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The Downfall of Troy
“How are you doing today?” Cassie’s voice was filled with mock sincerity, which was betrayed only by her hostile eyes.
“And how does that make you feel?” The sarcastically benign tone to her voice turned cold. She sat on her sickeningly clean, white chair in her sickeningly clean, white room, with her arms crossed resentfully. Colour was forbidden in the hospital. Colour provokes the crazies. Even the air was devoid of colour. It smelled nauseatingly clean. If Cassie had her way, it would smell of pears or grass or something real. But instead, the air was missing a personality, like everything else in the hospital. It was enough to drive a sane person crazy and keep a crazy one crazy.
“Cassandra,” he reprimanded her. “Do you think that for once we could have a session that didn’t involve playing your games?”
“And people call me crazy.”
This was where he was supposed to tell her that she wasn’t crazy. She watched him with bitter satisfaction as he struggled to find the politically and medically correct terms to describe her. There was a pause in the conversation, where he was supposed to (but couldn’t) find better words to describe her mental state. “Have you had any interesting dreams lately?” he asked, instead.
“Nothing out of the ordinary chaos. What about you?”
“Doctor.” She mimicked his disciplinary tone.
“Cassandra, you have to let me do my job.”
“No, I really don’t think I do.” She tucked her long, black hair behind her ear.
“Fine then. Have it your way. We’ll just sit here for an hour and do nothing.”
Cassie wanted to tell him that it was impossible to do nothing, but instead, she froze. Her green eyes lost their calculating, cold appearance and turned eerily detached. She stared straight through him for minutes. He stared back at her, searching for some sign of life in her impassive being. Just when tears should have started streaming down her unblinking eyes, she let out a piercing scream. Her eyes squeezed shut as she came back to life. The room was swallowed up in the sound of the wild shrieking. When Cassie’s lungs had run out of air, her tense body collapsed into the chair, like a marionette whose strings had been cut. She sat there, slouched in her seat and hyperventilating, while Dr. Apol’s ears recovered. When she finally opened her eyes again, they searched the room in a paranoid manner before landing and resting on him.
“What are you looking at?” she finally spat out.
He ignored her and looked down at the clipboard on his lap. His pen scratched across it quickly. “You had another episode, Cassandra. Do you remember it this time?”
“No,” she shot back, angrily. As if it were his fault this happened.
“Alright then. Moving on, I suppose. Do you want to talk about your dreams yet? Or how about your brother and friends?”
“Hector still isn’t returning my calls.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s alright. I don’t think they have phones in Greece. That’s all.”
Dr. Apol looked up from his clipboard for a beat. Cassie met his look with an expression of exasperation, as if to say “Really?”
“Oh. So when is he coming home?”
“I don’t know!” Cassie snapped.
“Alright, alright. That’s okay.”
“Have you talked to your brother then?” she asked, turning the conversation on him.
“I’m sorry to hear that. So, how does that make you feel?”
“No. At the drunk man that ran him over and then ran away.”
“Oh. He’s… dead then?” The sarcasm in Cassie’s voice flickered for a moment. She felt suddenly vulnerable, and didn’t understand why. “This sounds familiar. Kind of.”
“It should. We go over this every session.”
“Why wouldn’t I remember this?”
“Are you asking for my analysis, Cassandra?”
“Oh, it sounded like it. My mistake.”
Cassie glared at him and imagined his short, sandy-blond, wavy hair catching fire.
“You block it out. Do you know why the thought of my brother dying might bother you?”
“No. Are we done yet?”
“You block it out because it reminds you that your own brother, Hector, died in war,” he told her, ignoring her question. “He’s not in Greece, Cassandra. He died ten years ago. You have to give up your delusions, Cassandra.”
“He’s not dead!” Cassie shot back, furiously. “I think I would know if my own brother was dead!”
“He is. You know he is, Cassandra.”
“No! I’ve talked to him. Tory has, too.”
“Tory doesn’t exist. He’s another delusion.”
“He’s not!” Cassie jumped out of her seat and ran to the door, but it was locked. She spun around, angrily. “Let me out!” she demanded. “I want out! I don’t want to listen to your lies anymore! You can’t poison my mind and steal my memories. I won’t let you. Let me out!”
“The session isn’t over yet. Tell me about your dreams.”
“Really, Cassandra, there’s no need for that. Are you still dreaming about the horse?”
“No.” Turning her back to Dr. Apol, Cassie continued her hopeless beating on the door.
“Then tell me what you’re dreaming about. If you do, we can end the session early.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Fine, then. Keep pounding on the door.”
“Agamemnon is going to die. So am I.” Cassie had given up on her escape.
“How do you know?”
“I saw it last night.”
“Just because you dreamed it doesn’t mean it has to happen,” he reasoned.
“No, it doesn’t. But it will. I saw it happen and I know it will happen. So are we done yet?”
