The Girl Who Loved Walt Disney (Part 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Eric is brought to a mental institution to work closely with a patient who has a strange obsession.

Submitted: April 15, 2015

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Submitted: April 15, 2015

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The Girl Who Loved Walt Disney

 

Eric stood half way down the hallway fidgeting with his cigarette lighter in his pocket. The white walls were much more blinding than the ones he was usually accustomed to and the overall ambiance was much more sterile than normal. Having worked for several years in a similar institute, he was used to the overly quiet, focused work ethic that plagued the mild mannered workers who strolled up and down the hallways, tending to patients and slipping by unnoticed while the days ticked away. However, the admin staff barely looked up from their desks. 

An older man walked by who seemed to be mumbling under his breath. Quick, short stabbing words echoed out towards Eric as he approached him in the corridor. He could make out the word ‘Father’ even within all the background noise. ‘Daddy issues?’ Eric thought. He remembered a patient he had been dealing with who suffered from severe parental neglect from a young age. It had left him unable to form any kind of attachment, causing him to be violent, especially towards those who tried to help. A similar case, maybe? He then realised the cross he was wearing round his neck. ‘Father means God.’ He thought. For many years, Eric had been at the hands of patients who started sentences with ‘God told me to . . .’ Some of them going as far as claiming that an act of murder was under the instruction of God himself. Hearing voices was a popular trait in many of his patients yet a select few would take the term ‘voices’ and propel it to a much higher authority. Eric had always taken the Freudian theory of religion yet was still intrigued by just how effective a belief could be. The man in the corridor meandered past him giving off a strong odour of sweat and urine. ‘Complete lack of hygiene.’ He thought. Judging from his smell, Eric had gathered that the man had lost a sense of who he was. Dementia maybe?

To the desk in front of him, one of the admin staff was filling out forms on her desk. She looked impeccably smart with freshly ironed clothes and a very tidy desk. The pencil she used even looked brand new! Despite the presentation, she looked stressed and tightly wound under all the finery. The institute itself wasn’t exactly busy and the phones weren’t causing too much distraction yet she shrugged and huffed every few seconds to show a clear frustration. Her colleagues had given her ample room to breathe yet she showed no signs of calming down. Eric became intrigued and continued to watch. Her pencil was getting pressed hard against the paper and the nib was wearing down and after several seconds she threw it in the bin without a care in the world. She resorted to her draw and produced a brand new one from a packet and continued to work. ‘Obsessive compulsive disorder?’ he thought. She did look incredibly tidy and the disposal of the new pencil had almost sealed it for him. However, there was a big part of him that wanted to get involved and know for sure. He searched in his pocket until he found his sharpener.

Her desk was positioned to the side, near an access hatch which Eric quietly moved towards and entered. The admin staff were well aware that Eric was a qualified doctor in a similar institute so there was no need to stop him.

‘Excuse me, do you mind?’ Eric reached into her bin and produced the pencil which hadn’t snapped or even worn down that much. He took out his sharpener and began to twist.

‘Oh . . . please you don’t have to doctor.’ Even whilst trying to be polite, Eric noticed a distinct worry in her voice.

‘It’s ok, there’s no point using another one is there?’

She averted her gaze to the floor and bit her lip. ‘I suppose not.’

He put the freshly sharpened lead on the desk and gently moved her notepad to the left. ‘Good as new.’ He smiled and began to walk away.

 Once he had gained enough distance he glanced back only to see his prediction come true. Sure enough she had dropped the pencil in the bin and moved her notepad back to where it was. ‘OCD’ he thought.

Eric had always been fascinated by the world of mental health. From a young age he had always been intrigued by those who weren’t all what they seemed. To him, it was a pool of no limitations or expectation. It was something which could rarely be replicated. Each patient was significantly different from the last. Their stories were so engaging, so unique and oh so fascinating. Eric would always approach each patient with the same mentality. He was on a mission to find out why this particular person had ended up in front of him. Why had they fallen off the edge and what could Eric do to cure them?  Each case was a mystery; a safe that needed to be cracked, a puzzle that needed to be solved and Eric was there to deliver the solution no matter how odd or obscure it may be.  

An older man approached him from behind, placing a cold hand on his shoulder.

‘Eric?’

He turned around to see the warming smile of a doctor who held his hand out. He was about fifty something with long side-burns that came into points by his mouth. His white coat had a number of stains on it; a complete contrast to the admin lady and his overall look was incredibly tired and worn out. Eric guessed as it was early morning he had been working a night shift and hadn’t managed to go home yet.

