She's Come Undone by Papirini
She's Come Undone
Sometime after the break of dawn. November 28th. The year didn't matter. It never did on the inside.
All that needed to be known was that it was again time for the routine monthly exam.
The morning routine was always the same, whenever the exam happened. By this point, Patient 49 had not only come to expect it; it was by then one of the few ways she knew the passing of time, of days. They kept no clocks in her small room, and only one window, which only lighted up with the sun's rays when the giant orb hit it just right. Other than that, the sensing of the passage of time had long ago faded from her person.
"Come on." Nurse Teono roughly roused her out of her rickety bed, just as she always did when the dreaded day came. "It's time to get dressed, you."
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Patient 49 didn't speak as she was forcefully sat up in the bed. She had learned long ago not to talk back to the nurses when they told her to do something; instead, she simply stared out, her lips unmoving. Her eyes were dark and dull, and her hair, which barely went down to her shoulders, was a stringy mess.
"Another exam." Slowly, Teono undressed the girl from her white garments. "I don't get why they keep giving these exams to you. There's plenty of people more deserving of them than you. I'd think they would know better by now, wouldn't they?"
The girl gave no response as Teono threw a shirt, but no bra, over her head. It was large, and ill-fitting, and black. But it was the best that could be had for her. All the rest of the girl's possessions had been eaten by moths and bugs in the basement long ago, and there were few in the facility who were her size.
"All right." With a disapproving look, Teono opened the door. "It's time again. Come on, you."
Without a word, Patient 49 slowly walked out of the cell, her head looking down towards the ground as she was stopped by the guards, and shackled at the ankles and wrists, before she was led down the dimly-lit tiled hall to the large white door. They did it for every patient; after all, almost every one of them was classified the same, and precautions had to be taken regardless of who was being treated.
That was the wing that Patient 49 was placed in. She was among the criminally insane, all of them with varying degrees of insanity and sentences. They all had different labels: profoundly psychotic, paranoid schizophrenic, pathologically insane, sociopaths. They were considered the most dangerous people, their removal from society warranted by considerations for the greater good.
They said that Patient 49 was insane as well. That she suffered from dangerous delusions, that she was a grave danger to society, and even more of a danger to herself. That was why they had told her parents they had to lock her up, and indeed, in the official story told to the press, it was done with her parents' cheerful acquiescence. For three years, that's how it had been, how her life had been taken from her. And she was to stay her cell until she was better by the standards of society.
But Patient 49 knew, as she walked down the hallway amidst the shouts of the other patients, that she never would get better. Not on their terms.
.... I am.....
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
you may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Patient 49 was roughly seated down into a hard metal chair just outside the large white door. She made no response to the nurses' patronizing voices, or to their obvious contempt of her. She simply stared at the ground, her face unmoving as they all talked of her.
"Is this the one?" There was an obvious harumph at the sight of Patient 49. "The one that thinks she..."
"Yes." Another nurse nodded. "An interesting one, at that."
"Agreed. I've heard all about her."
The girl made no response to their whispers. There were many reasons she didn't speak out. The main reason was born from fear; each time an inmate spoke out against the nurses or the facility in general, they were immediately poked with the needle, and were subdued, their minds too numbed to make out coherent thoughts.
Unlike them, however, Patient 49's thoughts were surprisingly coherent, despite the imposed isolation. She was as clear about herself as she could be, even if many things had been forgotten. There was always that one thing she kept in her mind, the one thing that kept her somewhat intact, when all else had been stripped from her in that hell she'd been tossed into.
"Insane, isn't she?"
"Completely." The nurses shook their heads. "I don't think there's hope. Not after three years of the same thing. They'll just keep sending her back."
"Agreed. I doubt they'll ever let her go the way she is..."
...They are wrong.....they must be. They'll never understand me.
Patient 49's conscience was clear, as far as she was concerned. She wasn't insane, and she wasn't psychotic; she was sure of that much. She knew full well what had happened, why she did what she did. On the contrary, everyone else was stubborn, incapacitated by their own ignorance and fear.
It was becoming more difficult to think of it in that way, though, as the intervening three years had sapped her of hard-earned knowledge, and also left her with nothing much to do in her cell during the day except to hope for release. Language? She was less able to convey herself than before because of the drugs they pumped into her. School? Nothing was taught to her in her cell, except when to keep one's mouth shut, and when medicine was to be passed to the patients. And her family?
Her family. They came by once in a while, to see how she was doing, to inquire when she would be coming out. And of course when they came, she was brought out of her cell, and into the main room, where she was expected to be happy and jovial. She managed, one time, to tell them how unhappy she was, at least in the fashion that she hated it in this place. Then when they left, she was beaten for speaking ill of her new caretakers.
