Lacey is supposed to have schizophrenia in this with the symptoms of auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and delusions. My word choice is deliberate.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ouat, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Center Cannot Hold, or Alice in Wonderland. Obviously. And I am not a psychologist.
Everything was wrong.
Lacey's fingers slid along the mat beneath her, springs poking into her back. She peeled open her eyes, blinking in the dusty light that streamed from the dirty windows above her. She was lying in a small, square room with grey walls and no furniture. The wall next to her was free of any scratch marks, the floor did not contain a multi-colored mural, and she could sense that she was below ground, not above it. She confirmed this by standing and peering out the high windows, realizing that they were level with the ground outside.
Lacey did not know why the room should contain any of these things, but she knew it should. A sense of unreality surrounded her, as though everything she saw—everything she touched—was only an illusion.
She was, understandably, scared.
Lacey knew where she was, off course. She was in a hospital, a mental ward, an asylum (whichever you wish to call it). For the last two years, she had been rotting in this cell after her father signed away her life. He said it was for her own good—normal girls didn't see things that weren't there. Normal girls didn't talk to the air. Normal girls didn't have relationships with the town monster.
If her father was being honest with himself, he really locked her away for the latter.
Truthfully, she probably belonged here. Lacey knew something was wrong with her. That's what the doctors kept saying, at least. She was sick, and they were going to help her. So for eighteen hours a day, she was locked in this tiny room with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Every other day, she was let out for an hour to have a therapy session with the honorable Dr. Archibald Hopper. Lacey liked Dr. Hopper. He listened, and he never judged (unlike some of the orderlies in this place). But, he didn't truly understand. No one did. They said it was all in her mind, but Lacey knew better. Something was very wrong with the world they lived in, and only she could see it. She couldn't name it, but something was off about Storybrooke, Maine.
But Lacey did not like to think about it.
The rest of her time was spent in the rec room; although a battered old TV, couple of chairs, and a deck of 38 cards could hardly be considered recreational. Lacey was queen of the cards. No one else was allowed to touch them. Occasionally, she would invite the gentle giant, Chief Bromden, to play Texas hold'em or gin rummy with her. The Chief acted as both mental patient and janitor to the underground asylum. Lacey rather enjoyed his company. He was quiet, and played a fair game.
Most importantly, he never judged.
But right now, Lacey was not playing cards with the Chief in the rec room. She was standing in the middle of her prison, wondering why everything felt so wrong.
Lacey couldn't just stand there when the world was tilting around her. She ran to the door and attempted to wrestle it open. It wouldn't budge, as she suspected. Her wardens wouldn't be so reckless as to allow the fox to flee the coop.
No. The door was locked, and would remain so until they said differently. Lacey was not in a position to decide any aspect of her fate in this place; it was all perfectly arranged for her, per another's desires. She might have been the fox, but they were the eagles—always watching, always waiting. They would not make a mistake.
Even knowing all this didn't keep Lacey from banging on the door. She smacked her hand against it- again and again, over and over—until her palms were bright red and she was a crying heap on the floor. No one came, of course, and the door had not budged.
It was at this point, when Lacey was at her lowest that she heard the voice, speaking softly against her gloom.
"Hello," it whispered whipped her head up, desperately searching for the intruder, hope springing in her chest (although she would never admit it).
She was alone.
"Hello," the voice said again. It sounded like a child's voice, all soft and high and innocent. It was beautiful.
"Hello?" Lacey quietly responded. "Who's there?"
Lacey rolled her eyes at the unhelpfulness of the answer. "Me who?"
A friend. That was good. Better than being an enemy.
"Where are you? Show yourself!"
"I'm here, Lacey. With you. Don't worry. You're safe with me. You're safe, right here, inside your head. They can't touch me here. They can't touch you."
The voice spoke so softly and said such lovely words. She was free, in her mind. Free to make her own choices, to forge her own path, to listen to her own thoughts. Her friend made a compelling case, and she decided she liked it.
"Fine. I'm going to keep you. You may continue to talk to me," she gave it permission. The voice had the audacity to laugh.
"Lacey, you can't keep me. I am part of you—an extension of your mind. I can only do what you tell me to do. But, if you allow me, I can help you."
"How?" she demanded.
"I can take away your fears, I can crush your enemies. I can destroy them. The people who keep you locked up, the people who locked you away. We can hurt them. Together. Doesn't that sound nice?"
Lacey was shocked. She had never considered hurting the orderlies or the nurses of the asylum. They might be strict and ignorant, but they didn't deserve her hatred or her violence.
"No! Of course not! I don't want to hurt anyone!"
"But they want to drug you, to take me away from you. I'm your only friend. Without me, you'll be lonely, without anyone in the world."
"That's not true!" Lacey cried. "I'm not alone."
"Oh," her friend said, "you're talking about him, aren't you? Your true love," it mocked. "Where is he, Lacey? Is he here? Has he ever even come to visit? He doesn't care about you. Only I care. Only I will stay. And they want to take me away. Forever."
At that moment, Nurse Ratched, with her slimy smile and devious eyes, opened the door. Lacey had long since moved back to her bed, huddled on it for warmth. Nurse Ratched looked around the room, eyes ghosting over Lacey as though she was nothing more but a mark on the wall.
"Time to take your pills, Lacey," she said, barely containing the disgust in her voice.
The friend cried out in shock. "What did I tell you? They want to make you normal. They don't understand that they're the ones who are strange. They're going to take me away, and you'll be alone. You don't want that, now do you?" It was right, of course. Lacey did not want to be alone during the long night. So she requested, quite respectfully in fact, that the pills be taken away. She did not need them, thank you, and kindly requested to skip them that night.
Nurse Ratched did not like this. Not one bit. Little girls who heard voices did not make requests. They were nothing, no one, with no rights and no future. Her eyes narrowed, zooming in on how Lacey's hands shook uncontrollably or how sweat beaded on her forehead.
"I think, girl, that it is in your best interest to take these pills. You're distraught. They will help. I promise."
"I don't need them," Lacey responded. "I feel fine, today. Thank you." She smiled, in the hopes of placating a frowning nurse. It didn't help.
"Fine." Nurse Ratched growled, turning abruptly. She practically ran from the room, door slamming shut behind her.
Lacey relaxed, feeling braver than she had ever felt in—how many years, now? Time was always so muddled in her brain. Remembering the past always seemed like such a chore that Lacey normally tried to not even bother with it.
But after the resounding clang of the door had ended, Lacey found herself in binding silence, as though she were in the middle of a deep lake. Her friend had gone quiet, and no matter how hard Lacey tried, it would not respond to her requests. So she resigned herself to a long and boring night.
She was just settling in to wait it out when the door slammed open. Four burly orderlies filed through like they were storming Normandy Beach, syringes at the ready. Nurse Ratched led the march (Lacey almost expected her to let out a battle cry. She felt a drop of disappointment when she didn't).
Before she could move, they had grabbed her limbs and were hauling her away from the wall.
