Beware the Man with a Single Book

As her last resort, Scarlet undergoes brain surgery to cure a disease that even her own doctors are unsure what the cause could be. This disease has society worried that it’s contagious and it must be eliminated.

The Room

Night fell upon the hospital in December as a cold front flew through the town, bringing with it a deadly snow storm the town neglected to prepare for. The doctor beckoned the nurses to clean Room 436 and remove any unnecessary objects so as to not upset their patient when she awakens. Soon the room will morph from an average hospital room to the patients bedroom. The room was average size, fifteen by fifteen, perfectly square with pale walls. The patient, Scarlet Galen, was recovering from brain surgery. Scarlet laid in a white hospital gown on the hospital bed with her legs stretched out, arms crossed comfortably over her chest, and her head wrapped in bandages silencing her senses. All she could do was breathe. Doctor Stephanie Stanton, and two nurses, Bailey McCarthy and Ron Hobart tended to Scarlet coming out of her sleep. Her surgery ended six hours ago having lasted throughout the night.

Doctor Stephanie Stanton worked at Salient Mound Memorial Hospital for fifteen years and had operated on plenty of patients in the Hospital’s D-Ward. She was tall and gorgeous, yet professional, with a brunette bun tied up in a hairnet with her white doctors coat on. She never had to demand respect yet received it with her blunt take it or leave it personality. Bailey McCarthy finished nursing school three years ago and aspired to one day become a doctor and welcomed being under the wing of Doctor Stanton for her first operation in D-Ward. She shook at the prospect of working under Doctor Stanton. Ron Hobart also finished three years ago but aspired to one day open up his own hospital. This operation was also his first in D-Ward under Doctor Stanton. He was tall, bold, and creative. Opportunities to advance in such a long standing hospital were rarer than spotting a shooting star but he maintained his faith in working  under a tenured doctor at the hospital and one day commanding his own team. He carried a book by his side mandated by the hospital’s president when conducting hospital affairs with patients. Doctor Stanton enforced the mandatory procedure with intensity for all members in her ward. It was important she thought that the book is present when they revealed the patients to their pious welcome introduction like the president of Salient Mound Memorial Hospital desired. The president, David Calwell, believed this book to be a patient’s guide and the hope for humanity’s soul and survival. He imbibed it in all his staff and associates. It served as their employee manual, as their only manual needed in which all other books were prohibited entry into Salient Mound Memorial Hospital, if one could find any other book published that is. In fact, many citizens of Salient Mound carried the book with them. A dark brown book, with gold and silver lining. There was a picture of a falcon on the front cover coming in for a landing. The book was thick, at about seven centimeters weighing in at one kilogram. Words were in the tiniest of print and thinnest of paper. The book had no blurb nor text and the front had a simple title, The One Book. Titled that because there were no other needed books.

“Nurse McCarthy, please pull down the window shades. We don’t wish to upset Ms. Galen when she wakes,” Doctor Stanton said. “We need to make the environment comfortable and familiar.” Doctor Stanton paced around the room checking off tasks on her clipboard. “Place some objects around her bed, see that layout?” Doctor Stanton pointed to a paper plan for Scarlet’s awakening welcome. The layout looked like a child’s bedroom. Red and black flowed throughout the color scheme. The layout had all the details meticulously planned by Doctor Stanton and her nurses for a perfect awakening welcome. It would resemble the patients bedroom with all the minutiae details in place such as the placement of a lamp, dresser, clothes on the floor, and pictures.

McCarthy walked to the window to pull down the shades. “Do you think it worked Doctor?” McCarthy placed ornaments on top of a dresser with folded socks, shirts, and towels. She laid out a cup of coffee on the table with lit candles and dimmed the lights. Hobart placed copies of the brown book on the shelf, meticulously angling a few of them every four books to make the dresser appear stylish and modern, yet homey. He placed a record on the player and let the volume play loud enough to hear but low enough to not agitate the patient when she woke.

