What was the task you ask? Well, this is a story about five men that were considered political prisoners whom the government considered enemies of the state. They were selected to take part in a sleep deprivation experiment where scientists used an experimental gas-based stimulant to keep them awake. Because it was toxic in large amounts, the men were kept in a sealed environment so their oxygen intake could be monitored.
The researchers sat behind five-inch thick glass windows to avoid being exposed to the gas. The only way to communicate with their subjects was through microphones. The area were the men were held was stocked with books, a toilet, running water, cots without bedding, and just enough dried food to last them around a month.
The prisoners hardly complained, probably because they were falsely promised to be freed if they did not sleep for 30 days. As the days passed, researchers listened in on the men’s conversations. They spoke of traumatic incidents from their past. After the fourth day, researchers noticed the conversational tone getting darker.
The men started to develop severe paranoia. They stopped all conversations between them, and instead started to whisper to the microphones. The men felt as if they could gain the trust of the scientists by turning over their own comrades (the men who were in captivity).
One man began to yell as loud as he could for as long as he could. He shouted as the top of his lungs for three hours straight, until eventually only occasional squeaks were heard. The researches assumed he had torn his vocal chords from so much screaming. The rest of the prisoners didn’t seem to notice the yelling.
6. Three More Days Passed, But Not A Sound Was Heard
On the 14th day, the researchers used the intercom for the first time during the experiment, in hopes of getting a reaction from the captives. The researchers announced they would go into the chamber to test the microphones, and promised to let one of them go if they all cooperated. To their surprise, they received the most chilling response: “We no longer want to be freed.”
The next day the researchers sent soldiers to remove the men from the chamber, except they begged for the gas to be turned back on. The soldiers soon discovered that only four men were alive. Pieces of flesh from the dead man’s body were found scattered. The living men also had skin missing, and other self-inflicted wounds.
The prisoners refused to leave the facility. Their resistance caused one of them to die. Their rescuers asked why they wanted to stay, one responded with: “I must remain awake.” After more commotion, three men survived and were eventually put back into the chamber.
Some time after, another prisoner died. Then some shots were fired. One of the researchers shot a commander and the subject who had torn his vocal chords. He was ready to shoot the remaining subject but stopped to ask: “What are you? I must know!”
The prisoner smiled and said, "Have you forgotten so easily? We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread.”