Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Here in the Asylum by Cameron Vanderwerf

Cameron Vanderwerf's flash about an old asylum with a total population of just two.

We only had one patient left in the asylum, so there was only need for one orderly. I was that orderly, and Matheson was that patient. With all the other staff laid off, I was free to choose Matheson's recovery regimen myself, and I could even set my own hours. Each day I fed him, let him spend time on the grounds or in the recreation area, organized his entertainment, performed his therapy (I wasn't licensed, but there were no more staff therapists), and gave him his medication (no doctors or nurses left either). I also took time to make repairs around the building and the grounds, but there was only so much I could do. The place was falling apart. Luckily, it only needed to hold two people.

My favorite part of the building was the tower, so I kept Matheson in the top room. That way, we both got some exercise on the stairs and got to enjoy the view from up there. You could see the courtyard, the perimeter walls, and the rolling green hills beyond. You also got quite a nice view of the sunset. Sometimes we watched the sunset together from there, me sipping hot tea and him strapped to his bed. I kept him restrained whenever I didn't feel like holding the stun gun.

Matheson suffered from severe paranoid delusions, so my treatment for him always focused on security. He had to see that he was safe where he was. Nothing was getting in or out of the asylum. Nothing could hurt him, and if he would only calm down and appreciate the beauty of life, he would see that the world is a good place. Unfortunately, he was quite a difficult case. He was always anxious to be up and about. He never wanted to just sit down and calmly read a book or watch a movie. He always wanted to be outside. But even when I let him out into the courtyard, all he would do is scrabble about against the perimeter walls, trying to get out. Sedatives were often a necessary measure.

One of his more disturbing habits involved shouting absurd accusations at me. He would scream things like "You're not an orderly!" Or "I'm not a patient! I'm sane! You're the insane one!" He would insist that the asylum had closed down years ago. "Look around!" he would shout. "There's no one here but you and me!" I always tried to calmly explain that there had been cutbacks, and I was all the staff that was necessary, but he just couldn't be satisfied. "Having only one staff member doesn't make sense!" he would retort. "What about the administrators, huh? Where are they?" Such is the mind of a delusional. Entirely preoccupied with maintaining the delusions. But all I can do is be steadfast in my professional duty. Matheson requires help and compassion, and I must be there to provide it for him.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about the day when Matheson will be discharged. A day when his psychoses have finally been cured, and he leaves me all alone in this asylum, waiting for another like Matheson who requires my care. But then I see what little progress he is making, and I fear that day will never come. No, I think to myself. That day will never, ever come.

12 comments:

  1. i thoroughly enjoyed this, there is a lovely strain of humour running through it, the inmate has taken over....?
    fantastic!
    Mike McC

    ReplyDelete
  2. The setup made me suspicious.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Such is the mind of a delusional. Entirely preoccupied with maintaining the delusions." Then later, "No, I think to myself. That day will never, ever come." Clever and subtle. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't typically read flash fiction, but this reeled me in from the opening sentence and didn't let me go until the final delusional utterance. Or, wait...I'm sorry...NO, not the stun gun!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Deep, dark comment om symbiosis - and the way that we are all instrumental in the derangement of others - especially when our own realities are backed against the wall. A clever and insightful piece. Gentle humour laced with acerbic realities.
    Many thanks,
    Ceinwen

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is one entertaining story. And as Chief Broom tells us (thank you, Ken Kesey): "But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  8. A familiar trope ––– transposed insanity ––– but its well carried out, subtle , funny and brief.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I get the 6th sense feel to this. I like it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Deliciously creepy read. I believed the "orderly" at first and wondered why there would be an asylum with only two people in it...duh! Subtle, nicely done.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had to show my wife this story after I read it. She is the big reader in the family and I knew she'd love it. I felt like the was something Alfred Hitchcock with write. I like the spin on the patient and the orderly in this. Well written.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Even though I kind of knew where this was going after the first paragraph I was interested to read on. I was not disappointed. The story had a good, eerie atmosphere and the author still gave us room for a shred of doubt at the end.

    ReplyDelete