“One can only hope, McCarthy. But until we ask the right question we won’t know for sure.” Doctor Stanton, noticing her lack of sleep, poured herself a cup of coffee finally giving in a moment of rest against the cabinet drawers. She tapped her foot against the cabinet in a synchronised pattern to the music.

“What else has the woman gone through, Doctor?” Nurse Hobart asked. “For her help?” He assisted McCarthy with setting the room up by pulling out a rug around Scarlet’s bed. It was an ugly rug, with mixed square and rectangular shapes intertwined with a black and brown coloration. Doctor Stanton sat her mug on the dresser to pick up a faded yellow file folder.

“Before coming here, patients with this particular mental disability must go through six months of psychotherapy and even more extreme methods such as electroshock. Anything before we bring out our drills and needles for their operation.” Doctor Stanton slurped her coffee.

“Are they born with this disability, Doctor?” McCarthy asked. She threw on a blanket over Scarlet’s body as nurse Hobart lifted Scarlet’s head to tuck a pillow with a flower blossoming pillowcase on. The blanket matched the ugly rug surrounding the bed, covered with that terrible square and rectangular pattern.

Doctor Stanton retreated to her coffee mug before answering but scoffed at the emptiness of the mug. She threw the coffee grounds away and began brewing a new pot. “Researchers are unsure where this mentality originates. We’re sure it’s not learned but unsure if it’s from birth.”

“I believe it’s a disease,” Hobart said with an appearance of disappointment. He rushed to a fallen book on the shelf working on carefully placing it in just the exact position. Afterwards he stepped back, admiring his hard work. Hobart, nevertheless, believed it was a disease and could be contagious but he kept his feelings on the manner to himself and did his job.

“It very well could be.” Doctor Stanton clicked the power button on the coffee maker. “It’s nature versus nurture. Some believe they could be born this way. But that is ridiculous.” The coffee maker poured hot water through the funnel pouring down with its steam emanating and smell coursing through the room. “It’s a contagious mental disease that begins with boredom and solidarity. The mind wanders to unheeded and uncomfortable places that it shouldn’t venture.”

“That’s scary. I’d hate for this infliction to spread to me or anyone I know,” McCarthy said. Her voice cracked and her hands shook but she held them together tightening her chest. McCarthy believed if this could spread they wouldn’t let them around the patients unprotected. But they knew, just knew that they would be safe. They had faith in their doctors and experts on the matter. The doctors knew best.

The nurses finished the room and lit the remaining candles brightening the room with a red glow. Room 436 smelled of smoke and hickory coffee – thanks to Doctor Stanton, and the nurses laid out the remaining rugs and finished by hanging posters of two-dimensional men and women gathering around a great fire gazing up to the stars. The posters contained six stars, with nine other circles. The third circle was blue with all the others being black. The blue circle was chiefly placed in the middle of all the others. Three of the posters were placed on the walls.

The Mind

Snow fell with grace onto the Salient Mound Memorial Hospital with steam releasing into the sky from a machine behind the hospital emitting vast amounts of heat.. The thump of the sludge of snow shifting from the roof of the hospital woke Scarlet’s mind. Scarlet knew bandages wrapped her head. If so, she knew she was not yet dead. Her senses struggled to escape the wrap around her head and she had no strength in her limbs to move them and if she was moving anything she hadn’t felt it. She felt empty and vulnerable. She felt uncomfortable. She felt closed and claustrophobic.

Where am I? Her mind fought desperately to know. Scarlet could feel a muscle in her head pulsing and racing to remember. The other day she headed to work. So it seemed. Maybe it was longer ago.  Where did I work? The Mound. The newspaper, The Mound. I was a journalist. Scarlet figured that out. Her mind began lighting up. Neurons fired. She felt her random synapses firing. She needed to get her mind moving before she moved a limb. Before a toe could move, her mind had to think.

