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Caged & Away

The Case Study of William Anderson






The following represents the interview transcripts recorded by Doctor William Anderson on the hospitalization of HCD victims on behalf of the World Psychiatric Association.




27th July, 15:37


Good afternoon. My name is Doctor William Anderson. I am a fully qualified psychologist and an employee of the World Psychiatric Association. Up till now, my studies have led me to specialise in the analysis of different types of treatment found across the world for personality disorders such as schizophrenia. I have now been assigned to the task of investigating the treatment of the latest addition to the family of mental illnesses; HCD. I intend to do a comparative study of psychiatric hospitals in several European and North American countries. I have chosen Briar Hill Asylum, an institution that is renowned for the progressive actions it has taken to manage the disorder, as my first port of call. As the disorder is still relatively new with little data existing, I have determined it best to use a qualitative approach of interviews to get a picture of how the disorder is being managed. It is my intention thereafter to shed further light on the issue with a statistical study, hopefully with the WPO’s endorsement, to make for a proper comparative analysis that will allow us to provide better advice for healthcare systems to best manage this disorder.


 

1st August, 11:22



Please introduce yourself.


My name is Doctor Patricia Smyth, I am the chief psychiatrist here at Briar Hill.

Thank you for your time Doctor. What can you tell us about HCD? What is it? How is it diagnosed? When was it discovered? And why, I suppose, is it important?


Well HCD was only discovered a few years ago and the only reason that we discovered it was due to that first pandemic which I’m sure you remember. Now as a result of that, and the circumstances that we were all in back then, it was actually discovered not by anyone in our psychiatric discipline, but by epidemiologists and virologists. They had a really hard time trying to find a vaccine and pinning down how the virus was developing so quickly. Eventually though what they realised was that there was a symbiotic relationship taking place. Now, this isn’t unique of course by any means. We’ve seen this before. The most obvious examples that come to mind is how the bubonic plague was spread through the symbiotic relationship with the fleas on rats. Another is the Dutch Elm disease that wiped out much of the Elm trees of Europe in the late 20th century, which was an alliance between a fungus and a beetle. Here though, we had a union of a virus with a mental illness. HCD stands for Hyperactive Contact Disorder, in essence, this means that the patient tends to seek direct physical contact, a condition which, as you can imagine, is the perfect bridge for the virus to spread.


Of course, of course. And I suppose beyond that then, could you describe for me what the traits or symptoms are of HCD? If there was someone in my life who had it, how would I know that this was what I was dealing with?


Right, so great question. There are several symptoms of the disorder. The only thing is that since the research for this is still so fresh, the symptoms are changing all the time and through our work here we are discovering new things every day. But anyway, one of the most obvious traits of the disorder which you’ll notice almost immediately in someone who has it, is that they have a general inability to detect or understand personal space. So they don’t really understand what an appropriate distance is to keep yourself from someone else, the way the two of us are doing right now. If one of them was here with us they would be sitting right up close to you and if they were really bad they might even try to put a hand on you to touch you.


Now that’s just the most obvious one you’ll see. But the more data we collect here, the more symptoms we’ve picked up on and we’re getting better and better all the time at pinpointing the disorder at earlier stages. A personality trait that I know might be of interest to you Will, is that they often have an inflated and egotistical opinion of themselves. In other words, they display a flagrant disregard for the well-being and lives of others. They tend to believe that they are exempt from the rules and that they can do whatever they want whenever they want. And I suppose in keeping with that is their own aversion to any violations of their privacy. They don’t like being judged or watched while doing anything, which again is funny when you consider that they have such a disregard for other people’s personal space. One of the things we’ve noticed then that’s in conjunction with that is that they have a preference for big open spaces, to such an extent that they almost have mild claustrophobia.


By far the most important trait of all that HCD has though which we identified from the first is the sluggishness of the disorder.


What do you mean by ‘sluggishness’? Does it develop slowly in the patient?


No. When I say sluggish, I mean that the disorder only presents itself very sluggishly. That means that most of the time it's not presenting itself and it's completely undetectable. So all those symptoms I just listed off to you there, you might never see them at all. A person could have HCD and everyone down to their closest family members could be totally clueless. That’s why we must start setting up outpatient facilities in the next few years where we can monitor the population at large because at the end of the day only a trained medical expert like myself can actually detect the disorder. That’s not to say that reporting by ordinary people isn’t valuable to us, but only we can actually diagnose someone with the disorder. And that’s important not just from a medical point of view but an ethical one too. People can be very subjective. We at least are completely objective when we diagnose people with the disorder. I remember once we had a father contact us about his daughter, swearing on his life that she had the disorder. We tested her and sure enough, she had it. But the thing is is that the disorder is itself genetic and can be inherited over the generations. So instead of just the daughter, we had to take in the whole family because as we correctly and objectively surmised, they all had it. The disorder doesn’t pick and choose, and neither should we.


