Archive for August 27th, 2010

Aug 27 2010

Where the Walls Stop

Published by under callie

The window showed a small room, surfaces padded and otherwise empty.  Curled in a fetal position in the middle of the soft floor was a person, larger than a child but small enough to be female, though no features could be seen from Callie’s viewing angle.  The door was thick and the window double-paned, but the sound of crying could still be easily heard — wracking sobs that rose and fell in time to the shaking of the grieving person’s shoulders.

Callie watched for some time but the scene never changed.  She wondered if there was a way to discover just how long a person could cry for, before the body couldn’t sustain the activity without resting.  She grew weary of watching and decided to move on, and this time her body cooperated with her intention.  At least as far as the next viewing window: as much as she wanted to leave, Callie walked only as far as the next room before she stopped and looked inside.

This room looked nothing at all like the last one — much more like an efficiency apartment than a clinic cell.  The walls were painted dark gray, and a woman sat on a low stool in front of an easel, blank canvas propped and ready.  Next to her was a small coffee table littered with clutter, not all of it identifiable from where Callie stood.  A palette, currently empty, lay across her lap as the woman stared at the easel.

Callie wasn’t sure why this scene gave her a feeling of dread to watch, but that answer was quickly forthcoming.  The young lady slowly began to roll up her cotton sleeves to above the elbow, then took lengths of latex from the table and tied them around each arm so that the veins would stand out from the skin.  When the next item grabbed was a syringe, Callie willed herself to move on but failed, beating her fists against the wall in frustration.

The sound didn’t seem heard by the room’s occupant.  Instead of injecting herself, the artist pierced a vein and pulled back on the plunger slowly.  The syringe filled with a thick forest-green liquid; when no more could be taken, she pulled out the needle and placed it above the palette, depressing the plunger carefully to make a mounded circle of pigment.  Oblivious to the drop of blood trickling from the entry site, the artist wiped the needle clean on her sleeve and began again.  This time bright reddish violet filled then emptied next to the first pigment.

What Callie could see of the woman’s face was disturbing, a blankness usually only found on warzone survivors and abuse refugees.  As the artist began the draining for a third time, this one a rich blue hue, Callie felt she’d seen enough and whatever was controlling her movements seemed to agree, letting her walk on to the next door.

Callie closed her eyes tightly and took several deep breaths, as by now she was angry enough to notice that her perceptions were being colored by her rage.  Even this attempt to exert some self-control over her experience was futile, as whoever was in here was much more audible than the cryer had been.  Primal screams echoed through the panes of the window, larynx-tearing vibrations that made Callie’s throat ache sympathetically.  She gave up and looked into the room to see the source of the sounds.

Another female knelt on the floor, her features obscured under dirt and dried blood.  Streaks of cinnabar clotted in her hair and covered her arms and hands, nails broken under the quick.  Callie could see that the room was originally another padded cell like the first, but this one had been systematically destroyed.  The padding hung from the walls and ceiling in long shreds, and clumps of stuffing were piled in corners.  All of it was stained with the same blood that decorated the inhabitant, obviously far beyond anger management’s reach.  The wild woman was currently tugging on a section of padded floor, her strongest efforts only moving a couple of centimeters each try, screaming incessantly.

Callie thought perhaps the screamer and cryer had perfected circular breathing to engage in their epic feats of lung-power, since she couldn’t see another way they could pull it off without passing out.  None of the other occupants had seemed to hear or see Callie, but this one gave an even higher shriek and launched herself at the door, yelling and spitting and smearing yet more blood across the glass, obscuring the view.

Callie concentrated with all her strength and pulled away from the door, half-stumbling down the hall toward a door at the end with a smaller window and different design than the others.  Hoping that this was the way out, she closed her eyes again to concentrate and held her hands out in front as she moved in that direction, willing herself fiercely not to stop along the way.

Either her efforts worked or whatever had been using her as a puppet had worn off or gone away:  Callie reached the end of the hall without further pause.  As her hand grasped the door handle, she opened her eyes to look through its window but saw only darkness.  Since a dark room seemed an improvement over the previous options, she tested the knob.  Finding it unlocked, Callie entered.

The blackness was as dark as an underground cavern, and feeling around on either side of the door turned up no light switches.  Callie kept one hand on the wall as she began to move away from the door, but stopped when she heard breathing.

“Hello, there.”

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