Lightning flashes for a split second revealing a bluish hue across the building known as Arbatian Mental Institution. It was built in 1975 and has long lasted against court appearances for suspected sexual and physical abuse of clients among other wrong doings. There is never any proof of foul play, just words whispered from ear to ear until it reaches the right ones with enough power to intervene.
Who knows what these walls could say?
A set of ten steps leads up to the entrance, beyond that is a field of dead grass. Pale yellow and light brown patches of grass are spotted like polk a dots among lakes of dirt. The Institute has two large black doors with bronze angels mounted on them protruding up towards the sky. There was a lot of speculation about why that was, they seemed out of place and have no reason to be there. At the tip of the roof is a statue of the grim reaper. The owner of the building, Jonathan Arbatian, was obsessed with death. Said if he embraced it and learned more about it, that he would live forever. So he had a statue of Death himself cast over the top to watch over us all.
Inside the doors is a long hallway with lime green walls, the floor tile is often sticky with dried bodily fluids or other liquids uncleaned by the lazy janitor. To the left is the receptionist area, behind the cluttered desk is Mrs. Cranston, a real charmer that one. She has a scar across the left side of her lips. It’s quite intimidating when she smirks, like staring at a villain of an old action movie.
Past her office is the visiting room, well what used to be one. Where life was once restored by visiting friends and family has now turned into nothing more than fold out tables stacked like dominoes under frail white sheets. Chairs piled to the ceiling with a film of dust hugging every piece of furniture.
The room is used for storage every so often, a coldness still lingers in the air where warm vibrant feelings used to crowd. There hasn’t been a visitor since the summer of 1979. A woman came to see her son, Derrick Wilson. Unaware of the new medicine change and daily abuse, she tried to hug him which ended in her getting her throat torn out. Derrick went into a fit of hysterics grinding the skin between his teeth as he rolled around in a puddle of his mother’s blood. She bled out before anyone could help, to this day you can see a ruby stain on the floor that couldn’t get scrubbed out.
Down further is two more large white double doors that stay locked. Upon entering, the staff must turn and lock the doors behind, absolutely no excuses. One staff didn’t back in winter of 1999. A client refused to take meds and began to cause a scene being non compliant. A staff opened the door and without thinking ran over to help leaving an escape plan wide open, the client saw an opportunity and pushed past one staff and ducked under the other staffs arms. He rammed into the doors screaming wildly down the hallway. He was lost in the snow as the crystal flakes came down in heavy heaves caught in blistering wind. He was never seen again, nor was his body found.
Past the double doors is the recreation room. Twelve big round tables are placed randomly around the area. Legos with missing pieces, coloring books filled with scribbles and half completed crossword puzzles are placed in the center of the tables, a vending machine that only takes your money sits in the left corner of the room. There are three windows that look out into the yard, all three covered in thick steel bars like prison viewers. To the right is a doorway leading to the kitchen area, pans older than the building are used to cook the slop they call food.
A wide heavy door at the back of the room leads to another open reception area where staff and nurses reside when they’re not working. Five hallways spread out like spokes on a wheel. Each one labeled WING A to WING E. Wing E is closed off at the entrance due to being attacked by a massive hailstorm in 1987 leaving it completely uninhabitable. The worn out roof tops caved under the weight filling rooms with debris and ash, six clients died horribly in their sleep. Two of them suffered to their last breath as they felt their intestines turn to mashed potatoes under heavy mounds of bricks. The Institute was too cheap to repair the Wing and it cost money to tear it down as well, so they just closed off the entrance. Every now and then people say they can hear alluring sounds creeping through the cracks of the splintered boards during night shift. Dr. Arbatian’s office is at the far end of Wing C facing the desk. The door stays locked, Dr. Arbatian is rarely seen, if at all.
There are many odd characters here, some are bat s**t crazy, others to this day claim they’re innocent. Some clients minds are so fried it’s like their brain was dipped in boiling water and returned. There is an uneasy feeling that creeps up on you like a stalkers gaze through a window, this place is full of pain and regret. Welcome to Arbatian Mental Institution, all are welcome here.
‘I was blinded by the false belief that something like this couldn’t happen to me. I always told myself I would grow old with a beautiful wife, have three kids and lots of grandchildren to spoil, live in a nice house out in the country with acres of land. The American dream, guess that’s what it was, cause I just woke the f**k up.’
“Hurry the f**k up!” A guard yells grabbing Kiel by his collar pulling him up the cracked stairs. Weeds and small patches of grass stuck out of the rough slits in the concrete. Kiel looks down straining to keep the pace with the guard. The double doors creak open and a putrid smell hits his nostrils, turning his head he begins to cough and dry heave.
“Quit crying, bet if it was your mama’s gash you were smelling, you’d feel right at home, huh?” The guard grabs him and comes to a halt with a firm grip on his shoulder.
“Morning Mrs. Cranston, got a new patient being transferred. Local celebrity came to grace us with his presence. It’s Kiel Vander.”
Mrs. Cranston licks her thumb and turns a newspaper without looking up. She turns the page two more times then stands up straightening out her white shirt and long skirt. She pulls her blue vest forward and steps out of her office walking up to Kiel.
