Running any kind of medical institution is hard work. A tremendous weight of responsibility is put on the personnel's shoulders, as they are tasked with watching over people's very lives.
The difficulty increases proportionally when the patients are unable or unwilling to comply with the treatment.
Thus, managing a sanitarium with a focus on mental health is arguably the most challenging task of all.
During their rehabilitation, mental patients need inordinate amounts of love, care and understanding. A firm hand lays the groundwork for all of this, since respect is the basis for all successful relationships. The bond between patient and caregiver is no exception.
It is up to the specialist to unravel the patients' skewed views of reality, step by careful step. The goal, of course, is to ultimately rebuild the mind into one that is sound and healthy.
In this state of reconstruction, the psyche is particularly fragile. Disruptions of the daily routine must be avoided at all costs, as they will undoubtedly have adverse effects on the process of recovery. Introducing outside elements such as unexpected visitors only serves to upset patients.
Unfortunately, this is sometimes impossible to comprehend for the layman.
In the face of such unpredictable threats, the caregiver must adjust their treatment and sometimes even improvise.
This is no problem for the competent professional, however, who knows the importance of using all the tools at their disposal.
"And how are we this fine morning," the nurse chirped.
"Are you fucking kidding me," Gloria roared as she rushed forward to bang her fists against the reinforced glass, "Let me out!"
The nurse frowned, "Well, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it seems. But don't you worry, I have something that will make you feel all better." She raised her hand up to the window and presented a small white pill she held pinched between her thumb and forefinger. "It's your medicine! Just take it and you can come out and get on with your day. And such a fine day it is!"
"No way I'm taking that," Gloria bellowed, "Let me out! You can't do this! You can't treat people like this!"
Gloria squeezed her eyes shut, suddenly dizzy. Her head was throbbing. From the nurse's words, she could guess that she had only been locked in this cell for the night, but it had felt much longer. An empty stomach paired with a sleepless night full of worry and fluorescent light had taken its toll on Gloria. She inhaled deeply, willing her head to stop spinning, and fixed the nurse with an angry glare. "I'm going to tell everyone what you're doing here. How you're abusing the people you're supposed to care for. Is... is the doctor in on this?! Oh, all the sim rights lawsuits you'll be facing... the press is going to love this. Just you wait."
The nurse cocked her head. "My, my. So aggressive. In that case you'll just have to stay in there, I suppose."
Gloria was furious. "You're fucking insane"
"... says the girl screaming threats inside a padded cell," the nurse smiled.
Deflated, Gloria staggered backwards. The dizziness had returned, and she felt like she was going to be sick. She needed water, food and rest.
"Just take your medication and you'll be free to go back to your daily routine," the nurse offered, "I don't like keeping you confined any more than you do. And there are fresh pancakes for breakfast."
Gloria bit her lip. Everything inside her screamed to not ingest anything this woman gave her, but what was the alternative? She'd just stay locked in this room, getting weaker and weaker. She could pretend to comply to get the nurse to open the door and then jump her and run away, but Gloria knew that this was unrealistic. There was no way she could overpower the nurse and her freakish strength even if she did manage to surprise her. And in her current weakened state it was simply impossible. No, the only way out of this terrible place would be her wits. She needed a plan.
For now though, she had to get out of this room.
"All right," Gloria said, "I'll take it."
"Good girl," the nurse cooed as Gloria swallowed the pill.
She didn't remember much after that.
There were glimpses, but nothing more. Her mind wandered uncontrollably, making strange connections she would later be unable to comprehend.
For a moment, she almost thought she felt a familiar presence. No, it was more like a faint scent of flowers. Lilacs.
But there were no lilacs in Midnight Hollow. No flowers at all.
Gloria watched the bare trees swaying in the wind. Strange, it was almost like the breeze from outside reached her too; first caressing gently, then tugging forcefully.
It was too much. It reminded her of the nurse, pushing and pulling and never giving Gloria a moment's rest. "Please," Gloria whispered. Her throat was so dry, she could barely get the words out. "Please... leave me," she managed.
And then, as if it had heard her, the gentle touch of the wind was gone again.
That was impossible, of course. The windows were shut tightly, just as they always were. There had never been a breeze to begin with.
But she could have sworn...
It was after sunset when Gloria awoke. She had a pounding headache and the disconcerting feeling of having forgotten something very important.