‘I could try to get you into Briarwood

‘I could try to get you into Briarwood if you want’, my boss said. ‘It’s an asylum for the criminally insane. He was transferred there soon after his arrest.’ ‘How long has he been there?’ I asked. ’16 years.’As I came closer to the building I felt an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear. I was taken through door, after door, after door, until I reached the health center, which is where you get to meet the patients. The room was filled with relaxing colours and I noticed a discreet scent. The scent got close to being slightly annoying, but after a second sniff I found ”unpleasant” a better description. It was a combination of musk and cinnamon. As the patients started strolling in I sat down on the chair that was appointed to me by one of the guards. None of the patients gave me as much as a glance. Why would they? I am an average looking guy, of average height, wearing average clothes, and besides, people only see something when they’re looking for it. When the man I had an appointment with showed up I smiled and waved my hand to make clear to him it was me he was looking for. Compared to the rest of the patients he was in quite good shape. The second he sat down I couldn’t control myself anymore. With a curious smile on my face I asked him: ‘So, is it true? Did you fake your way in here?’ ‘Yes I did.’ After he said these three words he took a pause before he continued, like he was trying to find out whether or not what he said was true. ‘I was 19, got in a fight and was arrested after a bystander alerted the police. When I called my brother from the station he said: “You know what you should do, fake madness, that’s how they all get out nowadays. You will be sent to some cushy hospital where there’ll be hot nurses, you’ll be fed pizza and get out in a few weeks.” So that’s what I did. I asked if I could talk to some kind of psychiatrist.’ After saying this he stopped talking and wiped some dust off the table. Impatiently, I asked: ‘And what did you say to her?’ I said that seeing warm blood flowing out of women’s bodies turns me on.”How did you come up with that?’ ‘Well,’ Nick said, ‘a few days before I was arrested I watched a movie called “The Voices”. It was about a man that killed every girl he slept with. I just gave the story a twist by changing a little something.”And what else did you say?’ He closed his eyes in the attempt to remember what had happened 15 years before. ‘Oh, I don’t even know anymore, something about that the sound of bones breaking was like meditation to me…anyway, I faked being mad too well and I was sent to Briarwood. Of course the moment I got in I asked to see the psychiatrist again to explain her everything was a misunderstanding, but in the process I learned it’s harder to explain people that you’re sane than that you’re insane. It didn’t matter anymore what I did or didn’t say. I even convinced them that I had faked being mad, which wasn’t hard because all the anger attacks and inner fights stopped after they locked me up. I told them about the remorse I felt for what I did, but it didn’t change a thing.’After my conversation with Nick I left the building and sat outside on a big scraggy rock in the garden that was part of Briarwood. The garden was only used during the weekly ‘relaxation and refreshment’ program. According to Nick there was nothing relaxing about sitting next to a rapist and a man that had shot 38 children after screaming “kiekeboe” in their face, but the garden itself wasn’t that bad. Nick seemed completely normal to me, but what did I know? I was just a journalist that had failed his bachelor in psychology, because he was high on crack during the final exams. Would I have passed it if I hadn’t been? Probably not. There was a reason I was high that day. Next day I called Nick’s psychoanalyst, Linda. It didn’t make sense to me that someone who seemed so fine to me had been rotting away in Briarwood for 16 years now. He seemed so…so normal. Everything about him. Even his name was normal: Nick, how regular and ordinary. When she picked up, after the third ring, I asked her about her patient. We set up a meeting and she confirmed Nick’s story about the accepted withdrawal of his fake statement. I then asked about the reason of keeping him there if there were no legitimate reasons. She said that after he confessed to his lie they started to analyse his behaviour. During the research they had noticed his grandiose sense of self worth. They also saw that he didn’t react well or ‘normally’ to periods of confinement and felt a constant need for stimulation. They concluded he met every point on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. I was familiar with that checklist. In the second year of my study, when I failed, I did some research on it. When I mentioned to her that a psychopath lacked sense of remorse and that Nick had regretted doing what he did she said that was a classic psychopath. Being able to pathologically lie about his so-called regret also met a point on the checklist. ‘And besides’, she said ‘faking that you´re mad is exactly the kind of sly and manipulative thing I psychopath would do.’ So faking that your brain has gone wrong proves that your brain has gone wrong. How ironic, I thought. ‘Keep yourself prepared next week and put on your best suit. I’ve convinced the judge to reopen your case.’ Nick looked at me, his eyes filled with tears. He smiled. ‘Thank you’, he said.While I was walking out of the health center after my conversation with Nick, I heard a soft ‘hey’ behind me. It was Nick’s psychoanalyst. ‘He might not be a psychopath, but it’s certainly not a good idea to take him out of here.”So you know he’s sane?’, I asked amazed. ‘I really need to go now, before they see us together’. ‘Who do you mean?’ ‘Meet me outside at the shed behind the big rocks in 10 minutes.’I went downstairs and waited at the shed for about 30 minutes, but she didn’t show up. I was scared something had happened to Linda. She looked so anxious while mentioning ‘them’. The moment I decided to go look for her, a woman aged about 26 stopped in front of me. She smiled with her bright red painted lips. I looked at her with suspicion. She was wearing a green dress. It was hideous, almost repulsive. ‘Are you waiting for Linda?’, she asked, still smiling. ‘Yes, she said she would meet me here’.’Well’, the woman in the hideous dress said, ‘she is a little busy right now, an emergency with a patient. Why don’t you go back inside with me? You can wait there.’ ‘No, it’s okay, I’ll stay here.’ ‘No, please, I insist, you’ve been waiting here for a while now. Also, I can tell you more about Nick.’The woman in the hideous dress took me back inside. We walked down a lot of stairs. I stopped counting after 19. She said Linda was handling a severe case and that those kind of cases are always taken care of downstairs. Eventually we reached a room with the number 187 written on it. We sat down. She sat on a blue chair. I sat on a red one. I stared at the ceiling. At first I thought it was painted grey, but after a second glance I saw it was white, covered in dust. When I looked back at the blue chair Linda was sitting where the woman in the green dress was sitting before. I looked at her, confused. Suddenly she raised her voice.’Why did you do it Nick?’, she asked. ‘What?’, I asked, not knowing what she meant and why she called me Nick. ‘Why did you kill the journalist? He was trying to help you. He wanted to get you out of this place.”What are you trying to say? I am the journalist’, I said, baffled by the words that just came out of Linda’s mouth. She smiled. ‘Of course you are. I am just giving you a demonstration of what Nick is going to be asked after I’m done with you.”You are going to kill me and blame it one Nick?’ ‘No, of course not…well, you got one part right. I am going to blame your death on Nick, but we are not going to kill you. We’re not psychopaths, are we?’

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