Return of the Psycho Zombie
18 months later.
Willie had a vague sensation of light. Something soapy, wet and warm glided across his chest, under his arm.
Something was being pushed into his mouth. A spoon. A pill. A straw.
Someone was holding his hand. There was music in the distance.
"The tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost
The Minnow would be lost…"
Someone was holding his hand again, and bracing his arm, guiding him as he slowly shuffled. Willie tripped and went down on his knees.
"Oh, gosh, are you alright?" Willie collapsed into a sitting position on the floor. "It's those slippers, they're too big for you." The patient blinked and focused his gaze. There, staring back with concern, was an obese young man with curly brown hair.
"Oo da duck're oo?" The words came out slowly and with great difficulty, as if the muscles in his tongue had abandoned all sense memory.
The big boy jumped back in alarm. "Nurse Jessie! He looked at me! He talked!"
Willie looked around in confusion as he was lifted up by a large black guy, carried into the infirmary and seated on an examination table. The aide continued to support the young man as a nurse took his vital signs and looked into his eyes with a penlight…like that lady doctor used to.
"Hi, there. Can you hear my voice? Do you see me?" The woman sounded like an idiot. Willie drew up his hand to see how far away she really was and unexpectedly touched her face. The orderly pulled it away, not roughly, but with authority.
"Can you tell me your name?" Obviously she was an idiot. Only when Willie tried to answer, his mouth didn't work again, and nothing coherent came out.
"That's okay. You haven't spoken to us for a very long time. Just nod if you know what your name is."
Now Willie felt like an idiot. He nodded, which brought on a wave of dizziness.
"Good." She smiled warmly. "That's a good start."
Then another black man came in, but he was wearing a lab coat instead of scrubs.
"I hear we have a breakthrough. Let's see our young patient." He picked up Willie's hand and put it in his own to shake. "Hello, my name is Dr. Gordon. You are actually under the care of Dr. Julia, but she is on an extended leave of absence, so I'll fill in." Julia—Kauffman? That was the lady doctor. "Do you know where you are?"
"This is Wyndcliff Sanitarium. It's a psychiatric institution."
"Nu' house." Willie wasn't surprised; that's where you put the loony tunes.
Gordon ignored his comment. "You've been with us a long time. Do you remember any of it?" The doctor smiled and the aide laughed. "I have to say you were quite a handful when you first arrived."
"No, no, don't apologize. That's why folks come here—to work out their problems, right?"
Someplace where there isn't any trouble. Problems get solved. Folks get better.
"Di' I ge' bedder?"
"After Dr. Julia prescribed your medication and course of treatment, well, your brain took a rest for a while." Dr. Gordon scanned the young man's chart. "Good lord, she had the patient on all these at once, in addition to the ECT?"
"Yes, sir," the nurse stammered. "The doctor said—"
"Catatonic schizophrenia, indeed," he read grumbling. "I wonder if that was the reason for the treatment, or the result." He turned to Jessica. "Did upstairs okay this?"
"Well, I—actually, I'm not sure."
"The other tards call him Psycho Zombie," the aide volunteered cheerfully. That didn't sound at all promising. Willie stared at the floor, hugging himself. "Stay cool, man, it's just a nickname. Everybody likes you—the ones you haven't attacked, anyway."
"Okay, Leroi, that's enough," the young woman warned. Willie started to rock back and forth and put his head on her shoulder when Nurse Jessica hugged him. She smelled like flowers, and he could see down the top of her uniform.
The doctor slammed the case file closed. "I'm putting in a call to Julia Hoffman today. That list needs to be modified immediately."
"Now, Doc," Leroi interjected. "Do you remember when this dude first came in here? He was bouncing off the walls, even tried to cut Dr. Ned with a popsicle stick. Those meds where the only thing that calmed him down."
"Our job here is to help patients to recover with medication and therapy, not drug them into submission."
Leroi nodded a vague affirmation. Doc didn't have to deal with Psycho Zombie in the ward.
Willie spent the remainder of the day parked in the TV Room. This place was a little piece of heaven. They were going to feed him, give him drugs, and let him watch television all day. The only problem was someone else had the remote control. A bug-eyed, skeletal freak who could not stop twitching, made threats to the game show contestants on the screen, furiously taking notes on a yellow pad. His head shot in Willie's direction.
"Imposter! You're not Psycho Zombie, the spell is broken." He snapped, and scribbled that on his pad. "I will now call you Psycho Elf. You need a new mission." Bug Eyes thought for a moment. "I'll get back to you."
