The Waiting Room

By Megan Thompson

It smells of sweat and hot breath, combining to make some sort of terrible human perfume. The old lady across from me, whose hair is unnaturally black and stiff, keeps softly dozing in her chair. She is overdressed for the occasion, her pink lipstick smeared around her thin and aging lips. The couple to my left hasn’t moved since I walked in, she is sitting up with her back stick straight, while he is laying back with his hand on her backside, still they haven’t moved. To my right, there’s a 20 something girl wearing sweatpants with her hair in bun, cackling at something on her phone screen, she’s leaning in so close to it that she appears to have a humped back. Her companion, an older lady with thinning hair looks in the opposite direction. Beside of them sit another couple, older and more bedraggled. The two of them are sharing a sucker, the woman, tiny and dressed in velvet has a nasally voice, she keeps talking about people that have bizarre nicknames. The man, short and stumpy, looks as if he could use a bath; he laughs at everything she says. There are bouts of silence, when the only thing you can hear is the ticking and clicking of the nurse typing on her computer and the crunch and suck of the couple sharing their sucker. We’ve been here for hours. I think they are watching me, I see their heads turn when I blink.

One of the nurses occasionally opens the door with a cold breeze and the smell of antiseptics; she has her clipboard and calls a name that no one responds too. She quickly turns back to retreat into whilst she came. She’s left me here to deal with these people, or is she in on it? Is this some sort of sick little joke that they’re all playing on me? I sneezed a second ago, and I’m pretty sure when I opened my eyes back up, they were all turning their heads away from me. They looked again, I know that I’m not going crazy, I get a small smidge of movement as my focus comes back in every single time I blink. They turn in unison, but when I’m looking, they don’t acknowledge that I’m there, not one of them has looked my way. Despite talking with one another they are sitting eerily still, not one of them move their bodies except the couple sharing a sucker, they move their arms like robots. I’m trying to hold my eyes open, to not let them look at me but it’s hard, and I look like the insane one. They’ve started whispering, I hear them. They started it because I went so long without blinking. What are they planning? Who are they? What are they?

The fluorescent lights keep flickering overhead, the old woman is now looking through a magazine, sighing occasionally like she’s bored. I try to start up a conversation, telling her how much I hate waiting. The room sighs in unison, they also all agree in unison. I’m nervous and sweating, I can’t show them that. I must steady my breath and my hands. I should have known something was up when I was called in for a checkup last week, it wasn’t due for another year. I was just here 3 weeks ago, I thought something was wrong with me but now I’m realizing something is wrong here. It feels like I’ve been sitting here for hours. My phone battery died shortly after arriving even though I’m sure it was fully charged when I left the house. There isn’t a clock anywhere that I can see. I’m thirsty, I debated earlier on asking the nurse at the desk for somewhat but what if they put something in it? I want to be fully aware in case I get called back. The couple sucking on the sucker are still eating it, it’s never ending, they’ve had it since I’ve been here. They’re making noises with it, the slurping is getting in my head.

Here comes nurse clipboard again, saying a name that doesn’t exist. I’m not even sure what she’s saying as it’s coming out garbled and mumbling. I ask for her to repeat it, she looks and me, turns and retreats again. I feel the anxiety growing in my chest, my heart is beating wildly. I feel my pulse in my neck. I’m going up to ask the nurse at the desk, I’m going to ask when my turn is, I’m going to ask as soon as I can muster the nerve up. I’m up on my feet, all of their heads snapped toward me in perfect timing, my legs feel like jello. As I turn to go to the desk, their heads follow me, perfectly in time again. One step in front of the other, I think I might just leave. 3 steps, 4 steps, 5 steps. The door should be directly from the desk. I turn right towards the door, but it isn’t there, my heart races again. I look all around without drawing attention to myself, although they’re all still watching, I can feel their eyes on me. There’s no door; I’m sweating again. I want to scream out, I want to cry but instead I turn to the desk and ask the nurse why I haven’t been called back yet. She tells me to sit and waves her hand in a dismissive way. They’re all watching me back to my seat, each of them has the same slight smile on their faces, they know that I have figured out that I’m trapped. My thoughts are racing as I sit back down in my seat, what the fuck is going on? who are these people? and what the fuck do they want with me?            

Now I know for certain that they’re staring at me, all of them are looking directly at me, unblinking. Their small smiles have turned into uncomfortable toothy grins, yellow, uneven, and dripping with saliva. The air in the room has becomes stifling hot and thick. I can’t take very deep breaths, and the smell has gotten worse, it’s no longer a faint human smell now it smells like rotten eggs and wet dog. I find myself fighting back the urge to gag, fighting back from screaming. They won’t stop looking at me.

