Alone, his whole family dead, certain that he is losing it, Danny checks himself into a safe place to recoup and try and get his life back together.
All he wants is a little time and space to think about where he’s going and what life holds for him next.
Safe isn’t always what it appears to be. Quiet can be an illusion. Sometimes the only one you can rely on is yourself.
Sometimes getting in is easier than getting out.
Danny Bismarck locked the front door of the house. The sprawling estate’s long circular driveway wrapped around in front of the mansion and then back out to the road. He stepped off the stone steps onto the paved lane.
Looking around, he had to admit the old man had done it up nice. The gold and crystal highlights in the stone gleamed in the sunlight, really setting off the front of the place. From here he could see the guest suite above the three car garage. The grounds were landscaped in every direction with a pool, pagodas, manicured bushes, and trees.
So why leave all this and check yourself into an Asylum?
He’d spent more than a week researching his next move. He wasn’t taking off on a holiday or adventure. No, he was thinking of giving up his freedom. He knew there were a lot of state sponsored facilities, but he could afford better. He’d lost his parents and only sister, and now had a significant inheritance invested, all he had to decide was which asylum he checked into.
Since he was admitting himself instead of being committed, he had choices. He sure didn’t have to end up in a state-run psych ward with the real crazies. He knew better places would cater to the insane if the price was right. Besides, he found out while doing his research that there are a lot of semi-crazy people out there who just liked living away from the mainstream.
There were some big outfits down south with a lot of patients where everything was like an assembly line. And there were a few posh places in Europe with pools and chefs if you could believe it. He even found a very luxurious one in Spain where everyone had their own little cottage and room service to the door. But Danny kept coming back to this small privately run Franklin Asylum. It cost the most to get into, but had a real small number of “inmates.” The website talked about recreation areas and lounges for reading and relaxing.
He shook his head at the thought of an asylum. He wasn’t sure if he belonged in one; but he wasn’t sure about living in the real world right now either. Man, things really need to be screwed-up for a person to get to this point. He just needed a break and wanted to make it as easy as possible, his world was just too crazy right now.
The website said this Franklin facility was tucked into the back-woods of Kentucky, there were open areas for the inmates to roam and it was almost like you were on your own. It wasn’t like your typical psycho-place with padded cells. At least that was what the website said.
Six months had past since his family died and he couldn’t stay in this house another minute. He felt his mind caving in, the loneliness was killing him.
He sent the application off without much expectation of a reply. When he got the acceptance he was shocked, elated, and scared out of his wits. He made arrangements for the house to be cared for and a security firm to really keep it locked up. Then he waited impatiently for the Franklin organization to get back to him with an entrance date.
Today was the day.
Danny had meant to walk down the lane and wait for the cabbie, but the car was early, rolling up through the manicured lawns, past stone sculptures.
Jesus the guy was here.
This was one of those points of no return. He knew he had a few more coming, but this was the first step. He turned to look one last time at the stained glass arching above the massive oak doors.
Maybe he really was crazy.
The Jamaican driver was bobbing his head as the car pulled up. Man, awesome pickup, maybe a good tip, was all he thought. He stopped near a kid standing in the drive way. He didn’t look twenty. Probably more like seventeen. That was going to hurt the tip. Damn.
He watched the kid staring at the house, holding his hands down beside himself strumming fingers against his hips like he was following a tune. Cool. The driver lowered the passenger side window and turned up his radio a touch, he hated the company line on keeping the music at civil levels for the paying fares. This one wasn’t going to mind.
“Yoh man, you ready to go now?”
Danny turned to the voice raised above the reggae beat coming from the cab. Am I ready to go? Ask me that in a few days man. He liked the tune and smiled as he took a big breath and climbed in the back of the cab. The driver was a Rasta for sure. The wool hat perched on top of the long dreads was a dead giveaway.
“The airport please. Terminal one.”
“Ah, cool man, holiday or business?”
Danny thought about that a moment and realized it wasn’t a tough question. “I guess it is a holiday of sorts.” He caught the driver’s eye in the rear view mirror and grinned.
Standing outside the regional airport in Kentucky, Danny felt the mood had changed. He hadn’t, but everything around him had. The eyeballing was everywhere. No one moved without ten other people watching. For some reason he stood out. Twenty people watched while he made his way out of the building and ended up waiting at the curb for his second cab of the day.