It was a perfectly normal reaction to have, but it was the wrong one. They took it as a sign of resistance, and slammed her back onto the bed. They strapped her down, leather cuffs cutting into her wrists (and when had they even appeared?) and forced open her mouth.
The twisted Nurse came over, two horns poking through her hair and fire leaking from her nostrils. Lacey could no longer scream, but she could cry. She wrestled against her binds, tears streaming down her face, and begged (if only in her mind) for a hero to come and save her.
No one did, of course. No one cared about the little girl in the lonely, forgotten asylum.
The devil forced multi-colored pills into her mouth, one after the other—down the slot, down the hole—until Lacey could no longer breath. She was choking, each pill tearing a path along her throat and sucking the color out of her world, and still, no one came.
It was over quite quickly- mere seconds in an eternity of years. Everyone left her tiny cell, as though they were merely ghosts (and maybe they were), and the lock was quietly clicked into place as Lacey lay strapped to the bed.
Lacey could not breathe.
All the air in the room had been sucked out; there was no oxygen and she was slowly asphyxiating. She was gasping, trying to call for help—they needed to help her! Why weren't they coming!—and never quite managing to get the words out. Her binds shook, as she attempted to dig her claws into the mat beneath her; soon all the air would be gone and she would float off into space. She needed to hang on, before the world was upturned. Her cuffs were not enough to hold her into place. They hindered her. She could not grasp the bed because of them! She needed them off! Oh, why did no one come to help? Were they experiencing on oxygen-less world, as well? Were they trying to strap themselves down, even as their bodies floated into the air?
Lacey did not know. And as the night wore on, Lacey stopped caring. She was scared and alone and no one came. Her body, tied to a bed, trembled as she felt the oxygen slowly slip through the cracks of the room. Her tears left her face taut, while the cuffs wore her wrists raw. Lacey did not notice. All she knew was that she could never escape from her nightmares while tied down.
And so, Lacey spent the first night of the curse strapped to a bed.
Time flew quietly by. Years strangled the life out of Lacey as each monotonous day continued on with the same routine. She would politely refuse her pills, only to be force-fed them every night.
They never helped.
Her friend would still arrive each day, telling Lacey that they needed to fight. They were gods in a kingdom of mortals, and were above such treatment.
"Bite her," the voice suggested once, as Nurse Ratched arrived with lunch (a bowl of oatmeal and some crackers). Lacey was sorely tempted. She hated the wretched devil, whose sharp horns could cut through flesh. But as soon as the nurse would leave, she felt guilty.
She confided in Dr. Hopper about it the next day:
"I wanted to hurt her. I wanted to bite her until her skin came off in my mouth. My friend said I should. She deserves it, you know."
Dr. Hopper sat patiently in his chair, hands steeped, and paper at a perfect ninety degree angle with the bottom of the desk. He listened as Lacey wove her tale of the terrible demon who harmed her every night.
As everyone knows, demons deserve to be punished.
Dr. Hopper, strangely enough, did not feel the same way. "Why do you see Nurse Ratched as a devil?" he asked.
"Because she is one." It was obvious. Her horns protruded from her head. The nurse had never done anything to hide them, and Lacey couldn't comprehend why no one ever seemed to find that odd.
"I think that you believe Nurse Ratched is a devil because you think she's evil for what she does to you. You don't want to take your pills—yes, Lacey, I do know about that—and she forces you to. You want to be free, and she is holding the key and refusing to open the door. In your mind, you have to battle her, destroy the demon, before you can ever find peace."
He made a compelling case, and it should have made sense, if it weren't for the fact that Nurse Ratched was an actual demon. "She has horns, Dr. Hopper."
"I know you think she's a demon, Lacey, but everything she does is for your own good. She's only trying to help. Can you see that? Can you see how she's trying to help?"
Lacey quirked her head to the side, thinking. Every night, for as long as she could remember, the nurse had strapped her to her bed and forced pills—one orange, one green, one blue—down her throat. This had been going on for two years (it must have been two years. She had only been here for two years. Why then did it feel like so much longer?).
Lacey knew that they thought it was for her own good. Pills should help. Medicine was good for you, that's what the doctor always said. But she didn't want them. She didn't need them. She was fine, why couldn't they see that? The medicine made her twitch. It made her mind jumbled and her speech come out distorted. Everything was always so fuzzy afterwards as though there were no solid lines in the world and at any moment, everything could come apart at the seams.
So certainly, the nurse's actions might have been for Lacey's own good, but she did not—could not—see it that way.
"No, Dr. Hopper," she finally answered. "I can't see any good from what she does. I can't see any good at all."
He sighed, sitting back in his chair. Lacey sat, staring at the ground, waiting to be reprimanded. She knew better than to criticize the hospital workers. Normal people couldn't do any wrong; they always knew better. She was taking a big risk by suggesting that maybe the good nurse wasn't so good.
But Dr. Hopper didn't comment on her response. Instead, he chose to ignore it (as is Dr. Hopper's tendency when confronted with things he doesn't like).
They talked for a little while longer, about Lacey's friend ("No, I will not call the voice a friend, Lacey, we've already talked about this"), and about the images she conjured ("I have never noticed the spikes protruding from the walls of the hallway, can you tell me more about them?"). The conversation was exceedingly normal—and exceeding boring, if Lacey had anything to say about it—until Dr. Hopper asked a rather unusual question, even by Lacey's standards.
"I am wondering," he said, "where do I fit into your world? Am I a hero? Or a villain?"
Lacey had never thought about it before. Her gaze danced over Dr. Hopper's face. He had whiskers protruding from his cheeks and fuzzy mouse ears on top of his head. Every so often, his nose twitched, smelling the air for danger. They were permanent features on his face, ones that Lacey had barely ever bothered to consider.
"You're a hero in my story, Dr. Hopper. But your own might tell a different tale."
Their session ended quickly after that.
"You beat me again, Chief," Lacey proclaimed as she slapped down her cards. "It's that damn poker face of yours."
They were sitting in the rec room, surrounded by an unfortunate case of holiday cheer. Christmas lights decorated the room, twitching on and off, on and off, as though they couldn't quite make up their minds about their ability to work. Lacey couldn't help but stare at them, much to her annoyance (she blamed them for distracting her from the game). A rather sad looking, undecorated tree stood next to the television, missing most of its branches and drooping to one side. One girl—Alice, Lacey thought she was called—stood twirling in the middle of the room, a wreath wrapped tightly around her neck. Every so often, she would ask Mr. Rabbit if he could spare some tea, for her throat was very dry.
Chief Bromden ignored all of this. He didn't respond to Lacey, of course, but instead collected his winnings: four bobby pins, three bottle caps, and an empty lip balm container. Overall, the Chief had done pretty well for himself.
Lacey was sad to see the bottle caps go.
It felt like several months had passed since her conversation about heroes and villains with Dr. Hopper, but it must have only been a couple of weeks. Surely, she had only celebrated one other Christmas while in the hospital. She was certain she had only been there for two years, now.
