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Everything's Not Okay
Ever since Mom and Dad died, I’ve been lost inside of a pristine white maze, five stories high. Lost inside of a too clean world with too clean nurses and too scary doctors everywhere, approaching you with needles, liquids, pills and patches. “Here,” they say. “This will ease the pain.”
I don’t need to tell you that it never does help.
A storm, raging outside of the complex white prison. I’m untouchable within the confines of its sturdy walls.
Wind once sang a melody in a light summer breeze, but now it howls with regret. An empty threat, that’s all it’s subtle screech means.
The only thing after me now is myself.
But Dylan is my rainbow in this white, white world. He is the only thing that means anything to me. He is worth my own life a thousand times over. He is what’s keeping me from jumping. Because if I leave, what will become of him? What would he do without an older sister to cling to everyday? Who would he have left?
Nobody. I am the only thing that matters to him, and he is the only thing that matters to me. We are literally all we have left.
Which means I have to stay. For Dylan.
Although we now almost only speak on occasion, it means the world (or what’s left of it, at least) to me just to hold him. To just feel him breathe, alive and real. To just stroke his curly black hair or look into his deep blue eyes. To whisper reassuringly in his ear as often as one would tell their mother they love her, “everything will be okay”.
Everyday, we sit in the ‘Lobby’, which is, in other words, purgatory. White ceiling, white walls, white carpet. White cushioned sofas. And a white receptionist desk with a white receptionist who isn’t really a receptionist, because the entrance to the hospital is a floor below, a floor which patients aren’t allowed to venture to. The nurse who sits there day after day is fake and white and shiny and clean, like everything else in my maddening life. I get so overwhelmed in it all, I sometimes think I’ll drown in my own thoughts.
All that’s in the Lobby is a camera screen that shows the inside of their twisted psychiatric ward, where the white nurses and white doctors shove their patients in there and lock them up like the prisoners that they are. Then they observe them as one would with the animals at the zoo, while the creature inside is going mad, subject to their experiments and mind games. The doctors watch with a maddening monotonous look on their faces of ice. Once they feel the human inside has turned animal enough, they drag them away, never to be seen again. And let me tell you something, you will never come back. Not alive and not the same, at least.
I will never let them take Dylan. I would rather kill him than let them take him away. That’s why I stroke his black hair everyday, putting my “love”(I think it’s love) into him so he knows that I will always look out for him. His blank eyes fill with tears that threaten to spill down, but I know they never leave his tear ducts. It breaks my heart, but I’m too numb to feel it constantly being broken into smaller and smaller bits.
The doctors and nurses always make a big fuss about him. He’s the youngest patient they’ve had, so they’re eager to try all of these twisted experiments on him. I do my best to protect him, although there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes they sneak an extra patch or pop another pill, which I rip off or tell him to spit out right away, as soon as they leave. He doesn’t talk when they’re around. He just stares and stares and stares off into the distance, hopefully into a better life. But even when they’re not around, he only ever speaks under his breath, because there are cameras everywhere. You learn to live with the lack of privacy.
Will they ever put me in the psychiatric ward? To them, I’m useless. I’m too clever, too perceptive, because I see right through their plotted tricks. They can’t perform their wicked little tests on me, for even the tiniest change in dosage, a slight taste difference in my food, and I’ll leave it there and refuse to take or eat it. I’d sooner starve than become their guinea pig, and they know that. I’m left alone, because my ways are set in stone and I’m too protective over Dylan and myself. They leave me be, because I’m still here. Still here and still very much alive.
At least I think this as I consciously walk down the condescending white hallway, my footsteps echoing off the empty walls like the background noises in a nightmare. I stop at a white door on the left side marked 306, and rap my knuckles on the cold metal.
“Dylan?” I say, my voice flat and hoarse because I barely ever use it anymore.
I wait. Five seconds, ten seconds, twenty.
I knock harder, the unforgiving door stinging my already frigid knuckles. “Dylan?” I repeat, louder and longer.
Still no answer.
“Dylan, open up.” I try the knob, which was locked, as it always is to nonresidents of the room. My heart starts to beat a little faster and I can feel the hysteria creeping up my spine like the plague. Everyday for as long as I can remember, I’ve waited for Dylan outside his door. He always answers, even if he’s not ready to go down yet.
The strip above his door, which says OCCUPIED if there’s a person in there, reads VACANT. He’s not sleeping in. He’s not in his room.
He must have gone down by himself, I think. I’m late for picking him up. He got worried, and left without waiting for me. He’ll be there in the Lobby when I get there. My futile attempts at reassurance aren’t even fooling myself. Still, I could not help but to walk a little faster, breathe a little harder, almost race the demon of the hallway behind me.
