Chapter One: Decisions
"I picked you up and lifted your wilted frame into the sun... Sunlight, sunshine, all for you my Daisy. We're getting this before you leave, all for you my Daisy."
-Daisy, The Maine
I wandered slowly down the halls, stopping at each numbered door to peer into the slot, making sure everyone was safe inside. For my first day on the job, I thought I was doing pretty well.
The last door in the hallway was room and patient 19-5-5-18. Doctor Zelner, the head physiatrist, wouldn't tell anyone the patient's real names. "Just call them by their room numbers' he had advised me as I headed out to make my rounds for the first time.
I slid open the metal slot tentatively and peered inside. Unlike the other rooms – which were harshly lighted – this one was completely black. The only light was from the hallway, which bled into 19-5-5-18's cell.
"…Patient 19-5-5-18?" I called.
"Do you know what that stands for?" A small, feminine voice asked from the gloom. I pulled back, my hand moving to close the small hole, but I couldn't.
"What does it stand for?" I asked softly, breaking the only rule Zelner had given me.
"Seer," she sighed. I frowned and peered intently into the dark cell, looking for the person behind the voice, but I couldn't make her out.
She was still in the room – my job was done. I closed the slot and plunged Seer into the darkness once more.
It wasn't until that night that I realized where she got the name from. The letter S was the nineteenth number. The patient's numbers meant something.
I slammed the shutter closed as patient 1-14-7-5-18 lunged at me with his hands curled into claws and his face twisted demonically. I backed away from the heavy metal door until my back bumped into the stone wall of the hallway. I slumped against it, trying to catch my breath.
"You okay?" I whipped my head around to find the source of the sound, praying it wasn't an escaped patient. I sighed in relief to see the janitor, Frank, coming down the hallway. I pointed weakly to Anger's door, and Frank laughed.
"Yep, he's one crazy son of a bitch. Have you met Hungry?"
"…No, why?" I glanced at Hungry's door, which was beside Anger's.
"Be careful around her," he warned, "She seems nice and sweet, but once you mention food she attacks worse then Anger."
"Why is she here?"
"She refuses to eat. Skin and bone she is." John said, and I shuddered. Some people here had truly disturbing problems.
My wandered back to Seer. "What do you know about 19-5-5-18?"
"Hmm. She claims to have visions of the future. Her parents brought her in and told the town she died. Got her a grave in the cemetery across town and everything. It has her day of death as the same day she was brought here." There was an odd look in his eyes.
"Do you believe her?"
He checked to make sure we were the only ones in the corridor. "Look Jasper, don't tell anybody I said this, but…I do believe her. I really don't think she should be here." He whispered.
"Do you know her birth name?"
He shook his head, "Only Doctor Zelner knows that. He has a whole bunch of files on the patients."
We parted ways, but my mind was stuck on our conversation. He believed Seer, which made me curious about her. What was her real name? What was her family like? What was she like?
I checked on the other patients in a daze and before I knew it, I was back at her door. I wasn't going to talk to her. I was just going to make sure she was okay and then leave. No need to break the rules any further.
"Hello?" I called after sliding open the rusty metal rectangle. There was no reply. "…Seer?"
I began to worry, and I pulled the metal key out of my pocket and opened the door, which protested with a shriek. The room was flooded with light and I could see her in the corner of the room. She was leaning against the wall, sitting with her arms slumped beside her and her legs straight out. Her face was vacant.
I quickly noticed how gorgeous she was. Her black hair was cut close to the scalp in the uniform almost buzz cut of the patients and her glassy eyes were a deep, sapphire blue.
I knelt down beside her immobile body and gently shook her. "Seer?"
The vacant look evaporated from her eyes and she blinked.
"Are you okay?" I asked. She nodded and looked around in confusion.
"What are you doing in here, Jasper?" She asked, pinning me down with her eyes.
"You weren't answering…How did you know my name?" Unease slid across her face.
"Are you sure you want to know?" She asked, with fearful eyes. I nodded and she sighed," I saw you conversation in the hallway."
"How? We were so far away from your door; you couldn't have heard us…" I trailed off when I realized what she meant by 'saw'.
