April 2018 Prompt: You're ok. Breathe. Just breathe. Open your eyes. Come back. It's ok. It's over now. You're ok. Wake up. Please wake up. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to me.
Don't do this to me. I love you so much. Come back.
April 2018 Word: Mimosa
Mansfield Asylum 1865
The halls are the worst place to be. As I walk past rows and rows of solid oak doors, double bolted from the outside, I hear laughter, more like cackles.
Jeers, moans, tormented cries and terrible absolute silence drifting out from the cracks under each door.
As if they know that their diverse reactions to my presence in the hall will do exactly what it is doing to me right now.
My title is caretaker here at the Mansfield Asylum but I am just as much prisoner as the inmates themselves.
There are four levels at Mansfield. The first level is ground floor where cells are sunk halfway into the ground, allowing only a small barred window at the top for light.
These are dangerous, possessed souls, that I cannot bear to write about. I work the first floor, where the more crazy, less malicious ones live. You cannot call it living really.
Most of their time is spent eating, pacing their rather spacious but mostly empty rooms and staring out the large barred windows of their cells.
And, of course, being and becoming more and more insane.
The second and third floors are full of grieving mothers, illegitimate children and the unlucky in the wrong spot at the wrong time few.
None of them belong in this terrible place but no matter the state of mind you are in when you enter, once the place sinks her claws into you, you will never leave.
My work is coming to an end. I have one more inmate to deliver a meal to.
On my floor every inmate must have their meals hand delivered and be closely watched so as not to partake in any of the unimaginable, unhealthy, pastimes of the mentally impaired.
The last one is a woman. She is the newest, moved from the third floor only three days ago. As I near her door I can hear her talking to herself.
She sounds calm so I unlock her cell and enter the room. On this side of the hall the rooms are big and sunny with huge north facing windows and brightly colored wall paper.
You almost wouldn't know anything was amiss.
Until you saw the woman sitting cross legged on the floor, her asylum issued, plain grey dress stretched tight across her knees. Rocking, cradling an empty blanket in her arms.
"Shhh", she whispers. "Hush now, love, You're ok. Breathe. Just breathe. Open your eyes. Come back. It's ok. It's over now. You're ok. Wake up. Please wake up." Louder, more emphatic now.
"Don't do this to me. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to me. I love you so much. Come back." Tears streaming down her face. As she whispers the words, over and over.
I am awed, standing there with my mouth open, watching. She is apparently reenacting the tragedy that's brought her here. The death of her own child.
I never know much about the lives of the "inmates" before they became inmates. Thinking of them as real people with real lives makes it almost impossible to stay.
And yet, more terrifying to leave. What might drive a person to take this life as a caretaker to the uncared for and uncaring inmates of Mansfield Asylum might be a host of things.
The money? Reaching rock bottom? For me, I say that I could escape my fathers demands, my mothers disapproval and eventually save enough money to do whatever I wanted with my life.
But in the end, the reason I chose to stay employed at Mansfield was totally different. Its something about staying on this side of barred doors and windows.
About having lost something of yourself. Realizing your fractured sanity might get noticed anywhere other than by the completely insane.
We are prisoners here, imprisoned only by the fear of a different kind of imprisonment.
Then she saw me. Standing there in the doorway. Her soft tears turned into a high pitched wail. "Yoooou! Yooou!" She cried. "Yooou killed her! You! It was you!" Emphatic now.
Black hair a snarled mess. Eyes wild, unstable, flitting around the room. I imagined it clearly, me being her young lover, an unwanted baby on the way.
"Don't you try to tell me it wasn't you!" She screamed. Suddenly, her eyes focused, locking onto mine, holding a steady gaze with terrible black eyes. "You did it. I know it.
" Voice suddenly even, cold as ice, sending a shiver up my spine. She stood up, abandoning her once imagined baby. I could see it again, in my minds eye.
I had killed her baby, hadn't I? It was me, her angry father. The scene played out before me. She took another step closer. "Yoou!" Again unfocused, confused, wailing.
"You killed her, you were jealous. You hated what I had done." Again, it was me, her jealous, rejected boyfriend, watching her happy with another man.
