Not being an aficionado of diary-keeping, I acknowledge a feeling of irritation on recognising that keeping detailed notes on my current situation has become a necessity. This awareness came about this morning following an attempt to recall an encounter last evening. Finding myself unable to focus on specific details of the encounter, I reasoned that a portion of my memory must have been ‘misplaced’. I use this word loosely since it clearly cannot have gone anywhere, and will, at some future point in time, be once more fully accessible. However, as I simply am unable to sustain my usual diligence during the deductive process without the use of my entire faculties, I shall in the meantime resort to Watson’s tedious method of writing everything down.
At supper last night, I shared a table with two of my fellow inmates – one, a chap named Cutler who believes himself to be the ghost of a pirate captain, became unusually talkative on the subject of Nurse Rached. This latter person is a vile individual who delights in tormenting the patients with petty punishments, most often metered out via her innate ability to instil feelings of worthlessness in her charges.
The other man at our table goes by the nickname of Chief Bromide – a dark-skinned fellow who is unable, or at least, refuses, to speak to anyone. (He apparently masturbates during morning prayers, hence the application of a certain type of suppressant, and therefore his current moniker). That he hears and sees everything that goes on around him is perfectly obvious from the minor ‘tics’ and small facial movements he makes, and which I surmise he is unaware of, but nevertheless allow me to clarify that he does indeed respond to conversation, albeit not in the usual manner.
“Watch out she doesn’t get yer alone in the bathroom,” said Cutler, drawing me back to his diatribe. “She’ll stick a rubber hose up yer arse before you can pull your trousers up.”
“There are those who delight in such practices,” I observed with a sardonic smile.
He nodded glumly, “Oh aye, but not the way she does it.”
Glancing at the Chief, I thought I detected the beginnings of a smile, but a moment later it was gone as his features regained their unyielding indifference.
Cutler continued his ramblings while I took a few minutes to observe the other inmates in the dining area. There are currently forty-three of us in Ward 4, including five who are completely catatonic and will only move when manhandled by a pair of burly orderlies. The rest are mostly sad cases, here due to a lack of appropriate care in their own communities or through the pressure of families who cannot bear to be smeared with madman-in-the-attic type scenarios. (I’m sure Watson would have something pertinent to say on the matter.)
Cutler’s conversation abruptly ceased, and he muttered a feeble greeting to someone behind me. Turning around, I stared up into the dark and wholly malevolent eyes of Nurse Rached.
It was at this point that my memory begins to fade.
On awakening and finding myself in bed, drenched in sweat and completely naked, I immediately sought to recollect the circumstances that might have led to this unusual, and somewhat disquieting circumstance. Recalling only the details I have so far related, I pulled on my dressing gown with a view to hunting down my two companions.
The large timepiece on the wall showed it was not yet six o’clock. Most of my compatriots were still entrenched in their beds, snoring and farting alternately. Cutler, however, was already dressed and waiting at the entrance to the ward, no doubt hoping to scrounge a cigarette from one of the orderlies. He started at my approach and hurried away into a side room, gesturing at me to follow.
“Bloody hell, mate,” he said, closing the door. “You must’ve done something real bad.”
“What on earth are you gibbering about, man?” I said, giving him a shake.
“Rached, weren’t it? She gave you something to shut you up.”
I blinked. “Some type of drug?”
“Dunno what they call it, but she dishes it out to anyone who sees too much.”
“Too much of what?”
He looked at the floor. “Can’t say.”
I grabbed his chin and forced him to look at me. “Come on man, spit it out.”
Moving close so his mouth was by my ear, he whispered, “You must’ve seen something what you didn’t ought to have seen.”
This put me in a quandary. If I had witnessed something significant, I was not aware of it, therefore it could only be that whatever I had seen had not registered as important in my own mind. “Now look here, Cutler,” I said. “You have to tell me what this something is.”
He shook his head vehemently. “Can’t do that, mate, not a bleedin chance.” He grasped the door handle and made to leave, but I pulled him back and threw him against the wall.
“You’d better tell me, or I’ll tell Nurse Rached how much you enjoy the rubber hoses.” I admit this was a rather pitiful tactic, but I had to discover what he knew.
His eyes went as wide as saucers. “You bloody bastard, you.” Then biting his lower lip until it bled, I observed the man wrestle with some internal dilemma as he strived to come to a decision. Eventually, he gave a quick nod and opened the door.
“I’ll show you,” he murmured, “but you ain’t got to let on it was me, right?” Taking my arm, he peered around the doorway, then hurried down the still-darkened dormitory towards the bathroom. Checking each cubicle, he verified that none were occupied, before pushing through into the bathing area.
“Through there,” he said, pointing across the room to a window, high on the west wall of the Institute. “That’s where I saw it.”
“Saw what?” I exhorted.
“A fish – a gigantic metal fish.”