I emerged from sleep like a womb, with an irresistible urge to score some dope. My initial feeling was confusion as I found myself laying on a hospital bed. I looked outside the window and saw farmyards where I expected the city to be. I wondered, how far away from downtown was I? I remained naively unaware of the fact I was in danger.
Only when I squinted at the medical posters did I realize there was something wrong. The characters written on them were not English. Or any language I’d ever seen.
I stared at the symbols for a long time. I began to wonder, was it the drugs or could I no longer recognize the alphabet? As I climbed out of the bed, I noticed something else was odd. There were ropes on the bed to restrain me, but they had been loosened by someone. I looked at the indecipherable posters on the wall. The anatomy pictures were botched – they bore little resemblance to the shape of human beings.
I went to the desk beside my bed, and fumbled through the drawers until I found a notebook and a pencil. The pages were completely blank. I began to write the only words I could think of,
7 p.m. Behind the Christian bookstore
I looked at the words for a moment, satisfied I could still read my own language. Chase wasn’t my own name, of course. At the time, I could only remember the name of my heroin dealer and where I usually met him. I struggled briefly, before giving up on remembering my name. I searched my clothes for identification and found a name tag in my jeans pocket. It had the same strange symbols as the medical posters. I tossed it in the garbage out of frustration.
I glanced at the notebook again, and determined the most important job was balancing out the chemicals in my brain. Food and sleep were secondary issues. I needed to get high, or at least placate myself until I could get back home. As I opened the door, I heard no footsteps, nor chattering of nurses, nor wailing of patients. I looked down the empty hall from my doorway, and began to think I was the only one in this entire hospital. I stumbled out. I was alone.
Against the backdrop of silence, the echoes of my footsteps were enormous. I felt thirsty, and it occurred to me that I was walking around without an IV drip. No saline meant no morphine. I began to drink at one of the fountains. I cupped the water with my hands and splashed it in my face. My hands were shaking. I was painfully sober.
As I continued to walk, I heard agonizing cries from the far end of the hospital. Though I considered turning away, curiosity instead propelled me forward. When I finally reached the source, the mental care unit, the groaning was unbearably loud. I had second thoughts about entering.
Then I saw I was also standing beside the anesthesia room. I decided to take a detour there first. Seeing the room empty, I began to raid the cabinets. I found several different bottles of colorful pills, but the bottles all had that same unrecognizable writing.
Any of these bottles could have the fix I’m looking for, I thought. Or they could just be sleeping pills. Or heart pills. Or Viagra. I wasn’t about to test them on myself.
At that moment I heard the infirmary doors slam open, followed by someone running past the anesthesia room and into the distance. The caterwauling was now louder than ever. I shoved the strange medicine bottles in my pockets and proceeded towards the infirmary.
The air now plumed with the unmistakable stench of neglect. To the right I saw six men strapped to gurneys, writhing helplessly in pain. They mumbled, gasped, and howled unintelligible phrases, with their faces beet red as they wrestled with their restraints. They seemed to stare into space, mouths hanging open, completely unaware of my presence.
No wonder that person was running so fast. I looked around, but there were no doctors or nurses to be seen. They are dying, I thought. But from what? Despite this room being a mental ward, these six men seemed to be in overwhelming physical pain.
I heard the medicine bottles jingling in my pockets, and had a morally questionable idea. If I gave these dying men the different pills from my pockets, perhaps I could discern what the pills are. If the pills in my pockets are opiates, I would certainly be relieving them of their pain. What was the worst that could happen, aside from hastening their inevitable passing into the next life?
I recoiled at the thought for a moment. I left and continued searching the halls, looking at the posters with their bizarre anatomy. I wondered what kind of doctor would work at such a place. I felt physically ill, not from my surroundings but from the oncoming dope sickness. I wanted to vomit, but I had nothing in my stomach. Any one of these pills could be my fix, I kept thinking to myself. They jingled in response to my gooseflesh as I walked. Finally, I found myself returning to the mental ward.
The worst possible outcome was that I put them out of their misery, I said to make sense of my actions. I took 6 pill bottles from my pockets, and looked at the clock. It was 6 p.m. I shuddered and began distributing the pills among the dying patients, who were too confused to resist.
By 6:20, 4 of the 6 patients had already died from grand mal seizures.
At 6:34 the third patient attempted to climb out of his bed. He began howling meaningless syllables. At 6:39 the fourth patient began singing ecstatically. He seemed to be in a state of total bliss. I set aside the fourth pill bottle for myself, and kept an eye on the clock.
At 6:46 the third patient lunged at the fourth, clearly speaking in a foreign tongue as he clawed the fourth patient’s face. At 6:49 the fourth patient died of blood loss. The third patient returned to his bed. He began clawing at his throat.
At 6:55 the third patient died of blood loss.
By 7 p.m. I was completely dope sick. The room now reeked of blood. In the past hour I’d watched one patient commit murder-suicide, and 4 others die from violent seizures. And I just wished I was in a back alley meeting my drug dealer. I reluctantly took the fourth pill bottle, still unsure of its contents. I’d rather get sick with pills than without them. I looked back at the six men who are now corpses. Their faces looked back at me, contorted in agony.
And the face of the fourth patient, the only one who seemed to find relief, was mauled beyond recognition.
I thought of Chase and all the corpses he has left in his wake, without ever seeing them in their dying moments. I thought of all the other dealers I had gone through in the past. I thought about all the people who enter my life, only to die or get arrested because of drugs. I thought about how numb I felt to other people’s pain.
Then I took one of the pills I had given the fourth patient, and continued exploring the hospital.
I decided to look for the person I heard running. Maybe they had some answers. My mind was a haze. I wandered aimlessly through the hospital. Before I knew it, my walk became a slow crawl across the floor. The drugs were not working as intended. I climbed into a wheelchair and continued searching, fighting an intense desire to sleep. I felt euphoric, and my vision began to blur. The hands of the clock lost meaning. I chose to rest for just a moment in the wheelchair.
When I awoke in my chemically induced fog, I was too tired to open my eyes. I could feel my wheelchair being pushed by someone, but I was too exhausted to see them, or show any signs of life. I felt the warm, humid air on my skin, and wondered if we were outside the hospital. I drifted back into a dreamless sleep.
Just before my mind crossed the border to unconsciousness, I was briefly able to remember my real name. I silently repeated it, and felt satisfied with its familiarity. It was too bad I had no paper or pencil to write it down.
Written: December 2015
Released: December 18, 2015