Ward 16 was thrumming with life upon our arrival. A myriad of dark eyes rested upon my scrawny form, struggling weakly under the strong arm of the orderly. The hiss of whispers drifted in the stagnant air as the brusque man placed me gracelessly on the cold tile floors.
My legs trembled, threatening to give out from under my shaky body, and my head pounded as thoughts swirled around my head. I somehow found my way to a hospital cot, collapsing onto the creaky metal-spring mattress. The light was fading, and the fluorescent lights of the Ward were already buzzing softly. The Ward grew silent, waiting.
A hard, assertive voice cut through the silence.
“Alright, everyone. Follow the orderlies to the bathrooms, please. Lights out and lock up at eight.”
One of the older nurses began to usher the patients into the hallway, and the orderlies followed in a tight-knit pursuit. I attempted to stand, but my body refused. Another nurse sensed my trouble and walked briskly over to attend to me.
Her hair and eyes were dark as coal, and she smelled strongly of roses, coffee and cigarettes. She looked me directly in the eyes with a soft expression. She slipped something out of her pocket.
A chocolate bar.
I hadn’t seen one in three years.
“Here,” she whispered. “Just don’t tell the others. They’ll be jealous. I know you haven’t eaten in a while, but the cafeterias were closed. Hopefully this’ll hold you off until morning.”
The sound that escaped my lips startled me. It was airy and faint, wavering slightly before escaping my lips. The sensation of my long unused vocal chords vibrating once again with life was both terrifying and wonderful. Her eyes held me in her gaze for another moment, and a silent understanding was exchanged between us. As if, in that shortness of a moment, both of our secret worlds were revealed and our inner demons, which we kept entangled in lies and regret, freed themselves.
She nodded slighty before whirling around swiftly without reply, and with the clack of heels disappeared amid the throng of patients waiting in the hall.