Time, of course, was mostly irrelevant in a place where nothing changed. Lacey decided not to dwell too hard on things she did not understand, and turned back to her poker partner.
The Chief, however, had different plans. He smartly decided to quit while ahead and abandoned Lacey in order to watch TV with the rest of the patients (something about a Smithson's family, or whatnot. It was a new show, one that was undoubtedly ill-conceived and destined to fail…). She was left to sit on the metal folding chair in a corner by herself. The rest of the patients congregated together; they were looking for distractions from their mundane lives, and were able to find it in each other. But no matter where Lacey was, whether amongst the sane or insane, she always found herself on the outside.
Even amidst insanity, Lacey couldn't find her place.
So she chose to sit on the outskirts and watch the activities going on around her. Lacey did not often get the chance to make her own choices, so even though she was alone, she felt light as the air. She was floating upwards, towards the windows, close enough to escape, close enough to fly away and never return.
But everything that goes up must come down, or so they say.
"Lacey," an orderly called, "you have a visitor," and Lacey fell back to earth.
She looked up as an overweight, bear-like man walked into the room holding a package. He had sharp teeth that protruded from his mouth and a long, snout-like nose and mouth. Lacey watched his approach, each step spiking panic into her heart.
"Oh, no," her friend groaned, "Moe's here."
Lacey had to agree with the sentiment. Once a month, her father remembered he had a daughter. His visits were highly predictable: short, awkward, and generally full of lectures. He liked to take it upon himself to teach his daughter the wicked ways of the world (ignoring the personal hell she experienced every day). Usually, his talks came with newspaper clippings and ended with Lacey storming out of the room…and then being sedated by a nurse.
Crazy little girls were supposed to politely listen to nice, normal men. Or so Nurse Ratched said.
"That old grouch spiked up the rent again. It seems like every month, he's demanding more and more. And you think there's good in him? He's draining me dry, and these accommodations you're in don't come cheap, you know."
The voice laughed. "Accommodations? Does he think we're living in a five-star hotel? He acts as though he is graciously living in squalor in order to give us a better life. He seems to forget that he was the one who threw us into this jail."
"Hello to you, too, father," Lacey replied.
Moe plopped himself into the Chief's empty chair. Lacey couldn't help but feel a tinge of bitterness at that. Who was he to come in and sit wherever he wanted? He didn't belong here. He didn't own any of this. He was an imposter, an outsider.
"That's the Chief's chair," Lacey growled.
"What?" Moe asked. He was distractedly watching Alice twirl around the room, a look of both disgust and curiosity woven on his face. "Does she do that a lot? I mean, dance around and talk to the air?"
"Yes. You need to move."
"Why?" Moe wasn't about to be pushed around by some crazy girl (even if that crazy girl was his daughter).
"That's not your chair. It belongs to Chief Bromden. You can't sit in it."
"Lacey, what does it matter? He's not using—"
"Get out of it!" Lacey's voice rose, desperation slithering in. He wasn't allowed to sit there! That wasn't his chair! He needed to move, right now!
Spasms shot through her body, making her rock back and forth, back and forth on her chair. Anxiety bloomed inside her chest, constricting her heart. The room started spinning as colors blurred together. Faces melted away, only to be left with giant gaping holes, while the Christmas lights flickered on and off, on and off. Lacey was enchanted by them; they were the only things that held steady as the world was dissolving around her.
Lacey rocked harder.
"Okay, okay!" Moe cried, panic etched into each deep line of his face. Lacey was brought back to the present, hard and fast. The room straightened out, lines were redrawn, and faces put perfectly back into place. Moe was sitting in a new chair in front of her. She absentmindedly wondered when he had gotten up to get it.
Moe's eyes were darting around the room, desperately searching for a nurse—anyone, really—who could come and help. Lacey had been here for two years already. Surely, she shouldn't still be having outbursts like this?
It only took him a few minutes to realize that no one was paying them any mind.
Lacey, however, was completely ignorant to the thick tension surrounding her and her father. She barely noticed his discomfort, focusing instead on picking at her nails as she continued to rock in her chair.
It was several moments before either of them spoke again.
"So, Lace, how is everything going around here," he awkwardly cast around for a topic to talk about.
"We hate it here, and you've ruined our life," the voice spat.
"Shut up," Lacey whispered to it.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Everything's been good, here. How is home?"
They continued on in this way for quite some time, never broaching a topic more controversial than what the weather was like lately (cold, if you must know). Moe did manage to make a few more cutting comments about the dusty dragon who owned the town, but they generally tried to stay away from the pawnbroker and his past.
For the most part, it was a rather pleasant visit (chair incident not withstanding) until they ran out of incidentals to talk about. Once again, they descended into an awkward silence, where Moe would openly stare at the mental patients while Lacey continued to rock, eyes glued to the Christmas lights.
Several moments passed before Moe couldn't take it anymore. He thrust the package he was still holding at her, pulling her attention away from the blinking lights. "I, ah, got this for you," he muttered, avoiding eye contact. Lacey didn't touch it, instead casting a critical eye over the crude, newspaper-wrapped gift. She didn't respond, didn't move, didn't show any emotion at all.
There was a pause, if only for a moment, before Moe broke. "Well, not so much got as found. I found it. Upstairs, in the attic. It was in a box. I think it was yours, from, ah, before, you know. You like tea, right?" Moe rambled. Lacey just stared at him, mouth set and emotions hidden behind blank eyes. "It was in the attic," he repeated, growing more and more flustered.
"You said that already," Lacey replied, tone devoid of all affect.
"Oh, right. You're right. Sorry. Um, here. Merry Christmas." He practically threw the gift into her lap.
Lacey caught it and slowly peeled the paper back, revealing a—
Time stopped (not a hard feet in a town that never changes). But in that moment, space and time and worlds collided. Everything froze and hours passed as the world lay still around her. All Lacey could see—could know—was white and blue.
It was wrong.
This was not the right cup. It was too pure, too flawless, too perfect. It was meaningless, but still, it still didn't belong here. It would be tainted by this prison: ruined, crushed, destroyed. Already, the sin of the hospital was seeping into the cup, poisoning it- poisoning her love, her memories, her heart.
How could he do this to her? How could he bring that here?
Time released its grip, slamming back into her chest. Minutes flew by as seconds. The cup was smashing against the wall, Moe was rushing out of the room, and Lacey was being sedated as though each event was only an extension of each other, like pulled taffy. They stretched and stretched until they broke, and everything was over before it started.
All Lacey could later recall, as she was lying on her bed, tied down and waiting for the long night to end, was screaming. Screaming and screaming and screaming, until it surrounded her like a comforting blanket, and she could rest upon it and be safe.
And as her night was coming to a close, Lacey was positive about only one thing: she hated Moe French with all of her heart.
Lacey had been confined to her room for four days, now. She had refused her pills one too many times, and the good nurse decided she had had enough, thank you. Lacey was too much trouble to handle, and if she was going to act like that—"insolent, attention-grabbing, crazy-girl," she believed where the words used—then she deserved to be locked away from everyone.
