The Visitor

Certain people don’t fit into a nursing home. After working there for a few years, I could tell almost in an instant that Dr. Reimer was one of them.

He was an academic who’d lived by himself all his life. He’d never been married and had led a quiet, solitary lifestyle.

When a stroke had left him unable to handle his daily life, his doctors had recommended he’d move to a nursing home. Dr. Reimer refused of course, but after a while, even he couldn’t deny that it was necessary.

So after two weeks of struggling, he moved into our nursing home.

When I got to know Dr. Reimer and assisted him in his move, I learned what a stern and bitter old man he was. He yelled at me countless times and didn’t want to be touched. Worst of all, he always reminded me that he might be old, but not helpless.

One thing I remember most is how he scoffed at the cross hanging in the entry hall.

We are not a Christian institution, but we found that many of our residents took comfort in religion. The ones who didn’t mostly ignore the cross.

Not so Dr. Reimer, the old man, called it humbug and went on a tirade about religion for the next ten minutes. It was all just a waste of time and only there to give hope to the stupid. He’d never fall for a fraud like that.

I was honestly quite happy when I was done with him. After I’d moved his belongings to his room, head nurse Claudia took over. She introduced the old man to the staff of the nursing home and walked him through the rest of the ward.

Once the old man had settled in, he tried his hardest to keep up with his usual isolated lifestyle. The people responsible for his part of the ward said, he was spending all his time in his room reading.

I later learned that Dr. Reimer once tried to socialize with the other residents.

There was one problem though. Dr. Reimer was not only a stern and bitter old man but also an arrogant one.

His whole life he had studied and worked in the field of biology. For years he’d lectured at the local university, wrote some books and published dozens of papers.

When he talked to the other residents though, he found out that they were all non-academics. They were happily talking about day to day things, about family or their lives. None of them were much interested in biology or had an idea about the things the old man spent his time with. Of course, Dr. Reimer made a big fuzz, called them all plebeians and idiots and stormed back into his room.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help but pity the old man. Sure, he seemed to be a terrible person, but he was most likely here for the rest of his life. I could at least try to make his stay a bit more comfortable.

At the time I wasn’t working in his ward of the nursing home though. So I decided to pay the old man a visit once my shift was over.

As I’d expected he was reluctant to interact with me. He told me to get out of his room and leave him alone.

Once I feigned interest in biology though and threw a few terms I’d looked up at him, he opened up to me.

From that point onward I’d pay the old man a visit every other week.

That’s how I learned about the man who came to visit him as of recently. He told me he had no idea who the man was, but he showed up all the time. Apparently, that man pretended to be a relative of the Dr. Reimer’s.

“Damn well know that he’s no relative of mine,” he said with anger in his voice, “don’t have any relatives anymore.”

“But then-” I started, but the old man cut me off.

“I don’t want him here. There is something wrong with him! Comes in at the strangest times…”

“Did you try to talk to the other staff? I am sure they-“

“Don’t you think I tried? Those dimwits, they just nod and say a few nice words and forget it as soon as they are out of the room. Pah!”

After that, I told the old man that I’d make sure to have a look at visitations. I’d make sure to not let this ominous visitor back in.

I hate to admit it, but I didn’t follow through on my promise. We were quite understaffed at the time. I worked overtime almost every day and whenever I had a free day, I could be sure I’d be called in to help out.

So when I came in the next morning, I’d already forgotten about the old man’s problem.

For the next couple of weeks, things got even more chaotic. I didn’t get to interact with the old man at all. It was by sheer coincidence that I passed by his room one day and decided to talk with him for a bit.

“Said no one was supposed to enter,” he cursed at me from behind his book.

“Oh, it’s me, Dr. Reimer. How are you doing today?”

The old man put his book aside. He never smiled at me, but gave me an approving nod and told me to take a seat.

The inflammation in his stomach was getting better these days. In general, he said, he was doing quite alright.

“At least as alright as one can do in a place like this.”

I smiled a bit at his last remark. Still the same as always, I thought.

“If it weren’t for him, I’d have died of boredom already.”

“Who are you talking about? One of the other residents?”

“Pah! They are all stupid! I am talking about that visitor. He’s quite the guy, you know? First time that someone can hold their own in a conversation with me.”

As he said this, I remembered what he’d asked of me a few weeks ago. I was a bit embarrassed to have forgotten about it.

“He’s still coming here?” I asked awkwardly.

