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She looked at her feet as she walked up the long pathway to the main entrance of the building. Her new white shoes were flawless, not a single imperfection. She didn’t want to see the dismal, gray cement blocks all piled one on top of one another to form the 15 story, practically windowless monument but before she knew it, she arrived at the door. It was made from a dark, tinted glass, and she was able to see her reflection clearly. She paused to examine herself before pressing the buzzer to notify the front desk of her arrival.
Her white dress was crisp, ironed, not in the slightest bit disheveled, yet she smoothed it out against her leg, and gently moved the stiff collar to be symmetrical on both sides. She touched her hair to check for fly-aways, which were non-existent. Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight bun and fashioned so it wouldn’t move even a millimeter throughout the day. Her thumb moved along the bottom of her lip, searching to wipe off any bright red lipstick that wasn’t perfectly applied. Having nothing more to check, she pressed the button on the side of the door. It opened and she walked in.
The heels of her shoes clicked methodically on the bright hallway floor. It was wide and long, empty except for the receptionist at her desk at the far end. The floors were white, the walls were white, the lights were white. It was blinding. She walked ahead and stopped at the desk. The receptionist didn’t look up until she cleared her throat a bit, and even then, it was just a glance over the top of her thick-rimmed glasses.
“Are you the new nurse The Doctor told me about?” the receptionist asked in a nasally voice.
“Yes,” she replied. “I’m Alice.”
“Alright then,” said the receptionist, obviously bored. “The Doctor will be here in a few minutes to take you upstairs.”
The receptionist waved her off in the direction of a single chair against the wall. Alice walked slowly over to the chair and waited. She thought about why she was there. It had been on her mind all week, all month even- ever since her sister was taken to this very hospital. The memories were painful, but she couldn’t keep them away.
There was an envelope on the door. It had a logo she didn’t recognize- “TH”- she grabbed it and went into the house, calling for Scarlett as she opened the letter. It told her in medical terms that she barely understood, that her sister had been reported to the government and admitted. They took Scarlett away to The Hospital. Alice panicked. She went as fast as she could and found her sister in a room all by herself sitting in a chair with an I.V. in her arm. She was staring at the wall, not looking at anything in particular, just staring. She slowly turned to look at Alice.
“Oh,” she whispered, “you’re here.”
She was quiet, her words almost slurring together. “This isn’t my sister,” Alice thought. It looked like her, but the medication they had given her made her something else. The nurses said that she was under control now.
Scarlett was just as emotionless as she was in The Hospital when Alice took her home. She kept saying she was sorry she was a bother, but was better now and not to worry. There had been nothing wrong before. They had destroyed her with their medications. Alice tried keeping her attention on Scarlett. She was scared about how she was acting. The next night, Alice’s fear was reality. Scarlett was lying on her bed, unmoving, the blankets near her arms crimson with blood. She had a blade in her right hand and a note in her left. It was covered in her blood too and Alice could barely read it.
“Sissy- I’m sorry I was a problem. I never want to be a bother for you again. Bothersome people are bad, and they don’t belong here-”
Alice was shocked. “What did they do to my sister at The Hospital?”
“They fixed me with the medication, but I am a bother again, and I can do away with myself like they said. I can make myself disappear-”
Alice’s eyes welled up with tears so overwhelming, she couldn’t read the paper.
“I love you, my sister, but I have to go so they will be happy. Goodbye. ~Love, Scarlett”
“She was put on medicine and wasn’t herself. The Doctor made her think she wasn’t worth anything, and she took her own life. Now he deserved to die,” she vowed to herself.
Alice came back to the present. She looked up when she heard someone walking towards her- he was tall, clean shaven with dark hair and a strong jaw bone. He was rather charismatic and attractive. She guessed he must have been around 45- The Doctor. She stood as he approached to shake her hand.
“You must be Alice,” he said.
She nodded as he motioned for her to follow him back up the stairs. She lagged behind only a little. She needed to get close to him - know how he worked - only then could she destroy him. She decided to start by asking the history of The Hospital; she needed to know his motives.
“I started this program of repairing broken people 20 years ago,” he began, “when I finally realized how terrible everyone is. All of their many imperfections….flaws….”
He starred almost hypnotically as he spoke. Alice listened and nodded, and pretending to agree with every word.
“My father was one of the developers of the uniformity codes – you know, the homes, people’s appearances - well, I thought that wasn’t good enough. People still didn’t comply, and when nothing is in order, it looks terrible.” He smiled. “You, however, are a perfect example of order,” he said, commenting on her uniform.
She smiled and looked away from him modestly as he began walking again. They turned a corner and came to a door with a window that overlooked a large room with rows and rows of people lying in beds, all exactly the same.
“This is the sub-1 ward for people who are not yet hopeless. They are not put on The Medication, but they are given lectures to inform them of the right way to be. I call it “SBP”, or ‘Selective Brain Patterning.’ We put what we want into their minds.”
