A very short story told by Dave Stancliff…
When the raisins told Harold the cashews and peanuts were plotting to give him an upset stomach, he threw the bag across the room.
It was the only thing to do, of course. One does not ignore such warnings without consequences. Harold was no dummy. He covered all the bases. He learned to do that in the last 15 years.
They didn’t kill him for stabbing that man because a jury thought he was crazy. Instead they put him in this gray and dull place with other damaged men. The two hulking orderlies there didn’t like him, so he avoided them.
His main entertainment was sparring with the doctors who came in to see him daily. He played them like violins. From Day One they bought his stupid childlike act, and worked with him so that someday he might become a sane and productive person.
It took years. He took their tests to measure his cognitive progress without complaint. He smiled a lot. He learned medical buzz words and when to use them.
He did this while dealing with the conflicting voices in his head. They didn’t know about the voices. That would ruin everything. He’d never get out if they did. It wasn’t easy. Those voices got pretty bossy sometimes.
After a year, he was allowed to watch pre-selected movies every Friday night in the home‘s viewing room. The second year saw him with a TV in his own room. He worked hard to impress those doctors. Day ,after day, year, after year.
Meanwhile, the doctors talked about Harold’s progress and grew to like him. They all secretly felt they were turning a crazy man’s life around with their inspiring words.
They would go home, and during dinner would tell their families what a service they were providing for this man who’d been misunderstood and misdiagnosed all of his life.
There was one big problem for Harold. It got harder every month, every year, trying to control the warring voices in his head. After twelve years, he started responding out loud and cursing the difficult voices.
His will power was tested daily as he fought against blurting out something in response to the voices while the doctors were in the room. Three more years trudged by.
Finally, Harold was up for a parole hearing that could set him free. The doctors bought him a pair of new shoes and suit. It was an auspicious sign. He even got a haircut the night before.
The morning of his big hearing the voices weren’t arguing. They were being sarcastic, but he could deal with that. As he slipped on a new pair of socks the voices offered him a deal.
They would be silent, and just sit in his head nicely if he did them a favor. Not even a murmur, as the worthies questioned him. For the first time in years, Harold began to relax.
Without hesitation Harold agreed with the voices, even though he didn’t know what they wanted in return.
He was escorted by his main doctor to another wing he’d never been in before. They entered a small room with a table, and chairs behind it. One lone chair sat before the long table.
The doctor indicated for him to sit down, then went to one of the empty chairs behind the table. Shortly there after, five more people entered the room. Three men and two women.
He calmly answered their questions and made sure to smile a lot. After an hour passed Harold was asked to step outside and wait in a small lobby across from the hearing room.
One of the hulking orderlies he disliked stood by the door. Time went slowly for Harold. The voices were starting to argue again. He had to be careful. Couldn’t respond to the voices with the orderly so close by.
Finally, the door opened and his judges walked out. His doctor was smiling when he came up to Harold.
“Your going to be a free man soon,“ he said with a twinkle in his eyes.”
They sent him to a transition house two days later. Within six months, counselors there helped him get a job and find a small apartment. They showed him how to open a bank account and how to budget his meager pay.
The voices had been strangely quiet during the whole transition. Six more months passed and he no longer had to see a counselor every week. It was after his last visit that the voices suddenly returned.
“It’s time,” they said, “to hold up your end of the bargain.”
He walked over to the bike rack and unlocked his bicycle from the stand. Riding home he asked, “What do you want?”
“Human sacrifices!” the chorus of voices shouted.
A month later. A newspaper’s headlines: Ritual Killer Strikes Again,” and “Victim Count Up To Eight.” A monster was loose.
Meanwhile, back at the facility where Harold spent 15 years, his doctors were in the break room wondering how their favorite patient was doing?
As It Stands, I’ve always enjoyed a sense of irony in a story.