Memories blossomed like welcoming spring with flowers in her mind. Shapes like squares turned and twisted into boxes. Circles swirled and rotated into balls. Triangles flipped and blinked into pyramids. The shapes continued reinventing themselves until her mind rested a singular thought of a grass field. She envisioned a midget of a man on a tree towering tall over a pasture. She envisioned a farmer with cut sleeves cutting down his crops and moving towards a plank of wood that he had hammered four nails in. The next image flashed was of her parents. Her mother in a flower dress sat in the window ledge of their home in a towering apartment building. She let her tea mug fall out of her hands as they rushed to her face. The yellow smiley face mug fell thirteen floors to the sidewalk. It hit a bystander. Her father wrecked his white truck on his way home. He died at the scene.

My name is Scarlet Galen, I’m five foot three, my eyes are green, and I like pizza. Sweat poured down her face. Her clothes tightened. Her mind raced and she could feel a passing breeze by her toes. She forced a movement, maybe a twitch, in her fingers. It forced a shiver down her spine. Her mind was gleeful at the thought of the feeling of a shiver. The feeling of altering temperature. I am alive! She could feel the progress. She wondered how long all of this was and how long she spent asleep. I had surgery! That’s it, I’m knocked out because I was in surgery! It was an operation, but for what?

Feelings of joy continued in her mind now that she realized she was alive. Her mind felt like a drunk, emotions faded in and out as fast a baseball being tossed and caught by players during the bottom of the ninth. It gave her a feeling of seasickness.  I wonder how long have I been out for and how long before I’m awake? Scarlet forced feelings down her feet and toes, she swore she could wiggle her big toe. Any moment now she would walk around the room. Dance around the room! All she had was her mind and imagination. She envisioned herself gracefully floating around the room like the days she took ballet in school.

There it was. A movement, a twitch, of her neck. A muscle spasm. Now she knew the breath in her was real and any moment she would be up. But why was I here? She couldn’t remember. No matter how hard Scarlet thought she couldn’t conjure up any memory for what brought her to where she was. I’m in a hospital, that’s for sure. She relaxed. She imagined her shoulders slouching, but she was sure they were not. She couldn’t even move a toe much less a shoulde. This is Salient Mound Memorial Hospital! But why…am I here? The frustration of the inability to remember was unbearable.

Scarlet knows her head was covered in bandages but her senses repelled against the bandages. She heard a commotion, a soft whisper of words being spoken on the other side of the barrier of bandages. She couldn’t make out their words but she could tell after time there were three voices. A woman, no two women she counted and a man. They spoke around her body. She imagined her body lying in a field with three people casually conversing around her lifeless corpse like she was already boxed up and buried. Actually, they acted as if she hadn’t existed at all. Scarlet could feel the sweat pouring out of her skin and wanted nothing more than to wipe it off, or better yet to escape in a heated shower. They are my doctors and nurses, yeah, that’s what they are. Scarlet realized nobody else would be in the room with a lifeless corpse other than those legally obligated to be there. She felt the relief of her shoulders slouching again. She imagined this is what amputees felt when missing a limb. Phantom limb. That’s what it’s called. Phantom limb. Maybe my arms and legs are missing!

She struggled to understand what they were saying. Her ears were tightly wrapped and the pain was beginning to come from the tightening of the bandages. She wanted something for it, an aspirin, a shot, anything would suffice. An image of her drowning in a pool with her arms splashing the water and her legs kicking underneath desperately trying to keep her body afloat while the lifeguard sat on his high chair fifteen feet above the water with his headphones in his ears blasting music into his head tuning out all noise below, like herself drowning slowly receding to the bottom of the pool sucking in water into her lungs instead of needed oxygen. She could feel a teardrop leaving her eye. Her left eye. No, maybe it’s my right. She saw the blue side of the pool like the sky. The bottom was black like an endless tunnel. 

The bed she laid on vibrated. Her bones reverbated from her toes to her head like the feeling of pounding drums and a thundering bass. She could feel the three strangers, hopefully they were doctors and nurses, move about the room closer to where she lay. She heard them discussing something. It sounded vile, but she retained hope. 

