A/N: Well, we've finally come to the end. I'd like to thank everyone who's read and reviewed this story (especially KF fan). It sounded like you all liked it as much as I liked writing it (lots!). I had to put my other stories on hold while I finished this one, but I think I'll start working on "Trials" again. Look it up! And please, remember to review my last chapter here. I have a sequel in mind, but only if you all really want one. Thanks again!
I Miss My Mind the Most, Chapter 14
"Hey, sleepyhead. Time to get up."
I slowly open my heavy lidded eyes to the all too familiar white room. I'm back at the institution, back to where this whole mess began. I let out a groan and try to sit up, but my arms and legs are in restraints again.
"Did you know that words can sound exactly the same but mean totally different things?"
Del stands beside the bed, looking at me inquiringly. She's changed again. She wears bib overalls, caked with dirt, and a long sleeved fishnet top with holes in various places. She pushes an ugly, oversized hot pink snow hat with ear flaps and white pom-poms off of her eyes allowing me to see scraggly pieces of red hair beneath. A lime green muffler that hangs to the floor completes the ensemble. A German shepherd sits beside her, panting.
"I take it that's your doggie?"
She nods her head. "He's a good doggie. 'Cause he's my doggie. Not a different doggie. Right?" She looks down at him as though expecting an answer. Surprisingly, he gives one.
"Actually, I'm your brother's dog. He just asked me to baby sit for a while. And how many times do I have to tell you: it's Barnabas. Call me Barnabas."
"Okay, doggie." She pats him on the head and he rolls his eyes. "Why do I even bother?" he mumbles.
By now, my eyes are as wide as saucers. "Oh, my god! You can talk!"
"Nothing gets by you, huh, sport?" He jumps up and rests his front paws on the side of the bed, allowing him to look me over. "Personally, I don't see why she's so infatuated with you. You don't look any different than the other crazies."
I feel my upper lip curl in anger. "I'm not crazy."
"And that's why you're tied to the bed, huh, fruit loop?" He drops back to the floor.
"I think he misses his toy," Del says and sits on the edge of the bed near my feet. "Um, it's a kitty cat with a squeaky belly. It squeaks when you push it. I miss it, too. That's why he's cranky."
"No, I'm cranky because you've been missing for three weeks now. Every time we go to Disneyland, you disappear. We are definitely getting you a leash."
"You're mad at me, aren't you? The angry kind?" she asks in a small voice.
"You're damn right I am," he fumes and begins pacing. "You left me alone with no way to find you. And it's not like I could just ask anybody for help. I'm a dog, remember? So I tried some of your people. Do you know how hard it is trying to talk to them? Between rantings about the end of the world and ravings about potato chips that look like past presidents, I finally got a general idea of where you were. It wasn't until a couple weeks ago when this kid broke out that I knew for sure. So—"
"Hold it," I interrupt. "That can't be right. You said a couple of weeks when it's only been a couple of days."
He stops pacing and looks at me, head cocked slightly. "Kid, you've been all over the news for the past two weeks. It wasn't so much that a mental patient escaped that caught my attention, it was how you escaped. The media claimed you just walked out. I don't care how poor this place claimed the security was, patients don't just walk out of institutions. Especially toting an eccentric young girl that no one has ever seen before that day." He stares pointedly at Del who entertains herself by batting at the pom-poms on her hat. "You've been on the lamb ever since."
I listen to all this with growing bewilderment. "But that can't be," I insist. "I may not be sure how much time has passed since I first woke up here, but I do know it hasn't been two weeks. It's impossible."
"Impossible? You do know you're talking to a dog, right? Believe me, when you're around her, there's no such thing as impossible."
"Then how did I lose two weeks?"
He comes back to the bed and jumps up like before, studying me. "You Traveled didn't you?" I stare at him, blankly. "Did something...unexpected...happen when you got out? Did you go somewhere?"
