The Comfort House Chronicles: The Room
written by: RayFed
The falling beads of water momentarily caught the street lamps dull glow as they continued their suicide plunge from the clouds to the wanting street below. Some cautiously lingered in the cascade of the languid yellow beam before slithering down the creased, worn paths formed in the air by their predecessors. Travis lies spread-eagled on the pavement seeping into the crevices waiting for his wet splattering companions to be weighed down by their own watery mass and accompany him in his journey to the furthermost cracks in the pavement. The raindrops seemingly ignored the pale man stretched out on the cement and refused to fall on him, but he was still getting wet. Swirling into the sewer without the slightest lamentation. The now emulsified drops, continued in the footsteps of their wet crusade to unholy places.
Dawn hammered at Travis's skull, letting its rays pass through his eyelids and into his rhythmically pounding brain, where the dully colored lights flickered on and off in their uninvited, comatose manner. When the chill drizzle ended, he rose and started to walk. That the vision was calling to him there could be no doubt. Above him the pallid stars began to chatter underneath their shrouded blanket of cloud and smoke. The filmy lights of the lonely North Star began to penetrate the thickness of the smoggy blue horizon and the quiet star lit his way.
"Where is it, Travis?" the star whispered to the traveler.
"It's still lost in the forest, playing hide-seek. How I wish the vision would stop hiding, how I hate to seek it out." replied Travis.
The star asked no more of him as it silently lit his path. He tried hard not to breathe, so that he wouldn't interrupt the conversations of the distant twinkling lights.
Crows cawed somewhere above, taking care not to let their feathered plumes brush against our bedraggled traveler. He felt that they scorned him; Scorned him for staying on the ground and not taking flight with them. The crows shunned the odd ground bird without wings, and Travis batted at the wretched creatures, but they took flight and glided on the wings of the new morning sun. Travis was left on the road between the trees, robbed of the feathers and hollowed bones he knew he was surely entitled to. Unperturbed by the clingy mist, he made his bed between the dirt and litter in the park. The stars were quiet and he felt completely and utterly alone, like an infant left on someone's doorstep , but then he imagined that he was not on a doorstep, perhaps a hallway, or more appropriately a labyrinth. He needed to sleep after last night and sleep was a fantastical Fury of numbness that muted all of Travis' thoughts, and protests; He took her gloved hand, and descended with grace into her endless depths.
Travis found that sleeping brought clarity, and clarity brought fresh dreams. Dreams of a feathered ostracism and chattering stars, of streetlamp light permeating through raindrops and litter alike. The noonday sun's prying fingers found their way through his closed eyelids and Travis didn't fight with them. He welcomed the light beams as he welcomed the dreams and the illusions that weren't quite illusions. He awoke to a world that had not fully taken form before his bleary eyes. Then, the forest, the park and the city beyond came into full focus. It was just as Travis had left it for the beckoning tide of his dream. The crows still wheeled in the sky above, but they were elsewhere now, too far away to hurt him. Far enough to be banished from the deepest recesses of his mind. He sat in the dirt, in the midst of himself, to watch the leaves blow across the cold, wet ground and settle back down, unperturbed as ever, but he could still hear it calling to him.
Hands. Hands reaching out. Tugging Travis out of his waking dream, silencing the talking stars with their long, bony fingers. Hands that knew nothing of the place, where the moon was in sight and a park bench may have stood, once upon a time. He pulled away from the hands of the white-clad owner with a moan, but didn't move. Instead, he fixed his attention upon an orange Monarch butterfly flitting in a panic on the cold blast of the October breeze and debris. The hands motioned articulately, a graceful gesticulation that meant nothing to Travis. The hands grasped him carefully, maneuvering a hovering needle that swerved above his arm with a cold metallic grace. There was no struggle for him or any motion as he was lulled into unnatural sleep.