On the other side of the wrapped bandages, “okay, let’s prepare to unwrap Ms. Galen,” Doctor Stanton said to nurse Hobart and nurse McCarthy. Scarlet felt the room move, she imagined the room spinning out of control. She felt dizzy and in her darkened state she fell but she couldn’t emote it or act it out

The Unwrapping

Outside buildings and homes lost their power, placing them in a storm in darkness. Salient Mound Memorial Hospital stood a beacon of hope lit with a bright orange light with a towering steam rising in the air from behind the hospital. Doctor Stanton walked to the left side of Scarlet’s bed while the two nurses stayed on the right side. They stood still staring at Scarlet. “I’m not sure if you can hear us Scarlet, but I’m your doctor, Doctor Stephanie Stanton, and with my two nurses, McCarthy and Hobart, we’re going to unwrap the bandages on your head.” Scarlet heard the peppy and uplifting sound coming from the doctor. Her heart inflated. I’m alive, she thought.

They carefully unclipped the bandages, removing the first layer over Scarlet’s head. McCarthy held Scarlet’s head up while Hobart pulled out the bandage with care and unraveled it carefully. “That’s enough,” Doctor Stanton said after eight unwraps around the head. “Scarlet, can you hear us? You can nod your head if you’re unable to speak. That’s okay.”

Scarlet nodded with all her might and said with a forced whisper, “yes.” Scarlet thought she spoke, but she couldn’t hear herself.  She laid perfectly still not trying to move a toe or a finger or even twitch an eye. The light wasn’t beaming through the bandages like she thought it would but the light was perfectly dim and even throughout the room. A pale room, she imagined. All hospital rooms were boring, unimaginative, and spooky. The pale walls, emotionless, spread throughout the building with the perfectly square tiles tacked on the floor with every tap of a footstep. She could make out three figures above her and with the bundle of hair she could figure out which were females and who was the male. She kept her composure but her bones and emotion wanted to bust out of her skin, and the bandages with joy. “Unwrap four more times, Hobart,” Doctor Stanton said standing over the bed. She waved her hand at Hobart to continue unwrapping like an officer directing traffic.

Hobart unwrapped three more times around Scarlet’s head. The voices became clearer to Scarlet and the red light shone through the bandage. The figures became more detailed. Her blood rushing through her veins. She couldn’t contain herself. Scarlet desired to burst from her wrapped prison. Hobart took time gently unwrapping the final wrap.

“Okay, Scarlet, you can hear me clearly?” Doctor Stanton asked.

“Yes, I can hear you.” Scarlets ear drums rattled upon the sound hitting them.

“Before we remove the remaining bandages we need to… review certain things.”

“Am I disfigured?” Scarlet said with a degree of forced words but without thought. She imagined herself looking like a jigsaw puzzle or a farm animal. She wondered if she would be forced to live separately or thrown in a zoo to be googled at. Would she be feared?

Doctor Stanton smiled, “No, Scarlet, you’ll look fine. You have the very best doctor here and two best nurses tending to you to make sure you look just the way you did when you came into my ward.” Scarlet relaxed, she could feel her muscles and joints move. “Besides, we barely drilled into your skull. Just the needed places.”

“Oh, thank you, Doctor!” Scarlet said with excitement.

“Do you remember why you are here?” Doctor Stanton asked. Scarlet thought with all her might. She had been thinking of that very idea since she found herself awake and active. Her mind went back to the forest with the midget on the tree, now her mind flew to a strange old man with a greying beard nearly touching the ground peering his gaze through a tube pointed at the clouds. The image changed point of views to the man’s gaze blurred with a black board over his tube. She saw the posters surrounding the room, the ones with the two-dimensional figures admiring the stars. 

“I’m here to check up on my brain activity. To make sure I’m thinking right,” Scarlet said. She finally remembered. Not at once but in bits and pieces, but it was returning at last.

“That’s right, Scarlet. You’re here because we’re making sure you don’t have any mental disability, or I mean to say you don’t have it anymore.” McCarthy and Hobart nodded. Hobart is still standing beside Scarlets bed with McCarthy moving towards the door.

“I have a disability?” Scarlet looked from the doctor and nurses around the room. The chill of the crimson walls reflecting off the candles distressed her. 

