They’re coming to get you, Francis.
Because of what you did.
Don’t worry, Francis, it will be alright. We are trying to help you.
You don’t need help. You did what you had too.
“SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!” Francis screamed.
The room was silent. Everyone stared at him. He hated when everyone stared at him. Francis scrunched up his knees against his chin while balancing on the feeble plastic chair he was sitting on. The doctor in his white coat was sitting directly opposite him, taking notes. Notes about him.
He’s writing about us, about you, about how we are never gonna leave this place. You’re gonna be here forever.
Because of what you did.
It will be alright, we will get out one day.
You don’t need help, you don’t need this bullshit!
“Sshhhhh….He’s gonna hear you and you’re gonna get me in trouble.”
“Hear who, Francis?”
Francis gasped which morphed into nervous hiccuping. The doctor was looking at him expectantly.
“I- hic– I-hic– d-don’t –hic-know- w-what you- hic– mean.”
“You said ‘He’s going to hear you’. Who am I going to hear, Francis?”
“I w-was-hic– talking- hic- to- hic– m-myself.”
The doctor paused, seemingly as if he was about to speak, then picked up his pen and began writing again. This angered Francis.
“What are you –hic– writing about me?” He demanded.
The doctor glanced up. “I am making notes, to help me understand you better.”
Francis slapped his hands over his ears. “Shutup!”
“Uh… I meant…” Francis paused placing his hands over his eyes in frustration. He took a breath then rested forward in his chair without moving his knees. “Are you lying to me?”
The doctor pushed his glasses back up the ridge of his nose. “Are they telling you I am?”
“The voices in your head, Francis.”
“Maybe.” Francis pressed his hands against his mouth, then held onto his knees again and rocked back and forth. “Maybe I don’t have voices. Maybe I’m not the abnormal one here. Maybe I should be takin’ notes about you.” He stood defiantly, knocking the chair back with a loud clang on the concrete floor, his voice raising with each sentence. “Maybe you and everyone ELSE are the outcasts. Maybe YOU’RE all insane!”
Despite Francis’s outburst the doctor remained calm, a slight smile even quirked his lips.
“Maybe we are. But that is not the reason we are here today, is it? Do you know why we are here, why you are here?”
Because of what you did.
“Because of what I did?”
“Yes, do you know why you did it?”
Because you had to.
“Because I had to.”
The doctor simply stared at Francis for a long while.
Francis began to feel uncomfortable.
He wrung his hands together, his palms were sweaty.
The room temperature began to rise and he began to twitch.
“Why is the room so hot? Can we open a window? Or let in a breeze?” Francis was agitated, he began to pace. “I don’t like the heat. I don’t like the way it- it melts your skin, stealing the your fluid and turning it into salty condensation. It isn’t right. The heat isn’t righteous. Tastes terrible. Chalky. Salty. Gunky black paste. Terrible taste.” He undid the buttons on his shirt. “It stays with you, you know, when you eat, or drink, no matter how many times you try to wash it away. That smell. The smell of cooked flesh and rot and burning timber and … and … fire. That smell of fresh fire and smoke.” Francis then dropped to the floor, rolling left, right, back and forth as if trying to extinguish flames from his body. He was sweating profusely now, panting heavily. “The smoke smells awful and it makes your eyes water, I hate that! I hate the way it makes them sting. The fire licks at you like a playful puppy at first… but, but then it rages and roars and growls and soars higher!” Francis stopped. Flat on his back, the icy concrete against his bare skin, he stared up at the ceiling. Remembering everything.
The flames rising above the steeple tops.
The brilliant oranges, yellows and reds twisting together.
“Higher than the tallest building. Higher than the angel’s chorus.” He whispered.
That was their name.
The choir. Oh, yes.
We hear them, too.
We can all hear them.
But they can’t hear us.
You can’t tell them about us, Francis.
Francis closed his eyes, breathing deeply, his senses still inflamed with the lingering smoky scent. “It burns.” He examined his arms. Seeing scars where there were none. “The burns are deeper than skin, deeper than memory. I feel it every day, every night, every waking moment of life- I feel them. Now I am locked away in here away from the world that I used to belong to, and I deserve to be. I am a monster.” Tears dripped down his face cooling his flushed skin. He touched his cheeks as he realised he was crying.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had done that.
“It was an accident, doctor.”
The doctor was silent. He was staring at Francis, but his eyes were distant.
Finally he spoke.
“Francis, I have one last question to ask you. But before you reply I want you to know that how you answer may mean the difference between staying here or being able to leave. And I want you to decide which you want more.”
The room was silent.
Everyone held their breath.
“Did the voices convince you to burn that Church?”
Francis closed his eyes.
No, tell him no Francis.
You did it, you know you did it. Tell him!
He can’t know about us!
It was for your own good!
You did what you had to!!
Francis faced the doctor, took a breath and whispered “Yes.”