The Room Travis saw through his opening eyelids was entirely devoid of color. The last tinge of a borrowed hue leaking from the barred window had fled. The quiet shuffle of porcelain and feet could be heard just beyond his sense of recollection. The low pitched drone of silence began to ripple through the drabness, but was immediately terminated by a series of swift footsteps and hushed voices that permeated the room. A silver needle once more hushed everything, as if gently extinguishing a candle.
A quaking sliver of light dripped through the small barred window, suspended towards the top of The Room. Drop by timorous drop it dappled the un-ornamented stone floor with brilliance. Tainted color and a rippling pool of light fragmented by every passing shadow. Travis watched entranced by the puddle in a restless manner, for the depth of this apparition was unfathomable. He was curious, but he couldn't come to fragment the molten light with his own shadow, even for a moment. He gazed at the soft hues of the very juices of the sky, spilling beneath him. For once, he wondered how far was he from the sky here?
The unearthly hues melted away from the prosaic, haggard aspect of The Room. Gone was the floral reverie. Gone were the liquefied and boneless sunbeams. Gone was the intricacy of the disjointed apparition. An exoskeleton began to appear. The hands, The Room, the forest, the wind, they were all connected by a sinewy thread of metaphoric arachnid silk and Travis knew that he was here now. The Room, with its deaf walls and malcontent air, was his confinement and his comfort.
Suddenly, the stone floor seemed to tremble with a deep rumble, the groan of machinery, and a scent of charred air wafted into the cell. Travis was hesitant to take the pallid hand that the shadowed form extended to him, entrusting himself to its firm grasp. It leads him out of The Room and then out of the building. It was already calling him back, but he needed a break. He had to clear his thoughts.
The moon-faced clock, suspended on the empty wall, gazed down indifferently. Travis awoke to the sound of its familiar meticulous ticking. The Room swelled with the dense silence that habitually inhabited the building. He cautiously emerged from the sheltered habitation of his closed eyelids, some fragmented light-beams had slipped through the otherwise tightly drawn blinds, playing with his unaccustomed irises. The room was achingly barren. A window facing the descending steep winding concrete of a road, with large brick walls in the distance, a faded sign, washed out and cracked with age that read 'Comfort House Mental Treatment Facility'; Stuck out of the ground as if the dirt and filth of the earth was giving 'the finger' to God.
A slightly battered wooden dresser stood against the wall, as it always had. "Wait, was that there before, before, what?" thought Travis. He tried to minimize the coarse whisper of the bed-sheets as he emerged from sleep. He tried to keep the silence unbroken as the dried and the bleached wood of the dresser drawer screeched. He wanted to keep his footsteps from sounding on the linoleum tiles. He wanted to ward off the melancholy that was not his own, coming from the distant call of The Room.
Pausing at the great oak table, he sat down. "Wait, was that there before, before, what?" thought Travis. A small cylindrical bottle with a red cap and a messily scrawled label had been put down there, positioned within easy reach. Fingers closing around the plastic container, he removed the top. Red capsules skittered across the table-top. Travis hurriedly gathered up the pills and put them back into their container, on which was handwritten merely, "Chlorpromazine: Take three times a day". A wave of thoughts assailed his furrowed brow, and having left their mark there, they flew.