When I push open the swinging heavy doors to the Lobby, I am half expecting to see him, perched comfortably in the chair we sit in everyday. In vain, I am half expecting to see him at all. I realize, though, that all I will see is an empty chair.
I blink and it takes a moment to refocus me eyes on the room, but in that moment I can tell he’s not there in a wave of disappointment. I whip my head wildly around the room, my heart rate increasing with my panic. I am alone, with the two nurses at the “reception” desk as an exception. I walk as if in a trance to talk to them, to find out if they know anything about my brother.
Breathless and feeling frazzled, I stare at them, not knowing what to say or do. They were in a small conversation, but they could both feel the heat of my gaze staring them down. Both turn to look at me with a politely helpful face.
“Yes?” the blonde one on the right says, naïve and pretty.
It takes me a while to remember what I came here for.
“Dylan,” I remember, whispering. “Where is he?”
“I’m sorry?” she asks, plainly confused.
“Dylan,” I repeat, louder and with more emphasis. ‘The boy who sits with me everyday. Where did he go?”
“I-I don’t-“ she stammers, shaking her head with a little helpless look in her baby blue eyes. I scrutinize both of their lost faces and discover that neither of them was the usual nurse who sat as the “receptionist” everyday. They were newbies, they didn’t know what went on behind the scenes here, you could tell from the innocence on their pretty faces.
“Where’s the nurse who’s usually here?” I demand.
This time, the other nurse, the one with the darker skin and hair, speaks up. “We don’t know, we were sent here to fill in for her, without any details why.” I notice that when she talks, her chestnut eyes delve into yours, and her tightly curled chocolate hair swings a little with the slightest movement of her head.
My head spins with confusion and I bring my hands to my face and clutch my fingers on my temples to keep my head from falling off. Where could Dylan be? I rack my brains for anything he did, anything he said that maybe hinted he would be somewhere today. Maybe he got hungry and went to the Dining Hall. Yes, that had to be it. I nearly sprint to the double doors on the side of the Lobby that says in bold, unwelcoming black letters, DINING HALL. I run into the large bland room, leaving the nurses baffled and wondering if what they just witnessed was legitimate.
Once I’m in the DH, I look around in vain, grasping on to the slightest sliver of hope that Dylan will be there. Of course he’s not, the only people there are the regulars who eat, breathe, and sleep in the DH. No sight, no signs of Dylan.
As patients, we are required to come to the Dining Hall three times a day, everyday, where they shove drugged food down our throats. We are forced to eat it all, leaving no leftovers or scraps of crumbs. Every last bite, every last drop is either eaten or drank. They make us do that because, officially, it’s “so we don’t waste food and can remain healthy”, but the real reason is because they drug our food and we are forced to eat it all. We each have our own prescription so we get a “customized” meal, but in reality, they’re just drugging us.
Dylan and I always come to the DH together, no matter what the circumstances, so it came as no surprise there were the regulars and the DH monitors, in the Dining Hall, but no Dylan.
Dragging my feet heavily on the ground, I pass through the doors into the Lobby with less significance than I did before, and sink to my knees in despair. The nurses who helped me before are, I can tell, watching me out of the corner of their eyes, worrying for the state of my being, but not worrying for me. My eyes sweep around the room, searching for anything, anything that would help me find him. I look under all of the chairs, I scour the white rug, cross the white ceiling and walls, all the while the nurses glancing at me out of the corner of their eyes every so often.
I bring myself to my feet and leave the Lobby. I search the lavatories, the corridors, the floors I’m allowed to go to, every spot possible. I check everywhere. And everywhere, there is no Dylan.
After I search the most I can possibly do, I return to the Lobby with dread in my heart. Futilely I check around one last time, my eyes casting a sweeping glance around the room, up the walls, across the camera screen. I notice there’s a new patient in the psychiatric ward today. Out of sheer curiosity and desperation, I watch it to see if it’s someone I know, a familiar face I’ve seen in the DH or passed in the halls.
But when I look into the evil screen, my heart stops and time stops and my breathing stops and I am forever rooted to this spot and my eyes will ever break away from the Terrible Awful sight on the screen.
Because when I look into the screen, I see not a stranger, but my very own brother.
I am transfixed to the camera in horror as I see Dylan crouched against the back wall, his eyes scrunched up in terror, his hands over his ears as if blocking out a torturous sound, and his mouth wide open as if screaming in pain.
