I wake up in a sea of white. Blinding sunlight pours in through an iron barred window, casting dark, slashing shadows across my body. Stark white walls, grayed linoleum floor, and the voices are silent again. I take a deep breath, relishing the feeling of air swelling in my lungs. Breathe. Where am I? I look down to find that I am wearing a plain white slip, the cloth rough as paper against my skin. Who am I? I close my eyes and fall back into the darkness.
Not much registers that first day. Women dressed all in white come in and out, bringing trays back and forth and, every so often, murmuring a comforting word. They change the sheets and bring in meals, which are always accompanied by a thin paper cup and a pale blue pill. The pills numb the pounding in my head, but I feel sluggish when I swallow them -- like my mind is encased in a thick, soapy film.
The next time they come in, I ask them why I must take these pills. They tell me that I am sick. Can you believe it? Sick! What a terrible lie. When I am sick, I feel tired and flushed and empty in my stomach, and as I do not feel any of that, I cannot be sick. At least, no more than I can be insane.
Days pass, months, perhaps even years. I do not know; time is all the same in this place. After a while, I am allowed to wander the halls, and then to eat meals with the others, and then, finally, moved into a room without bars on the windows and the door. The food here isn’t bad, to tell you the truth -- actually, I rather like the mashed potatoes that serve in the dining area. I’ve met some new people, too. They’re nice, if a bit strange. There’s a man who believes that his skin is made out of tissue paper, and an old woman who has four different people inside her head.
The women in white are everywhere. I thought they were nice, at first, but I soon realized that they are not so much polite as distant, and not so much caring as formal. They may be kind, but it is a cold sort of kindness, abrupt and never enough to fill you up.
When I ask them why I am here, I am met with swift buttered smiles and wandering glances. Their laughs are strained, and lies spill from their lips.
I find them strange, so strange -- even stranger than the other people here, sometimes. They are marionettes; their movements and their words and their thoughts are wooden, and I long for people made from flesh and blood.