“That’s right, Scarlet. But we’re hoping you don’t anymore. Not after the best doctor, and two best nurses in the world are finished with you!” Doctor Stanton sounded sure of herself and why not? She had successfully completed thirteen out of fifteen previous cases. Granted, the previous two were all failures. Doctor Stanton viewed them as the patients’ fault, they were meant to fail. “Do you remember what you’ve done before coming to the ward?”

“I… was seeing someone. I had weekly sessions, talking on chairs, looking at figures, circles, and charts.” Scarlet strained her mind. “We discussed something…. I can’t quite picture it right now. My mind is numb.” She felt a throbbing headache.

“That’s okay Scarlet, it’s all part of the slow recovery process. It’ll come to you. You’ve had an incredible journey but hopefully, it’s all over now.” Doctor Stanton motioned to Hobart to begin moving more wraps. Hobart jumped forward and took time to remove them. “Please, Ms. McCarthy, bring my clipboard over here so we can ask Ms. Scarlet the question.”

Doctor Stanton read the lines on her clipboard nodding her head. Hobart was on the last strap of bandages and Scarlet was beginning to see the world with her awakened eyes.  McCarthy stood like a statue near the hospital door like she was guarding it. How could Scarlet even escape? She couldn’t move. “It’s time, Scarlet, once we unravel the remaining bandage you’ll see the world in a new light. Are you fine?

“I’m fine, thank you,” Scarlet said. She prepared herself for the light hitting her eyes blinding her like waking up in the middle of the night and turning on the bathroom light. A feeling she felt recently every night she slept, the feeling of a full bladder and her wondering where all of that liquid came from when she hadn’t drank anything that night. Scarlet prepared herself for the final unwrapped bandages as much as she possibly could under the circumstances. She was ready. “Okay Hobart, unwrap the remaining bandages from Scarlet’s head.”

The Question

Steam rose rapidly from the back of the hospital doing much more than heating the rooms, guests, and workers. Somehow the hospital maintained its electricity and power while the rest of the town sat silent in darkness. Hobart pulled the remaining bandage from her head and with a swoosh of her hair she opened her eyes to see a well lit room of candles, thankfully not completely blinding her. The fiery image of the room came in full view from the reflecting of the lit crimson candles. She wasn’t in a hospital room, the room was her bedroom! It looked like her bedroom. There was her rug (she hated that ugly patterned brown rug, a gift from her mother), her crooked lamp, the dresser was the same – she could tell by the slight lean as it stood. Endless amounts of books lined the book shelf but they were all the same, dark brown with gold and silver lining. She spotted a falcon on the cover of one facing her. It looked like it was feasting on dead prey. The bed was not hers unless they moved a hospital bed into her room. The blanket was strange, it matched the ugly rug but it was unknown to her. The ceiling had those long rectangular tiles. It was definitely a hospital room dressed like hers. The room began spinning, turning upside down. If she stood, Scarlet knew she would fall.

McCarthy brought Scarlet a glass of water. “Here, drink, you’ll feel better,” McCarthy said. Scarlet took the glass of water taking a single sip before placing it down on the table next to her bed. “Do you know where you are, Scarlet?”

“Hospital,” Scarlet said weakly but with confidence.

“Yes, good, which hospital?” The three members of the hospital stood silently staring at Scarlet waiting on her to answer. The room went silent besides the dead record looping around the player and the snapping of the fire of the candles.

“Salient Mound Memorial Hospital,” Scarlet said. She had only been to the hospital once with an injured ankle skipping across a yard going door to door promoting donations. The yard had a hole in it from a groundhog when Scarlet’s foot got caught bending her ankle one way as she fell the other way. She screamed in agony until her door-to-door partner caught up and called emergencies to bring her to the hospital. Scarlet remembered the walls of the hospital painted red. Entering the hospital she remembered a fork at the entrance; one way said The Canal, and the other said Able’s. She went down Able’s to receive treatment. Scarlet wondered what ward her room was in the hospital.

Doctor Stanton coughed into her clipboard covering her mouth and began taking notes while hovering above Scarlet. She wrote meticulously. “Okay, Scarlet. We’re going to prepare for the exam. It’s a simple process but we want to make sure you’re comfortable. Are you comfortable?”