That night, Cassie lay in her bed and waited. The snakes would come for her from the shadows. It was only a matter of time. If not tonight, then the next night. But they would come. And she couldn’t stop them. Nothing she said or did made any difference. “Stay away, little snakes, stay away,” she hissed her chant at the shadows.
There. The first one emerged from the shadows. It shed its shadow cover and rose up until it was eyelevel with her. It stared into her fearful eyes as her chant grew louder and more hysterical. “Stayawaylittlesnakesstayaway!” The snake, which was by no means little, hissed back at her as the shadows gave way to others. It lowered itself back to the ground and stole away back into the darkness, with the others following. “STAYAWAYLITTLESNAKESSTAYAWAY!” Cassie was screaming at the top of her lungs now, but as was ritual, the hospital was impervious to her hysterics. Her shouts couldn’t penetrate the sound-proof, padded walls that surrounded her.
Soon she felt the weight of the giant snakes on her body as they swarmed her and made their way up to her face. She could feel the cool stir of air in her ears, where she imagined they breathed. The chill in her ears then gave way to the snakes’ icy shadow tounges. She wanted to continue screaming, useless as she knew it was, but one of the snakes’ bodies was covering her mouth now. So instead, she squeezed her eyes shut, repeated her chant silently in her head, and waited for it to be over.
There. The snakes were gone and the darkness she saw behind her eyelids took her over and lulled her into a deep and disturbed sleep. Visions of her own bloody corpse and the gory body of Agamemnon haunted her. The worst part was that even though it was only a dream, she knew it was real. This was just a reality that happened yet. Suddenly the vision shifted and she was confronted by Ron and Cory, two of the other prisoners of the “hospital.”
Ron opened his mouth to speak, but it was Cory’s voice that rang through her head. “Cassie, oh, Cassie, tell me the future you have seen, if the snakes have yet licked your ears clean. Tell me, if you can see, how will they destroy the city of Troy? And tell me, if you can see, a way to stall the downfall of our city.”
Ron closed his mouth and Cory’s voice ended. Cassie blinked, and in that second which was both perpetual and instant, in a way only possible in dreams, Ron and Cory were dead. Cassie spent the entire night screaming in her sleep, as usual, and as usual, the rest of the hospital was oblivious to it.
“Good morning, sweetie. And how are we doing?” Cassie woke up to the cloying voice of her nurse. She didn’t trust the nurse, but she didn’t mind her as much as the doctor, because unlike Dr. Apol, she was really more annoying than maleficent or deceitful.
“Agamemnon is going to die,” Cassie answered, flatly. “We all are. But he’ll be first.”
“Agamemnon is doing just fine, Cassie. Nobody’s going to die.” The nurse brushed Cassie’s warning aside and began fluttering around the room, opening the barred windows and setting out Cassie’s breakfast.
“Are you so sure of that?”
“Of course! Everyone’s fine. No need to fret,” she chirped.
“How can you stand by and let them kill us? You must know they’re going to do it!”
“Here’s your breakfast.”
“We’re all going to die!”
“Alright, Cassandra. Fine. We’ll play it your way.” She picked up the phone by Cassie’s bed. “Hello? Yes. Can you put me through to Agamemnon’s nurse? Oh… Oh, really? Okay. Thanks anyway.” She put the phone down and turned towards Cassie. “Agamemnon’s fine.” She turned away and began bustling about the room again.
Cassie stared at the ceiling, keeping a wary eye on the shadows. “Prove it. Let me talk to him.”
“I’m sorry, honey. He’s asleep. We wouldn’t want to wake him, now would we?”
“Yes we would. We want to talk to him. We want to talk to him right now.”
“I’m sorry, but we can’t do that.” The nurse didn’t seem to notice that Cassie had been mocking her. “Agamemon’s fine. But he’s been transferred to another hospital.”
“Why? What happened to him?”
“Don’t worry about it, sweetie. He’s fine. Here, eat your breakfast.”
“No. I want to talk to him. I want to warn him. Not that there’s anything he can do. But I still want to talk to him.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. There’s… paperwork and legal junk and hoops to jump through. They don’t like patients talking to other patients if they might… upset them. Besides, I don’t have the authority to make it happen. He’s fine though. Eat your breakfast.” She walked over to Cassie and attempted to pull her out of bed, but Cassie stayed where she was, still watching the shadows on the ceiling.
“You need to eat. Sweetie, it isn’t healthy to starve yourself.”
“Yeah, because whatever’s in that food is sure to be healthy.”
“For the last time, Cassandra. We are not trying to poison you. If you don’t start eating, you’ll force us to force you to eat.”
“Stayawaylittlesnakesstayaway,” Cassie muttered, ignoring her.
“Fine. Have it your way. I’ll be back later today with lunch.” The nurse left Cassie on her bed as she continued to keep watch over the shadows.