Rain plummeted down with vigor outside when Travis pushed the glass door open. Along the gray backdrop of the sky, a single black umbrella was visible, a strange dark-headed bloom that had gone astray. Travis clutched the handle tightly, knuckles visibly paling. Aware of the numb sensation creeping up his fingers, he continued to walk. Raindrops fell and were smote by the umbrella. They trickled downwards towards Travis's feet. Several gusts of wind tore at his clothes and shoved him forward. He scowled and continued to walk. A bundle of rags lie on a decomposing doorstep. A chill moved through him momentarily, causing his slim frame to quake. He knew that the soda-crackers in his cupboard were becoming scarce. His coat was threadbare. People rushed hurriedly by on the next street, a tessellation of black umbrellas. Moving for motion's sake alone. Some ancient, yellowing newspapers were caught by the chill breath of the wind. Oh, see their world reel in its axis of the discards and crumpled newspapers of this realm, and the unattainable cloth of another. Hesitating at the next crosswalk, Travis lowered himself on the pavement. Maybe the raindrops would stop falling, maybe he would emerge from the storm dry. Spreading his limb as far from his body as he could make them go, he waited. A raindrop, voluminous in size and bulk hit him square on the forehead. More proceeded to soak through his clothing. By now, a space had been cleared around Travis on the busy avenue. Many apprehensive or curious glances had been cast in his direction. Pale, glowing faces eclipsed above him; voices waltzed and intertwined. All at once, their speech became intelligible. A man in a red coat was bending over him, the heavy scent of tobacco encompassed the small space between him and Travis and an old man's face became clear through Travis's eyes.
"Where do you live"?, he asked softly. "Can I take you there or call someone for you?"
"I'm alright," Travis replied.
Lifting himself to his feet, he brushed his coat off and began walking, umbrella in hand. For a fleeting instant he noticed that under this umbrella, he emerged just as wet if he had not had one at all. Glancing edgewise at the myriad of people, all positioning their umbrellas in a way that they hoped would provide maximum coverage, he noticed that they too were soaking.
The knowledge descended, like a seraph, its exquisite mouth cruel, lips curled. The depth-less light that he had glimpsed on the floor would not come back. The crows would forget him. The rain would soak him with its angry drops. The shelter that his umbrella seemingly provided from the rain was elusive, the whims and fancies of a pearly nerve struck by the Chlorpromazine, the reality pill, his simulator. A cruel puppeteer with white hands, hands that tugged him out of his waking dream in one graceful motion. Back to his apartment, back at the table, back within view of the shrouded moon-faced clock and back to his reality pills. With one swift motion, he hurled the cylindrical bottle with a red cap, with a carefully handwritten label, out of the gaping window and he did it where the clock could not scrutinize him with its monotone. And like the first day of Autumn, come and gone, he left. Crows flocked on the wooded path, gliding and reeling, shrieking beneath the night sky as they saw a familiar figure emerge from the empty park.
"Hey there Big Daddy D."
"Nothing but the same old shit I guess." replied Dave.
"Any movement from our new guest?" questioned Bill.
"Nope. He's a stone cold meat Popsicle. He's been laying there stiff since they brought him in a week ago."
"Yeah, that fucker creeps me out too Dave." replied Bill
"I know what you mean. The way his eyes never close. Freeeaky."
They both looked at each other and laughed nervously.
"Tell you what's freaky, the way they found him." Bill said.
"This nut was lying in an alley way, just like he's lying in that room now, 'cept he had his arms and legs spread-eagled." Dave made a 'WOW' face and turned back to his paper work.
"Tell ya what Dave, I'll go down and check in on Mr. Excitement and then will do the rounds."
"Back in a minute D man."
Bill walked down the softly lit corridor to The Room. That's just what they called it too. It's where all the new patients spent the first few weeks for observation. Bill unlocked the door and opened it. There on a bed directly opposite the door was patient number 211. Exactly as he had been the day before and the day before and the first day they brought him here. Even from the doorway Bill could smell the telltale odor of a diaper that needed changing. "God damn it Dave." thought Bill. Dave was supposed to check for 'shit and giggles' before the end of his shift. That's what they called it when you had to check diapers and dispense pills to the other nutcases. Technically Dave's shift wasn't over until they did the rounds, but still it should have already been done. "Shit" Bill said out loud to The Room. He glanced at the clock on the wall, looked back at patient 211, sighed and closed and locked the door to The Room and headed back to curse at Dave and do the rounds.
The Room was quiet and dark. Cool air drifted in from the ventilation duct and wafted through the nothingness.
On the bed Travis's lips curved into a smile and he looked around satisfied, knowing that this was real.