"I saw it before it happened." She clarified, still looking uneasy. I studied her beautiful face carefully, looking for any signs of madness that were hidden away in most of the patient's faces, but I couldn't see any. Maybe Frank was right. Maybe she didn't belong here.
"How long ago?" I asked, but she shook her head.
"I don't know, I can't keep track of time in here." She said, shrugging her shoulders. There were no windows in the small, square brick room. Her voice was hoarse, as though she hadn't used it in a while.
"How long have you been in here?" I asked, and she rolled her eyes to the ceiling, thinking.
"I was committed on November fourteenth, 1918. I was seventeen. What's the date now?"
"It's July twenty-third, 1920." Seer nodded, looking thoughtful. "Are you always left in the dark?" She nodded again and her eyes clouded over with an emotion I couldn't quite decipher. It was almost like fear, pain, anxiety and despair all rolled into one.
I had only been on the job two days and I had broken the cardinal rule – don't talk to the patients – and I felt something towards one of them. Something other than pity.
"You should go. Doctor Zelner is coming soon and if he catches you in here you will get in trouble." Seer said, sounding tired.
"Did you…see that?" I asked tentatively. Her mouth pulled up slightly at the corners, almost a smile.
"No, he always comes by around this time with his nurse to administer medication and do daily therapy."
I shuddered, thinking of the large needles I saw the nurses walking around with yesterday. Seer was so tiny; I couldn't picture them sticking the over-sized needles in her thin, frail arm.
"I thought you couldn't tell the time in here?" I asked, puzzled.
She rolled her eyes, "Well, he always comes shortly after you, or the man who came before you." She clarified. Abruptly I realized that she knew my name, but I didn't know her real one.
"Shh! Someone's coming!" Seer hissed and I stood quickly, giving myself a head rush. What should I say? Nice talking to you? See you later? Sorry I have to keep you on this dark box? I didn't get a chance to say a proper goodbye, because she shooed me from the room, never moving.
I wondered what she had been like before she was condemned to this place. She had been committed two years ago on November fourteenth. Frank had said she had been admitted the same day her parents announced her death.
The cemetery across town was pretty small…how many people could have died on the day? She was born in 1901, from her age.
I had a fierce desire to find her tombstone. One that was totally irrational.
I knew I shouldn't care about her past. I shouldn't care what her name is, or where she was from. I was the one keeping her locked in the small dark room. I shouldn't care.
But for some reason, I did.
Later that day I found myself wandering through the rows of headstones, trying to make out the names in the fading light. I cursed under my breath, wishing I had brought a candle or something.
I peered closer to one grave and read Pamela Dowling's dedication. Born, January nineteenth, 1904. I sighed and moved to the next one.
Mary Alice Brandon
Oct. 16, 1901 – Nov. 14, 1918
She will be sorely missed
Is this it? I thought excitedly, brushing it off with my hand and reading it over and over again.
Mary. Her name was Mary. I was ecstatic that I knew that about her now.
She will be sorely missed. It seemed like a rather unemotional and impersonal thing to put on your daughters grave marker. But then again, they knew she wasn't dead. Not in body, at least.
It made my stomach roll to think of little Mary buried deep beneath my feet. I pushed the image from my mind and started the long walk home since I left my car behind.
The whole way I kept repeating one thing, burning it permanently into my mind.
Her name is Mary.
I was excited to get into work the next day. I could finally call her by her real name: Mary.
I worked impatiently, waiting non to patiently for the time when I could go to Mary's door. My feet jittered while I sat at my desk doing paperwork; I paced the lunchroom while I supervised the patients who ate – I didn't see Mary – and I rushed through checking the other patients, not even giving Angry enough time to react to my presence.
I worked in a whirlwind, and in record time I was outside Mary's door. I opened the slot, careful not to bang it and looked inside. It was black, as usual.
"Hello?" I called softly, praying she wouldn't answer and give me a reason to visit and give her some light.
As if she could read my mind, she didn't respond. I unlocked and pushed the door open to see her exactly where I left her. She was still slumped against the same wall, her arms still lying in the same position beside her and her legs out straight in front of her.
