05 Nov Panic Button
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"Panic Button"Written by
Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Before I start, I have to admit something. I’m only telling you this because I think that it is important. But I swear, what happened was real. I just hope that you don’t judge me based on what I’m about to share.
The thing is, I live in a mental institution. I am clinically insane. 10 years ago I was diagnosed with severe paranoia, hallucinations and multiple other disorders, and I was locked up in here because my parents couldn’t cope. I don’t hold anything against them. I mean, it’s not their fault that their daughter is crazy! They tried their best, bless them, but sometimes people need specialist help, and I was one of those people. Looking back, I was a lot worse then than I am now, but I’m starting to stray away from the point.
I’ve moved from institution to institution over the years. Some of were burnt down by inmates, some were shut by the government but there was one place, the last one that I stayed in, that shut for a much more horrifying reason.
It was called the Oaktree Institute, but we patients called it OTI. It was situated in a secluded part of the countryside near a dense stretch of woodland. The building itself built in the 19th century and was originally a fancy mansion for some rich family, but after the last heir died without a will, it was seized by the government and converted to an asylum; but they don’t call them that nowadays. Back in the day, it probably would have been a nice place to live, but now it’s once pristine appearance had slowly deteriorated over time.
The ornate gargoyles that once stood on the roof had been weathered by wind and rain but most of them had chipped and fallen apart anyway.
Green ivy twisted up and inside the cracks in the yellowing stone walls that once would have been marble white. It was in desperate need of restoration, but a global recession meant that any scheduled work had to be cancelled due to lack of funding.
Inside, the furnishings and decor were very dated, but clean at least. The wall paper was that horrible 70s yellow stuff and the carpets were faded and worn. The canteen was a bit better at least; it was originally the nursery room for the children that had lived there. Polished oak covered the floor but the walls were ornately decorated with beautiful frescos of stories from The Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales. Delicately painted on the ceiling were pictures of cherubs and angels holding flowers and hearts. It was a peculiar room, for in old houses such as Oak Tree Manor, nurseries were usually upstairs or in the attic, but here they’d built it on the ground floor. It was right next to the kitchen, and when it’d been converted to a mental institute builders had knocked through the wall to the small kitchen. I’d never been in the kitchen – only staff were allowed there – but I often ate in the canteen. Only a few of us ‘inmates’, as we were sometimes called, were allowed to eat in there as many of my fellow ‘inmates’ were too dangerous to have contact with others, but fortunately I wasn’t one of those people.
Also on the ground floor was the staff quarters and a visiting hall; no one ever came to visit me though. On the first floor were two wings; the Williams wing and the Mattenson wing. They were both for male patients and were named after two of the previous benefactors to the institute. There were another two wings on the second floor which were for female patients. They were called the Victoria wing and the Golding wing. I was in the Victoria wing, which was patriotically named after the monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. My room was right by the stairs to the attic. The attic was where the dangerous patients were held. I could often hear them wailing and banging through the ceiling above me at night. I had asked to move rooms but there were no others spare apparently.
Other than the psychos making noise above me, it was a nice room. I had my bed in the corner of the room opposite the door and a TV on the wall facing my bed. In the other corner was a bookshelf full of numerous novels and other such things. It probably just sounds like a normal bedroom room to you, but trust me, it wasn’t. The door was made of iron and every night the nurses would bolt it shut to lock us in. Next to the door was one of those two way mirror things. From inside the room it just looked like a normal mirror but on the outside it was a window that the doctors and nurses could see through. I didn’t like it at all, but at least they covered it up at night so no one could spy on us. It was sort of like a prison really, except for one thing;
If we needed to get out, there was a button above the bed that called the nurses to our rooms. We were only supposed to use it if we were having a panic attack or hallucinating or something like that. It was a panic button. I’d always thought it kind of useless for me as I’ve never had the need to use it before – I’ve never been particular scared of my hallucinations or had any bad panic attacks – but there was one night that changed my opinion of that button forever.
It was particularly stormy that night and the howling winds and battering rain made the old house creak and sway. I decided to stay in my room and read a little; that night I’d chosen “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s not a particularly difficult to read book, but rumbles of thunder and cracks of lightning hindered me from becoming fully immersed to the point where I eventually gave up and I settled down in bed. As I was tired, I drifted off almost immediately though, since I’m a light sleeper, I kept being awoken by random noises and the wails of the crazies upstairs. I know it may seem a bit off for me of all people to mock others and their mental health ailments, but if you’ve been locked away for as long as I have, you’d become mean too. But I digress; allow me to continue to bore with the seemingly unnecessary details of that night. After the wails of the criminally insane above me finally desisted, I managed to sleep for another two hours before I was next woken up; this time it was the night nurse locking and bolting the door. An uneasy feeling arose in my stomach from anxiety and paranoia that prevented me from returning to the world of sleep.
