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By Devin ThorpePublished 2 years ago 20 min read

Work as a psychiatrist didn't suddenly hault just because some sudden adventure arose. Life didn't work like the pages of some fictitious tale of sudden wonder, where the protagonist throws all caution to the wind when a mysterious journey came along. And so Dr. Vinnit didn't abandon all psychiatric duties upon leaving the Warden's office. He did not throw caution to the wind and sprint for St. Gabriel's on the corner of Bronst Ave and Auven Blvd.

No, Dr. Vinnit was a put together man. A man who had responsibilities to tend to. A man who had crazy people to check-in on.

"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Fitspatrick," Vinnit said, closing the door behind him. The room was plain, identical to every other room here at Seoborn. If there was one thing Dorian Vinnit hated about being a clinical psychiatrist, it was seeing the same, mundane layout of every ward he'd ever worked at. From his first internship until now, these places practically mirrored one another in their architectural design and interior decor.

Long, creepy corridors. White walls. Brown doors. Monotonous, single bunk rooms. Ceiling fans too loud. Laughter too quiet. Bland food in the cafeteria. Little accessories to be found anywhere (for the benefit of the patients themselves). This place was a prison, but they replaced the orange uniforms with all-white jumpsuits. Like a cult, though these patients were likely to be more sane than your averge cult member.

It wasn't like the movies. Only the most dangerous men were kept in muzzles for fear of them biting themselves until they bled out. Only those who posed a threat to themselves wore straitjackets, and that was typically only Rocket Fuel patients.

Otherwise, on the whole, most patients enjoyed a pleasant life in very boring living quarters. It was men like Dr. Vinnit who were required to keep it that way.

Fitspatrick sat with his back exposed to the door, seated exactly where Dr. Vinnit had planned to find him. It was the end of the work week for Dr. Vinnit. His first work week at Seoborn, mind you. A period psychiatrists liked to call 'Shark Week', unofficially of course.

It was the week where a doctor would have to make an initial diagnosis themself of all their patients. For the purpose of the metaphor, it was like treading open water with several dozen sharks circling around you. Just like no human is the same, no clinically insane human possesses the same case as another.

Seoborn was home to 2,400 of the world's most insane individuals. It's what psychiatrists referred to as an Escalation Center. Off-the-books, all psychiatric wards are ranked on a scale from one to ten based off a single element. A single, hypothetical situation that asked: If no security personnel patrolled the quarters and all cell doors were unlocked and opened, how heavy of a bloodbath would ensue afterwards?

A level-one ward was virtually harmless. Their patients were either so sedated or so self-aware that they weren't considered a flight risk. A level-ten is the opposite side of the spectrum. A level ten dictates that if the patients were left alone on their own accord, not a single would be left alive by the end of the hour.

Believe it or not, most psychiatric wards across the United States ranged between a level-three and level-five. Seoborn, however, was a different place altogether. Seoborn remained to be, to this day, a level-ten. And the black book explained why. The fact that Seoborn was a level-ten was what attracted Dr. Jagen to bring his career there. It presented the sort of challenge he needed to finish off his career with a flare, and he had done exceedingly well there.

But there still remained the fact that all wards, despite how diabolical their residing patients may be, are underfunded.

There were 2,400 patients housed within Seoborn Psychiatric Hospital. 2,400 patients, and only twenty-four full-time psychiatrists. Meaning each psychiatrist was responsible for 100 patients. 100 patients divided into a five day work week. Ensuring each of them received equal and sufficient attention, counseling sessions, reassessments, medical adjustments, deescalation talkdowns for temper tantrums.

It made for a busy work week, and Dr. Vinnit had finally met all his patients so far but one. Mr. Fitspatrick. Shark Week was nearly over.

The man sat where his file said he always sat. At his table, positioned in front of the barred window. His head craned over the single sheet of blank paper in front of him, his hand hovering over it, scribbling away. Loose mutterings in the form of audible grunts left his mouth every now and then. They were the manifestations of the thoughts he wrote down. The jumbled thoughts which moved too fast in his head to be recorded.

