Prologue - Mental Binds
Flip the switch when you leave, I’d rather not see the monsters when they come for me - Zoey Hart
The dirty and sloppily painted white walls along with the rhythmic flickering of the naked bulb overhead was testament to my apparent headlong plunge into madness.
I squinted into the glaring light. My arms and legs were secured to the smooth metal cot beneath me with thick straps. My body was laid straight and numb on the thin matrass. I could barely feel the friction against my skin of the single blanket supposed to bring me warmth.
Why did they have to keep bringing me back here? To these dark and hollow places?
In here I had no way of telling time. There were no clocks and there were no windows except for the small barred hole in our doors for the staff to peer through. There were only bland overly cooked meals in small portions and medication that marked the temporary end to hours of isolation.
I used to put up quite a fight when the pills came, but I had learned to be compliant. Convincing the staff in a mental ward of your sanity when you hardly believe in it yourself anymore is quite the challenge. Attempting to convince them that your medication is working when every single emotion is scrutinized and taken as a sign of imbalance was impossible.
They were always watching for any sign of negativity as if I was a challenged child. Praise only came with passive and subdued behavior, when our faces had been wiped clean by the regular dosages of medication and we could hardly remember our own names. When it did you felt yourself resenting it because it meant that you were losing yourself to this prison and you were no longer masking your symptoms. It meant that they had finally succeeded in poisoning your mind into a slow and dull cease of logic thought.
I had deduced that the staff here was crazier than the patients. They treated us like animals more than they treated us like humans. Like we were awaiting trial for committing some kind of crime or were here in lieu of a prison sentence.
Escaping this fortress of insanity would be extremely difficult. In my more lucid hours I had been paying attention to the comings and goings of these locked wards. Every member of staff had a key card on their person and the ward had an airlock system that meant only one door was unlocked at a time.
Biting down on my trembling bottom lip, I tried to blink away the moisture filling my eyes. A single tear escaped, rolling sideways down my cheek and into my slightly greasy hair.
This place, this so-called asylum for the mentally ill, was no shelter or refuge for the sick. If you weren’t crazy before – listening to the never-ending screams of others whilst being incapable of movement and losing moments just staring straight ahead at nothing of consequence – will certainly get you there.
Panic swelled in my chest and narrowed my airways so that my breathing turned raspy in my throat.
I was scared.
I didn’t want to die in this place; I didn’t want to be forgotten by the world as if my existence had never carried any weight.
My mind was dull with medication and I couldn’t even manage to twist or turn my limbs or lift my head enough to peer down at my body. My brain refused the command. Too numb from the amount of drugs I was forced to swallow to focus on anything other than the pungent smell of disinfectant and the overwhelming sense of helplessness that was sinking deep into my bones.
Closing my eyes tightly with a shuddering sigh of defeat on my lips, I focused on the dark splotches moving in and out across my vision. I tried to regulate my breathing. Having a panic attack when I was already tied to a metal sheet would only make the walls close in on me faster. I still had some dignity. I refused to let them take it from me along with my clothes.
Why did I have to be judged so harshly for something I couldn’t even control? These dreams, these visions, didn’t come to me by choice. They just came to me when I slept and stole me from reality even when I didn’t.
But there was a man, throughout all these episodes, there was always the same man. Always waiting for me, but always just out of my reach.
I couldn’t see his face, but I would know him anywhere.
He had the body of a man and the shadow of a wolf.
My noisy breath filled my ears and I opted for any kind of distraction from the unproductive buzz in my head. Muscles cramped, I released a quiet whimper of relief when I was finally able to shift around slightly. Not enough to attract the attention of the watchers studying the recording of the lone camera in the corner against the lowered ceiling. Just enough to shake off the loss of feeling in my arms and legs and experience the familiar sensation of needles and pins as my nerves were starting to regain function.
Biting down on my lip until I tasted blood, I took a few more calming breaths and twisted my left arm just enough to feel for the small plastic fork I had slid up my sleeve earlier. The fork will do greatly with the key card I had stolen from a new and inexperienced staff member who was too scared of being fired to report it. It wasn’t my weapon of choice for obvious reasons, but with enough force into a softer region of any intended target, I might be able to inflict some damage.
I didn’t enjoy hurting others, I really didn’t. I wasn’t that kind of crazy. Manipulating the staff into believing my sanity just didn’t get the job done anymore. I’ve been in too many of these mental institutions and they had it all on file. They kept records of everything, with special attention to detail regarding setbacks and patients being readmitted.
Not to mention that the reason I was currently restrained was for picking a fight with another patient during a group therapy session. I felt really bad about it, but it was the only way to distract everyone enough not to notice me picking up the fork and slipping it into the sleeve of my thin pajama sleeve for later.
I had taken to thinking and plotting my way out of this mess. Escaping was all that was left for me now and I was going to have to do it soon.
“Come on,” I whispered into the too white room. “You can do this, Emma. You don’t need them.” My voice broke and I blinked back a fresh sheen of tears. “You can do this.”
I took comfort in the rough ends of the three plastic prongs scratching against my skin.
I just had to keep it together until they moved me out of solitary and back to my regular cell. It didn’t come with any more perks than the current one, but for a few minutes in between rooms I would have a taste of freedom.
I just needed to take it.
The faceless man was waiting for me; I just needed to find him.