please note that the author hasn't a clue about the real workings of mental institutions and schizophrenia, other than what she's seen in movies and the bits of information she scrounged off the internet
The click of a lock opening, the creak of a door, and the echoing footsteps that radiated off the pale medical-white walls were the only sounds in the Kesey Institute. Jack Velmont preferred this time of night to the other shifts he'd worked. It was quieter, and simpler. Instead of dealing with the process of doling out medication, making sure all the patients took it, and then ushering them off to the right group activities, all he had to do now was simply check on them now and then to make sure they were asleep in bed.
None of them were really 'patients'. Sure they got their medication, and the appointments with Dr. Mather every week, but this was where the chronic people were kept in the Kesey Institute. None of them had any hope of actually being cured. They could never function in normal society, and some of them were dangerous, either to themselves or to other people.
This is why Jack preferred the night shift.
He reached the nurse's station and nodded hello to the other attendant who's shift he was relieving.
"Evening," Pete yawned. "It took you long enough to get here."
"I'm on time."
"Doesn't matter, the shift drags on long enough." He put aside the magazine he'd been reading and looked up. "Huh. Seems another day's gone by without one of them pulling a Lecter and eating somebody's face."
Jack followed his gaze to the clock on the wall. It read a quarter past twelve. "Guess it's time to update the slate then?"
The slate had started as a joke when Pete dragged it in, and had since turned into a nightly ritual. It was just a small chalkboard, propped up against the desk where the patients couldn't see it. On it was written: Accident free for 803 days. A considerable amount, considering the people who were kept here.
As Pete rubbed out the 3 and replaced it with a 4, Jack looked past the sliding glass window and noticed a light from underneath the cafeteria doors.
"Did someone leave the light on?"
"Huh?" Pete asked. "Oh. No, that Lucy girl is still down there. Kayla told me to just leave her when I took her shift."
"What? Why isn't she in bed?"
Pete shrugged. "Staff gave her a job, and she hasn't finished it yet. You would think just wiping down the tables would be easy enough. . ."
"It's past twelve!"
"Dude, I don't make the rules." He stood up and grabbed his coat. "You can send her to bed if you want, I'm going home."
He left then, and Jack sighed. Locking the door behind him, he left the nurse's station and walked to the cafeteria.
Compared to the dimness of the previous hallway, the cafeteria's lights made it blinding. Jack blinked, and when his eyes adjusted he saw her.
Jill Lucy, known to the rest of the the ward by her last name rather than her first, wasn't the worst off in the ward as far as her mental status went. So long as she took her meds, the schizophrenic could function like a perfectly sane individual. But that was only if she actually took them.
Tonight it was obvious she hadn't. She was sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, near the window where the food was served. Her knees were clutched tightly to her chest while she rocked back and forth with great, shaky sobs. Lying on the floor next to her, untouched, were a bucket of soapy water and a sponge.
Jack stepped inside and Lucy looked up. With the sight of him the sobs intensified and she started gasping for breath.
"I, I can't!" She wailed, barely audible behind her tears. "I can't s-spin. . . " She cried even harder and all words were lost in the flood of hysterics.
"Lucy. . ." At Jack didn't think she'd heard him. But then she looked up, her eyes wide.
"H-how? How do you know m-my name? Are you an elf?"
Jack stopped. She should have recognized him, from when he worked the day shift. He wondered how long she'd been off her meds, and how the staff had missed it. Jobs like this, even small ones, were only given to the competent patients, and Lucy clearly wasn't mentally well enough.
"Lucy?" Jack said carefully. "I'm Jack, remember? It's okay, you can go to bed. I'll wipe-"
"NO!" Lucy nearly screamed. "I have to do it! I have to or they'll kill me! But it's impossible, I can't spin straw to gold!" She started to sob again.
Jack stared at her a moment, and then cursed under his breath. You weren't supposed to feed into the delusions of any mentally ill person, but he didn't see how else to work with her. She needed to go to bed.
"Listen," he said slowly. "I'll uh, finish it for you. You go to bed now, okay?"
Lucy shook her head. "They told me to do it," she whispered. She looked terrified.
Jack paused. He didn't want to flat-out lie to her while she was in such a state, but he had to get her to go to bed or he'd get in trouble. Besides, if he left a note or mentioned this to the next person on the shift, she'd be back on her medication in the morning.