‘Yes. Doctor Hopkin I presume?’ They exchanged a handshake as Hopkin led the way down the hall. Although he was much shorter than Eric he could move fast and clearly didn’t want to hang around in the corridors for much longer.

‘Please forgive the short notice but we really had to get you down here. I hope there was no issue with the institute?’

Eric trailed behind as he tried to keep up ‘No no not at all.’ His white plimsolls were squeaking on the freshly mopped floor as he feared about drawing attention to them both.

Hopkin led them into his office and closed the door. As far as doctor’s offices went, Hopkin’s was by far the most unique Eric had ever seen.  An incense stick was burning on the desk and the office was littered with numerous files and folders. The décor was alternative to say the least with a multi-coloured carpet and several vases that seemed far too bohemian for a doctor’s office. His desk was buried underneath a mound of papers that didn’t seem to be in any particular order and the smell was a combination of incense and coffee. He began to lose faith in the man who brought him here. Eric was considerably younger yet still obeyed a strict discipline of presentation within the medical practice, something which Hopkin quite clearly did not.

‘Did you want a coffee Eric?’

‘No thank you.’ Hopkin went to the side and poured himself a cup of black coffee before bringing a chair out for Eric and taking his own place behind the desk.

‘What do you think of the institute?’

Although Eric hadn’t had the full tour he could already see that this particular institute was much grander in size, particularly in its patient numbers. The one he worked at was relatively low key compared to this one.

‘You definitely have more staff here; it makes our one look quite bare.’

‘Well we deal a lot more with higher risk patients so I guess we’re just being prepared.’

‘Where are your divisions then?’

‘The lower risk patients are kept on the east wing, that’s where I met you and the higher risk ones on the west.’ Hopkin yawned deeply and rested his head in his hand. ‘You must forgive me, we had quite a busy night and I’m not entirely myself.’

‘Oh really its ok, I know the feeling.’

Hopkin took a swig from his cup and leant back in his chair.

‘I hate it when violence takes place.’

Eric remained silent to see if any more information was on its way. It was an old interview technique which he found very useful. The silent approach forced people to automatically feel like they need to fill the silence, thus leaking more information than originally intended. Many school teachers used it when questioning naughty children. Whether it would work on Hopkins was doubtful yet there was no harm in trying. He patiently waited for several more seconds.

‘Yeah, one of our nurses got attacked by a patient and we had to restrain him.’ Eric subtly smiled to himself.

‘Was anyone hurt?’

‘No, no but once an incident happens it sets that patient back a fair way. We thought we were making good progress as well.’

Eric immediately understood Hopkin’s frustration. He had always imagined a patient’s progress like a game of Jenga. You can spend months building it up but in the end, it only takes one push to send everything crumbling down and having to start all over again.

‘You almost wonder if they were making progress at all?’

‘Exactly!’ Hopkin took a large swig of coffee before rubbing his eyes with the sleeve of his coat.

‘Eric, who has been your most, let’s say, interesting patient?’

He quietly laughed. Eric had a catalogue full of patients who he could talk for days about. The most interesting ones were usually the people who initially frightened him in some way.

‘I did a home visit once for a man who lived in a block of flats just round the corner from the institute. As soon as I pulled up, this guy decided to stand on his balcony and wave a machete above his head in order to get my attention. He then spent the whole visit trying to feed his penis cornflakes. Perfectly nice chap though. Or the guy I went to see who decided to keep a horse in his master bedroom.’

‘A horse?’

 ‘Yeah, and to make him feel at home he sawed the door in half and laid hay down on the floor. Why you ask?’ Now Hopkin laughed.

‘Well, you’re probably wondering why we’ve asked you to come here.’

Eric chuckled nervously ‘Well it did seem a bit peculiar.’

Hopkin took off his glasses and rubbed his forehead before turning to a file cabinet and rummaging through the dividers. Dr Hopkin was clearly unorganised in his filing method yet he still managed to find the particular folder he was looking for.

‘Please forgive me but would you mind just running through your qualifications one more time?’

Eric scratched the top of his nose.

‘I graduated from UCL with a first degree in medicine, went on to do my masters and have currently been working at Sheerwood institute for the mentally unstable for the past three years.’

‘Any experience in Psychology?’

‘We did several courses throughout medical school, it’s not my major but I can apply it where necessary.’

Hopkin nodded whilst tightly holding onto the folder. The noise from outside grew louder as patients and staff came rustling down the hallways. Eric could tell Hopkin was nervous by his body language. The folder was clearly quite important.

