“Three hundred and forty six, three hundred and forty seven, three hundred and … ” Pete counted his steps obsessively as he came around once more to the massive, black gate that was set into the high, wire-topped wall surrounding the instutution.
The door was different. Set into the base of the gate, they claimed that it was never used. But, Pete knew that to be untrue. Some staff members found it useful, particularly when they were late for their shifts and needed to sneak in unobserved. He’d seen them from his window that overlooked the exercise yard, had watched their furtive comings and goings. He knew that people were flawed, and that one day someone would err and fail to close the door properly. On his long walks within these bleak walls, he knew that his chance would come.
“Three hundred and fifty.” He’d reached the gate. He glanced around furtively to make sure he was unobserved, but he knew that the guards were careless due to their unvarying routine. They were more interested in other things; a quick smoke or the previous days’s soccer game. He raised a cautious hand and tried the handle. The door was locked. He moved on, counting his steps as he walked.
They’d told him that he’d be happy here, that they would take care of him and keep him out of trouble. They’d said that this was a hospital and that they would make him better. They’d lied as he’d known they would. It was no hospital. It was a prison. High walls bars on the windows, his room locked at night. And no hospital employed nurses who walked in pairs, carried bunches of keys larger than the Pentagon and behaved like guards.
They prevented him from doing God’s work. He knew now that this was a test of his faith and that the Lord would somehow find a way for him to continue His work.
He was amused at the ineptitude of his jailers. He’d learned which responses pleased his psychiatrist and he’d learned to hide his scorn at the doctor’s stupidity. The meds were supposed to keep him docile so he learned how to act that way, how to gain the nurses’ trust and how to conceal the tablets that he failed to consume. They would probably get him a good price on the outside when he left this place. He would also need money to continue his work.
He considered himself lucky that they allowed him to walk for half an hour every morning and three quarters of an hour in the evenings. Even as a child he’d loved walking as it alloweed him to escape from the other children who scoffed at his old-fashioned clothing. Unhappy at school and unhappy at home, he walked for miles throught the woods and fields. He loved nature and every leaf and flower, every creature was beautiful to him; each an example of God’s perfection. Only the workings of man’s mind seemed ugly to him.
One day, just before his 13th birthday, he heard cries, shouts and bellows that had a distinctly human sound to them so he investigated. In his innocence, it wasn’t until he almost stumbled over the couple writhing half naked, that he understood what was happening. He stood quite still, shocked at the sight of the them blatanly defiling his paradise. The boy caught sight of Pete and said; “have you seen enough or are you waiting for more?” Shocked and humiliated, he stuttered the only words he knew to fit the occasion; “Whore, fornicator, God will strike you dead,” and he blundered towards home. Aghast and outraged at the corruption of his perfect world and tormented by the memory of his own body’s treacherous reaction to this spectacle, he spent weeks fasting and praying until he realized that God had given him a task, to wipe out the sin and debauchery that sullied the world. He took up this challenge with zeal. He knew where to find courting couples and found weapons – a fallen branch or a rock and terrorized the countryside.
Another untruth they told him was that nobody ever escaped from this ‘hospital’. Several times during the fifteen years he was there, he’d heard guards running and shouting, doors banging, the screech of an alarm. He would escape too. From his roon, he watched the gate with its all important door. He knew which staff members were careful and which were not. One day someone would forget to lock it. One morning, not long after that, he observed a flustered staff member sneaking in. No one had used the door since.
“Three hundred and forty nine, three hundred and fifty.” He looked around to check that he was unobserved, then tried the door handle. It turned. It was open. He took a keep breath and slipped out. It was time to go for a real walk.