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  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Marko and the asylum

Marko was just doing his final round through the madhouse. The night fell and the last sunbeams peeked through the barred windows. Bored to tears with his job and the dull rounds, Marko stroke his hand along the peeling paint on the concrete walls. He had wine and felt tipsy. He’d gotten used to the screams in the hallways, the mad would not just go to sleep. The job was far worse for the night shift workers. As the screams and cries continued, Marko felt like he was silently screaming inside himself. He’d made few friends among the inmates, whom were locked inside the complex for their own safety. Marko had found them to be good people, often speaking what’s on their mind even though it would come out with tons of emotions such as anger and violence. He had gotten to know Josif, whom had been in the complex for 2 and a half years ever since having a manic episode. Josif was open about his condition, at least to Marko. He had explained about the days he couldn’t help himself and relatives eventually checked him into the facility. It had been a struggle and Josif did not seem to improve ever since he’d gotten in. If only, he looked worse and bore the marks of age on his otherwise young face. Marko had grown concerned about Josif, even more so about the bruises and scars he had all over his body. Because they were never in his face, Marko suspected some form of abuse rather than self-harm. Josif would not share a word about it and seemed totally paralyzed of fear.

The human mind is a complex matter and even though Marko had never studied it, he had come to see many aspects of it during his ten years at the madhouse. What he had learned as well is that he could not completely trust his colleagues. The sturdy and bald night shift worker Milan was especially aggressive towards the inmates, behaviour that Marko despised. One time, upon Marko’s arrival in the morning, Milan was making himself breakfast. An inmate who was allowed to roam the halls because of his improving condition, got into the kitchen as well. Milan instantly enraged and hit him over the head with the frying pan, his baked eggs flying through the room in a hundred pieces. This rage seemed to be common for Milan and for this reason Marko thought that Josif, among others, was being abused physically. Even though brawls were not uncommon, the bruises Marko saw on this round were just very obvious. It’s just that nobody would open up to him and Marko did not feel like getting too involved anyway. He was paid to shut up and ‘keep the fools silent’ as well, as he was often told by the head chief.

After Marko had been inside Josif’s cell for a few minutes to inspect his bruises, he took his trash as well and left the cell. Before he turned around, he gave Josif his pen and a piece of paper so he could write down his thoughts in case he really wanted to share something. Marko promised to pick up the piece of paper on his next round in the morning. This would normally be strictly forbidden and entering the cell was out of the question. Marko was alone and had little to fear of Josif anyway, he thought. His concern over Josif grew bigger than his own sense of safety and it seemed that Marko had grown a bit reckless through the years at the madhouse. The wine didn’t help either. As he retreated to the staff cabinet, he took another pencil out of the drawer. All inmates were present. Just a sign-off and he could go home. Milan, had not yet arrived and so he had to wait. Marko couldn’t seem to get Milan out of his head. Not only did Marko suspect he badly hurt Josif, he was late now as well. This normally never happened and annoyed Marko even more so. The door of the cabinet was closed and as it was noise-proof on the inside, Marko could voice his thoughts out loud. Nobody out there could hear him anyway. He grew tense again and remembered to follow his wife’s advice, to let the anger slide off his shoulders and forget about Milan and Josif. Work should not be taken home and as Marko started his breathing exercises, his desk phone rang. As he picked up the receiver, it was Milan saying he’d be half an hour late. Icy roads in this time of year. Marko continued his breathing exercises.

He should have long been home already. Each and every day, around this exact time, only Milan would be in the cabinet polishing his shoes and getting ready for his shift. As Marko looked through the barred window, he saw the kitchen in the other building was already working. The cook was busy preparing dinner, which would be delivered to the main building in an hour and a half or so. Still no sign of Milan. Suddenly, he heard a loud CLICK. It took a second for Marko to realize it was the door being locked from the outside. He thought it would be a practical joke from Milan, probably in an attempt to scare him. Marko couldn’t help but laugh at this ridiculous attempt of scaremongering and reached towards his key ring to be able to open the door from the inside. There was no key ring. It dawned upon him that he had left his key ring in Josif’s cell door. As he had left the cell a bit overwhelmed by the signs of abuse he witnessed, he’d forgotten the keys. He had just walked towards the unlocked cabinet and left Josif’s trash bag right outside the door. Now it was locked and Marko gasped for breath. His exercises did not help him with this and just seconds later, a note appeared from the narrow space under the door. Then smoke, lots of smoke. It seemed like the trashbag was set on fire and the wooden door with noise protecting cushions on the inside would only last so long. Marko started screaming, this time not on the inside. He screamed at the top of his lungs. He read the note and it said, “This is for two years of abuse Milan. Faggot”. Marko banged the door and screamed but to no avail. He rushed to the barred window and tried breaking the glass with a broom. Oxygen would not help to keep down the fire and there was no way for Marko to get out. Smoke surrounded him and he wrapped a wet handkerchief around his mouth. He saw smoke coming from the kitchen in the other building, dinner would be ready in a bit..

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