Fascinating.


Yes, it really is. Now if you don’t mind, I do actually have my lunch hour so unless you have any other questions for...


No, no. That was fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.

 

1st August, 14:00


Could you introduce yourself, please?


My name is Olaf Nielsen. I am the director of this facility. I apologise for my lateness, by the way, I was having such a lovely time at lunch that I forgot you had booked this appointment with me-


No, no. Really it's fine. Again, I know I’ve said it before, but really, thank you so much for your time.


Oh, you’re more than welcome Doctor Anderson. Now, what did you want to quiz me on?


Well, I’ve already spoken to your colleague Doctor Smyth on the medical nuances of HCD. I was hoping perhaps that, since you’re the chief administrator, you could educate me a bit on what the legal and practical sides are of it.


Of course, yeah, no problem at all. Fire away!


Ok brilliant. Well, I guess, to begin with, I’d like to know a bit about how people are admitted. Is it voluntary? Is it enforced? How and where do you get your patients, I guess, is what I want to know.


Yeah yeah, sure thing. To start with I just want to say that we have a great, like I mean really great, working relationship with the police force. We advise them on the symptoms of the disorder and then they help us with apprehending the patient, so it really is a give and take relationship we have where both of us gain from it. The police have been absolutely invaluable to us with reporting cases and then helping to bring people in. I cannot emphasise that enough.


With so much pressure coming down on us though from the government to contain the virus, we’ve had to expand our operation. So last year we released an app on Google Play Store which ordinary people can download on their phones, and that app allows them to film and report any incidents that could be indicative of HCD behaviour. Those reports which they upload, go straight to a spreadsheet that both the police chief and I can see. The two of us then divide up the cases and hand them down to our admin teams, they go through them and they get back in contact with the user either to request they provide more data or to thank them for submitting the report to us. Every time someone submits a useful report, they’re awarded credits. Once they get enough credits, they can use them as vouchers online.


I imagine though that you must get a lot of really unsubstantial reports where people are capturing snapshots out of context, no?


Well yes, but we see it all as part of a bigger jigsaw. So, one inconclusive little report of someone, let’s say taking a walk on the beach, might be nothing on its own. But maybe then a dozen other reports will come in of that same person doing a bunch of other things and together you start to put a case together where we can determine if that person needs to be taken into our care.


Ah okay right. That’s absolutely amazing, and would I be right in saying then that all those reports from the App are archived?


Yes exactly. Everything is archived. Sometimes we have cases that are stretched out over a whole year if not more, with a patient displaying symptoms in intervals. Those would be the more ‘sluggish’ cases as Patricia would put it. Between ourselves and the police, we now have three warehouses that are just jampacked with footage and recordings of people and we’re planning on opening three more as we expand.


Would there ever be a chance of someone requesting their data? Just in terms of GDPR and all.


You’d think so, but no. You see if we were to acquiesce to a data request like that then a potential patient could get wind of us monitoring them and make a run for the hills. Under the Public Health Act, we cannot under any circumstances allow someone with the disorder to get away. Even if they don’t have it, its too much of a risk. So no, the public has no access to this data at all. It's only accessible to trained and qualified staff who have security clearance.


On that note then I’d just like to quiz you on any other legal issues you could be liable for. Like does the judicial system play any role in determining how long someone is going to stay here? What is the average sentence for a patient? [Nielsen chuckles]


There are no sentences. No one is here because they broke any laws of the land. They’re not here to be punished. They’re here to be treated.


So there are no trials then?


Oh good God no! These people are mentally unstable. No jury is going to skype in to watch some lunatic make a show of themselves. No, no, no [shaking his head in good humour]. No trials at all. Only diagnoses. As I said, we’re not punishing anyone here for breaking any laws. We’re just trying to help. So once we’ve deemed the patients to be recovered and sufficiently rehabilitated to cope with the social environment, they’re free to go.

Director Nielsen, thank you for your time.


It’s been a pleasure, Will.


