Friday, 1 April 2011

Sin... white rabbits...

I like rabbits.

Never had one in a stew, and don't intend to. But generally, whether fluffy or not, long eared or short, I like rabbits. Bugs Bunny was an absolute star. Bambi's Thumper could slap his feet with the best of 'em. What's not to like?

The recreation room is large, rectangular and white. In one corner, up high and out of reach, is the television, nicely enclosed in a see through box to protect it from whatever crazy might want to rip it down and dance upon its screen. As this is an asylum, you'd think it was full of said sad crazies, but it's not, not really. Mostly, they're ill or damaged. The last thing they would feel like doing is tearing televisions down and jumping on them.

Facing the television corner are four rows of ten seats. The chairs are hard plastic so they can't be torn. They're bolted to the floor so they can't be thrown, especially at the imprisoned TV set. Along the walls there are similarly plastic, equally hard and uniformly bolted chairs.

On one wall is a window. It has solid, slightly rusty bars on both the inside and outside. It's toughened to withstand a head being slammed against it in either a vain attempt at escape or frustration, even though that head would, and has on occasion, been stuck between the bars. But a window is a window. It opens up onto the outside world and, even if that world was a building site or a bomb site, it would still be outside. As it happens, though, the panorama that greets you when you step uo to the bars is so much more than rubble and rocks. A vast area of grass. An occasional oasis of a flowerbed or patch of shrubbery to break up the beautiful monotony of green. In the distance were trees. Lots of trees. And not one building to break the vista.

I would never have thought that the stunning view was deliberately placed by Dr Connors to please the patients. He wouldn't have given that as a present. It was for visitors. It was for his own view - his office being off to the right of the recreation room. We, the residents, were only gifted with anything beyond the walls of the asylum by luck or default.

At any one time there as many as fifteen or more standing at the window. Even if there was nothing to see apart from what you had seen every day since you arrived - nobody walking across the grass, no animals feeding, no birds flying or clouds drifting - it was still compulsive viewing. But, for some reason, there usually was something to be seen.


An abundance was putting it lightly. To say there were a good few bunnies hopping across the lawn was like saying Everest is a big hill. There could be three rabbits in the immediate vicinity to the building for every resident that felt the need to gaze out on a daily basis. And that was without those that trailed off to where the treeline began. The were breeding like... well... they were breeding like they were rampant. It meant that, close up, there was sometimes no grass to be seen, just a constantly moving sea of fur. Stare at it for too long and you could feel nauseous, but you couldn't take your eyes away. Sure they were cute. Sure they were funny sometimes, the way they'd hop and jump and munch. But more than that. They were free. They were a sign that this place wasn't the universe.

In a way, those little furry creatures were Hope.

Today, though, there were no rabbits. Today, though, there was only grass.

Cries of horror, whimperings and vacant stares faced the window today. But the window stared back, impassive. It had no answers. It had woken this morning, just like we had, to an empty scene, devoid of life other than plant - and the odd insects and bugs that skittered and burrowed. But we weren't bothered about the creepy-crawlies. We were bothered about the bunnies. Our friends. Our hope.

No rabbits meant that all we had was in here.

It's almost night-time. Evening, when the sun goes down, the lights come up and the rabbits and residents sleep. No explanation has been forthcoming from Connors or any of the orderlies. All say they don't know, and some say it with a smirk that indicates they actually do.

Everyone, myself included, has slumped - physically and emotionally. When you're a patient in a mental asylum - when your only friends are a needle and a bundle of fluff the other side of a pane of glass, you might think there's no further way down to go.

But there is, if you have hope. Because you can lose it or it can be taken away. And you may never know why.

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