Willie looked to his other companions. There was a white-haired lady who cried at everything. On the TV, Let's Make a Deal was playing, and Monty Hall handed out $5 bills to anyone who had chewing gum in their purse. This made the woman cry. In the audience was a man dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. Again she cried. When the Hallmark Card commercial came on, the floodgates opened.
On his other side was a haggard old man, or maybe he was young; it was hard to tell. He stared at the ceiling with vacant hollow eyes and drooled. The gentleman smelled like he had pissed himself.
A woman was staring at him from the doorway. Wearing denim cutoffs and a tank top, she had long, dark hair and demonic green eyes. The young lady approached Willie, sat next to him and grabbed his crotch.
"It's time for your physical therapy."
She was snatched up by a passing nurse. "No thank you, Angela. I've told you before, leave our zombie friends alone."
"'S okay, I'm no' a zom'ie," Willie corrected the lady as she ushered Angela out of the room.
After the umpteenth godforsaken game show, the Willie pushed himself into a standing position and began to carefully walk around the room, talking aloud. No one took note of this behavior as the young man began to teach himself how to speak again. Others were talking to themselves too, but they were crazy.
The simple act of walking required a great deal of concentration and precaution. His slippers were indeed several sizes too big, as were the cotton pajama bottoms, which pooled around his ankles, and a grossly oversized, stained T-shirt which hung to his knees.
Willie wandered into the Common Room, gravitating toward a window barricaded with metal grid work and bars. Outside, he observed the fat dude sitting on a picnic bench, smoking. It looked like a pleasant, sunny day—not like that place he was before where it always rained and thundered. Willie searched for the exit, but an aide was there in an instant, barring his path.
"Back away from the door."
"Ca' I go ou'side doo?" Willie asked, smiling politely.
"Some other time. That's a privilege you have to earn. You finish your walk in here today."
Just then yet another orderly unceremoniously plopped him into a wheelchair.
"There you are, Psycho. Come on, it's potty time." He whisked the patient away.
"Hey, look at you, all walkin' and talkin'. That's great, now let's go."
"I don' wan' do."
"And that's a cryin' shame, but I got 12 tards on this shift, and your reservation is for right now." He wheeled Willie toward the men's restroom. "Otherwise you'll just have to go later. Then you have to use the sign-out sheet, wait for an aide, and end up having an accident."
"Nooo, I wan'..." Willie wasn't sure what he wanted, but he knew it did not involve having a personal potty helper.
"Now you never gave me problems before. Come on, it's me, Mitch. You and me are buddies."
"'Kay…buddy." Willie muttered, resigned. There were no urinals, and the stalls had no doors. The young man looked around in dismay.
"Nobody's gonna bother you. Just please hurry up; you're gonna put me off schedule."
A trio of chimes was heard in the Day Room. Some patients jumped eagerly into the lineup, some wandered in the opposite direction; others did nothing. Eventually, the queue was complete, heads counted and the group was ushered into the dining hall.
Willie was handed a tray, laden with an assortment of soft food. He looked for a place to sit when someone took his arm, directing him to one in a succession of long tables.
"This way; you always sit with me." It was the fat guy from earlier. Willie looked askance as his dining companion reached over to tuck a napkin in his shirt and proceeded to feed him.
"Wha' ya doin'?" He knocked the plastic spoon away.
"But I always help you to eat," the man replied, surprised and hurt. "I'm your best friend."
"I don' e'en know oo da duck oo are." The fat guy stared at his plate and began to weep—quietly at first, but increasing rapidly to an uncomfortable volume. Willie looked around with apprehension, but no one intervened. He gave the man a little push on the shoulder. "So, oo da duck are oo? If yer my bes' fend, I odda know yer name."
"Stanley Mendelssohn, like the composer," the other answered with a hiccup. "Sometimes they call me Fat Boy," he added in a small voice.
"O'ay, Stan'ey, stop saltin' yer food. I godda do dis mydelf, bu' oo help ou' if I mish my mout'. 'Ow's da'?" The man nodded with a big, snotty sniff. "Wha's dis? Mush, mush, mush an' mush."
"Sloppy Joes, applesauce, mashed potatoes and tapioca pudding. There's a lot of old people here."
"Soun's goo' t' me; I ea' anythin'."
Most of the food hit its target but, after a few minutes, Willie zoned out again. When he returned to reality, his buddy was eating from the tray.
"Stan'ey, da's mine."
"I'm still hungry, and you never finish anything."
"We'll share." And Stanley proceeded to ladle alternating spoonfuls of tapioca in Willie's mouth.
Thus cemented the friendship of Fat Boy and Psycho Zombie.