No Way But Down

They tell me I’m ill. I never questioned it until recently.

I live in a room with another man, Gary. He likes to rhyme words. I grow annoyed with his incessant need for similar sounds. Today, it was spray, may, lay, pray, gay—and if he would shut up, I’d be much happier. They let us into the common room, a short walk down the hall from where I sleep. Today, my jeans and buttoned flannel seem good for the dark clouds.

I pass Edward, a ward of ours. He’s dressed like a pride flag. He says hi. I tell him where he can go, then keep walking. I have no tolerance for bull.

The common room is full of people I see every day, and would rather avoid, yet I’d never see harm come to them. Denny plays blackjack with Damien at the card table, Chris is ignoring Kaitlyn as her paranoia seeps to an absolute all high. When that happens, she eats her eyebrow hairs. Ew.

The rest of the room rings with daily noises that ebbs between silence and the howling of lunatics.

Nurse Candy keeps watch over the common room. Her scrubs are baggy. I’m not sure about her though. She stands in front of the exit door, kept locked with a padlock. She and Edward come to whisper to each other. At first, I figured it was idle gossip. But little by little, I believe they conspire against us.

Do not think me ill mentally speaking! I have a condition that leaves me paralyzed in my own skin and in need of constant care, but it doesn’t help that those around me suffer from depression, anxiety, and oddities like bulimia. That doesn’t mean I’ve lost it, if anything, I’m trying to save us. A few of us have gone missing in the last few weeks. When I ask Edward or Candy where they’ve gone, both of them answer,”To another home. They’ve been identified as capable of reintegration.”

Whatever their words really mean, how would they always answer the same with the same words, in separate instances over several days? It bothers me. It’s like they have their lines straight.

And with this, I’ll let you know I’m going to steal Edward’s keys. The procedure is simple. Gary has rage fits, and he owes me.

And now, looking down the hall, Edward is running to our room as Gary screams. A couple of crashes later, Ed walks out with Gary’s hands behind his back. As they pass me, Gary lunges forward, his arms break free and latch themselves to my neck. All planned, we fall to the floor, he slips a key ring in my collar.

Ed puts him in a sleeper hold, his arm firmly planted against Gary’s neck. Gary begs freedom screaming,”Uncle! I’ll go quietly!”

As they walk off, I go to my room and wait for the evening in my bed with an old magazine. Ed hasn’t become wise to where his keys went.

Under a dark room, I let myself out to the hallway, silent as the dead, then to common room.

I use the keys to open the lock and flee into a hallway with a glowing exit sign at the other end. Doors and turn offs line the hall, but I can’t help myself. I run with a heart beating for freedom.

Half down the hall, I hear an echoing voice,”Stop! One’s got loose!”

A man opens the exit with a flashlight in one hand. I panic to the nearest exit, which has a spiral staircase going up. I run up.

I hear them chasing behind me, but I’m fast like the wind. Up—up—up, and at the top, a door with a padlock. I fumble the keys, but searching the ring, Ed hasn’t failed me yet. I’m in. I grab the padlock as I notice there’s a way to lock myself up here.

A room with one window, a steel chair, and no other way out. And upon a table, a body with a blanket. I reach to see who. Pulling it back, it’s Gary. His eyes are dark, but looking closer, they’re gone.

The chair is a foldable one. I take it to the window. No luck, but I hear them at the door. “Come out!”

“He’s locked it from the inside.”

I strike it again and again as they try their hardest with no luck.

The window pane buckles against my strikes. Crack by blessed crack, it starts to give way. It brakes into chunks of thin plastic with small shreds of frayed edges. I go on until I could pop my torso through. And with sweet release, I kiss the air as I fall from the tower.

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