Group Meeting Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 Tuesday Morning excerpt from Group Meeting by Iris Carden

“So, how did everyone sleep?” Sarah asked brightly, trying to keep things upbeat after the previous afternoon’s debacle.

“I didn’t sleep at all well,” said Chantal, “and neither did someone else.”

“Why is that?” Sarah asked.

“The bathroom is across the hall from me. Someone was in there throwing up half the night.”

“Oh?” Sarah said, “so who is sick? You all know you can push the nurse call button any time if you’re in distress. That’s why the nurses are here.”

The residents looked at each other.
“I’m fine,” Bobby said.
“Jilly?” Sarah asked.
“Healthy as a horse. I can’t remember the last time I got sick.” “Johnno?”

“Someone was vomiting all night. They kept me awake!” Chantal insisted. “Maybe it was the new girl,” Bobby suggested.
“There is no new girl,” Sarah told him.
“She did look kind of sick,” Jilly said. “She was really pale, and really thin.” “Yeah,” said Bobby, “she didn’t look good.”
“How could she look good? She didn’t exist.” Johnno insisted.

“She was in the kitchen with us all morning yesterday,” Bobby said. “You must have seen her! You too, Chantal.”

Chantal shook her head. “No, I didn’t see her. She wasn’t there. I don’t know why you and Jilly both keep talking about her, she doesn’t exist.”

Jilly looked up from her feet. “She was there. She was in the hallway last night as well, I saw her when I was going for my shower. I said ‘hello’ but she didn’t answer me, just walked straight past.”

“Jilly, I don’t know why you think you saw someone last night. Maybe it was one of the staff, and you were tired. But there really is no new girl.” Sarah was quiet, but firm. It was really unlike Jilly to try to be disruptive, or to talk at all. She must have seen something, but what or who? Or perhaps, it was time to review her medication. Sarah underlined “new girl” in her notebook – that definitely had to go into the files for Doc to see. She also had to note that someone was physically ill – but whose file did that information need to go in? All of the residents appeared to be their usual selves, no-one had any signs of illness or even tiredness, apart from Chantal who did seem to be suffering from missed sleep. “Wasn’t anyone sick at all last night?” Mute head-shaking.

OK today’s life-skills session is budgetting, so in the conference room with Kara at 10am. This afternoon is shopping time, for anyone who wants to go. The shuttle bus will be waiting at the front gate at 1pm, straight after lunch.

“Which staff are going?” Johnno asked.

“Kirk from Security; and the nurse going will be Sandra. It’s the city today, so shopping in the mall.”

“Is the new girl coming?” Bobby asked, examining a thoroughly bitten nail. “There’s no new girl.”
“But she was just standing in the doorway,” Bobby said.
Sarah turned. The doorway was empty.

“She just left,” Bobby said.

Sarah walked over to the doorway, and looked out into the corridor. Closed doors. Halfway down, Kirk was leaning over the counter of the nurse’s station, talking to someone who was just out of her line of sight.

Sarah, returned to her seat. “Did anyone else see someone in the doorway?” Jilly nodded. “Yes, it was the new girl. I wondered why she didn’t come in.”

Johnno shook his head and Chantal shrugged – but they did not have as clear a view of the doorway as Bobby and Jilly had.

Sarah went back to the doorway. “Excuse me, Kirk!”

Kirk ran quickly down the corridor. “Trouble?” He asked.

“No trouble. I just wanted to know if you’d seen anyone in this corridor a few minutes ago.”

“No, no-one at all.”

Sarah laughed nervously. “They had me believing them for a minute there. Two of the residents think they saw a strange girl looking in the door.”

“What strange girl?” Kirk asked.

“Bobby and Jilly say there’s a thin, pale, sick-looking girl around. I keep telling them there isn’t any new girl around – but they keep saying it and I guess they had me believing it.”

“There can’t be anyone in here from outside – I’d know about it.”

“I know that. They’re just so insistent.”

“Careful,” Kirk said quietly, as he looked over Sarah’s shoulder at the residents. “You could end up living here at that rate. They’re here because the things they see aren’t real. Don’t let them get to you, or drag you into their delusions.”

Sarah took a deep breath. “Yup. This one just creeped me out, when they said she was in the doorway just behind me.”

Kirk grinned, “Are you sure they didn’t script it just to do that? You’ve only been here a couple of months – they try it out on all the new staff sooner or later. Just don’t show any weakness – they’ll take advantage.”

