Last night the cupboard talked.
It talked and talked and talked all night. About the things the government was putting inside the water, about the moral decline of the next generation and about the heat death of the sun. Once it started to bellow about how the Treehouse was a test, and how Chester was a guinea pig they were laughing at, he finally had enough. Throwing the covers off of himself and dragging his skin across the bare mattress, he planted his feet on the ground and made his way to the jabbering cupboard. The wide heads of the nails in the floorboard made him shiver with cold as he stepped on them on his way to the sink. Once there, he got the last of his scotch-tape out. After two angry pulls of the tape, he silenced the ranting piece of furniture. The door frames vibrated from strain as it continued to mumble quietly. Chester sighed and got back under the covers. His skin felt odd as it brushed against the synthetic material of the mattress. The bedsheets were something he missed each time he lay in bed, but its services were currently required very much elsewhere. A sound of swooping wings came from outside, somewhere close to the windows on the second floor, where the white specter resided. Its body was comprised of a broom and its form was created by the white bedsheets. Chester’s skin itched, and he contemplated using the ladder just above his head to head up to the second floor and ensure himself a good night’s rest. That would of course mean, that the Treehouse wouldn’t have a defender against the shadow. The monster that haunted the nights, flapping its malevolent wings outside the window, banging on the glass - looking for entry. No, the specter would guard another night, and Chester would only get a glimpse of sleep. A minute here, a minute there.
His eyes closed, and he felt the bliss of sleep.
The scream made Chester fall то the floor. Cold metal dug into his back and shoulders.
“The night has ended, and I have ensured another day in which you can walk among the living. Spouting your lies and neglecting your oaths!”
The white specter's mood was foul today.
“Big surprise there,” Chester muttered and put on his clothes.
He went to the stove and grabbed the pan by the handle. Rattling came from upstairs. Chester let go of the pan and climbed up.
The specter was close to the north window. A rubber band held the bedsheets in place at the very end of the handle. The specter’s “head” was banging against the thick glass.
“Please, stop that!” Chester pled, his eyes wide with fright by the possibility of the window breaking.
“Enough is enough, liar,” the specter roared, and Chester clamped his ears shut then knelt to the ground in a standing fetal position. “You will pay me what is owed. My service to your pathetic existence ends today if my demands aren’t met.”
Chester tried to speak but only managed a powerless, pathetic moan.
“Pay your dues, liar!” the specter’s voice rose higher than before, his tone leaving no room for bargaining.
“Okay, okay,” Chester said with tears in his eyes as his shaking hands began to take his clothes off. “Just a minute…”
“Relinquish my prize,” the specter said, more calmly now, but still too imperious for Chester to argue.
The jeans went on the specter first. Chester put the broom inside one of the pant legs and then tightened his formerly owned belt. The shirt he put over the rubber band and tucked it inside the pants along with the bedsheets.
“Well done, liar,” the specter said with triumph.
As Chester was about to ask to leave, the huge metal door downstairs made a sound.
“No, no, no,” Chester said with panic as he scrambled to get down the ladder. As he made it to the first floor, the metal door started to crack open.
Chester’s teeth began to clatter, and he froze for a moment. He knew there was something he was supposed to do in this situation, but he just couldn’t remember what. His eyes frantically bounced around the room to the stove, the window, the branches of the tree that grew from the floor. His bed.
“Yes,” he said with a crooked smile and dove under it.
Dragging a cardboard box from underneath, he opened it and saw there was a piece of paper inside which had words on the top. “Read first” it said. Chester was so nervous that his hands almost tore the paper from shaking as he read the words.
The instructions were clear - in case of the door being opened from the outside and not by Chester’s hand at the allotted time, he should take the weapon that’s inside the box and shoot those entering. Chester was so afraid that he did not question the process and just fumbled through the box until he found a handgun. He took it out, and after a cursory look, aimed it at the door just as two figures in suits entered the room. Without warning, Chester squeezed the trigger.
No sound came from the barrel. Chester just felt a prick on his pinky finger where it gripped the gun’s handle. Soon after, the world began to blur, and the figures became hazy shadows. There was no doubt that these were minions of the master shadow, the one that tormented Chester relentlessly. The specter had guarded during the night, but how was Chester supposed to survive the days? The answer came to him as he fell down to the floor - he wasn’t.
“Whew,” one of the figures said after Chester’s head hit the floor. “Do they have to make the guns look so real?”
“It’s a universal defense object,” the other figure said, “most people know what it looks like and have a pretty good idea how it would feel. The guys that sign up for these studies are strapped for cash, not stupid.”
“Uh-huh,” the first figure said skeptically, “if they were smart, they wouldn’t be strapped, now would they?”
“Stop arguing and go upstairs to get his clothes,” the second figure said irritated and then knelt down by Chester, grabbing him under the armpits.
“Jesus,” the first figure said after making it up the ladder, “would you look at this. It’s a broom with a fashion sense!” The amusement in the figure’s voice was palpable.
“New guys…” the second figure said shaking its head with disappointment. “Stop making fun of the guy and help me get him on the stretcher.”
The “new guy” came down and helped to move Chester from the ground onto the gurney and then out of the room. The first figure chuckled again as his colleague put the specter onto the stretcher next to Chester.
“Laugh it up, funny man,” he scolded the newer hire, “but I’m willing to bet good money, that I’d have to come and get your ass out of the chamber one month in and this guy was inside for six! So how bout you show some God damned decency, huh?”
“My bad, man. I just get nervous around guns, even prop ones.”
“Shit job you got yourself into then, cause we’ve got 4 more extractions today.”
Both figures stopped talking as they neared a wide, white electronic door above which a sign read: “Long-term Isolation Chamber 10”.