Van Meter stepped back from behind the nurses station as the new assistant orderly arrived.
“Take her to sub-level C, room five.”
“Understood,” Nathan answered, “but do you think it's really right to send a new guy down there this soon?”. He gestured to the newly arrived orderly, a twenty-something man of average build, short, mousy brown hair and an unassuming face.
“He'll be fine. Won't you, Martin?”
“Uh... sure, I guess. It's just part of the job, right?”
Van Meter replied with a coy smile, “Yes. Precisely: just part of the job.”
Nathan looked back at his fallen coworker, “Alright. Hey Ronnie, you gonna be okay? She tore the hell out of that neck.”
“I'll manage, “ came the half pained but fully embarrassed reply. Just wait till I get a minute alone with you, you little bitch, he thought. “Hurts like hell, but I'm okay”.
“Alright, well, just make sure you get that bandaged up before it gets infected. Doc says this one's heading for level C, so it's not like you'll have a chance to do that again anytime soon.”
Nathan and Martin waited with the restraints open and ready as Dr. Van Meter quietly ushered the girl onto the waiting gurney. As the men secured the restraints, a near inaudible whisper came from her, “H... hh.. Horace...”
Placing a single index finger to her lips, Dr. Van Meter replied, “Shhhhh...”
“How'd she know you're name, Doc? Looks like you forgot your tag tonight.” asked Nathan, more than a little unnerved.
“I must have given her my name when I was calming her down. Pay it no mind.”
“Uh... okay. You're the boss. This is definitely a weird one, though.”
“Just make sure she is jacketed and safely in her room, Nathan. Her treatments will begin soon enough. I expect her to be a challenge, but I'm sure we can provide the help she needs”.
“This isn't so bad.” His first trip to level C was proving far less bizarre than the stories he had heard from Nathan and the others.
The silence as they exited the elevator into the hallway was deafening to Nathan. C-Level was the worse part of the job, the place you did not want to be sent, but eventually had to go. Other areas of the facility could occasionally get rough, crazy people acting out some bizarre fantasy lives that sometimes meant they had to be subdued. But here things were different. Usually, the lone, dark hallway, was a tunnel of screams. It was as though time had forgotten this place, this lonely block of cells below ground, the only place in the entire facility that wasn't completely renovated some forty years back. Nathan had always felt a kind of sadness for the people in level C, as though this was the place you were taken to be forgot. But then he would have to return for some errand and there would be the screaming that made him wish that could, in fact, forget.
Tonight, however, was different. As he and Martin wheeled the gurney carrying their Jane Doe down the hall, there was rapt silence. Each patient stood staring from the window of their cell, and as they passed, she seemed to give a knowing look back to each of them.
Roughly midway down the hall, the door to room five stood open, having been freshly sanitized sometime earlier in anticipation of any potential new arrivals. Nathan brought the gurney to a halt as Martin reached to the small shelf beneath the bed for the straight jacket tucked away there. Braced for a fight, the two men then released the restraints holding the small woman down, though they were surprised when she did exactly as she was told and stood still, arms out before them. The men took their places on either side of her, pulling the straight jacket over her arms, then tucking her arms across her sides and finally latching the clasps in place. Martin thought he saw some kind of movement from beneath the chest of the jacket as they finished the job, but shook it off as just a trick of the stark, dim lighting in the hall.