Patient 23:

By: Hugo L.R. Reed

Twenty-three:

He sighed and rolled over for the eighteenth time that night, he'd been counting. The "bed" he'd been provided with was little more than a thick piece of rubber, hot and unyielding. He supposed that made the thing easier to clean, but it left the mattress lacking in comfort, hence him tossing and turning all night.

Of course, if he'd been allowed to wear actually clothing, maybe he'd have been able to sleep a bit better. Instead, he was modeling an odd paper/scrub hybrid and what had to be the most annoying socks in the world. Still, at least the clothes could help keep him cool. Even in the middle of the winter, the building was hot, and constantly seemed stuff, as if it had no actual ventilation, though he knew it must.

These past few nights, he hadn't slept more than three hours a night; though he had been trying as hard as he could.

But between the rubber mattresses, paper clothes and stuffy rooms; it was almost impossible to sleep more than a few hours a day. He realistically hadn't been in this place all that long, but it already felt as if it had been months, or even a year. The building was starting to get to him and he was steadily going stir-crazy. Even the visits from his parents started to feel like part of a hollow routine.

Sighing, he gave up the pretense of achieving further sleep, and reached down for the half-pencil and the scrap of paper he'd hidden in his room. Honestly he wasn't sure if it was against the rules for him to have these in his room, but he didn't want to risk asking: Slowly ticking off days was one of the few things keeping him somewhat sane.

He put a slash through the written note of Sunday, the 28th. It was his last full day in this place. He wouldn't actually be released until around lunch tomorrow, but at least he only had one more proper day to go through in this place. He smiled as he put the paper and pencil back in their hiding place and switching off the dim light overhead.

That was another thing he really hated about this place: that they weren't allowed to own anything. He'd asked for a bible on his fifth day and been given a Gideon KJV bible. Still, he was merely borrowing that, just as with his clothes, his bed and his soaps and shampoo.

Still, as his borrowed bible was in King James, he hadn't gotten very far into it. Not that he hadn't read the bible before, but he always read the New International Version or the New Living Translation. To go back to reading King James meant he had the think harder to put every verse into it's proper meaning and context.

But, he knew he'd needed the bible in this place. He hated every second of his incarceration. He couldn't own anything and even though he'd voluntarily checked himself in, he wasn't allowed to leave once he felt better. The doctor was the only one who had the authority to release him for this place, but he'd so far refused to do it.

He'd seemed a nice enough man, if a bit too bureaucratic. Still he did seem to genuinely care for all of the nuts inside the inpatient ward. That was how the world saw them too, he supposed: Nuts, psychos, crazies, insane, dangerous.

And maybe he was. After all, wasn't there a saying that crazy people didn't know that they were crazy. Still he did know that he was crazy, so did that in fact make him sane? Or did that thought cancel itself out like a paradox?

He still knew his name, of course. However despite the nurse's insistence on using it, he preferred to think of himself by the same standard they did: patient twenty-three.

Perhaps it was easier to think of his situation objectively if he considered himself a number. It was hard to clearly think that Jenny might have OCD and that it would permanently shape her life for the foreseeable future. But thinking that 24 had OCD, and that they had to treat it… well that was much easier.

Maybe twenty-four didn't really have a life outside of this place and Jenny did. Maybe because he had a family outside of this place and twenty-three didn't.

Twenty-three was a bi-polar schizophrenic patient with severe anxiety. He wasn't dangerous, at least not to other people. At that thought, twenty-three looked down at his wrists. The scars that adorned his right arm shown back up at him. Over his week in captivity they'd faded slightly from the angry red gashes into the dull pink mark. Eventually they would fade still farther into a pale white line, barely distinguishable from his own flesh.

No, he wasn't a danger to others. He didn't even have it in him to publicly make a scene. He never could've behaved like nineteen or twenty-eight did.

Twenty-eight wasn't honestly a bad person, but she was an attention-seeker, and he suspected a habitual liar. Once she'd stood up in the middle of lunch and declared that she'd had a string of affairs with several dozen men and one dog while married to her husband. Sure, it was technically possible, but it was odd enough on it's own merits to make him doubt her story. It was also only a day after her confession of a cycle of sexual abuse in the family.

Twenty-three couldn't say he'd exactly had a large amount of experience with sexual abuse victims turned abuser, but she just didn't fit the profile of someone to behave like that. She did have the profile of someone who would do anything, no matter how embarrassing in order to get a bit of attention, bordering on something so severe as Munchausen Syndrome.

Nineteen was another story altogether and he was torn between sympathy for her illness and irritation at her behavior. She may or may not have also been a schizophrenic, but she absolutely had the paranoia and lack of socially appropriate behavior. That was where is heart was torn a bit by the blonde.

On one hand he understood what it was like to have paranoia and voices constantly shouting at you. Every whisper and out-of-earshot conversation made you think that it involved you. Every person had thoughts and plans about you, and if you lived in that world, yeah you probably would be a bit of a snarky ass to those around you. He also knew she'd lost her best friend, once spying a drawing of a grave she'd done, with the words Friends Never Die written above it. Sadly, this meant she hadn't truly accepted the death of her friend, and was still bargaining in her own way.

Still, all of that (horrible as it may be) didn't give her the right to be an ass to people. She constantly snorted and mocked those who believed in God, and insulted several of her peers or others she didn't even know. Twenty-three quickly understood the best way to function around her was to simply not speak, and it was how he was around her. He acted as if she didn't even exist unless asked a direct question.

Growing increasingly bored, he glanced out the window. It was still dark. Not that he'd expected much light. Between the long darkness of winter and his own sleeplessness, he saw far more of the night than the day. He might not have minded that much if he could see the moon or the stars, but the moon didn't pass by his little window and he couldn't make out even a single star in the dreary sky.

He heard the door give a soft squeak as a nurse opened it and looked in wordlessly. It wasn't just him that they did this to. He'd heard them once explain that if the door was shut they were required to check on everyone every 15 minutes, though he doubted they really did it so frequently. A few seconds later, he heard the door close and latch.

"One more day," he whispered to himself. "One more day. One more day."