‘Dr. Hopkin, is that what I’m here for?’

He loosened his grip and relaxed slightly.

‘Yes, sorry.’ He breathed deep and slid the file across the table.

‘Patient 109, Sarah Fletcher, 19 years old, diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffers with severe delusion.’ A picture of Sarah was on the front showing her baring a wide smile. She had long dark hair and high cheek bones. She was incredibly thin but her eyes shone bright even for a patient photo.

‘What about her?’ he nervously replied.

‘Eric, this one is a real mystery.’

His ears pricked up for the first time. From the way Hopkin held the folder, he could tell this particular case was going to interesting from the start. He picked up the folder and flicked through the pages. It was incredibly thick with numerous interview tapes and crib notes littered throughout. It seemed more like a police report folder than a medical one. There were photos that were poking out from the side that were waiting to be studied. Eric had already heard enough to want to be a part of it.

‘What’s her story then?’

Hopkin pulled his chair in. His coffee cup was empty now.

‘Sarah was born in Worthing to her parents Amanda and John Fletcher. She was born healthy to a couple who appeared loving and caring from the start.’

Already Eric could sense parental issues playing a major part.

‘As she grew, everything seemed fine, however, at age two her mother was walking home from the shops only to be mugged and stabbed by a gang of youths. Well I say stabbed, they completely mangled her. She was rushed to the hospital but she died the following night. According to the police report, the youths only stole about twenty pounds from her purse. The newspapers called it an ‘act of evil’.

Eric flicked through the pages as he nodded, trying to take everything in.

 ‘Needless to say it brought a cloud over the household that was unbeknown to the authorities at the time. Before she died, the couple were very well respected so there was no need to monitor them at all. However, after the incident, her father developed a serious case of agoraphobia. Eric, this guy wouldn’t even open the door for the postman. This of course, applied for Sarah as well.’

‘Wait, wait, what about food?’

‘Well he decided to pay a young lad from the street to get his weekly shopping. He was the one who gave us all this information when Sarah was brought in.’

Eric took out a pencil from his coat and circled certain sections in the notes.

‘And is this lad available to interview still?’

Hopkin shook his head. ‘He’s given us what we need, there’s no point in bringing him back.’

Eric jotted down a few notes on the side. It helped him to digest information more easily and would be useful for reference later.

‘Anyway, after a few months, his mental state had deteriorated further. Neighbours had started bothering him with unwanted questions about his wellbeing and the whereabouts of Sarah which further worsened his paranoia. Sarah being young was unable to understand fully and he feared she would eventually find her way outside. It was then he decided to keep Sarah locked in her bedroom; you’ll see the picture in the file of the numerous locks he used on the door.’

He swiped through the numerous photos until he laid eyes on the bedroom door. There were fingernail marks in the blood stained wood where Sarah had been trying to claw her way out. A small hatch was positioned below which Eric had gathered was for passing food and water through. A neighbouring photo showed a bucket which she must have used for a toilet.

‘So he kept her locked in there this whole time?’ I mean agoraphobia is one thing but to go from that to a total neglect of his child?’

‘Well he thought he was doing the right thing. As far as he was concerned he was feeding her and most importantly keeping her safe. He even blocked up and nailed her window shut. This girl wasn’t even exposed to sunlight.’

Eric resorted back to her photo. She was incredibly pale and clearly didn’t look well.

‘How long was Sarah locked in her bedroom?’

Hopkin sighed and looked down to the floor ‘Fourteen years.’

Eric continued circling and jotting down notes.

‘So I imagine Sarah is illiterate?’

‘Well . . . not exactly. Sarah did in fact have a form of education during the time she was imprisoned.’

‘The father?’

‘No no no, her father was far too unstable.’

Eric looked up in confusion. He was usually fairly good at predicting outcomes but he couldn’t quite put his finger on this one.

‘Eric, Sarah was given one form of entertainment during her time in the bedroom. Little did she know that this would ultimately shape the way she perceives her entire life and all those who she would later come into contact with.’

Eric put down the file for the first time and pulled his chair in closer. Hopkin was right from the start, this was an interesting case. ‘What was it?’

‘He gave her a television set and a video player, along with every single Walt Disney film made to that date.’

They were silent for a few seconds before Eric chuckled nervously and wiped his face with a tissue from his pocket. 

‘Seriously?’

‘It sounds bizarre doesn’t it?’

‘Why Disney films?’