 

August 2nd 09:02



Could you introduce yourself, please?


My name is eh, Jonah McCarthy. I’m the um... Head of Security here.


What would you describe as the duties of your role exactly, Mr McCarthy?


... well eh... it’s kind of in the name you know but anyway... I’m eh in charge of the security of this facility and making sure everyone here is well... you know, safe and sound and all. It’s

our job to make sure that no one gets in or out of here without... without proper authorisation you know.


And how do you achieve that Mr McCarthy?


Well, see it really all comes down to prevention see and because the people here are so dangerous, all the preventive security things we do revolve around the patients. The last thing we need here is this pack of loonies running wild and making a whole riot out of nothing and you know they can be carriers for the virus too so can’t be too careful... because they sure as Hell ain’t! [laughs to himself awkwardly].


And what are these, ‘preventive measures’?


... hmm well for a start you see we keep em all isolated... no two patients are together... that’s part of the therapy they say... keep em quarantined for long enough and they won’t want to go out and socialise no more... the rooms are soundproof and covered all over with these digital panels so the doctors can stream their eh their therapeutic is it? Therapeutic yeah, that’s the word. Therapeutic material and treat them... After that now obviously we have to move them from time to time so my team and me... we suit up in full protective gear from head to toe... very important too apparently that they never see our faces... so we have masks all the time... and eh can’t be too careful either, so when we move them we escort them with a two-metre-long pole on either end, which they say is the proper distance you know, and that’s hooked onto a collar around their neck... just in case they had that there disease they all talk about you know.


Do they ever get violent?


Violent? Oh yeah, big time, in a really big way, especially when they first arrive... a lot of them don’t take it too well see... because of the whole infection thing we got to strip em, shave em and then scrub em with sanitiser... just in case they have the virus you know... a lot of them still have a bit of fight so we’d use cattle prods to electrocute them and then take them for electro-shock therapy... they say the thing they have is caused by nerves anyway so the electrodes are supposed to be good for them... if they’re still going at us after that, or even if they’re not, we put them in straitjackets which they say is therapeutic too... the thing is, is that we now have more patients than straitjackets so a guy on my team came up with an idea... we eh, we wrap em up in wet canvas see and when it dries it gets real hard and pushes in on their ribs, makes it real hard for them to breathe... they say the virus makes it real hard for you to breathe so I say teach these loonies here a lesson and show em what they’re doing to us all...


Do they ever improve?


Well you know, it’s a bit like when you have a wild dog in the house... you have to just keep hitting it and hitting it till it understands... keep hitting these psychos here long enough and they get real docile after a while... then again, some of them do just go fuckin mental... the doctors say it’s the disorder showing its true colours... they say they have to do more research to know what’s going on... until then, I’ll keep to my cattle prod... and stay safe.


Mr McCarthy, thank you for your time.


Yeah, no bother.


 

August 2nd 11:15



Could you introduce yourself, please?


I’m Doctor Robyn Leeson. I’m responsible for the day to day psychological well-being of the patients here.


Thank you for your time. What does that entail exactly?


I keep an eye on how the disorder is developing in them, sometimes on how they come to terms with it.


Do they ever get a grip on it?


Not really. We can get them docile and tranquil enough. But the moment we take the foot off the pedal with their meds, they’re gone. They relapse immediately. Sometimes even worse than before.


Do you think that the measures you employ here are working?


I don’t particularly care if they’re working or not. All I know is that they’re necessary.


Necessary?


They’re carriers of filth and disease. They’re animals. They’re a risk to all of us. Do you really want their paws all over your face? Because if you do, then you’re going to die, and you’ll die slow. They’re human vermin. They’re a relic of the past, we can’t allow them to spoil the future. It’s for the greater good of society. Future generations will thank us for what we do here. What we’re doing here is a guarantee of our safety.

How are you guaranteeing it?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, they’re all completely quarantined and isolated. It’s a genetic disorder so once they all die out, that’s it, they’re finished. They don’t get to breed. We aborted any pregnancies that they had when they came to us. We’re progressively sterilising them all.


Do you see the effects of that reflected on a day to day basis when you’re monitoring them?

Only as you might expect. They’re resentful. Hateful. Angry, Despairing. Nostalgic for the freedom we were once so foolish to give them. Some of them talk about how they want to kill us all. Some of them just sit there and cry and cry. The women in particular keep on begging me for a chance to see their children.


