Her suitcase lay on the bed, neatly packed, and with a satisfied sigh, Evelyn closed the lid. She gazed around her bedroom one last time. A shiver of both excitement and trepidation rippled through her small dumpy frame. “All ready to go”, she whispered softly. She moved over to the mirror and made sure her collar was straight and she pulled at her already immaculate periwinkle blue suit. She patted her short brown hair, gazing at herself, noting the clear brown eyes, although the tell-tale signs of her forty years was beginning to show; a softness of the jaw line, some wrinkles here and there.
"No matter," she said briskly, "I have a new job and a new life ahead of me now," and closing her bedroom door decisively she went downstairs to join her Mum for a last cup of tea before she began her two-hour journey.
Two and a half hours later, she gazed up with apprehension at the huge mausoleum that was to be her new home. The sign ‘Riverview Sanitarium’ was old and dirty, the windows were filthy and the driveway covered in leaves and branches. Matron had said she would be making a good move coming here, although she had never had a live-in job before. There have been so many rumors about this place, staff leaving suddenly, patients screaming late at night. That was absolute nonsense, Evelyn thought. Give them their medication and they should sleep through like babies. The large door opening noisily in front of her interrupted her reverie.
A tall, extremely thin man stood before her, his voluminous white coat billowing behind him. She couldn’t see his eyes behind the glint of his spectacles, but gazed with fascinated horror at the way his reptilian looking tongue flickered across his thin, almost lip-less mouth. His almost bald head was covered with hair that he had allowed to grow long on the one side, and had it swept over to cover the hairless patch.
“Do come in, Miss Martin,” he rasped. “We’ve been … expecting you.” He smiled, the flickering tongue still for a moment, and then abruptly the smile was gone, and the tongue commenced its hypnotic flicker. Evelyn entered the dark foyer and looked around her. The corridor was long and sombre, some lights worked, and others didn't. Ther ewere still others that flickered adding to the malevolence of the place. She shuddered involuntarily.
“Good evening, Dr Frost, I presume?” she asked a little shakily. She cleared her throat. “It’s been a long journey. Is there someone that can show me to my room?”
“Of course, but first come and meet the staff. They are uh…waiting in the…dining room.” He ushered her down the passage and then left into the first doorway.
Good grief, she thought to herself. What a strange looking bunch. There must have been a dozen or more, both male and female, dressed in mis-matched garb, though some were wearing white coats, not particularly clean, she noted. Although they were all standing together, as if awaiting her arrival, no one was actually looking at her. Their eyes seemed vacant gazing at a place above her head and she turned and looked but there was nothing there. Then she noticed they weren’t just looking above her head, they were just…looking. She felt her spine tingle, and uncertainty clutched at her heart. She looked back at Dr Frost, who was standing to the side, swaying on his feet.
“We have…someone new, ladies and gentlemen”, he said with a flourish. ”A new STAFF member!” He put such emphasis on that word; she frowned a little. At his words, there was a cacophony of sound as everyone spoke at once.
“Oh let it be me”- “My turn”- “I can do this”- “It’s me, it’s me, my turn” They made no sense, all talking at the same time. One dark haired woman pushed at another, and for a minute, it almost looked like they were going to come to blows. Evelyn smiled uncertainly at the group in front of her, not quite sure what to do.
“I’m Lily,” a woman sang, coming up to Evelyn and smiling, her flyaway red hair like an unkempt halo around her head.
“Hello, I'm Evelyn.” Evelyn replied, glad to be turning her attention away from the rowdiness of the others. She almost heaved a a sigh of relief that someone appeared to be halfway normal.
Instantly, she gripped her arms in a vice-like hug, and the woman started licking Evelyn’s face. Slobbering over her, long mucous strands of saliva dripping from Evelyn’s face, clogging her nose, going in her mouth, so that Evelyn gagged, fighting to break loose from the woman’s grip, while everyone just stood watching. Eerie smiles lingered on their faces, but they remained still until eventually, Dr Frost intervened.
”Stop that, Lily,” he commanded, and instantly the woman let go. Evelyn gasped, red faced, her chest heaving as she tried to control her emotions and her terror.
“What is going on here, Dr Frost? Do you have no control over these people? What is this patient doing here amongst the staff?” Her fear made her address the Doctor in a way that was so not like her.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Martin. You don't appear to be enjoying our little welcome here. Possibly, we can persuade you to have a change of heart." He smiled again, beckoning to someone behind her. An orderly, in a green uniform pushed a heavy gurney towards her. A second orderly, behind him was pushing a silver table, with a machine perched on top of it.
Her initial thought was that the machine was a bainmarie of some kind, a warmer to keep their dinner warm, and she heaved another sigh of relief. Yes, dinner, that would do it. she was tired and hungry and she was sure everything would be back to normal in the morning. She was just imagining things. She opened her mouth to reply to Dr Frost but before she could, another two men, one on either side of her, grasped her tightly. She fought now - there was something wrong with this place, these people. Those stories must be true! She tried to remember, but she caught up in the here and now of these people lifting her up onto the gurney. She tried pulling her skirt down to below her knees as it rode up, one shoe slipped off and fell to the ground, and her bare foot felt so naked. Her mind flew off at a tangent... she couldn't understand what they were doing to her, and she started to weep, hot scalding tears as they strapped her down. They pulled the brown leather straps across her body, and buckled them in to place. Her body twisted and pulled to get free, the blue periwinkle suit creasing and bunching beneath her. She was gasping, and crying now, too spent and too terrified to scream.
The silver table was pulled up alongside. It was electro convulsive equipment! Now she shrieked but her head was held firmly as the electrode band was fitted in place.
"I think we'll skip the anaesthetic, don't you, ladies and gentlemen?" Dr Frost said to the crowd and they cheered their approval. The mob gathered around her, closer, jostling each other. Some whose jaws were slack with mindless focus, others grinning gleefully, and as the first electric shock convulsed her body, her mind registered what her eyes had just seen - all of them - even Dr Frost, were wearing white strips around their wrists - patient identity bracelets.989 words