Short Friction

Writing to entertain and to stimulate thought

The victim

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Wayne walked out of the interview room feeling dazed. It was the second time the psychiatrist had seen him and he had tried his hardest to explain to him that he wasn’t crazy, just excessively worried about irrational things. Wayne knew it didn’t make sense to worry that failing to shake cans of deodorant and hairspray could somehow cause random strangers to burst into flames. But the psychiatrist had convinced himself, without Wayne really having much opportunity to say anything, that Wayne was suffering from grandiose delusions. The next thing Wayne knew he was hearing phrases like “schizophrenia”, “involuntary treatment” and “depot antipsychotic”. Wayne wasn’t entirely sure what these things meant, but knew enough to suspect it wasn’t good.

He had tried the olanzapine they were giving him twice a day. He found it made him feel strange and zombie-like, so he explained to the nurses that he didn’t think this was the right treatment for him. That was yesterday. Now the psychiatrist had berated him for his “non-compliance” and switched him to “wafers”.

Wayne rubbed his hands through his hair and sat down on a seat in the common area. A few metres away, the tv was blaring. A few patients were lying in front of it, staring blankly into space. One older-looking man had pulled a chair up close to the television and was staring intently at the screen. He periodically talked back to the presenters of the news program that was showing. “Thank you. Thank you. Should I go today?”

Wayne knew that most of the other patients would be in the courtyard chain-smoking. He wished Sandra was here to talk to. He stared at the worn carpet tiles, wondering when, and how, he was going to get out of this place.

A movement outside caught Wayne’s eye. A tall, pimple-faced young man wearing faded track-pants burst through the doorway from the courtyard, tossing a bag of White Ox tobacco in one hand, his other hand in his pocket. He strode through the ward with a confident swagger. Spotting Wayne sitting alone, he made a beeline for him.

“Brother, brother! Welcome to boot camp! Why you lookin’ so glum brother?” He laughed shrilly. “Oh yeah – you’re here with us. That’s okay we can all be friends. Gotta work together, gotta be a team. Can’t let them break us brother.” He thrust out a hand to Wayne, “My name’s Daniel. Or that’s what people call me.” Daniel leaned conspiratorially toward Wayne and tried to whisper, but was still loud enough to be heard across the room: “I’ll tell you my real name if I know I can trust you.”

“I’m Wayne,” repiled Wayne, shaking Daniel’s hand. “I–”

“Waynnnne! Well, I know I can trust you then, brother.” Daniel leaned in again and hissed, “My name is really William Frowley, but still call me Daniel because of them-” he jerked his head towards the nurse’s station. “If they know who I am they’ll let them know I’m here.”

“Let who know you’re here?”

“The vigilantes. I’m not crazy. Not like some of them here.” Daniel nodded towards the catatonic figures in front of the tv. “I’ve been gang stalked for seven years now. Heard of it?”

Wayne admitted he hadn’t, and without hesitation Daniel told his story. Eight years ago he had been working as a research assistant while completing his science degree at university. One night while he was working late in the lab he had discovered something amiss with the data for their project. He went back through the hard-copy files in the project filing cabinet. At the back of the cabinet was a metal box he had seen the project manager take out from time-to-time. He knew it was kept locked, but on this night he discovered it had been left unlatched. Curious, Daniel looked inside.

What Daniel found had shocked him. It contained a bound booklet about the size of a trash novel, “You know, the chunky-thick kind you buy to read on international flights.” The main body of the book contained information Daniel had seen before about the project he was working on, but the opening pages were a letter from a federal member of parliament detailing the reasons for the project and the expected outcomes.

Daniel attempted at this point to whisper again. “The project was to create a self-replicating protein that if administered as an intramuscular injection would eliminate the sixth-sense.” Daniel paused, ever so briefly, giving Wayne a knowing look. Wayne replied with a look of puzzlement that Daniel ignored, continuing, “So of course I realised this was about silencing the masses, and I knew I had to do something. I thought I had a friend who would know what to do, so I told them about it. That was my mistake.”

Daniel explained that he was then placed on “the Register,” and then the gang stalking began.

At first Daniel didn’t notice anything was happening, but he started to feel that something wasn’t right. Then he began noticing when he came back to his unit at night that things were in different places to when he had left for work. It was just little things – a glass he had left on the kitchen table might have been moved to the other side of the table. Books were in a different order on his bookshelves.

Next Daniel started having car problems. One morning his car wouldn’t start – flat battery. When the RACV mechanic came, he told Daniel it was strange for a battery to be flat in a car that new when nothing had been left on. “That’s when I knew someone was up to something.”

Then Daniel started to notice he was being followed. But it wasn’t just one person. As he left his house to walk to the tram stop, a lady would fall in some distance behind him. When he got to the tram stop she would keep walking as though she had just been on her way somewhere. But there would be a little signal, like passing a baton. She would “happen” to make a phone call just before a man at the tram stop answered their phone. “I picked up the eggs,” the man might say – just that – and hang up. Then he would stand within vision of Daniel on the tram until Daniel got off. He would pretend he was looking elsewhere, but Daniel knew he was being watched.

Daniel found this pattern continued until, as far as he could work out, he was being followed and watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes surveillance would be by satellite. Daniel knew this because sometimes, at night, a particular star would seem to track him while others stayed still. Also, when he walked past radios or televisions he sometimes noticed a cryptic message being broadcast describing what he was doing. “One day,” Daniel told Wayne, “I was at Harvey Normal looking to buy a new fridge, trying to get one with a good energy rating. Just as I was opening one I thought I liked to look inside the program on the tvs in the next aisle cut to an ad for Today Tonight – an ad saying that they had proof that buyers were being lied to with fridge energy ratings.” Daniel gave Wayne another knowing look, then continued his story.

Finally, Daniel drew the connection between the growing harassment and his disclosure to his “friend” about the research. He had asked his friend to find out who he should tell. The friend had promised to look into it and, after that, Daniel never saw him again. Realising that the government was trying to silence him, Daniel decided he had to fight back.

“I did some research and found out about faraday cages. So I coated my entire bedroom with aluminium foil. That way the satellites couldn’t broadcast my thoughts to the stalkers when I was in my room. Obviously they didn’t like that, so they organised for me to be admitted to hospital. That was the first time I ended up in here – six and-a-half years ago now.”

As strange as this all sounded to Wayne, and as bug-eyed as Daniel was in his telling of it, the story was somehow compelling. Dazed enough about ending up in this ward himself, Wayne was feeling even more dazed by this bizarre tale. He was fascinated to hear more, hoping to be able to piece together some evidence of whether Daniel was mad or harassed. Of course, the satellite stuff sounded completely mad – but somehow Wayne felt like much of what Daniel was telling him could be true. At this point, however, they were both interrupted by the arrival of the psychiatrist who told Daniel it was time for his review.

Wayne made his way to the nurse’s station to ask if he could make a phone call. He was hoping he would be able to contact Sandra – he still didn’t know if she’d been charged.

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Written by shortfriction

06/05/2010 at 21:41

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