The other side of the wall
The rooster was going off again at 5 in the morning. It was time to do something to shut the damn bird up. He didn’t mind getting up early,the problem was all the creatures started stirring in their sleep as soon as they heard the insistent wake-up call of the stupid bird.
The dog was always the first to show up. He knew it was not a dog really, but there was no better word to describe the short-legged animal with the gray mangy fur that crept out of the woods each morning and took up his post on the other side of the low fence that separated the garden from the wilderness beyond. It just sat there, baring its small pointy teeth at him. Its sickly yellowish fangs and the continuous trickle of spit dripping from its snout. Made his skin prickle even when he pulled down the blinds to block the repulsive creature out. He felt relieved the first time he did that, he felt safe, but the trick had stopped working long ago. He knew the damn dog was there, waiting, he could almost smell the stench of its breath although he’d never got that close to the animal to catch a whiff of it.
Or the crow, his invisible nemesis that kept him up night and day. More than the noise itself, it was the hope that it would stop that drove him mad. Lying very still in bed, hands clasped under his nape as if that might slow his racing mind, he waited and waited - one minute, two minutes, maybe it stopped cawing, maybe it went away. It never did. The ominous caw was the last thing he heard before he finally drifted into one of his tortuous short bouts of sleep. And the first sound that jarred his ears after the rooster was done waking him and any other living creature in this God-forsaken place up.
He wasn’t crazy, yet, he knew it was just a crow and that’s what crows do, but he couldn’t help wondering if the bird had a message for him. He wouldn’t describe himself as a spiritual man and he certainly did not believe in reincarnation or the afterlife, but there was always this nagging feeling the bloody bird was there to deliver a message. He remembered reading somewhere that hearing owls and ravens cawing is meant to let you know someone has died. Only there was no one left whose death might mean anything to him. All those he had ever loved or at least cared for were long gone. Except for Judy, he’d made sure she was safe. That’s why he’d never asked her to join him here. He could still hear her voice pleading ‘don’t leave me here!’He was glad he didn’t give in to her pleas. This was no place for such a delicate woman.
Water. Dripping, Dripping. Dripping. She was slowly losing her mind. Many people like to say that, but what do they know? Her mind was all that she had left and she could not afford to lose that,too. How she hated the fat cleaning woman, the one who always hummed to herself that annoyingly cheery tune! It was her doing. She remembered exactly the day, might have been a week ago, maybe two, hard to tell in her condition, but she clearly recalled it was a stuffy day and she was glad when the woman opened the window and there was this light breeze that swept over her face, cooling the sweat off her brow, filling her tortured lungs with fresh air. You learn to be grateful for such miracles, that are in no way small to her, and she thanked the woman for her kindness. In her own silent way, that is. And then, the jarring noise of a metal object banging against the tiled-floor. The big metal bucket strategically placed under the sink to catch the water dripping from the leaky pipe. She had no idea what she’d done, the fat woman, she just kept mopping the floor, humming, sometimes chuckling over the memory of some funny moment.
The mindless happiness of the fat woman annoyed her almost as much as the constant dripping. Both equally insulting to her in her present state. She didn’t actually know that the woman was fat,as she couldn’t open her eyes, but she sounded fat. She had the rapid breathing of someone who tires easily and her step was heavier than that of the doctor who smelled of vanilla-flavored cigars who checked in on her every day or so.
She hoped the doctor would notice the dripping sound, but he never spent more than two minutes in her room. Not much to see in a catatonic patient. That was how they spoke of her, catatonic, unresponsive to treatment. Actually, it was a good thing that they stopped treating her, electroconvulsive therapy was pure hell and she could not scream or tell them to stop. Even is she could somehow make her muscles work, force her wounded vocal chords to at least whisper, what would be the point? Didn’t help her at all when she screamed and screamed, begging the man to stop doing all those things to her. He heard her all right, but he didn’t stop, not the first night, not the second one. Only the third night, when he came running down the stairs and he was so agitated. He did not touch her that night, he was too busy wiping every surface with a filthy cloth that left oily trails all over the table and the headboard. She knew what he was doing, he was leaving. She was terrified she was going to die there, chained to the bed that now stank of blood, sweat and piss. And she begged him to free her, take her with him if he must, whatever, ‘just don’t leave me here!’ That’s when he chocked her, his fat fingers crushing her windpipe. He left her for dead and now these people take her for dead, too. Locked in her own mind, just her and the dripping water.
The first thing you learn in this place is to read the mark on the door. There’s rooms where you can walk in without worry and there’s other rooms you must check through the peephole first, because some of them are damn sneaky and they could jump on you when you least expect them to. In fact, you’re supposed to expect them to at any given time.
Works fine for her. There’s rooms she hasn’t bothered to clean in weeks. Just a quick jolt in her activity log, ‘patient agitated’, and she’s off the hook. Who’s to know since nobody ever checks?
She was so angry when she got transferred to the Cemetery, everybody said the patients there were creepy and they howled and made weird noises. And, of course, there was the story of Bruce, the night nurse, who’d been bitten on the neck by a patient and he bled to death. They said the loony who did that to him was found sleeping peacefully in his bed, his pajama top drenched in blood.
She didn’t know if the story was true, she wasn’t working at the clinic then. Maybe it was because of that Bruce that procedures were so lax these days.The patients in the Cemetery were all hopeless, it said ‘incurable’ on their files, so she figured clean floors made no difference anyway.
Like the creep in 23B, the one who spends most of his days cowering in the corner of his room, mumbling about the animals that are trying to get him. A drifter who had been found unconscious by the side of the road. He must have been in a fight for there were scratch marks all over his face. Maybe it was an animal that did that to him, like some said, but she didn’t believe that. Looked like a wife-beater to her, same mean eyes like that good-for-nothing first husband of hers. Thank God she got rid of him before he could kill her. Now, the girl in 24B, that’s a completely different story. A dream patient if ever there was one. Poor mite, lying there in her bed,in a coma, or whatever fancy name the doctor has for her state.
She was almost dead when they found her in that abandoned cabin and they said it was a blessing she was dead inside so she doesn’t remember what she’s been through.No need to mop her room either, just empty the bucket under the sink and that’s all. Her shift’s almost over anyway and if she could get off half an hour early maybe she has time do her hair a little. Benny’s promised to take her out tonight. Maybe he’ll take her dancing again.
Story written for @mariannewest's freewrite challenge. The three prompts for the weekend challenge are marked in bold. Check out her blog and join our freewrite community.
Thanks for reading!