"Yeah," I answer slowly. "I went home. At least, I thought it was home. But then I found it's all a lie, that this is my home."
He nods his head. "That's Traveling, or at least, that's what I call it. You went to a place you thought existed but really doesn't. It was all in your head. A fantasy, hallucination, delusion, take your pick."
"The nurse said I have a delusional disorder," I murmur.
"There you go. It's not like you're alone, either. A lot of her people walk in this world but live in another. Society has labeled you crazy. I think you all just add a little flavor to the boring, everyday dry mix that we call life."
"But Del made it sound more like a personality disorder. She told me I—Robin is only a personality. So which is it? Delusional or personality disorder?"
"A little of A, a little of B. Since you're a minor, they don't want to call it a personality disorder. Apparently, only grown-ups get those. So you get to be delusional. Lucky you."
"So how does that explain my missing two weeks?"
"Traveling is a tricky thing. Depending on where you go, time is going to vary. You never come back exactly when you left. A day over there could be a week over here, or a month, or a year...you get the idea. In your case, however long you spent over there is equal to two weeks over here." He drops back to the floor. "I don't know how you humans do it, walking around on your hind legs all day. Mine are killing me."
"You can never get lost time back," Del tells me. "I know. I've tried. I really have. No matter where you look, it's gone. Poof! Like, um, magic. And stuff."
A lengthy pause ensues as I contemplate their words. The last traces of resistance vanish. "So that's it then. I guess we all achieved our goals. You two found each other and I found out the truth. So what happens now?"
"I have to put you back," Del says, satisfaction pursing her mouth. "I remembered. You have to go. Where I found you. In that other place. 'Cause you don't belong here. And maybe I can find you again. Like I found my doggie. Um, for a visit. Only later. Not now. 'Cept they're going to fix Dick. So prob'ly not. Oh, well."
"Actually, I found you, sweetie," Barnabas corrects her.
"What do you mean 'they're going to fix Dick'?" I ask. "What are they going to do to him? Does it involve the therapy Leslie spoke of?"
"He's gonna get shocks," Del answers, her voice hardening. "Lots and lots of 'em. For a long time. To make him better."
I look to the dog for understanding. "You know what electroconvulsive therapy is? Or electroshock?"
"Ooh, ooh, I do! Pick me!" Del begs with her arm waving in the air like a child in school. Barnabas gives her a nod of approval and she lowers her arm. "Um, shocks is when ziggy-zaggy bolts run through your mind all willy-nilly. Really fast. Zoom! It used to make you do the hurty dance, 'cept now you go to my brother's place so it's not so hurty. And you don't remember any of it. Or anything else. When you wake up. Oh, and it leaves your hair sticky and greasy."
"Close enough. That's what Dick's gonna go through for the next, oh, say, six weeks," Barnabas finishes.
"But I thought that was only for depressed people?" I ask.
"Desperate times, kid. But don't worry, it's not like the Hollywood version. Like Del said, Dick'll go to dreamland first so he won't feel a thing."
"What about me? Will I feel anything?"
"Nah. You'll be back in your own little world, doing whatever it is you do. What do you do?"
"I was a hero. At least, I thought I was. But I guess that doesn't matter anymore." I lean back and look up at the ceiling. "None of it's true. So what's the point in going back?"
"The point is that you don't die, you're just forgotten." I look at him questioningly and he continues. "Side affect of electroshock is memory loss. Usually short term, but not in this case. The bridge between these two worlds that you know of is going to be severed so that you can never return. With a little help from Del, Dick is going to forget about you and anything ever involving you, and, likewise, you will forget him. She'll make it so your world keeps turning somewhere deep within Dick. Life as you knew it before this little adventure will continue and you will be none the wiser while Dick is going to have to be rebuilt. He'll have to be reeducated, reintroduced to friends and family, and eventually, returned to the real world as a somewhat normal person. Everybody wins."
"What if I don't go back?"
"Then you die a very slow, horrible, and painful death. I recommend going back. What about you, Del?"
