Medical. That word ignites unwanted fear into me as I take in its unfortunate definition. A place for medicine, a place for resting, a place for healing, a place for the injured. I am not injured. I am exhausted, sleep-deprived, weak and hungry--but not to the extreme amount that I require care. It is not for my own benefit that I am here, it is for someone else’s.
Elijah opens the squeaky, red door that leads into a pasty, quiet room that is set up like a genuine waiting room. There are chairs around the entrance, pushed against the rim of the walls, and a woman wearing a white jacket and thick glasses is standing behind a desk in front of me while scribbling something down onto paper.
From inside here, everything looks normal. Like I have just walked in from the busy streets of the city and I am awaiting to see someone that can make everything better--like millions of other people across the world. I blink a few times to process how far from reality I’m travelling.
This is not an ordinary reception. This is not an ordinary waiting room. That is not an ordinary woman hired to do good. It’s all an illusion.
Elijah ignores the woman, who also ignores us, and he points his eyes at the row of chairs. “Take a seat.”
“Why are we-?”
"Take a seat,” he says.
I bite the bottom of my lip and I wander backwards into one of the chairs, slumping into the wood that digs into my spine. Elijah disappears around the corner of the desk, I hear a door slam shut and it causes my body to jolt.
I begin to count my heartbeats as the seconds pass. I scroll my eyes over the room, observing the woman that just continues to write, then I direct my attention to the chairs, then to the concrete floor, then to the pasty, grey walls. The seconds turn to minutes, my heartbeats turn sour and misplaced. I play with the rim of my sleeves, twiddling the cotton in between my fingertips.
The few minutes turn into several, then into an hour. By then, my eyes are beginning to close and I can’t keep them open anymore. I rest my head into the board of the chair, gently letting my body slip further down until I’m comfortable. I wrap my arms around my chest, letting my face roll sideways as my sub-conscious fights to be let through.
Just then, a slam occurs from across the room. I snap my eyes open, straightening my body up the chair and I unfold my arms, swallowing down anger at the inconvenient timing. I should have closed my eyes and slept the moment Elijah left me here. I could have just had a lovely hour nap.
I relinquish those thoughts as one of the leaders walks into the light from around the desk; he is a handsome man with curly blonde locks and a sharp, defined nose that doesn’t quite fit right between his petite, long-lashed eyes.
“Elizabeth,” he calls, scanning around the room.
I glance around me, becoming paranoid that I’m not the only one waiting here, but I am, I’m alone. Yet he calls as though others are here. Yet again, it is like being in a genuine doctor’s surgery--only the doctors are the ones in need of a mental examination.
I slide to my feet, pulling my sleeves to cover my hands. His eyes flicker to me, and I pace towards him, with the mind set of running in the opposite direction.
“Duncan will see you now,” he says. “Follow me.”
Follow me. I’m sick of hearing those words. I’m sick of following, I’m sick of being patronized, I’m sick of forever being taken somewhere. For once I want someone to follow me. I trudge behind him through the side door, scowling at the back of his head. I’ve never done so much scowling in one day before, it’s not a nice feeling. It’s the feeling that someone has authority over me, that someone is making me do something I don’t want to do, and the more I linger on that thought, the more I become aware that I might be scowling for a very long time.
The leader leads me into a narrow corridor that stretches for several feet, and as I take my time reaching the end I notice the peculiar noises coming from the closed doors astride me. Behind the walls are bizarre sounds that don’t resemble words, but resemble something like a human. It is not screaming, nor is it crying, but it’s a strange notion of vibrations that collaborate to create some kind of other-worldly language. The noises grow so loud that I pause beside a door, my hand moving towards the handle hesitantly. The sane part of my brain is telling me that I really shouldn’t look, because there’s a slight chance I’m going to be left traumatized by what I find lurking inside--but the curiosity is too much. My hand reaches the handle, ready to give in to temptation, ready to just open it for a second, just to catch a glimpse of whatever is inside.
“Elizabeth,” the leader says from the end of the corridor. “You don’t want to do that.”
I swallow, pulling my hand back from the handle and I turn to meet his eyes. “What’s in there?”
“It’s off limits,” he says. “Medical is this way.”
“Wait, so, this isn’t medical?” I ask, scanning my eyes to the other doors.
“No. This is the psychiatric unit.”
I press my ear to the wall as the strange noises continue, I can’t hear any word being spoken, by a doctor or otherwise--I just hear those vibrations, they’re scarily zombie-like. “Psychiatric unit?” I repeat, moving my ear away. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Why would they need a psychiatric unit when everybody here is already psychotic? How much more mental can the people here get? What group would they be classed as? Would they even be grouped?
Whatever is making those noises doesn’t even sound human, what the hell is Duncan doing here?
“I won’t tell you again,” he says. “This way.”
The tone in his voice causes me to surrender my inquisition and I reluctantly glide myself down the corridor, peering over my shoulder to hear those noises one last time before they vanish behind me.
Duncan knows that I’d be passing down this hallway, he knows that I’m capable of relying on instinct, to know when something is wrong. He wanted me to hear them, he wanted to scare me, he wanted to show me something that could happen to me if I step out of line. I don’t know what lies behind those doors, and I don’t know what illusion those people are being forced into--but I’m going to find out.