The room was surprisingly still and quiet for the number of people in it. That’s the effect of obedience. He could hear the sound of some of the men in white talking, apparently about events happening outside of the facility, events the old man couldn’t make out.
Loretta placed an apple on the old man’s tray. “They’re no good for my teeth anyway. Put it in your pocket when they’re not looking. Snack on it later.”
* * *
Back in his room, the old man looked out the window, through the bars. Beyond the parking lot and across a narrow field, the old man could see a line of trees. He thought about the day he was strapped to his bed and he heard the whisper. What about the forest? He couldn’t help but wonder if he had hallucinated the voice. But it was so clear…
Though he wasn’t hungry, he took out the apple from his pocket. Loretta, he thought. He wondered about her. Was she lonely? How did she end up in this place? Was she sick? No matter what, she was kind. She’s the best thing about this place.
* * *
The next day at the cafeteria, Loretta sat next to the old man, as she would do every day from then on. Their conversations were often brief and generally one-sided. She would speak, sometimes asking questions, and he’d respond as well he could with gestures. Then there would be times when Loretta would offer up comments or a little joke here and there. The old man liked hearing what Loretta had to say and when they were apart, his mind would wander off and he’d wonder about her.
* * *
One night, the old man stood staring out his window, taking in the view of the forest as he often did. When the sun was lowering beneath the horizon and the patchwork of clouds lit up from blue on the bottoms to pink at the tops, he looked down and for the first time noticed a bed of white wild flowers just outside his window. He tried to remember if they’d always been there.
But then his attention was distracted when he saw three deer emerge from the forest: a doe, a stag, and a faun. All three appeared to be staring in his direction. The old man looked in wonder. These were beautiful creatures and at once, they made him feel at peace.
Then, while both the doe and faun looked on, the stag galloped across the narrow field and right up to the old man’s window. The stag’s black eye glimmered in the light of the setting sun. The old man put his hand on the window and the stag moved forward and pressed his snout against the glass and huffed. He then backed