“Once every week,” the old man answered, “but I am glad he is.”

I nodded. Guess things worked out alright, I thought. As the old man talked about his visitor, he seemed almost happy. It was the first time I’d actually seen him smile ever since he came here.

It was a month later that head nurse Claudia wrote me up for the night shift. I hated it. Of course, the work wasn’t exhausting as during the day, but night shift meant living like a zombie for a week or two. I was never a night person.

My daily routine would be in shambles and what few hours I had left at home would be spent in perpetual sleepiness.

The night shift itself consisted of two things only. That was sitting in the staff room, trying to stay awake. Or you could patrol the hallways to make sure everything was alright.

It was during one of those nights that I ran into Dr. Reimer. The old man was completely out of it, utterly scared and confused. The moment he saw me, he hurried over to me. I could see that he was exhausted, covered in sweat and shaking.

“Dr. Reimer? Is everything alright?” I asked, but the old man needed a moment to catch his breath.

“That, that man, he is back!”

“What man?”

“The one I told you about!”

“Your friend? He is here right now, at this time?”

“He is no friend, he is a fiend, a demon!”

But you said-“

“I know damn well what I said, but he’s changed! At first, he was normal enough, but then, then,”

The old man’s voice trailed off. When he looked at me his face was a mask of terror.

“I never wanted to hear these things, I never wanted to! He talked about the darkness, about the things beyond, a place where every one of us is all but alone.”

Dr. Reimer?” I asked, but the old man seemed in shock, talking more to himself, then to me.

“I didn’t want to know about the river Styx, or what lies beyond! Oh god, why did he have to tell me about hell’s horrible capital Dis, why about Beelzebub’s seat at Pandemonium?”

“Dr. Reimer, those are just stories, there is nothing to them,” I said to calm him down.

“But I saw it all! As he was telling me those horrible things, I could see them myself, I could, I could…”

“Now, now Dr. Reimer, you have to calm down.”

“How could I stay calm? How? After I’ve seen these blazing fields, the ashen air and the faces of all those, those-“

“Come on now Dr. Reimer. Let’s stop talking about it. If that man is still there, I make sure he goes away. I’ll make sure he leaves you alone and make sure he doesn’t return.”

Now the old man had listened and he looked at me with teary eyes.

“Just please make him go away, I don’t ever want to hear about those things again. I just want to read, to spend the time I still have in peace.”

As the two of us walked through the hallway, I felt how shaky the old man was. He seemed to be a completely different person from his usual bitter self. He almost huddled against my arm as I led him.

With each step we took, I could hear him murmur next to me. He spoke of Abaddon of the pit, of Lucifuge Rofocale and Sargatans. A few times I winced, as he pressed my arm so hard, that I felt his nails dig into my skin.

When the old man saw the door to his room, he inched back and hid behind me.

“Everything is alright, Dr. Reimer.”

The moment I lead the old man through the door though, I thought I felt a rush of hot air. All of a sudden, completely out of nowhere, the old man started to scream up in terror. Right then I thought I saw a shade at the end of the room.

I hit the light switch and as the lamp flooded the room, I saw we were alone.

When I turned to Dr. Reimer, I saw that his eyes were wide open and he was clutching his chest with both hands. Then he fell to the floor. In an instant, I pressed the pager to notify the rest of the staff.

I knew it was too late even before the doctors arrived. The old man had suffered from a fatal heart attack.

When I went home after that night, I didn’t catch any sleep. I was too confused about what had happened. Had that man really been there that night?

I went to work much earlier that day. I went straight to head nurse Claudia to ask her about the mysterious visitor. What she told me though, confused me even more. As far as she could tell, there never was any visitor.

She told me the old man had come to her a few times demanding to not let this man revisit him. She didn’t know what he was talking about though. No one ever came to visit Dr. Reimer.

To make sure, she opened up the visitation list once again. We went over it together, and she was right, there was no entry for Dr. Reimer since he started staying with us.

I asked her if it was possible for the man to have simply walked in. She said, once sure, but not every week. Someone would have noticed him eventually.

After that, I talked to the rest of the staff. They told me the exact same thing. No one ever saw anyone visiting Dr. Reimer.

There was one nurse though who told me something that made my skin crawl. A few times she’d heard Dr. Reimer talk in his room. It had surprised her and she’d wondered who the old man could be talking to.

When she peered inside though, the old man was all by himself.

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