He threw his backpack into the backseat of the first car in line and climbed in after it. He felt the driver eyeing him in the mirror. The guy looked like he might be from the Middle East but Danny wasn’t sure. He was amused by the little balls dangling from the top edge of the front windshield and little figurines on the dash.
He settled back into a circle of anticipation and dread, waiting for the reaction, the first time he had to say it to another person. Looking up at the suspicious eyes again he stated matter-of-factly, “The Franklin Asylum please.”
There it was. Those eyes went wide open and then closed to narrow slits. The driver was immediately on alert. He drove out of the city, keeping an eye on Danny the whole way. It was everything the kid could do not to start slobbering, or chanting something and rolling his eyes back up into his head just to set the guy off. Instead he ignored the rising stress he felt, and tried to steel himself for what was coming.
As the taxi pulled up at the laneway with the sign for Franklin Asylum, he asked the driver to let him out right there. He felt the guy’s eyes on him in the rear view mirror and knew he was keeping his curiosity under wraps. The kid figured being that cautious when you drove somebody to an asylum made perfect sense.
Danny sorted out some money for the tab and handed it forward to the driver.
“Hello, excuse me, you need a drive back to town?” The guy seemed like he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to wait for a return fare or not. The look on the guy’s face said; really hope you do, while asking, are you sane dude?
Danny purposely laughed long and slow, which he knew the guy was going to remember forever, before he added quietly, “No, I’m staying awhile.”
The driver’s face went cold for a second before he forced a fake smile and put the vehicle in gear. Danny just managed to grab his back pack and get out of the way of the closing door before the cab started spinning on the gravel. Rocks twisted under the rubber, grinding, and with a little fish tailing, the cabbie got the car back on the pavement and sped away.
Danny turned to look at the gate, a large iron arch stretched over the lane. Franklin Asylum, Home for the Distracted the sign said.
Now that was fitting—distracted—not crazy. He flipped the backpack over his shoulder and started out. He wanted to walk up the lane by himself. He wanted to enjoy his last moments of freedom.
It was funny how a life could be steaming along and then take an unexpected turn to the left, or for the worst. He’d had so much going for himself, and now he wasn’t sure if anything mattered anymore.
The lane bent and turned, rising steadily away from the main road. He couldn’t see much, the trees bunched close together alongside the road. When he’d been walking for ten minutes up the gentle slope he began to wonder if he shouldn’t have had the cab take him right in. A few minutes later he came over a rise and looked down into a clearing.
Danny stopped, looking at the place. Now that wasn’t bad. It was one large building. The mostly cleared lawns for sixty or eighty feet around the building held benches and tables that were scattered about under the odd tree. The forest around the property was like a wall without being too confining, or prison-like.
With one look back towards the main road, Danny made his final decision and started down the hill. There didn’t seem to be anyone outside, even though it was a beautiful day. He figured they must have set times for these things, or other stuff going on today.
He was looking forward to getting outside and sitting in the sun and feeling the breezes on warm days.
The brick building became more imposing as he walked up the front steps to the locked front doors. Through the thick glass Danny could see a security guard sitting at a table. He knocked on the door and watched the guard’s head come up from the book he was reading. He marked his place and set the book down.
At the door, the guard made a note on the clipboard he was carrying and pushed the intercom button. Through the speaker his voice was full of static, “How can I help you today?”
“Danny Bismarck. I’m looking for Dr. Volk.”
The guard went back to his clip board, flipping pages back and forth. Danny could tell the old guy was happy for a break in the monotony but still sticking to his procedures. Then he stared at the kid for a good ten count. “Alright, you got some ID?”
The kid fished out his old beaten leather wallet and popped out the driver’s license he realised he wouldn’t be needing any longer. He slapped it flat against the glass, holding it there while the guard squinted at it.
The old guy went back and forth from licence to face until he was satisfied, then he opened the door. While the guard went around to his desk to make a call, Danny checked out the front entrance. Wow, heavy security here, big doors to get in the entrance, and even bigger doors to get through to the inside of the facility.
He kept checking out the guard who was keeping a constant eye on him. The kid didn’t realize that a huge silence had built up until the inside door opened with a groan and he jumped from the chair, scared silly.
