Blondie led the old man to a big circular room. A series of about ten long tables was set up in the room, filled with the facility’s residents. Or, at least those allowed out of their rooms. Three long corridors intersected at this one point. One of them appeared to be exactly like the corridor from which he had just come. The other was nearly identical in every respect, except there was a desk station, enclosed in glass, and what appeared to be a front door. At the end of the other two corridors were two doors, but they looked sturdier and almost certainly locked. Yet the large glass front door, down what looked to be the main corridor, didn’t appear to be locked at all. I can walk right out…
Blondie steered the old man to a buffet of food options and plates. “You have twenty minutes to eat, then back to your room.” He walked off to the desk station at the end of the main corridor.
The old man filled his plate at the buffet and looked around. A few men and women in white were standing against the walls, a few talking to each other. Two were walking through the rows of tables, seemingly on patrol. He sat down at the corner of a table and quietly ate what he could. The man sitting to his right smelled like he hadn’t bathed in over a week. The young man across from him had sores along his arms. Somewhere, a young woman was talking to herself. He glanced around—almost everyone had some sort of bruise, scrape, or bandage. What kind of place is this?
He saw an old woman feeding another, who appeared too out of it to feed herself. The woman being fed looked nearly catatonic, but she was alive enough to swallow her food. Why is she hanging on? What is she living for? The other old woman was patiently coaxing her into eating one bite then the next, encouraging her after each one. She had soft brown eyes that stayed fixed on her task.
The old man had seen enough. He stood up and walked for the main corridor. A woman in white called from behind him, “Hey, get back and sit down!” The men in white started to follow. A commotion sprang up at the tables of people wondering out loud what the old man was doing.
He was fixed on the front door. Three of the men in white were following behind him. He was fifty feet from the door now. The men in white started to run after him. He began to run too. And now he was almost at the door.
Blondie came out of the desk station and stood in his way. He had his baton out and was poised to tackle the old man. He gave the old man a crack in the leg with the baton. He cried out and struck back, sending Blondie sliding across the floor, rolling into an array of chairs.
The men in white had caught up with him. He punched one of them in the face, causing the man to fall back, blood dripping from his nose. One of the other men jumped on his back and wrapped his forearm around the old man’s neck.