Haplessly Ever After

Care de Lune

The following day, after devouring a breakfast of rubbery scrambled eggs, cold toast, crispy hash browns and warm brown water (which they referred to as coffee), the boys attended their first session, Community Group, where Willie was welcomed as a new participant.

There they discussed, at length, the rules and regulations of the hospital: Profanity was discouraged; no food was permitted in bedrooms (Stanley snickered to himself); phone calls were limited to 10 minutes, and the list went on. Willie felt that, in some ways, it was like being back in prison, the way just about everything was forbidden or restricted in some way. Cooperative patients received star stickers on their charts and subsequent rewards. Difficult residents had privileges revoked, or were "processed."

"Willie," Nurse Annie addressed the new group member, "Can you give me an example of something we may not bring into Wyndcliff?"

The young man shrugged. "Sha'gun?"

"A shotgun? Well, yes, that's obvious. But what would be specifically dangerous for you as a patient?"

He nodded thoughtfully and came back with a more definite answer. "Wo'f 'ead cane."

Unable to decipher Willie's reply, the leader gave up and called on other volunteers. Willie looked on with curiosity as the list went on: Razors, metal eating utensils, belts, tools, scissors, nail clippers, shoelaces, pens, drawstrings, neck ties, scarves, spray cans, mirrors, jewelry, matches, lighters, alcohol, and any kind of glass, including picture frames. Cigarettes were locked away and distributed as a reward.

Next each patient described their goals for the day. The white-haired lady wanted to play the piano, which was fine, but the nurse suggested that, in addition, she would like if Moira would jot down on paper two happy thoughts for every sad one that came along. Bug Eyes wanted to do research on the book he was writing about the secret plans of conspiracy theorists. Stanley announced he was going to exercise for 15 minutes, write a letter to Aunt Erma and put away all his laundry. It was Willie's turn, and he wasn't sure what to say. His only desire was to get out of that booby hatch.

"I wanna go ou'side an' have a ci'arette."

"So, your goal is to work extra hard today and earn rewards."

"Yes, ma'am." Sure, lady, I'll pee whenever you tell me to.

At which point, Willie was handed a rather daunting schedule: Doctor Appointment, Group Therapy, Speech Therapy, Lunch, Recreational Therapy, Education Group, Physical/Occupational Therapy, Visitation, Dinner, Music Therapy, Free Time, Closure Group and Bed. On different days, Music alternated with Art, Dance, Exercise and Yoga.

Visiting hour was the best time (if you had no visitors) to get a shower or a shave without waiting in line.

What happened to the part about sitting around all day to watch TV?

Dr. Gordon was the nice black guy who talked to Willie the day he woke up. He was tall, with just enough gray to look respectable, and glasses.

"How are things going? Do you feel better?"

"Yessir," the patient responded enthusiastically. If Willie was better, they might let him leave.

"I spoke to Dr. Julia. I understand you know her personally."

Julia. Willie remembered her. She handed him a cardboard cup of coffee, affectionately locked her arm in his and led him down the crowded street of Christmas shoppers. Time to fetch the body parts… Julia sat him in the parlor chair and produced a medallion. Its multi-faceted surface reflected in the candlelight… "Get outta my way, old man," Willie growled, baring his fangs at the other vampire. Julia spun him around and struck him across the face with a silver crucifix, burning an X into his cheek.


The young man looked up with a start. He was in Gordon's office, sitting across from the doctor's desk.

"Yessir. Dulia. She's m' boss. Well, kinda. I's comp'icated."

"For some reason she's too busy to see you, but she and I have worked out a new course of meds. You're going to get an antidepressant and anti-anxiety, with tranquilizers only as needed. And a sleeping pill. I heard you had a rough night."

"I don' like da dark. Can I ha' a ca'ul—" he tried again, slowly forming the word. "Can-dle?"

"No, I'm afraid not," the doctor replied, "But how about nightlight, would that be okay?"

Willie nodded and smiled. That was easy. "Can I go home nen?"

"Not quite yet, but you and I and all the staff are going to work on that goal." He smiled back. "That's a promise."

"Can I call m' wife?" Doc Gordon frowned as he looked over the dossier, and the young man immediately became anxious. "I's 'por'ant. I godda t-tell 'er I'm sorry." Willie started to sniffle and his left leg bounced nervously. "An'—an' I love 'er an' p'ease b'ing me some c'othes—ones wid no d'awst'ings."

"That may not be a good idea just yet. What about contacting your mother?" He looked up the name. "Lydia Harrison?"

