At least by the staff of the Plainview Psychiatric Center, convicted crazy man Ronnie Marshall would have been preferred as an addict. Because being an addict meant taking your drugs, which unlike outside these walls, he didn’t like to do. The term addiction had much to do with who Ronnie Marshall was, and the chaotic turns, humps, and breaks in the winding road that he had travelled his entire life seemed to reek of the very letters that made up the word. Ronnie Marshall was aware, as well as the staff delegated to watch over him, of the difference in perception from someone that was on the outside looking in at an addict, and someone who lived on the inside viewing the same kind of person. When you were on the outside, at least to some extent, you lacked understanding.
Blake Cartel was the on-duty guard that had helped to throw Ronnie Marshall into the infamous padded room, along with the assistance of two other guards. Those guards, donning perfectly white uniforms like their coworker, followed close behind as he approached the door Ronnie was locked behind. Blake came to a stop when he reached the massive steel construct, and peered inside the small square window. Three seconds passed, and he gave a curt nod of approval. He looked over his shoulder and fixed a set of intense blue eyes on his coworkers.
“All right guys, take a step back. You know how this fucker gets when he feels crowded.”
They stepped a foot back and stood still, two towering, seven foot men that Blake hoped would barely be visible to Ronnie Marshall when he opened the large door. The keys jingled as Blake extracted the key ring, keys that were useful for many of the doors that made up the three story facility. He spotted the silver key with the serrated, almost blade like shape, and shoved it into the latch. With a turn and a loud metallic click the door was unlocked, and Blake pulled it open.
“All right,” Blake said and stepped into the room. He stopped midway to the patient, and bent down enough so that he was at the level he wanted, remaining on both his feet.
The figure he was looking at sat in the corner of the room, dressed in a pair of khaki pants, and a blue long-sleeved shirt. His knees were up, his hands clasped between them. He was a black man, and his hair had grown into a fro that was uneven in certain spots. If you disregarded the clean quality of the clothes, he could’ve been a homeless man that’d been pulled off the street. His face was rough with a mostly neglected mustache and beard. The patient’s lips were white, chapped from top to bottom. Though the man was only twenty six years old, Blake could spot numerous gray hairs throughout what was mostly a head of nappy black curls.
“You ready to take your pills and be a good boy,” Blake said, his hands hanging loosely between his bent legs. He was much wider than the man in the corner, but only a couple inches taller than him when they stood next to each other.
Ronnie didn’t answer Blake’s question. His expression remained unseen. All that Blake could see—with the exception of the tip of Ronnie’s nose—was his facial hair. With his head down he could’ve been mistaken for any age.
“Ronnie,” Blake said, increasing his voice’s intensity, but being cautious not to overstep. You had to practice patience with these loons. “You know what the next option is. And Ronnie, you don’t want to have to deal with the next option.”
Ronnie, motionless to the point of looking comatose, remained silent; his posture remained unchanged. Blake couldn’t even tell if he was breathing because he couldn’t follow the rise and fall of Ronnie’s chest. There wasn’t as much as a twitch.
But Blake knew Ronnie. Blake knew that Ronnie did this a lot. He gave Ronnie fifteen more seconds to respond though, ready to get the strait jacket that he had promised to bring earlier and strap it on him.
Ronnie finally looked up then, unknowingly stopping Blake two seconds before he would’ve left the room. Ronnie however, wasn’t looking at Blake. His eyes were looking past him.
“What are you looking at,” Blake asked, glancing over his shoulder and only seeing the guards.
“LISTEN!” Ronnie shouted. He suddenly put his hands to his ears and his head back down and grumbled, “God that voice in my head again!”
Blake looked over his shoulder and signaled the two uniformed men to get the jacket. Ronnie’s head shot back up and his gaze once again locked on an area somewhere past Blake’s massive shoulder.
“I NEED YOU TO LISTEN!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, the cords standing out on his neck. “THIS STORY THAT YOU ARE READING IS REAL! WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME IT IS REALLY HAPPENING! AND YOU CAN DO SOMETHING!”
