I’m what many people would consider a “light sleeper.” Any amount of noise around me would awaken me effortlessly, and it’s the main reason I walk around with raccoon eyes. I’ve been to the doctor many times to see if there was anything that I could be prescribed to help me get a good night’s sleep. Luckily there was, and for the past three months I’ve been sleeping like the dead with nothing to interrupt my slumber. This also reduced the darkness of the raccoon eyes I normally sported.
Recently, I had moved to another apartment just off of Lake Shore Drive in the Lakeview neighborhood here in Chicago. It was the ideal place for me as it had the lake, and a number of bars and restaurants to fulfill my boring weekends. I was staying in the large studio on the top floor of this recently renovated modern three-story apartment building.
I met my neighbors the day I moved in. Linda, a tall statuesque blond with crystal blue eyes, stayed on the first floor apartment. She seemed as nice as they came, but I couldn’t help notice how fake her smile seemed. Then there was Patrick, a short skinny guy with large hands, that lived on the second floor.
The studio apartment was about four hundred square feet, which is the biggest studio I’ve ever stayed in. Rent prices in Chicago were always high, and being able to afford a one bedroom alone was something I have never been able to afford. However, I didn’t like living in large spaces alone anyhow.
I’m a minimalist, and it didn’t take long for me to settle in with all of my belongings. I laid out a large circular maroon rug in the center of the apartment’s wooden floors, and set up my small black leather love couch. It faced the flat screen television that was mounted to the wall. Not too much further away was my small bookshelf, my desk, and all of the equipment I use to create films with. My full size bed was decorated with fluffy grey pillows, and a sheet set that complimented the rest of the apartment.
It didn’t take long for the place to feel like a home, and soon after I immediately jumped into my work for one of my film classes. For the first few days’ things were pretty routine and comfortable. I was getting some good sleep due to the pills my doctor has prescribed.
Now it’s been about a week and a half since I first heard the noise. On the first night, it had pulled me from my sleep. It was as if a rat was chewing or scratching through the wall in my closet. I sat up in bed to listen for about ten minutes before having the courage to get up and take a look.
The noise stopped when I opened my closet door and turned on the light. Nothing was there. My neatly hung clothes, and the two pair of shoes I owned sat on the floor. I moved some things around to see if there was any indication of a mouse or rat, but there were none.
Satisfied that was nothing there, I chalked it all up to be part of whatever dream I may have had, and laid back in bed. I looked at my clock and it was two in the morning. That still left me with some time to get a full eight hours. After planting my head on the pillow, the noise proceeded, but it was a little louder this time. I shot up instantly running to the closet and turning on the light, but there was nothing.
So for the past couple of days, I’ve lost a significant amount of sleep. I had gone back to sporting raccoon eyes, and my doctor decided to give me something stronger. After a week and a half of taking the new sleep aid, I found that the medication didn’t work either as I still find myself lying in bed wide awake at night listening to the damn noise in my closet. I stopped checking to see if there was anything because every time I checked nothing was there.
I called my landlord a few times complaining there may be an infestation issue, but after several inspections the building turned out in pristine condition with no signs of rodents or bugs of any kind. Frustrated, I spoke with both of my neighbors who ended up telling me their stories about the odd scratching noises.
“Why do you think I have dark circles like you?” asked Linda. “I hear the name noise every night too.”
Linda, Patrick, and I were sitting in my apartment with a few snacks and beers in hand. We all wore dismal expressions, and dark eyes. After getting to know them both a bit better, the more I realized how similar we all were. Linda was a fitness instructor and nutritionist with Orange Fitness, while Patrick had just graduated with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. We all had trouble sleeping initially, and seemed to take the same medication. What provide to be more suspicious than coincidental was that we all had the same physician, Dr. Loral Lowenstein.
“That has to be a coincidence, right?” asked Patrick.
“I don’t think it is. We all have a history of sleep issues, we have the same doctor, we are prescribed the same sleep aid medication, and we live in the same apartment building. Plus, we are experiencing the same symptoms every night. That damn scratching noise is driving me up the wall,” said Linda.
“Have either of you gone to a pharmacy to get the medication, or did Lowenstein give it to you in office?” I asked.
“Always in office,” they both replied.
Immediately I took out my phone and did a search on the name for the medication we were given. I didn’t find much online, but on the twentieth Google page I noticed an online forum mentioning a Dr. Lowenstein. I clicked the link to find that it was indeed about our Dr. Lowenstein.
“She used to be a professor with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine about ten years ago. She was doing research about sleep disorders and insomnia. She was released from her position when the faculty caught wind of her doing experimental testing on some of her students,” I explained.
Patrick was bent over my shoulder looking down into my phone reading further, “And it looks like she didn’t get in much trouble since she still has her medical license. It looks like she was trying to develop a drug to help stop the effects of insomnia, but didn’t have much luck. Too many posts of the horrible side effects from whatever she developed.”
“Do you think we’re her guinea pigs?” asked Linda.
We sat there reading through the rest of the forum. Some posts were probably from some of her students. A recent one looks to be from someone else that could be a current patient. Looks like that person described all of the symptoms that we were going through, but it seemed to get worse. The “scratching” noise described was similar to the one we were experiencing, but it moved from the person’s closet to inside their own head. After looking up the person on Facebook and Google, we found that the person committed suicide.
“Do you think that is what’s going to happen to us?” asked Patrick.
“I don’t know, but I am not taking these pills anymore,” Linda said as she stood. “I’m going to flush those damned things down the toilet, and switch doctors”.
After a few more comments, Patrick and Linda, left my place and went to their apartments. After doing a bit more research of my own I decided to flush the rest of the pills down the toilet. It was a little after eleven on a Friday night, and decided that I would try to get some rest.
I’m uncertain as to what time it was when I woke, but the scratching noise was back. Not only was it back, but it was no longer in the closet. It was now in my head.
It was loud, endless, and excruciating. I started screaming in hopes of drowning out the sound, but to no avail. My hands were pulling out chunks of my hair to help distract me, but that wasn’t working either. Not sure how long it was before I experienced a psychotic break, and rammed my head into the wall. I did this over and over again until there was no sound and no light.
“Here’s your newspaper Dr. Lowenstein.” The doctor’s receptionist left the Chicago Tribune on her desk before silently exiting.
She picked it up and read the front page: Triple Suicide in a Lakeview Apartment Building.
After reading through, she tossed the paper in the trash. She placed her face in her hands before steadily bringing them down to her face. Frustrated, she opened a secured cryptic file on her computer, and documented notes.
Subjects treatment ended in another failure. Suicide is the end result of a two-week window using a stronger dosage of the current sleep aid. Psychotic break occurs within a two-week period. The death ratio from the experiment is 10:10.
After inputting the rest of her notes, Dr. Lowenstein called her partner, “It’s time to recalibrate the other test subjects’ dosages. We need to also find the component in the medicine that is leading to a psychotic break. Let me know the progress by the end of the week.”
Time to obtain new test subjects.