Break from Sanity
Most people don’t know, but the government watches us. Almost everything contains a tracking device or a camera. They have spies too, so I can’t trust anyone. I remember when they came to take me. I was bound and dragged out of my house as if I was a wild animal that needed to be locked away in a cage. I have been running for what seems like hours, and each breath stings like I have been stung by a bee.
The sun is setting with pinks and yellows and reds. I haven’t seen it in so long because they keep me locked up. They say I am too dangerous to the others, but we both know that’s a lie. That’s what they do. Lie. They just don’t want me to help the others who are also trapped. Strength comes in numbers, and they want to make sure we never have the numbers to take control.
“Hey! Stop right there!”
I don’t stop. I run without caring where I am going. I will not go back. I cut a corner of a brick building and almost run smack into the face of the man who called after me. How did he find me so fast? Do I have a tracking device on me that I don’t know about? No, I thoroughly checked myself before I left. I even stripped my clothes and put on the clothes I had stashed in my pillow case.
“I said stop, Tom. It’s ok. I will take you back home,” he says while gently reaching for my arm. I jerk away as if I have been burned.
“NO! I know you work for them!” I scream.
“Come on, I will take you back and I will give you something to calm you down. I promise you will feel so much better,” he says while he holds out his hand for me to take.
I stretch out my hand and act like I am going to take it, and then I punch him in the face. His head hits the brick wall with a crunch before he falls to the ground. Red streams down his temple and creates a little puddle beside my feet. My body starts moving before I can even think, and I soon find myself a couple of blocks down in a dirty alley filled with green dumpsters. It smells like shit, but I don’t even care. My body crouches behind the side of one of the dumpsters and my hands find themselves in my brown hair, mercilessly tugging at it. Snot and tears cover my face. I didn’t mean to hurt him. If only he would have let me go. If only he could see what they were doing. My body rocks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
“It had to be done. It had to be done. It had to be done. It had to be done.”
It’s dark, and I’m walking on a deserted street. The sidewalk is broken in several places. One light flickers on and off and eventually goes completely out. I feel the shadows creeping up on me. A heavy presence. If they catch me, they will take me back. So I run again until my legs go numb. I run through the courtyard, past the local shops, and through the thick bushes until I am in what appears to be a driveway. Claudia, my wife, may still be alive. She is the light of my life with her golden hair and green eyes. She’s probably been wondering if I am even still alive. They took me from her back then, and even though she didn’t stop them, I knew it wasn’t her fault. I walk up to the white painted porch, and I knock on the hard-wooden door. When the door opens, a pale wrinkled face awaits on the other side. She has brown eyes, and white short curly hair.
“Young man, are you lost?” Her body is tense, and her hands are ready to close the door if I move an inch. I know I can’t tell her the truth. That would only cause unnecessary trouble and attention.
“My car just broke down a couple of blocks from here. May I use your phone, please? I am terribly sorry for disturbing you, ma’am.” She hesitates for a long minute before she motions for me to wait on the porch. She comes back with a yellow, cordless phone.
“I was about to go to bed, so please make it quick,” she commands as her pink house shoes pad across the white wood of the porch. She stares at me the whole time, as if she is trying to zero in on my intentions. I slowly outstretch my hand to and take the phone.
“What are you doing out so late?”
My free hand fumbles with the hem of my white shirt. When the old woman realizes she isn’t going to receive an answer, she briskly walks back into the house, but she only shuts the screen door, so she can still hear and watch me from inside the doorway. Her eyes are still probing my every move, like she’s looking through a telescope at a specimen. My fingers dial the only phone number I would ever dial 589-6666. It rings for what seems like hours until a smooth, silky voice finally answers.
“Claudia! I’m here. I need you to pick me up,” I breathe. Just her voice gives me a blanket of peace.
“Oh, Tom! Where are you?” she chokes.
“I’m at Salem’s Suburbs. The first house on the left.”
“You’re in someone’s house! Oh God, please tell me you haven’t hurt anyone,” Claudia cries. My hands are trembling, and panic fills my chest. Please don’t let it be true. The old woman heard Claudia on the phone and is now staring at me in fear.
“That’s silly, Claudia. You know I wouldn’t hurt anyone. They are not here, it’s just me. You can say what you really mean now,” I coax.
“Tom, there is no ‘They!’ God, I thought you would be getting help.”
I hang up the phone and throw it across the yard with so much force that it breaks apart upon impact with the blacktop driveway. They got to her. They got into her brain, and they changed her. They took away the only thing I had left. I’ve heard of this before. The government sometimes implants a chip into the brain, which gives off electric charges. These electric charges can be used to suggest motor movement and even brain processes, which gives the government control over that person’s brain. My body hits the porch floor. I raise my hand to the back of my head, and see red. The old woman is standing over me with a metal bat in her hand.
“I should have known you were a lunatic! A criminal I bet! I already called the police on my cell phone, so don’t you try anything!”
