Sterblich has tried to claim, but you are among the first to survive it."
Dr. Forsyth patiently waited for Meg to begin, and she blinked several times when she realized that she'd spaced out after his question. "I-uh...oh. Well...It's a long story." Meg said almost sheepishly, thinking back on the slew of events within the chains of The Entity.
"That's quite fine, due to the nature of this facility, I have quite a lot of time on my hands. You can go into as great detail as you'd like." He said with a kind tone to his voice. He was probably trying to not sound like he was prying, even if he wanted to know.
"Where am I? Where's Evan!?"
Meg took a deep breath in, and breathed out slowly. "Alright." She said. "But I was serious when I said it's a long story."
-"They are not real Ms. Thomas. Unlike most of the others those few were artificial intelligence created for the purposes of the experimental procedure."-
-"Just tell me that the others are okay!"
"They are quite alright Ms. Thomas. We have separated you merely for your own safety. We fear that if the other patients come into contact with you that they will exhibit violent intent towards you. Once we are sure it is safe, you will be allowed to interact with all of them freely."-
-"The environment you were placed in, as well as some of the creatures you interacted with, was inspired by research done on one Otto Stamper. However, he was, and is, unaware of this project's existence."-
-"The entire experiment was inspired by the concepts explored in project MK OFTEN. Of course due to this experiment's more humanitarian goal, we heavily deviated in our methods of procedure, instead relying on stimulation to produce the desired effects rather than force them through ineffective means."
Meg sighed and tried to sink into her bed. It had been several minutes since Dr. Forsyth had left and even longer since she'd finished retelling everything she could remember from the fog. She hadn't told him everything, some of those things were just too personal, so instead she gave him more of an overview.
He now knew that she and Evan were together, although she still suspected that he doubted Evan's sincerity. She'd told him about Yun Jin-Lee, The Doctor, Ash...all of them. He'd typed it all down on his tablet at a surprising speed and with quite the amount of patience for her occasional discomfort or pauses.
Once he was finished, he'd done a quick check to make sure everything was functioning properly , and then left with a friendly goodbye.
It hadn't all quite clicked in her head yet. The reasoning she'd been given to explain why she went through what she did hasn't fully settled in, or perhaps her mind wasn't quite back to full capacity yet. She could remember everything from the fog without any trouble, as well as the few memories of the real world she'd known in the fog too. However, many of her other memories were fuzzy.
Those memories weren't gone, Dr. Forsyth had assured her of that. It was merely a temporary memory loss and everything would eventually come back. Those words had soothed Meg's mind and allowed her to relax her restless twitching.
All she'd been doing was just lying in a hospital bed for the two weeks she'd been awake. Most of the tests they did on her were able to be conducted within her room, or such as the case with blood tests, could just be drawn in a needle and taken elsewhere.
There had been the more unusual tests that she'd needed to get up for. Even though she hadn't known what they were gonna be, she jumped at the opportunity to stand up for once, almost quite literally. But then she'd had to lay down again for a CT-scan.
There had also been when they'd done an MRI and PET scan on her. They had mentioned something about being concerned regarding her brain function as well as chemical imbalances. Meg had been particularly freaked out when someone had suggested Electroconvulsive therapy if there was something wrong with her.
From what Meg understood, nothing had been wrong with her. The doctors who'd scanned her had said nothing unusual had appeared and that she merely needed more time for her memories to return.
In conclusion, she was stuck. The only hope she had was Dr. Forsyth. He was the only one taking her seriously and at least looked like he was trying to get her in contact with her friends.
But were her friends even awake? Dr. Forsyth's words had made it sound like they were conscious and in similar conditions to her, just separated based on whether they were a killer or survivor. Of course, for all she knew they were still in those forsaken tanks and stuck in the nightmare of the fog. Maybe they were just lying to her so that she'd stay docile and they didn't have to let her friends out.
Would they let them out? Had she been a freak accident and gotten out when they hadn't wanted her to?
Meg tried to relax. That couldn't be the case. If she had woken up unplanned then they would have just put her right back in the fog. They'd obviously done it once, so what was to say they couldn't do it again?
Had her mom agreed to this?
Meg came back to the one word all of the doctors kept mentioning when she asked why she'd been stuck in that hellhole.
She still didn't know what or who it was. All she knew was that it was deadly and had tried to kill her; That is what the doctors said. Though Sterblich could just be a fabrication. After all, they had mentioned that it always left marks on its victims even before they died.
Then, a memory came back to her. She didn't know what triggered it, but suddenly the image of a news anchor on tv and her voice coming through the speaker hurtled into her mind. She was talking about an ever increasing death count world wide, mortality rates in different parts of the world, and the scars from living and dead victims.
One of them, apparently, was extreme pain in the fingers and toes, followed by the nails of all four falling off. Then, a week or two later, death.
Meg blinked as she focused back in on her hospital room. Nothing had changed from just a few minutes ago, at least immediately. But the world felt different now, the memories coming back made reality feel almost warped, or as if she were in a different one altogether.
Meg brushed the notion and figurative vertigo aside. Whatever Sterblich was, whether a disease or some psychotic killer organization, probably the former, she didn't have it nor had she been attacked by it. After all, she'd been in here for two weeks and this wasn't the first time she'd looked at her hands. She still had her fingernails, even the ones on her slightly burnt left hand.
Meg found it a little unsettling that she had been burned in the fog, and in real life. Thankfully the real burn was no where near as bad as the one from the campfire. Her left forearm and hand was just a little pink with the skin being a bit waxy. She didn't have much feeling in the skin, so texture was hard to discern, but thankfully it wasn't deep enough to loose all feeling. Meg could still press her fingers into her palm, feel the pressure and weight.
Suddenly Meg went still, realizing that somehow during her entire two weeks here that she'd checked her hands, but not her feet. Of course, because of the tubes in her arm she couldn't move very much from the bed. All she was able to do was stand next to it, but she had enough wiggle room to slide backwards and lift the sheets.
Her eyes widened when she looked down at her feet, only to see that all of her toenails were gone, instead replaced by bumpy pink skin where they had once been.