“I know what I heard you say but...how is that possible?” My mind spun, trying to wrap itself around what he was saying.
“Can't say how, but it is.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t have to. But what you see right here, right now...this, is real."
He reached out to grab my arm. His hand slipped through my wrist. A coldness burned the area for a split second, and I jerked my hand back. My mouth gaped as I stared at my wrist, waiting for it to fall off.
I swallowed hard, blinked my eyes. “This is crazy, this is crazy, I can’t believe this is real. It can’t be, it just can’t be.” This went against all of my beliefs. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a good science fiction and supernatural novel, however, they were labeled as such. Fiction. I paced around not sure if I should stay or just get the hell out of there, thank you for the stories they were nice and interesting, have a nice day, but I’ve got to get back to reality. Sanity. I took a deep breath and stopped.
Suddenly, it all made sense and explained why his body hadn't aged since , yet his maturity was at an adult's level. why his age now made it impossible hadn't lined up with the events of the hospital, and his maturity was as an adult level even though he . He wasn't a vagabond, a squatter or a psychopathic murderer. He was an apparition. And this was what I had to deal with, separating my doubts with reality.
”Are you okay?” he asked.
I nodded and let out another long breath. ”This will take a minute to sink in.”
“You're doing good. Better than I thought. No worries, I don’t bite. Just try to relax, because there's more.” He leaned down and removed the grate. “Shine your light down here, to the left.”
The hole opened up to a dome-shaped room with the ceiling high enough for me to stand hunched over. I followed his direction and my light fell on a skeleton lying on the floor.
“That’s me,” he whispered.
I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall, my strength drained. “You were the boy Ivy spoke to everyday on those steps.”
“Exactly. She wasn’t crazy like they thought and she wasn’t hallucinating either. She saw and talked to me like you are now. So,do you feel crazy now?”
I let out a breath, staring intently at his blue eyes. “I think I might be.” I chuckled.
The tailless cat I saw earlier appeared out of the shadows, jumped into his lap, and purred as he pet it.
I set the flashlight on the floor with it shining toward the ceiling so as to give sufficient light without binding us. “He’s dead, too?”
“Yes, he was my cat in mortal life and now the afterlife.” He absently stroked the cat as he stared at the floor, lost in thought. “Ivy was admitted before me, but we didn’t meet until weeks later during one of my psychotic episodes. I was backed into a corner of my room screaming that the orderlies were trying to poison me while three men tried to calm me down, told me to just take my medicine and everything would be okay. I should have listened. They were trying not to have to sedate me, but my paranoia made me doubt it at the time. Finally one of them got a syringe and I screamed bloody murder. That’s when I saw her. I don’t know how she slipped into the boy’s section of the building, but there she was peeking around the corner, staring at me with a warm smile. What she saw must have amused her.
“Time slowed to a crawl and I calmed down, my eyes never leaving hers. I didn’t even feel the syringe going into my arm or the men placing my sedated body on my bed. I dreamed about her for the first time.
“The first time I got to talk to her, I said, “Hi,” and she just ran off. I thought nothing of it, at least she didn’t spit on me or pull my hair like other kids did. Once, I was even bitten on my face when I introduced myself to a psychotic boy.
“It didn’t take long for her to warm up to me after my persistence. The first thing she said to me was, ‘I don’t talk to anyone.’ We were outside in the garden with other kids, but no one payed attention to us. I said, ‘You’re talking to me now. I guess you’re a liar.’ She walked off, pissed. I had good social skills.
“As time went on she opened up to me, talking a few more words each time. This only happened either outside at playtime, in the garden or the library. It was always at a place where no one was close enough to eavesdrop.
“Her disorder was what we now call selective mutism.”
“What is that?”
“It's where one decides when they feel comfortable to speak. It is caused by several different factors of one's environment while growing up, and I believe hers to have stemmed from anxiety. Ivy was abused very young in her life and she clammed up in her own silent shell, protected herself from the outside world. After a while, her abusive mom got tired of her silence. Her mother would say things like, ‘Why are you doing this to me? What have I done? I’m tired of this. I can’t go on living like this anymore. You’re going to have to leave. You’re a crazy freak.” Her mother played the victim, always selfish. Her mother was the crazy one, hooked on crystal meth, always scratching at sores on her face and arms, screaming in paranoia of the bugs eating her flesh. Ivy would just look at her mother in fear and confusion. There were no bugs.
“No, Ivy didn't belong here. She wasn’t crazy, her mom was. One day, her mom got tired of her silence and dropped her off at this wretched hospital. Somehow her mom convinced the doctors that Ivy was crazy, and since she didn’t respond to their questions, they took her in. I don’t think she realized what kind of place this was because she would have spoken up then. Or maybe not, if life at home was worse.
“She was given anti-depressants in hopes that she would open up and talk, but she was determined not to. Some orderlies felt she didn’t need to be here either, but they didn't have the authority to let patients come and go. That had to be decided by the doctor's analysis. Some nurses wanted to take her to a foster home or adoption agency, but the superintendent stopped that. The more patients he had here, the more money he got from the government. Ivy was doomed.”