The Orange Dot

My name is Richard Hornsbeak. I am 47, the oldest sibling in my rather large family. My current place of residence is the psychiatric ward of Combs Hospital in Corbett, Oregon. The medical diagnosis that keeps me here is “paranoid schizophrenia”. They say I’m psychotic. What does that even mean, “psychotic”? It’s not like I’m cutting people’s heads off. Not that others haven’t tried to remove mine on one occasion or another. The doctor’s say these experiences are fabricated, products of my delusional tendencies. I suppose my incarceration in this ever so sterile institution is tied directly to my first experience of this.
I was 18. They had rounded up my brothers and sisters and me and piled us into a giant metal box like we were animals. In the darkness, I sat quietly, as my brothers and sisters fearfully theorized about our fate. I listened to the voices around me. There were many more than the numbers of my siblings in this crate. How many, I could not be sure.
I felt the bodies of my brothers and sisters push against me as we began moving. I cannot say for certain how long we traveled. Who knew where we would end up or how long this trip would take? An uncertain amount of time latter, we stopped. The fear of uncertainty set in as the dark space silenced, the electricity of chatter still clinging to the stale air. The whole enclosure groaned as the wall of the crate cracked open. We looked on with apprehension. Light shone through the crack and I saw, for the first time, the enormous size of this metal box we’d spent the past few hours confined in. My neighbors, my friends and others I’d never met before were all confined to this space.
The wall of our temporary chambers opened and men with sticks herded us, like cattle, into smaller rooms and locked us in darkness.
In this new room, an orange light at about eye-level on the far wall blinked off and on. Machines’ motions sounded in all directions. This facility must have been massive. I could hear screams coming from the rooms around us. One angry voice sounded above the others. It was my neighbor’s girl, Polly, in the room next to ours. Through her nervous speech, she loudly tried to reason with her assailant. Her efforts yielded no desirable result, as evidenced by the loud, booming start of the machine in the room next to ours. The sounds of metal on bone filled the cool, still room in which we huddled together.
The orange light still blinked on and off in the room we were captives in, but now the sound of my neighbors’ screams had almost completely vanished. The machines around us slowly began shutting down. The machine in the room next to ours sputtered as it came to a stop. The walls shook with the echoes of its screeching halt.
After what felt like hours, I could smell the aroma of dried blood that filled the rooms around us. The orange light continued off and on the far wall of this room. It threatened we would be next with every flash. I gained confidence in the insincerity of this threat each time the light flashed off again.
We wouldn’t be rescued for some time. The smell of dried blood and the image of that orange light still haunt my memories to this date. I often fear the light is following me, just hiding behind the horizon, waiting for me to fall asleep.

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