“Yes, I am,” Scarlet replied. She felt comfortable, sure enough, a bit dizzy and sweat poured profusely but she felt comfortable considering the circumstances.

“How is the temperature, cold or hot?” Sweat dripped off Scarlet’s face.

“It’s a bit hot.” Doctor Stanton wrote down more on her clipboard than Scarlet had said which made Scarlet wonder what she was really writing. All she had to write was “hot” but the doctor wrote much more.

“How is your head feeling?”

“Dizzy. I feel fine on the other hand, no headache.” Doctor Stanton continued moving her hand left to write with a blazing fury. Scarlet tried to raise her head to see anything on the clipboard but she encountered restraints attached to her arms and legs but didn’t make it noticeable as she carefully shook them to feel it out.

“Do you know why you are here?” Her mind forced her to think. Why was I here? Oh…

“Operation. I can’t recall why.”

“Good, that’s good you are unable to recall. It’ll make our exam more conclusive,” Doctor Stanton said. She flipped a page on her clipboard. “It’ll relinquish a better result.” McCarthy and Hobart stood like sentients awaiting command. “Okay, Scarlet, I think we’re ready. Are you ready?” Scarlet laid there wondering if she was, she wasn’t, but she lied.

“Yes, I am, though I’m not quite sure what I’m ready for, but I am. I’m quite ready to get through whatever you’re going to put me through.” Scarlet laid her head back on her pillow taking in a deep breath of the ever-increasing hot air.

“Before, let’s just do a simple reading exercise,” Doctor Stanton said. “Read this passage, to yourself. It’ll help your cognate state. Take about twenty seconds.” McCarthy held out a clipboard with a single sheet of paper held in front of Scarlet to read. The paper was a pale color, not the typical white paper with reddish ink.

“Okay,” Scarlet said. She read the paper in front of her.

Stare at the paper and read this story about a mouse. An ordinary mouse that never did 

anything unordinary. In fact this mouse lived his life in a perfect routine removing 

anything unordinary from his life. He woke up at sunrise and ventured out to find cheese, anything unordinary cheese avoided and tossed away. He scavenged everything and 

anything unordinary that he could find. That’s his job. After he rushed home and didn’t do anything unordinary that he wouldn’t. One day, mouse, found himself doing something, 

anything unordinary and when the other mice found out about his activity that he did 

anything unordinary they bashed the little mouse’s head in over and over and over until 

anything unordinary popped out of his head. The mouse was dead. And then it repeated.

Scarlet finished reading. She refrained from commenting on it and sat silently until Doctor Stanton broke the silence. Doctor Stanton waved her nurses to the front of Scarlet’s bed. “Okay, the real exam is this,” Doctor Stanton said, “it’s just one simple question. Answer the first thing that comes to mind and that’s it. You’ll be free to go home in a short amount of time your head heals.” This pleased Scarlet. She was quite ready to go home. All that remained was to answer a question, wait to heal, and go home. She understood that. Simple.

“I’m ready, doctor,” Scarlet said. Hobart moved to Scarlet’s left. McCarthy stepped in front of the bed staring down at Scarlet and Doctor Stanton faced Scarlet standing at her feet.

The sound in the room died. Doctor Stanton said to Scarlet, “The exam is this Scarlet, answer it as fast as you can. Do not overthink it. 

What shape is the planet you are currently laying on, in a bed, in a hospital? What shape is Earth?” Doctor Stanton looked down at Scarlet with beady and squinting eyes. Those eyes were green. Green as the Emerald City in the Land of Oz. She was in the Emerald City. She envisioned Doctor Stanton as Oz.

Scarlet didn’t answer, not right away. Her head throbbed between her eyes, pumping back and forth. She thought the question silly. “Round,” Scarlet said. She was quite sure it was round. Like the posters on the wall of the Sun and the planets. Her mind felt intact and sure of itself. This must mean Doctor Stanton performed the operation successfully. Scarlet looked at the posters, with the blue planet centered and the two-dimensional figures pointing towards the Sun.

