The Façade of Ward 41
Interview #1 - Jamie
“Good Morning, my name is Doctor Pollaph and I will be looking after you from now on, is that okay?” The patient remains silent. A frail looking girl, dishevelled face with dark, worn eyes, there is an essence of youth but the lack of sleep and terror she faces clearly hides it.
“Can you tell you me your name?” The doctors have given me all the information on this particular patient but I think it is be best to approach her as an unknowing friend; if I know too much about her she may retreat inside herself again for fear of opening up. She pulls her legs up to her chests and wraps her arms around tightly. From behind the safety of her legs she whispers ‘Jamie’.
“Nice to meet you Jamie. Now there’s no need to be scared, I’m just a doctor. I’m not here to hurt you, or run tests on you, I won’t even come close to you if you don’t want me to.” She shakes her head at this, pulling her legs closer.
“That’s fine. So you’re new here right? So am I, in fact you’re my first patient.” At this her arms loosen slightly; I smile.
“How old are you Jamie?” Her file tells me she is near enough the same age as myself, but from the behaviour she displays now I can tell that her brain thinks otherwise.
“Nearly finished with school then, maybe even less than a year? That must be exciting right?” Her arms grip her legs again, hiding her face from me in fear. “No? What scares you about it Jamie? The exams? The future? Losing touch with your friends?”
“Surely you must have some?”
“They’re not real. Not any of them.”
“What do you mean Jamie?”
“None of them were real. They were all there to test me I know it. They were tempting me, punishing me, teasing me. They’re friends of the Devil.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because humans aren’t like that, they don’t say the things they said, they don’t make me do the things they did. They were demons Sir, and I fell for their tricks.”
Interview #2 – Candice
“Ah, you must be the new doctor I’ve heard so much about? How lovely it is to meet you.”
“You’ve heard of me?” She stands by the window, looking over her shoulder when speaking; she is confident and comfortable with her surroundings.
“Why yes. The new girl speaks to me through the vent there.” She points to the wall next to her bed.
“You’ve spoken to Jamie?”
“Girls speak Mr Pollaph, surely someone as intelligent as you must know that. Oh would you sit down, you make the room look an awful mess.” She sits herself, holding her back as straight as possible and her arm raised slightly, elbow bent with her two fingers poised as if holding a cigarette.
“I know that I just didn’t realise you could talk to each other. May I know you name?”
“My name? Surely the other doctors have told you all you need to know, and don’t play dumb with me.”
“It’s not playing dumb I need it for the recording, standard procedure.” I place a Dictaphone on the arm of the chair, waving it around at first to make sure she sees.
“Oh, well, then certainly. Its Candice, Candice Winters. I am sorry to have gone off like that Mr Pollaph; it’s just that after so many interviews with you people it sort of gets monotonous. Standard procedure you say? Must be new?” She takes a long drag of what she believes to be a cigarette and returns her gaze to the window.
“So what have you and Jamie been speaking about?”
“Oh nothing really; mostly she just cries and cries through the vent. She only started speaking after I told her to be quiet the other night. Honestly, the girl never shuts up, crying about this and that and the awful people at school; but you must know all about that surely. I guess it’s nice to have a fresh voice around here for once. The other girls are like my sisters now but there is only so much I can take of them. Would you like a drink? I do believe I still have some whiskey in the cupboard there.”
“They allow you to have alcohol?”
“Why of course. They know I am of no harm here; I won’t hurt any of the doctors; at least not physically. No, I never liked to use violence as an attack; I find a good placed word backed up with a certain amount of venom to be stronger than any punch. Plus the way I see it, the more I poison my body with alcohol and tobacco the faster they have a free room.”
Interview #3 - Kate
“It’s Kate. That’s what you want to know right? My Name? Well it’s Kate. Candice has already told me everything about you; well everything she knows. Pretty hard to keep something from her it is, not unless you’re smart. She reckons you’re smart, reckons you know more than you’re letting on. So what do you want with me then?” This one is volatile, must be young with the energy she carries. There seems to be a lot of anger too.
“I just want to talk, that’s all. Is that okay?”
“Not like I have much of a choice, right? It’s never just talking with you people though is it? You’re always looking for something extra, something that you don’t tell us. I bet you’re crazier than us girls locked in here.”
“I don’t keep secrets Kate, I just try to keep the harmful information away from you until I think you’re ready for it.”
“Candice was right, you are different.”
“And what do you mean by that? Do you mind if I sit?”
“You’re gonna sit anyways aren’t you.”
“Not if you don’t want me to.”
