Sonja Reineke


The gates open slowly, and I speed through them to the entrance of the hospital. I get out, collect my fancy leather briefcase from the backseat, and walk self-importantly to the entrance. Some people consider me arrogant. Well, I have every right to be.

A male nurse is expecting me already. He grins at me through the remains of his browning teeth and sees me to the counter, where I sign in and he hands me a visitor tag. A sharp buzz, and the heavy metal door swings open. The whole situation reminds me strongly of the movie "The Silence of the Lambs," but there's no Doctor Lecter waiting for me to taunt me.

The male nurse, whose name is not Barney but Jonathan, doesn't walk ahead of me, but stays by my side, which confuses me a little. It almost feels like I'm a patient and not one of the best shrinks in the country.
"Nervous?" he asks, turning around. He winks at me. Oh, wonderful. My Gucci outfit definitely made an impression.
"No," I say with a little arrogant scowl. I'm not here to flirt. I'm here to see a patient. A patient much more impressive than my outfit. I'm quite curious about her. It's not often that you see a young woman who ate her own fingers.


Greg. He suddenly remembered that his name had been Greg. He used to be a normal teenager, living in a neat little house with his parents and his bitching sister. He used to have a dog named Ghoul and had just started a job, because his mom refused to pay for his car.

He wasn't Greg anymore. He was swimming in absolute blackness. Stars were shining dimly all around him. It was cold and he couldn't breathe. Remarkably, he didn't suffocate.
It just felt this way.

He could see a blue ball in the distance. And a bright, yellow and orange ball even further away, yet much bigger. With dawning horror, he realized that the blue thing, so far away, was a planet called "Earth". The yellow thing was the sun. There were other balls, planets with names he couldn't all remember. He had gotten a D back in school that day, when Mr. Baker called on him.

That school was now millions, maybe billions of miles away. He was swimming in the vacuum of space, earth and his house with his parents and his pain-in-the-ass sister so far away he would never be able to reach them.
He made some half-hearted swimming moves, and when he realized that he would never, not even in a million years, come even close to the beautiful blue planet he was born on, he opened his mouth and screamed soundlessly into the great nothingness.


Heavy. It all felt so heavy. Her lungs couldn't fill with air, her breath came in short, painful gasps. She couldn't move. Where am I, she wondered, panic rising. Where am I, and how did I get here?

She remembered being with Greg and Andy and Stef, remembered the fun they were having and their walk to the ancient graveyard. She remembered Andy's eyes, an expression in them she didn't like. She remembered taking Greg's hand, ready to pull him away from the others, and especially, away from Andy. But Greg had only smiled and talked her into that thing they all did. It will be fun, he had said. Just relax. It's Halloween. And then there was this sensation, falling and blackness and fright.
Miranda tried to raise her hand. She couldn't. Actually, she couldn't even raise a finger.

She was lying underneath tons of earth, rocks and sand. She was buried. The heavy earth around her was crushing her slowly. But she didn't die. With a terrible certainty she knew she couldn't move and she couldn't die. She would lie here forever. She opened her mouth to scream, but instead, she whimpered weakly. There wasn't enough space around her, not enough air to fill her lungs for a scream. Lose earth gushed inside her wide-open mouth.


The nurse, Jonathan, leads me to one of those ugly white doors. They're padded on the inside, but solid steel on the outside. There's a peephole that allows me to have a look at her before she sees me.

I press my left eye to the peephole, my cheek lying on the cold metal. I see the white, padded room, the bed with the straps. All very uncomfortable and impersonal, and depressing.
I know there's not much they can do around here to make the cell appear more friendly.
Still it makes me shudder and feel sorry for the inhabitant.

She's dressed in one of those hospital shirts and sweatpants. Her bare feet are covered with ugly loafers that look like they're a thousand years old. Her blond hair hangs down to her shoulders without style. Her face is very pale, almost corpselike. She's walking up and down her cell, like a tiger pacing his cage. Yet her movements are slow. They most likely sedated her.
Her right arm is in a sling. There's a heavy bandage on her wrist and the remains of her hand. The file said that she has nibbled the flesh down to the bones, like her hand was a chicken wing.

Most of her fingers had to be amputated. They could rescue the thumb, though. She spent a long time in hospital before she was brought here. The file also said that she didn't utter a single word. She wasn't even screaming or yelping when they found her with her index finger in her mouth, biting off the flesh and chewing it.

I retreat from the peephole and glare at the nurse. He shrinks away from me with a guilty expression on his face. I'm quite good at that. I can make people uncomfortable just by looking at them. With a slight frown, I ask him why the patient hasn't been immobilized.
"Well," he says, licking his lips nervously, "Doctor Howell said, she's calm now and not a danger to herself anymore…"

"Listen, and listen closely, okay?" I say, approaching him. He swallows hard. "I'm in charge now, she's my patient. This girl tore the living flesh off her fingers and ate it! Don't you tell me she's not a danger to herself! As long as this case is mine, she will be immobilized, do you understand? If I come back here tomorrow and she's still pacing her room, probably making plans on eating her left hand as well, I'll see to it that you get fired." He gives me a foul look. I don't care. I studied long to be what I am now, and being nice to stupid people is just a pure waste of time.

I turn around again to show him that he's not worth my attention anymore. People like him annoy me. I have to deal with idiots who aren't doing their job right every day. I approach the door and motion towards that moronic nurse. He produces a gigantic key ring and unlocks her door.


