The thick blood vessels covered the entire surgery room. They were like the roots of an old tree, ringing everything and everyone within it. The organs on the wall shrank and expanded. Human faces were incased in the ceiling, and from a far, it looked similar to a large puzzle fitted with human bodies. Chen Ge had imagined meeting Doctor Gao again. There had been many scenarios, but he had not once expected that they would meet again in such circumstances.
The blood dripped on the white coat, but it slid off without leaving a trace. Doctor Gao was the most unique presence in this world. He stood amid the blood, flesh, and dead bodies, but he was wearing a white coat that signified hope and salvation. Doctor Gao looked at Chen Ge with a calm and collected expression. "You have arrived later than I expected."
"You knew I would come here?"
"I knew it would eventually come down to this. When I first saw you on the 24th floor of Fang Hwa Apartments, I already knew this would happen. You gave me a deep and acute sense of danger."
"Is that why you kept coming to my rescue then, to prevent me from coming into conflict with the other members of the ghost stories society?" Chen Ge thought back to the incident back then. No. 10 had been helping him, and at the end, he had eventually left a hint underneath the table, giving him the location of Linjiang New Schistosomiasis Control Station.
Doctor Gao nodded. "You are all my patients. Isn't it normal for the doctor to look out for his patients?"
"Patients?" Chen Ge shook his head. "You have no right to label other people that because, in my eyes, you are the one who suffers from the most serious illness. The world behind the door does not lie. This nightmare that is completely twisted and constructed from flesh and blood is a true reflection of your heart."
"A soul and heart filled by carcasses is not an illness. Everyone has something twisted in their hearts. If this is an illness, then all of us are sick, including you." Doctor Gao smiled. He seemed to enjoy chatting with Chen Ge. This young man before him, be it in terms of thoughts or understanding of people and situations, was different from most. Doctor Gao found something like a 'kindred spirit' within Chen Ge. "I am a psychologist and thus have seen many twisted souls. The reason they become like that, most of the time, is not their own doing."
The voice paused, and the smile on Doctor Gao's face slowly disappeared. "When you arrived, you should have seen the pictures on the wall already, right?"
Chen Ge nodded. "Those are the victims of the ghost stories society for the past five years? The sins that they have committed?"
"Victims?" Doctor Gao lifted his head to look at the puzzle of human faces above him. "From my perspective, they are the real offenders. They did what they liked with no consideration for others or the consequences. They live around us, wearing a human skin, but like the devil, they kept creating endless misfortunes. Every one of them had a reason to die, and what I've done is merely make their death more meaningful and valuable."
"But is this fair to them?" Chen Ge stood from the viewpoint of an outsider and tried to play the devil's advocate. He was not particularly partial to anyone. "I ran across a man who was barely alive in the lab. According to what the doctors here said, they had purposely suspended him in that state for the sake of an experiment. While they rescued him, they also added new wounds to his body. He suffered such endless torture mainly because of pranks that he committed when he was a child. So, he bullied his friend? Admittedly, it should not have happened, but does that deserve a punishment so cruel? Is that fair?"
"You can stand there and question the fairness because you are not taking the perspective of the victims. You cannot see the wounds in their hearts, so you cannot understand the despair that they have faced. You cannot understand the pain that caused them to suffocate, the pain that makes them want to tear themselves open." Doctor Gao spoke faster, as if he had been reminded of himself. "That kind of pain is permanent, a pain that seeps into every single cell of your body. It will torment you endlessly. It follows you like a shadow, like bugs that crawl into each inch of your body. You know they are there and have dominated every part of your body and soul, but you cannot release them.
"No matter what you do, they will follow you, breed, and fester inside you. They feast on your soul, and you can hear them tear through your memory until every part of your brain and memory is filled with these disgusting bugs. You'll see them when you close your eyes and will never forget about them when you're alive.
"Can you understand this feeling? This is the pain that every patient who suffers from a mental illness has to face twenty-four hours daily. Do you still think what I did was wrong?" Doctor Gao looked into Chen Ge's eyes. "Even with such an amount of pain, they tried their best to live, to be alive. However, ignoring the pain is not going to give them salvation; if anything, it is only going to heighten the pain.