“Go ahead. Candice says you’re not like the other Doctors. Reckons you’re nicer than the rest. I think it’s just because you’re new. One day you’ll be just like them and then it’s back to being strapped down and injected again.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Jesus Christ! Did they not tell you anything or did you just not read your homework. I don’t care what Candice says you’re not looking too smart to me. Anyone could tell I have anger issues.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“Stop asking pointless questions. Anyone would end up crazy here, there’s not enough light or freedom. They hardly ever let me outside and the bars on my windows hardly make me feel good. We all deal with it differently, the claustrophobia. Candice tries to kill herself, the new girl just cries all bloody night, Frankie’s a dreamer, and I get angry. It’s all on that file of yours that you should have read.”
“Tell me about Frankie, Kate.”
“You should go read your file Doctor.”
Interview #4 - Jamie
“Good morning. How are we feeling today?” The patient sits on her bed, legs pushed against her chests, fingers interlocked and face hidden. She stays silent.
“Jamie?” She attempts to hide her face further, clutching her eye lids closed. “I’ve brought you a cup of tea I thought you would like it?” I place the cup on her bedside table and sit back in the armchair. She moves over to the cup and grasps it with both hands.
“Would you like another blanket Jamie? Or maybe I can talk to the other Doctors to keep the radiator on for longer? Would you like that?” She nods her head. Her guard falls as she takes a sip, legs remaining in place to shield her body, but slowly she relaxes.
“Jamie, if it’s okay I would like to ask you about the demons you spoke of before? What did they make you do Jamie? You said they tempted you? Punished you? Did they attack you physically?” She nods.
“Did it start off that way?”
“Not until the end Sir.”
“What did they do before?”
“Whisper? What did they whisper?”
“Lies. They would always whisper lies, Sir. Every time I passed them they would whisper. Others would laugh.”
“Do you know what they were saying about you Jamie?”
“It doesn’t matter what they said, Sir. Once one of them whispered the rest followed. They could see into my mind, Sir. They whispered my secrets, my thoughts, my dreams and twisted them into their lies. They wanted me dead, Sir, but the demons can’t have blood on their hands. They wanted me to do it, Sir. I heard them say it. I heard their whispers.”
Interview #5 - Kate
“Good morning. And how are we today?”
“Same as always, awful.”
“Would you like to tell me about it?”
“I already told you, doctor. I want to be outside. Every time I wake up I swear they add another bloody bar to my window.”
“It’s for your own safety, we’re trying to help you here and we can’t do that if you run away.”
“See! You’re starting to sound like them now, I knew you would.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t intend on being like the other doctors. But I do need to go through one last formality with you before we continue our talk if that’s okay? Can you state your name?”
“Kate. Do we have to do this every time or shall I just write you a note so you remember.”
“I haven’t forgotten you Kate, it’s just for the sake of the recording; it doesn’t pick up your face.”
“But you must be able to hear my voice right? I sound nothing like the others.”
“You would be surprised. Now Kate, I would like to talk about you anger.”
“Keep talking like the other Doctors and you’ll see it.”
“I’ll do my best not to anger you. No, what I want to know is if there is anything that you used to do to relax yourself? To calm the anger?”
“You mean like yoga or something stupid like that? No I was never into closing my eyes and humming, didn’t see the point in it. Plus I don’t like the idea of keeping my eyes closed for too long like that. Gives someone else the perfect opportunity to come up and kick you in the face don’t it?
“I’m sure no one would do that here.”
“You’d be surprised, Doctor.”
“So nothing then? No hobbies you’d do after school?”
“Didn’t really go to school Doctor, mum didn’t believe in it. Had me working as soon as I could.”
“After work then, when you got back to your room?”
“I liked to write I guess.”
“What did you write?”
“Anything, stories mostly, but I used what I heard from work. Stuff customers say like. Made up stories about what they did when they got home after getting their food.”
“Any reason why?”
“Because it made me forget about how shitty my home was. That’s what you want to hear isn’t it? Nothing new though, not like you made a break through or anything. I must have told this to about four other Doctors before.”
“Do you write now?”
“How can I Doctor? They don’t give me anything do they?”
“I’ll bring it in for you then. Would you write for me then?”
“Get me time outside. Not asking for much, five minutes would do me good and I won’t run away I swear. I’ll write your little story if you promise me that, doctor.”
Interview #6 - Frankie
“Good morning. Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” She lies on the bed, only opening her eyes when I speak. Her arms lay rested at her side, relaxed.
“Don’t worry, you did not wake me It would take more than a simple opening of a door and a greeting to wake me. By the way I’m Frankie, I do not believe we have met yet but I know how these interviews work.”
“So you were just resting your eyes then?”
“I was dreaming.”
“Of what? Can I sit?”
