• Published 22nd Jan 2013
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Saturday - Bulletproof



The best day of the week.

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Saturday

“Breakfast is in fifteen minutes!” came the shout from down the hall, repeating itself every couple of seconds, getting louder each time, until it was finally accompanied by a banging noise, perfectly audible from underneath the flimsy excuse of a pillow she had been given. The call grew quieter as the orderly continued away from Lyra’s door to make his way through the hall.

She had another ten minutes before they forcibly removed her from the bed and dragged her to the cafeteria, but while the extra sleep sounded divine, she already had two strikes on her record and did not want to risk a third. With a heavy sigh, Lyra sat up and let the sheets, which were the same off-white as everything else in the room, roll off of her. The sun was shining brightly through her east-facing window, illuminating every drab, boring detail of the room: two beds, one small bedside desk beside each, and a lamp atop each of those. Her roommate was already gone, the identical twin-sized bed on the other side of the room all neatly made up.

Two minutes later Lyra’s bed was made as well, albeit with considerably less love and care than its neighbor. As long as you did what you were told to do, the staff didn’t seem to care how well you actually did it, and putting in the extra effort to do a better job wouldn’t do anything to prove your sanity, but would only make yourself appear to be obsessive compulsive, so why bother? Just do the bare minimum, and you will be fine.

It was Saturday, which meant it was breakfast burrito day. All of the eggs and cheese that didn’t make it in the preceding week’s meals were slopped together, wrapped up in a flour tortilla, and served two at a time, unless you wanted hash browns too, in which case you got one.

You couldn’t opt out of both burritos and just have double hash browns, which sucked because that was the only food they served that even tasted like anything. Lyra’s first strike came when she tried, in secret, to trade her burrito for another patient’s hash browns. She couldn’t scarf them down fast enough before somebody noticed that she had more than she rightfully should. She was then taken aside and was taught the importance of a properly balanced meal.

Oh, and you couldn’t just throw your burrito away, either. You had to eat every bland bite, or else you would be considered to be starving yourself.

An insufficient amount of hash browns aside, though, Saturday was probably the best day of the week. Group therapy was replaced by art therapy, so she didn’t have to explain to all the other patients for the one hundredth time exactly why she was in the hospital to begin with or set any bogus goals she had no real intention of following up on. Instead she just had to listen to the soothing-voiced art director walk around the room and tell her (well, really the director would be talking to everybody, but you had to pretend she was speaking directly to you) about how special she was and explain the importance of expressing yourself creatively. It was easy enough to tune out, as it was the same damn message every week, only changed slightly to fit the theme of the day.

The theme of the day was activities. Patients were required to draw an object relating to their favorite activity that there was to do at the hospital. Of course it had to be something hospital related, because drawing something from the outside would only remind some of the more unstable patients that there WAS an outside, which would more often or not result in them having a breakdown, putting the therapy on hold until they were either calmed down or doped up.

Despite the limited subject material, some of the ponies were able to make the most of the situation and find a way to express themselves creatively. Lyra was not one of these ponies. She drew a rectangle, and then drew a sunset on that rectangle, finally finishing by writing a title above the sunset. She could have done this in thirty seconds, but by being very particular about the tiniest details, she was able to stretch it out into five minutes. She picked up a yellow crayon and started to color in the sun.

“Reading!” the art director exclaimed as she walked by Lyra. “That is one of my favorite activities, too! What book is this, Miss Heartstrings?”

She gave the title, but when asked what it was about, she blanked. She never actually read the book in question. If you just sat in your bed with an open book in hoof, turning the page every once in a while, they won’t force you into any other sort of activity in order to keep you occupied. Until now she had never been asked a single question about what she had “read” and so it was never a problem for her to just let her mind wander and try to forget where she was. She could have lied about the story but then she ran the risk of the book being among the art director’s personal library. Instead, she just said that she hadn’t read it yet but it was next on her list and she really liked the cover, hoping that the hospital wasn’t keeping close enough track of which books she had been pretending to read to catch her.

“Well then, you’ll just have to let me know once you’ve finished it.”

Lyra said she would and continued to color in the sun.

Before lunch she had a meeting with her doctor. This was true for every day, weekend or not. Once a day, she would step out of the off-white void and into the only room she had ever seen of the hospital with even a hint of color to it. The walls were tall and covered with dark wood paneling, and directly behind the doctor’s desk was an entire wall of books. The carpet was dark blue and soft, unlike the scratchy shag that covered the floor of her room.

It was all she could do to not roll her eyes at the doctor’s forced optimism when he said it looked like Lyra was making some progress before he went right into the routine questions, and her into her routine answers.

How have you been sleeping at night?

Fine.

Have you been thinking about hurting yourself?

No.

Have you been taking your medication?

Yes.

Have you seen any “humans” lately?

Not since last time we met.

The doctor commended her, remarking that it had been two weeks since the last time she saw anything. She was apparently well on her way to recovering. She thanked him, and he sent her back out into the void.