Doctor Stanton lowered her head as a single tear came from her eye, with McCarthy covering her mouth with both hands and Hobart shaking his head with his hands held being his back. There was a noticeable silence in the room. Doctor Stanton looked at Hobart and McCarthy. Both nurses looked back for guidance and instructions. “Nurses, please inform the incinerator that we will be sending them another failure.” The sound in the room came back. The record replayed and the fiery sound of the crisp candles blazed again.

The Burning

Snow ceased its fall and light returned to the town of Salient Mound reflecting off the settled snow. The hospital now blended in with the town in white with only the steam behind the hospital distinguishing itself from the rest of the buildings. “McCarthy, please inform orderly Simpson outside to retrieve Scarlet here,” Doctor Stanton said, “Hobart, restrain Scarlet.” Scarlet bewildered, looked to the three people in the room. Nothing made sense to her. The red light dissipated from the candles like being snuffed out with a breath. The paleness of the room showed its true colors with a vile and malicious look.

“What is going on?” Scarlet said as she looked from the faces of the nurses to the doctor. “What’s happening?” Scarlet felt chills on her arms and legs. The throbbing in her head pumped like a jackhammer.

“The operation failed. You failed. You are still not thinking right. You will be brought to the incinerator immediately and purged,” Doctor Stanton said matter of factly. Her voice sounded more monotone than before as if a switch was flipped inside her. Though, Scarlet thought her voice was cold and heartless. Evil.

Scarlet shook and waved off the blanket placed on top of her but her hands were cuffed to the bed. The cuffs cold touch seemed to burn her ankles and wrists. She knew she was restrained but now she felt the piercing touch of the metal. Hobart restrained her with an emptiness expression.  McCarthy stood near awaiting orders from Doctor Stanton.  

“What is going on? Release me! Doctor! I can get better, I can do more therapy, we can try again, please!” She screamed and screamed wanting answers but a giant of a man in a white coat came into Room 436 and pushed her bed through the oversized doors. “What went wrong?” she screamed. They heard her screams all the way down the hall until the elevator doors slammed shut. Silencing her.

“Could we not do more, Doctor?” McCarthy asked. “Perhaps another operation?”

“No,” Doctor Stanton said as she finished filling out her clipboard and resting her pen with a pat on the paper. “Scarlet went through months of psychotherapy and treatment eventually leading her to the Dissidence Ward. This was Scarlet’s last stop of redemption to be cured in apocryphal beliefs. Unfortunately, it failed.”

“Now where will she go?” Hobart asked. He began throwing away the decorations and disguise of Scarlets’ bedroom. The room appeared white, boring, and yet more horrifying and unnerving. The kind of room that scared people into being eternally spooked and disturbed at the sight of hospitals. 

“The Incinerator. We must eliminate all disaccord in society to prevent it from spreading. Like a disease..”

“How do you think it spreads, Doctor?”

“From what I spoke of earlier. From imagination released from boredom. That’s why we must make sure nobody has time to think on their own. The source must be destroyed.”

“That’s good, doctor, I wouldn’t want my children to be infected with such a terrible mental disease,” McCarthy said. “It’s best to stomp it out quick before it spreads.” Hobart nodded at her comment flicking a switch by the door. The room lights flickered three times before returning to the bright fluorescent gloom filling the room causing the three squinting their eyes at the suddenness of the change in Room 436.

Doctor Stanton looked down at her hands with a frown as Hobart and McCarthy continued tossing all of the crimson candles, ragged towels, ugly brown square and rectangular patterned rugs, clothing and other items brought in the hospital room in the hallway trash compactor burning all material that costumed Room 436. Hobart removed the books from the shelf carefully placing them on a cart to return them to the Library filled entirely with copies of a single book marked with the same brown book with gold and silver lining and a falcon on the cover. Their faces filled with remorse and pity for one like Scarlet as they burned her remaining possessions. If only she saw the way and realized the truth and thought the way they did she would have avoided the incinerator and lived to read the many copies of a single book that filled her room.

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