Today was hard. Really hard. Somedays you get the easy ones, the ones that so readily accept your imaginings of the familliar pre-fallout blue sky and green trees, the ones that whisper "Oh, Ebony it's beautiful, I can see it in my mind." And the tears roll down their face like the end of a film. God. A film. Barely any films exist anymore, there was that year before the fall-out where they stopped making them completely. Hollywood shut down altogether, and suddenly those so called celebrities were in the same boat as everyone else as the news heralded in that awful build up to the fallout.
I was put with a difficult one today. I already knew it would be a difficult one when I was told how old the guy was. Seventeen years old - too old to enjoy the fairytale ideas we World-Builders conjure up, but far, far too young to accept what had happened, to even begin to understand why he had been forced to live his life in the dark. Apparently, all he did was sit there in the corner of his shadowy little room with ear phones in, music was always calming for the blind patients of the Asylum. Like an escape...the same kind of escape we offered the patients. I went into the shadowy room and saw him at the back, hiding away, the sharp guitar noises of the music in his earphones the only noise. I took a deep breath, not really knowing how this case would turn out, but prepared my imagination anyway, just in case I was wrong. It was not a good idea to judge books by covers in the Asylum in this day and age.
I placed my hand on his shoulder, gently trying not to startle him. He took off his headphones immediately and lowered his head. Somehow he had already known I was there. But it was not uncommon for the blind patient's other senses to be heightened.
"I'm not in the mood for stories, World-Builder" The seventeen year old said, with an undertone that proved far more mature than how long he'd been alive.
"What would you like me to tell you about?" I murmured, trying to sound as sympathetic as I possibly could without sounding patronising.
"Tell me about how the world really looks. For once, I want the truth." The seventeen year old swivelled round in his chair. He was a handsome boy, blonde hair, blue eyes, and youthful...far, far too youthful. I didn't know what to say to his proposal. For one, it was against regulation to tell the patients the truth. But on the other hand it was against regulation to make the patient unhappy. The only thought my mind spat out was "Someone really needs to revise those regulations for situations like this." My only option was to ignore what he'd just said and try and play it by the rules.
"The sky is blue, bright blue. The sun, it's shining through the clouds again, like a ..."
"Please. Don't feed me the rubbish you World-Builders feed to the little ones and the elderly who have got nothing left but imagination. I want to know what the world REALLY looks like, where the animals are, what happened to the trees."
I paused for a few seconds "Don't you want to be made happier?"
"Happier? You think I want to be given false hope? I remember a time not long before the fall-out when every important person on the map was giving us false hope. I was only 6 years old, but I remember the smiles, the wide grins of deceit by the politicians and the newsreaders. I remember the 'Everything will be alright, nothing's going on' attitude. Now look at us - the broken - fed fairytales like children until the next disaster hits us and the next, and the next." Tears of anger started running down the seventeen year old's face. "So, World-Builder. Do not do your duty today, for once tell me the truth, what is the world like?"
I paused. I knew what the broken world looked like, smelt like and sounded like. The curse of every True Survivor. I grasped the seventeen year old's hand, leant in close to his ear and told him.
Minutes later, the boy sat back in his chair, a mixture of shock, disgust and horror etched on his face. Then suddenly, he broke down. And like the mother I used to be, I found myself holding him, the regulations said not to get emotionally involved but the regulations disappeared from my mind in that moment. He clung to me like a child and sobbed for what seemed like hours. Finally, the maternal embrace ended and I shuffled awkwardly on my feet. The boy swivelled away from me on his chair as though nothing had happened and whispered "Go. I know you're not allowed to embrace the patients in an emotional way, or show any favour between them. Thankyou, World-Builder, for telling me the truth."
I didn't thank myself.
Two hours later, I found out from the others that the patient had stopped eating and drinking. And had died from some sort of fever a few hours ago. He'd been moved up to quarantine of course, in case it developed into a plague. I blamed myself. From this day on, diary. I swear that my title, World-Builder, be just that. And that regulations will be stuck to. I still remember the seventeen year old, I remember holding him just like I held my own son in the hours before fall-out. And the pain in my chest is nearly unbearable. But I know I must go on, diary, to build worlds for the other patients. No matter how accepting or unaccepting they may be.