Are their children here? In the same facility as them?

Oh yes of course. We need to contain the spread. We have a whole children’s ward that’s dedicated to keeping them caged up.


Are the children here because of their parents?

Sometimes. Sometimes it’s the other way around. We have one family admitted because their five-year-old had it. He couldn’t resist his psychological desire to engage in inappropriate behaviour at a playground. His parents never taught him that it was a historical relic and not a toy that he could climb all over and play with. They never taught him that he was a carrier of the disease.


Do you ever let the begging get to you? With it going on for day after day I can only imagine how -


Never! All it takes is one moment of contact and it could jeopardise our entire treatment programme for them. They’d be back to square one. Worse most likely.


Back to square one? So, do you not believe then as Nielsen does that eventually, they reach a point where they’re ready for the social environment?


Let me ask you this. Would you feel comfortable knowing that a former asylum inmate was living next door? A person you know who has a disorder that can go dormant and resurface with total spontaneity and who could potentially endanger you and everyone you know?


Do you think you can keep everyone quarantined forever in here?


Ethically speaking, yes. Practically, probably not. As far as I know, Nielsen is working on a scheme to track the movements of any patients we release, make sure that they don’t stray too far and then round them up if there’s any big public occasion due to happen. I don’t think it will work though. They’re too dangerous. I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.

Doctor Leeson, I would very much like to speak to some of the patients here, would that-

I’m not comfortable with that either.

Oh I see, well I was really hoping to-

Have a good day, Doctor Anderson.


 

August 10th 10:16



Good morning Chris, I hope this isn’t too early for you?


Never too early mate. Not like I’ve got anything else to do here being cooped up day and night with nothing to watch but the same old boring health advice they stream on our big TVs.


I see. How long have you been a patient here Chris?


Hmmm... Gosh... Good question haha. It’s so easy to lose track of time in here. Every day is the same. Tomorrow is yesterday and yesterday is tomorrow. Don’t even know if it’s day or night right now... no windows! I’m guessing though it must be seven months? A year maybe? I genuinely don’t know... feels like only yesterday I came here. It all blurs into one big blob of time.


That’s okay. Would you mind describing for me how you were admitted here?


Well, I was in a supermarket, getting groceries for the week, you know, minding my own business, not really paying attention to anyone around me. Once I had everything in my basket, I got into the queue for the till. And I was just standing there thinking about nothing important... probably what film I was going to watch that night or how I was going to get a raise at work... anyway, I had my earphones plugged in and the next thing I know someone is calling at me from behind. I remember pausing my music and turning around. This guy was standing behind me, a whole line of people actually. They all had plastic hands and plastic faces... or maybe it was gloves and masks, that would make more sense... sorry, it’s hard to remember.


Anyhow they all looked scared shitless. I do remember their eyes being wide open. They looked like they didn’t know whether to be afraid or angry with me. They were all pointing at me. Parents were shielding their kids. People were backing off. Others were raising their hands as if I had a gun on me. Then the guy behind me started roaring at me: “You’re out of your box!! You’re out of your box!!” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Turns out there was a box marked out on the floor that I was supposed to be standing in for social distancing. I was a bit oblivious to that, so all I knew was that this guy was having a freakout. I thought he was crazy, so I just ignored him and put my music back on.

The next thing I know though staff members are approaching me, one of them was on a phone. I look around again and everyone’s there with mobile phones filming and taking pictures of me.


That was when I screwed up. I tried to defend myself. I tried to match them shout for shout and justify that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. It’s a free country, after all, a man should be allowed to stand where he wants in a public space.


Bad idea. They got more and more freaked out by me. Staff started asking me to leave. I felt like I was a paedophile, or I had said the Holocaust hadn’t happened, you know as if I had done something truly awful. In the end, I decided they weren’t worth the trouble, abandoned my shopping and went home.


I got home, and lo and behold I was all over the internet, and not just footage of me at the supermarket. People had filmed me as I went home. They had also been filming me from before I even had that incident at the supermarket. Someone was stalking me. Within hours, there were police at the door dressed from head to toe in protective gear to take me away.


After that, I wound up here and got diagnosed.


Do you feel that what happened was unusual?


Shit yeah. I’ve seen plenty of people, old people especially, going around without gloves or masks or nothing, standing around like normal. Where's their stalkers? Don’t know if you’ve noticed Doc but there aren’t many old people here. They never go after them, even though it’s “genetic”.