Little girls in asylums needed to learn their places.
And so, Lacey sat silently in her room by herself, hoping that someone would stop by to relieve her loneliness.
"You should scratch yourself. That will get their attention."
"I don't want to, though," Lacey responded.
"They never notice you. They never remember you. If you scratch your arm, they'll come in to see you. Don't you want that? You're lonely. You only have me to talk to."
"Fine," Lacey huffed. She scratched her arm, leaving white marks that slowly faded into pale red.
"Again." Lacey scratched again. "Again," her friend whispered forcefully. Belle racked her nails along her arm harder than before. There was a sweet satisfaction that accompanied the pain. She kept dragging her nails along her arm, faster, harder, until suddenly…
Lacey stared at the tiny beads of red blood that slowly trickled down her white arm like a marching army rushing to do battle. The pain pulsed steadily down her arm, matching her rapidly hammering heart until Lacey wasn't sure which point was keeping her alive and which was slowly killing her. Life and death beat in tandem, and Lacey was struck by her frail mortality.
"Now your outside is as ugly as your inside," the voice spoke through the pain.
It shocked her into action. Lacey was scared. There was blood—red, red everywhere—and she couldn't get it to stop. She clasped her hand to her arm, panicking. There was nothing in her room that could help, nothing but herself. So Lacey screamed.
She threw her body against the door, over and over, as the voice laughed inside her mind.
"This is what you deserve, Lacey. You waste away in here, waste away your life. Why don't you just die, do everyone a favor? No one needs you, anyway."
"If I die, you die, too," Lacey growled, defiance and bravery blooming from the tips of her toes. It had been a long time since she had felt anything but numbing sadness, that she almost forgot what she was doing as the strange, new emotions coursed through her veins. But she ignored them, and continued to kick and slap the metal door, clangs ringing down the hallway like a heartbeat.
The voice didn't speak again.
Quickly, Lacey grew tired. She glanced down at her arm, noticing that it was still bleeding (and how much blood did she have inside her anyway?). It dripped from her arm like petals falling from a rose. There was a certain, mesmerizing grace to it, and Lacey forgot what she was doing as she watched her blood stain the stone floor.
For a long time afterwards, Lacey stared as the blood dripped and no one came to help the tiny, crazy girl bleeding on the floor.
No one came at all.
Lacey was watching TV with the Chief. The Smithsons…Simersons…Simpsonians… what did it matter… were on again. Lacey was always perplexed by the idea that none of the characters ever grew up. It was as though the day before never mattered, and their past was all but meaningless (and why did that feel so similar to her own life?).
Still, it was something to do and the Chief was good company.
Dr. Hopper sat behind her, waiting. He was with a tall, rather handsome young man who had far too much facial hair and dressed in fancy, designer clothes. Lacey felt rather shabby whenever she looked at him, with her uncombed hair and hospital gown that was three sizes too big. On a day to day basis, Lacey felt like the queen of the asylum (she could function with everyday tasks, unlike Alice who spent most of her time twirling, and could actually carry on conversations, unlike the Chief who hadn't talked once since she got here). Overall, Lacey was normal compared to some.
Still, whenever confronted with the outside world, Lacey was reminded that no, she was not a queen in a castle. She was in an inescapable jail with very few rights and even less options. Her opinion did not matter, her will was inconsequential.
Lacey (who used to be known for her insolent spirit) did what she could to rebel.
So everyday, she refused to comb her hair, refused to bathe, refused to eat. She did what she could to hold on to what freedom she had, and even though in the end she would be forced, it offered a bit of comfort in an otherwise numb existence.
But every time she looked back, and saw the polished man with his nice clothes and gelled hair, Lacey couldn't help but be reminded of how low she had fallen. So Lacey ignored the man and ignored Dr. Hopper, choosing instead to act as if they weren't even there. She knew it was rude; Dr. Hopper would probably chastise her later. But at that moment, she wanted to live in her tiny world where she was a queen and no one could ever hurt her.
But all moments come to an end.
The Sampsons episode ended, the Chief walked away, and Lacey was left to stare at a blank screen and hope that if she couldn't see Dr. Hopper, he couldn't see her.
Unfortunately, that was not the case.
"Lacey?" he called. She closed her eyes. Maybe if she couldn't see at all…
"Lacey you have a visitor," at some point, he had moved in front of her. He was staring at her with quiet concern blazing in his eyes. Lacey had to look away, and unfortunately, the only other option was to openly stare at the newcomer.
"This is Sheriff Graham Humbert. He wants to talk to you about what happened… on that day."
Lacey didn't want to talk, and certainly not about anything that had happened the day she entered the hospital. She closed her eyes and hoped to sink through the floor. Maybe there was another secret asylum that was beneath this one? If she sunk low enough, maybe she could fade through the floor and fall down into it. Then she'd never have to deal with anything ever again. She'd be gone, lost, forgotten (she chose to ignore the irony that she was already forgotten).
She could feel the good sheriff kneeling next to her, the tension building between their bodies. "Miss French, I know this is hard, but I need you to tell me what happened two years ago?"
"Lacey," Dr. Hopper warned.
"No, it's fine, Archie. Can I tell you what I think happened, Miss French? Is that okay?"
She looked at him warily. Something inside her screamed that he wasn't to be trusted. He emitted a lack of warmth and emotion, as though all his feelings had been sucked out of his soul through a tube. The sheriff seemed like a nice enough guy, but Lacey was struck by just how heartless he felt to her.
"Good. Okay." He shuffled through the notes he was holding, quickly scanning through them. Lacey just watched him, a frown forming on her face.
"Okay," he said that a lot, "okay, here's what I know. Interrupt me if I'm wrong. On the morning of November 2nd, two years ago last month, you and your mother, Colette French, got in the car and drove west to the outskirts of Storybrooke. Your mother was driving, while you sat in the passenger seat of your blue, four-door civic. Right before you passed out of the town limits, a driver going west crossed the yellow line and hit you on the front left-hand side. Your car skidded off the road, and fell into a ditch, flipping over three times. The other car drove away." Sheriff Graham spoke with detached finality, each statement leaving no room for argument and no room for empathy. He stopped for a moment, glancing at Lacey to make sure she was doing all right. She was staring straight ahead, refusing to look at either man. Her face didn't betray any emotions, remaining stoic and affectless. Dr. Hopper, however, was frowning, and wringing his hands together, his only sign of anxiety.
Graham continued, "Your mother was killed on impact. You were rushed to the hospital, where you remained in a coma for four days. Afterwards, when you woke up, you experienced visual hallucinations. Several days later, your father signed an agreement, and you were transported downstairs to the asylum. Is that all correct?"
"No? What was wrong?"
"We didn't hit a car. We didn't hit anything at all. There was no other driver, there was no other car. We were driving along, and when we came to the edge of Storybrooke, we hit a wall. Only, it wasn't really there. It was an invisible wall that is blocking the road, so no one can leave, but no one knows they can't. We're all prisoners here, you as much as me, Sheriff, but no one knows. And we're happy—mostly- because we don't know any better."