"Hi," I said, and she turned her head to look at me. The muscles in her neck strained as she shifted her head an inch. I frowned but didn't say anything.
"Hello," I noticed how strained her musical voice sounded, but once again I didn't say anything. Maybe I just hadn't noticed it the days before. I extended my hand to her to shake her hand.
"Hello, Mary, nice to meet you." I said as politely as possible. My nerves betrayed me, and my southern accent shone through thicker then usual. I sighed inwardly; I guess there were some things you could never get rid of.
Mary stared at me in shock.
"How did you know that was my name? Are you special too?" She asked hopefully. She seemed to have forgotten my hand, so I lowered it, slightly upset that I didn't have a reason to hold her hand, if just for a second.
"I…went to the cemetery." I said, suddenly expecting anger for my snooping. She just had a thoughtful expression on her face.
"I didn't see that." She said softly.
"Can you see everything?" I asked.
"No, but I thought I would see something concerning me. I saw my parents locking me in this dungeon." She said, looking around the room with despair in her eyes.
"Huh," was my genius response and we lapsed into silence, which was exactly what I didn't want. I didn't know how long I would be able to be here, and I didn't want to waste a second. I was trying to come up with something when Mary broke it.
"I don't like that name." She said softly.
"What name?" I asked.
"Mary. She was the small girl in the suburbs who thought her parents loved her." She said, her voice devoid of emotion. My heart hurt to think about parents who could do this to their children, but then my stomach dropped at the realization that I was the one keeping her in here, not her parents.
I was pulled out of my self-loathing by a faraway banging noise and a shriek.
"It's Zelner and his nurses. You should leave." She said, the same mixed look in her eyes as yesterday, but there was something different today, something new added into the mix. I frowned, unable to pinpoint what it was. I left with no parting words, same as yesterday. I closed the door, locked it and went home.
It wasn't until I was lying in bed at home that I realized what that new emotion was.
I sat at my kitchen table at home, anxious to get to work. For the past week and a half I had been back home in Texas, keeping my mother company while my father was in the hospital. I ate my breakfast and thought about a peculiar conversation I had had with my mother.
"Why are you so restless?" My mother asked, eyeing my drumming fingers. I sighed and interlocked my hands together to stop my chronic fidgeting. "Are you bored already? You've only been here five days."
"I'm not bored, mother. I just miss…work." Her eyes brightened, and I couldn't believe I almost said Seer instead of work.
"Really? Do you find your job interesting? Because if not, you could still work with your father at -"
"'I'm perfectly happy at my job." I said and my voice was sharp. She raised an eyebrow and brushed her blonde hair back from her face.
"Then why do you sound so tense?" She asked pointedly.
"I…miss the patients." I said, dancing around the real problem. My mother seemed to know that I wasn't telling the full truth and she stared my down, her mouth set in a tight line.
"You're not telling me something, Jasper." Her voice was laced with disapproval. "Please, Jasper," she said softly, "I'm worried sick over your father. Don't make me worry about you as well." She pleaded. I sighed, caving in to her will.
"There is one patient in particular who has," I searched for the right word, "sparked my interest. She says she has visions of the future, and after two years she still believes it." I left out the fact that I also believed her. Mother shook her head sadly and stirred her tea.
"That is so sad. I thank the Heavens everyday that I have a healthy, beautiful son." I rolled my eyes. "What are you not telling me?" She asked softly.
"It's nothing, mother, honestly." She shook her head.
"Jasper Whitlock, you tell me what is going on!" She demanded. When I stayed silent, she took a guess. "Does it have something to do with this girl who can see the future?"
I stayed silent, which she took as a yes.
"Jasper, why? You have feelings for a sick person! This is wrong. It cannot be allowed." I clenched my jaw and refused to acknowledge her argument. I had no idea why I was upsetting my mother over Mary. We had had two conversations, three if you counted my first day, which I didn't. It made no sense to worry my mother over something that could never happen, but I couldn't help it. Mary, Seer, or 19-5-5-18 had captivated me.
