Halo One: Institution:
-April 10th, 1987-
Makoto drove up to Chou Mori Institution. The director assured him that his wife was doing well. Still, he couldn’t help but feel guilty about having her committed.
“I didn’t have a choice,” he told himself. “I was only trying to help her. This is for her own good.” But now, Makoto wasn’t so sure if he believed that himself anymore. His wife’s church was absolutely unless in this situation. Prayer, ha! That wasn’t going to stop her from offing herself! The man sighed in his car. Too late now. He thought about checking her out but decided against it in the end. But now, he started to wonder if he should check her out again.
Felt like it was too late at this point.
Makoto took a breath and got out the car.
Inside looked like it had seen better days. The walls needed a new coat of paint. How often did these people clean this place? Cobwebs caught the dust on the ceiling. Said ceiling looked so grey with the dust. Makoto thought that he was going pass out from the heat trapped in the lobby. Why did the windows look so dim? Why weren’t they even open? Makoto fanned himself with his shirt as he walked up to the front desk. The receptionist looked half-sleep from her post. Makoto waved his hand in front of her face.
“Hello?” he asked. “You awake? Hey! Hey!” The twenty-something woman turned her head.
“What?” she mumbled. Makoto drew back his hand.
“I’m here to visit my wife,” he said. The receptionist didn’t even blink.
“Sign this book,” she said. She shoved a worn-out guestbook across the desk with a pen. Makoto smiled as he picked up the pen and tried to write his name. The ink wouldn’t come out on the page.
“Excuse me,” he said. “The pen’s not working. Could I get another one?” The receptionist just tossed him another pen.
“Okay then…” Makoto said, shrugging. He picked up that pen and started writing down his information. He handed back the book. The receptionist didn’t even look at the page as she took back the book. She rested her head onto the desk and slowly started closing her eyes. Makoto made an odd face. What is with this girl? Where did they get her? This is unprofessional. I mean, I know it’s hot, but still…
He took a sit in one of the chairs near the wall. The lobby itself looked empty. He felt his body break into buckets of sweat. The director was supposed to come out and greet him. Makoto looked up at the black and white clock above the receptionist. The hands didn’t look like they were moving. The man couldn’t even hear it ticking. He tilted his head and squinted.
“Is that clock even right?” he asked. The receptionist didn’t even lift her head to look up.
“Uh-huh,” she mumbled.
“You’re not even looking at it.”
“I saw it.”
Makoto wrinkled his nose. “Do you even care about your job?”
“Could’ve fooled me.” He rolled his eyes. The receptionist didn’t respond. Looked like the horror stories of Chou Mori were truth. The staff didn’t seem to care about doing their jobs. Judging by the way that the lobby looked, the rumors turned out to be true. Makoto shook his head.
“How is a place like this still running?” he asked himself aloud.
“We manage,” he heard someone say. Makoto looked up to see the director of the institution walking into the lobby from his office.
“Welcome,” he said. “We have been expecting you.” Makoto rose to his feet. Naturally, he resisted asking how since the receptionist not even pretending to give a shit. Instead, he smiled and bowed.
“Good afternoon, sensei,” he said. “Where is my wife?”
“Seeing waiting for you down in the day room,” the director said. The man gave him a strange look.
“Why would she be down there?” he asked. “Isn’t it against policy for patients during visiting hours?” The director smiled as if he didn’t understand the question.
“It’s a nice day today,” he said. “She’s been cooped in her room all the time. I figured that she could use a change of scenery. I would’ve taken her outside, but we are near Aokigahara and we can’t risk having patients get lost in there.” Makoto had an odd look on his face.
“It will be fine,” the director told him. The other man didn’t seem too convinced. This older man appeared to be too lax about his patients, staff, and how things were run in this mental institution. Maybe he should get his wife out of here as soon as he can. The director chuckled and pushed his hair out of his eyes.
“Would you like to see her now?” he asked.
“Yes, I would,” Makoto said.
“Follow me please,” the director said. He turned and walked into the day room. Makoto looked over at the receptionist at her desk. By now, she had completely dozed off. He wished that he had that pen to throw at her to wake her up. Instead, he shook his head.
Unprofessional, he thought. Makoto sighed andwalked by into the day room.
