Only The Insane Shake Hands
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Tonight's story in The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a hospital for the mentally insane-an asylum if you will. An asylum filled with rooms, hallways, and things only imagined by it's delirious residents. We invite you, if you dare, to step inside because in tonight's episode you are among the insane and this hallway travels directly to . . . The Twilight Zone.
Two men were walking down the hall of the asylum with authoritative confidence. The lights were bright, eliminating shadows from the pure white walls.
The man walking in front had a strong jaw line, but it was coated with two days worth of beard growth. His eyes looked intelligent, but the skin around them was dark with lack of sleep. If he was not plagued with these characteristics of exhaustion, he would look the part of an intense soul, instead of the shadow of a once great man.
The other man was much younger, late twenties probably, but it was obvious he still had the adolescent belief he was immortal. It showed on his countenance. He was a psychologist, fresh out of college, and was eager and excited as he strolled through the building of his new job. He had applied to several facilities, but this asylum was so eager to have him, he probably would have felt bad saying no. Apparently they were facing problems with employees (doctors, nurses, and even janitors) quitting their jobs. He heard that the residents were too much on a person's mental state. But he didn't care, he was young and his life was just starting to accelerate. Already he had been shown the facilities and been forewarned of the hustle and bustle of the life of a doctor. But nothing phased him, he was sure he was already prepared. Now he was being introduced to several of the patients he would be working with. Most people would be nervous, meeting the mentally insane, but this doctor was too excited, too fueled by curiosity, to be afraid.
In the first rooms he visited he saw frantic people who were convinced the world was going to be destroyed by aliens, God, robots, genetically modified corn, and creatures that belong in-between the pages of science fiction novels. He saw people whose toasters, televisions, left shoes, and great deceased aunts were telling them to kill, burn, and vandalize. There were people who sat very quietly and wide eyed, but when you got too close they would scream until their lungs should have burst. Then there were the calmer ones, who talk to you as if they were a philosopher, but their ideals were that of lunatics.
The young psychologist was ready to apply his scientific knowledge to explain these patients. They were not frightening to him because he did not consider them as people; he considered them as experiments and psychological mysteries waiting to be solved. And he planned on solving all of them.
"Here's the next patient," The older doctor announced. He pulled the master key out of his pocket and brought it towards the lock. His hand paused, and he turned to the younger man with a look of concern glowing dimly in his dark-rimmed eyes. "Before we go in," he whispered ominously, "you should know this man is not like the others. Employees have reported problems.". "None of them are ever alike," reasoned the younger man, "that's why it's so fascinating." "Very well." The key turned in the lock. "Let's proceed."
The young doctor walked into the room with a small pang of apprehension. "Why did he have to say that? I would have been fine had he not warned me." he thought to himself. The room looked just as the rest of them had. White metal bed, white barred windows, white walls, white ceiling, a white table, and chairs screwed onto the white floor.
At the white table sat two men (also wearing white). The scene was calming; the younger doctor forgot about his previous feeling of anxiety. There was nothing to be afraid of here. The men at the table had an air of civility about them that made the doctor feel he should strike up a conversation with them. They seemed perfectly normal, the eyes of the crazed were absent from these mens faces.
There was a beep, then a static mumbling that came from the older doctor's belt. "I'll be right there," he sighed into a walkie-talkie-like instrument. " I'm sorry," he said turning to the younger doctor, "but you must excuse me. Please wait outside until I return." The doctors exited the room as quickly as they had came in. The two men in white waved to the younger doctor as he left. He waved back. The door closed and they were back in the hallway.
The older doctor nodded to the younger, apologized again for having to leave, and then strode quickly down the hallway. Now alone, the younger doctor rocked back and forth awkwardly, hands in his pockets. Time rolled by. The occasional nurse bustled by, but for the most part the white hall was void of all noise and motion.
The young doctor's eyes wandered to the door he had just left from. In his rush, the older doctor had left the key in the lock. The men inside intrigued him, and he took their strange, average behavior as a challenge. Was their normalcy what the older doctor meant as how they were different from the others? He would find out why they were in the asylum through his own deduction, without being told by higher authority. Then, when the older doctor returned, he would impress him with his expansive knowledge and skill. It would earn him some brownie points before he even started working here. He turned the key and entered. The two men greeted him with a small wave, and he sat down at the table with them comfortably.
"Hello," the man directly across from the doctor said, "I'm Carl." The doctor introduced himself and politely shook Carl's extended hand. It was a strong handshake, strong enough to show a sense of self worth, but not too strong that it hurt, suggesting Carl's self control. The doctor now turned to the other man, who smiled and introduced himself as Frank. "New here?" Carl questioned, striking up the conversation. "Yes, I'm learning the ropes today." The doctor was suddenly so at ease with the men he forgot he was in a mental institution. The atmosphere in the room was calm and sensible, something the rest of the patients' rooms lacked. Both Carl and Frank were properly dressed, not a hair was out of place, and their eyes had a twinkle of life that showed unlike the rest of the patients he had met.
The three conversed for several minutes. The doctor suddenly lost his focus for what he had initially came in the room for. His interrogation of the mens brains had become nothing more than a chat between friends. The subjects were lighthearted and average, such as golf and politics. Chuckling was not an uncommon sound. Carl reminded the doctor of someone he used to play poker with. And absentmindedly he asked him if he would play a game with him. "Uh," Carl raised an eyebrow, "I don't have any cards in here. But I suppose if you were to bring them on your next visit we could. If that's allowed?" The doctor snapped back to reality. He had forgotten where he was, who he was talking to. His request was completely out of line. And to think, he was being brought back to rational thought by someone in a mental ward. "I- I could check if you want?" The doctor tried to hide the stutter in his voice. "That would be great," Frank smiled, "We get awfully bored in here with nothing to do."
The young doctor looked at the two men for several second. Nothing was out of the ordinary, nothing seemed wrong with them. Why were they here? He ran through different mental disorders in his head, none of them seemed to fit this odd couple., I must need to observe them further, the doctor thought; eventually they will reveal some kind of sign to their insanity.
"I think I should be going," The young doctor finally said, he felt uncomfortable now. "Alright," Carl said, "We'll see you later." Frank chimed in. He thanked them for their time, awkwardly got up from his chair, and exited through the door. Outside, the older doctor was just returning from his call.
"You went in?" He asked worriedly.
"Yes" So much for impressing, all the young doctor did was disobey his first order in the workplace.
"So, what do you think of him."
"Of them, you mean?"
The older doctor looked concerned, "No, there is only one patient in that room."
"But I met two men, Carl and Frank."
The older doctor paused for a moment before calmly reciting, "Frank is Carl's imaginary friend."