Katherine was not adventurous. She always kept things the same. Every morning she woke up at 7:00 am and drank her coffee at the small round table with a slice of toasted olive bread. She would drive to work through the fog and rain until she reached the big brick building she called work. This job had slowly consumed her life until it was everything. Katherine walked up seemingly endless stairs to the gaping front doors, nodding pleasantly to the front desk security on her way in. She continued down the faculty hallway and turned right into her office. Slumping down on the chair she sat there for a moment, letting her shoulder blades sink into the cushion, before opening her file cabinet.
Katherine worked as a therapist at Sanabel, a research and care organization. Sanabel was where people went when no other facility could help them due to incurable diseases or crazy symptoms with unknown causes. Seventy percent of the patients received made the small yellow faded rooms their resting place and of the other thirty percent only a small fraction left fully recovered. The doctors and scientists of Sanabel were all amazingly brilliant and submersed themselves in helping the patients, however people were sent there with impossible conditions and Sanabel couldn’t quite cure the impossible.
Katherine was especially interested in a young girl’s file. The girls name was Anabel and she was only four years old when she began having trouble separating the monsters under the bed from the real world. Her condition progressively got worse, even with treatment. She was eventually marked as untreatable, her prognosis being that she would continue to get worse until the real world had dissipated to nothing in her mind. Anabel’s parents used to visit until it became too painful; their last visit was four months ago. Anabel is now five. Katherine shook her head while looking down at the contents of the white binder. She walked to the patient’s hall on the opposite side of the building and entered Anabel’s room.
Anabel was laying on her bed, arms and legs sprawled like a starfish and her long dark blond hair stretching out like a crown. She stared at the ceiling, seeing her own world and made no recognition that someone had entered the room. Katherine sat in the worn blue armchair and reached forward to brush a strand of hair from Anabel’s clammy forehead. She slowly looked over at Katherine and smiled before directing her attention somewhere in the corner as if she was watching a beetle climb around the clean floor. Katherine pulled out her pen and wrote down the date in her binder. She leaned in toward Anabel and began with the questions.
“Who has visited you today sweetie?” Katherine asked gently, referring to Anabel’s imaginary friends.
“Who has visited me?” Anabel looked up at the door with purpose, as if she was looking at someone. “Well Ashley is always here” she glanced to a corner “and sparky” she said, looking at the ground. Anabel stared at the door again with intent. She scrunched her eyebrows in thought and her eyes darted back and forth around the room for a minute before, whispering quickly. “There’s scary people here but they said not to tell anyone.” Her eyes continued to scan the room as she spoke.
“What did they say to you?” Katherine rubbed Anabel’s back and looked at her with concern. It was obvious that Katherine cared. She wasn’t supposed to form emotional connections with her patients but this little girl had climbed her way into her heart when they both needed someone to care for.
In a whisper light as silk, Anabel replied “’Don’t look, don’t listen, just follow’ they said. They want me to…” her voice trailed off as she stared at the door, her dark blue eyes growing large with fear. She scuffled backwards into the corner and began to rock back and forth, whimpering. Katherine moved to the bed and held Anabel in her arms. “It’s okay, they can’t harm you. You are safe. You are with me.”
Anabel looked up at Katherine. “You will protect me?” Her teary eyes were filled with hope, fear, and longing.
“Of course I will.” Anabel burrowed her face into Katherine’s chest and hugged her tight before frantically looking back toward the door.
“He’s coming. He’s mad now. Stop him! Stop him!” Anabel squeezed her eyes shut and began to cry, shaking and clenching the sleeve of Katherine’s deep purple blouse.
Katherine stroked Anabel’s hair and said firmly into the air “Leave her alone, you are not welcome here.” Katherine looked down at Anabel and hugged her “It’s okay now sweetie, he’s gone.”
Anabel slowly opened her eyes and looked around the room. A grin spread across her snot streaked face. “You did it!” She looked back and forth across the room, her eyes moving from point to point. What a world she had created for herself. “All the bad guys are gone! Thank you Katherine, I love you!” Anabel tossed her arms around Katherine and they hugged again, this time light and happily.
“I love you too sweetie.” Katherine felt her chest warming and her eyes filled with happy tears.