"I'll do it for you," he said gently, not wanting another outburst. "No one will know it was me, and then you won't get. . . Killed."
For a moment Jack wasn't sure how she would react. For a split second she looked like she was going to scream at him again. But then she burst into tears.
It took him a moment to realize that she was smiling through her tears, and a wave of relief washed over him.
"Oh thank you sir!" She got up so quickly she nearly lost her balance. "You have no idea how much I owe you!" With that she rushed out the door.
Jack followed her at a distance, making sure she went to her own room. Once he made sure she had, he turned back to the cafeteria, wiped down the tables, and then returned to the nurse's station.
He forgot to make a note about Jill Lucy's medication.
The next night he got to work as Pete was adding a new number to the slate.
"I take it no one died today?"
"Nah." Pete put the chalk away. "By the way, Lucy's still in the cafeteria."
"Again? I thought I left-" Jack stopped in mid-sentence as he realized he hadn't.
Jack shook his head, more at his poor memory than to Pete's question.
"Ah. Well, I suggest you do whatever you did last night to get her to bed." Jack stared at his friend incredulously and then realized why he was being so nonchalant. He had no idea about how Lucy was acting. "You didn't even go in there, did you?"
"Of course not," Pete answered, picking up his jacket and starting to walk away, "I'm too lazy."
"Pete, help me out here."
"Hm, no, I think I'm going home."
"Pete, seriously, she's off her meds-!"
But the door had already shut and locked behind him. Jack stared at it, hoping that maybe Pete had heard him and would come back in. A full minute passed and Jack realized this wasn't the case.
When he opened the cafeteria door again, Lucy wasn't in the same state as she'd been last night. Instead of being hysterical, she was just sitting there, staring at the bucket and sponge as if in a trance. She was very still.
Jack paused at the doorway. He had no idea what was going on in her head right now. For all he knew she still thought she had to spin straw to gold, or maybe that bucket was telling her to kill the first person she saw.
Lucy noticed him then, and cried, "You're back!"
Jack sighed in relief that she was having the same delusion, although it wasn't the best thing that she was having one at all.
"Now you can spin the straw again!" she said, grinning. "And the prince said that if the straw was spun again by tomorrow he'd marry me. . ." At this exact moment, she looked more like a nineteen-year-old girl than a thirty-year-old woman who had ben institutionalized for the majority of her life.
Jack pitied her then. At least her episodes were more exciting than her day to day life when she was medicated. He wondered if she was happier when she wasn't in reality. . .
"Okay." Lucy said quietly. She sounded hesitant, as if she'd just decided something she would rather have not.
"What?" Jack blinked. He hadn't said anything. But by then she had already left the room. He followed her to her room again but she didn't say anything more. It was obvious she didn't even know he was there.
Tonight he remembered to make a note about her medication.
It was almost two months later when Jack saw Lucy again. He had been switched back to the day shift, much to his disappointment. Not that he really minded the work itself, but he had rather enjoyed being nocturnal for a while.
For the first few days back at work he was pleased to noticed that Lucy was taking her medication. It was plain to see why the rest of the staff hadn't noticed it before, though. For most of the day she stayed in her room reading or playing with a baby doll an aunt had sent her. If she had been going through an episode while off her medication, the only time the staff might have noticed was if she had acted out during meals.
It was into the second week of Jack's shift that things began to go awry.
Jack stood at the window of the nurse's station, and handed out the small paper cups of medication to the patients. It wasn't until after the entire line had gone through that he noticed one was missing.
"Margaret?" he asked, "Where's Lucy?"
"Solitary," the nurse answered, putting away the rest of the medicine into the cabinets and locking them. "She hasn't been taking her meds again. Oh, speaking of which. . ." She held up another paper cup. "Your turn to give them to her."
He took the cup and asked, "Haven't you been making sure she's been taking them?"
"We have been, but I guess after a while we got a little negligent. Now she thinks she's a princess, and tries to attack anyone who touches that baby doll of hers. We put her in there when she tried to attack Jessica for stealing it." She double checked the locks on the medicine cabinets and then added, "Don't forget to check under her tongue when she takes those."
The solitary rooms were the ones that were most associated with mental facilities to the general public. These were the padded cells that patients got to spend some time in whenever they acted out or started a fight. Lucy was in the first one, sitting in the corner of the room and glaring venom at anyone who she saw pass by through the window in the door. As soon as she saw Jack she started screaming.