"Human beings are called human beings because we have self-consciousness. When a person can use 'I' to refer to themself, they are considered a human. However, my patients, they have been slowly losing their self-identity because the pain has been slowly consuming their 'I', their self-identity."
This was the first time that Doctor Gao had shared these things with Chen Ge. His argument not only included psychology but also sociology and philosophy. "Human beings are a life form made up from multiple contradictions. Human being is not a simple noun because the experience and pain every one of us is expected to suffer through life cannot be summed up by these two simple words, human being."
After hearing what Doctor Gao had to say, Chen Ge gripped the hammer tightly. Perhaps due to the discrepancy in cultural level, he did not really understand what Doctor Gao said. With pleading in his eyes, Chen Ge turned back to look at Doctor Wei. This seemed to be the first time that the senior doctor had heard any of that as well. He coughed lightly and told Chen Ge, "Don't mind what the mental patients say too much. Don't fall into their worldview, or else you'll end up as crazy as them."
"Don't use crazy as an excuse to devalue us. You are only doing yourself a disservice," Doctor Gao snapped. "When you see something you cannot understand, you'll always use abnormal to define it, but have you once considered who came up with the standard to define what is normal and what is abnormal?"
Doctor Gao stood beside the blood pool. In a way, he was the center of this world. This blood world that was constructed of abandoned flesh and blood would shift and change according to Doctor Gao's every whim and fancy. "When your eyes fall on a person, what are you looking for? How would you study said person? Humans are called humans, not because of the sound that they make, not because of their actions or looks, but because of their soul. Everything is surrounding the soul. The soul is the center of a human."
Even though Chen Ge did not quite understand what Doctor Gao was saying, he felt the man had his point. Chen Ge realized that this was an extremely dangerous thing. When a person accepted the worldview of a madman, they were not far from being a madman themself.
"Doctor Gao, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself, there is one point that you cannot deny. They died because of you. Your hands are covered with blood, and that means you have violated the law." The blood threads started to crawl underneath his skin. Chen Ge was running out of time. He flipped through his comic to release all of his employees. "You are one of the few people I have admired in my life, and because of that, I cannot allow you to continue this anymore. Doctor Gao, you're already sick. Since pushing the door open, you've not been yourself anymore. Even if you manage to revive your wife, when she opens her eyes and see the state you're in, she will not be able to recognize. This is not the man that she married."
Doctor Gao stood where he was and did not move. He was calm, but the blood vessels underneath his feet started to pulsate violently. The same was happening to the flesh on the wall. The human faces on the ceiling all showed expressions of terror. The world behind the door was a reflection of Doctor Gao's heart. Everything there was related to the man. When the man's mood changed, so would the whole world.
"You are not her, so how would you know what she feels?" Doctor Gao was a master at hiding his emotions, but the world that was changing belied them. This top psychologist of Jiujiang was starting to lose his cool. He might have looked collected in person, but the world that represented his heart was bubbling. In this case, the latter was a clearer representation of Doctor Gao's emotions than the former.
"Actually, you know it yourself." Chen Ge took one small side to the side to reveal the door behind him. "The entire world is filled with rotten meat and dirty blood, but this door that is facing the blood pool is the most normal. If I'm not mistaken, your wife should be inside the pool, right? You hope that the first thing she sees when she wakes up is the home that you once shared, not this whole world that is twisted beyond belief.
"Doctor Gao, stop running from the truth. Only when one is at the deepest depths of despair will they be able to push open the door, and the door doesn't lead to salvation but a world of deeper despair. You wish to use more despair to give yourself salvation-that is impossible."
Chen Ge still wanted to say something, but he was interrupted by Doctor Gao. "You don't need to continue anymore. I've understood what you're trying to express."
He returned to his original emotion with an added detachment in his eyes. "I told you all that because I hoped you would understand my feelings."
Doctor Gao trained his eyes on Chen Ge and revealed the last secret. "When I first saw you, I used every connection and power I had to investigate your history. I realize that we are very similar, and in a way, that is very true. You think it is crazy for me to spend five years down here in the morgue with the accompaniment of dead bodies, but do you know, in my eyes, you are also an undeniable madman?"
