The Fifth Floor: Man Eating Man

This post is one of a series in the ongoing Juniper Campaign posts. If you’re new to the blog, you may want to consider starting from the beginning, or reading the summary to get caught up on events up to this point.

After stalling the police outside his house long enough for Shannon and Felix to slip safely out the back door, John heads back to Shady Acres, where his grandmother has been successfully transferred to the centre’s coma ward during all the other excitement. As expected, she seems to be sleeping peacefully when he arrives. John talks to her as he sets up her personal effects,  telling her about the incident of astral projection and other associated weirdness at Shady Acres. He adds that he’s got a friend in trouble when his grandmother suddenly sits up in bed.

“Oh, a friend in trouble, yes, yes. I think there’s going to be more people in trouble. There was that man,” she continues, before John can react. “He ate that other man. Yes, yes.” She keeps going in this vein, ominous if nonsensical rambling about people in trouble, until John collects himself enough to interrupt.

“Uhh. Is this one of the episodes I missed? You know I don’t keep up with all your shows.”

She retorts promptly. “What are you talking about, you daft bastard? Who are you? What am I wearing?”

“I’m… John…” he says slowly, more confused than ever. He doesn’t get the chance for further conversation, though, because his grandmother slumps back into unconsciousness as abruptly as she awoke.

Not long after that, Dr. Johnson announces himself with a light tap at the door. “Good to see you again,” John says.

“Good to see you as well,” Johnson says. “Sorry to interrupt, but we need to have a serious talk.”

“Has something changed?” John asks.

“I’m afraid so, yes. She’s not in any immediate danger, but if you see here,” Johnson proffers a medical chart, “her white blood cell count is dropping. This happens sometimes with comatose patients–it doesn’t mean they’re not going to wake up, but unfortunately it makes them more prone to sickness, which could be very dangerous in her current state.”

John tiredly points up, towards the clean ward on the fourth floor.  “I’m afraid so,” Johnson says.

“How does that affect visiting and quality of life?”

Johnson assures him that the transfer shouldn’t affect her quality of life. “In regards to visitation, you would need a scrub first. This would take two, two and a half hours, and you’d have to be wearing an environmental suit.  Instead of just popping by whenever you like, you need to give us a bit of warning. But as long as you give us some notice, we’ll make sure she’s available to visit.”

“I see. This is worrying.”

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Johnson says, “but this is a significant change.”

“Have there been any signs of brain activity?” John asks.

“Actually, it does look like she’s improving.” Johnson shuffles around in the folder he’s carrying and produces another chart. “As you can see here, her prefrontal lobe is experiencing sporadic activity. It looks like she’s dreaming.” He slides the paper back into the folder. “I do want to caution you not to get your hopes up, but any activity is better than no activity.”

“That’s good to hear. When is she going to be transferred?”

“We need you to sign some forms first.” Johnson hands John the paperwork that will authorize his grandmother’s transfer to the clean ward.

While he’s scanning the forms, John says conversationally, “you know, I’ve heard some wild stories about this place.”

“Oh?”

“All sorts of stuff. That it was some sort of mobster hideout, or…?” He trails off.

“Not a hideout. I’m surprised you heard about that, actually,” Johnson says. “Originally, it was a retirement home set up by one of the major mob families, so their family members would have a place to go if they lived long enough for retirement. Apparently there was a killing back in the ’50s or something.” He shrugs, adding that the centre is pretty ordinary now; even the clean ward upstairs, he says, is bright and cheery.

“The top floor must be pretty nice, then,” John remarks.

“I actually wouldn’t know,” Johnson says. “They value their privacy up there.”

“Yeah, I heard some wild story about how it was a cannibal den or something.”

“Wow,” Johnson says, after a pause. “I’m not gonna lie, that’s a new one on me.”

“Mind if I hold onto these until the end of the day?” John asks, gesturing to the forms.

“You have about 72 hours before the need to move her becomes urgent,” Johnson answers. “Sooner is better. But take the time you need.” He and John say their goodbyes and Johnson makes his way out, leaving John alone with his grandmother.

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