“Right.” Sarah returned to her seat. Kirk stared at each of the residents in turn, the warning glare they all knew.

“This afternoon,” Sarah said, “the shopping trip is to the mall. Anyone who wants to go, meet at the front gate at one o’clock.”

“You told us that already,” Johnno said, quietly. “We’re crazy, not stupid. We can retain basic information. We know we can go shopping in the mall, escorted by Kirk in his jack-boots and nurse Sandra to ensure we don’t escape or do any harm to the public. Maybe you’re the one with the faulty memory – forgot what you were doing before you went to hunt the boogeyman with Captain Kirk.”

“Thank you Johnno, I was just catching up to where we were.” Sarah tried to keep her voice steady. She was learning why staff did not stay here long. “Our wrap-up meeting is at four as usual.”

“Do we have to go shopping?” Chantal asked.

“No, you don’t have to,” Sarah said. “Shopping’s optional. You can stay here if you prefer.”

“I think I’ll stay and sleep,” Chantal said. “I’m still tired from last night.”

“That’s fine,” Sarah said. “If you need to rest, you’ve got all the time between lunch and four.”

Jilly stayed behind when the others left. “I didn’t make it up,” she said quietly. “There really is a girl. I don’t know why Bobby and I are the only ones who see her, but she’s real. I know Kirk would have told you we make things up – we play tricks on staff. Johnno does that. But I don’t. I don’t like trouble.”

“ I didn’t think you were trying to make trouble,” Sarah assured her. “I know you’re usually the first to try to solve problems. I just don’t what to make of this girl you and Bobby keep seeing, and nobody else does. It’s strange.”

“As Johnno keeps reminding us, we’re crazy. Maybe I’m hallucinating again.”

“Maybe. But I’ve never heard of any mental illness where people share the same delusions.”

“If we were getting sick again, Doc would do something to stop it, wouldn’t he? He’d change our medicine or something. I don’t want to be like that again.”

“That’s what we’re here for. To keep you well, so you don’t get sick again. We’re doing everything we can to stop you being like you were before you went to the ward.”

“But the new girl. You’re sure she’s not real. But I see her. Does that mean I’m getting sick? When I killed those people, I was sure they were monsters, zombies, chasing me. I was so sure I had to kill them or I’d die. One of them was a little girl, she was four years old. I cut her head off. Do you understand? I cut a little girl’s head off with a meat cleaver. I have to live with that. It’s awful – but when I did it, I was sure I was doing the right thing, what I absolutely had to do. If I’m seeing things, believing things, that aren’t real again, that’s just too horrible to think about. How long before I start to believe that you or Sandra or one of the other residents is a monster that I have to kill?”

“I’ll call Doc today. Maybe you need him to review your medicines or something. If you want, I can arrange an extra appointment for you.”

“Is that OK? I don’t want to sound hysterical. But I’m scared. I know Bobby sees her too, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. Well, not any more than everything bothers him.”

“Would you like to stay back from the shopping trip, if I can get Doc to come down this afternoon?”

“Thanks, I’d really appreciate that. I’m sorry for being a bother, but I really … I just don’t want to be like that again. I don’t want to do those things. I’d rather die than do anything like that ever again.”

“Of course you don’t. I’ll call Doc. I’m sure he can fit you in today.”

Sarah wrote “Call Doc – urgent” on her notebook, and circled it. “It’s going to be OK,” she said to Jilly. “We’ll make sure it is. You’re safe here, and you’re not going to get sick again.”

“I’m seeing someone nobody else but another psych patient can see. I think maybe I already am sick again. Guess I should go to life-skills. Just in case I’m ever unleashed on the world. But I don’t think the world is ready for me.”

Jilly left the room. Sarah packed up and left for her office.

Chapters of Group Meeting

Cover of Group Meeting by Iris Carden. Cover features photo of old, abandoned, abandoned grave.

Group Meeting

(Novella) In a facility for the criminally insane, a group of people with sinister pasts starts to be visited by a girl who doesn’t exist.

Reviews for Group Meeting:

Group Meeting is quite a spotlight into twisted minds and the depths of insanity…engrossing story by Iris Carden with quite the twist at the end…wow! – Dawn (Amazon)

Fascinating, with an amazing twist right at the end. Deep and varied Characterisations and emotive scene setting. It was totally unexpected, and surprised even me. Highly recommended. – Annie (Amazon)

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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