He was writing a masterpiece.

That is to say, he would be writing a masterpiece, if he had a pen in his hand.

It's written in the patient's notes that Mr. Fitspatrick possessed approximately an IQ score of 160. Genius level. But, as with all the other patients Dr. Vinnit had assessed this week, little was known about him. Dr. Jagen had recorded all of his notes in the color-coded notebooks which corresponded to these patients. Notebooks that were now under lock-and-key supervision, ever since Marbek's Theory was ushered in to usurp Vayben's.

Dr. Vinnit was hired under the presumption that he would be taking on all 100 of his predecessor's patients, since Dr. Vinnit was the only applicant with the desired amount of experience. And he had, indeed, taken on all of Dr. Jagen's patients. All but one, that was. The one believably responsible for Jagen's death. The one being hidden somewhere within this building's confines.

Fitspatrick made no attempt whatsoever to entertain the arrival of a new guest. His head remained steadily fixated on the empty piece of paper before him, hand jotting over it like a lunatic. Because he was, after all, a lunatic. Dr. Vinnit watched him for a few moments, silently cursing to himself. Meeting these patients would be so much easier if he had Dr. Jagen's notes on them. The APA was forcing him to create a new, diverse portfolio on each of them, as if he could come up with something better to say than the legendary Dr. Jagen.

As if.

It was all a political ploy. Ever since the American Psychiatric Association had taken on a new president their agenda had taken a dynamic shift in its goals. It was no longer about diagnosing the problem. To do so was to admit that there was something wrong with the human. To do so was to declare that their brain didn't function as well as an average human being's. To diagnose mental abnormalities was to be insensitive. Or so the president of the APA said. Obviously she had never worked in a psychiatric ward a day in her life, or else she'd know how much some of these individuals need a diagnosis.

But somehow the APA chose to elect a theoretical scholar instead of an experienced professional as their president. Theoretical scholars were necessary in this field, but they should not be trusted to give orders. Their heads live in books and hypotheticals, not in tried and true methodology. They vainly seek for the next great something. They all search for some fresh perspective or ideology that will be their claim to fame.

And they leave people like Dr. Vinnit behind to put to practice their failing, flawed hypotheses.

The doctor approached the patient, questioning how to best break him from his obsessive, imaginary scribbling. One of the few notes written in Fitspatrick's file indicated that he was prone to temper tantrums if his writing was interrupted.

So Dr. Vinnit chose to take it slow. There was no second chair around for Dorian to claim, so he merely approached the desk Mr. Fitspatrick was located at and sat on its corner. This tactic was called 'breaching the bubble'. A subtle, gradual approach to breaking an obsessive individual out of their zone while deescalating their chances of going into the red zone.

Dorian Vinnit sat there, a few short feet away from the patient, silently observing him as his hand hovered over the blank sheet of paper. The hand darted back and forth like the stylus of a polygraph machine, not writing intelligable dialect. He was so fixated on whatever it was he thought he was writing that he had forgotten the english language. Or maybe his brain didn't record things in english. Perhaps he had some form of retrofitted script unbeknownst to all others but himself.

His hair was long, well past his shoulders. His craned head forced it to fall over his eyes, completely blocking his view of the paper he thinks he writes on. For all Dr. Vinnit knew, the man's eyes may not even be open. They were entirely concealed by the dirty strands of brown hair.

The only other thing left in this man's file was a single question. It was the question Dr. Jagen had trained Fitspatrick with as a way of breaking him out of his manic states of writing. The question was an anchor meant to pull the patient back to reality. A way of peacefully interrupting his storytelling without sending him into the red zone.

Dr. Vinnit waited several long seconds, then recited the incantation:

"Up, up the rabbit hole.

Back we must come

To the land of possibilities

To reality succumb

It is fun to write

It is fun to plot

But no fun to be captive

A slave to thought

So hush your mind

Dial it back

And please do tell me

What does your story currently lack?"

