A raspy male voice from the PA system’s loudspeakers, preceded by a harsh breathy exhale, echoed through the hallways and rooms of the locked unit at the Port Glenn Psychiatric and Forensic Hospital. “Time to get up, everybody.” Then he blew into the mic again, “Time to get up.”
Maggie rolled on her side and opened her eyes. Being at the mental hospital almost three months, did not make the sight of the white painted brick walls and the open steel door with its small window any less intimidating. Then the realization of the upcoming court hearing flashed into her mind; she wanted to go back to sleep so that she would not have to think about it.
Her heart raced as anxiety about the possibility of being found guilty of murdering her landlord, Mr. Zimmerman, loomed over her. Her friend, Ethel, a seer, was trying to help her by casting spells to keep the black hooded demon away from her. Maggie could feel it feed on her while she slept—when she could sleep—it kept her drained of energy and hope.
Ethel had warned her that the dark entity fed on hopelessness, anger, and despair; but Maggie could not help herself. Her life was a nightmare and she saw no way out.
She sat up on the side of the bed, hunched over in grief. Grief from losing her husband, Cory, to suicide, and grief to being accused of a murder she did not commit. However, convincing anyone that it was a ghost named Susie that was the murderer was pointless, no one, except Ethel, believed her.
It was Saturday, Ethel would be visiting her that afternoon, and Maggie would find out if Ethel had made any progress with Detective John Becker.
She rubbed the side of her aching neck. She felt the same two pea-sized lumps underneath the skin that had first appeared when she was jailed. When she had asked the doctor about them, he said they were just swollen lymph nodes and nothing to worry about.
Maggie slipped on the white sneakers the facility had provided her and fastened the Velcro straps. She walked to her empty desk, picked up the plastic comb and ran it through her snarly hair. Aside from the small black comb, all she had on the desk was a cheap toothbrush, a tiny tube of toothpaste, and hair and body wash.
The tiny-toothed comb seemed to tighten the knots of her tangled locks rather than loosen them. She wanted to give up on combing her hair but since Ethel would likely be visiting, she would try to look at least somewhat presentable. But that did not include taking a shower, she had no energy for that task. Besides, she was only required to shower three days a week anyway.
Maggie believed what Ethel had told her about the black robed entity. That it was the type of vampire that fed on the energy and life essence of people, leaving them feeling exhausted and unfocused. Psychic parasitism, Ethel called it.
She looked at the small tube of toothpaste and the toothbrush sitting next to the comb, almost deciding not to brush her teeth. Nevertheless, she picked them up and walked down the hallway, past a dozen other patient rooms, to the bathroom. The worker guarding the upstairs sleeping area sat at the top of the stairwell. The stocky middle-aged woman dressed in jeans and a T-shirt stayed focused on her tablet, not bothering to acknowledge Maggie when she walked past. The guard would continue to stare at the tablet in her hands until twenty minutes had passed and it was time to walk down the hallway and check the residents.
Maggie went into the bathroom and examined her neck in the mirror. There were no visible marks, as one would expect to see with a vampire that sucked blood. Then she looked at her tired face. The green sweatshirt and sweatpants—courtesy of the facility—made her look shabby. She shook her head and whispered to herself, “Maggie, you’re a sorrowful case.”
When she was finished in the bathroom, she returned the items to her room and closed the door before going downstairs to the dayroom. Soon all the doors would be locked and no one would be allowed back upstairs until naptime, later in the afternoon.
Maggie walked past three guards seated at a table in the main room at the bottom of the steps. She sat in one of the chairs lined up and facing the television set. There were no couches or recliners, only cushioned chairs like those that could be found in a doctor’s waiting room. She was not interested in the news program playing on TV, but there was nothing else to do until breakfast.
A tall woman in jeans sat down next to her. “How are you today?”
Maggie was not up to talking to another patient, but Chloe liked her and was always following her around and talking to her. “I’m fine, just tired.”
“Yeah, the drugs they give us around here make us tired,” Chloe said, crossing her legs. Her foot began to bounce with a nervous tick. “They like to keep us subdued.”
Maggie knew that was not true but nodded nonetheless.
“Doctor Suharto said I’ll be here a couple more months; at least until my hallucinations and delusions stop,” Chloe said. Her foot stopped bouncing and she turned to speak quietly to Maggie. “I think that alien that always stands behind Doctor Suharto is making him do things so that I go to prison. What do you think?”
Maggie did not know what to think. “I don’t know how it goes.”
“How about you?” Chloe asked, as her foot returned to bobbing. “You’ve been here the same length of time as me. What did the doctor tell you?”
Maggie was sad, she did not want to talk about it, but Chloe would pester her if she did not answer. “I guess I’m scheduled to go to trial.”
“Oh, shit,” Chloe said. “That’s intense. I bet it’s that black robed guy I see following you around, he’s probably telling Doctor Suharto to make your life miserable.”
Maggie’s jaw dropped. She had no idea Chloe could see that vampirish creature that comes to her at night to feed. “You can see it?”
“Of course I can see it,” Chloe said, matter-of-factly. “I don’t see it now, but I know it’s around here someplace.”
Maggie was not sure how to take what Chloe had said. Chloe was crazy; she saw aliens and believed they talked to the doctor. But she also saw the black-robed entity that both she and Ethel could see. Well, at least Ethel said she could see it; maybe she was lying. So either she, and Ethel, were as crazy as Chloe, or Chloe was not crazy at all and had the ability to see things others could not.
“Med time,” one of the workers said from behind a table in the corner of the day room. “Ackerman.”
“That’s me,” Chloe said, standing. “Time to get some more mind control meds.”
Maybe I am crazy, Maggie thought as she watched Chloe walk to the med room where a nurse was dispensing medication. If I am crazy, the thing that feeds on me is not real. But the doctor said I was not crazy, and I don’t think I’m crazy. I just cannot win. If I am not crazy, I have to stand trial and possibly go to prison for a crime that I did not commit. But if I am crazy, I’ll have to stay locked up in a mental institution for the rest of my life.
Maggie began to sob. No one came to her aid as she sat there, alone, with tears streaming down her flushed face.