Graham was silent for a moment. "Do you remember what the other car looked like?
"I just told you, there was no other car."
Graham was trying not to look nervous, Lacey could give him credit for that. He was trying so hard to appear content and in control, even as her gaze pierced through him. She could see everything, exactly who he was—all his flaws and fears—and Graham suddenly had a strong desire to flee. She spoke so abrubtly and honestly, that he wanted to believe her. He almost did.
Then he reminded himself that she was a crazy girl in a crazy hospital, and perspective returned.
"Where were you driving to?" he asked, trying to regain control over the conversation, even as Lacey held all the power.
"We were escaping."
Lacey looked puzzled for a moment, a glassy look coming over her eyes as her mouth dropped open. "I can't remember."
Graham sighed, even as Archie assured her that it was all right and she had done spectacularly that day.
"Maybe we should end for today, don't you think, Sheriff? Lacey must be very tired. We'll try again some other time." The sheriff agreed, and they both moved to leave.
Lacey couldn't let it end there. She hadn't said what she really needed to. Someone needed to know the truth, and although the unreality Lacey was so used to seeing cloaked thickly around the sheriff, she knew that he only wanted to help. That made him an ally. So she desperately called after him, hoping that he would listen (and more importantly, that he would believe). "They didn't put me in here because of the accident, or hallucinations, as you say, Sheriff. They put me in here because I was in love with—"
"That's enough, Lacey," Dr. Hopper interrupted. "Sheriff Graham has to leave now, and you need to go take your medicine."
Lacey huffed. It was always about the pills.
They walked away, leaving her to sit in front of the empty TV. Still, she could hear Dr. Hopper and Sheriff Graham whispering behind her.
"I'm sorry she couldn't be any help, Graham. It's been getting worse lately and she's been having a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Currently, she insists that our world isn't real, and that we are all living fake lives. Her imagination is quite active, actually. She would've made a brilliant author. But it doesn't matter now," he was silent for a moment. "I'm really not surprised that she has created an alternate reality for that day. It was obviously traumatic enough to trigger her illness."
"It's okay, Archie. We knew this might happen. We can only hope that catching whoever caused the accident will help bring her back. Closure is what she needs."
"We can only hope, Graham. But I'm afraid the situation is far more severe than it seems. She's schizophrenic. Even if we find whoever did this, she will never be normal again. This is her life, now."
Lacey just stared at the black screen of the television as their voices faded away.
Something had changed in a place where the world always stayed the same.
A new orderly had arrived—tall, broken, and with just a hint of madness lurking beneath the surface. Lacey rather liked him, but found it slightly odd that he was a worker and not a patient. He always appeared so restrained, as though he was desperately trying to hold his insanity deep in his heart (that is, of course, where insanity festers best). No one could see it, brewing in his eyes, unless they were looking for it.
Lacey was always looking for it.
The first time she had met the noble mad man, he had bowed low to her, head almost touching his knees and scarf falling around his ears. When he straightened back up, he shot her a charming smile, proclaiming, "Jefferson's the name. And who might you be, my lovely, loony lass?"
"Lacey, sir." His smile turned into something sinister, as though he was hiding a hundred secrets behind his pale, thin lips.
"Of course it is," and he kissed her hand. It was a strange response from a strange man, but as Lacey continued to stare and Jefferson continued to hold her hand, she realized that the unreality she lived in had lessened when she looked at him. Jefferson felt more real to her than anything in her entire world. So even though he disarmed her with his disquieting words and his fragile mind, she smiled at him.
And that is how, on a cold March morning, Lacey made friends with a hospital worker.
Several weeks passed before Lacey found herself once again in the rec room. She was playing cards with Jefferson (the Chief needed to wash the floors) when Alice swept into the room.
Lacey was always mesmerized by Alice. She must have been beautiful at one point, with eyes like the sea and skin as white as sand. Light reflected off her, shooting in all directions as though she was made of glass (and maybe she was). Alice danced through life, never noticing the darkness that clung to every inch of her environment (but never clung to her), and feet rarely touching the floor. She didn't mind being mad—in fact, she embraced it, snuggled into it—and Lacey was jealous that Alice could live so carefree while she could not.
But at this moment in time, Lacey could not spare a thought towards the girl. She was about to win, if only Jefferson would just turn over a queen…
Lacey glanced up sharply when she noticed that Jefferson's hand was suspended over the cards, but refusing to move. He was staring at Alice, something deep and warm and haunted in his eyes.
"Alice," the wind breathed (or was it the man?), and he slowly moved to stand.
The girl, of course, did not notice this display. She was too busy talking to a chair—referring to it as "Dormouse"—to bother with the mad man in the white, orderly outfit. He stood rigid for several moments, as Alice flitted around the room and customarily greeting all of the chairs before sweeping away down the hall.
Jefferson stared after her, with such a look of yearning and sadness that Lacey had to look away. It was the first time she realized the mad man who could fool normal people into thinking he was sane might be fooling her as well. Jefferson was hiding something and Lacey didn't entirely want to know what it was. Something in his eyes scared her; it was too close to the reality she was searching for and was only just realizing that maybe didn't want to find, if it was filled with such sorrow.
Lacey glanced at the cards and reached down to flip the top one over: a queen.
"I win," she declared, and broke Jefferson out of his daze.
He moved to sit down and Lacey moved to shuffle and that was that.
Lacey was lonely.
She was lying on her bed, eyes closed, mouth tightly shut, and attempting to stem the tears that threatened to burst forth. There was no one to truly talk to in this tiny, underground asylum. Isolation tingled under her skin, rippling through her body. She could feel it coming in waves, constant and unrelenting, and Lacey wanted to weep.
There was never anyone to talk to: Chief Bromden never said a word; Alice continuously referred to Lacey as "the March Hare;" Dr. Hopper only wanted to cure her; and Nurse Ratched scared Lacey more than she liked to admit. She just wanted to have a nice, normal conversation with someone, namely the dastardly pawnbroker who had started this mess.
She conjured up an image of him in her mind, but when she opened her eyes, even Lacey couldn't deny that he wasn't really there. It was just a faded mental image of the man she thought she loved.
It was better than nothing, but it wasn't enough.
She imagined he was looking at her like he used to: wide eyed with shock and lips slowly forming a grin. He used to laugh at her jokes and gently touch her hands (but only for a moment).
"I'm lonely, you know," she spoke aloud. "This place…No one cares what happens to me here. I'm just another patient to them, someone they are commissioned to fix."
She sighed, before continuing her conversation with her imagination. "I'm here because of you. I watch as life rots in dark corners and no one cares and all I want to do is cry. This is a horrible place, and you left me to die, and I should hate you. I want to hate you.
"Everyone told me to stay away from you. 'Little girls should not spend time with corrupting monsters,' they said. I stupidly took it as a challenge. Who are they to decide my fate? I can spend time with whomever I want! Now, I don't choose anything. I don't choose anything at all.
