Saint Bart's

March 29, 2009
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Saint Bartholomew’s Institute for the Criminally Insane was the single most beautiful piece of architecture I’d ever seen in my entire life. It was a 5 storied heaven of chipped and faded grey bricks. Windowless, of course, save a lonely slab of frosted glass housed in the main entrance door. The whole thing was surrounded by a tall barbed electric fence. I was instantly deeply and irrevocably in love with it.

I probably would have kept looking at it for hours and hours, just standing there outside the police cruiser if the kindly officers hadn’t pushed me along gently. I had insisted to be freed of my hand cuffs for my entrance so all three of them had to escort me to at least the gate. One of them opened the fence a little bit to let me and one of the officers onto the property. For a second when he was reaching towards the gate I thought gleefully that maybe they had forgotten to kill the current. But I quickly chased away this bit of wishful thinking with a dose of reason. They always cut the current to let people in. Even the really really dangerously unstable psychos convicted of many horrific and gruesome murders. I mean, imagine the lawsuit if a police man got crisped!

As I passed through the gate, I wrapped my finger around one of the barbs and softly squeezed until I felt the skin break. I drew my hand away slowly, letting the metallic flower bud scrape my cut into a tiny gash on the inside of my right index. I tingled as the blood blossomed into a bubble and broke, letting it run into my palm. It began to drip onto the gravel so I brought my hand up to my mouth and passed my tongue over it, enjoying the salty copper taste. I left my finger in front of my teeth and sucked a little to make it stop bleeding faster.

The officer in front of me opened the door with the frosted glass and stepped aside to let me in. As I passed, I let my finger slide along his ivory collar, staining it with red wherever I touched. His expression twisted into a mixture of confusion and disgust.
“I couldn’t dirty The Institute, could I? I mean, they work so hard to keep it nice and clean,” I explained to him. Then I, remembering my manners, raised my hand and waived my fingers ever so slightly in salute, “Thank you officers. It means so much to me. Really, I’m sure these people can help to fix whatever problems they claim I have. Say hello to the family for me,” with this, I flipped around and strolled inside.

An anxious-looking man in a white lab suit greeted me with a cardboard smile and a brusque nod. He gathered my files in his arms from the officer behind me, nodded again in thanks and then jerked his head to show us to follow him. I wondered vaguely if he was actually capable of speech or if he just preferred to endanger his spine with frequent jerky head movements. A light smile tugged at the side of me mouth as I pictured his body splayed out in this hallway, his neck horribly twisted and wrong.

He led us to a small room furnished only by a wooden desk and chair, a reading lamp placed on the desk to assist the spotty fluorescents, and two old, uncomfortable-looking lounge chairs. Apart from the golden lamp, everything in the room was a piercing white. Even the desk and chair had been painted to match the sterile environment.

I had no interest in sitting in the old chairs so I moved to sit at the desk. The officer’s hand grabbed my wrist gruffly to stop me. I turned quickly to face him, feeling the anger knit my brow and flush my face. My free hand swung towards him with the lamp. His hold immediately loosened. The doctor then rushed to the officer, dialing the main office on his walkie-talkie.
“Shoving the light-bulb into his eyes was probably overkill,” I reflected out loud, gently burning the inside of my forearm with the lamp, “But hey. What the heck. I’m insane. You never know what I’m going to do, right?” I don’t actually believe I’m crazy, but it’s a helluva good excuse in times like this.

I clicked the lamp off and knelt next to the moaning officer. “It was your fault you know sir. Grabbing me like that. A stern word would have sufficed. Just because I’m here,” I whispered, leaning in and reassuringly taking his hand in mine while gesturing around the room with the other, “Doesn’t. Mean. I’m. Stupid.” I accented each word by crunching a different finger away from his palm.

His features twisted as even more tears streamed from his charred, unseeing eyes. A soft whimper escaped him as he curled his body and rocked gently back and forth.

