Blood Sacrifice {Part 1 of 5}

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"It's going to be alright," the nurse said, gently placing her hand on my forearm.

Securely strapped to the gurney, I watched the fluorescent tube lights passing over my head. The stainless-steel ceiling of the elevator quickly replaced the lights, and I heard the orderly press a button. I didn't need to see his finger to know that he pushed the number 4.

Few people notice that the button for the fourth floor is missing in the elevators by the main lobby. Concern and worry consume most visitors stepping into those little grey boxes. They come to visit someone they love, so little things like missing numbers on the elevator's pad go unnoticed.

Only the service elevators and this one by the E.R. have a number four on the keypad.

They wheel me out of the elevator and into the waiting room. The hushed whispers of those visiting the unfortunate souls admitted to this floor fill my ears, but not for long. The buzzer sang almost instantly, and through the thick steel doors, I rolled into the secure psychiatric ward.

Attempted suicide.

That's what the doctor downstairs wrote on the chart and on the forms that secured my passage through these doors, but that's not what it was.

I answered their questions and played their game. I know the drill. If they don't hear what they want to hear, then for my own safety, I'll be put in a straitjacket again. You can't imagine how miserable it is unable to scratch an itch when your arms are wrapped tightly around your chest. So, I told them what they wanted to hear.

They relieved me of my belt, my shoestrings, and the cord from my hoodie. Then forced me to empty all of my pockets. Perhaps, I should've been thankful that they left me my clothes.

Forty-eight-hour suicide hold.

Another official form with handwritten notes sealed my fate for the next two days. It's not like I was sent to jail, but I still received a prisoner's treatment. My room for the next few days featured padded walls, monitoring cameras, and a large window by the nurse's station. Privacy is nonexistent as evidenced by the stainless-steel toilet and sink mounted to the wall — no sharp edges, perfectly rounded and smooth. Standard procedure, I know.

At least, he's not bothering me here.

Psychotic episode due to schizophrenia.

Another doctor explained it to me as if I were a child; as if I hadn't heard that same set of words before.

It's really just shorthand for giving me more drugs.

The days passed as quickly as water freezes outside on a hot day. Meticulous moments ticking painfully by, one after another, into eternity.

Once the 48-hour hold ended, the choice was mine — stay or go. I choose to stay. After all, a room shared with another patient who screams in the night is still better than waking up knowing he's near. The demands here are almost effortless — take the drugs, talk to the people, do the therapy, and ultimately watch the time fritter away.

So began another stay in a mental ward for me. Little did I know that I would finally meet someone who wouldn't belittle my tale. When all you've known is derision and contempt, when everyone only wants to "help make you better," the idea of an ally is like a breath of fresh air. Of course, it didn't start off as easy at that.

"How did you meet this demon?" asked my new psychiatrist, a pandering tone leaking into her words despite her best efforts to remain emotionless.

This isn't the first time that I've told the beginning of this tale. Nor is she the first to hear it. The diagnosis is always the same and consistently arrived at well before I finish telling the story. The only thing that changes is the drugs. For somehow, medicine is to be my savior, at least that's what those who worship at the altar of the science believe.

So, I began once again, with only the tiniest shred of hope that just maybe this woman can inscribe the right incantations on her prescription pad and bless me with a new cocktail of psychoactive drugs to shoo the demon away. Of course, I know, deep inside the core of my soul that the demon waits unconcerned with the pharmacology of mental modification.

"He spoke to me from the darkness of the confessional box," I said as I began to tell my story, "Saturday evening when I was a very young man. I'd gone to confession so that I could receive communion at mass the next day. I did something terrible and believed that I needed absolution for my sins."

"What was that?" she asked, looking over her dainty reading glasses, the color of wine with pointed horned-rims.

"I unlocked the Gates of Hell."

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