"They tell me I'm crazy," she spoke to the air, imagining him nodding along. "They claim that they're normal and I'm insane and that makes me bad. But they're the crazy ones. Something is not right. Something is very, very wrong, and I'm the only one that can see it. The world is blurred together, and something underneath is trying to wedge its way up. None of this is real. Why can't they see that?
"I can't figure out what is wrong. I wish you were here, so we could figure it out together…" she trailed off.
The voice spoke up then. "Why don't you focus on things that matter? Like getting out of here? Who cares if their reality isn't real? Right now, we're all locked up, because you're too weak to escape."
"Leave me alone, right now. I'm not in the mood to talk to you."
"Oh, but you can talk to him?"
"He's not really here. You are. And right now, I want you to go away."
"What sort of friend says things like that," the voice spat. It had long since lost its child-like demeanor; its voice was sharp, like a blade that repeatedly stabbed Lacey's mind—over and over, again and again, and it never STOPPED.
"You're not my friend today."
The voice paused for only a moment. "Not your friend? Not your friend! I'm your only friend! Without me, you would've faded away into the darkness of this place a long time ago. They've all but forgotten you, and I don't blame them. Who would want to spend time with poor, sniveling, pathetic Lacey French?"
"They haven't forgotten me. I had a session with Dr. Hopper just yesterday."
"You don't even believe that. You can't even lie to yourself. Stupid little girl. Crazy, they all say. Maybe they're right."
"You don't mean that," Lacey almost cried. Tears were gathering in the corners of her eyes, but Lacey refused to appear weak in front of the voice. "Take that back! Take it back right now!"
"Or else what? Everyone knows it, especially him."
"Leave me alone!" she screamed, her voice echoing off the walls of her cage.
"Now, now, dear. Is that any way to treat a guest?" a woman spoke, her voice calm and biting. Lacey hadn't noticed anyone enter, and quickly threw her head up, wincing as the sharp movement sent shocks down her neck. She stared at her guest; the woman's long, winding neck and enormous black wings filled her room until it felt like she would suffocate from the claustrophobia.
"Who are you?"
"Who am I? Oh dear girl. You're worse than I thought. I'm Mayor Mills. I was the one who found your car after the accident. Don't you remember?"
Lacey certainly did not, nor did she like this woman very much. This woman…this mayor… felt all too real, like Jefferson. But unlike her exuberant friend, a certain haughtiness surrounded Mayor Mills which left a bitter taste in Lacey's mouth. Instead of being blurred at the edges like most everything in Lacey's world, the mayor was too vividly sharp. She cut through the room and left only a hollow emptiness in her wake.
Lacey wanted her to leave and never return.
"You don't belong here," Lacey snarled.
"Well of course not, dear girl!" the mayor laughed. "I'm normal. People like me do not belong in a place like this. But you do. I know how traumatic the accident was for you. I was there, in the hospital, of course. I wanted to make sure you were fine, but it quickly became apparent that you weren't. Your father was distraught, you know. It was so hard for him to send you here, but he was only doing what was best."
"He sent me away because you told him to," it wasn't a question.
"It was for your own good."
"You don't even know me. You don't know what's good for me and what's not!"
"Oh, Lacey. I know you all too well. I know all about your torrid affair with the pawnbroker. Really, they told me you were smart. I wouldn't think that a bright young girl would be so easily drawn in by the likes of him. But I guess it was only a matter of time. You were so easily…moldable, and he certainly likes to corrupt anything pure," she laughed again, though it was brittle and short. Lacey was beginning to hate the sound.
"You don't know anything."
"Now Lacey, don't be that way. I only wanted to check up on you, see how you were improving."
"I want you to leave."
Mayor Mills moved to sit down on the corner of her bed, folding her body like a ballerina and smiling like a snake. Lacey felt inadequate next to the graceful woman, becoming all too aware of her tangled hair and bruised knees. But she tried to squash the feelings inside her; she would take her pitiful state over the woman's composed, but cold, shadow any day. "Now," the mayor said as she plucked Lacey's hand up from the bed beside her, "I would like us to be friends. Do you want that?"
"I don't need a friend."
The smile dropped off her face. "Think about it, Lacey. It would be quite useful to have someone like me supporting you. You don't want to be in here forever, do you? I can help… speed along the process. I'd be happy to do that, if we're friends. Of course, friends help each other out, and I'd hope that you'd be willing to extend the favor in the future."
"What are you saying?"
"I know that the pawnbroker broke your heart. If you tell me…some…useful information about him, I'm sure I can help you get your revenge. And you'd be free, as a bonus."
"I'm not really in the business of making deals, Madam Mayor."
The mayor looked as though she wanted to reach over and rip Lacey's heart out of her chest. Lacey wouldn't be surprised if the woman could actually do such a thing. She seemed like the type.
"No. That's your boyfriend's area of expertise."
"Get rid of her," her friend suddenly growled. It sounded anxious, as though danger was sneaking up behind Lacey's back, but it was already too late to see it coming.
"You're right. It is. So maybe you should go make a deal with him, because I don't know anything. He never told me any useful information."
"Hm, I suppose not. After all, you were just his maid," at that moment, Lacey was certain that she could rip out hearts, and the mayor's looked ripe for the picking.
"Get rid of her!" her friend shouted, and suddenly, Lacey's world became too much. She was falling, hard and fast, and too many voices were screaming at her:
"Do you know what he says—she is a monster—about you, dear? That—she will hurt us! she is—was a vixen, sent to drag him—needs to leave, before it's too—and that you tricked—want to hurt—him think there was something—deserves it—wants nothing-MAKE her leave—with a —MAKE—crazy—"
There were too many voices and Lacey couldn't think. In front of her sat a dragon, playing chess with her mind. Inside of her screamed her friend, ransacking her brain in an attempt to tear its way out. She was trying to breathe deeply—stay calm, she told herself, conceal—but her emotions were ripping through her chest, pounding against her skull, forcing their way through her lips. Lacey was losing control and there was no way to stop the onslaught once it started.
Her mind snapped.
Her body twisted off the bed, her mouth gaping open as no sound came out. Absolute silence crushed her, ripping her body in half. There was nothing left in the world, but her and pain. The mayor had fully morphed into a fearsome dragon, spewing hellfire from her mouth as a long tongue twisted back and forth tasting the air. Its wings flapped, each beat grazing Lacey's arms and pulling away chunks of skin. Lacey couldn't move. Her body arched through the air, locking in place as her head was thrown back and chest was thrust upwards. She became a statue, waiting for judgment from a mightier beast. Any moment she would melt...would seep through the floor…would die...
Laughter rang through Lacey's ears as her world shattered.
Time passed slowly in an underground prison, or at least that's what Lacey told herself every morning. Ever since the incident with Mayor Mills, Lacey had willingly taken her pills every single night. It felt like years had passed since then, but it must've been only a couple of months. Being underground must be leaving Lacey confused—surely, that's what it was. Not the sense that her world wasn't real, but the fact that living without sunlight disturbed her internal clock.
