-Chapter 3-

He lay on his side in a bed of the psychiatric unit of Islington Hospital. There was a look of confusion on his face as he tried to remember why he was there. And, more importantly, who he was. His eyes stung with half-remembered tears. But he could not recall why he had shed them.

He stood up, shakily, and walked over to the barred window. He touched the bars in confusion. Was he in some kind of jail, he wondered. Had he committed some terrible crime? Was he to spend his life in prison, or even be executed for some murder he couldn't remember like the movies that were sometimes on TV?

The thought of television nudged at the darkness of his memory. But it refused to budge, instead only bringing more tears.

He opened the dresser and found eight identical outfits. They were labeled, not with his name, but with days of the week. There was a note on top of the dresser which simply said "It's Tuesday" so he put on the outfit for Tuesday. Then, he sat on the bed and waited to see if anything would happen.

A few minutes later, a man in his mid thirties walked into the room.

"Good morning," he said in a friendly tone. "My name is Paul Santos. I'm a nurse here."

"Do you know my name?"

"Yes, but I'm not permitted to tell you," Nurse Santos apologized. "You've been traumatized and we're afraid that jogging your memory before you're ready could cause another psychiatric breakdown."

"I understand. Then this is a mental hospital?" his face fell considerably.

"Hey, don't be so glum," Nurse Santos told him. "Psychiatric facilities of modern days bear no resemblance to those of the days of Bedlam and it's ilk. This facility has many activities designed to challenge and refresh the mind. We believe that healthy mental exercise may not cure mental illness, but that it does often help take the edge off some of the symptoms."

"Do I have a mental illness?"

"In a way. Dr. Cairns will explain it to your further. You have an appointment with her after breakfast. I'm just here to take you to the bathroom to freshen up and then to the cafeteria. After that, I'll give you a tour of the facility and show you where everything else is."

"Can we avoid the TV room. I don't know why, butů"

"That's easy since we don't have one," Nurse Santos told him. Seeing the shocked expression, he explained. "You're not the only client here who has suffered a severe mental breakdown caused by a traumatic event. And many programs, like Missile Mike, are known to set off bad memories with their loud explosions and such. So rather than risk it, we just avoid the problem altogether."

"Sounds like a sensible precaution," .

After stopping off at the bathroom, which he needed no help with, he followed Nurse Santos to the cafeteria. There were about three dozen people in the room, most of whom were already at their tables. Some were finished their meals, some just started, some in the middle of eating.

Picking up tray, he got in the line with the few who were still picking their breakfasts. Selecting scrambled eggs with sausages and small plastic glass of chocolate milk, he sat down at a table and ate quietly.

He was nearing the end of his breakfast when a young woman with medium-toned skin and friendly brown eyes came over to his table.

"Good morning," she said. "I'm Dr. Cairns. We have an appointment in ten minutes. I'll walk you to my office since you don't know where it is."

"Thank you."

After he was done, he followed Dr. Cairns to her office. It was tastefully bland, the walls beige with cream trim, not the stark white of fictional hospitals.

"Please, have a seat," Dr. Cairns invited as she sat in her own chair.

The chair that he sat in was as comfortable as the rest of the room.

"I know you don't understand why you're here," Dr. Cairns began. "But let me start by saying you have done absolutely nothing wrong. You're here because you saw something your mind couldn't handle. That's all I can say about it. What we're going to do is just talk about your feelings. I know that sounds corny, but I've talked to a friend of yours, and he said you never really learned how to cope with emotion. I think that's one of the reason your mind snapped when you had to deal with a very strong negative emotion on top of a visual trauma."

"Can my mind be fixed?"

"It will heal with time and care," Dr. Cairns told him, soothingly. "Tell me now. How did you feel this morning when you first woke up?"

"Confused and sad. There were tears on my face, like I was crying in my sleep. I guess I had a sad dream." He frowned as if this statement were contradictory to something, but he wasn't sure what. "Nurse Santos said you'd tell me what I have."

"You have a condition known as psychological amnesia," Dr. Cairns explained. "What that means is that your mind has locked you out of your memories to shield you from a severe emotional trauma. Don't ask me to remind you of what happened. I won't. That would only shatter you further. My job is to strengthen you mentally and emotionally so that you will have the tools you need to unlock your past yourself."

"Can I at least know my name?"

"I'm afraid not," Dr. Cairns apologized. "In dealing with psychological amnesia, we have learned that discovering one's own identity is the most dangerous moment of all."

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