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I'll Be the In to Your Sane

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She's not crazy.

And neither is anyone else in this place.

Or so they claim.

But some of them are. You can tell by the manic glint in their eyes or the way they chew on their nails as they mutter incessantly to themselves. The ones that scream in their sleep for someone to save them.

Root does none of these things. Root does nothing period.

Sometimes she sits in the garden and watches the birds fly by, smells the flowers and inhales the pollen. The sun up, bright in the sky, but everything looking dull and washed out anyway, as if someone sucked the ink out of everything. As if God woke up one day and decided the world was too bright and cheerful.

Except God doesn't exist. Not anymore.

When she's not in the garden (because it's too cold or too wet or she just can't stand the daily reminder that outside, the world continues on regardless) she sits indoors and watches the other patients. The other inmates. She doesn't consider herself a patient. Just a prisoner, here against her will. Sometimes she can't remember why, usually later on in the day, when she's tired and drugged up. But in the morning, at the boundary between sleep and wakefulness, she remembers. She remembers what she did.

She doesn't speak to the others. Just watches them carefully, cataloguing information, squirrelling it away for later. Just in case.

The others don't speak to her either. Not after the Incident.

That's what the orderlies and the nurses call it. The Incident. Whispering feverishly away to each other as if she doesn't know, as if she doesn't notice the sidelong looks sent her way. They are scared of her, afraid she might bite like a rabid dog. But she doesn't bite, not anymore. She's learned her lesson after last time. She takes her meds like a good little girl, does what she's told and they leave her be for the most part.

The others are afraid of her too. Most of them anyway. Some of them are too mad to remember, to notice that she's one of the dangerous ones (not crazy though, she has to remind herself, not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy).

It's a label they put on her though. A label they put on all of them. Root doesn't like labels. She thinks they are too much to live up to. Too much pressure. Too much expectation.

They expect her to be crazy, expect her to do irrational things, and when she does, when she complies to their wants and needs they lock her up, arms restrained and too doped up to remember who she is. And all she can remember is

not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy

But some days she wonders. Some days, those dull and grey ones, when the rain is lashing against the windows, the thunder fighting a battle overhead that it is never going to win, she wonders. She wonders if she is truly mad. If they were right about her all along.

Some of the others get visitors. Family and friends, shuffling into the visitor's room cautiously, too afraid to breathe, doing their duty like good little boys and girls, doing what they must to alleviate their own pain and guilt, doing whatever needs to be done to get on with their lives.

Root gets no visitors. Just the occasional specialist who hums and prods at her then changes her meds, ups the dose and sends her to more therapy sessions. As if that will help. As if any of it matters. But nothing matters. She tries to tell them, tries to tell them that the world is bad. Bad code that can never be fixed, can never be rewritten into something beautiful or tangible or worthwhile ever again. But they just look at her levelly and tell her that the world isn't made up of code, that it is real.

She laughs at how wrong they are. Sometimes she laughs for days until she can't remember why, until they turn into sobs for everything she has lost.

The day she gets a visitor though, is the day she starts to believe it. The day she starts to think maybe I am.

The nurse introduces her as Doctor Harris, but Root knows that isn't her real name. Her real name is buried underneath aliases and lies. But Root remembers it, deep beneath layers of memories so far down and dark sometimes she can't find them. It's hidden within her own mind, an echo of it once on her lips, a taunt and a cry of ecstasy torn from her throat.

Sameen

That is her name and Root says it with recognition. The first thing she has said in days (weeks months years a lifetime) her throat is dry and it croaks out of her mouth, leaving her sore and empty, like she just revealed her very last secret and now she has nothing left. Nothing, no one, anything. Nothing at all but the emptiness.

"Root."

Her voice is familiar, a comfort and a memory, a promise of things to come and all that has been, all that was and all that will never be. She has missed that voice. Missed the way it could be so low and threatening, yet soft when she wanted it to be. But never often.

They don't talk, just stare at each other as if they are trying to memorise everything, as if they are trying to drink each other up with their eyes alone. It reminds Root of a saying. That the eyes are the windows to the soul. And she wonders if that's what she sees. If Sameen sees her soul.

But Root sees nothing in Sameen's eyes. Just a sadness that should not be there, that isn't there at all when Root looks again, disappearing into a void of nothingness and Root wishes she could follow it, fall away and never come back.

Visiting hour ends and still they have said nothing. They don't rush Sameen out, she is still wearing the white coat that gives her some authority, makes the nurses hesitant to question her.

Sameen clasps Root’s hand with her own and to Root it feels like she is on fire, like she is being burned from the inside out. She is alive and burning and no one hears her screams.

"You're not crazy, Root," Sameen says like it is a promise, like she can fix it. Like she truly believes it.

Then the hand is gone, taking the fire with it too and Root is left with nothing but the ashes of her mind. But she remembers. She remembers what it was like before. Remembers how she used to be

not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy not crazy

And she thinks, maybe I’m not.