I was once told that "Insanity begets insanity. For insanity is the only thing that understands itself". I lived by this adage as a young man. They told us that it was why me and my best friend Richard Praxis, I called him Ricky, were so close. You see, we both suffered from severe mental illness in our youth. I was a paranoid schizophrenic and Ricky was a paranoid personality with severe MPD and full sensory hallucinations. In therapy, they told us that we bonded so closely because of it, but they didn't need to tell us that. We knew. We bonded over it in our first years of meeting each other. We kept each other sane, even in the darkest of times.
We had never needed psychiatrists before.
You see, we discovered that we were the only ones who truly understood what it was like to constantly be at war with your own mind. I think everyone with a mental illness should find someone with a mental illness of some kind. It truly was a miracle for the two of us. Even when we both went off to separate colleges, we kept in constant contact through every single outlet we could. I still have most of our conversations saved. Whenever the voices began to torment me, telling me to kill myself or what have you, his voice on the phone would always shut them up. No one understood us like we did, and we liked it that way.
After college, I moved down to Arizona and rented a townhouse with Ricky in Tucson. He got a job as a PR representative for the Macy's Arizona headquarters and I started working as an IT and network manager for a real estate firm. Life was good. At least for the first two years we were down there.
When Ricky got laid off, he spiraled out of control. I'd never seen him that way before. Nothing I could do would help him, and the more days that went by the more I noticed that his constant hallucinations and panic attacks were becoming his norm. He refused to take medication, thinking that even a simple aspirin was poison. I don't blame him at all. When I'm spiraling down, I think the same things.
I started to take Parkinsonians and other dopamine reducers at this point. I was getting worse without my support structure there to help me, and the voices mixed with his behavior was starting to become a real stressor on my schizophrenic subconscious. Things had settled out around February of that year. However, it wasn't long until the norm gave way to the worst of it.
I came home that night, doped up on as many meds as the doctor would give me, and was ready to just go to bed. What I saw when I opened the door, however, still haunts me to this day.
There was Ricky, standing in the living room, covered head to toe in blood. He was holding a serrated steak knife, which was covered in blood and gore. All over the house were animal carcasses ranging from groundhogs and sparrows to a coyote and even a few cats. The living room was completely drenched in blood, and some of the animals had been so severely dismembered that it took me a minute to recognize them.
"Do you like my decorations?" Ricky asked. I was stunned. Immediately the voices in my head kicked into full volume. They were all as panicked as I was. Even with their dark tendencies, they were finally on my side. My vision started tunneling, black and purple tendrils creeping at the edges. My head started to throb, causing the tendrils to pulsate wildly. I felt helpless, unable to respond to Ricky. He cocked his head to one side.
"Alex?" he asked, "Are you in the tunnel again?" I nodded, snapping my eyes shut as my head felt like it was ripping open. I could smell the corpses of the animals. How long had he been at this? Suddenly, I was jerked back to consciousness when Ricky laid a hand on my shoulder.
"Alex, snap out of it." he ordered. The voices were still uttering nonsense, but my vision and head were both normal again. "You can't appreciate my treasures with your eyes closed." Immediately I knew I was in danger. Ricky leaned down and grabbed hold of one of the animals' heads, putting it in his mouth and chewing lightly, savoring the blood. I felt sick, but not from what he was doing. I felt sick because I knew that cat fur tasted gross. Even through all this, I couldn't bring myself to not understand what he was doing. However, I knew he needed help before it escalated.
I ran outside, telling Ricky I needed a cigarette, and called 911. Within minutes cop cars and ambulances were there, and me and Ricky were taken to a mental health care village called Cactus Acres.
I know, I laughed at the name too.
I asked to be housed with Ricky, even though I didn't actually need care. I knew he needed me. Once we got our room, Ricky completely shut down. He was silent, foreboding, and didn't eat or sleep for days. He was almost completely catatonic. I was used to that. I'd be catatonic in an episode too.
After a few days of life at Cactus Acres, I was released to return to work during the day. The orderlies said that Ricky didn't change when I left. At least, not for the first few weeks. About a month in, he would get up and walk around the room, intently focusing his eyes on my bed. When I returned at night, he would sit back on his bed and clutch his knees, staring straight ahead all night. After I woke up, he'd still be staring. He was starting to waste away, not having eaten or slept in a month. He hadn't gone to the bathroom either.
Eventually he would eat some of the food they gave to him. He also used the toilet like normal once on a Friday in March. He improved so much that I felt comfortable saying yes when the company's head of technology asked if I could work a 24-hour shift to get our copied data migrated to the new servers in Tempe. I left at 6:00 that morning, and to my surprise Ricky was actually asleep. I told the orderly on duty that I would be back the next day, and she told me that he would be fine.
I wish I'd stayed.
I was exhausted when I came back to the Acres that night. I parked my car in the empty employee spot like I always did, and went to the front door to have the attendant buzz me in.
No one was there.
I rang the buzzer a few times and tried calling the security desk. Nothing. I tried to peer inside, but the glass was one sided. I couldn't see past the large metal main door,
Immediately I started to panic. The voices started telling me all sorts of terrible things ranging from me actually being dead to the entire population of the village being slaughtered. I shook them off, some rational sense returning to me, and went around back to the janitor's entrance. It was unlocked, thankfully. I walked up the dark hallway of supply closets that Janitor Mike kept fully stocked and opened the door that lead to the main hallway.
Turns out, the voices had finally been right.
Blood. Blood everywhere. Just like the night with the animals at the town house. Assorted body parts like arms, teeth, eyeballs, even organs were littered about the halls. The orderly whom I has just seen alive yesterday was laying in front of the reception desk, completely naked and sliced open from her throat to her crotch, organs splayed everywhere. I was.... I can't explain it. I wasn't disgusted. I wasn't scared. I was....