Suddenly, upon the final utterance of the poem's last line, Fitspatrick's hand ceased all motion. Like someone enslaved to psychosis, the poem ripped the man back to reality. His cramped fist relaxed, now trembling over the paper, almost as if he had Parkinson's disease. Shaking violently, as if the hand had been at it for hours. Days, maybe. But the rest of his body was calm. Collected.

"A suitable protagonist. The story lacks a suitable protagonist," the man replied, his voice deep and dark and stoic. Not how Dr. Vinnit had imagined his voice would sound in the slightest. Dr. Jagen had invented the rhyming question as a way to break Mr. Fitspatrick out of his delusional writing states. It was a question that brought them on common ground. It allowed Fitspatrick to discuss the current state his mind was in. Allowed him to still briefly reflect on the things he was writing. It was a question that didn't rip him out of his thoughts too quickly, which could be dangerous for his mind.

It let him linger in his mind a few moments longer, but told him it was time to stop writing at the same time.

"And I'm assuming you've already created a sufficient villain?" Dr. Vinnit asked, that question seeming to be the most sensible thing to ask.

A noticable shiver ran down the patient's body. Fitspatrick's head slowly lifted, a deep exhale slightly pushing the hair out of his eyes. Otherwise he made no attempt to wipe the locks out of his field of vision.

His head craned towards Dr. Vinnit, his half-visible face possessing a look of derranged judgement it. Almost as if the question had been one of the stupidest things he'd ever heard.

"Villains don't need to be created, doctor," the patient replied eerily, every word blowing the same strands of hair that blocked his face. "Has no one ever told you that?"

"No, but I'm curious to hear why think that?" Vinnit asked, wanting to flesh out the idea to get to the bottom of it.

"Because villains exist in reality, doctor. But heroes? Those, my friend, are hard to come by in the real world. Those are the sort of characters you have to create."

Fitspatrick had a look of despair on his face, as if someone had just told him the way the world ends. The words he said had such weight to them. Such accuracy. Such relatability. It was moments like these that scared Dr. Vinnit most. Moments where someone declared clinically insane uttered words that sounded more thought-out and put-together than the words of any sane individual. Almost as if the insanity gave them a leg up. A different lens to see the world through.

"In the stories you write; do the heroes win in the end?" Dr. Vinnit asked, following the flow of conversation, his specialty.

"Why do you think it is that they took my pen away?" the man replied, a dark, perverted chuckle shuddering from his diaphragm.

Dr. Vinnit knew the real answer as to why they took the man's pen away, though he didn't want to admit it aloud.

"They say you believe the things you write in ink come true. That the characters you create spring forth from the page into actualization," Vinnit replied. The official diagnosis was called Vita Scribere. Life to writing. It is a rare form of abnormal psychology, where an individual falls prey to the idea that the things they transcribe will come true. Afterwards a form of severe paranoia builds in the things they write, and then follows years of repressed guilt for the things they believe themselves to be creating. Characters they've killed. Dark plot twists. Unhappy endings. It causes a progressive, downward spiral in the individual's life until they are so guilty with the things they believe they've done in reality that it causes clinical depression and destroyed self-esteem.

"Ah, so you're like the rest of them?" Fitspatrick asked, his face lowering in shame slightly. "Don't believe me when I tell you my truths. I've gotten used to it. Very few believe me, even in this hellhole."

This statement alone was enough to prove Fitspatrick was mentally aware of his condition, which places him closer to white-level than most. Being spatially aware of one's surroundings is not a characteristic the clinically insane always possess. Even some Rocket Fuel patients throttle into such fits of delirium when triggered that they lose touch with reality.

But Fitspatrick was different. When he came back to reality from his delusions of writing, he came back for good.

"I didn't say I don't believe you. I just have never seen you put ink to paper. I have never seen what ensues after," Dr. Vinnit said, assuming a neutral stance in the matter.

"And you never will, doctor—" Fitspatrick looked back up, an expression of bewilderment twitching at the corners of his mouth. It was as if for the first time since this conversation began he was realizing that Dr. Vinnit was not Dr. Jagen. His body tensed at the sight of the unfamiliar man in his living quarters.