"Promise me, Jasper, please. Promise me that you will not do anything with this girl. Let her be. She needs to get better." I nodded swiftly and stood.
"Fine," I snapped and stormed away, which was childish. I strode out of the kitchen and under my breath my muttered, "She needs no cure."
I sighed, remembering the tension that had enveloped the house after that feud. My father had come home – bandaged and bruised from falling off the bridge he was constructing – to find us almost at each other's throats. I had left shortly after he came home and drove all night to get back to my real home.
Finally it was time to go to work and I got up. I quickly put my dishes in the sink and practically sprinted out the door and to my car.
The drive was onerous and felt longer then usual, but eventually the large brick building rose from the horizon and a grin broke out on my face. I parked my car and strolled into the building, my spirits high.
"Good morning," the receptionist greet with a wide smile. I nodded, smiling in return and continued to my office.
My morning went by in a breeze and it seemed like no time I was standing outside Mary's door, eager to make up for the lost week and a half I was gone.
I knocked lightly on the door and opened the slot.
"Seer?" I asked and she didn't respond, allowing me to come inside. I took one step and froze.
She was in the same spot that she had been a week and a half ago. Why did she like that spot so much? Or could she not move…
"Hello, Jasper. I thought they had replaced you." She said, her voice rough and cracking.
"Hi, Mary, and no, not replaced." She shook her head.
"That's not my name anymore. Mary is long dead." She announced and it sent a shiver down my spine.
"…Dead." I repeated dully.
"So I should call you what, Seer?" I asked and she looked thoughtful.
"Yes. I don't have a name." She decided and I became angry.
"Do you like it here?" I asked angrily and she shook her head, which seemed to expend a large amount of effort for her. "Then why do you let them win? They're taking your away your hope!" Her jaw clenched.
"They already have!" She hissed, "Or didn't you guess what wing you supervise? This is the terminal wing. The place you go if you have no hope of getting cured! I didn't use to be here. I used to have another doctor, a nicer one. I could go to the cafeteria with the other patients, and we could talk to each other! It was a place filled with hope. Now what? We're stuck in the terminal wing. I have no hope because I am defeated."
I had never been so angry before. But I wasn't mad at Seer anymore. I was angry at my job and at myself. At what we did to these people.
I left when the sound of nurses drifted down the corridor. Once again, we didn't say goodbye. It seemed to be becoming a bad habit with us.
There had to be something I could do to help her. I locked her door and closed the metal slot, leaving her in complete darkness.
I passed the nurses on my way out, letting my eyes linger on one of the large needles in their hands.
I slunk back into the shadows and watched unnoticed as the blonde nurse entered the room Hungry was in. Two men were holding the girl who wouldn't eat down as she thrashed and kicked, trying to knock the syringe out of the nurse's hand.
"No! I don't want to be numb!" She screamed and another man entered the room to grab the poor woman's legs. She continued to scream and twist in her captor's hands, but I couldn't make myself move to help her.
"Why don't you just accept it like everyone else?" The nurse hissed.
"There's noting wrong with me!" Hungry cried and tears leaked down her face. "Please, don't," she whispered, but it was too late. The nurse had plunged the sharp needle into her arm and injected the clear liquid into her system. Hungry continued to squirm, but her attempts of escape became slower, like the air around her had turned to jelly. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed, her chest barely moving as she breathed.
"She'll be awake when the doctor gets here." The nurse said, and she and the three strongmen left the room. I shrunk back into the shadows more, trying to hide from them. They didn't notice me as they walked by, moving into Anger's room. I heard him attack and from the cracking sound and his triumphant laughter, he connected with one of them.
I stepped forward and eased the metal slot open. I peered into Hungry's room to find her slumped on her cot. Her whole body seemed to be paralyzed. I shuddered, pulled the slot closed and made my way back up the hallway.
I checked every single patient on my way out, and every single one of them laid there, paralyzed from whatever the nurses had injected.
What was going on in this place? I finally decided on what I had to do. I needed to get these people out of here, especially Mary. I could save them all.
A/N: Feedback on how you liked it would be lovely! I hope to update soon.
Thank you for reading!