“How were your first few days?” Dr. Douglas asked during one of my afternoon session about a week after I arrived. He was slightly more comfortable around me by now. He'd stopped stuttering at least.
“Excellent, thank you. I love this place! The people are nice, the doctors are ignorant, and the food is halfway decent!” His mouth twitched slightly when I called the doctors ‘ignorant’.
“Everyone seems to like you,”' I could read the surprise he held from his words in his amber eyes.
“That's me,” I grinned, “Miss Popularity,” he forced a chuckle through his clenched smile.
“It would seem so,” he replied stiffly.
He coughed once and then adjusted his posture to a more professional one.
“Now, I realize the last few sessions have been pretty relaxed but now that you're settled in, we have to get down to business. You know why you’re here I presume?”
“Tricky question Doctor. I know why I’ve been sent here, but I do not understand why,” I answered, flicking a lock of hair out of my eyes.
He licked his lips (it seemed to be a habit of his) and crossed his fingers slightly.
“You are responsible for innumerable grisly murders dating back to before they could even keep a record on you!” He was struggling to remain composed, “You’ve killed teachers, strangers, clerks, friends, pets, children! all without even a trace of guilt or sadness!”
“I know all that Doctor, but I don’t see why I have to be here because of it. What have I done wrong?”
“YOU ENDED PEOPLE'S LIVES!” He bellowed, rising shakily but surely from his chair.
My! Touchy, touchy.
“I didn't do it to make people sad, Doctor,” I assured him in a soothing tone, “At first, I did it because I was curious. Leonardo dissected people all the time you know. Every little kid is curious. They all want to learn and I was no different. Every new one was like a new adventure and experience. Then, once I knew everything I thought I wanted to know, I was going to stop. But I couldn't, I didn't want to. The sights and smells and textures and feelings were all too familiar and reassuring. The crack of a skull, the sight of the fresh, deep red blood coming out, their breath coming out harsher, more ragged,” Dr. Douglas’ sweat had darkened the area around his neck and he was licking his lips like it was an Olympic sport, “The way the life would leave their eyes, sometimes before they even stopped screaming. Then, the taste of everything in my mouth, on my tongue. Their blood and their skin against mine,” I could feel it now, and my eyes rolled a bit from the memories, “But most of all, the way the skin breaks against the blade of a knife or the scratch of a nail. I guess you could say,” A smile played across my lips, “I'm on love”.
Dr. Douglas swallowed pas his quivering Adam's apple and, gathering his things, quavered, “That's all for today,”.

The officer escorted me back to my room in silence. The walk was completely uneventful save the last corner before we arrived. The halls in Saint Bart's were not sound absorbent but the man was wearing rubber sneakers so neither the officer nor I heard him before we collided. I instinctively raised my hands an instant before we ran into each other so he got the worst of it.
He barely let out a grunt when he landed on the hard tile, even though I'm sure it must have hurt very much. I found myself reaching down to help him up.
“So sorry, didn't see you,” I apologized, grabbing his wrist.
“S'all right darlin', accidents happen,” he replied with a smile in his voice, smoothing his shirt. He looked up and our eyes met. His were a deep dark shade of forest green that seemed to be peering far beyond mine. Something malicious yet kind danced about in them, matching his impish smile to a tee. His teeth were straight and white enough to be in a Colgate commercial but his jaw was to sharply squared for T.V. standards. He flicked his tousled sandy blond hair from his glasses as he adjusted them on his nose.
He squinted slightly and cocked his head a little bit, the hair falling back to when it had been before.
“Say...” He said with a tone of realization, “I think I heard of you. Seen you 'round and whatnot. You're pretty new, right sweets? Well, pretty, anyway,” he winked with a grin.
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” I joked, smiling broadly. The officer mumbled towards my general vicinity that it was time to move along.
“See you around then..?”
“See you around Oliver. Pleasure making your acquaintance.” I waved airily behind me and watched him disappear around the corner, light glinting off his glasses and shinning off his smile.
After that afternoon, break time outside was the single best part of my life. Oliver would always wait for me just outside the doors leading to the carefully enclosed yard out back. We would walk along the wooden fence that separated us from the electric one talking about anything and everything from butterflies and cats to books and shiny cars to magic and why we were here.
At first we were just content to talk a few times a week, but as our friendship progressed, we wanted to see each other more and more. That’s how our nightly escapades commenced. I got a hold of some galoshes and thick rubber gloves and after that it was simply a matter of getting out of our rooms unnoticed. Ordinarily one of us would create a ruckus to allow the other one to get out (we were conveniently in the same guard division) and then that person would pick the locks of the other’s room. Then we tricked the doors to get outside. The rubber gloves and boots were for scaling the electrically charged fence unscathed.
“Toss ‘em back toots!” Oliver whispered through the fence, sliding on his yellow gloves. Since we only had one set of boots between the two of us, the person who didn’t go over first had to wait for the other to throw the set back to them. I hurled the boots over and watched as they made a high smooth arc over the top and Oliver caught them easily. Only once had they snagged on the top and forced us to search for a suitable branch to push them over.
Oliver made the climb easily and landed with a muffled thud beside me. He shook his hair and grinned at me. We ditched the boots but I kept my gloves and began walking along the fence. We didn’t really need to be outside the property, but it was just fun to know that we beat them again. We walked in silence for a while, Oliver grinning widely, me running my hand along the fence, just enjoying each other’s company and the serenity around us. We stopped when we reach the front length of the fence.
“I remember my first day here like it was yesterday,” I said, turning to Oliver, “Burned my officer’s eyes with Dr. Douglas’ lamp,” I chuckled, remembering the incident fondly.
“I heard that story,” Oliver laughed lightly, “You was the best thing here since, well,” he stroked his chin in mock thought, “well, I’d have to say since Charlie Chainsaw.”
“He lived here?”
“That’s what they say.”
“Well, I’m truly honored,” We both smiled at each other.
I turned and stared up at Saint Bart’s; enjoying the way the bright moonlight shadowed every nook and cranny with dazzling contrast. A single compact fluorescent shone on the front door. My eyes wandered over the entire building and finally fell back to the barbs before me.
“So beautiful,” I sighed. Oliver looked into my eyes and there was something twinkling in them that I’d never seen before. Saint Bart’s reflected in his glasses.
“I’d say,” he breathed, and I realized with a soft twinge he wasn’t talking about the same thing that I was.
He took a small step closer to me and his eyes flickered down my body and up my face. He lifted his hand and cupped it on my cheek. I gasped inwardly with a shock as he pressed his lips against mine tenderly. I raised my hand to the side of his head and pushed, hard.
“Son-of-a-,” I thrust his face into the electric fence beside us, grating it along the needle-sharp barbs. Something resembling the cry of a helpless animal rushed out of him briefly. I recoiled quickly, but not quickly enough.
I bent down to inspect the damage. The left side of his face was hardly different at all. The right side was. It was lined with deep gashes with dark red blood flowing freely and rapidly out of them. The light from the moon made it hard to distinguish much else but his hair was very badly fried and blackened burns littered his face, even sealing some of the cuts in places. I pulled him away from the fence so I could look into his eyes. The moon shone off his cracked and melted glasses, making it impossible to see past, so I removed them. His right eye was cut badly straight through the pupil, and neither of them danced or twinkled with anything at all.
I licked my lips and held his taste in my mouth for a short second before spitting it out. I straightened up, sliding his glasses into my pocket.
“Don’t touch me.”
I returned to my room and slept like a baby.