This was a normal reaction. Dr. Vinnit had already introduced himself to 99 other patients, each of them taking the news of his arrival in different measures. Some accepted him with open arms, and others downright refused to speak to him. It came with the territory. When a patient builds years of rapport with a single doctor, they simultaneously build trust and vulnerability with that doctor. These men were used to confiding in Dr. Jagen, and Dr. Jagen alone.

But it had been nearly a month since Jagen's passing, and some of these men were so mentally unstable that they hadn't even noticed Dr. Jagen had missed four consecutive sessions over the past four weeks. They did not live in worlds where such a chain of events was noticeable. They all fought too many internal demons to notice the death of a human.

For their own mental health and safety, news of Dr. Jagen's passing was withheld from his patients. But not Mr. Fitspatrick. The medical assisstants decided it was best to inform Mr. Fitspatrick of Dr. Jagen's passing. The derranged writer had grown to admire his psychiatrist, and they figured he deserved to know.

"Dr. Dorian Vinnit, Dr. Jagen's replacement," Vinnit said, extending his hand to his patient. Fitspatrick stared at the hand a moment, hairs swaying in front of his eyes to conceal the look of disappointment he held. He knew Jagen was dead, but it hadn't been real until this moment. This was the moment where Jagen's death would affect Fitspatrick personally. This was the moment when the patient would have to learn how to be vulnerable with another human.

"What do you find compelling in a hero, Dr. Vinnit?" Fitspatrick asked, ignoring the doctor's hand. He averted his eyes away from the doctor, staring once more at the blank sheet of paper.

This was a test. Fitspatrick wanted to pull Dorian out of his comfort zone. See if the thoughts that filled his mind were worth entertaining. See if Dorian could carry his own in a conversation concerning creativity.

"I like to believe that sometimes the best heroes are defined by their villains," Vinnit said, planning to continue but was suddenly cut off by Fitspatrick's sigh of boredom.

"You and everyone else, Dr. Vinnit. Seoborn has an impressive library filled with books that won't set us 'degenerate' individual's off," he said, his voice chuckling at the word 'degenerate'. "Their plots would all agree with your statement. But do you know why no one would ever like the stories I write?" he asked, letting the question hang in the air a moment. Dr. Vinnit let the question linger for as long as Mr. Fitspatrick wanted it to float metaphysically in the air between them.

"Because the stories I write are real. Even without a pen, the thoughts in my mind have a way of coming true. I cannot hold them back. They are like the torrents of a river pressed up against a dam after heavy rain. Real things with dark endings, Dr. Vinnit. And nobody wants to see their own reality reflected in the things they read."

"And do you think there are no heroes in reality?" Dorian asked, the introspective conversation drawing him in. This was an individual who functioned based off a very concrete ideology—one that made sense to him. If Vinnit was to do his job proper, he would need to slowly learn the way Fitspatrick thought. Dissect these thoughts. Expose them like raw camera film in a darkroom. Let the picture slowly unfold until there was complete understanding.

"There is no such thing as a hero, doctor," Fitspatrick grunted. He grinded his teeth between spurts of dialogue. "There are only villains, and if the writer does their job correctly, they may convince you yet that one of them is worth rooting for."

"And that is what your story currently lacks? A villain worth supporting?"

"Precisely, doctor. I thought I had found one in Dr. Jagen," Fitspatrick stated plainly, as if there wasn't anything eery about the statement whatsoever. Then he whispered, "But he wasn't strong enough to stop the evil."

This made Dr. Vinnit lose complete track of his thoughts. It was unexpected, to hear something so sinister sounding stated in such a mundane voice.

"What do you mean? Wasn't strong enough to stop what evil?" Dr. Vinnit asked, his body inching forward towards the patient. Fitspatrick looked up, this time his hair happened to brush fall away from his eyes enough to expose the man's face. And it was this moment that Dr. Vinnit locked eyes with Mr. Fitspatrick for the first time.

Or, properly stated, his lack thereof. The man's eyelids were closed. Sunken and hollow. Eyelids that have no eyeballs behind them. Each of his eyes had been completely enucleated. Mr. Fitspatrick was, for circumstances currently unknown to Dr. Dorian Vinnit, fully blind.