I’m up on my feet again, making my way back to the desk, their heads in unison watching me walk. I glance to my left for door again and it’s still not there. I ask the nurse at the desk for the bathroom, I need to splash my face with water, and I can take a drink from the faucet. She doesn’t speak and points her finger to the door where nurse clipboard comes from.  The door swings open just as I’m about to grab the knob, nurse clipboard walks by me, almost through me. She calls another garbled, mumbled name. This time, the lady with the thinning hair, and her humpback cellphone companion make their way to the front, never taking their eyes from me. I wait until they have passed before I make my way to find the bathroom, on my right is an empty exam room, looking all around, they’re all empty. There’s no one back here; the clipboard nurse and her patients have disappeared, the nurses station looks deserted, and there’s not a doctor in sight. Everything is cold, empty, and sterile. The fluorescent lights are flickering more than they were out front. It feels like a classic scary movie. The bathroom is directly in front of me, my pace quickens. I closed the door and locked it for a moment of sweet relief. The bathroom doesn’t look like it belongs, it’s old and stained. The walls have yellowed and so has the sink. I run water in my hands to splash on my face, when I look up into the foggy, dirty mirror to see my reflection, I’m startled. I look like death. No wonder they were staring.            

A knock at the door startles me, they’re back, I think they’re after me. Someone mumbles to hurry up that they need to go. I grab on to the sink and get my composure. The water feels cool in my hands but feels like it’s boiling in my mouth which causes me to gag. The gagging doesn’t stop and the contents of my afternoon snack fills the sink. Someone knocks again, and this time I scream to wait a second which comes out harsher than I had expected. I try my best to wash the remnants of my stomach down the sink and leave. There’s no one at the door, I try my best to convince myself that I’m imagining all of this and make my way back into the waiting room. 

I make my way quickly through the hall and out nurse clipboards door to be met with total darkness. There’s no movement and no sounds. I don’t know where I am. I let out a scream that would make a banshee blush, but it’s met only with silence. I close my eyes trying to will my other senses to be heightened. When I open my eyes again, the lights are on and everyone is sitting in the exact place as they were before. Even thinning hair and her humpback companion are there. They look at me with wide eyes and those toothy grins again. I must leave. I must get out of here. I start running towards the wall where the door should have been and I’m met with nothing, an empty space. I follow the wall trying to find something. My hand hits a doorknob, I don’t hesitate. I bust through it, and I’m back into the waiting room where my seat is.

I’m trapped and start screaming. No one blinks at me; they just keep staring. The couple, slurping and sucking on their sucker don’t miss a beat; none of them act like I’m even there. I run to the front desk again, this time I’m yelling for someone to help me. Nurse Clipboard comes through the door, this time with a tall, broad man by her side and they grab me. I fight with everything I have; I’m swinging my legs and arms and trying to bite the tall man, but nothing is helping. His grip tightens and he doesn’t sway. As I’m being dragged through the hallway, I look back and see all of them standing at the door starting at me, unmoving and smiling. I’m screaming but am met with silence, nothing is coming out. The tall man turns a corner with nurse clipboard, and everything goes black.

There’s a bright light shining into my eyes and I hear murmuring all around me. My body is sore and there’s a lightning strike of pain coming from my stomach. As my vision clears, I see familiar faces and my heart starts racing. Tall man, nurse clipboard, and the entire waiting room is standing around me with grotesque smiles on their faces, they look as if their faces are going to crack. I try to scream and fight, but I’m tied down, and my voice is gone. I dart my eyes frantically to try to figure out what is happening to me. All around me on tables and shelves are jars, some murky green and brown while others are clear, the contents not coming into my vision. Nurse clipboard with her high ponytail and clear blue eyes walks toward me at the urging of the tall man, who I assume is the doctor. At my bedside, she holds up a vial full of tiny moving things, she fills up syringe and it hits me that it’s for me. She’s going to inject me with worm or whatever the fuck it is. I start fighting again, harder than before but still not making any headway. It’s too late and I feel the pinch in my arm. Everything goes black again.            

I wake up to the sun streaming though my blinds. I’m in my bedroom, in my house, and there’s no one here. I am relieved that I’ve just had a terrible nightmare. When I stretch to get up, I feel a pain shoot through my arm. My pulse quickens and I examine where nurse clipboard injected me in what I think is my dream. My arm is black and blue with little red veins surrounding the injection site, at one point I think I see something moving under my eye, tiny little slivers wiggling just under the surface. I think about screaming, and then I’m okay, everything is okay. I make my way down my hallway and into my living room. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I look good, my skin is glowing, my hair is perfect, and I’m ready for the day fresh out of bed.

There’s a knock at the door, tall man and nurse clipboard are on the other side. Everything inside of me is telling me to scream and run but my body betrays it. I open the door with a huge welcoming smile and invite them in. They are cold and sterile against my warm and sunny, I don’t understand where this is coming from, but I cannot fight it, I am trying to scream but my mouth is turning into a grotesque smile. The tall man speaks to me in a monotone voice, I’m fighting a war within myself and only half listening. I do catch a sentence; he says something about a “host” and no danger, he is also saying something about my breathe carrying it. I am so confused, my insides feel so happy, but there’s a part of me that knows this isn’t right. The tall man and nurse clipboard keep talking and talking; the part of me that is fighting doesn’t care what they have to say and the new part of me already knows what they are saying. “Population control”, I hear it loud and clear. I wake up again and everything is bright and sunny and I’m ready to take on the world.

Bio: Megan Thompson is a budding horror writer from the hills of Appalachia where she takes most of her inspiration. She holds a BA in English from a local University and has her hand in many pots when it comes to hobbies, with horror writing being her favorite one. She has also published her story. “Stapelia Grandiflora” on The Yard: Crime Blog.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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