"Oh, no, I don' wan' 'er t' know I'm 'ere." He shook his head empathically. "She ge's dep'essed. Uh uh, no' good."

"Then we'll ask Dr. Julia—"

"No! She's a c'azy bitch, she 'ates me!" The boy trembled as tears ran down his cheeks.

Gordon observed the patient's increasing distress. "It's alright, Willie…"

"Oo don' un'ers'and. She tie me up an' lock da door, gimme d'ugs an' don' feed me. She hy'notizes people to ge' ever'thin' she wan's. She makes me s'eal b'ood and dea' bodies."

With interest, Doc Gordon made notes of this information in his file as Willie became more apprehensive. "I wan' Maggie." He yanked at his tent-like T-shirt. "Why can' I have clo'es like udder people? Wha' I do w'ong?" The tears came faster now as he gripped the desk, attempting to gouge his fingers along its smooth wooden surface. "Couldn' oo be my doc'or ins'ead? Tell Doc Ned I can' s'eep wid da thin' on. It scares me. I ge' nigh'mares. Oo don' know wha' can happen t' oo in da dark…"

Willie brutally slammed his fist several times on the desktop in an effort to regain control of his emotions, but he knew that in a moment he would lose it completely or zone out. The patient sprung from his chair and crouched in the nearest corner, his safe spot, covering his head.

"Sanc'uary," he whispered over and over, shaking uncontrollably.

Gordon grabbed the phone, made a quick call and, in a moment, was at the boy's side, holding him.

"Can oo make me bedder?"

"We'll do it together. It sounds like something traumatic happened to you in the past. We can try to help you cope with that."

"I'm scared. Dulia tol' me if I didn' do wha she wan'ed, I be punis'ed an' sen' here in a s'aight-dacket. An' Bar'bas let 'er; he don' care. He 'its me and d'inks my b'ood an' rip my shirt. Loo', see da scar?" Willie pointed to his cheek, which was unmarked by anything except two days worth of facial hair growth.

"You're safe now. No one here will hurt you."

"I wan' Nurse Dessie."

"Jessica's on her way with a pill, one of those as needed medications. Then you're going to take a nap."

Willie's next session was with the speech pathologist. Still drowsy from the knockout drug, he shuffled into the therapy room and slumped into a chair.

"Hello!" The thin young man behind the desk smiled brightly. "So, your real name is Willie Loomis. Do you …know me?" The patient shook his head. "Eugene Greenwalt?"

"'Sorry, wad I here b'fore? I forge' a lo' a' 'duff."

"That's okay. You're going through a rough patch. Meanwhile, you and I are going to get you talking again."


"It's a very simple process." Gene pointed to the chart behind him. "Just like going up steps, one at a time. In the first step, I'll make a single sound, Ahh, you watch how I do it and repeat it. When you can do it five times in a row, we move on to another sound. Soon you'll be putting sounds together to form syllables, then piecing them together. CAaa plus T equals CAT. Sss-Nnn plus AP equals SNAP. Sss-T-ahh-P. STOP. Get it? Does that sound like fun?"


"Actually, it can get pretty tedious. We'll spend a lot of time going over the same old things, but you stick with me, work hard, and I will load up your chart with meaningless stars." He flashed a good-humored grin. "Before you know it you'll be saying whole words and stringing them together to have conversations."

"Soun's dood."

Gene looked into the patient's eyes. "Do you remember me at all from the hospital, when you came to visit, or the Vampire Club…?" the therapist suggested.

Willie heard music in his head. Mozart—Something in C Minor—on an organ—no, harpsichord, in a dimly lit ballroom…

"Dere's somet'in' in your b'ood, da docs won' know, dey'll call it a disease…"

"That's right. That's what you said to me."

Willie's mind raced ahead to a vision of a zombie in a wheelchair who, at the sight of him, abruptly began to scream and flail.

"S'uddup! S'uddup!" Willie yelled at the therapist, gripping the arms rests of his chair. "Oo godda say whad dey wanna hear, so dey'll t'ink you're bedder."

"Sure, sure, never mind." Gene briskly returned to his paperwork, suddenly aware they were approaching a situation he might not be equipped to handle. "I see from your chart, you've been on a heavy course of medication. That, combined with electro-convulsive therapy, can damage short-term memory and speech function. Most of that should return in time." He flashed his friendly smile and rubbed his hands together. "So, let's get to work."