Thank you for your time, Chris.


 

10th August 11:10



Thanks for seeing me, Stephen. How are you this morning?


You’re the doctor. You tell me. You people always tell me how I’m feeling. If you don’t, then you always tell me how I should feel.


Well, I actually don’t work here Stephen. I do genuinely want to know how you are.


Well since you asked, I can tell you honestly, I don’t know. I don’t feel nothing no more. Don’t get the chance to feel much around here. It’s all blank white walls staring down at you.

How long have you been here?


Two weeks... I think.


And if you don’t mind me asking, how were you admitted to Briar Hill?


God, I hate that name... basically me and my pals, we got out of school early. We had plans for the weekend. My friend John, he’s from a good family, they’re mint with cash. His dad works as a manager for an electronics company or something.


Anyway, John told me and the boys that he’s gotten a loan of his dad’s pick-up truck and that he’d be able to drive us up to the hills where we could party out. The news was pretty sweet cos we were thinking we would have to get a bus or something, so I put my hand up to him and said “Put it right there!” and he high-fived me. That was it. That was all we did. But we did it in a residential area. Some old bag was watching us from her window and called the police on us, said that we were standing too close together for a start but then said that me and John had high-fived each other. The police came around and that was it.


Have seen nothing but white walls and men in plastic suits ever since.


Not even your parents?


No, they took me in immediately, there and then just like that. Didn’t have a chance to go home and get my stuff. They took us to the station, did some weird interview with me and did some tests with a psychiatrist and that was it, I was carted off. My parents are here too I think, my brother and sister too... But I haven’t seen them... we’re all in our own isolation units.


What about your friend, John?


They took him into the station. But once they ran his fingerprints, they called his dad. His dad came down, thanked the sergeant, and took him home.


Did you ever question why that happened?

I did. I tried to tell them that it was him who high-fived me. I told them to ask the old lady. But they wouldn’t believe me. They said it was my word against his.

Against his?


Yep. John was never one for tight situations. He had a reputation for squealing his way out by calling Daddy.


Thank you for your time, Stephen.


 

August 10th 14:43



Thank you for seeing me, Sarah.

Don’t flatter yourself. It’s just nice to look at a human face for once and not some dumb ass screen.


All the same, thank you. Now, if you don’t mind me asking, how did a fine young lady like yourself end up in a place like this? I can see from your profile that you had a pretty successful life; flying colours from college, team supervisor for an international consultancy firm. What happened?


Inevitability happened.


Inevitability?


I could only take it for so long. I got restless, impatient. I couldn’t take it any longer.

Couldn’t take what any longer?


The waiting. The endless fucking waiting. Just sitting at home, cocooned in my little apartment with no one to talk to.


Do you not have friends? Family? Did you not have Skype or Zoom?


Of course, I do, dumb ass... I mean... I did... But it was so frustrating. The sound would crackle, the picture would move slower than the sound of their voice. The worst of it though was that they were so close and yet so far. I could only scratch the screen. I could never reach out and touch them, never feel their warmth or hug them. I couldn’t even shake their hand. I’m a people person. I need to socialise. I need to be out there doing stuff and meeting with people, face to face. Obviously, though, the introvert lunatics who run this place don’t understand that.


How did you end up here then? What decision did you make that led you to where you are?

I went on a date... I tried the whole video-dating thing, but it just doesn’t work. It feels too weird. I needed to actually meet someone, face to face. So I went on Tinder and matched up with a guy and he asked me out. It was nothing special in particular, just some drinks and chats. I knew a place, an underground bar that was still open despite the ban, a speakeasy basically.


Anyway, we went there and had a lovely evening. Then as he was about to pay the tab, he reached for his wallet and instead reached for a badge. Turns out that the only people on Tinder these days are undercover police trying to catch people out for breaking their quarantine. Within minutes there was a police squad on the scene and the whole place was shut down and everyone carted off. Don’t know what happened to everyone else, but I ended up here. They poked and prodded at me the way you medical people do and decided I was “psychologically deformed.” Can you believe that? “Psychologically deformed”.


Who would have thought that the desire to feel the warmth of a hug from another human being, could sound so profoundly ugly?


Sarah, thank you for your story. Have a good day.

Yeah, for what it’s worth.



 

The following represents Doctor Anderson’s personal notes on the above transcripts.



The whole thing is a sham here. The whole thing. In my entire career, I have never seen such an overt abuse of power by medical authorities.


