“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”
― Albert Einstein
I take the photograph from Harry's hand and stare at again. I guess I can see some of Richard's features; same haunting eyes, same oddly shaped nose. "Where did you even find this?" I look on the back of the photo and there is something scribbled on it that I can't read. I squint at the small and slanted handwriting but I still have no luck in reading it.
"It was wedged in this old floor board in my room." Harry notices my squinting and he shakes his head. "No use, I've already tried to read it; all I could make out was Richard and 1995." Still clutching the photo in my hand, I begin walking to someone who can hopefully help. "Where are you going?" I turn back to Harry, "Zayn's room, and you're coming too." He makes a strangle sound but follows after me nonetheless.
Once we reach Zayn's door, I slide the key card and pull Harry into the room with me. Dylan is laying on the floor cold to the world. Zayn is sleeping so peacefully on his bed that I almost feel bad that I'm going to have to wake him up. Almost.
"Zayn, Zen wake up." I begin poking Zayn's face until he lets out a groan. "Vanessa? What are you doing here?" Leaving Zayn's eyes to adjust, I go over to kick Dylan on his hip and he shoots up in pain. "Give me your flash light." Dylan hands me his rather heavy flashlight with a scowl and I shine the light onto the picture. "Is that Richard?" "Yup, when he was a patient here. And if we could get his full name that I believe is scribbled on the back, we can do a google search on him." Zayn takes the picture and flips it over. "Wow ok, we're going to need an expert to read this." As if reading his mind, both of us say the person who we know can read any handwriting, "Emma."
"Come on kitties, who wants to take a trip to solitary confinement?" Harry raises his hand as I brush against him to get out of the room. "Yes Harry?" "Well how would we get into solitary confinement? I mean it is solitary confinement. Won't they're be guards and cameras and like watch dogs or something?" I let out a little laugh because this kid has a lot to learn.
"Harry, here at the great Clearwater, everything basically halts in January. We usually have around 30-50 guards but some of those quit and some are still on vacation. We don't get a new shipment of guards until February. No wonder I'm getting stalked right now. Oh yeah and there's only about 5 people in solitary confident at the moment. All the real kooky people are on the very bottom floor." I stop walking when we reach the door that leads down stairs. "But I honestly have no clue how that looks because my mom has never let me go down there. I know that place is filled with guards though."
Swinging the door open, we all begin to descend the dimly lit stairwell. A nice rusted sign hangs over head that says 'Welcome to Solitary Confinement! :)' If anyone is sent down here, it's because of behavioral issues. I cover my nose slightly at the stale smell in the air. I'm pretty sure no one comes down here to clean these cells. Walking slowly down the hall, I peer into each cell trying to spot Emma.
And sitting in the middle of the cold and empty cell second to the last is Emma.
"It's about time you all visited me. I was rotting in this cell for a week now." She doesn't even look up from whatever strange task she's doing with her nails when she hears the cell door open. She is sitting crisscross in the middle of the all grey room. The length of hair is still mid way down her back, even though her ponytail is practically sitting on the top of head. The black jumpsuit she's in swallows up her thin frame. And naturally a cigarette is resting between her pointer and middle finger like their it's home.
I've known Emma for about one year now, she came here when we were both 16. Found her trying to kill herself with the soap. She began crying when I told her that the soap was actually edible and no matter how much she consumed, she will be alive and well. Once I got her a fruit cup from the cafeteria, she began to tell me why she was here. Long story short, she found her boyfriend sleeping with her best friend and she shot the both of them one day later after school. "They had been making out too, god I both hope they rot in hell for it."
"Hey why does she get a black suit?" "Because she is in solitary confinement. For possession of drugs. " Walking over to Emma, I snatch the cigarette from her hand. "Well clearly it's not so solitary if you four are here." I take the unlit cigarette and pass it over to Dylan. When he shoves it in his pocket, Emma finally looks up and puts on a pout. "Nessa, I worked hard to get that! All my hard work was just practically thrown away." Harry begins to laugh and Emma's eyes immediately brighten as she sees him leaning against the padded walls.
"And who are you?" "Harry. He got here like three days ago." Emma gives me the 'god he's really cute look' and I return it with the 'I know right' look.
"Ok, I know you all didn't come in here to have a big sleep over so what do you need." Zayn flashes the photos in front of Emma's face and she takes it in her tiny hands. "We need to see if you can read this Em." Em squints at the sloppy hand writing and sighs. "I better be getting someone's fruit cup tomorrow at breakfast. I don't even think I can read this." I pout at Emma and hold my hands up in the praying position. Emma rolls her eyes as she sees my puppy dog expression. "Ugh fine, it looks like it says....Clearway? Oops no that says Clearwater," "God help us all." I elbow Dylan in his rib and encourage Emma to continue.
"Uh let's see, Clearwater 1995..... Richard.... Stevens...... Last day. Clearwater 1995, Richard Stevens' last day." Emma holds up the picture for Zayn to take back. "Thanks Em, you're amazing." Emma smiles and rolls her eyes. "Duh. Why do you all need that anyway?" "It will be easier to tell you tomorrow at breakfast." Emma nods her head, sending her high pony to swing in all different directions."Kay, I'll see you all tomorrow."
Shutting Emma's cell door, all three of us slowly begin to walk up the stairs to get to the main level. Dylan's finger tapping seems to be echoing off the wall and I look over to him. "Did you find anything yet Dyl?" Dylan's thumbs are quickly typing away on his phone and his eyes widen at his screen. "See for yourself." Taking Dylan's phone in my hand, I almost drop it when I read the head line."Richard Stevens set free after being found innocent in the murder of two young girls." With a shaky voice I begin to read the short web article aloud.