"What about me?" she asks distractedly. I look over and find her watching what appear to be gummi bears performing tricks on the edge of the bed. She begins clapping and cheering when a red one flips up and lands on her knee.
"Do you think Robin should go home or stay here and die?" he asks her.
"Um, go home. Definitely. 'Cause home is happy. Home is where your...something is. Something good. And maybe fluffy? Your bed? Fluffy beds are good. 'Specially for jumping on. Dying isn't fluffy so it can't be good. 'Cept you'll see my sister. Unless it's her day off."
"Well, kid, that's two votes for going home. For living. Easy answer here. Do I even need to ask what yours is?"
He's right, it is an easy answer. "I'll stay."
The dog's jaw literally drops open. "Gotta say, I wasn't expecting that. Forgive the irony, but, are you crazy? You're going to die."
"At least Dick won't have to worry about me coming back," I reply sharply. "The lies will finally be over. Besides, someone told me that something that isn't born can't die."
"Doesn't mean you can't feel pain. Lots of it. Pain way beyond the 'R' rating in movies. Only through experience is it able to be truly understood. Until there is nothing left of you within Dick's mind."
"I thought you said I wouldn't feel anything?"
"That's only if you go back. If you stay, you will feel everything. First hand."
"I don't understand."
He sighs. "It's complicated. From what I understand, the body you inhabit is not yours. It's Dick's. You may have control of it at the moment, but that doesn't mean it's yours."
"You're making it sound like I possessed Dick. Like I need to be exorcised or something," I joke.
"I told you, it's complicated. This isn't exactly an everyday situation, you know. Besides, most of this info comes from her, and we both know how reliable she is. Now, no more interruptions.
"Dick's gonna be given a buffet of drugs powerful enough to knock him out and make him more limp than a cooked noodle so the therapy will be as painless as possible. You, on the other hand, will somehow remain conscious. Don't ask me how, you just are.
"Now, electroshock is a therapy that messes with the mind. Something about the chemicals you got up there getting shifted around by the electricity they send through you. Since you reside in the mind, you're going to feel it all. It will last for only a few seconds, but it will hurt like hell. And it will be nothing compared to what you'll feel during the grand mal seizure.
"Think of the worst torture you can imagine. Think of having to go through that about three times a week for roughly six weeks, probably less, because there's no way you're going to hold out. If you're not going back because you think you can beat this thing, think again. You can't. This is why I strongly encourage you to go back."
I clench my hands to keep them from shaking. "How do you know so much about this?"
"'Cause I told him," Del whispers, head bowed, her little friends having disappeared. "I've felt it. And it's horrible. And scary. You're not the first. But you are one of mine. What you see, I see. What you feel, I feel. When you hurt, I hurt." She looks at me with matching green eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Please, don't die, Robin. Not like this. It will be very hurty. Very, very, um, very hurty. More hurty than this is. For me. And I can send you back. Safe. Then you don't have to die. You don't have to remember. Life will be happy. 'Cause you'll live. And I'll be happy that you're happy."
I sigh and shake my head regretfully. "I can't Del." With a moan of distress, she turns away. "It's time I stopped embracing the lie and let Dick have his life back," I continue. "It's for the best."
Barnabas gives a low growl. "Who are you trying to fool? Us or yourself? Putting up this big hero act. 'It's for the best.' Bull."
I lift my head and glare at him. "What do you know? You're just a dog, for crying out loud. I don't have to prove anything to you." I turn my head away to glare at the opposite wall.
He gives another growl. "This is beyond idiotic. You want to die? Fine. Come on, Del, let's go."
I feel the bed shift, assuming Del's leaving, but instead she moves further up the bed, closer to me. She undoes one of my restraints and holds my now free hand between her own. "I only wanted to do something nice. Was it? Nice?"
I look to her sorrowful once again mismatched eyes, tears still flowing freely, and give her a small smile. "It was very nice. Good-bye, Del. And thank you."