Her wrinkles curve around her cheeks as she forces a smile and whispers, “Is that right? Well, I could care less if you were the f*****g president. Here we have rules and punishment, you step out of line and you will learn. You back talk, try to escape, give anyone trouble, you will learn that God himself can’t save you. Am I understood?”
The scar on her lips shines under the bright light. A shadow forges on the ground from her stance, for a minute Kiel could have swore he saw something in it.
“Y-Yes ma’am I understand.”
“That’s Mrs. Cranston to you prick. Give me his ID and papers I’ll get him signed in.” She turns into the office opening a drawer and pulls out an outfit with a pair of boots. “Here strip em’ and get him started.”
“Yes ma’am,” the guard responds, “come on you heard the lady, strip.”
Looking around down the open hall and back at the guard Kiel asks nervously, “You mean out here in the open?”
“Boy you strip by choice or force, make up your mind.” The guard pops his knuckles while cracking his neck.
Kiel looks around one more time and slowly begins to unbuckle his pants. Dropping them around his ankles the guard looks at him and narrows his eyes muttering, “Quicker, I got better s**t to do besides monitor a naked boy.”
He starts to pull his clothes off faster and stands in the middle of the hallway covering his crotch with his hands. The coldness of the area mixed with the pungent stench turns his stomach.
“Arms up!” The guard shouts. Kiel examines his name badge on his jacket as his crotch gets stage fright. LENNY DINMORE.
“Turn around, spread your cheeks,” Lenny says in a firm voice. His face only changing expression to show anger since he met him. Turning around Kiel pleas, “C’mon man were in a hallwa-”
A night stick cuts off his sentence as Kiel hits the floor groaning in pain. Holding his left cheek he feels it grow warm as a metallic taste oozes past his gum. Blood drools out as he sits up trying to catch his balance.
“Wanna try that again? Spread em boy.” Lenny spits while tapping the night stick gently into his left palm. Kiel turns away and leans forward. His head fills with an invisible weight like a balloon being filled with helium. The pounding sensation flows through his head with the starting point being his cheek.
Lenny grabs Kiel turning him around and shoves a dirty crinkled outfit and a pair of worn out boots into his hands.
“That’s it, turn around keep walking.”
“Can I at least get dressed I mea-”
“First time I was being nice. Ask me another stupid question and you’re gonna crawl to your room,” Lenny sneers.
Kiel closes his mouth and stares ahead in fear. Walking up to two white double doors Lenny bangs on it yelling, “Raw meat!” A staff wearing all white comes up to the door and jangles his keys searching for the right one. His stubby little hands flip keys for what seemed like an eternity before finding the right one. The door clicks and before it can open all the way, Lenny pushes him forward into the recreation room with strangers.
About twelve clients were in the room, two sat at a table talking, pointing towards him while whispering. One woman with curly black hair sat with her legs crossed, peeling scabs off her legs revealing open sores. One man sat quietly in a corner with his knees up to his chest and his arms pulled around them. His shaggy brown hair stuck out in tufts like an unkempt birds nest. One guy laid on the floor staring at the ceiling with his hand in his pants touching himself.
Kiel looks ahead as his cheeks turn red, naked in a room of strangers. Not just strangers, insane strangers. The soles of his feet peel away from the grimy tile. A sickly sweet smell infects the air. A man walks by in front of him with hair missing from his head as if it had been pulled out. Dry blood crusted around the edges of the rings of exposed skin on his head.
“Keep moving. It ain’t like anyone here hasn’t seen a c**k before,” Lenny mutters before nudging his hand into Kiel’s back.
Another door is passed through leading to a large oak desk. Papers, loose medication and coffee rings decorate all over. A nurse sitting behind the desk smoking a cigarette looks up at Lenny. Heavy blue mascara was smudged across her eyelids, sloppy lipstick covered her lips and left a ring on the b**t of the cigarette and she pulled it out. She ashes the cigarette into a styrofoam cup filled with cold coffee and burn outs.
She takes another drag and says, “Wing A, room 14.” Lenny pushes Kiel down a hallway to the left. Rusted steel doors with small windows line up both sides of the hallway. The lights above flicker and range from brightly lit to dim. Reaching a door, Lenny stops and uses a key to attached to a string from his belt. The door opens releasing another foul smell of urine and body odor. Kiel closes his mouth with one hand as Lenny grabs him and pushes him in. Kiel stumbles in and hits his leg on the metal frame of the bed, bent over in pain he hears the door slam behind him with the clicking of a lock following.
He looks around the small room. There’s just enough space to hold a dirty stained mattress too small to lay on with no pillow, a yellow sink with build-up in the drain next to it, and a steel toilet in the corner with no toilet paper. He sighs and looks up to the ceiling.
He puts his outfit on, dirty white overalls smelling of moth balls and bile. The boots squeeze his feet as he forces them in sending needles of pain into his soles. He sits back on the bed and feels the metal grate digging into his body, the mattress only a few inches thick at most.
He lays back on the uncomfortable bed trying to find a resting position but his feet dangle off one end. He tosses and turns looking around with a cold uneasy feeling in his stomach.
‘This is my new home, life wasn’t supposed to be this way. For the first time in a long time I’m terrified. And the worst part of it all, I don’t even know why I’m here.’