Our room was empty, and there were two eviscerated orderlies and a security guard down the hall. I wandered the building, stepping over dead bodies, trying to make sense of what had happened. The one thing I noticed at first was that there were no dead patients. The patients seemed to have.... vanished. Not only that, but the dead bodies I found grew more and more gruesome in nature. One in particular was crucified to an upright gurney with medical scalpels, his eyes torn out and shoved in his mouth. The voices were screaming in my ear, but other than that it was....
The only ambient sounds I heard were the sounds of the lights and water coolers. I must've wandered for an hour or more. The more of the building I saw, the more I realized that something huge had gone down.
It was about twenty minutes before I found anything different. It was near the gymnasium, at the farthest end of the building. As I drew closer, I noticed that there were voices, hushed like my own, coming from inside. It took me a minute to tell the two apart. As I drew near the door, I saw that it was open. I creaked it open lightly and stepped inside. That's where I finally found something.
The fluorescent ceiling lights of the gym had been smashed with various objects, except for a few right in the middle of the room. There, on the wood floor in the center of the gym, was something to be admired.
There was Ricky, wearing a straight jacket that hadn't been fastened. He had rolled up the sleeves and was wearing elbow-length surgical gloves. In front of him, strapped to a restraint gurney, was the head psychiatrist of Cactus Acres, Dr. Andrea Lively. Dr. Lively was completely immobilized, her face held steady by a large metal vice. Ricky was wearing a surgical mask and goggles, looking like something straight out of a horror movie, and he set to work on Dr. Lively. With a crazy arsenal at his disposal, he plied out her teeth one by one, draining the blood out with a long nozzle vacuum. Her eyes were held open by two metal claws, used for optical exams, and he had sadistically sewed them into her flesh. He stuffed her mouth with gauze, setting to her lips with the sutures until her screams were just muffled grunts.
He sat the gurney, forcing her to look straight down as he smashed an emergency fire axe into her leg just below the knee, severing it instantly. She tried to shut her eyes in pain so hard that she ripped through the optical hooks, her eyelids now useless strands of flesh draining blood into her eyes. Not long after the axe came down, she slumped to the side, dead of blood loss. I could take my eyes away. The voices were yelling at me, but this time not to run. This was....
Ricky took the gloves off and turned to me. I recoiled when I saw him at first. His eyes were held open by the exact same surgical hooks he'd used on the doctor. He was smiling, a wicked smile made all the more wicked by the exposed red flesh that surrounded his unblinking eyes.
"Hello, Alex," he began, "here to send me away to another fucking nuthouse?" I shook my head.
"N-no, Ricky," I replied, "this is... This is amazing." He seemed shocked at first, but grinned.
"You didn't like it when I redecorated the house with my treasures. Too personal, maybe. I knew you'd appreciate them here, at this awful place." I didn't know what to say. All I could do was nod.
"Ricky, this... This is...." I couldn't even find the words. I didn't know what I was feeling. I walked over to Dr. Lively's corpse, reaching out and caressing her hair. I felt.... Alive. I felt like how I imagine it feel to stare at the face of God.
"I knew you'd like it Alex. We've always appreciated each other's passions. You know, the rest of my new friends do too." I paused, the outside voices resumed again.
From the shadows around us, hidden by the night outside, came the hundred or so patients that had been missing. They were all wearing ripped and bloody scrubs, most of them held surgical tools of some kind. They were all grinning like it was Christmas morning. However, what caught my attention was that the entire mob had surgical hooks implanted in their heads and faces, keeping their eyes open. Most of them had blood running down their necks and chins from the crude stitching. They looked menacing, like a mob of ravenous hyenas who had just stumbled on an elephant carcass. I looked at them, all of them, in awe. It felt like I knew them, all of them. I knew who their struggle. We were kindred.
Ricky tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned to face him. He held out his hand and presented me a set of hooks and sutures. Two men came from behind and flanked him, one handing me a set of scrubs and the other a wood-handled buck knife. At that moment, I heard screaming and crying behind me. I spun around and saw one of the patients dragging a cute female orderly across the gym floor, bound by security chains. As soon as I saw her, I knew what I had to do. I slipped the scrubs on and Ricky helped me secure the hooks, holding my eyes open and making me feel strange. Like... Like I would forever be alert. Like I no longer had to fear what was behind my eyes. I felt....
As Ricky wound the sutures up around the needle, he smiled at me. I grinned back, feeling his warmth and happiness mirroring itself inside of me. The voices, in turn, began to praise everything that was going on. They told me that I found what I was supposed to be doing.
"You understand now why I do this, don't you?" He asked, pulling the hooks to a secure tightness. I nodded.
"Insanity begets insanity..." I started.
"... For insanity is the only thing that understands itself." He finished. I felt the needle bury itself in my skin, and the hot blood run down by face and neck, but it didn't hurt. It felt like the removal of a cyst or a good massage. The kind of pain that's worth it.
Ricky finished, and he grinned at me again. I grinned back.
I gripped the knife and turned towards the orderly, who was crying and attempting to throw herself to her feet. I knelt down, pressing a hand to her lips.
"Shhhhhh, my dear." I echoed the voices now. They guided my words. She panicked, moaning through my hand. The voices guided me, telling me where to put the knife. My inner desire had been awakened. I found myself, as Ricky had.
The hot blood ran over my fingers, calling me home. My hunger grew. I knew it was the same hunger they all had. The same hunger that guided the family I now had. There was no one left to kill here. No one left to sate our thirst....
More importantly, no one left to keep us from leaving.