A Number.

The carcasses didn’t bloom that spring as I had fallen accustomed till then, the lilacs burning and the verdancy shriveling up into nullness. The patchy blotted surface and the warped edges of a dying leaf nestled in my fist; only dead matter was allowed inside our rooms. We were dead matter as well. Compostable and biodegradable, just to send us down an isolation ward and our brains would fry out. Why were we alive then you might ask. We weren’t alive, we were being kept alive. 

It was countable, all the sounds that you could possibly hear being locked up in a mental asylum or as our administrators claimed, ‘being taken care of in a healthcare facility’. The lies were evident but we all were blotches of lies to the community, a so-called collection of sanity and we were the dismantled piers waiting to drown in the numbing fire or at least here, in the deafening silence. As a reader you might be thinking that there would be immense yelling and weeping and without a doubt there was but like all degenerates, any form of expression was silenced, it had to be. Thuds on the metal doors, nails scratching at the rubber walls which were saturated with human misery, the walls had to be our only consolers, the screeching of wheels thrice a day as the caretakers intoxicated the patients with drugs or should I say, hostages. 

Once in a while if you were lucky you could hear the presence of human life, of course in only screaming and weeping as stretchers would be pushed out of medical wards and you were left to wonder; was it another Electro-convulsive therapy or a Prefrontal Leucotomy and now you might ask how do I know these terms and if I do then why am I here. Well, not all questions can be answered. There were nights, an odd number of them but more frequently now when you could hear the grappling and the squeaking of harnesses trying to keep patients ‘intact’ under an insulin-induced coma, it was said to help them get rid of epileptic disorders, in all honesty, though there weren’t any records and neither any names, only feeble reminders of previous existences like the scratch marks behind the mirror in my room. I wonder if this had been a slaughterhouse before us, alas we are nothing but animals instead. 

A number. That’s what I recall from my last visit outside of my claustrophobic white-washed den. I had to be losing my mind to be called into doctor’s appointments so often and if you think that these medical checkups were checkups at all, you are gravely mistaken. The appointments varied for every patient and surprisingly the saner you were, the more often you had to be called. It was as if regrowth and healing were vices that degenerates like us were not supposed to commit, call it being a guinea pig or a test subject, the upper hand was that even like animals to be slaughtered, we had been taken in. There was no question as to what you would be injected with and if you dared to ask, ‘It’s just a tranquilizer.’ It is common knowledge perhaps, the more tranquil the human mind is, the lesser is the recalcitrance. 

“276. Your vitals appear to be normal however from where did you get the scar on the forehead? We do not take care of you folks just so you can weep about self-harm.” “Oh, I was banging my head on the wall. It’s awfully silent all the time don’t you think?” I was returned with a stern glance as Mr. Mahesh passed on my documents to his secretary as if it was no less than a rotting treasure. “You’ll thank me later.” I stared back at him, the only calculated form of defiance that could be tolerated for I knew well enough. Patients to be treated are never given numbers; humans in retrospect are never numbers, it’s just that we tend to revolve around them. The number of people that died, the number of people that drowned, the number of people that were raped, etc. However, it isn’t uncommon in a place of goodwill under the eyes of virtue and empathy for the despicable to be converted into a slavery of concealment. A ‘mental facility’ of course had to be the works of God with angelic people revitalizing those deprived of sanity when even in all light shadows do lurk.

“Your transcript is here. Not that you’re going to run away or you can for that matter but keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, some of us have to get rid of the garbage of society.” This wasn’t a revelation to me when Farihan, my dear nurse and angel of death would bring me an update of where I was in transit. Yes, we all were nothing more than packages waiting to be shipped, waiting to be paid for and then to be wrapped and trafficked like luggage in the trunk of a car. 

You might think I am hallucinating or being delusional, after all, I am a hostage in a mental asylum and God knows whether anyone at all even gets to read this but yes, I am going to be transported tomorrow. From Pakistan to Russia, that’s how widespread the underground systems are, encompassing gradually yet stagnantly. I have heard whispers, minute mumbles about how much money I am apparently worth, it sickens me but even the mentally dreaded are called to be sinners, a curse from God says the society. “I told him you were alone. And I told you not to let anyone in. Oh, where is it? Where did I put it? He can’t come in yet. Not until…” Farihan’s voice trailed off as I started to cough up blood. How had it begun?

I remember how different the sun of tomorrow had felt, finally, my day of shipment had arrived: ‘Your order has been processed. Thank you!’ I can see the white walls adorned with nothing and lights, there are always lights; for the shadows of communal integrity have to be eradicated from being just shadows, we have to be made use of in some way or in some corner of the world. Farihan had whispered to me, nothing of sweet heresies but instead that they will be coming for me. Picking me up from a slaughterhouse just to dump me in another dumpster, one which wouldn’t pollute their sanctity. But I had let someone in. An unforgivable sin indeed. I had let you; the reader inside my holy grail of refuge. Farihan had found these notes as I sat re-editing them. I had become what they had preached, ‘the defiantly disobedient’ and every red darkens in its stead. 

I have come to believe that maybe you’re interested in the manic that I seem to constitute, the corralling thoughts, a realm of corrupting constitutions and fumbling conscience. How unfortunate though, the lilies have softened, the tulips have bowed and the daffodils have receded into despondency. The blossoms didn’t last very long this time around the year; what a tragedy indeed. It echoed in the fumbling headspace as I was lifted, arm in arm, the feet dangling away only to await a box of my own, a cardboard space that even if for a second I could own a realm, sing the song my mother used to sing or just exist; if not even human but at least a number. A number in someone’s record:

“Nozzles rose as nightingales aboard; 

The resting knot ablaze.

Drifting apart, ringling away, withering one by one;

Ring it once, twice or thrice:

I shall rift away.”   

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