After lunch was the period called Recreational Therapy, which was another word for recess. Often there was an organized activity, such as Bingo or a movie with popcorn or (often with disastrous results) a game of Trivial Pursuit. But you could also read in the library, play cards or do a jigsaw puzzle in the Day Room where soothing music played on the loudspeaker. Some patients were even permitted to stroll around the garden; of course Willie was not included in that group. He settled down in the TV room and zoned out after a few minutes. His afternoon meds were starting to kick in, and the day, although only half over, was proving a mental overload to the young man.

One evening, alongside the monitor nurse, Willie watched wistfully through a large plate window into the reception area where Stanley sat in quiet conference with his mother. Other patients gathered in little groups with loved ones in the same room. A few were arguing or looked distraught, but the majority seemed caring and comforting to their unfortunate relation.

Two attendants approached from behind. Vinnie took one arm and Mitch took the other as they escorted the patient away down the hall.

"Wassup? I's not poddy time."

"It's wash day for you, Psycho. And now is a good time, since you have no visitors today."

They took Willie into the shower and proceeded to pull off his clothes and exit. Steve the orderly stood in the doorless shower stall with soap and towel.

"Wait! Where're ya takin' my 'tuff? Dat's all I got!"

"Calm down, your things need to be washed, they smell bad. You can wear this when you're done." Steve pointed to a hospital gown hanging by a peg on a nearby wall.

The patient looked mistrustful. "Back off, I can dower by mydelf."

"Oh, I know, you're a big boy now, but you still need a monitor. Those're the rules, you know that." He turned on the water and adjusted the temperature.

"Over dere." Willie pointed to the opposite corner while holding up his towel. Steve shrugged and sauntered across the tiled floor.

"I don't know why we're not pals anymore. I'm sorry they changed your meds."

At his old apartment or at Collinwood, Willie liked to linger in a hot shower, savoring the steamy warmth, but not now with this leering audience. He rushed through the necessary procedure, tied the towel around his waist and layered the hospital gown on top. Steve snapped the terrycloth wrap away.

"Towel stays here. That doesn't belong to you. And the gown goes on backward."

"But…I can' go out like dat," Willie whined, clutching the garment closed behind him. "Where's my clo'es?"

"I told you, in the laundry."

"Can I wai' in my room till dere ready? I know, I know, i's 'gainst da rules, bu' p'ease?"

"Well, just for you, Psycho." The orderly grinned. "'Cause you're my pal."

Steve escorted his charge to the men's dormitory and slid his ID badge to open the door. Willie scrambled in and sat, crunched up in the corner of his bed. The aide closed the door behind them and blocked it with the desk chair.

Willie remembered being in another place: A hallway with gray walls and bars on the window. He fed quarter and quarter into the vending machine, filling his pillow case with soda cans. Then he swung the sack over his shoulder and charged at a fellow inmate who had harassed him, smashing the makeshift weapon into his head. Willie went to the Hole for that one, but it was worth it. Nobody fucked with him again after that.

"I liked you better when you were a zombie," Steve remarked as he approached the bed. "You did lots of favors for your buddy, and I did lots of favors for you. You don't remember, do you?"

"No, and I don' be'ieve you, neidder."

"You think you're so smart now. If you were smart, you would try better to get along with people who can do things for you. You want some clothes? Just ask."

"Not f'om you, asshole." The patient backed away until he reached the wall.

"Always the tough guy," the aide grinned.

"I-I will slit your t'roat and serve da b'ood to my master for b'ekfast. Den I make T'anksgivin' stuffin' wit' yer gizzards and hang yer 'ead on the fron' door, as a warnin' to udder bad ord'lies."

Steve leaned over the bed. "That sounded like a threat, and I could report you for that. Then you would be processed. In fact, I would see to it personally."

Willie's hand slithered up the wall behind him and he yanked the emergency cord, sounding an alarm at the head station. Cursing, Steve jumped back and flung the barricade chair out of the way just as a nurse and another aide slammed through the door. The patient burst into melodramatic tears, rocking back and forth on the verge of hysteria.

"What's going on in here?" the nurse demanded. "Steven, why is there a patient in his room at this time of day—and why was his door closed?"

"Nurse Karen, help me!" Willie cried. "Dey took all my c'othes an' I'm havin' a 'xiety attack!"

Karen rushed to the bed and and sat, hugging the trembling boy. She didn't see Leroi's questioning, mistrustful look to Steve, who shrugged dismissively. "Well, don't just stand there useless, both of you," she snapped at the attendants. "Get this patient something to wear."

With moist and melancholy eyes, the young man glanced up at Steve, who glared back over his shoulder as he left the room. Yes, Wyndcliff was a lot like prison. You could get away with a lot, without giving away a thing, if you knew how the play the game.

Willie cuddled closer to his caregiver until his shaking subsided.

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