Even among my more troubled patients, Richter was unique. The level to which he was disturbed without any known cause or stimulus was unprecedented, and so I considered him my prized patient, the broken mind upon which I would sail to psychological stardom. This was even before I personally witnessed him bloom and unseed.
The primary cause of Richter's psychosis was nightmares. He experienced them constantly, cyclically and, when they reached their inevitable crescendo, with such completeness that to describe them as his counter-reality would be an injustice to his terror. They were hyper-reality, more real than the everyday world for you or I.
Each nightmare gripped him for weeks, first whenever he slept but soon creeping into his waking life, so that he had no respite. Indeed, the nightmares gained power over time, adapting to his emotions and evolving to maximize their own atrocity, until they attained peak horror and released him, never to return.
Sometimes a few peaceful days would subsequently pass, but even those were stained with the dread of a new nightmare to come.
However, it is this act of peaking, which I shall in my professional capacity call the bloom, and which I first witnessed two months ago, that has shaken me to the core, not only as a psychologist but as a human being.
I witnessed the following through a secret window in a clinical room mocked up to resemble Richter's bedchamber:
After suffering several hours of unrelenting mental anguish manifesting itself almost grotesquely in the physical realm as perspiration, tremors, self-mutilation and incomprehensible muttering, Richter falls suddenly to sleep.
The slumber, which to my observations appears deep, lasts two hours and thirty-four minutes.
It ends abruptly as Richter leaps to his feet, tears off his clothing, digs his nails into the top of his scalp, and proceeds, in much the same brutal manner, to tear the skin off his skull.
His screams are unbearable, although it is unclear whether they are the result of mental pain or the physical pain of his auto-deskinning.
Once his skull is exposed, he proceeds to tear the skin off his face, which, in the most unbelievable way resembles less human bone and musculature than the petals of a bloody dandelion.
No longer veiled by skin, this face-flower achieves a gloriously yellow colour and blooms before my eyes!
One madness of flora and fauna!
But swiftly, as the screams intensify, the flower begins to wilt, the hanging veils of skin climb his face, enclosing it—
Before bursting forth to reveal a spherical seed head.
As a wind of screams rages within the chamber, breaking the blowball and dispersing its multitude of nightmare seeds, reality ripples.
Finally the wind subsists, silence returns, and Richter stands: an immobile, headless body.
The veils of skin form an orb above his neck, he falls, and when he awakens in the morning his head has been biologically re-created. His memories of the entire incident are faint, fading…
The entire process leaves no visible scars and no physical evidence.
Thus my hypothesis: Richter is not only man, but an organic manifestation of the nightmare impulse, a sentient host for a parasitic nightmare laboratory whose creations are perfected in his mind before being disseminated into humanity at large. The nightmares we experience, often dulled as if through a fog, Richter has already experienced countless times at an impossible clarity.
Whether he is the only one of his kind I cannot say.
In the coming weeks, I must complete my written study and submit it for peer review. I predict it will revolutionize the field of psychology, the understanding of the mind and introduce finally the notion of horror as a living entity: an incubus among us.