“Of course. I was just dreaming, nothing in particular; just anything away from here.”
“Why do you dream of that? Do you want to escape?”
“We all would like to escape; I don’t think any of us really like being here. These rooms are not the most luxurious now are they. I’ve heard you intend to let Kate out; why?”
“I believe it would be good for her, a form of treatment.”
“Kate should not be let out, none of the girls here should. Kate would run wild if she got out; her anger knows no boundaries.”
“And why do you say that?”
“Well anger is the only thing that she is built from. It has taken over her mind like a plague, destroying all the happiness and light inside of her. Let her out and she will spread her anger to the others. I have seen it.”
“In a dream of course. I see everything, every girl in this ward, every doctor, even every conversation with you.”
“So you know what I am trying to do with Kate?”
“The writing? Yes, I do. It is a nice idea but I’m not quite sure how it will help.”
“Well maybe you should try it too? Maybe write down one of your dreams for me. It has to be better than just laying around here all day with nothing to do.”
“It is a nice idea, but you a wrong. I do not lie here all day. I dream, and when I dream the walls disintegrate and I am free. In my dreams I can be anyone and anywhere I choose. Why would one pick the life of a human when they could be a cat, or even a lizard? My dreams allow me to be infinite, to be the God of my own world. I can mould the lives of others in my dreams, and in here, I am safe. Safe from the ones who laughed at me and called me names.”
“So you like being here?”
“In a way, yes. I could do without the walls but that will come in due time. Soon enough I shall be nothing but dreams, and then… and then I shall truly transcend.”
Interview #7 - Kate
“It’s Kate, and yes you can sit. That for me?”
“Not really but you can have it, careful it’s hot.”
“Bet it’s got no sugar in it does it? What’s a cup of tea without any sugar?”
“I’ll remember for next time. Now, did you write for me?”
“Sure did, doctor. I can already smell the fresh air. Do you know what I’m looking forward to most?”
“Complaining about how cold it’s going to be. I used to always do that. None of us were ever happy with the weather and it made me happy inside. Much preferred to be cold than hot though.”
“Would you mind reading me your work Kate? Just so that I have it for the recording.”
“I’ll do anything so long as I get to go outside. That’s definitely going to happen right, doctor?”
“The paper work is all ready for you. Just need to have your story on record.”
“Thanks doctor. I was wrong before, when I said you were like the others. Anyway, here it is. I wrote about Jamie.”
“Yeah, her crying at night gave me some inspiration. Thought writing would be better than shouting at her like normal.”
“I’m looking forward to hearing it.”
“Jamie never liked the way she looked. She avoided her reflection at all costs. Threw a tantrum the day her mum brought home a mirror for her room. Used to brush her teeth and apply her make-up in the dark she did. At first she looked like a clown but soon enough she got the hang of it. Sister was always nearby to do the last touch up’s and corrections. Her sister was good like that, a nice a girl to Jamie, only girl nice to her. Kids at school weren’t so friendly, never are though are they? Picked on her for everything, her hair, her clothes, her wonky teeth, the fact you could see her rib bones through her vest. She would go home in tears every day but her mum never did anything. Dad was never there so it’s not like he could give advice. Sister stood up for her, got a black eye and suspended from school but it gave Jamie a week without name calling. But it doesn’t stop that easy. When sister got a job it meant less time with Jamie. Early mornings and late nights to bring in more money made her stressed and angry; couldn’t keep cheering Jamie up. Girls at school put a thought in her head, a wicked thought that burrowed in her mind like a tick. Sucked her energy it did, took away all the happiness inside her until she snapped. The girls were right, she was ugly, she was weak, she didn’t deserve to live. So she cut herself, like they do in the movies. But not just once across the wrist, that wouldn’t do. That was a hissy-fit. No, she tore her flesh, plunged the knife in deep and drank alcohol to numb the pain. When she was done the bathroom was a mess with vomit and blood. Took one look in the mirror to admire her work and tell herself she was beautiful but she couldn’t do it.”
“Because she’s not beautiful, doctor. She’s ugly. She was beautiful but now she’s covered in blood. She tore away her hips and stomach to try and be like those other girls and still she hates herself. No one who hurts themselves like that is beautiful. They’re just stupid, stupid fucking girls who listened to the rumours that the others spread.”
“And where is Jamie now, Kate?”
“Gone. Dead. She bled out by the time her sister came back from work.”
Interview #8 - Frankie
“Ah, I’m glad you have decided to drop by Doctor. I’ve heard what happened to Jamie, such a dreadful thing. It’s Frankie by the way.
“How did you hear about Jamie?”