"No! No!! He's after my baby! He wants my baby!"
Margaret and two other attendants came rushing down the hall. "What's going on?"
"I don't know she just started scream-"
"-He wants my baby! He wants my baby!"
Margaret pushed past him and with the help of another attendant gave Lucy a sedative with a syringe. Lucy stopped screaming, and then slumped against the wall next to the toilet.
Jack had watched this all from the hallway. Margaret came back out to join him. "I don't understand, she took her meds this morning. Did you say anything to her?"
"Did you try to give her her meds?"
"No, I didn't even get in the room!"
Margaret paused, and then sighed. "Okay, when she wakes up, I'll give her the pills. You just try to avoid until she's taking them regularly again."
Jack nodded, and handed her the cup of medicine before looking back into Lucy's cell. It was strange. In sleep she almost looked sane.
Two days later, Lucy was allowed to rejoin the other patients. She still clutched the baby doll tightly, and showed definite signs of paranoia, but Dr. Mather hadn't seen her yet, and wouldn't be in for a few days. The medication that Lucy was currently taking obviously wasn't working, but the staff couldn't give anything new without his permission. There was nothing they could do but be patient.
Jack was extra careful to avoid her, but her eyes still followed him even at a distance. She suddenly seemed obsessed with making lists. Each time she finished one it would make it's way to the nurse's station counter, having been slid underneath the glass window. The first day Jack read them to find this:
It made no sense to him, but must have made perfect sense to Lucy, who watched him each time a list of names was read.
The next day the names got stranger:
The third day no list came.
As Jack handed out the medicine after lunch that day, a woman snickered when she took the paper cup and muttered something under her breath.
"What was that?" Jack asked.
"Rumplestiltskin," the woman said, and then giggled.
It didn't mean anything to Jack, so he just smiled at the woman's joke and handed another patient her meds. Further down the line, Lucy's eyes widened.
Jack finished passing out the medicine, and was putting the rest away when Margaret came back in from the hallway. "The janitor just nearly blew chunks. I sent him home, but he left a mop bucket on top of The Hill."
The Hill was the nickname for the single set of stairs in the building. Because of renovations done years ago, there was no longer a second floor for them to lead to, but patients were kept off them. The stairs were as old as the building was, and steep.
"You're going to make me get it aren't you?"
"Yes. I'm afraid of heights, and that bucket's almost full. I'll fall."
"Fine, I'll go get. . ." He was looking out the window into the hallway as he was speaking, and suddenly was distracted by Lucy running into her room. "Just a second."
Lucy was in her room, trying to make herself vomit. She noticed Jack there and screamed, "No! Get out! Get out!"
He did, and as quickly as possible to avoid making another scene. This made sense though; this was why her medication hadn't been working. She'd been getting rid of it almost as soon as she took it. He made a note of it to Dr. Mather. Margaret read over his shoulder as he wrote.
"Oh, no wonder. . . We're not allowed to give her anything else until after dinner though. I'll make sure someone watches her after she takes them." She sighed, and then asked him, "Did you get that bucket yet?"
"I'm going now," he said, and left.
Lucy came out of her room as he began to walk toward The Hill. He didn't notice her until she said, "I know your name."
He turned. She'd been following him. He didn't say anything to her, just turned back around and started walking again. It didn't matter now, she'd be back on her meds by tomorrow.
He reached the stairs and started to climb. Halfway up he realized Lucy was still following him. He couldn't ignore her now, he had to do his job.
"Lucy, you can't be up here."
"I know your name," she said grinning in a way that only the insane could accomplish. "You thought I wouldn't and that you'd get my baby but I did."
"Lucy, you need to get off these sta-"
"-NO!" She was running up the stairs now. Jack tried to catch her but she was quick, and past him before he had a chance. He had no choice but to chase her. She reached the top.
"I know it!" She screamed, and with the strengh given only to mothers who's children are in danger she picked up the bucket of water. "You're name is Rumplestiltskin!"
She threw the bucket, and it connected with Jack's head with a sickening breaking sound. He fell down the stairs with the spilled water rushing after him. Lucy lost her balance with the force of the throw and pitched forward, landing in a position that should have only been possible for a rag doll.
One of the patients who saw this started screaming, and could not be calmed until after the ambulance drove away and the blood had been cleaned up. That day Pete's slate returned to the number zero. And throughout the Kesey Institute a poem that was meant for children and laughter was said without a single smile.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.