Even lunatics can rationalize when they don't want to face the truth.
She had tried to be good, since then. After the mayor left, Lacey was confined to her room for several days without contact ("How dare you treat the mayor in such a way!" Nurse Ratched had screamed). At the end of six days, Lacey shook so bad she could barely hold her spoon during breakfast and the voice continuously whispered in her ear without reprieve. Since then, she obeyed the orderlies without complaint, and took her pills, and prayed to the god she never believed in that she would never have to live that way ever again.
So far, it had paid off.
Lacey had stopped being a problem patient and had returned to her regular routine of being ignored. It was better this way. Simpler—lonelier, certainly—but simpler. Lacey was fine, for the moment, to simply fade into the walls of the hospital and become one with the upholstery.
She was currently sitting in the rec room across from her father. He was the first person—besides Dr. Hopper—who had acknowledged her existence in weeks. Even Nurse Ratched had taken to looking through her, and Jefferson hadn't been to work since the mayor had visited. It felt good to be seen as human again, if not a bit frightening.
Moe had been sitting there for forty-five minutes without saying a word. He had forgone his customary greeting on the pawnbroker's evil antics. He sat hunched over on his chair, reminding Lacey of a gnarled tree whose branches had grown too heavy until gravity finally pulled them down. She was perfectly content with the silence; there were 182—no, 183—cracks in the wall, and Lacey was intent on counting them all.
Finally, Moe broke the silence with a cough. He turned red when Lacey's head immediately snapped to him. "Sorry, I—"
"Are you sick?" Lacey asked. Moe might not be a very good father, but he was her father nonetheless, and she was concerned for him.
But only slightly.
"What? No! Of course not. I just wanted to talk with you about something," he paused, hoping that she would interrupt. Lacey just sat there, with her wide, unblinking eyes that held far too much understanding. "Right. Um… how was your day? Are you liking the food here? I can maybe sneak in dinner next time I visit, if you don't…" he trailed off, noticing that Lacey wasn't taking the bait. Even before all of this had happened, he had never been very good at distracting her from difficult topics; she was far too curious for her own good.
"Okay, you're right. The food here is fine. I just… It's just… Are you happy here, Lacey?" She had honestly never thought about it. Happiness wasn't really in the cards for someone like her, more of—
"I'm content," she answered truthfully.
He seemed happy with this. "Good, good. It's just, the hospital called the other day. They said there had been an incident?" he probed. "With the mayor?" Lacey still didn't respond. He sighed.
"Lacey, what happened?"
"The mayor is a dragon, dad," Lacey pointedly said. "She wanted my treasure, but I wouldn't let her have it. Everything is fine, now. She won't come back."
Moe didn't know how to respond.
"Okay… Well, I went to go see her and she said things happened a little differently. She told me what you two talked about, how she offered to help you out but you said no. She just wants to be your friend, Lacey. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Why would you even talk to that woman?"
"I've known Mayor Mills for a while. She was there when you… she was there when things started getting hard. She can be a good friend to have, Lacey. A good ally. Regina can help you, make things easier."
"I don't need her help."
"Lacey, please. She holds a lot of power in this town. You don't want her as your enemy. Just promise me you'll consider her offer? Promise," he pleaded.
Lacey was never a very good daughter, but no child could just sit idly by as their parents looked at them with such mournful eyes. It was the first time that Lacey realized that maybe Moe wasn't as tough as he presented himself. He looked a hundred years old in that moment, with worry and fear burned into his soul and escaping through his eyes. He had lost a wife to death and a daughter to madness all within a couple of days, and that could scar anyone's soul, make them hard. Make them bad. But underneath, they were struggling.
"He doesn't care about you. He just doesn't want to look bad in front of the mayor," the voice whispered. Lacey ignored it.
"I'll think about it," she finally agreed. Moe smiled, years erasing from his features.
"Good. So, is there anything you would like to tell me then?"
Lacey was confused. They had already discussed everything that needed to be talked about; certainly, there wasn't anything else? She wracked her brain, trying to remember if she had caused any other problems lately, and coming up short.
"About Gold, of course. He's causing a lot of problems for Regina, as usual…" Lacey didn't hear the rest. She was positive she had died. Cold seeped up from her toes, freezing every artery and turning her heart into ice. She hadn't heard that name since the accident, and it felt like sharp thorns were suddenly, and without any warning, stabbed into her head.
"He only came to visit because of Regina," the voice sang into her ear. "She told him to figure out what we know about the pawnbroker. She can tell him to do anything, and he'll do it. He locked us away in here, because she told him to. All of this, our prison, everything, is his fault. He is a simpering, malleable fool, allowing himself to be controlled by her," her friend spat.
She felt trapped. She knew her friend spoke the truth, but it didn't quite register. She was in still in shock from hearing his name—"Names hold power," he had once told her. "Names are everything"—thrown out casually, without any thought to the consequence. No one had dared utter it around her, not even Nurse Ratched, knowing that doing so would only lead to death—mine or theirs? Lacey idly wondered in the darkest corner of her mind.
"You should hurt him! Hurt him for listening to her. Hurt him for putting us here. Hurt him for being a foolish, old man who has never loved anyone, especially us."
The voice was sounding so tempting at this moment. Never before had it said something so deliciously cruel. Lacey wanted to give in, wanted to crush Moe for hurting her. He knew better than to bring him up. How could he be so callous? So cruel? He was her father, for god's sake!
"Do it! We're in here because of him! He deserves to suffer, like we suffer!"
Moe kept on talking, unaware of his daughter crumbling before him and of the monster taking her place.
"You're a coward, always so afraid to do what needs to be done. To do what is right. You're weak."
Lacey had never much liked violence, but that name was echoing through her. It clanged against the sides of her head, drilling into it, until Lacey could no longer think-could no longer see.
Before the words were completely out of her friend's mouth, Lacey had launched herself at her father. She scratched at his face, attempting to tear out his eyes with the force of her nails. Tiny peddles of blood burst forth in straight lines, like soldiers awaiting battle.
"You did this! You!"
Two orderlies rushed into the room, dragging Lacey off her father. He was lying on the ground, completely confounded at the turn of events. Everyone in their vicinity was watching as Lacey's screams burned through the room. Even Alice had stopped talking to the chairs at the disturbance.
Moe whipped blood off his cheek. He looked at his daughter, trying to wrestle away from the orderlies as they attempted to hold her down. Eventually, they managed to contain her long enough to stab a syringe into her neck. The fight left her as her eyes drooped.
How had it come to this? Moe thought. What did he do wrong? His daughter was so vibrant when she was a child, so full of life. She had charmed everyone she met, until they were practically eating out of her hand.
Moe did not know this deranged woman before him.
"You are not my daughter," he spat at Lacey. She looked up at him from her spot on the floor, her eyes glazed. Two orderlies managed to pull her up and drag her away. She maintained eye contact with her ex-father until she finally disappeared around the corner.
Moe never returned.