Then the help had returned and Blake reached out and grabbed Ronnie. The staff—
“FUCK! THIS GODDAMN VOICE IN MY HEAD!”
Ronnie’s eyes were still locked on a spot past Blake’s shoulder; he focused as if there was someone he could see that no one else could. His gaze was pleading and his eyes began to sting as they filled with tears. Ronnie struggled against Blake the best that he could, Blake having managed to force him on his stomach and press his weight into his back with his forearm. The other guard was holding his legs while the other stood a foot away, just outside the door, adjusting the straps on the strait jacket Blake had requested.
“I NEED YOU TO HELP ME,” Ronnie screamed, looking at some invisible person or thing. Ronnie put his head against the floor, his eyes squeezed shut and tears seeped out between his closed lids. “GET THE FUCK OUR OF MY HEAD!” He looked over the guards shoulder again. “YOU READING THE STORY! YOU! YEAH YOU! I NEED YOU TO GET HELP! I WENT TO SLEEP ONE NIGHT AND SUDDENLY WOKE UP IN THIS WRITER’S STORY! PLEASE! I NEED YOU TO LISTEN TO ME, I AM NOT FUCKING AROUND! THIS IS NOT JUST SOME FICTION STORY YOU’RE READING ON THE NET! THIS IS MY LIFE!”
“He is really struggling hard,” Blake grunted, his face flushed and strands of his blonde hair ruffled and hanging in his face. “I need you to hurry up with that jacket.”
“It’s too loose. I’m trying to tighten the son of a bitch! I—”
“HEELLLLP!” Ronnie sobbed. “WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THE STORY! GO GET HELP! THIS ISN’T FICTIONAL! GET A HOLD OF JON! HE GOES BY J. MARSHALL ON A WEBSITE CALLED BOOKSIE! HE PUT ME IN THIS FUCKING STORY AND I NEED HELP TO GET OUT! MY NAME IS RONNIE JOHNSON, FROM 2121 OSCEOLA ST. IN DENVER COLORADO! BUT YOU PROBABLY KNOW THAT BECAUSE YOU’RE STILL READING THIS STORY! WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU! GET UP AND HELP ME! I’M NOT JUST SOME CHARACTER! THIS IS REAL! AND I KNOW THAT YOU CAN SEE ME! THESE ARE NOT JUST WORDS!” Ronnie inhaled heavily, shutting his eyes tightly as he did. They shot open. “JESUS! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING! WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH ARE YOU STILL READING HIS STORY! J. MARSHALL ONLY CARES ABOUT A GOOD STORY, NOT WHAT HAPPENS TO ME! STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN AND TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE WORDS! YOU’RE HELPING TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN! THIS ISN’T JUST SOME READING REQUEST THAT YOU’RE RESPONDING TO! I CAN SEE YOU LOOKING IN THE SCREEN RIGHT NOW! AND I SEE YOU SEEING ME IN THIS ROOM WITH THESE GUARDS FIGHTING ME! THIS SHIT IS REAL! YOU CAN SAVE MY LIFE! I’M NOT EVEN THIRTY AND THEY’RE COMMITTED TO KEEPING ME HERE UNTIL I’M A DANG CORPSE!”
Ronnie struggled harder, tore one leg loose and rammed his slippered foot into the face of the guard that was holding it in place. The guard’s head was knocked back, and he stumbled back against the padded wall.
“Fuck it,” Blake grunted, and looked at the guard with the strait jacket. His words came out unsteadily, as if riding a rollercoaster with plenty of rises and falls. “Get Ms. Mason! We’re going to have to give him a shot!”
The guard looked uncertain, the strait jacket held loosely in his gargantuan hands. “You think we need—”
“Yes Jimmy! If the fact that he thinks he sees someone looking into this world like they’re reading a story doesn’t convince you than the fact that he probably broke Bob’s nose should!”
