CHAPTER 30

No one believed her. They didn’t understand what had happened.

“It’s time for your medication.”

Joanna looked up at the man in the white uniform, two pink pills held out in the palm of his outstretched hand.

“I don’t want any pills,” she snapped.

“It’s not a case of whether you want them. They’re for your own good.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“Look, just take the pills, otherwise I will have to make you take them. Your choice.”

She stared at the man’s features. He was probably in his mid-thirties, but he had a tired, bone-weary expression that made him look older, the crow’s-feet around his eyes like miniature sparks of lightning.

“You don’t understand,” she said. “They were real. The monsters.”

“Tell it to your shrink. I’m just here to give you the pills.

“I told you, I don’t want them.” She jumped up and slapped his hand away, sending the pills flying across the room.

The man exhaled loudly, his lips pursed. “I wish you hadn’t done that.”

“Just get away from me. I want to see whoever’s in charge. I’m not crazy.”

She backed away, wide eyes staring around the clinical room. A single chair and bed were bolted to the floor, her only furniture since the incarceration.

Bars encased the long window through which the sun cast long rays that shone through the air like angels’ fingers providing a warm, comforting caress.

Joanna’s eyesight had improved by leaps and bounds. She couldn’t believe it had only been a few weeks since she had the operation; it felt like a lifetime ago. Now both her best friend and boyfriend were dead. And she had been accused of their murder. The newspapers called her a butcher. They didn’t understand. None of them did.

“If you don’t take the pills voluntarily, I’ll have to restrain you.”

“Try it and I’ll have to kick your arse.”

A faint grin cracked the man’s demeanour.

Joanna stood her ground. “I’m warning you.”

The man’s grin faded. “Look, fighting me isn’t going to help. Just take the damn pills. They’ll help you get better.”

“But I’m not sick.”

“Denial isn’t going to help.”

“And neither are they. I’m not crazy. There are creatures out there taking people over. I can see them.” She pointed towards the window, the bars of which made the room both a prison and a sanctuary.

“And the man in the next room believes he’s God. Perhaps you should have a word with him sometime.”

Realising that fighting would be useless, Joanna’s shoulders slumped and she nodded. “Just give me the pills.”

The man tipped two more pills from a container and held them out with a glass of water. “That was easy, wasn’t it,” he said as she swallowed them. “Okay, open.” He stared inside her mouth, and finally satisfied she had taken them, he wheeled his trolley out of the room.

Joanna followed him out and walked towards the dayroom. The television on the wall in the corner was her eye on the world. A number of inmates sat on chairs watching the screen. Joanna stared around. She felt out of place among the psychotics and the dispossessed.

A bald man sat mumbling to himself, occasionally raising his voice to shout an obscenity or two.

Beside him, an old woman with scraggly grey hair rocked back and forth as though she was being pushed and pulled by unseen forces.

Not wanting to associate with the other patrons, Joanna sat on a seat by herself and turned her attention to the television.

A newscaster was going through the day’s highlights, his voice a monotonous drone.

“The prime minister left the hospital earlier this morning after the collision yesterday. Reporter Jenny Falcon was at the scene when he left.”

The picture changed to a recording of a blonde-haired woman with an effervescent smile.

“Doctors said that despite the seriousness of the crash, the prime minister made excellent progress,” she said. “At one point, it was thought he might not make it through.”

A commotion and raised voices made the reporter turn towards the hospital. “And here he comes now.”

The camera panned around, and Joanna’s jaw dropped, her eyes going wide as she stared in sheer terror at the man with the black corona around his body.

“I would like to thank everyone for their support during my stay,” the prime minister said. He paused; grinned. “But as you can see, nothing is going to stop me. I feel ready to take on the world.”

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