Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|Georgie stuck his tongue out, feeling like a human frog. Instead of catching a fly, it wiggled and a tiny little red pill stuck to its surface. “Swallow,” the bored night aide eyeballed Geogie’s Adam’s Apple until it moved up and down. “Damn. That was for morning. The green ones are for my shift. Nursie must be swiping downers again. I’ll have to put you in isolation. Don’t go crazy on me or it’ll be wrist and ankle cuffs again.”
It was slow march to the back of the psych ward hall where the padded cell waited. There was the unmistakable smell of the drunk throwing up his insides earlier in the night while scratching invisible spiders from his arms and face. Georgie had watched through the window in the door, fascinated by the rhythmic way the dude ran his head into one wall, then another.
“Hold your breath.”
The drunk had been taken out tied on a stretcher and carried half dead to the infirmary. The skeleton of the man had been shaking in withdrawal so hard the afternoon aide pulled the stolen bottle of whiskey taken from him, took a swallow, and near drowned the man’s gargling throat with the contents. Georgie checked the room for ants before stepping gingerly inside. There were new cracks in the walls where the drunk tore padding out with his teeth before making dust out of plaster hammered with head bumps.
“Be good. I gotta go switch pills.”
Georgie felt the door shiver and lock behind him. He was a paranoid schiz with manic depressive tendencies sometimes erupting in helpless rage. At the moment, a look of benign puzzlement spread across his face. “Ants.” They were growing in number crawling out of and following along one of the cracks. “Busy little critters.”
He sat himself cross legged on the floor, rocking, humming, enjoying the diversion. During previous stays in the room there was nothing to look at, think about or feel but the madness churning inside his head.
Georgie dipped some of the padding scattered around him into a pool of blood on the floor left by the drunk. “Trick or Treat.” He squeezed drops, making them drip down and follow the upper end of the crack down to the ants.
It caused mass hysteria and excitement. The sticky ichor reached and coated leading ants. Followers cannibalized them in an orgy of living death, only to be consumed by those further behind.
It was the most fun for Georgie since torturing his neighbor’s dog to death when it got loose and bit him. Murdering the neighbor wasn’t half so pleasant. “One twist and snap of your neck and you were a goner, Mister Sieverts.”
“What you mumbling about? Here. Give you two green pills and one blue one counteract the tiny red one, maybe.” The night aide slapped the pills down on the floor with a paper cup of water.
Georgie was so preoccupied with the rooms other guests it was the first he knew the aide was there. “Swallowed,” he said automatically while getting rid of the chore. “Leave me ‘lone. I want to watch my ants.”
“Creepy S.O.B. Never know when you’re putting me on or when you’re off your nut. Ain’t no ants. I’ll check on you, leave the room open in awhile if you keep yourself tamed.” The door closed with a sigh. The lock clicked shut.
The stir of air caused by the night aide’s entrance froze the ants in place inside the crack. “Trick or Treat.” Georgie spit out his new pills, ground them with the heel of his shoe and mixed them into a bloody paste.
The ants loved it. Georgie watched some become messengers going back into the crack, bringing a growing mass of insects out to revel in the feast. Too soon it was gone.
There were the pills the drunk had spit out, more replaced, only to be thrown up in bloody spittle. Georgie carefully prepared a new meal, dribbling some up the wall to the bottom end of the crack. “Might as well put you to work cleaning up a spot for me to rest on.”
Within minutes the ants formed a double line to the vomit source, one receiving and carrying grains of bloody pieces of pill dust, the other line marching forward for their turn.
“Damn. Thing bit me.” One of the ants clung by its forward pincers to Georgie’s bloodied hand. The ant left its head connected in his flesh when he pried the body away. The pain was intense. “Poison. Nerve agent. Gall darn drunk knew what he was talking about. Must of crawled up inside his pants and hid there.”
An idea flickered behind Georgie’s mean squinched up closed eyes. Images of a staked out Indian soldier over a red ant bed, his naked body stinking sweat under a hot summer sun with honey swabbed over his genitals came to mind. “Not real, huh? Well. We’ll ‘jest see if you’re as good as John Wayne at keeping your privates to yourself.”
Ant scouts were hunting for more plunder. It was time to get a move on or become a sacrificial offering himself. There were already a couple of ants digging into his ankles, tickling and teasing their way up where Georgie’s hot blood pulsed in veins close to the surface of his skin.
Other ants were headed his way across the floor. “One musta’ messaged about me to the rest.” Georgie had to bite his own hand to keep it from knocking frantically on the isolation room door. “Noise like that only keep me in here longer. What to do?”
“How’s about another little pill, Night Aide? I’m restless,” he called out, mouth fogging up the door’s window. His two feet began dancing a shuffle step, stomping on ants making a growing carpet on the floor.
“Sorry. Forgot about you, boy.”
The door swung open just as Georgie bit his tongue into a mouth full of blood from the pain of ants swelling the flesh around his lower legs. He swallowed in one gulp and smiled. “These ants hurt enough to make a believer out of more than a drunk.”
“Dumb ass. Quit jiving. You’re imagining things. It ain’t real. You need more than a pill. You need a bottle full.”
Georgie fought the night aide for the door before it could close and lock him in. He got one set of fingertips pried in a wedge against the closing sigh. It near tore them into shreds. His scream echoed with that of the night aide’s.
A club rose in the night aide’s hand. “You done locked us both in. I’m going to beat you to hell and gone.”
Georgie was dancing again. One ant had reached his groin. It made it easy to stay out of the night aide’s reach. A wild swing took the man off balance. He fell, rolling on the carpet of ants.
The next scream was so high pitched and girl-like it made Georgie’s ears ring. He slapped at his pants, shrugging out of his clothes, rubbing the ants off his skin. He watched the night aide become part of the living carpet.
“You kept telling me it wasn’t real. How real can it get?” The commotion had caught the attention of some of the inmates, taking turns staring at the action through the isolation room window. No-one seemed in a hurry to open the door and become part of the feast.
Georgie climbed the batting cushioning one of the walls, clinging as best he could out of reach of the floor. The night aide rose up in a cloud of clinging ants, driving his head into the plaster the drunk had laid bare.
Cheers rose from outside the door. Georgie didn’t know how much time had passed. Could he hold out until the morning shift arrived? Would the night aide be enough of a meal for the ants? Maybe they’d disappear back into their wall.
Georgie’s mind was churning like a steam engine. “That cleaning agent used to wipe down the room. That’s what must work to force them into hiding,” he yelled. His hands were growing numb where they twisted and held him in place against the batting ties.
One of the faces pasted against the window nodded and left. They’d have to break down the janitorial closet to get inside. Georgie chewed on his tongue, going crazier than crazy inside, mad with fear he’d become the fulfillment of his own demented and tortured idea. It had become all too real.
Georgie’s sweaty hands began slipping. The night aide no longer moved. He was a lump in the insect carpet feeling its way towards Georgie’s wall.