Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Night Crawlers (A Tale for Halloween)
"So what do we have here? This patient looks non-responsive."
"This case is a fascinating one for sure."
"When was she admitted?"
"Admission through the emergency room two days ago."
"Yes, your instincts are excellent. Rigidity. Fixed eyes. No organic cause. Normal neurological function."
"So it's catatonic schizophrenia."
"No. Actually it's not. Take a look at this. I trust you'll find it interesting."
"I've never seen an EEG like that."
"Neither have I. At least not from someone at rest like this. Last time I saw anything close was when we started a test on a man who flipped out and started tearing up the treatment room."
"That graph is from this patient?"
"Yes. We even thought the equipment might be malfunctioning. But biomedical checked it out. It's working perfectly. Her brain appears to be in some kind of fugue state. Hyper-excitement."
"And it's like that all the time?"
"But how could all this be going on in her brain with no physical manifestations? No tremors. No sweat. No seizure activity."
"I know! I can't find anything like it in the literature. Not in humans, anyway."
"But what's that tint to her skin? Discoloration. It's kind of yellow. Like stain. And there's a strange odor in here."
"Well, that's where this case gets really weird."
"We're not there already?"
"Oh, we're just getting started. We think those are organics. Rotting plant material. Peat. Some minerals, most likely."
"I'm not following."
"Well, we found her buried in soil."
"I had that same expression when the paramedics told me."
"As in buried? Like dead?"
"Oh no. Her nostrils were protruding."
"There was some kind of frame set up in the basement of an old house. Huge. The best guess from the investigators and the police was that it was used as a worm farm."
"You mean like night crawlers? A dozen for a dollar?"
"Exactly. Maybe they had some kind of business going. I don't know."
"Was she abused? Was she held captive by some maniac?"
"Actually, she tried to wriggle away when someone reached into the dirt. They thought they had a dead body. But she tried to burrow deeper."
"I don't understand."
"She moved like a worm. Tried to tunnel. Her mouth was totally filled with dirt like she was devouring it."
"That's absolutely the strangest thing I ever heard."
"We actually have a theory about the catatonia. Want to hear it?"
"I don't know."
"It's actually related to the worm bed."
"Dr. Savour, our Chief of Psychiatry, thinks it's fear."
"He thinks the EEG and resulting catatonia result from acute anxiety overload. He's noted that only the most primitive areas of her brain are involved. Take a look at the PET scan."
"All this started when they pulled her out of the worm bed. Dr. Savour believes it's the light. Being exposed to light. He tried an experiment last night. He turned out all the lights in here. After a minute, she came alive. She rolled onto the floor and tried to wriggle herself underneath the cabinet."
"You're kidding me."
"Oh no. And guess what? This is your lucky day!"
"I'm afraid to ask."
"I received a call right before I met you downstairs. Apparently, they didn't do a completely thorough investigation. When they probed deeper into the worm bed, they hit something soft. A man has surfaced. They're on their way with him right now. And he doesn't have arms."