‘We don’t know for sure.  My professional opinion? Her father believed the world was full of evil. Disney films teach us that good always defeats evil no matter what. I believe he wanted to keep her in a state of delusion, where she believed that good would always overcome evil. With only Disney films to keep her company, she watched them over and over again for fourteen straight years during her peak of development. Whenever a new film was released, her father would buy it and give it to Sarah through the hatch. It was like Christmas for her.’

‘How did it affect her?’

‘How do you think? Sarah didn’t just take on board the idea of good before evil, she became absorbed by Disney!’

‘Well like what give me an example.’

‘. . . Let’s just say she doesn’t live out her daily life like you and I do.’ Hopkin paused to pour himself another coffee.

 ‘At age seventeen, her father committed suicide by hanging himself from the stairwell. He phoned the police moments before. They found Sarah in her room watching the closing credits of Cinderella and she screamed when we tried to turn it off.’’

Eric sat back and tried to gather his thoughts. In all his experience he had never come across such a bizarre story yet it was more intriguing than anything he had heard before.

‘When we interviewed Sarah, it was then we realised just how much Disney had affected her. It seemed that everything her father strived for ultimately worked. Sarah was consumed by Disney! I had no choice but to admit her to the psychiatric ward with immediate effect. I wanted to get to the bottom of everything.’

‘And have you?’

Hopkin breathed deep.

‘No. Sarah and I don’t get on in the slightest.’

Eric looked up from his notes. ‘In what way?’

‘Eric, have you ever watched a Disney film?’

‘Of course I have!’

‘Well then you’d know how this all appeared to Sarah. Her father had just died, she was taken away to an unfamiliar place and held captive by a man who was preventing her from escaping. It’s a classic Disney formula. In other words, Sarah believes she is the heroine to her own Disney film.’

Eric looked at the hospitals paperwork when she was admitted. True to his word there were notes of her uneasy admittance where she showed extreme violence towards Hopkin.

‘So if she’s the heroine then that makes you the . . ?’

He paused and sighed. ‘. . .I’m the villain.’

Eric laughed and shook his head in disbelief.

‘I’m not joking. Because I was the one who admitted her, Sarah genuinely believes I am an evil man who is doing this purely for my own sick pleasure. She won’t talk to me or even look at me. It’s a nightmare Eric.’

‘Look, I’m sorry you’ve been landed with possibly the most bizarre case I’ve ever come across but what has this got to do with me?’

Hopkin stood up and walked round to the front of the table.

‘Eric, I think you can cure Sarah.’

He liked the compliment but wanted to find out more.

‘Why me though?’

‘If you are familiar with Disney you’ll know that in most incidents, a prince or a male figure rescues the princess or the girl from whatever danger she finds herself in and they both live happily ever after. I believe Sarah is waiting for a male to come and rescue her. I have witnessed her talking to herself at night speaking of a male who will come and take her away. I want you to befriend her and make her feel that you are that man. In time she will trust you and then you will lead her away from her delusion and she can move on, leave the institute and live a normal life. You are young and attractive which she will recognise straight away. Being called Eric is just a lucky bonus.’

‘What does being called Eric have to do with anything?’

He paused.

‘The Little Mermaid?’ Look, if you want to get to the root of Sarah’s delusion, I suggest you go away and watch as many Disney films as you can. Get in her mind frame and understand how all this must appear to her.’

Eric buried his head in his hands and continued to shake his head.

‘This seems far too heavy handed for my liking. I mean we’re not even supposed to befriend patients Hopkin, we’re under strict rules to maintain a professional relationship at all times.’

‘I understand this isn’t entirely ‘Kosher’ but I’m at my wits end here. Sarah deserves a normal life Eric. If this doesn’t work then I don’t think anything will!’

He pondered for several minutes whilst staring at the photo of Sarah. She looked so innocent and confused; like a deer who had lost its way home. He thought of the time she had spent locked in that room and all the pain she must have suffered. The other photos showed the blood from her fingernails where she had clawed at the bedroom door; her cuts so vicious and fierce that it made him cringe. Eric liked taking on new challenges, even if he was slightly unsure whether Hopkin was doing this ‘by the book’. Overall though, he knew deep down that Hopkin was right. She did deserve a normal life, no matter how unorthodox the solution was.

‘Ok I’ll do it.’

Hopkin clapped his hands together.

‘Fantastic. I want you to go home and prepare yourself; in three days you’ll be meeting her. It’s important that you understand as much about Disney as possible, it’s the key to winning Sarah’s trust.’

‘And what do you do if you don’t own any Disney films?’

Hopkin went under his desk and brought out a large cardboard box full of old VHS tapes.

‘I have a lot of grandchildren.’ 


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