Alice was shocked. She looked into the room, seeing people of all ages, lying motionless, all with their eyes glued to the small screens in front of them. The Doctor entered the room and walked to the nurse on duty who was hitting a button to control the screens. He paused to change the screen before nodding his head.
“Very good,” he said before turning back to Alice. “Shall we move on?” He led her out into the hallway. “I’ve told you about The Hospital and my goals,” he said, and stopped walking. “What are yours?”
Alice leaned against the wall and looked down at her feet for a moment before looking up at him.
“Doctor,” she said in a quiet voice, “all of your goals are inspiring.” She shook her head and looked back down. “It sounds silly, but the reason I came to work here is because I admire your work. Not enough people understand the level of perfection that is needed.”
They were all lies, and they were making her nauseous. She hated what The Doctor did, but she kept on with the flattery. She needed to gain his trust. And it seemed to work.
“You are a unique person, Alice. Not many truly understand.”
“Oh, but I do,” she said quickly. “I would love for you to teach me everything. I came to learn it all.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do. For now, let’s see the sub-2 ward. The patients here are more desperate.”
Alice trailed along behind The Doctor. They reached the ward in only a minute, and he stopped before they walked in.
“These people are very ill. They are thinking differently than the laws allow-blasphemy, heretics, etcetera- overall, they are non-compliant with the government in one way or another. They are, to be frank, insane. They are sedated, as well as medicated.”
Alice recognized this area as the one where her sister was kept, but she didn’t say a word as The Doctor led her over to a young man, no more than 25, who was sitting in a chair and staring out a window. The Doctor picked up the chart.
“Patient number 2647758, ah, we can give him The Medication now,” he said as he went to a cabinet and got a bottle of small white pills. “This will help calm his anger.”
Alice was disgusted with how freely The Doctor gave out The Medication as she watched him put four little pills into the man’s hand. The man took them without thinking. She dug her nails into her hands and bit her lip.
“There,” said The Doctor, “all better.” He looked at his patient with a calm and assuring gaze before turning back to Alice. She kept her face motionless. Any hint of anger was disguised as admiration. He moved on to the other patients in the room, one by one giving them up to six or seven pills each, adding different drugs to their I.V.’s or telling other nurses to move them to the screens in the other ward. The entire time, Alice’s mind was whirling. She was overwhelmed and needed a plan. She couldn’t stand to watch any more people being hurt.
When he had finished, he came back over to Alice and took her out to the hallway. As they were walking, she stopped suddenly and looked at him, grabbing onto his arms. She couldn’t believe what she was about to do.
“Doctor,” she said suddenly, “I think I may be in love with you.”
He stared at her blankly, his mouth falling open.
“What in the world do you mean?” he asked.
“I love you and everything you do. Please, come with me,” she said as she pulled him into the closet in the hallway.
He said nothing, but didn’t resist. He went with her into the closet. She pushed him against the closed door with her hands on either side of him pinning him in place.
“I shouldn’t do this,” he said quietly as he leaned close to her.
“Trust me, no one will have to know,” she whispered. She smiled a bit and let him kiss her. As he did, she pulled a needle out of her pocket and injected him in the side of the neck. He gasped and opened his eyes, putting his hand up to where she took the needle out.
“Alice! What the hell was that?!” he yelled.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said through clenched teeth.
He was getting dizzy from the injection and leaned on the wall for support.
“Whoopsie,” she said as she steadied him, “be careful there, love. I don’t want you to fall now. Let’s sit you down.” She pushed him in the direction of a small chair in the closet. She closed his eyes, and he passed out. She dragged the chair to the next room which was empty and set him up in the medical chair. She injected an I.V. and gave him a high dose of The Medication. She strapped his wrists and ankles to the chair and waited for him to wake up. When he did, he was still only half conscious.
“Whas goinon?” he slurred. “Whadju do?”
“Oh, nothing Doctor, just a dose of your own medicine. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
He looked confused. She walked around the chair so she was behind him. She leaned down and whispered into his ear, “Then again, I’ve known this medication to make people do some crazy things. Kill themselves even?”
He didn’t say anything, and didn’t try to move his head. She stroked his cheek with the back of her fingers and ran her hand through his hair.
“That would be an excellent plan for you. You are horrible, and you don’t deserve to live and make anyone else’s life miserable. I’m helping everyone else by doing this, trust me on that. Shall I make it short and sweet?”
There was no reply.
“Mmmm, no preference? Alright then. Goodbye, Doctor. I’m glad to have had the honor of meeting you, and the even bigger honor of killing you.”
She kissed his cheek, leaving bright red lipstick in a perfect mark. Alice took a scalpel and made a clean cut across his throat. She watched the bright liquid cascade down his crisp white coat and onto the floor. She walked out of the room, trying to avoid the growing puddle at his feet but stepped in it with the heel of her left shoe. She walked out of The Hospital quickly, leaving nothing but a few bloody footprints and a dead man with a lipstick kiss on his cheek.