She turns around immediately when she hears her door being unlocked. She turns around and looks me up and down. I know all the stares patients with serious mental illnesses will give you. Most of them are so tranquilized that they don't know if you're a doctor, a nurse, the gardener, or a space alien. This patient is different. I can see by the pure liveliness in her eyes that she has not been sedated, either. I turn around and glare at the nurse again. He jumps and scratches his thigh with the key. His eyes dart from me to her. He looks more like a patient than the patient herself.

I don't tell him to sedate her, and I don't complain, either. It would strain the relationship that will soon develop between me and her. Who would confide in a doctor who yells for straps and tranquilizers as soon as she walks into the room?

I put the briefcase down next to the table. Both table and two chairs have been screwed to the floor. I sit down on one of them. They're remarkably uncomfortable as usual. I take out her file and smile at her. I'm your friend, that smile says.

She doesn't smile. She's still looking at me like she's not sure if she can trust me. I can see that the stares by Nurse Jonathan bother her. So I signal him to leave. He slams the door, and I'm alone with my patient.

"Hello Stephanie. My name is Doctor Dannings," I say proudly. Nothing makes you feel more important than adding the 'Doctor' to your name. "Please have a seat." She looks at me for another second, then she comes over to where I'm sitting with her file scattered all over the table and sits on the other chair.

"I'm here to help you," I continue. She looks me in the eyes, but remains silent. She's not easy to read. I don't really expect an answer. The file says that she hasn't said a single word since she was found with the remains of her fingers in her mouth.

"How do you feel," I ask, leaning back. That metal chair is a real killer. She shrugs. Good, at least she shows some reaction. All of a sudden, I decide to spare us both the normal routine. She's had enough of this small talk over the last weeks.

"Stephanie," I say gravely, "why on earth did you eat your own fingers? I'll be frank with you now.
As a psychiatrist, I see disturbed people every single day. You don't seem disturbed to me. You look as normal as everyone else. OK, you don't talk much, but I bet I wouldn't either if some guys in their white lab coats came in here every day, with their needles and their impersonal attitude. Let's just assume for a minute that you're not disturbed, ill, nuts. Let's just talk like normal people do. Why did you do that?"

She stares at me like I have turned into her personal hero. "You don't think I'm crazy?" she says, stunned. Inside my head, I hear cheers and applause. I'm the first person who got her to speak. Doctor Howell won't like that. Wonderful.

"No," I say, "I don't. And I'd really like to know why you suddenly decided your fingers were a yummy snack. Don't they have a Mc Donald's in," I look at the papers, "Sharpurbie?"
She smiles. She seems relieved. Stephanie Harding, called Stef, age sixteen, from Sharpurbie, Massachusetts, her file informed me. Sharpurbie. A strange-sounding name for a town.

"Sure, we have a Mc Donald's," her smile falters, "but you wouldn't, not in a million years, believe me. You'd just think I'm crazy after all." Her shoulders drop. I know that, if I'm assuring her now that I'm willing to believe anything she says, she will stop talking again.
"Let's make a deal," I say quickly, "why don't you tell me, and if I don't believe you, I will still guarantee you that I'll send you home?"

She stares at me, gasping. Then her eyes get dark and sad again. "You just say that to make me spill my guts. And then, when I told you, you'll have me tied to my bed again, like they did on the first couple of days."

I have no qualms, a lot of people say that, and they're right.

"Well, Stephanie, Doctor Howell actually sent me here as your last chance. If you don't 'spill your guts' as you call it, he'll have you immobilized and sedated right after I leave. I didn't mean to tell you, because I hate to exert pressure, but I think you ought to know."
Her eyes become huge and round for a second. Then she starts crying.

"But you won't believe me. If I hadn't eaten my fingers, I'd be where they are now."
"Who are 'They'?" I ask. I only pretend to be interested now. So, it's like that. Another 'They' thing. 'They' are listening or watching, 'They' are everywhere. The poor girl is disturbed after all. Good thing that she'll be tied to her bed again as soon as I leave. With a nice dose of Calmotan circling in her veins.

"Greg and Miranda," she says, her voice trembling. I raise my eyebrows. 'They' even have names. I like that.
"I see," I say with a friendly smile. "Now, do you…" my cell shrills through our little, useless conversation. My lips become a thin line. Who could that be? I answer, but don't hear much. The thick metal. I gesture towards Stephanie that I'll be right back and knock on the massive metal door. It swings open almost instantly. At least I taught this nurse a lesson. I ignore him and yell several Hellos into my phone until I can hear the voice of the man who called me.

"Hello, Doctor Dannings? This is Doctor Keller. I have two rather unusual cases of coma vigil that we'd like you to check out." I sigh. Another two unusual cases? What is this, my lucky day?
"Coma vigil?" I say, fumbling with my legal pad to scribble everything down. "And where?"
"We're in Ryan's Field, Massachusetts. The names of the patients are Miranda Vowels and Gregory Jones." I blink. I manage to write down directions to the hospital in Ryan's Field and to tell Doctor Keller, that I'm on my way. Then I turn to Jonathan and take back my orders.
No straps. No calmatives. Miranda and Greg. Seems like I have found 'them.' Or maybe they have found me.

To be continued ;)


Copyright Sonja Reineke/Cecille Ravencraft. All Rights reserved.



All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Sonja Reineke.
Published on on 04/29/2010.


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