Nathan left the room wishing he could do more, but that old familiar voice came back to him, the one from deep down that got him through tough spots like this one. Just walk away. Do the job, get the check and live your life. Don't get involved. These people are drowning in their own crap and they'll pull you down with them. He hated those thoughts, those voices, the callousness of them. But weren't they right? And besides, if he could just do the job, granted, do it as nicely as possible and treat them as well as he could, just do the job, stick to the routine and get out, wouldn't he be better off? In training, the head floor nurse had warned him, “Don't let 'em get to you. At first you may feel something for these people. It's hard not to when you see them suffer. But don't let it get to you or you won't last a week. Just do the job. That's all you need, and all they need. Any more than that is asking for trouble.” Hard words, but they had gotten him through nearly two years here and the longer he listened to them, the less he felt those urges to try and be some good Samaritan.
Pulling Mrs. Allen's door closed behind him, Nathan proceeded with the rest of his rounds. One deep breath to clear his head and he was on his way to the supply closet to get the mop, sign and wheeled bucket he needed for cleaning the floors. Nurses were still making their rounds on the main floor, so he would move on to B-Level, two floors down. Better to get the lower levels over with, anyway, putting the real crazies behind him for the rest of his shift. Once the floors and door-windows in sub-levels A-C were finished, which didn't take that long most of the time, the rest of the shift was a breeze.
A-Level would have been a more welcome starting point, but the schedule showed nurses making rounds giving medications and the evening meal at the moment, thus B-Level is where the evening would officially get under way. In the elevator, for the second time tonight, Nathan closed his eyes for a brief moment then hit the button marked for his destination.
The wheels of the bucket creaked as he pushed it out of the elevator and proceeded with the chore of mopping the tiled floor. Administration insisted it be mopped daily, during the night shift, though he thought it totally excessive. These lower levels didn't really see that much traffic, after all. Still, a job's a job, and this was his.
The patients on A-Level could be somewhat dangerous with their outbursts, and tended to be the noisiest in the facility, but B-Level is where they kept the real sociopaths, the ones who were high functioning and capable of getting by in “the world”, but were likely to fall to some delusion and become outwardly violent. Having to make rounds here and having watched his new partner walk off the job earlier, Nathan was left to work virtually alone. In the upper floors, above ground where they kept the less severe patients, working alone was a welcome thing: time to think and just casually walk through evening's chores with relatively little fuss. In working the lower levels, however, he preferred the company of a sane associate with whom he could make the kind of mindless banter and chit chat that helped pass the time and divert attention from the more extreme cases. The noises that came from the cells on B-Level could just about drive him to want to crawl into a cell himself and lock the door behind him just to get away from the din of madness that the patients spouted until the thorazine cocktails had finally kicked in.
As he continued mopping his way further down the hall, he heard the laughter coming from the cell of one of the creepiest patients he had yet to encounter: the little fella, in room 19, with the crazy hair who used to work as a clown with a traveling circus and sideshow troupe until it was uncovered that he had been the cause of a growing number disappearances in towns across the country. Apparently, he had grown sloppy in his predations until the mother of one of the more recent abductees had begun to snoop around their trailers after hours in search of her daughter. The story she gave the police was that she had looked in through a slightly raised window where she saw what she thought were some kind of masks hanging on the wall beside his bed, some which had hair that was oddly realistic looking. The tiny little man had walked out of the room while she watched, and when the door opened allowing a bit more light, she could make out the ribbon in the hair of one of them as belonging to her daughter. On the table across the room from the wall were a collection of horrific knives and various tools used by butchers and taxidermists. Each of the “masks” were just small enough for the man's tiny features, and each one had been painted with a different design of clown makeup. The little man had no real identity when the police finally came for him, and was booked and convicted as a John Doe. In court he never spoke, only giggled and said, “They call me Toodles. Toot-toot-toodledey-doo!”. From the indictment to the arraignment, right on to sentencing, everyone knew this little bastard was crazy as a shit-house-rat and because of that, the most likely end was that he would spend his days being cared for in some tax funded facility while the families of the children he had done such evil to continued to mourn. Rarely had Nathan come across a patient who brought out his sense of righteous anger like this one. Nathan outweighed him by at least a hundred and fifty pounds, but wanted no part of the psychotic little man whose cell he stood just outside of.