“Excuse me?” ***
Elisa knocked on the door, and waited the required half a minute before knocking again. Finally a bored voice invited her to enter.
“Can I help you?” The man behind the desk looked at her over his glasses. He was in his fifties, well groomed, but his chewed fingernails revealed his stressful nature. Elisa wondered what he was doing in the psychology department. Usually the computers favoured people with nerves of steel for delicate tasks.
“My name is Elisa, I am the new assistant, I was told to meet Dr. Rogers here,” she politely introduced herself, “I was also told there would be an office available to me.”
The man furtively looked around, as if searching for someone, sighed, and stood up.
“Dr. Rogers is no longer with us. My name’s Seth, I’ll show you the office.”
“Here it is.”
Seth stopped at the door, making no intentions to open it. The plaque on the door had been taped off, but she could still make out Dr. Rogers’ name. Puzzled, Elisa grabbed her keycard, reaching past him to unlock it. As the door slid open, Seth seemed satisfied everything was working and turned around to leave.
“Where’s the furniture?” The office was empty, save for a table, which had seen better days, and a lone chair in the far corner.
“See with the housing department.” Seth shrugged, and left her there.
“Dr. Rogers’ office, hmm,” Anna intently stared at her clipboard, turned pages and pages of listings, “Yeah, I hear he went nuts in there, right?”
“I’m new on the ship,” Elisa explained, “I only arrived a few days ago with an Earth shuttle, and spent my time since recuperating. I was only told to report after I woke up, but it seems Dr. Rogers, whom I was to assist, has gone away?”
“You could say that.” Anna looked left and right, assuring no one was within earshot, and then turned back to Elisa with an excited gleam in her eyes, eager to spill the gossip.
“He left?” Elisa inquired, curious to find out why a famous professor would suddenly leave one of the most coveted research spots in the universe, “I thought he was too young to retire.”
“He’s still on the ship,” Anna whispered, “But he’s been taken to the asylum. The one where he used to do the rounds, he’s locked up in a holding cell.”
“Why?” Elisa gasped, as the professor was said to be one of the most brilliant minds still alive, and she had worked years before she could land a position as the assistant to one of his assistants’ assistants.
“I don’t know,” Anna shook her head, “I only heard about it because he destroyed everything in his office, and we were told to clean it up. We haven’t refurnished it yet.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Elisa casually changed the subject, “Do you have some furniture for me?”
“I’ll go up there and see what we can fit,” Anna promised, “Come back in a few hours, you’ll have an office ready for you.”
“Seth?” Elisa walked into the empty office, wondering why no one seemed to be in the department that day at all, “Seth? Can anyone help me?”
“What is it?” Unlocking the door of the back room, Seth emerged, an angry look on his face.
“Sorry to disturb you, but this lady from the housing department told me to come up to my office after giving her some time and now I can’t open the door.”
“Oh dear.” Seth groaned, grabbing a set of keys from one of the desks and striding towards the door.
A loud scream echoed in the otherwise empty hallways, unnerving both Elisa and Seth who automatically stepped faster, even as a loud pounding resonated, deafening them until it stopped abruptly, leaving only the humming of the ventilation system.
“That came from the direction of my office,” Elisa remarked, but Seth had already turned around and was running towards his own room. Perplexed, she stood until she heard a door slam and the lock turn.
“Better go check,” she murmured to herself, “Where is everyone?” Crossing the few meters separating her from her office door, she was surprised to find the door ajar.
“I wish to report a murder,” Elisa gasped for air as she frantically gesticulated in the general direction of the psychology department, “It’s horrible.”
“Calm down, Ma’am,” the lady behind the counter remained undisturbed, her crisp green uniform signaling she was with the peacekeeping force, “Please start by telling me your name, and where you come from. I haven’t seen you on the ship, have I?”
“My name is Elisa Matthews,” Elisa impatiently started, “I’ve arrived on the shuttle four days ago, I reported to the psychology department but the clerk sent me to an empty office, then this girl Anna was going to furnish it and when I went to check, she was dead.”
“Are you certain?” The agent, Serena Smith according to her nametag, started taking notes on a bloc note, “Did you verify?”
“Officer Smith, don’t take this the wrong way, but she was decapitated and dismembered, and her head hung from the ceiling fan with what I am guessing were her entrails,” Elisa lost her temper, “I’m fairly certain she is dead, yes.”
“Was there anyone else in the room?” Serena immediately took her more seriously, pushing alarm buttons left and right, “Did you see anything strange?”
“There was only a chair,” Elisa shrugged, “The department seems strangely empty.”
“No wonder,” Serena shook her head, “They should have shut it down and investigated.”
“What happened there?” Elisa asked, “Where did everyone go?”
Hesitantly, Serena looked Elisa over, then seemed to let go of her reservations.
“You’re a psychologist right?” She asked, and Elisa nodded in reply. “Maybe you can make some sense out of these notes. Let me dispatch a unit there, if anyone dares to go, and I’ll be with you in a moment.”
During my research, I have come upon the Russian chair, kept sealed in the archives on Europe. My request to bring it on the ship has been granted, it will arrive with the mid-March shuttle.
Puzzled, Elisa put the first page of the notes down. Serena had held true to her word, and brought her into a room filled with evidence boxes. One had “Doctor Rogers” written on it in capitals, and contained the little they had salvaged from his office after he destroyed everything. At least she had a starting point with the notebook. Apparently the chair had arrived two months before she had – by then, she had been travelling and had therefore not been informed of her supervisor’s fate.
Observation: the chair does seem to tremble occasionally, but so far none of the reported shifts have happened. I have not observed any loud sounds or sudden movements. I have placed the chair in the middle of the room, and it has stayed there
“Serena?” Elisa called over the agent, “Do you have any idea why a psychologist would observe a chair?”
“Well,” Serena shut the door and sat down, “I’ve read through his notes, but it doesn’t make sense to me.”
“That’s the chair,” Elisa looked at the picture, mouth agape, “It’s still there.”
“So you think this story is true?” Serena shifted uneasily, “I mean, the chair actually replied to him?”
“He talked to it for 30 days straight,” Elisa checked the notes again, “He sawed off the legs, they grew back, he broke it in two, it was whole the next day …”
“No wonder he went nuts,” Serena nervously eyed the door, “The poor man. Talking to a chair.”
“He says here that after thirty days, the chair told him that it carried the blood of all the tortured souls, whatever that means,”
Elisa read off the page, “Maybe we should go talk to him. He smashed his office the next day.”
“People have been leaving since then,” Serena remarked, “But he’s still in holding.”
“Let’s go,” Elisa tried her best not to sound panicked, as a loud thunder shook the walls.
Running through the hallways, Elisa had trouble keeping up with the obviously better trained Serena, but the rattling sound of wood against concrete urged her on as they approached the belly of the ship, where the holding cells were. This department was mostly empty, as any criminals aboard were usually swiftly dispatched to a penitentiary colony, and the few alien species studied usually ended up in one of the labs.
“This way!” Serena yelled as Elisa fell behind, “He’s in here!”
She turned the corner, but her running footsteps halted and Elisa was left with an eerie silence, not even the humming of the machines could be heard. In turn, Elisa followed, but halted as she was confronted with Serena’s body, limply splayed over the chair, her neck twisted in an unnatural angle but her eyes still wide open, displaying a silent plea for Elisa to save her.
In horror, Elisa watched as her new friend’s body shook violently and then slid to the floor, while the chair slid forward, and stopped in her front of her.
“I must confess,” a voice from beyond the grave said, “It feels good to be back.”