“MOTHERFUCKER!” Ronnie screamed, his eyes on the mysterious reader that the guards failed to see. He grimaced. “EVERY TIME THAT NARRATOR SPEAKS IT’S IN MY HEAD! I CAN HEAR THE STORY YOU’RE READING! THE ONE YOU’RE READING NOW! I BET EVERYTHING THAT WHAT YOU’RE READING IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS HUH! WITH FUCKING EXCLAMATION POINTS AT THE ENDS! AND STILL I CAN STILL SEE YOU DOING NOTHING TO HELP ME! YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER! STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT! STOP READING AND GET HELP! TELL EVERYBODY ABOUT THIS STORY! TELL THEM THAT J. MARSHALL IS PUTTING REAL PEOPLE IN HIS WORK! DO IT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”
“Jesus,” Blake said, grimacing with effort. Beads of sweat had broken out on his red, faintly lined forehead. He was still a young man, but he was certain this job had taken ten years off his life for the four that he had been here. He—
“GOD! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!” Ronnie roared.
Jimmy had disappeared from the room. Down the hall Blake could hear a commotion, and seconds later footsteps.
“God, you guys always have that needle ready don’t you,” Ronnie said, seeming to notice this. “You’re sick!” His eyes went toward his mysterious reader.
“HELP ME PLEASE!” Tears streamed from Ronnie’s eyes and clear, glistening snot ran from his nose. “THEY’RE GOING TO STICK ME!”
The guard that he had kicked had a hold on his legs again, blood running from his nose. Bob was a man that was in his thirties like the other two, but the newest on the job. Before he had filled out an a—
“I DON’T CARE WHAT BOB DID NARRATOR!” Ronnie screamed. “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT HIM BEING IN HIS THIRTIES AND BEING THE NEWEST ON THE JOB! FUCK YOUR STORY YOU SICK MOTHERFUCKER!”
Blake and Bob exchanged perplexed looks. Blake wondered how Ronnie had known that Bob was the newest one of the three. Bob had always been careful not to give too much away about himself; from the day he had started working at Plainview Blake had told him adamantly not to—
“I DON’T CARE WHAT BLAKE TOLD BOB ABOUT KEEPING HIS SHIT PRIVATE BECAUSE HE DOESN’T EXIST! THIS IS FICTION! BUT I’M NOT! I AM FROM THE REAL WORLD AND SEE THIS FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS!”
Ms. Mason appeared in the room the next moment, the syringe out and ready. She was a small, stone-faced, brunette woman that had let Blake know on numerous occasions that she was fed up with Ronnie, and that for the safety of all the others, they were going to have to up his doses and give him less passes for—
“FUCK YOU MS. MASON!” Ronnie screamed in a raging fury as he writhed and struggled under the weight of the two guards. White spit bubbled from his mouth with his increasingly winded, and ragged exertions. He had started to growl as his struggled to pull himself free. Ms. Mason knelt down by him. “SO YOU WANT TO UP MY DOSAGE TO KEEP ME FROM TALKING ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU AREN’T REAL! THAT THIS WORLD EXIST INSIDE A GODDAMN DOCUMENT!” Mason removed the needle’s top with her teeth and Ronnie looked toward the site unseen by the others. Looked as if looking into a pair of eyes.
“HELP ME! HELP ME PLEASE! I’M NOT JUST A BOOKSIE STORY! HEEELLL—” Ms. Mason stuck the needle into his shoulder and pushed the plunger down, “—llllllpppppp…..”
Ronnie’s eyes drooped slightly. As he struggled with them a thick stream of drool slipped from his mouth, and depended. His lips moved soundlessly then closed. The drool hung for a moment and broke loose, spotting the hard floor. He did his best to keep his focus on what he was looking at, his head rising and falling as he tried to lift it. He managed to get it up. Managed to get his eyes to look past Blake’s shoulder once more.
“Why’d you let them do this,” he mumbled, and took his eyes off the reader that he was so certain was there.
The reader that he saw looking at him and this world as if it were nothing more than words on a page.