Something sparkled in her eyes at this. Her parents came to understand her plight; they always did their best to alleviate her pain. They promised to do something about what was happening to her; they had tried in vain to get her out, and when that didn't work, to get her better treatment. She didn't hate them for trying. They were among the only people she could think of then who really cared, who came to see that she was not crazy. They thought of her as fanciful, imaginative, even a little weird. But crazy had not crossed their minds, even as they were told to sign their daughter away to the institution.
After all, it was not simply her family who had put her in her prison.
"ATTENTION, WARDENS." A voice suddenly boomed on an antiquated loudspeaker system. "PLEASE REPORT TO 5TH FLOOR RCC UNIT FOR ROUTINE WEEKLY INSPECTION..."
They'd come to her house unexpectedly one night; they'd dragged her out of her bed, threw her into a black car, and that was the last she saw of her home. Her family had run off after the car, trying to stop it from getting away, but it was no use. When the government wished to silence someone, a rare occurrence, they always won somehow.
In this case, it was easy to do. They knew everything about Patient 49, everything. How, she never learned. But regardless of it, she was a sign of embarrassment. Her existence meant constant failure in a system that striven for perfection; she always showed them just how ineffective they truly were when it came to the real threats.
Did they catch the others involved? Patient 49 doubted it. There was nothing to gain from the others. Most of them didn't come from the background she did. Some of them were too powerful to be caught; some of them weren't even worth catching. They couldn't make a good example of the others.
Her life, on the other hand, was the picture of bourgeois perfection; not too poor, not too powerful, two parents and siblings and lots of friends. Who better to take down and expose as a psychopath than an upstanding girl from a good middle-class family? It was too good to be true, a signal to all others, a poster child as to what could go wrong with not trusting the government, with trusting a girl who watched too much TV and came to harbor strange fantasies of far away kingdoms and magical powers.
Sometimes, in her tiny confinement, she believed what they told her. It became easier, the more isolated she became, to believe she really was wrong, that she was insane, that everything she had experienced had been a lie. That all it took to go home at long last.....
Patient 49's head came up at this. Nurse Teono pulled her up by the scruff. She didn't look at her superior; she just let the nurse do what she pleased with her at that point.
"It's time for you to go in." With a rough shove, she was inconsiderately sent through the door. "Good luck, you."
Patient 49 staggered into the room, which was so brightly lit up that she had to cover her eyes before she took her place in a seat, situated in the middle of the room. In front of her were three men, all military officers.
"Good morning, Tsukino Usagi-san."
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Patient 49 stiffened at this salutation. Already, it was different; they had never hailed her by her real name before. It was normally just 'Patient 49', or simply 'the patient' in third person. Never by a name they had normally told her was too good for her.
"....Good morning, Tsukino Usagi-san," The main officer, who was standing up repeated his words slowly, as one repeated words to a preschooler. "You are looking well today."
"G...." The words lodged in her throat before coming out raspily; such was a consequence of never talking. "Good....morning."
"Good." With a smile, the officer sat down. "Good. Now, it is time again for your monthly exam, Tsukino-san. How are you feeling today?"
"Excellent." A pleasing look came on the faces of the other officers. "Has the past month been good to you?"
Patient 49 knew better than to answer in anything than the affirmative during the exam. When she ended up going back into the cell, as she always did when she failed her exam, she was always beaten for speaking ill of the nurses during a review. The nurses weren't supposed to know what was said in the monthly exams, but they inevitably found out within hours.
"Let us get to the bottom of what is going on." The main officer opened up a folder. "How old are you, Tsukino-san?"
"And when you were born?"
"Good. And your blood type?"
Patient 49 closed her eyes again, this time in humiliation. They were the questions that were always asked of he when she came in. Always the easy questions; it was easy to memorize that data after a certain amount of time. After all, it was all about her, even if the officers didn't regard it as so.
"Now," The main officer clasped his hands together. "I'd like to ask you a few more questions, and we'll be done with the review. Why are you here, Tsukino-san?"
"For....paranoid....schizophrenia." The list was much longer; she had to think. "Delusions of grandeur. Disassociative identity disorder."
"And do you know what that means?"
"I am unable to understand my reality properly." It was hard to speak at this point. "I...misperceive who and what I am. I have created my own personal fantasy realm to hide from an as-yet identified wrong done to me by a person close to me. I made up extra personalities for myself as a defense mechanism.”
“Right...and what exactly have you done as a result of your illness?”
“Many things.” Patient 49 forced the oft-rehearsed words from her mouth. “I believe cats can talk and have held conversations with them about battling monsters. I believe I am an alien from another planet with magic powers and pretend that I am a princess. I also believe that I will rule the world after it has destroyed itself and that I am the Messiah of Earth, with healing powers....”
“And what else?”
“I...believe in this so much that I have put friends, family, and strangers in danger with my hallucinations, and have even sought to kill people who I thought were enemies. As a result, I am insane in a similar vein to that of Matsumoto Chizuo, better known as Asahara Shoko."