She leans in, kisses me lightly on the cheek, and whispers in my ear, "Dick may forget. But I won't. Um, not always. Just sometimes. Most of the times. But not all of them." She gives me a quick hug and moves over to Barnabas, placing a hand on his head. She waves at me sadly as they fade away, leaving no sign that they were ever here.
I lie back and close my eyes, trying to make my mind go blank. The more I think about it, the more afraid I become, though I'm too proud to admit it to anyone. I hear a rustling of clothing and turn to the door to find Leslie watching me. She's dressed like a doctor prepared to perform an operation, wearing navy blue scrubs with a surgical mask hanging around her neck.
"Are you ready, Robin?" she asks softly.
It's for the best, it's for the best, it's for the best. "Yeah," I answer raspingly. "As ready as I'm going to be. I've already said my good-byes. It's time."
...One year later...
"You ready to go home, Dick?"
I look up from my drawings to find a tall, dark-haired man standing in my doorway. He seems so familiar. I'm sure I know him, yet his name eludes me.
"Bruce," he supplies.
I stare at him a moment longer. "Right," I mumble, giving him an awkward smile, and return to my drawings. I hear him come into the room and stop beside my bed. Quickly, I shut the sketchbook that sits in my lap. I swing my legs over the other side of the bed, facing the wall.
"What's wrong, Dick?"
I sigh. "I'm not ready. I don't think I should leave."
He walks around the bed and sits beside me. "Why's that?"
"It's just...it's not right. I'm not right. I can't even remember your name, and you're supposed to be the closest thing I have to a family. I need more time to heal, to get my memories back. To remember what my life was like before I got sick. To remember friends and family. To just remember."
"But you can do that at home. You'll be surrounded by familiar people and items that could help jog your memory. Maybe even speed up the healing process."
"But what if I get sick again?"
"You've been cured now for more than half a year. The treatment was a complete success. You're not...delusional...anymore, so you don't need to stay here. Leslie and I agree that it's time for you to come home. Okay?"
Knowing I can't win this argument, I nod my head silently and he pats my leg reassuringly as he stands up. "Good. I just have to see Leslie before we leave. I'm sure you have some good-byes to get out of the way, so I'll meet you back here in ten minutes. And, Dick?" I look up wearily. "It's going to be all right. I promise."
He leaves me alone and I just sit here, staring at the blank wall, wasting time. There's no one to say good-bye to because I can't remember having any friends here. There was one dark-haired girl I vaguely remember, but she seemed too creepy for my tastes. Not that I can remember what my tastes were before this incident. Whatever this incident was.
I know I was sick. I had a delusional disorder. What those delusions were, though, is a mystery. The therapy wiped out all my memories of them. And a lot of other memories. Bruce and Leslie won't tell me what the delusions were for fear it might trigger something in my mind that will bring them back. I keep telling myself it's for the best.
I slowly stand up, straightening my T-shirt and jeans, and grab my backpack and sketchbook. I look around, unsure about how I should feel about leaving. Relief? Or remorse?
I make my way to the door when I hear some loose pages from my book fall to the floor. I turn back, gather them up, and stuff them back in, when one of them catches my eye. I don't recall drawing it. This really shouldn't surprise me, but it does.
It's me. Well, me if I were a cartoon. And a superhero. I can tell this last part by the costume he wears. The drawing is done in pencil, but somehow I know the outfit should be red, yellow, and green. The drawing cuts him off at the knees, but I know he wears steel-toed black boots.
He looks angry. A shiver of panic runs through me. He glares at me through his mask, mouth open in mid-yell, fists raised like he's pounding against the paper, trying to break through to get to this world. I feel my heart thumping madly. What does it mean? Why would I draw this?
I look up to find Bruce has returned. "Alfred's waiting with the car. You ready?"
I quickly stuff the drawing in my book and stand up, giving Bruce a false smile. "Yeah. Let's go home."