It was a painfully long drive up to the asylum, and it didn't take long to feel the familiar gripping sensation in my chest. It has been months since I last tried to enter the grounds, and it hadn't gotten any easier. The building is visible long before you arrive, and though we were a long way off I had to ask my doctor to pull over, as I had begun to panic. After a few minutes, I was able to calm myself further, but as we finally arrived, I could not help but feel fear as we went through the wrought iron gates and headed towards the main entrance.
By the time we parked and exited the car I could already feel myself beginning to become upset. I took some medicine, and that seemed to take the edge off. We went in and picked up our passes for the facility. Unlike a standard visitor, we were allowed a bit more freedom in terms of where we could go. My therapist said to me that there was no way of knowing what would trigger my memory, so having less restrictions was necessary. We began to look around, heading down various passages and corridors, and entering the numerous rooms.
I could feel a sense of familiarity, but nothing for certain. We eventually made it to the common room, the time of day making it so it was largely filled with patients. As we wandered through, several of them recognized my therapist, far more than I had anticipated. While he addressed them, I walked around the room, trying to take in as much as I could. I got near one of the windows, and noticed two patients sitting at a small table. As I approached, I realized that I knew who they were. One I recognized by his face. The other I recognized through his hands.
The man on the left was the same one I interviewed back in May, his eyes bloodshot and his hands trembling. He averted my gaze, and it was clear that he still didn't want to talk to me. I don't blame him. When I met him he had recently lost his children. Things hadn't seemed to have improved since then. As he sat I could notice him nodding his head, as if doing so in time to some music. According to a orderly he hadn't slept in three days.
The one on the right I had never had a chance to talk to. I only knew them by the stories people shared, when he became the churches new organist. His fingers were misshapen and gnarled, and he struggled to pick up the cards in front of him. He seemed to be trying to make a house of cards, but in between his own trembling hands and the constant shaking of the man across from him, he never managed to keep the cards up for more then a second or so.
I continued to look around, only to find someone waving at me from across the room. I started walking over, unable to recognize them at first. By the time I realized who it was, I was already almost upon them and it was too late to turn away. I walked forward, my stomach lurching and my steps ridged. By the time I sat down across from them, I was shaking, stumbling over my words as I said hello.
She was smiling, looked rested and calm. But there was no mistaking who it was. It was the woman I met all those months ago, the one from the bus stop...from the night when it all went bad.
I am not sure what she was saying to me when I sat down. I was too busy thinking about where I was at. Though a lot has happened since that night, looking at her from across the table filled me with so much anger. Had I not been waiting at that stop that night, had she not tried to kill her family and placed her confession, that...burden...on me, maybe things would be different. Maybe I wouldn't be like this, a shaking mess who is too scared to sleep, who sees shadows out of the corner of their eyes. By the time I started to listen, she was midway through a sentence.
“My husband came to see me the other day. The kids couldn't come since they had school. Paul says the kids send their love...How have you been?”
I could feel...the rain on my skin. With time, with all that had happened, you would think certain details would have fallen through the cracks, but I realized that if I wanted to I could replay the entire night in my head. The harsh glare of the streetlamp, and the muggy feeling of the air.
Her mania was what had gotten to me. I had never spent much time around things like that. At least, that I could remember. I suppose it was easy enough when all I did was report on the events. I had been separate from them, most of the time simple hearing second hand accounts. But with her, that divide was removed. I was there. I found her husband, helped comfort her children. I had talked to the police and told them what happened, and waited apprehensively as I hoped for word of her capture.
And her family...her family still came to see her. Despite everything she did. And she looked like she had gotten better, while I had gotten worse. Quickly, I told her that I had been fine and went to leave. I just needed to get away. But she grabbed my wrist and drew me close, whispering in a trembling tone.
“Doors do not stop them. Bolts do not stop them. They glide in at the doors like serpents. They enter the windows like the wind...”
I could see tears in her eyes, could hear the shaky way her sobs escaped between her words.
“I have heard them at night, knocking on the walls. The doctors...they aren't real. They have been replaced. I've seen the bodies. Sometimes I see things looking at me from the corners of my room, the places where the light from the windows can't reach. But at night I hear them on the floor.”
I pulled away, and could see her demeanor change as one of the workers there passed by. I didn't wait around, making my way as quickly as I could to the exit. My heart was racing, and I struggled to calm my breathing. My therapist came out a little bit after I left, and we agreed that we should call it a day. All the way back to my home he asked me what I had experienced, but I simply told him that I didn't remember anything.
She had lied...lied to everyone. In a way, the thought that she had recovered, as painful as it was, was still comforting. But they all seem so sick, and so little seems to change for the people here. I wish so much to feel better, but what if I can't? My doctor said we will try again on Wednesday, but I am not sure I want to remember. Despite how awful things have been for me, I am increasingly beginning to believe that there is a real chance that whatever I find out Wednesday may very well only make me worse. And if that happens, I know that if nothing else I can't let myself end up here.