"Excellent." All of the officers nodded encouragingly. "Excellent. We see that you've finally made some progress in admitting your problem."
I'm a [great] ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
All Patient 49 wanted to do was to leave, walk past the officers and get away from the hell they put her in. There was no point to what was happening to her, but no one cared. She still could sense something was amiss; they seemed too happy, too jovial to see her. It was odd, as they were never happy to see her.
"Well!" The main officer nodded. "Well, we have some wonderful news for you, Tsukino-san. There's more than a good chance you will be sent home today."
Patient 49 sucked in her breath at this statement. She didn't think she heard what had just been said; perhaps her mind had made that bit up due to dreams of escape in the past. Dreams of going home that never seemed to come true.
"You seem to have made enough progress, so we think it's time, after three years. So, we have a few papers we just need you to go over." One of the other officers stood up and came to her, a pile of papers and a pen in hand. "All you need to do is sign them off, and we'll be able to get you back home today or tomorrow."
"Don't be alarmed, Tsukino-san." With another smile, she was given the papers. "This is a procedure we are allowed to do. It's all legitimate, sanctioned by the Health Department and by this hospital. Just read it over and sign the last paper, and it's all done."
She took the papers and looked them all over, her eyes skimming over the details. It seemed too good to be true. After three years, they were finally going to let her go. She would return home to her friends and family, and return to the life she had before. And they'd finally leave her alone, and accept who she was....
Then she spotted the last sentence before the dotted line.
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
"We all feel that this is probably for the best for everyone involved." The officers nodded as Patient 49 stared at the documents. "Listen, Tsukino-san.....we understand your predicament. We do. We understand why your parents are in court right now, trying to get you back the hard way. But it doesn't have to be so hard for everyone. Besides, we do understand that mental illness is a serious problem for many people in this country. You're not alone, we promise."
She said nothing as she started to lower the papers.
"But now that you've fully admitted the problem.....there's no need to keep you in here anymore. There's no need to tell yourself...."
She looked down again, her eyes sparkling. The officers beamed when they saw this life in her; she had made her decision to stop her silly nonsense after all these years.
"....a lie. So the only other thing you have to do is simply admit to the lie you've created for yourself, and it will all be over. Now, is that hard?"
The officer was suddenly stunned to silence as the papers suddenly fell to the floor in halves and the pen rolled away from the chair. Then, without warning, Patient 49's bare foot stomped on the pile as she stood up to her full height.
The spark in her eyes turned into bright hellfire, and for a single moment, the officers, the nurses, the government wasn't in control of the situation. The years of humiliation had all capitulated to this one moment, which should have been expected by everyone involved. The three cowered in their chairs, understanding what was happening. She could have taken the easy path, but the easy path was never the best path. Not for her. Not after what they did to her.
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
They took away her dignity. They took away her family. They took away her pride, her friends, her mind, her life. They even took away her name and many pieces of her soul, turning her into a shadow of what she was in that place.
They could take away all that and more. But they could never take away the essence of the truth from her, no matter what they did.
"N...." After a moment of cowering, the officer regained his bravado and slammed on the intercom button. "Nurses!!!"
The door was flung open, and Nurse Teono led the nurses and a small cadre of smocked doctors in. They roughly grabbed at Patient 49, not even bothering to wait for their orders from the panel. They already knew what the verdict was.
"T-take Patient 49 away."
"....I am.....I am always...."
"Get her out of here!"
The burning in her eyes flickered once more to the dull hue that was known of her in her cell as she was dragged away. She somehow knew all along that she would not leave that day; she had somehow known before she woke up that morning. It was possible that she would not leave for another three years, perhaps even longer. As long as she spoke the truth and never gave in to the lie, they would lock her up. They would take more away from her, leave her as nothing more than a gibbering shell, maybe make her truly insane if they wanted.
But in her life, no chains had ever held her for long; not even the ones around her now could keep her indefinitely. Perhaps her parents would finally win in the courts; perhaps her friends would finally find a way to break her out; perhaps fate would simply intervene like it always had before. She knew she would be able to leave one day, her head held high, and with the scars to show the injustice done to her.
Knowing this eventuality scared her captors was something that was good enough to her sane for a little while longer. In fact, Patient 49 almost smiled at the thought as they lugged her onto her bed, undid her chains, beat her several times for disrespecting the examiners during her exam, and slammed the door on her.
After all, there was nothing much to do in her cell. Nothing to do - except to hope.
Copyright 2006 Jessica Davis. Excerpts from “Still I Rise” copyright Maya Angelou. Sailor Moon copyright 1992-2006 Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha, Toei, TV Asahi, and all other relevant parties. Don't plagarize; plagiarism isn't worth having your fingers chopped off, ne?
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