“Through a dream, I saw it all played out right before my eyes. What a silly girl, drove to insanity by cruelty. But she was young and new here so we couldn’t expect her to last long now could we? The new ones never do. Anyway I would like to talk to you about Kate, Mr Pollaph. I hear you still intend to let her outside.”
“I do indeed. She gave me what I wanted so the next time I see her I will take her outside. It may help her recover.”
“You’re a stupid man, sir. She just wants to escape that’s all; I have seen it.”
“In a dream?”
“Of course in a dream. I’ve even wrote it all down like you asked. I’ll read it to you if you promise me one thing?”
“And what’s that?”
“Don’t let her out.”
“Consider it cancelled. Now, read for me.”
“The fresh air feels good on my shoulders. It feels crisp and cold but it moves and I like that. Not like the air in the ward. That stands still, like us. Stands still with nothing to do. Out here it moves in every direction, flows through every inch of my skin and every brick of the wall. I take a look at the wall, not that high. Bet I can jump over if I climb the tree first. The Doctor is stupid, never should have let me out. Knows I would run. Maybe he wants me to. Maybe he’s letting me go. Not here now is he though. Passed me on to one of the others. Old doctor of mine. Bitch woman with a turned up nose and hair pulled so far back to hide her wrinkles. Long nails too, always scratched and stabbed me when she would tie me down. Bitch. I’d like to have a stab at her. Take my sharpened hair clip out and jab her right in the neck. So I do. Right in her throat when she ain’t looking and make a run for the tree. Feels nice to run. My legs shake with the exercise. It’s different. The wind rushing through my hair. My fingers grasping the bark and the branches. The tweets of the birds and the screams for help. All sound different after I’ve been locked up. I was right, the tree is high enough. Not gonna lock me up again now. Not gonna find me anymore. No more doctors, no more wards. Just fresh air now for me. Fresh air and nothing more. I’m free and that ain’t never gonna change.”
“That’s it, Sir.”
“And where was I? Why did I not take her outside?”
“Because you’re here with me Mr Pollaph, you let her escape.”
“Do they ever find her? Does she ever come back?”
“No, she is lost forever now. I hope you’re happy.”
Interview #9 - Candice
“Oh, Mr Pollaph, how nice it is for you to drop by. I thought the other girls had distracted you with their childish problems so much that you had forgotten about me. But, then again, there’s not many of us left now is there? Have you come to get rid of me too?”
“I haven’t been getting rid of them, I’ve been treating them. Soon enough they’ll make a full recovery. Now, your name please.”
“Ah yes, the formalities. Candice Winters. Well if that’s what you call treatment Mr. Pollaph I’ve very surprised. Poor Jamie practically tore off her entire stomach from what I heard.”
“And where did you hear that Candice?”
“You should know me by know Mr. Pollaph, I hear everything. Now, I would like some treatment if you don’t mind. I’ve been in this place for a long time and I simply won’t have that dreamer Frankie beat me out of here. Painful enough to see the children go before me.”
“Well you know what to do Candice, just write.”
“That’s exactly what I’ve done Mr. Pollaph. But I refuse to write about the others. I shall write about myself.”
“That’s not how it works Candice.”
“Now shush you, I’m an old woman, I’ve been here for a very long time and frankly I’m bored. I wish to return to my husband. Oh Mr. Pollaph I can see it all now. I just close my eyes and the walls drift away. He is standing there, with open arms in his beautiful evening jacket like old times. There’s a roasted ham on the centre of the table, and two crystal glasses with bourbon in his hand. Later that night I change into one of my gowns and we dance all night. Oh, how I do miss my old clothes, they used to make all the girls envious, and that’s how it should be. Snide remarks whispered to one another in the corners of the room. But you know it doesn’t affect you because you’re the centre of the party, not some foolish little girl. And then I open my eyes and I am here in this drab square room.”
“What have you written Candice?”
“My suicide note. It reads; to the doctors and nurses that look after me these long years, I say farewell. My time in ward 41 has finally come to end and I have no kind words for any of you. You all had the power to help me escape and none of you even raised a finger. So whilst you’re dressing my corpse, and cleaning away my belongings, I want to know that this was all on you. It could have been as simple as giving me the wrong prescription or looking the over way whilst I drowned myself in spirits, but no. Now I have to do the ugly act of creating a loop with my bed sheets. I hope you scream when you see my lifeless body hanging.”
She pauses. The smile on her face slowly falls as her eyes scan the room. Her hands grab the bedsheets as her shoulders tighten.
“Candice? Candice can you hear me? Are you okay? Frankie? Are you okay, Frankie?”
“What have you done to me doctor? I can’t dream anymore?”