The man who had come into the security area looked professional, wearing a suit and tie under his traditional lab coat. His slicked back hair matched the long moustache that wrapped around his mouth, blending into his jaw line and back up to his ears. Glasses that were nothing more than a little piece of wire holding two circles of glass pinched his nose, looking way too small for his head.
“Well hello! You must be Danny, how are you today? I’m Dr. Volk.” He stood straight with his hands clasped primly in front of himself.
Danny stopped himself from straightening his own clothes, this wasn’t some kind of job interview.
“Hello Dr. Volk, yes. I’m Danny Bismarck and I’m doing fine, yes, thank you.”
“Good. Come with me then, we’ll go into my office.” He led the kid through the large doors, leaving the guard behind to shake his head at the normal conversation he’d just overheard. It always amazed him how normal and happy-go-lucky people checking into an asylum could be.
Danny followed the doctor, looking around quickly.
The big doors closed behind them, leaving the guard to himself and locking Danny in. The main lobby was a large open area with offices and a small library. There was a wall of glass at the far right end with a security door, he assumed the inmates were down that way.
Dr. Volk stepped into an office just to the left of the lobby and closed the door behind them. Motioning Danny to a chair in front of the desk, the doctor stayed standing, looking down at the kid.
“So we need to sign some papers and have a brief discussion. Then I’ll give you a short tour of the place and you can get settled in, if that’s alright with you?”
“Perfect Dr. Volk, I’m all yours.”
Strange way to put it thought the doctor. Most of the patients that were in his care were actually all his. They needed to rely on his constant treatment or his positive reports to eventually get released. Those like Danny, who checked themselves in could check themselves out just as quick, unless something really bad happened while they were here. “You understand this is an asylum and that you lose all control in this place? We run it, and decide what’s best.”
“I’m aware of that. I was when I made the application.” Danny stared seriously at the doctor.
The doctor could tell the kid was serious, he obviously wanted some separation from society, perhaps he thought that letting someone else run take care of day to day responsibilities for him would allow him to put things back together, or focus on his health.
“Okay then, how about talking about your family a minute. That is why you’re here right?”
Was it? He wasn’t sure, but this place and this break from it all might be the way to find out.
“They were killed in a home invasion in the Muskokas, up in Ontario’s cottage country. The family always rented a place there for three weeks every summer. This year I wasn’t there because I was in the playoffs in my rec league. I was going to join them a week later.”
“Can you discuss the specifics? Is that alright?”
“Sure. I let sports get in the way, and wasn’t there to help my family.” Danny looked at the floor, “They killed my father right off the bat and then attacked my mother and sister before ransacking everything they could and shoving it into their truck”
He paused, thinking to himself. “They were never caught.”
“I’m sorry to pry, but as your doctor I need to understand your concerns and what you are comfortable talking about. I hope we can have regular discussions and work towards finding you some comfort or stability in your life.”
That’s it, some comfort and stability. That would be nice, Danny was sure of that. To kill a little time he examined the office. Stacks of books were all neatly arranged on shelves behind the desk. The drapes were drawn closed over the tall skinny window next to a wall covered in certificates and old school photos. It looked like the door in the corner of the office beside the small flag pole and bushy plant might be a washroom or closet.
Danny liked the thick rug on the floor in front of the desk, sliding his running shoes back and forth over it. He drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair while staring at the carved woodwork on the desk.
“So you think some time away from it all will do you some good?”
Danny looked up at the doctor who was sitting with his forearms resting on the desk, hands folded in front of him. This was it, wasn’t it. He had to believe in this guy, that he could be trusted, because once he was in here this guy would be his only way out.
The doctor was watching him closely. This might be why Danny had come to a place like this, some professional help. Someone, who was qualified to observe. Someone, who applied programs for improvement and recovery processes and had the skills to help.
Danny liked the doctor’s concern, he though this plan of his looked like it might be a good one. It better be, because once he got inside this Asylum his options would drop considerably.
“I’m really hoping so, just some time to recharge.”
That seemed to satisfy the doctor. He handed Danny some forms and releases to sign. He pointed out the spots needing a signature. The next folder had schedules for meetings with the doctor and various plans to consider for regaining his sanity. That was hilarious, pick a plan and free your brain. There were also time schedules for planned activities.
“Would you like a tour of the place before we let you settle in?”
“Sounds good to me.”