She goes to strike me again, but I catch the bat in my right hand before jerking it from her small frame. She is knocked off her balance, so she falls forward on top of me. I push her off just as fast as she fell down with the bat still in my hand. My body jumps up in a tight stance, every muscle is ready for another attack, but it never comes. The old woman lies motionless on the white porch like a statue. Her arms don’t move to strike me again. Her legs don’t help her stand up. She just lies there—face on the floor. I place the bat down, and I roll her over onto her back. She almost looks asleep, but her eyes are motionless and open. Her neck is slanted at an odd angle. The high-pitched noise of sirens fills my ears like a piercing chorus of screams. It wasn’t my fault. She was probably one of them—a spy for the government. That’s why she kept glaring at me. It was her own fault. I pick up the bat, and my legs run into the house and through the back door of the kitchen. The sirens are getting closer. I clutch the bat tightly into my chest, as if I am trying to mold it into my being and make the events disappear with it.
I run again until I can’t run anymore, and I collapse onto the sidewalk in town. My hand wipes the sweat from my brow, while the other is still clutching tightly to the bat. My whole body is trembling uncontrollably. This must be what having a seizure feels like. When I finally pick myself up, I realize I am in front of Bedlam’s Theater.
I know this place. I used to go here with Claudia all the time before I was taken. Bedlam’s Theater has the best plays. Claudia’s favorite is A Midsummer Night’s Dreambecause of Puck’s character. He stands out from all the others, and he’s adorableshe would say. My feet move on their own accord toward the glass double doors of the theater. If I could just keep remembering the past before the prison, I’m sure everything will be alright. My hand opens the door, and I walk inside. The carpet is an old, worn red, and the walls are a grey-blue color. To the right is a sign that reads NOW PLAYING: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. The ticket desk is to the right, and there is a clock on the wall right above it. But there’s something wrong with it. The clock isn’t ticking, and the hands aren’t moving. I walk closer and climb on top of the ticket desk to get a closer look. I unhook the clock from the wall and begin to inspect it. The batteries are in place on the back, so it should be working. Panic fills my chest. It’s not a clock. It’s a camera. The government is probably tracking me down right now. I throw the clock on the ground and stomp on it, hoping to make whatever trace they have on it diminish.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”
I was so absorbed in the camera and tracking device that I didn’t notice anyone else in the room. Before me stood a man about my age—30 years old. He has long curly black hair, and his skin is dark. He is complete skin and bone to the point that he looks anorexic. He must be an employee because he is wearing what looks like a red and gold uniform with a nametag on the right side of his chest that says Michael.
“Didn’t you see it?”
“Come here. Look at the clock,” I say. He rolls his eyes, but he walks over to the clock and picks it up anyway. He flips it over in his hands a couple of times before he looks back up at me.
“What am I supposed to be looking for? All I see is a broken clock. You know this is destruction of property, so you will have to pay for this,” he sighs angrily.
“Don’t you see that dark chip on the side of the clock, and that camera right above it? You can’t miss it. It’s right in front of you.”
“Dude, there’s nothing here. It’s just a clock.” He waves it around the air to indicate his aggravation.
“IT’S RIGHT THERE! Why can’t you see it?” I yell. My hands make their way to my head, and my face grimaces as if I am in pain. My breathing becomes constricted.
“Is there something wrong with you? There is nothing here,” he sighs. “It’s literally just a regular, broken clock. It will cost you ten dollars for breaking it,” he says as he holds out his hand for the money.
I can’t stand it anymore. He’s a liar. Maybe he works for the government too because the government never tells the truth. I grab the collar of his uniform with both hands, which causes him to drop the clock. My heart pounds in my chest, and I am breathing hard.
“You are going to tell everyone in that theater that the government is spying and tracking everyone right now!” I spit into his face.
“Help! Somebody! He’s a lunatic!” He yelps. He tries to hit me in the face with his hands, but he doesn’t even get a slap in.
“Don’t you lie! I am not a lunatic! All you do is lie!” I screech. I wrap my big hand around his skinny throat and begin dragging him into the theater that is playing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“HOLD IT!” Two police officers with guns ran in through the doors. One is a middle-aged woman, and the other is a middle-aged man with a scar on his face. I quickly shift the employee in front of me for protection.
“Release him and put your hands up in the air where I can see them!” The police officer with the scar says sternly.
“No!” I frantically look around for an exit, but to no avail.
“I won’t go back!” I scream. I begin to back up. Like an electrical shock, I lose my grip on the employee’s throat and collapse onto the ground. My body won’t move. I look up to see the prison keeper above me dressed in his usual white coat and grey slacks attire with a syringe in his hand. He bends down to my level and caresses my head as if I’m a lost puppy.
“You’re gonna be ok, Tom. You just weren’t given your medication, and it made you see things that weren’t real,” he says quietly before he stands back up and motions with his hand to the police officers. I try to speak to tell someone, anyone that I am not lying that it’s there, but no sound comes out. I can’t do anything but lay there on the stained, red floor. A tear slides down my cheek. I don’t want to go back there. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t want to be caged. Why can’t they see? The world around me spins around and around like a carousel. If I could move I would get on my knees and puke. There are red and blue lights spotting my vision. I hear random voices murmuring in my ears, but I don’t know where they are coming from.
“The bodies have been identified.”
“My employee didn’t give him the proper medication, officer.”
“He killed two people, including one of your employees.”
“Someone has to take responsibility for this.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Is he crazy?”
“His brain tells him things are there that aren’t really there.”
“He should be alright when he wakes up.”
“Get him out of here.”
“He had a break from sanity a long time ago.”
Adriana Roaden is a senior at University of the Cumberlands. She will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and English with an emphasis in creative writing. She has officially been accepted into the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at University of the Cumberlands and plans on eventually completing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.