I autopilot through two checkpoints, seven sets of doors and up a flight of steps in a caged stairwell to my sanctuary, the staff quarters. The State took no chances with the safety of their employees. The children incarcerated here were as dangerous as adults.
The familiar journey marginally slows my erratic pulse. I feel safer and increasingly lethargic each time a heavy steel door crashes shut. Fingers relax their crushing grip on the master key ring.
I unlock one last oversized door leading into the staff wing. We’re welcomed by a rush of cool air. The air-conditioning in this wing runs full time to keep a load on the generator. The reinforced, barred windows can’t be opened for natural ventilation. That limitation translates into greater security and peace of mind for me.
Kristine sighs with pleasure then wrinkles her nose at the smell.
The security door wheezes shut and locks with a loud, reassuring clunk behind us. We stand in a communal kitchen. The benches overflow with rubbish and dirty dishes.
Kristine follows me through the swinging door into a large lounge room. With a tired, sweeping wave of my arm, I introduce her to the room. She wanders around uncertainly, running a hand over the dominating horseshoe shaped couch. Discarded chip packets and crusty, stained plates are scattered around. Curious eyes run over seven closed doors arranged at even intervals around the curving rear wall.
With crossed legs she reminds me of her needs.
“Is there a bathroom I can use?”
I flick fingertips grandly at several doors on the far side of the room. She can take her pick. The seven wedge shaped bedrooms are identical, each with an en-suite. The laundry’s tucked behind the kitchen. I’m sure she’ll find it by the smell of sweaty clothes piled next the washing machines.
The flashing stereo display and paused image on the massive TV draw a longing stare as she passes. I suppose it’s been a while since she’s seen a working one. I relocated these and other appliances from an electrical warehouse downtown. Only the best of course.
Kristine pokes her head through the one open doorway that leads to my study. It contains several PC’s and hundreds of games that I don't play much anymore. I used to have roster to allow myself time for leisure activities such as these. Nowadays I don't need a roster to tell me to do nothing.
Typically, when Kristine gets around to opening a door, she picks a room containing a small mountain of bagged rubbish. I had the intention of stockpiling then removing the lot on a month basis instead of making hundreds of separate trips. I guess I never got around to it.
The disgusted look I get shows me exactly what she thinks of that arrangement. The next room is more acceptable. She goes in and locks the door.
Alone at last.
I hit the liberated stereo’s remote. Oversized speakers blast heavy metal. My arm makes short work of the dirty cups and plates piled high on the coffee table. Finally I unbuckle the pack and spill its contents across the bare wood. Pill bottles and packets cascade over the sides and roll on the floor.
I stand mesmerised at the wealth of mind altering substances available to me. Which one would remove the more troubling aspects of my illness? We have a winner. Morphine conquers all.
The hand that pops the tabs trembles uncontrollably. Nothing to worry about. Just overdid it a bit with all that running and climbing, that’s all.
Ah sweet, sweet, Morphine, sweep away my pain, you addictive bitch.
The weapons belt hits the floor. Somehow I strip off the soaked leathers without dislocating my spine. Tremors are running through my body.
The procedure takes some time. Kristine remains locked in her room, missing the retarded contortionist show.
Numbness seeps down the left side of my body. Isn’t that the first sign of a stroke?
I desperately want to lie down and sleep, but even a slob like me knows when he’s due a shower. I’m filthy, hot and stink like a urinal.
A rolling wave of nausea washes up from the pit of my stomach. I vomit into my mouth and choke the rancid liquid back down. I’m not wasting these pills.
Damn it, will they never kick in?
So far I’ve avoided contemplating what that Crawly’s venom might be doing to me? With no way of diagnosing or treating it I see no point.
Moving to the bathroom is a balancing act on rippling tiles. The shower taps move away from my hands and the walls bulge alarmingly. Water flows. I grope amongst fourteen different bottles of shampoo, by chance choosing one with menthol in it.
Why would anyone put menthol in shampoo?
The acid sting of it on my lips and scalp is intense. Cold water extinguishes the fire. I’m amazed at the sheer quantity of blood and dirt that runs down the drain.
Pain fades. Morphine lowers her smothering soft blanket. Supreme confusion reign. I swallow water from the showerhead to drown an empty stomach that cramps and flutters.
Overbalancing, I fall. Head bangs on the tiles on the way to the floor.
The stereo mutes. Or have I gone deaf?
I hear a muffled voice from the lounge room.
“What are you doing in there?”
“I’m giving myself a vasectomy.”
Did I say that or think it? The sarcasm is wasted. Kristine enters my bedroom to investigate. She stands in the middle of the room with a furrowed brow, holding a towel against her chest. I look back, sprawled at the bottom of the shower.
How’d I get down here?
She comes towards me, swimming in and out of view, one moment a crystal cut vision, then next a blur. Hands tug my arm and words batter my ears, cajoling then harsh. She’s beautiful when she’s angry, even streaked with dirt and blood.
Interestingly the towel falls away. Her only item of clothing is pink panties.
“Well, mush be my lucky day.”
Darkness wears jackboots and they kick my eyes in…