Group Meeting Chapter 6

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

Chapter 6 Wednesday Afternoon excerpt from Group Meeting by Iris Carden

“So how was everyone’s day?” Sarah began.
There was a shuffling of feet. Residents looked up down, everywhere and nowhere. “Anyone want to say anything?” Sarah asked.

“Did you see the tapes?” Chantal asked. “Do you know who’s been making all the noise and hid the graters under my pillow? They were back today – everything was emptied out of my drawers, all over the floor. It’s really not fair.”

“I did look at the tapes,” Sarah said. “There was no-one in the hallway during the night last night, except Johnno when he went to the bathroom, just as he said he did. No-one slammed the bathroom door, no-one knocked on your door, and no-one went into your room during the day to put the graters under your pillow. Chantal, the only person who could have left the graters in your room was you. And you must have imagined the noises.”

“But I didn’t!” Chantal said. “I’m not making this up! Someone’s been making noises outside my room all night, and any time I try to sleep at daytime. Someone’s been in my room and left the graters there yesterday, and came back today and threw my underwear all over the floor of my room.! I’m not, not, not making this up! You must have seen something on the tape?”

“There was nothing on the tape,” Sarah said calmly. “Just the normal activity in the hallway everyday. There was a bit of static on the tape at times, but that’s because the machine is playing up and it didn’t distort the image enough to miss anyone coming or going.”

“Distortion? What kind of distortion?” Jilly had looked up from her feet. “Was it just scratchy static? Or was it like fog or something moving in the room?”

“I guess it was fuzzy, like fog,” Sarah said. “It can’t really matter. It didn’t hide anything, and there was no-one doing anything out of the ordinary in that hallway.”

“Like fog,” Jilly said. “That’s how ghosts sometimes appear on videotape. That’s what it says in books.”

“You read too many Stephen King books,” Johnno laughed. “That’s not real. Maybe that’s why you can’t tell the difference between people and zombies. Fog on a video tape is just a dirty video tape. There’s no ghost.”

“The reason Stephen King sells so many books,” Bobby was working on the left little fingernail as he spoke, “is that he tells a kind of truth. It’s a kind of truth that we don’t want to know – it’s the truth about who we are. He knows what makes us afraid. He can make us all afraid with what he writes, because he knows we all are, and always will be, afraid of the same things we were afraid of as kids. The fog on the videotape was a ghost when you were a kid, and it’s a ghost now, if you are really willing to look at it. It doesn’t matter how much you pretend, ghosts and goblins and all the things that scared us as kids, are all still there – just out of sight.”

“That may be so,” Sarah said, “but fog didn’t thump on Chantal’s door, or hide graters in there or mess up her room. Chantal, the only person who could have hidden the graters in your room, and have emptied your drawers, is you. And no-one was doing anything at any time to make all the noises you describe in the hallway.”

“I didn’t imagine it! And I’m not sick again! And I didn’t mess up my own room! I don’t know how you didn’t see it on the tapes but someone is messing with me. And it’s not funny.”

Johnno put his legs out in front of his seat, linked his hands behind his head, stretched and yawned. “Actually, it was really funny to start with, but it’s getting boring now. You got your bit of attention and sympathy, so now it’s time to get over it.”

“I wasn’t trying to get attention!”

“You’re always trying to get attention.”

“No more than you are.”

“But I know that’s what I’m doing, and I don’t pretend otherwise. I’m not deceptive like you. And I can get attention without always having to play the victim.”

“I’m not playing the victim. I’m not making things up. I’m telling the truth. Someone’s been doing horrible things to me.”

“Yes,” said Johnno, “they’re aliens and they’re going to take you away and probe you.”

“That’s quite enough!” Sarah decided to call a stop to the conversation. “Chantal, could you stay behind after meeting, there’s things we need to talk about.

“Now, does anyone else have anything they want to talk about?”

“I do,” said Johnno.
“OK, what would you like to talk about?”
“We got the wrong chaplain today.”

“The wrong chaplain?”

“Yeah, we get the woman with the big boobs. Instead this guy with a bushy beard came. He said he was the Moslem chaplain. Why did he come?”

“Our usual chaplain was called to the intensive care unit, so another of the hospital chaplains came here. This happens from time to time, and you know it. We share services like chaplaincy with the rest of the hospital, and sometimes there’s another part of the hospital with more urgent needs than we have.”

“It’s not right. Why does intensive care get our chaplain? Why couldn’t the man go there?”

“If the Moslem chaplain came here, maybe the person in intensive care especially wanted a Christian chaplain. That does happen.”

wanted the Christian chaplain!”
“Was that for spiritual reasons, or because you wanted to look at her chest?” Sarah knew enough of Johnno to know what the real answer to the question was.

“What does it matter? I’m entitled to spiritual care. It says so in the patient charter. I’m not a Moslem, so a Moslem chaplain just isn’t appropriate.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Sarah said. “I think there’s a Catholic priest in the chaplaincy department on Thursdays, I’ll ask him to come down and see you tomorrow. That way you’ll have the opportunity to have spiritual care from a Christian.” Sarah made a note to warn the regular chaplain about Johnno’s interest in her.

“Other issues?” Sarah asked.

“The new girl,” Bobby said.

“There is no new girl,” Sarah said.

“I’m OK with her not being here,” said Bobby, “but can someone get her to take a shower? She smells bad, like a dead kangaroo at the side of the road or something.”

“She can’t smell bad, and she can’t take a shower. She doesn’t exist.” Sarah was losing patience.

“But there is a bad smell around the place,” Johnno said. “Just outside the bathroom, so across the hall from Chantal’s room. And Bobby’s right. It smells like something curled up and died there.”

“OK, I’ll get the cleaners to check it out,” Sarah said. “Maybe just a scrub down of the area with disinfectant will be enough to sort the problem out. Righto guys. Dinner and free time. I’ll see you tomorrow at nine am. Chantal, a quick word with you.”

Chantal stayed as the others left.

“Chantal, there was no-one on the tape,” Sarah said. “That means that no-one has done any of these things to you.”

“But I didn’t make it up!”

“Doc’s coming over from the hospital for an extra appointment with you tomorrow afternoon. All these things you think are happening, or are making happen, we need to get it under control. So maybe it will be a change of medicines, or some extra sessions with Doc or something. You won’t have to go back to the ward, not unless it gets a whole lot worse. I want to be sure you understand that. You haven’t failed here, and you’re not sick enough to go back to the ward. Doc’s going to help you, and we’ll all get on top of it. You’re not going to get really, really sick again.”

“But I’m not sick! I’m not making it up! I’m not hallucinating! I know what sick feels like! This is real!”

“Take a deep breath, Chantal, and calm down.”

“I will not calm down! I’m not sick anymore!”

“Chantal, you are getting sick, but we’re going to make sure you don’t get any worse.”

“I’m not sick!”

“You’re going to see Doc tomorrow. He’ll help you understand what’s going on, and what needs to happen next.”

Chantal stamped her foot, yelled “NO!” then stalked out.
Sarah let her go, made a note about her response to the information, but decided she wouldn’t need to do anything more.

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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