"Richard Stevens, better known as The Daisy Killer, has been set free from Clearwater Mental Institution for the Mental and Criminally Insane after being found innocent in the killing of Maria and Cindy Aleman. Stevens was sent to Clearwater back in 1989 after evidence was found leading him to the murder of the girls. The autopsy report showed larger amounts of daisies in their digestive tracks and we have later found out that they were soaked in some type of home made toxic. It was well known throughout the town of Stanford that Stevens has a strange infatuation with the plant.Stevens was just 25 when he was convicted."
I press the lock button on Dylan's phone and hand it back to him. "This doesn't make any sense. Why the hell is Richard coming up out of the blue, why is he harassing me with god damn daisies, whose blood was that on the floor and god Dylan what the hell are you doing?" Dylan looks up from his loud finger tapping and puts his phone . "I was texting Louis to see if he can bring some Taco Bell." I slowly bring my hands to in front of Dylan's neck and make strangling gestures with them.
"Ok look,just be cool. We need more information on everything. For one we hardly know anything about Richard, we need some more background on him. Clearwater has to have kept something from when Richard was a patient." "Well I mean I can always check. That would just mean sneaking into my mom's room and getting the keys to the files she keeps in her office closet." Harry nods his head and points up to the security camera. "And I've noticed those practically all over these halls. Why can't we just pull the footage and-" Harry is cut off by mine, Dylan and Zayn's outburst of laughter."Dude it's a new year, those cameras don't come back on until February, March at best. Everyone knows that."
Harry runs his hands over his face in frustration. "You know what, I will actually make the effort to make it to breakfast tomorrow so we can work this out. In the meantime, we all need sleep." We tiredly agree mumble to that. I sway a bit and grip the white key card into my hand. "So sleepover in Zayn's room everyone?" But when I turn around Zayn and Dylan are already walking towards his room. I begin to follow them but when I don't hear Harry following me, I turn around again. "Aren't you coming kid?" Harry shrugs his shoulders and looks up at me. "Would you really want to sleep in a room with a psycho killer?"
I know he is trying to scare me but I'm not afraid of him. Correction, I'm not afraid of him when they're are two more people less than twenty seconds away,
"Well I mean technically Zayn's a killer. And I killed a lot of bugs when I was younger so I'm a killer. And Dylan, well Dylan kills every serious moment known to man." I hear a faint 'hey I heard that' from Dylan and Harry bites his lip to fight his smile. "Can't I get in trouble for this?" I shrug my shoulders and begin to kick my feet softly against the hard floor. "If my mom finds us, I'll figure something out."
After a long pause of internal battle. Harry reluctantly walks over to me. I turn my head to hide the smile threatening to split my face. We make it to Zayn's room a few seconds later to find the two boys already sitting inside. When I close the door, I slowly feel my way through the darkness. Nudging Zayn over, I slip under the covers with him and turn over to face the door. "Good night boys." I hear various good nights and almost on command I hear Dylan's light snores filling the room. Zayn knocks out soon after him and I'm left awake with my thoughts. Slowly getting from Zayn's bed, I silently move over to Dylan so I can get his phone. I want to see what time it is and maybe I can play a game or two. I bring my hand to grip what I hope is Dylan's shoulder. Because if it's another part of his body this is going to be hella awkward.
"Why must you always man handle me?" I quickly bring my hand back to my side at Harry's voice. "Sorry, thought you were Dylan. Didn't mean to wake you." "No it's fine, I haven't been sleeping well since I've gotten here anyway." I see a outline of Harry sitting up and leaning back on Zayn's bed. "Yeah these mattress are quite uncomfortable." Harry lets out a small laugh before shaking his head. "No, just been having nightmares again. Nothing too serious."
"I used to have constant nightmares when I first moved here too, don't worry."I don't know why I reveal this but I can relate to him with the whole nightmares thing. I can't see much of Harry's face but I'm pretty sure he raised his eyebrows in the questioning matter. "How did you end up here? I mean I know you're not a patient and your mom is running this joint but have you always lived here?
I shake my head but then realize he probably can't see me moving it. "I moved in here when I was ten. My dad, he um," I try to swallow down the lump already beginning to form in my throat. I swear I smell smoke but I know I'm just imagining it. I swear I see the flames but I know I'm just hallucinating them. And I swear I can feel the heat against my skin but it is January so that may be the actual heat coming from the vents.
"Burned our house down. While we were all sleeping." I flash back to the god awful night. The piercing screams that have haunted me for some time now. "Me and mom were the only ones who made it out alive." The delightful sounds of Zayn and Dylan's snoring fill the room as the two of us go silent. "I'm so sorry." "Nah don't sweat it. I have made some pretty awesome friends here so, all is well."
I yawn and stretch my arms over my head. "You getting tired?" "Yeah just a little." But my eye lids are already dropping and I'm finding the weight of my head to be more than what I can handle. "Why do my you just lay down right here. I'll just put you back on Zayn's bed when you fall asleep."
I nod my head because hey that sounds like a good plan. I reposition myself so that my head is resting on Harry's thigh. "Good night Harry." "Goodnight Vanessa."
And maybe I'm still hallucinating but I could swear that Harry begins to run his fingers through my hair before I'm pulled under.