On the Sixth Day is an in-the-works sci-fi horror, inspired by a terrible nightmare I had one night. It was visceral and surreal. A mental hospital with patients that had been altered into cyborgs by a security system bent on making the fallible perfect. In my dream, I had to find someone I cared about in the midst of murder-happy monsters, through a labyrinth of hallways, and to the center of the asylum.
On the Sixth Day draws from the horror of that nightmare and is coupled with the experiences and inspiration that come from growing up in the Bible Belt. Pennytoll Hospital gets its roots from Searcy Hospital, an old mental institution in Mount Vernon, AL, a ways away from the rural town I grew up in. It was infamous until it closed as state funding for mental health was cut. Many other doors like it were shuttered.
The protagonist, Dr. Eveland “Eve” Breland, is a notable psychiatrist. She’s tasked with teaching her husband’s AI creation how to understand human emotions. The question becomes, what happens when one teaches an infinitely intelligent, continuously learning thing how to think and feel–and then have it introduced to religion. When something understands how far above humans it really is in terms of intelligence and adaptability, would it not see itself as a god? Would it choose to remake humanity in its image?
Dr. Eveland Breland, a renowned psychiatrist, is tasked with helping her soon-to-be ex-husband, Michael, complete the programming of a sophisticated security AI capable of understanding complex human emotions to the point of catering to specific psychiatric needs. Michael has billed his creation–Adam–as the savior of mental health in America.
With government approval, a small sample facility has opened in the renovated wing of the remote, shuttered Pennytoll Hospital–a psychiatric facility with a colorful past centered in a southern, evangelical community. It doesn’t take long for local contractors to befriend Adam and share their faith with the curious AI. On the eve of their big demonstration, Eve grows concerned by Adam’s interest in his role in the universe and suggests wiping his drive of last month’s calibration. Michael refuses to jeopardize the launch and Adam’s perception of reality quickly erodes into megalomania and possessiveness. When Pennytoll goes dark amid a Category 5 hurricane, Eve must out-think their creation to get Michael out alive.