I moan, my hand flying up to my mouth like I’m going to puke or pass out. I double over, my hands clutching my sides, and I look back up to the screen, but he is frozen in that one, horrific spot. I shake my head in absolute horror, when I notice the timer. 15:47. I know for a fact, after months and years staring at the screen, each patient gets 16 hours in the Ward and then the doctor stops their torture and leads them out, gone forever.
That’s how long he’s been in there.
They probably took him when I led him to his room last night. They probably ambushed him the moment he shut his door. I don’t think he even made it to his bed.
I don’t realize there are tears streaming down my face until I see the timer blink 16:00. At this point, I see the doctor come in and approach Dylan. He shrinks further against the wall and wraps his arms around his knees, but his mouth stays wide open in a soundless shriek. I watch as the tears finally spill over. I watch as the doctor reaches down and roughly yanks him to his feet by the arm. Helplessly, I watch.
I don’t know if I’ll vomit or not, but before I know it I’m retching into the carpet, coughing, spitting, sputtering. I look up in time to see the doctor’s assistant open the door out of the psychiatric ward and steer the doctor and Dylan through.
The ward. The psychiatric ward was, if I recall correctly, two corridors over from the Lobby.
If I ran, I could make it in time to catch a glimpse of Dylan, even if it’s the last glimpse I’ll catch of him. I could make it in time to kill the doctor. Or to kill Dylan.
I don’t realize me legs are moving until I shove open the heavy doors out of the Lobby. I’m sprinting as I round the first corner, down the long hallways and turning again. Whipping my head around I can just see the flash of a bright white lab coat disappear around a corner, and I hurtle with even greater speed than before down the corridor and around the bend. There they are, the doctor dragging a whimpering, bound Dylan along at his feet. Filled with a fury greater than the setting sun, I launch myself at the heartless beast and catapult on to his back. He turns around just in time to see me in midair, and his eyes widen with a startled shock. Screaming, I bite my fingers into the warm flesh on his neck, and I am biting, scratching, kicking, punching, squirming, doing everything I possibly can to get his filthy hands away from my brother. He throws me over his shoulders which forces me to drop my choke hold, but I lunge for his ankles and sink a vice like grip into them, which makes him stumble over my body into the back wall. He shouts in frustrated pain.
“Dylan! Run!” I manage, still fighting with the deranged doctor. His eyes are saucers and I can see that he’s glued to the floor, unable to move. I shout and launch myself at the doctor’s throat with his body on the floor and head against the wall, hoping to snap his neck. He raises his knees, just in time, and I feel them drive into my stomach and I gasp, feeling the wind being knocked out of me. Rolling over, panting and wheezing as I try to breathe normally, I see the doctor get up and feel him pin me to the ground. Now I am crying, struggling with the feeble strength left in me. My energy is wasted, and I realize that I am helpless.
“Dylan,” I moan, “Get-out-of-here!”
Watching me with alarmed, sad eyes, he shakes his head no, and I realize my time with him is coming to an end, much like when you hear the finale music playing during a performance. Anticipation knowing the end will come, but waiting for that final scene, hearing those final words that will truly finish the show.
A nurse and the doctor’s assistant come flying from a room on the side of the hallway, and take in the pitiful sight in front of them. A gagged boy, petrified with fear, and a disheveled doctor pinning a whimpering, quivering, beat up girl. The assistant rushes to the doctor’s aid and helps him to his feet, and then helps me up and quickly grabs my arm and pins it to my side. The nurse senses she should do the same, so she grabs my arm too. The doctor brushes himself off and then advances towards Dylan, who starts shaking his head the in the slightest, still rooted to the spot, and then lets out a bloodcurdling cry. I know that cry will haunt me for as long as I live, and will shatter my heart until it’s dust.
They slowly back me away from the doctor and Dylan. He grabs my brother around the stomach and throws him carelessly over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes as I am dragged away by the strong arms of my captors.
“Don’t let them take me, Katie! Katie! Don’t let them!” he shrieks, his arms and legs flailing wildly, struggling to break free,
“I won’t!” I promise, trembling.
I continue to fight against the assistant and the nurse even long after the doctor led my baby brother away. Eventually, I lose all strength and collapse sobbing into their arms.
“Is he coming back?” I weep. “He’s coming back to me, right?”
They don’t answer.
“Is he coming back?”
The half drag and half carry my weak body to what is referred to as a “cool-down room”, which is essentially a padded room with a one-way door, where they take the rebels like me where we an sit without food or thought for however long they feel we need. They take me away from that innocent little boy, my sweet little brother who didn’t do a thing to harm anyone. They take me away, kicking and screaming, from him.
I broke my promise.
They took him from me, and everything’s not okay.