"Are they releasing me soon?" Lacey asked Dr. Hopper soon after Moe's visit. She was staring at the wall of her room, imagining little tally marks marring the pristine stone.
When Dr. Hopper didn't answer, Lacey glanced curiously over at him. He was staring at the floor, wringing his hands.
He looked up sharply, finding her blue eyes staring intently at him. He hated that. He always felt as though Lacey could look through him, as though with one glance, she knew who he really was (and oh, how he hated that man underneath the doctor—coward, liar, puppet. And Lacey could see all of his shame).
He looked away.
"Ah, no, Lacey. You're not going to be released anytime soon."
She remained oddly calm, but he could see the storm building underneath. He was her doctor, after all.
"Why not?" she quietly demanded.
"You attacked your father, Lacey. The hospital sees you as a danger to others, if not yourself. That's grounds for holding you here."
"But I want to leave. I don't want to be here anymore. They can't keep me here if I don't want their help!"
"Actually, they can. You've proven you're dangerous."
"But Moe did this! He put me here! And not because I'm crazy, either!"
"You're not crazy, Lacey. You know you shouldn't use that word…"
"Shut up! Just shut up! I'm crazy! I'm crazy and I know it and you know it and the town knows it and he knows it—" Lacey trailed off. Too late, she realized her mistake. She had unwittingly broken a tabooed subject: him. Neither Lacey nor Dr. Hopper ever brought him up, out of fear or respect, she didn't know.
"We should talk about him, Lacey."
"I don't want to, okay! He promised he'd always be there, but where is he? He's never come, not once. Can't let his perfect image be ruined. He could claim ignorance, of before, you know. Say that he didn't know that I was crazy, and now that he does he wants nothing to do with me. The mayor said that he—"
"He said he loved me…" Lacey whispered, before catching herself. She didn't want Dr. Hopper to think it was okay to ask questions.
"What happened between you two? Why do you believe that he's the reason you were sent here?"
Lacey refused to answer. Dr. Hopper sighed, "Lacey, I can't help you if you don't talk to me. I need to know these things. What happened between you and—"
"Nothing!" she shouted. "Nothing important."
"I just don't believe that. Please, Lacey, I want to help you."
"I don't need your help," and she turned away from him. The window above her was dirty, as though it hadn't been cleaned in years. Smudges of dirt covered it, making the world outside yellow but Lacey could still make out the faded blue of the sky. How she longed to look up and see it above her, the grass cold beneath her feet…
It had been too many years since Lacey had enjoyed the pleasure of being outside. Her whole body buzzed with the desire to be free. Yet, one simple, stupid mistake had taken that chance from her.
Dr. Hopper continued to watch her, even as she hoped she could melt into the walls. Finally, he moved on to other topics, such as the whisperings of her friend, and whether or not Nurse Ratched had really grown a tail in the last week.
It was near the end of their session before Dr. Hopper retouched on the subject. "You said earlier that the mayor had said something about…him," he pointedly said. He knew all about how Lacey had attacked her father over a name. "Do you want to talk about that?" Lacey didn't answer. "What did she tell you that he's been saying?"
"Lacey," he warned.
"I'm gathering that's the common theme for today: nothing important has ever been said by anyone," he cracked a smile, and Lacey couldn't help but sheepishly grin back. They shared a moment beyond patient and doctor at that moment, something closer to friendship. For a moment, Lacey didn't feel so lonely in her tiny, underground asylum.
"She said that he said that he didn't know who I really was and that I tricked him into being with me. That now, he wants nothing to do with a crazy girl."
Dr. Hopper's hand hovered over his clipboard, before he finally put his pencil down. He took off his glasses and pinched his nose, with Lacey's eyes on him all the while. Finally, after what felt like years, he spoke, "I don't know if Mr…if the pawnbroker has been saying such things. I haven't personally talked to him in quite a while. Mayor Mills would know more than I would. But," he said carefully, one finger suspended in the air as Lacey started to interrupt, "but, that doesn't mean it's true. She might have just told you that to get a rise out of you, and judging by how red your face is right now, it seems to have worked. What we really need to concentrate on, right now, isn't what Mayor Mills said but how you can move on from your past. She was using your own emotions against you."
"My emotions are completely in check, Dr. Hopper. I barely even think about my past, let alone feel anything more than nostalgia," she lied and they both knew it.
"Lacey, you attacked your father because he said a name. Most people who have moved on don't do things like that."
"Crazy people do," Archie sighed at her pronouncement. There was a moment of silence between the pair. "That's Mayor Mills fault, anyway," Lacey declared.
"Why do you say that?"
"She sent Moe here, to find out useful information, I think she called it. She controls him, just like she does with everything in this world. She planned for all of this, for me to attack Moe. She wanted to make sure I would be stuck here, with no way out."
"Lacey, I don't think—"
"I can help her and be free, or keep his secrets and rot. That was the deal, Dr. Hopper. I didn't take it. I couldn't give in to the dragon. Now she sits on her empty throne as I'm left to rot with my treasure. I'm not sure which one of us is richer."
"Lacey, these are delusions. The mayor was hoping that she could help you and you could help her, in return. That doesn't make her some evil dragon intent on stealing your 'treasure,' whatever that might be."
"It's okay that you can't see it yet, Dr. Hopper. She has you caught, too, just like she did with my father, and Nurse Ratched, and Chief Bromden, and everyone. Soon you'll see the truth. She can't hold on to everything forever. She can't jail reality like she jailed me. Not forever."
And so, time carried forward in a town that never changed until twenty-eight years had passed in a matter of days. The residents forgot conversations they held, actions they took, people they met. Any new occurrence faded, until they believed it had always been that way.
Moe forgot that he had ever visited his daughter in the asylum. Graham forgot that he was investigating the death of Colette French. Dr. Hopper forgot that he was a hero in someone's story, even if he was a villain in his own.
And Lacey French forgot that she had once brazenly spoken her secrets to an imaginary pawnbroker, instead of spending her days hiding his close to her heart.
Many things happen over twenty-eight years, but only for a moment. Time skipped forward and everything resettled and no one remembered anything.
And so all of the residents of Storybrooke, Maine carried on, alive but not living, until one day, the clock tower chimed. And in Lacey's infinite wisdom, she knew the world had changed.
AN: If you got to this point, I'm impressed! Thanks for reading! The characters of Chief Bromden and Nurse Ratched were taken from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey; the characters in the asylum in Skin Deep perfectly match his description, so I always figured they were supposed to be from that. Also, I have never seen Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, so I don't know what Alice is like in that, but in my world, she and Jefferson are in love.
I am not a psychologist, so all of this was taken from my classes, books, and (unfortunately) movies. I tried to be as accurate as I could, but I'm not sure how well I did. A lot of inspiration was drawn from the autobiography The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Sax. I did try really hard to make sure Lacey WASN'T violent (except for the Moe incident, which was purposeful cause it led to the talk with Archie) because that is just a horrible stereotype.
There will (hopefully) be a sequel.