Chen Ge did not expect that he would have such a high appraisal in Doctor Gao's eyes. He had always thought that he was just a normal man; there was nothing particularly special about him.
"The deeper the investigation went, the more problems I found with you. Perhaps you have not realized this yourself, but I can tell you clearly, the madness hibernating in the deepest part of your heart is even scarier than mine. That is a fire that cannot be quenched and will consume everything in its path."
"Are you sure you're talking about me?" Chen Ge did not quite understand why Doctor Gao was telling him all this, but the man had no reason to lie to him either.
"It is fine if you don't want to believe me, but it is very simple to prove it. There is a 'door' inside the toilet at your Haunted House. Open it, and you will be able to see the real you." Doctor Gao's eyes were still as cold as ice, but there was a smile on his face. "That night, I entered the door. I've seen your world, so I know very clearly. When we are placed next to each other, you are the real madman."
"That door is related to me?" Chen Ge did not know whether Doctor Gao was purposely leading him down a rabbit hole or being sincere. "Based on what you're saying, I've opened a door before?"
Only those in deepest grasp of despair had the chance to open 'doors'. Chen Ge did not think that he had experienced something that traumatic before, and he had always believed that the door had been pushed open by someone else.
"I am sure of that. You are the door-pusher because I've seen the real you inside that door." Doctor Gao had an unreadable fear in his smile. His lips looked quite unnatural.
"I am the door-pusher‽" Chen Ge's heart sunk. "What else do you know?"
"I still know many things. As long as you promise me three things, I will not only tell you everything that I know, I will even help you enter that 'door' and help you find the thing that you are looking for." The blood vessels were bubbling, and the floor was filled with blood threads that seemed to expand on their own. The blood pool behind Doctor Gao was also bubbling. Obviously, Doctor Gao's emotions were changing like he was anticipating Chen Ge's answer. "This is a transaction that is mutually beneficial. There is no reason for you to reject it, right?"
Chen Ge was indeed curious about the world behind the door. When he was thinking, his eyes kept wandering to the blood pool that was changing.
When I first entered, the color of the pool was not as vibrant as this. Chen Ge looked at other places. The flesh on the wall seemed to have wilted like flowers-it had became darker in color, and things were continuously dumped into the pool through the many blood vessels. It looked like Doctor Gao was planning to soak up all the 'nutrients' of this blood world and channel them into the blood pool. Is Doctor Gao trying to buy time?
His mind turned, and Chen Ge came to a more stable solution. As long as he managed to detain Doctor Gao or the wife that he loved the most, then he would definitely have the upper hand.
"What are the three things? Tell me about them first, and I will consider whether to accept the conditions or not." Chen Ge purposely took three steps forward when he said those words as if to prove that he was being sincere.
"When you took those steps, your gait was 0.2 times smaller than usual. This means that you are planning to complete something within your heart, but you are not certain it will succeed. The grip of your hands on the hammer is tighter than usual. Even though you're trying to make it seem as natural as possible, before your consciousness caught up to this problem, there were about 0.3 seconds when your pinkie subconsciously curled tightly around the handle." Doctor Gao took out a black wooden box from his pocket. "Looks like you have discovered I am trying to drag the time out. Then again, this might be better. I am not doing all this because I have no confidence in winning. I just wanted to give you a chance, a choice."
The wooden box opened, and the thick smell of blood flooded the stench that was inside the room. The surrounding blood vessels started to collapse, and innumerable blood threads came out from them and gathered inside the wooden box. About one or two seconds later, a blood red palm that was filled with wounds reached out from inside the wooden box.
Covered with vengeance and fury, a monster that was half twisted and half covered with wounds crawled out from inside the box. The red eyes focused on Chen Ge, and the face that looked like half of it was licked by the flames revealed an ugly smile.
Without any order from Doctor Gao, it charged madly at Chen Ge.
"Xiong Qing?" Chen Ge gripped the hammer with both of his hands, but he did not take a step back. "You are just on time. After consuming you, I will gain another Red Specter! It is time for a feast!"