By: Elise Pehrson
“You haven’t touched your snack. You know, it’s important to go into these things with a little food in the stomach.” The officer’s voice echoes in my head after I process what he said.
“What? Oh no, I’m fine. Really.” The grumbling road lengthens and stretches along the bumpy asphalt, making my stomach feel like it’s being stretched through a taffy puller. As if my gut needed to feel even more uneasy.
I guess we sat in silence for a while, but I don’t notice. The wavering motions of the cop car lulls me into some sort of trance. The cop takes a hand off the steering wheel to adjust the radio before realizing that it’s been broken this whole time.
We sit in silence a little while longer.
“So what made you want to become a criminal psychologist, Dr. Quinzell?” he obviously couldn’t take the thick, airless silence anymore. I turn my head and notice what he looks like for the first time: brawny, speckled with patches of hair ranging from his head to his wrists, making a stop under his nose to create a mustache that looked like the bottom of a shark’s tailfin.
“My…father…” my voice trails off. I flash back to a time when my father was still around—a time before I realized what he did and what kind of person he was—a time when parades of women conquered the house, leaving my mother weeping in her bedroom for months at a time. I remember the strange-looking men bringing briefcases of what looked like solid gold. I thought my daddy was fighting off the bad guys, only to later realize that he was one.
“Your father…?” he repeated, snapping me back to the present. This man obviously has no sense of boundaries.
“My father was a conman,” I say in the clearest, most professional tone I can muster, “I want to figure out what make men like that tick. Their minds intrigue me. Extreme minds intrigue me.” I guess he wasn’t expecting that answer—or maybe it was the delivery—but either way, it shut him up, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my relatively complacent trip to Arkham Asylum.
This place is enormous and gives off an odd mixture of feelings. I don’t know if I should cower beneath my sheets or burst through every room and drill each patient with questions. It’s all just so…riveting…
I approach an authoritative swarm of asylum workers and my eyes immediately drift to the woman in the middle. Are they just recruiting women now? Am I just one of their revamps?
“Doctor Harleen Quinzell?” The woman speaks over my thoughts.
I clear my throat, “Yes?”
“Follow me, please,” the woman says stalely. She turns around in a stiff sort of pivot and ushers me down the hall. A few of the male workers follow us on all sides with nightsticks and Tasers. Don’t they know that if we’re working here, as women, we can defend ourselves just as fine as a man?
My inner rampage is interrupted by the hissing of a crazed man licking the screen that lies as a barrier between the two of us. He’s mouthing something that I can’t quite make out.
“Please try and keep up, Dr. Quinzell,” the woman that’s leading me grunts. I quicken my pace and stare at the back of her swirled burgundy hair. It’s deep and dark and looks like a cherry cordial. Her eyes bare no makeup, but her lips are crimson and yelling at me like a siren. Oh, she’s talking to me.
“Are you even listening, Doctor?”
“Um—I—sorry…What did you say?” I ask, trying to hide my timidity—I’m in a nuthouse with the most lethal of all lunatics and it’s this woman who scares me more than death.
She grunts and rolls her eyes. “I said,” she reiterates, “Did you want to stop here or would you like me to lead you to your quarters?” I look around and see that we’re in the high intensity unit; I recognize almost every face behind each glass veil. I stare at the one that blinds me with intense emerald light. I step a little closer. I catch a glimmer of vermilion flames flicker out of view. I walk up to the window and notice that the patch of fiery hair stands like a beacon—no—like the only flower in a field of endless green.
“Poison Ivy,” I mutter. The notorious villainess has her back towards me; although, I know she knows I’m here. I place my fingers on the glass and decide what I would want to say to her, but an eerie cackle from behinds draws me into its signal and I realize why I came in the first place.
My body feels heavy and I hear my heart beat in slow motion as the rest of me turns into the call. I blink a couple times before processing who’s in front of me.
“Hey, Doc,” he says after his laugh fades into blackness, “I’m ready for my checkup!”