The cafeteria still had the lingering scent of pan-fried potatoes, causing Lyra’s stomach to growl as she walked towards the back of the line. She closed her eyes and inhaled, trying to convince herself that hash browns awaited her at the front, which only worsened her disappointment when she saw her options were either salad or a sandwich, the latter merely being the former between two slices of bread. It was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner on Saturdays, so Lyra opted for the non-bread meal.

When she sat down, another patient joined her immediately; it was a young stallion that Lyra was convinced had a crush on her. He covertly passed her his packet of ranch dressing, but she begged off, telling him that her girlfriend would be visiting today, and she didn’t want to miss the chance to see her just because she had some extra dressing. He called her a bitch and stormed away, but he would be back the next day.

Saturday was visitation day. So was Friday, technically, but Saturday is the only day Bon Bon could come anymore, after using up too many of her sick days visiting on both during the first few weeks. Between the hours of one and three, one pony could visit for as long as the entire two-hour period, or two ponies could come at the same time for as long as one hour. Bon Bon used to stay for the full two hours, but as time went on they found they had less and less to talk about and so their visits became shorter and shorter. After a half hour or so, they usually sat in awkward silence across the table from one another for a few minutes before parting ways.

Bon Bon leaned forward, but Lyra held a hoof up. “I can’t.”

“What do you mean?” The earth pony looked genuinely upset which, though she would never admit it, lifted Lyra’s spirits a little bit, as she took it to mean that Bon Bon still loved her, and that the attempt at a kiss was not a lie.

“Remember last week when we hugged? I got my second strike for that, because I had been told not to several times already. Could you imagine if we kissed? You’d never see me again.” Lyra finished with a laugh, but Bon Bon looked more upset still.

“Not even a hug, then?”

“No physical contact at all. They won’t allow it.”

The pair looked around the large room, filled with white tables over which the other patients were talking with their loved ones, and watching over them all was no less than four tall stallions in white coats with grim, emotionless faces. The two eventually decided on blowing one another a kiss, and soon Lyra was alone again.

She had free time before dinner, so she went to the library and found the book she had claimed she would be reading soon, skimmed the plot summary on the back cover, and brought it back to her room. She sat under the covers with her back propped up against the wall, and while her face was buried in the pages, her mind was still on Bon Bon. In her mind, there were no guards in the room to stop them from completing their kiss. In her mind, there were no other patients or the loved ones of patients sitting around them at their own tables. They were alone, and as such, their kiss turned into something much more than a kiss.

This was another routine activity that Lyra had managed to fit into her schedule when she was lucky enough. She looked over to her roommate’s bed, double-checking that it was still made and unoccupied.

One hour later the call came down the hall for the ponies to come to dinner. Lyra closed the book, which she had already “read” halfway through, and put it on her bedside desk.

While Saturday’s dinner was always PB&J, there was usually some variation in the jellies. This day in particular, the ponies had a choice between the standard grape, and the popular strawberry which, for some reason, they never have enough of for everybody who wants it. Those in the back of the line were just out of luck, and Lyra was always in the back of the line.

After dinner came what many of the patients refered to as “dessert.” Three lines formed at three separate windows, behind which three techs stood, giving the patients their medication for the day. Lyra had two: one to help her sleep at night, and one antipsychotic for her hallucinations. The tech watched her as she swallowed them both with the help of a small paper cup of water.

The day ended with a period of mandatory fun time, where all the patients who were fit enough were gathered together in the common room and were forced to interact with one another. This meant that the orderlies would give them a selection of board games and stand around to make sure that everybody was playing nicely.

Lyra was in the middle of her second game of Clue Jr., a variant on the popular murder mystery game that was decidedly lacking in the area of murder, when she heard—no, when she THOUGHT she heard somebody calling her name. She shook her head and focused on the game, as another one of the players incorrectly guessed the same exact answer for the third time in the row. Another player had to be taken away from the game after throwing a fit at this.

After two hours, the patients were sent back to their rooms and would be given one hour until lights-out. Lyra sat on her bed with her book and waited for her roommate to join her. They weren’t friends, exactly, but they did do a good deal of talking before it was time for bed.

Five minutes passed without sight of her, and that’s when Lyra remembered that her roommate, too, had two strikes, and wondered if perhaps she had earned her third. She tried not to think about it too hard, and instead focuses on her “reading.”

“Lights out!” the call eventually came. Lyra sighed, and set down her book. She looked over to the neatly made bed of her roommate for a second before switching off her light and pulling the covers up over herself, all the way over her head.

BANG.

“Lyra!”

BANG BANG.

“Lyra, I know you can hear me!”

BANG BANG BANG.

“You have to cast the spell again and send me back, Lyra! I can’t stay in your world! I have a family!”

BANG BANG.

“Please, Lyra! I’m here, I really am! I’m real!”

It had indeed been two weeks since Lyra last saw a human, but she heard one every night.