But no! Stop! It wasn't me. I had to remember it. I had to know it wasn't me. I stumbled backwards, grabbing at the door frame, slamming the door and quickly bolting it behind me.
I lean against the wall outside her door, panting. "It wasn't me. It wasn't me. Somebody else killed her baby", I whisper, convincing myself.
I cannot forget myself in this place filled with forgotten people.
Another caretaker is coming down the hall. He sees me, concern on his face. "Is everything ok?" He asks
I just nod, then say, "Not feeling well. I think I need to use the lavatory. Must be something I ate. Would you mind finishing my last room for me?" I look up at his face as I say this.
Is it just the way the light reflects, or are his eyes as blood shot and black as the woman's in the room I just left?
"Oh, yes, of course I will", he says. Is it just my imagination or do his hands tremble as he takes the keys from my hands?
Later, in my room at the end of the long hall, I am restless. Unable to sleep. Tormented by the woman's black eyes piercing mine.
Somewhere, somebody is moaning and somebody else is answering in a low voice. Eventually, I drift asleep.
I dream about Mansfield, of course. Because if I am afraid of her by day, I am absolutely tormented by her and her black soul by night.
I am walking down the hall again, that dreadful hall, as I do every day but this time is different. There is no sound coming from under the doors. Today they stand wide open.
I can see clearly into each room and they are all empty. I walk until I reach the end of the hall and it's my room. Something is different now.
My room has the same double bolts nailed to the outside of the door. As I near I can hear someone inside, crying out, wailing the same wail as the woman with the black eyes. It is me.
I jerk awake, heart pumping. The sheets are a tangle. "No!" I tell myself. "I will not be one of them!"
Later that week, I am again awakened in the night. This time it is by a blood curdling scream. Someone is at my door. "Wake up!" They shout. Like always, I have slept in my clothes.
I jump out of bed and open the door. It is another caretaker who works on my floor. "She's gotten out!" He pants, not bothering with details. "We need you. You're the best with them.
You know how to reason with them." He says, taking off down the hall.
I could reason with the unreasonable. Was this proof of what was becoming of me? Or just the other caretakers shirking their responsibility.
Truth be told, I had once been just what he had said, even enjoying it at times. Until I had let it get to me. Until I allowed their voices in my head. Their wrecked lives were mine now.
And I just couldn't, couldn't shut them out. As I have said, once she gets her claws into you she will never let you go. I followed him down the hall because I had no other choice.
My feel unwilling, dragging themselves behind the man.
He began to explain as we walked. "You heard the scream. Someone went to check on her. When they opened her door, she knocked them down and got out.
" All I could think of was the woman with black eyes. But when we passed her door, it was shut and bolted. It was the room three doors down, standing ajar.
"Not her." I breathed a sigh of relief at this.
"Sorry for getting you up. I'd rather be back in my room drinking mimosas, too." He says, chuckling to himself.
Is it just me or is that the same cackle I hear coming from under the doors as I walk down the halls everyday? "Shes climbed up on the stone wall. I'm afraid she may throw herself down.
It may be it's a better way for her, you know, escaping this place", he says, glancing sideways at me. Is it me or does his face twitch a bit like the man in cell 108? I look away.
A few minutes later we arrive at the stone wall. An impressive 10 foot wall that surrounds most of Mansfield. There she is on top of the wall, her black eyes flashing.
Only this time her hair is so blonde it's nearly white but it is still her. My demon. A poor soul, depicting all that the asylum is in one human form. She sees me.
She moves her arms, almost like she is beckoning to me. There are a small huddle of caretakers standing at the bottom of the wall, lanterns bobbing. Trying to coax her down.
Their attempts are futile. I find a place on the wall I have climbed before and pull myself up to the top. She is there, a few feet away.
"You will never take me", she says and when she speaks, her voice is like sandpaper. She spits at my feet. I say nothing. I have nothing to say.
She is the asylum and she has sunk her claws deep into my soul.
Then, just like that, she turns and jumps off the wall. I do not cry out, I do not try to stop her. Because I know, it will be me next.