The lack of eyes made the man's face look like a skull. His parchment white skin wrapped tight against his jaw and cheekbones. A skull shrouded in a veil of greasy, unwashed hair. And yet, the man's face was beautiful in a sick, demented sort of way. The kind of beauty found in a black rose. A decaying corpse. A bird with broken wings. Sights all seen in the natural world, but sights that all take a certain appreciation to see their true beauty.

"I have been here for seventeen years, doctor. Seventeen years and I've learned only one thing. You do not need eyes in order to see the devil. I told Dr. Jagen he wasn't strong enough to take on the child. I could see the story in my head plain as day. A thousand ways it could have gone, and they all led to his eventual death. There exists here an evil, Dr. Vinnit, that no hero is capable of taking on. That is why my story lacks a suitable protagonist. Not because there are no suitors ready to rise to the cause, but because the villain they face is far too overpowered to be defeated. Like I said, I write in the realm of reality. My stories are not embellished with happy endings. I cannot just pull a hero out of my ass to take on the current antagonist. Yet that can't keep me from trying. Perhaps there is still a chance. Perhaps hope remains."

Dr. Vinnit's mind was swimming. It was best protocol to not interrupt a patient while they were sharing unless absolutely necessary, but Mr. Fitspatrick made this difficult. He had just exposed his hand—revealed he knew information concerning the death of Dr. Jagen and his mystery patient. Vinnit had to summon all of his patience and willpower to not pelt Fitspatrick with questions. He must remain calm. To show mania now would disrupt the flow of conversation.

"I'd like to back up there for a second, Mr. Fitspatrick. You just mentioned a child? Did Dr. Jagen—"

"Ah ah ah!" Fitspatrick interrupted, shaking his head side-to-side and wagging his finger begrudgingly. Unfortunately the no-interruption rule isn't always reciprocated by the patient. "That would be breaking the fourth wall, Dr. Vinnit. You've now written yourself into this story, and it is my responsibility as the writer to make you work hard for such information. Who knows, maybe you're the protagonist I've been looking for this whole time."

The man was smiling now. It was an eery moment. He was blind, but he stared at Dorian Vinnit as if he could see him in entirety. A skull wrapped in flesh gazing long into Dorian's soul itself. The stare gave him a cold shiver up his spine.

"I think you'd best get going, doctor," Fitspatrick whispered, his smile somehow remaining painted on his face as his mouth moved with every syllable. "I wouldn't want you to be late for your appointment at the church," he finished. At the utterance of that his smile vanished. His face was all business now. He was slipping away from reality back into his story—which he believed to also be reality.

How did he know about Vinnit's plan to go to St. Gabriel's?

How did he know about Dr. Jagen and the mystery child?

How did he know there was something evil here?

"Welcome to Seoborn, doctor. We are happy to have you here. I wish you the best of luck on your research, and I hope to see you this time next week. If you're still around, that is," Fitspatrick said, the faintest trace of his smile returning.

"Now go, I really must get back to my story. It is for the benefit of us both, doctor." And without another word spoken, a noticeable wave washed over Fitspatrick's face. Like the flip of a switch, his entire demeanor changed. From human to something entirely different. Almost as if a demon itself possessed his soul in a swift second. His back straightened, his body went rigid. He swiveled in his seat to face the empty sheet of paper once more. The empty paper that told an infinite amount of stories. An empty canvas waiting to be shaped into a work of art. A piece of paper that could ultimately end in an unrealistic, happy ending or a beautiful tragedy.

There would be no more conversation held here, and so Dr. Dorian Vinnit stood up and took his leave. All the doctor could do at this point was prove Fitspatrick wrong, and pray there would be no consequences for doing so.


About the Creator

Devin Thorpe

I am a 22-year-old recent graduate from Mars Hill University. I have a double major in Criminal Justice and Religion & Philosophy. I also played collegiate lacrosse! In my free time you can find me writing fiction and hiking with my dog.

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