Oliver’s death was deemed an unfortunate incident and no one spoke of him again. Funny how no one cares if one of us dies. There probably wasn’t even a funeral, just a burial or cremation that went without fuss or worry. Every time I recalled that night I always returned to the first touch of his hand on my cheek and shivered. Sick. Sick Sick Sick. How dare he touch me. But even though he got what was coming to him, I was, for the first time in my memory, lonely. I found myself missing the conversations and jokes we used to have.
I played some of the better ones over and over in my head, adding some more each time. I even pictured the words he might use. Things like honey, and sweets, and darlin’. Eventually, I started to talk to myself, enjoying the sound of a voice that didn’t judge me.
I was all alone. By myself in my solitude for months and months. I thought it would never end. Then Sasha came.
Sasha was my new roommate. She just walked in one day, unannounced. She had soft curling dark hair and porcelain skin. Her eyes danced with humor and compassion and she smiled often. I found it strange that she shared my room at first but I grew accustomed to it quickly. She didn’t have appointments with the doctors like the rest of us so she would always wait for my return. We were the best of friends. We could talk about anything.
We always liked to sneak out, but it was strange because she didn’t need the boots or gloves.
“Are you sure you don’t want them?” I asked for the millionth time.
“I’m sure. I’m sure,” she replied, jumping down to join me. Today I was showing her how lovely Saint Bart’s was from the front.
“Nice, isn’t it?” I asked her. She considered it for a moment and then nodded hesitantly.
“But,” she replied slowly, “You know what would be better? The view from the roof.”
Both of our faces lit up.
“Let’s do it.”
We rushed back over the fence and quietly in through the back door. The stairwell led straight up to the roof and opening the hatch was a matter of applying a magnet to the lock. We stepped softly over to the edge and looked out.
Sasha had been right. I was a marvelous sight to behold. I turned to her and noticed she was squinting.
“Something the matter?” I questioned, perplexed.
“I can’t see much farther than that house over there,” She pointed at a place less than a block away.
“Don’t worry, that just means you’re short-sighted. You just need some glasses. Here,” I reached into my pocket and retrieved a battered pair to give her.
She shook her head.
“No no. It just means I’m not close enough. I’ll just fly to the farther places,” she replied, extending her arms like wings. She grinned confidently and stepped out off the edge. She fell about three inches but flapped and was soon hovering above me. She zoomed around my head for a while before darting out towards the city. I watched her form a figure eight and then fly back to me.
“Try this! It’s soooo fun!” she squealed in amusement.
“I don’t think I can,” I shook my head regretfully.
“Sure you can!” Sasha cheered, her voice chiming sweetly. “Come with me!”
It did look like a lot of fun. My arms were already raised to match Sasha’s by the time I decided.
“Okay,” I agreed.
I stepped onto the very edge of the roof, toes dangling precariously over the side. I smiled wide and, dropping the dark-framed glasses in my hand, stepped into the void.

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T.R. said...
Dec. 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm
Wonderful piece of fiction! Keep it up! It was haunting yet the main character somehow felt wise
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