Shouts echoed down the stark white corridor. Squeaky orthopedic shoes struggled against the new patient’s defiant feet. Gary unlocked cell 324 and shoved the young woman in. Her arms restricted by the tight jacket, her body crumpled on the ammonia scented tile.
“But you don’t understand! Please just listen to me!” Zara pleaded with her captors.
“Let’s see your God get you out of this one!” Gary scoffed, double locking the door from the outside. She heard more shouts down the hall as his squeaky shoes drifted further away, leaving Zara alone in her tiny new home.
Dawn streamed through a narrow window high on the wall, shining directly into Zara’s face. She tried to wipe the sleep from her eyes; the realization that her arms were still securely bound snapped her wide awake.
“You awake ma’am? It’s time for your breakfast.” Charlie set a tray down on an undersized table beside her twin bed. “Here, roll over and let me unfasten that for you so you can eat.” Zara obeyed his request and he gently struggled with the numerous straps, releasing her limbs at last.
“Thank you.” Zara stretched and looked down at the tray. On it, she saw a tall glass of a thick, grayish substance. “What is that stuff?”
“Sorry, I know it’s not very pleasant looking, but they say you get used to it. I’m Charlie by the way.”
Suddenly, a loud voice interrupted. “ANGELS ARE PREPARING FOR BATTLE!”
“Here we go again, I’ve gotta take care of that guy. I’ll be back for your tray later!” Charlie quickly excused himself, pausing only long enough to secure her door.
“REPENT!” Zara heard the patient continue his warning. “THE END IS NEAR!”
Month after month, Zara found herself treated like a prisoner, reminding her of Paul’s imprisonment in the Bible. She tried her best to follow his example, keeping God’s praises continuously on her lips.
“How is it that you can be locked in here and still sing so beautifully?” Charlie asked one day, setting down her morning meal. Zara was sitting on the edge of her bed, still tightly bound physically, but her singing revealed that her soul was free. His simple inquiry allowed her to share her faith in the unseen God.
“Guess it’s time to feed the wackos lunch. I’ll see you guys later.” Gary tossed his take out containers into the trash and left the break room to start his rounds.
He approached cell 318 with a tray of the infamous gray goo. Upon unlocking the door, he quickly discovered the room empty. He dropped the tray and ran to the next cell and the next, only to make the same discovery.
“How many?” Mr. Jeffries demanded.
“All of them sir.” Gary uneasily reported.
“You mean to tell me that hundreds of patients just walked out of my state of the art facility without setting off a single alarm or anyone seeing them?” Veins near his temples threatened to burst.
“Find them. Now.”
It had been hours since the patience had gone missing and the sun was beginning to set. White coats wandered with flashlights, searching futilely.
“Hey Gary, what do you suppose happened?” asked Jarred, as they searched the grounds together, checking every bush and tree.
“How should I know? Maybe little green men finally came to take the freaks back to their home planet.” Gary laughed at his own joke as he pictured them being beamed up, straight jackets and all.
“You think maybe they were right—that maybe that Jesus guy they were always talking about really did come back?”
“Jared quit bugging me with all these stupid questions. You’re making my head hurt and my feet are killing me. I say good riddance! I’m going home.”
“But they said to stay in pairs!” Jared protested as Gary began to walk towards the main building.
“So go search with Charlie or Brice or somebody. I’m done!” Gary called over his shoulder.
“Didn’t you hear? Charlie is missing too.” Gary froze in his tracks.
“What did you just say?”
“No one’s seen him since he was doing his rounds this morning. Melanie found his chart in room 324 next to some crumpled pages from a Bible. Boy was Mr. Jeffries upset when he found out someone snuck those pages in! You know he thinks the Bible only feeds into their hysteria. Guess it doesn’t matter much now…”
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