I went into this study with an open mind. I have always been open to new diagnoses and theoretical developments in the field of psychiatry and psychology. My openness however has always been contingent on there being at least some degree of evidence and proof to back up such ideas. HCD is sorely lacking in this area. This was a fact that I was aware of before my investigation though I had assumed that the staff here would have some undisclosed insights perhaps that had not been published yet.


There is no sign of them having carried out any scans or tests of any kind on the subjects here. They have nothing concrete to show that these people are in any way mentally ill. All they have is footage to back up their own ideas.


I blame this lack of thoroughness in part on the virus itself which was responsible for killing off a great many veteran scholars of the psychiatric discipline, and nowhere is this more evident than here.


Patricia Smyth was a marriage counsellor up until a few years ago. Olaf Nielsen has been an administrator in both the public and private sector for years but never got an adequate promotion until this position. Jonah McCarthy was a college dropout who worked as a bouncer for various night clubs. Robyn Leeson’s title as ‘Doctor’ meanwhile is purely descriptive of her job. As far as I know she never even finished her undergraduate degree, she was drafted into this position at the height of the pandemic crisis. In other words, before Briar Hill, they were all nobodies of either ill repute or no repute at all.


What we have is thus an institution that is stocked with inexperienced and gullible people willing to believe and preach any cuckoo theory to justify their own authority and handsome salaries. Following my interviews with the patients, I decided to investigate the asylum’s finances. As suspected, I found to my horror that it was state-funded. However, the amount of funding they receive is contingent on the number of patients in their care. This would explain Chris’ observation of there being no elderly people hospitalised here, an observation which I found to be true too. The reason for this is simple – they want patients that will live longer and whom they will get their money’s worth from. Nielsen and his team are specific in the type of people which they want here. That is why they filter through so many cases that are reported to them, why they encourage people to act like Stasi informers by stalking potential patients.

The very nature of HCD accommodates this funding model. Being so flexible as it is, they can apply it to people in whatever fashion that suits them. The ongoing discoveries from their so- called ‘research’ allows them to shift and change their diagnoses as needs be.

During my time here I have seen the staff engaged in flagrant abuses of power in their treatment of patients. Jonah McCarthy and his team especially seem to be more concerned with brutalising patients for their own sadomasochistic pleasure than with any real security issues. I have deduced meanwhile that what Robyn Leeson is engaged in is nothing short of psychological torture and manipulation. In short, this was the reason I was only able to interview three patients; all others were too disturbed to have any form of an intelligible conversation with. In actual fact, many seemed to be developing symptoms of genuine mental disorders from their time here.


Even getting to interview the three patients that I did manage to meet took a much greater effort than was warranted for such a request. I had to wait for a week while the WPO corresponded on my behalf with Nielsen and Leeson who forced me to jump through a series of bureaucratic loopholes before I could finally sit in front of the patients.


It is my solemn wish that the horrors of this psychiatric hospital be revealed to the world and that the perpetrators be held to account for the horrors they have wreaked upon so many innocents. It is my intention now to bring this about.


 

The following represents Doctor Anderson’s personal diary.




15th September



Dear diary,


This diary is the only means of expression available to me anymore. They may monitor the spoken word and the digital word, but the written, that still eludes them.


They will not break me. They cannot break me. I must not let them. The world must know. The world must know it all.


I regret to say that my circumstances have changed drastically these last few precious days. To say that what I have born witness to here has angered me, would be an understatement. More than anything else I have been angry with myself. I was angry that I had allowed myself to be charmed and wooed by their stupid smiles and gestures. I was angry that I had believed their assessments to be genuine. They had hoodwinked and deceived me. In my recklessness, I allowed my feelings to get the better of me and confronted Nielsen.


Nielsen no doubt felt his position to be endangered by me and so his temper flared too. We argued and argued. And the bastard, he kept defending himself, kept defending him and all his wretched staff. Finally, he wore down my patience and I couldn’t take it anymore. I struck him across the face with my fist. He crumpled to the floor clutching at himself like a child. He looked up at me wild-eyed as though the hand of God himself had struck him. Then he cried out “He touched me!! He touched me!! He’s one of them!!!” Within seconds, McCarthy’s cronies were bursting through the door and I was being dragged away. I write now from my cell, fingering my shaved head and shivering in the disinfected plastic garments they’ve afforded for me to cover myself with. My eyes sting red even now from the sanitiser they scrubbed me with.


