Chapter 0:

Prologue - The Patient


The morning light poured into the psych ward from the reinforced windows at the far end of the common room, casting long shadows that spilled out into the adjacent hallway. Through this patchwork of light and dark, Dr. Nancy Baker made her way to her office while savoring a long sip of her morning coffee. After a night of rough sleep, she certainly needed an energy boost before looking over the clipboards for the new patients.

“Mornin’!” One of the nurses' aides, Rajesh, poked his head in from the hall and gave Nancy a friendly wave.

“Mornin’” Dr. Baker repeated, minus the enthusiasm Rajesh had.

“You’re gonna wanna take some time on that first guy,” Rajesh told her, nodding towards the stack of clipboards. “He’s got an interesting story.”

Interested, yet slightly worried, Nancy picked up the clipboard and began scanning the top page. As her eyes travelled downward, her expression grew more and more concerned.

“He tried to destroy a power plant with a sledgehammer?” she asked, brow furrowed.

“Yup,” Rajesh replied. “He didn’t get very far, as you’d imagine. When they wheeled him in here on the cot, he kept murmuring something about a hummingbird ‘showing him the ending’ or something like that. It was pretty strange.”

“A hummingbird?...” She read through the page once again. Nothing in the man’s medical history even suggested he’d have such a sudden mental breakdown.

Sudden onset schizophrenia, perhaps? she wondered.

“Could you bring him in right now?” she asked.

Rajesh nodded. “Sure can, doc. I’ll go get him.”


Humming merrily to himself, Rajesh walked down the sterile white tiled hallway, the sound of his black work shoes standing out sharply against the silence of the ward.

He peered into the new patient’s room to find the man huddled up on the bed with his knees up against his chest. His face was worn and haggard, with dark rings under his eyes, as if he hadn’t slept at all during the night.

“Steven?” Rajesh called to him. “Dr. Baker wants to see you.”

Steven turned his head slowly, moving as if his skull were ten times too heavy. He stared at Rajesh for a moment, quiet and contemplative, before finally standing up and following him out into the hallway.

Back at the doctor’s office, Rajesh held out an arm, beckoning Steven to enter the room. Dr. Baker glanced up from her desk to watch Steven slowly shuffle towards the seat that sat against the far wall.

“Hello, Mr. Winston,” Dr. Baker began. “I hope you slept well?”

The man didn’t answer. He simply stared down quietly at the rubber- coated socks they’d given him the night before.

“We’re going to try some medications on you to see if they’ll help at all,” she continued. “Meanwhile, we’ll check up on you periodically to make sure you’re not experiencing any bad symptoms. Don’t be afraid to talk to us at any time, okay?”

“Why does it even matter?” Steven suddenly asked.

Dr. Baker raised an eyebrow at him. “Huh?”

“I’m not crazy. I saw the future with my own two eyes, as clear as day, but no one believes me. None of this matters. Unless we shut off all of the computers, we’re all gonna die.”

“You saw the future?...” Nancy stared at the man, trying to figure him out. “How did you do that?”

“I didn’t want to. There was a man with the face of a hummingbird. He broke into my house and made me watch it on the TV. I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move my body at all. I couldn’t even blink!” At this point, Steven finally raised his head and looked straight at Dr. Baker. His eyes were red and wet with tears.

“I know it sounds crazy,” he continued, his voice growing hoarse from the threat of oncoming tears. “But I’m perfectly sane. I need you to understand, please! I’m begging you.”

Nancy let out a long sigh and looked back down at the notes she’d made on Steven Winston’s sheet.

“We’ll start on medication later, after you’ve gotten some more rest, okay?” she finally told him.

Realizing he was fighting a losing battle, Steven hung his head in defeat.

“Okay,” he muttered.

Later that day, Nancy caught Steven Winston staring out of the windows in the common room. He had stood there in the same spot for what must have been an hour, apparently fixated on something in the street.

After he had finally given up and retired to his room, Nancy’s curiosity got the better of her and she went to look out of the windows as well.

What was he so fascinated about? she wondered.

She glanced down at the streets below and instantly noticed something strange. A black figure stood on a street corner, its face long and pointed as if it had the beak of a bird. As soon as she blinked, however, the mysterious figure had vanished completely.

Weird, she thought, giving her eyes a rub to make sure they were working properly. This place must be getting to me…

With an exhausted sigh, she returned to her office to close up shop.

When she got home that night, she refused to lay her eyes on her television, and she double-checked to make sure all the doors and windows were securely locked.

Before going to bed, she looked out the window one more time, just to make sure the black figure wasn’t out there waiting for her.

Real Aire