Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Atticus's Association for Mentally-Disturbed People

I know for a fact that I am crazy. Why else would I be in a mental hospital? Everyone
around me calls me obsessive, dangerous, and a monster, but in my mind, I strive to be perfectly normal. 

I make my cot every morning at precisely 9:00. Then, I comb my hair symmetrically at 9:10. At exactly 9:20, I dress in all white. At 9:31 I walk to the cafeteria down the hall and eat exactly 300 calories. Then, I return to my room and stare at the ceiling for exactly 42 minutes. It’s a ritual of mine that I have kept for as long as I can remember.

I do everything perfectly.

Isn’t that how normal people are?

As I stare at the ceiling, I contemplate what life is like outside a mental hospital. How do
normal people live? How do they die?

Here in AAMP (Atticus’s Association for Mentally-Disturbed People), people die when they become too insane for their own good. They are put down peacefully. A slow, tranquil shot.

It’s almost as peaceful as not finishing your sentence.

I hear my iron door unlock and the guard enters. “You have a test.” I sat up.

“You are requested to meet in the cafeteria in five minutes.”

“No.” Change didn’t sit well with me. I wasn’t about to let a ‘test’ interrupt my ritual. “It’s required.”

My eyes dart around the room suspiciously. There’s a metal cart sitting behind the guard,
glaring menacingly at me. On top of it, there are cardboard boxes full of tools.

The guard exits the room and the iron door closes behind him, but not before he plants a screen on my wall. I jump out of bed and try to pull it off, but it won’t budge. I take a step back
and stare it down as if a menacing look would make it fall down.

The screen was small and black. In the dead center was a number. Three.

What could three mean?


A day passes and I continue my schedule. I make my bed, I comb my hair symmetrically, I dress myself in all white, and I walk to the cafeteria. As I reach the front of the lunch line, the cafeteria worker punches my code into a computer and hands me a plastic tray of food.


Since when did I eat french toast and bacon for breakfast? My meal choices were always simple conservative. I had never even tasted syrup in my life. I turn around and place my tray on the counter.

“What’s this?” I ask as if my breakfast was some kind of parasite. The lady continued with her work, typing into her thin laptop.

“I can’t eat this,” I said. “It says in my profile I must eat the same things every day.” My voice grows more strained and my hands start shaking.

The lady looks at me like she almost expected this to happen. A smile creeps across her face. “You know the only way you can overcome your mental illness is if you get used to change. Don’t you want to-”

“I AM NOT MENTALLY ILL!” I scream as I hurl my breakfast across the cafeteria.

What am I saying?

Before I can do any more, two guards walk swiftly up to me and twist my arms back. “LET ME GO!” 

I cry as they pin me to the ground.


I wake up the next day later than usual. The screen across the room now has a blaring red two on it. I frantically look at my wrist.

Where’s my watch?

Where is my only connection to sanity?

After approximately 30 minutes of rocking back and forth on my bed, I walk to my iron
door. I assume it is well past breakfast time.

The doors could have unlocked without me hearing them, I reason as I try the doorknob. Locked.

I feel my head start to pound. A couple minutes pass and I’m still plastered to the door. I
shout through the cracks, weakly trying to get someone- anyone’s attention.


After about four hours of uncertainty, I crawl over to my mirror. My hand grabs the comb and starts furiously working through my mangled hair. I look at my reflection. My hair is now perfectly symmetrical.

Everything is perfect.

I crawl into my messed up sheets and bury my face in the pillow. What was happening to me?

That night I had a nightmare about change.


When my eyes shoot open, I immediately look at the screen. A one.

When I try the door, it’s open.

I leave.

When I get my tray, I’m satisfied. 300 calories.

I start to wonder. Was this the test that the guard was referring to? Was all of this change just happening to throw me off?

Laying on my bed, I stare at the ceiling. It’s perfectly square; three tiles horizontally, and three tiles vertically.

Three. . .

A red three. . .

But now there’s a one.

The guard enters my room. Seated behind him is the metal cart. “AAMP requests your
presence in the lobby.”

The lobby?

Was I leaving this prison? Did I pass the test?

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s time for the final stage of your test.”

A fly landed on the ceiling and started crawling across the tiles.

I didn’t move.

“We have been testing your adaptability to change. We think you may qualify as a
potential candidate for leaving into the real world. We have a nice family that would be willing to take you in. The father’s a therapist.”

I didn’t answer, mainly because I didn’t know what to say. The screen. . . The breakfast. . . All of that was for a test? It was all so hard to believe.

“The only way you can get out of AAMP is if you follow our instructions, and demonstrate superior skill in adapting to change.”


I lose it.

I jump out of my bed and clutch the sides of my mirror. My hair is matted and tangled. No symmetry.

I grab the comb and dig into my hair. When I draw it back, there’s fresh blood.

The guard pulls out a cell phone and mutters something. “. . .Lost all sanity. . . This one’s a long shot…”

He glances at me darkly and nods.

I continue to comb furiously.

The guard fumbles through the tools on the metal cart and pulls out a long needle. My comb is woven with hair and encased with blood.

He walks towards me.

I hold my comb in front of me like a weapon but my vision starts to blur.

I feel something sharp against skin.

I sink to the floor.

My eyes close.

Is this how normal people die? I wonder.

As peacefully as not finishing your-