McCarthy called a halt to the beatings only so he himself could have his way with me. He had no doubt, long tired out any satisfaction from kicking innocent patients. In me, he found his chance to act out his degenerate fantasies of bashing the face of a Doctor. But then again, as I was reminded time and again, I am not a doctor anymore, not even a human being, as a matter of fact, just a number on a spreadsheet. And the numbers are expendable.


I tried to argue with them, I tried to tell them that their theories were misplaced. But Leeson only replied by informing me that “We’re the experts here. We know what we’re talking about. You don’t know anything. You’re mentally unhinged. We know what is best for you and everyone else. All your talk and accusations are nothing more than mad ravings, and that is all the proof we require to keep you in our loving care.”


I hope that woman dies slowly... and alone.


Her poisonous words though have left me with much to contemplate. All my experience, my qualifications, my intellect, have been reduced to nothing. Had I been imprisoned or exiled or executed even, at least my words and arguments would still stand. But here, here I have been branded with a label. No one may hear my words now without knowing this label – that I am a madman, and all I say is an expression of this lunacy.


Given the infinite time I have now been given with this quarantine imposed upon me, it has led me to deliberate on much of that which I had taken for granted, in particular:


‘What is sanity?’


There is no place more relevant to ask this question than this horrid place, at this horrid time. Who decided that the natural instinctive human proclivity for contact was a sign of madness?

Who for that matter decided that on top of that it needed to be given a name, that it had to be categorised and explored in all its possibilities?


And could not the same be said of all the disorders and illnesses which we have catalogued down through the centuries? Only a minority of people are ever afflicted with truly disruptive mental disorders. Is their behaviour such an offence to our banal normality that they must be branded and exiled as an ‘other’ amongst a sea of saneness? Is it in our nature, our herd instinct, to perceive outliers as dangerous? As black sheep and wolves that threaten us? The more I deliberate on it, the more I see how utterly subjective it is. There is no objectivity to sanity. The whole world could be mad, but because it is the whole world, it is the lone voice of reason that must be branded as insane.


What is sanity? From what I can see from this cell with its cold blank walls, sanity is whatever the “experts” decide it is. And that is a dangerous thing indeed when the expertise of such “experts” is sorely lacking.


 

November 5th


Dear diary,


My previous journal was confiscated not long after my first entry. Weeks have followed weeks. Like everyone else forcibly quarantined here, I have lost track of time. My memory drifts from one horror I have suffered to another.


A few days ago, however, my circumstances changed again. For the first time since I had punched him, Director Nielsen visited me. He sauntered into my cell with his hands tucked into his pockets and a somewhat embarrassed look on his face. I said nothing as he entered. I had no wish to enrage the little bureaucrat any further than I already had. He stood there in the middle of the cell and looked me over, scratching his temple as he did so, as though he were still trying to believe something.


“I’ve just been on the phone to a relation of yours,” he said. “I hadn’t realised that your uncle, Roger Anderson, was the Roger Anderson from Anderson and Weissman Pharmaceuticals... We get all our medicines and drugs from his company... The two of us talked about you. He’s been looking for you for a while, he wants you home. As it so happens, I was able to inform him that Doctor Leeson’s latest assessment now shows a clear improvement in your condition... you are free to go.” He paused then for a second and wagged his finger at me. “On one condition, you never speak of this, ever, to anyone. Your uncle has agreed to it already, he said it would be bad for business and I agree with him.”


And that was that. Within an hour I was released from the facility and riding in a taxi booked for me by my uncle. I write to you now from my apartment. I may be silenced, but I’m safe. I have my life back.


I’m free.


After a few days of being at home, however, I find it all quite surreal. There is a vaguely unsettling feeling to it in fact. The word ‘free’ has a strange hollowness to it, having only a ceremonial or symbolic quality. Each day since my release, I have woken up, cleaned myself, eaten my meals, and carried out my work from home like clockwork, all at the right and correct hours to do so. When the day is done, I go to bed at the same time. Then the next day comes and it is the same. Everything is done at the right time again, according to an invisible schedule that escorts me around the house. I have not gone outside. I have not walked the empty streets. All my food has been ordered to the door. I look out the window and I see my neighbours doing the same thing on the other side of the street, living the same cocooned life as me like specially conditioned mice or cattle.


All this has led me to ponder on a single nagging question:


Have I brought the asylum home with me?


Or has the asylum always been here?


 

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