White Walls – Chapter 1

Kylie Mullaly, Author

Timothy James Porter. The simple name was scrawled on the paper in front of him, highlighted by a stray bit of sunlight. The more he looked at it, the more foreign and less like words they seemed. A name was supposed to have memory and personality, but those three words meant nothing to the man who had written them.

Frustrated, he balled up the paper and threw it at the wastebasket. To him, the name was as much his as the white robe and sheets the institution’s staff replaced once a week. Gripping his skull, he fell forward on the desk, forcing himself to conjure a memory.

He released his head and stood up from the desk, surrendering any hope that he could retrieve who Timothy once might have been. For the past week, strangers claimed to be his friends and relatives. They told him all about Timothy James Porter, their proud police officer and fearless protector. This was as useful as telling a corpse it needed physical therapy.

He rifled through his bedside table, ignoring the pills he had stashed there when he wasn’t in the mood to take them.  He seized the photos his sister had given him during her last visit. Timothy ran his fingers over the first image, causing them to stick to the ink. The photo featured a toddler with chubby cheeks and thick arms spread out wide. The child grinned as drool dribbled down his face and golden sunlight encircled his soft, brown curls.

He tucked it behind the stack. The second photo was of the entire police squadron standing outside the precinct. The camera focused on a man in the back with a half-hearted smile. A crisp blue jacket hugged his shoulders. It would have been a nice photo if the flash hadn’t turned the man’s eyes a blazing red. Timothy slammed the drawer shut, trapping the photographs inside. No matter how much he looked at them, there was no recognition when he saw the pictures, only a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach.

A knock sounded at the door, and Timothy rushed to tighten his robe and smooth his sleep-tousled hair. A frail figure pushed the door open. The nurse who had been taking care of him for the majority of his stay entered the room. To the untrained eye, she seemed harmless. However, an intense ferocity burned inside her, and he had learned not to expect any compassion.

He greeted her, “Good morning, Darla.”

She pretended not to hear him while fluffing her chaotic red curls. “If you miss breakfast, I am going to get my hide tanned.”

He inclined his head. “I’ll be there in a moment. I’m just going to grab my slippers.”

Though Timothy had seen terrible things since the beginning of his stay, he thought the cafeteria was the most unpleasant place to be inside the institute. It was well taken care of, but that meant it had a distinct odor of Windex. The tables were the same shade of blue as the walls and the nurses’ scrubs. The lights shed a ghostly sheen on everything, including the imitation meat they served every morning.

Mealtimes were always somber and silent. Everyone there was burdened with his own issues, and discussing trite things seemed unnecessary. Besides, everyone risked the chance of setting off Charlie, who was easily triggered by sounds. Charlie was also responsible for the staff trading out the metal utensils for useless plastic ones, as he didn’t like the noise of forks scraping the plates. So, the cafeteria became agonizingly quiet, and Timothy often left before finishing his food, even if it got him in trouble.

He spent the rest of his day in his room sustaining himself with delivered meals. It was much more relaxing to have his own space to breathe. Every orderly he saw that day suggested he go to one of the art classes or socialize over a cup of tea. He thought they, more than anyone, would understand how exhausting being around his fellow patients could be.

As a result, he spent the majority of his days in the confines of his room. Usually he could be found lying in his bed, which was a hub in the center of his room. From there, he could easily reach his desk, nightstand, and dresser without much of a stretch. If not buried beneath his blankets, Timothy spent his time at the desk to the left of the bed. It’s uninspired oak design matched the simplicity of the room. Inside the desk were some of his only possessions, some pens and a bit of paper he had plucked from the receptionist counter when no one was looking. He didn’t do much with them, but it felt good to have something that wasn’t constantly regulated by the institute staff. Timothy hardly ever touched his dresser, which was not evident by its appearance. Each of the drawers hung out of their sockets at varying lengths, and every piece of clothing provided by the institute spilled over their edges. Darla tried to clean it up from time to time, but Timothy always retaliated with a mess worse than the one before. In a room enclosed by barren, white walls, the clutter was the only evidence of life.

Someone knocked at the door. Assuming it was Darla with his dinner, Timothy called her into the room.

Darla entered, though her hands were empty of the customary plastic tray. Instead, a man dressed entirely in varying shades of gray, from the roots of his hair to the scuffs on his shoes, accompanied her.

“Hello, Porter,” he said.

*Stay tuned for Chapter 2!*