I’d been sat around the dining room table with the rest of the loonies for ten minutes.
The clatter and tinkle of crockery being turned and shifted in the kitchen beyond the dining room. The sharpening of knives.
The sound of voices dancing on the air. The words that were fractured and broken and littered with grunts and groans and screams and laughter. And the sound of it too much to bear sometimes so that the buzzing of the hornet’s wings returned to my ears and the goblin’s voice that whispered his wicked secrets to me from the darkness. So that I found myself shaking my head again and again. And each time I shook my head the buzzing and his voice would cease for a while and so I shook my head again, a little harder this time. And the muscles that were twisting and coiled within my neck and a pain that was throbbing through my temples. But still I would shake my head and the goblin’s words away.
The plate of food remained cooling upon the table before me.
A grey sludge of porridge meat and over-boiled broccoli and cauliflower. A plastic spork to one side that remained clean and shiny. A white plastic cup that was filled with clear water and a scum of powder that had collected around the brim from the medication that they drowned us with in here. And I reckoned Sister Dixon thought that we were too wacko-jacko to figure out that we were being tamed like cattle. But I’d figured out her little game. So, there was no way I was touching the water from that cup, because I reckon, I’d be sleeping for most of the afternoon if I did and where would that lead us. And where would that lead the rest of the loonies in here for that matter.
I turned to my left and noticed that Eminem had cleared the sludge from his plate and was shaking his fists from left to right and causing a right royal havoc to get the attention of one of the gorilla guards to fetch him another bowl of gruel. And more fool him I thought. More fool him. Cause there’s no way that meat should taste like that and I reckoned they were feeding us tranquilisers in the food as well. And the chef just couldn’t be arsed today to do his job right and crush all the opiate powder to dust. So that flakes of the medication were still revealed between the sludge of meat and veg.
I lowered my eyes to my ankles and the steel shackles that held me captive and followed the chain that rattled like a viper’s tail between my two legs. And a memory of a school trip to Go-Ape last year with Lucy and Ben and Adam. And Lucy calling out to me with fear and excitement as she tight roped across a yawning chasm that had opened out between two Cedar Trees. Her face that was flushed with excitement as she called to me halfway across the chasm. The harness that looped away from her waist and attached her to the wire rope that we followed. And Lucy had been happy that day. And we had been the best of friends. And I regretted her death then. I really did.
I blinked the memory away and fixed my attention once more upon the dining hall where we had gathered to eat and the CCTV cameras that recorded our movements from every angle. And an image of those little Scalextric cars that popped into my mind and the little cars whizzing around and around a plastic track and two children squeezing plastic triggers and the plastic cars that went whizzing around and around and around. The buzzing hornets’ wings that had returned to my head and throbbing within my ears, so I shook my head again and the sound dulled a little.
I glanced briefly once more at the porridge that was gently steaming from the plate before me and lifted my gaze briefly across the table to old Rag ‘n’ Bone spooning the poisoned grub towards his fat lips as though it were the best nosh he had ever tasted. The flakes of boiled meat pealing over his lips so that he lifted his chubby little hand to his mouth and wiped the grease away and smiled. And bless him, I thought, bless the gullible fat fella. In here with his food and his friends. And not once had he asked what the five of us were doing in here anyway. Locked up like cattle and inoculated from the world and its memories. And maybe that was it. Maybe that was the truth of it. Maybe Rag ‘n’ Bone and Bieber and Taylor and Eminem and Ariana too, just couldn’t bear to ask the question that should have been hanging from our lips from the very first moment that we had woken to find ourselves in here.
What are we doing in Deadwood Hospital? What is this place? What have we done?
I lowered my face from Rag ‘n’ Bone and the rest of the loonies that were shackled to their madness. Their stunted conversations. I turned my face again and away from the rows of tables and the other loony’s we were locked up with in here with their white boiler suits and their madness. The hall filled with them. Loony’s I didn’t know and hadn’t spoken with. Each of them older than our little group and locked away in other distant parts of the hospital each night.
I peered out across the wall until my gaze eventually fell upon a large window that looked down upon the entire hall where the loonies had assembled today to eat. A sheet of reinforced glass against the wall that ran ten feet long and five feet high. A cool white light that shone down from behind the window as though it were a beacon light. And there, upon the other side of the toughened glass stood Sister Dixon. Her face that was turned in my direction. Her gaze that was fixed squarely upon me, of all people in here. And her eyes that were narrowed and unblinking. The words that were repeating through my brain still.
Why are we doing in Deadwood? What is this place?
Sister Dixon staring down at me from behind the protection of reinforced glass. The thought that a control board was laid out before her and out of sight. And flashing lights and diodes and dials and switches and flashing TV screens here and there. And Sister Dixon up there like Big Brother and figuring out which of us she should torment next
Sister Dixon still studying me and her eyes that remained unblinking and her skin that was flawless and dipped in wax from head to toe. The itching sense that something terrible and scaly remained hidden from the world beneath that skin of hers. Her rouge painted lips and the copper hair that was pinned behind her head in to the tightest of buns. And her gaze that studied me and her eyes that remained unblinking.
I shook my head again.
My friends that were eating and stuffing their faces with the poisoned gruel about me. Old Rag ‘n’ Bone and the rest of them. And an image of my Mummy back home and alone in that house and Eddie sharpening the butcher’s knife in the kitchen.
Something was creeping up. I could feel it. Some darkness that would soon descend and consume us whole. Consume the world with darkness.
The walls of the dining hall that seemed to lean in towards me on either side. And so, I lifted my face upwards and all the way towards the vaulted ceiling above and a course of glass windowpanes that were revealed that ran around the edges of the hall’s roof. The blue sky that was revealed outside. The clouds that were fluffy and white out there. And the knowledge that this was no hospital. There was no treatment for our madness in here. This was a prison. We were all of us enchained in Deadwood.
The madness of our words. Our troubled minds.
And the throbbing of the Hornets wings against the sides of my ears. Louder. Louder.
“No!” I suddenly screamed and the others around the table stopped and paused their madness for a moment it seemed and turned towards me.
I looked back. My eyes that were blinking and my mind that felt clear for the first time in days it seemed to me. The fog that had lifted and my senses that were keen. I studied the faces of my friends that were seated about me and studying me as though I were something strange and mysterious. A creature they had never seen before.
“We need to get out.” I said. And as I said the words, I knew with total conviction that if we did not leave soon then we would never leave this place.
“We need to escape deadwood. And soon.” I repeated, the urgency to my words. My eyes scanning the kitchen hall and a means of escape. But steel doors that surrounded us on four sides and wire framed windows against the eaves that were too high for escape.
“I don’t know how I know it, but I do.” I said, and the others leaning in towards me and a brightness to their eyes that I had not seen for some weeks.
“We’re all going to die in here.” I said, studying their faces in turn.