I lay awake for several hours, left alone to my empty thoughts and the storm raging outside. I found the echoes of raindrops vaguely comforting for some reason. The noises were consistent unlike the other noises that I heard in the night. The monotony of the pitter pattering sent me into an almost hypnotised state. They’ve done studies on that you know. Volunteers were strapped to chairs and were blasted with sequenced lights and radio static. These stimulants seemed to induce a sleep like phase on the subjects and I suppose that was what happened to me that night.
It didn’t feel like normal sleep; it was almost as if I was semi-conscious yet the telltale dreamlike elements were still there. I could hear the storm outside, but I could also hear alarms and eerie chanting that sounded distant and muffled. Naturally at the time, I assumed that I’d dreamt these noises or that I’d at least hallucinated them. But then I heard another noise. It was a sharp, loud noise that drew me to wakeness. There was an urgency in the noise that set off warning bells in my head. When I was finally fully conscious, I managed to decipher the sound.
It was tapping. It was fingers tapping in glass. Suddenly, I was blinded by a dim light that lit up my room that was once blanketed in darkness. On the wall next to my bed I could see a looming shadow with long bony tendril like fingers dancing up and down. Involuntarily, I shuddered, and the tapped stopped. I thought that it was all over, and that I’d just hallucinated a little;
But I was wrong.
The absence of sound was replaced by earpiercingly painful screeches. I groaned a little as the daggers of sound shredded my eardrums. My mind started to wander and I involuntarily began to imagine horrifying things. They were huge, dark shadowy things with pale faces and knives for hands slowly creeping towards me. Fear started to grip me as my thoughts felt more and more real. I didn’t know what to do. It was like when you’re a little kid, and you hear a strange sound so you automatically assume its a monster. That’s how I felt. Like a small, helpless child cowering under her duvet covers. The screeching grew louder and louder and I almost let out a wail of desperation. “Why was this thing taunting me?” my mind sobbed. I curled up into a foetal position and started to cry. I felt utterly hysterical.
But then something snapped inside of me. A voice of reason whispered amongst the swelling masses of terrible thoughts. “You’re hallucinating,” I thought to myself. Then it didn’t seem so bad. As the panicked part of me slowly drifted away, I felt a slight pride as a rolled over in bed, no longer afraid of the hallucinations that had haunted me.
Something was still troubling me though. It was the light. The light that had casted shadows in my walls. Now, I’m not afraid of light of course, but it was where the light was coming from that made my blood run cold.
The mirror. The two-way mirror. It’d been tampered with so that I could see the other side. Pressed up against the glass, was a sickly grey face on a bald, misshapen head. It’s eyes we’re bulbous and bloodshot and had a terrifying gleam to them. Below that was its mouth with triangle shaped teeth stained a worrying shade of red. The thing snarled at me with a smile. It was enjoying watching me suffer. It slowly lifted a hand and started to tap its long, yellowing fingernails against the glass.
I couldn’t breathe. I literally froze. I was panic stricken and the only way to cope with the emotions I felt was to wail loudly in the hope the someone would come and help me. I wanted to hide, to get away from it, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I thought that if I even blinked for a second, it would get me.
As I slowly moved my hand from out of the covers, the creature bared it’s teeth at me and hissed causing me to recoil in terror. I wanted the voice of reason to come back. Just to have been told that none of this was real would have made the whole situation more bearable. But the problem was that it felt so real . I lifted my arm out again and slowly reached up to the panic button. I was sure that the moment I pressed it, everything would be ok. As I poised my arm to push it, I noticed the creature grin. Not the evil grin that it had smiled before, but a more “genuine” as such grin. It was as if it wanted me to press the button. My mind was so jumbled that I didn’t realise it in time. I pressed the button, and heard it click. Breathing a sigh of relief, I expected a nurse to come rushing into me with my medication.
But then it clicked.
Something clicked in my mind.
I remembered something that I was told by the head medical practitioner here when I first arrived. “For ease of access,” I remember him saying, “upon pressing the panic button, the door to a patients cell will automatically unlock.”
And then it clicked.
The door clicked open.
Credit To – Skylaria