The pale yellow walls came as a shock to anyone walking into the day room. That didn’t change the fact that the paint was badly chipping. The patients had written and drawn all over the walls over the years. It looked like the orderlies just gave up on cleaning up after them. The furniture looked like something that he would see in a child’s classroom. They took looked like they needed to be fixed and painted. Makoto looked around the day room. It didn’t look like there were many people around. He shoved his hands into his pockets.
Where is everybody? Makoto looked at the black and white clock on the wall near the small TV. He could tell that clock wasn’t working either. Were there any clocks that worked in this place?
“That clock looks broken,” Makoto said aloud.
“Are they?” the director asked.
“Yeah,” the other man said. Makoto wondered if this director really kept track of Chou Mori and all of its maintenance needs. That’s when he saw her. Hya-chan sat at a faded white table in the corner. She looked up at the ceiling as if in a child-like daze. Little dust particles floated in the air before her eyes. Hya-chan reached up for them.
“Is she okay?” Makoto asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” the director said. “We just gave her her meds a little while ago.” The other man gave him a strange look.
“What kind of medicine?” he asked.
“Just a mild anti-depressant,” the older man said. “It’s non-habit forming. We just give her small doses while monitoring her closely.” Makoto wrinkled his nose as he frowned. The director’s cheery tone did little to make the situation any easier.
“I see,” he said.
“I will be in the corner over there if you need me,” the director said. He bowed and walked over to the glass doors leading to the hall.
“Right,” Makoto muttered. He turned his attention to his wife. He walked over and sat down at the table across from her. Hya-chan’s eyes moved to see her beloved husband sitting in front of her. Makoto smiled.
“Hey, sweetheart,” he said in a low voice. His wife’s eyes lit up when she saw him.
“Mako-kun!” she said. Her husband pulled her into his arms.
“I missed you so much,” he said. “How have you been?”
“Tired,” she said in a soft voice. Her hair looked like it hadn’t seen a brush in days. Her clothes looked like they had just been washed and ironed. Makoto got a better look at his wife. She looked like she had lost a few pounds since he committed her back in January. When did she have bags under her eyes?
“Are you eating well?” Makoto asked. “Are they feeding you?”
“Yes,” Hya-chan said.
“Do they treat you well here?”
“Of course. Everyone is so nice here!” Something in the way she said that nearly sounded so forced. “Well, there is my therapist.”
Makoto frowned as he narrowed his eyes. “What about him?” Hya-chan shook her head.
“It’s nothing,” she said. Hya-chan quickly looked away.
“Hya-chan, talk to me,” Makoto said. “I want to help you. If Kitano-sensei is doing anything to hurt you, I will protect you. But you have to be honest with me, okay?” His wife lowered her head as she nodded.
“Has he hurt you in any way?” he asked. She shook her head.
“Has he tried to come onto you?”
“Have he tried to force himself onto you?”
“Has he even raised his hand against you?”
“Has he even laid a hand on you?”
Makoto narrowed his eyes. “Then… What is the problem? What is wrong with Kitano-sensei?” His wife looked up at him.
“He keeps saying strange things,” she said.
“Strange things like what?” Makoto asked.
“He keeps showing me horrible news from different newspapers and asking why God didn’t save those people.”
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know.” She put her head down on the faded white metal table. Makoto hesitated before resting his hand on her head. Instinct told him that he needed to get her out of here. He’s had to wrestle with this many times. On the one hand, Hya-chan looked a little bit better than she did in December. But on the other hand, Kitano-sensei didn’t seem to be helping her with his disturbing articles. Plus looking around this place didn’t give him much confidence. Until today, Makoto had been sitting on the fence.
He leaned down to her ear.
“I will come back for and take you home,” the man whispered in his wife’s ear. Hya-chan lifted her head. Makoto leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. For once in six months, he saw a little bit of hope in her eyes. The director walked over to the couple.
“It’s time to go,” he said, resting his hand on Makoto’s shoulder. The younger man turned his head. The little glow in Hya-chan’s eyes started to die. Her husband closed his mouth and bowed his head.
“I understand,” he said in a low voice. Makoto got up from the table. As he walked away, he looked over his shoulder. Hya-chan stared at him, pleading with him not to leave as her husband walked away. Makoto forced himself to turn away as he walked out of the day room. He already knew that the guilt would come for him as soon as he got into his car.
Three months later, his instinct would prove to be correct.