Group Meeting Chapter 7

Photo of Iris Carden's books. Caption reads: "Excerpt from a book."

Chapter 7 Thursday Morning excerpt from Group Meeting by Iris Carden

“Well, good morning,” Sarah said brightly. “It’s a new day. How did everyone sleep?”

Chantal shook her head.

“Didn’t sleep well, Chantal?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. If I say anything, you’ll just decide I’m sick again. I want bacon for breakfast – I’m sick of being the only one eating rabbit food.”

“So you’ve given up being vegetarian?” Sarah wasn’t surprised.

“Why would I be vegetarian? Who decided I should be vegetarian? Why do I get treated like this?”

Jilly looked up from her feet. “If I remember correctly, you were the one who decided you were vegetarian, on cooking day. But maybe I don’t remember correctly. I keep seeing things I know aren’t there, so maybe I can’t remember now either. It’s all very disconcerting.”

“You’re still seeing her?” Bobby asked anxiously. “The new girl? It’s not just me, is it?”

“It doesn’t matter whether I see her or not,” Jilly said resolutely. “I know she’s not real, and I can’t act as if she were real.”

“Have you seen that she’s changing?” Bobby asked. “Still thin, but….”

“But her tummy seems to be growing, even though she’s as thin as a skeleton.”

“That’s right. I wondered if maybe she was pregnant.”

“I wondered that, but she’s not real, so she can’t be.” Jilly didn’t sound as convinced as she was clearly trying to be.

“Wait a moment,” Sarah said. “You’ve both noticed this change in the new girl?”

“Oh yes,” said Jilly. “She’s not showing much, but I really think she’s pregnant.”

“Maybe,” Bobby said, “That’s why she was throwing up and keeping Chantal awake. Because you know, sometimes when women are pregnant, they throw up.”

“No.” Chantal said firmly. “The person I heard throwing up was real, not someone you two imagined.”

“Getting away from the imaginary girl,” Johnno said, “and for the record – no-one’s holding me responsible for the girl who doesn’t exist being pregnant – is anything going to be done about that smell in the bathroom? It’s really getting bad. You can hardly breathe in there now.”

“Yes,” said Chantal. “That’s another thing. That smell – from the bathroom. It’s all through my room now. It’s disgusting.”

“The cleaners will be looking at that while you are all in life-skills this morning,” Sarah said. “As for the girl, I just don’t know what to make of this. Jilly and Bobby, did you two discuss her at all outside of the meeting? I mean did you talk about this being pregnant thing before now?”

Both shook their heads.

“That’s really strange.”

“Of course it’s strange. They’re strange. We’re all strange. We’re crazy, remember, Ms Counsellor?” Johnno said. “Or did you forget that? Maybe you thought you were sitting at the pub with your friends, instead of patronising a group of adults you’ve been talking to like kids for months now. But you get to do that, because, being crazy, we don’t deserve to be treated with adult respect, do we?”

“You are treated with respect,” Sarah said. “Because this is a program with a purpose, the staff here have the responsibility to keep you on track with the program. That doesn’t mean we’re treating you like children. We’re here to help you.”

“Yeah. You’re here to help me. You’re going to help me get well enough to live out in the community. But we both know I can’t ever live in the community, don’t we? And neither can Jilly or Chantal or Bobby. Imagine Bobby getting a job. The first time he had a bad day, the boss would die in a horrible fire. Or Jilly – she forgets her meds and goes off to save the world from the zombie apocalypse again. Think Professor Johnson PhD will get her old job back, after she killed her colleagues and their kids at the faculty Christmas party?”

Jilly looked down at her shoes once more. “I don’t need to be reminded what I did,” she whispered. “I remember it every day.”

Sarah looked pityingly at Jilly. She sometimes forgot that the residents weren’t just dangerous – they were also all incredibly intelligent. Jilly’s IQ scored in the top percentile of the population – hardly surprising from a woman who achieved her second PhD at the age of 27. And at the age of 30, she had snapped. At 35 she was here in the half-way house, and Johnno was right – as brilliant as she was, there was no place in the outside world for her, and probably never would be.

“I think,” Sarah said, “That’s more than enough, Johnno. How about not picking on the other residents for a while?”

“Oh, I don’t leave myself out of it.” Johnno said. “I’m the worst, of us, after all. That’s what you think, isn’t it? It’s what everyone thinks.”

“You’re not a mind-reader Johnno, you don’t know what other people think.” Sarah said quietly.

“I read the newspapers,” Johnno said. “I know what they said. ‘The most evil man in Australian history’ the Courier Mail called me. The Australian called me “the demon doctor” – a bit strong for them, but what people were saying. And they were right. There were all the demands to reintroduce the death penalty just for me – and a protest march through Brisbane when the judge said I wasn’t fit to stand trial. I have a fair idea what everyone thinks. They’re right. I am evil. I don’t deserve to be alive. I can’t be released out into the real world. So I’m here in limbo for ever.”

Sarah didn’t know what to say in answer to that. So she said nothing. She remembered the headlines. It was a long time ago, when she was in her first year of university. She’d never then imagined she would help to care for the “demon doctor”. What had concerned her most,

as someone wanting to work in healthcare, was that people were avoiding going to their doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists – people were sick and in pain and refusing to get help because they were more afraid of the people who would treat their conditions than they were of illness, pain or even death. Johnno really had affected the national consciousness – for the worse – people were choosing suffering over health. Even now, there was still a widespread suspicion of the healthcare industry and its workers.

Sarah sighed. “Let’s get back on track, guys. The cleaners are going to check out the smell. Life-skills this morning is in the laundry. Kara is talking about cleaning products, and how they’re used.”

“Great,” said Johnno, “So any time the cleaners don’t actually do our rooms, we could do them ourselves, except we’re not allowed to handle poisonous chemicals, so this life-skills lesson is about what we can’t do and never will be allowed to do, because we can’t be trusted.”

“Cleaning up after yourself is a basic skill for living in the real world,” Sarah said.

“Which we are never, ever, going to be allowed to do,” Johnno said. “Face it, this program Doc has you working on isn’t going anywhere. Because we’re not going anywhere. So we just go round and round in circles, repeating the same life-skills lessons over and over again, even though we’re never going to be able to use them. You’re as trapped in the futility of the situation as we are. You, Captain Kirk, the nurses, even Doc. Nothing is ever going to change or happen. There is no real world for us.”

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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