Twenty:

A little time after breakfast twenty-three heard the PA system go off, announcing the community "class" that would be gathering soon by the nurses' station. He honestly had no desire to go. It would just be a boring thing where they would sit in a circle and make up their goals, then everyone would complain about their rooms; he was sure at least three of those complaints would be about the showers.

Not that any complaint about the showers was an unjustified one. Twenty-three supposed that when they'd been installed that may have been a really nice thing, but for some idiotic reason, it wasn't possible to control the temperature of the water. Instead of a turning tap, it was just a button and for three minutes you had two choices: bathe in ice water, or flush the toilet and almost melt under scolding water. Personally he alternated between the hells in the hopes that each shower would make him more grateful for the following adverse problem; it didn't.

Still, even if he didn't want to go to the class, he knew that he would go. He almost had to if he wanted to leave. Even though twenty-three was introverted and functioned best if left to his own devices, the inpatient ward saw him staying in his room all day as depression, which meant he wasn't getting better. So, if he wanted to go home, he had to go to the stupid classes and eat his meals with the others.

Mentally face palming, he joined the cue by the nurses' office. It was stupid to gather here when they all knew exactly where they would be heading. It was either the group room on this side of the ward, or in the east wing, as they'd announced the west wing, there was really only one room they could go to. Still they gathered and then were lead to the appropriate room, like little ducklings or elementary school children.

Such enough, they entered the group room and he sat in his usual seat. He liked it because it was far back enough to be not the first callout, but also not at the head of the table on either end. He was joined in short order by twenty-four, fourteen, twenty-eight, thirty-two, nineteen and twenty.

He mentally groaned at nineteen joining them. Yesterday's experience with her had not been a pleasant one. Twenty was an… interesting patient. She was a qualified nymphomaniac and had already made several passes at him and basically any other male in the place. He honestly wasn't very interested in her sexually, but it was always entertaining, almost like living in a sitcom.

Every once in a while twenty-three did feel a pang of guilt for thinking of the sicknesses that these people dealt with so flippantly. After all, there was a reason he though of twenty as a number and not as Jenna Young.

"Alright," said the social worker, Deb. "I'm glad to see you all here…"

"Yeah right," mumbled nineteen. "You think we're all nuts."

Deb pretended not to hear. Instead she just continued on with her practiced open and responded calmly to any questions they asked. Twenty-three only kept a minimal amount of his thought process on the meeting so that he could respond appropriately if they called on him. Honestly, if anyone had been to one community meeting, they'd been to them all. It was as if the class was a show put on by a new cast of actors each day, but the script stayed roughly the same.

Instead he focused on Deb.

Short for Debra, said one voice.

Of course it's short for Debra, don't be stupid!

You're so stupid.

Stupid… Moron… Fool…

They began to spin like a choir preforming rounds in his head. It was the most annoying part of being a schizophrenic: hallucinations. Most people think that having hallucinations means you just "see things," but the reality is far grimmer. It means that your brain plays tricks on you that can affect any of your senses. Sometimes these were obvious, such as the self-degrading voice twenty-three regularly suffered.

Sometimes though, it was virtually impossible to tell if you were hallucinating a conversation with someone. Sometimes it was just as real as talking to someone face-to-face. Which, of course, caused the patient to question everything and wonder just how much of his world was all just in his own head.

That combined with the paranoia meant that you constantly thought others were talking about you or plotting around you. It had taken him years to get over that as much as he had. Still, the voices were a fairly regular issue and made trying to hold a conversation a right pain in the ass. Twenty-three knew some people suffered the pain of trying to talk to someone on the phone and face-to-face at the same time, but with schizophrenia it was like trying to talk with nineteen others shouting in your ears.

Again, practice had made him fairly gifted at not revealing exactly how difficult this was for him, but it made working a steady job very hard, especially because stress made everything jump into high gear. He'd left his old job after being caught shouting at the voices he knew no one else could hear to just shut up.

Of course they hadn't and they'd forced him to feel horrible for the next few weeks, which lead to being to depressed to get out of the bed, which eventually lead to no more job. It really annoyed him too because he'd recently applied for disability, despite being one of the men on the higher functioning end of insanity, and had been denied. They had acknowledged that he did have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and agreed that it made him disabled, but said they didn't believe it would last a year. The judgment was idiotic in the least, because both were lifelong conditions.

"What your goals today?" he heard Deb ask him.

"To take a shower and make the calls I need before my release tomorrow."

It was a question twenty-three honestly didn't mind very much because he could give the kind of answer they liked to hear without lying. Not that he didn't have the ability to give the type of answers that they wanted to hear, but he always suspected they could tell when he was simply hitting the correct notes and when he was being honest. After all, they had gotten into a relatively successful hospital and were trusted enough to watch a bunch of nuts who couldn't be trust with a plastic knife; how stupid could they really be?

Then again, maybe this was just his paranoia, convincing him that he was talked about behind closed doors. Perhaps all they cared about was what you physically did or said, like how he lied every time they asked him about hearing voices. He'd never stopped hearing them, and didn't want to change that. Or rather, he wouldn't mind stopping the voices if the medication didn't bring his brain to a slug-like pace. He hated the drugs, and once he was released they were only going to go straight into the garbage bin.

Other medications like his anti-depression pills and anti-anxiety medication he actually took as he was supposed to, but he never liked the anti-psychotics. Of course, at first he'd brought this up with his behavioral doctor, but she'd merely smiled at him with a sickeningly sweet look and explained (or over explained) that the whole point of the medication was to slow down his brain so that it couldn't give him hallucinations. To twenty-three, this was no solution at all.

So he sat back in his chair, playing the games, answering questions when asked, and otherwise being the perfect patient. He was, in fact, a perfect actor, performing a role to a highly critical crowd… and if he preformed well enough, he would get to go back home.