Michael T. Smith
Was it in the padded rooms that it began?
This was the question on everyone’s mind as the Clear Channel Institution for Mental Health buzzed like a wasp hive. It’s wasn’t as if the inmates were normally sedated, but that…well, let’s just say that the current situation was out of control.
“It’s the TV waves…” A patient in a blue hospital gown said. His back was bent over with scoliosis, bringing him close to the small tube television he was examining. His bare behind could be seen in the slit of the gown.
“Pah.” Another patient who called himself Holmes said. “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
The first leaned up slowly. “Did you know that Sherlock Holmes never actually said that in any of Doyle’s works?” He said. “You might say we all misremember it as a society.”
“Mmm…” Holmes grumbled noncommittally. “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Two men in suits walked up to the two patients in the belly of the hospital. They looked stern. “You are…” It was hard for the first man to get the words out. He said them as if deflating his entire body. “You are…Sherlock Holmes?”
“At your service, doctor.” The first man thrust out his hand to shake. It stiffly hovered in the air over the speckled tire floor.
“I’m a doctor.” The second patient said lifting one paw up. He stared at the two men in suits with a slight smile.
“Amazingly...” Holmes whispered.
The two doctors in suits looked at each other. The first one cleared his throat heavily; it churned with a sound of phlegm. He spoke with the speed of molasses dripping. “And you think you have figured out what is going on here?”
“Absolutely,” said Holmes. “I’m a detective – the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Naturally, I’ve solved this case.”
Inhaling slowly through his nose, the doctor spoke. “Do tell.”
“Well, I was, in fact.” Holmes said. “Just when you walked up. You see it’s the TV signals, doctor. We walk around the world with…millions of different streams going every which way around our head. These…feeds we can’t see. Well, what if they were connecting all along? Or…or something finally made them connect?” Holmes looked around the cramped room. “These people think they are characters – real or fictional – they’ve seen on TV.”
“Uh-huh.” The doctor said heavily. “You don’t want to talk to Hercule Poirot down the way?”
“Pfft.” Holmes snorted indignantly. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Uh-huh.” The suited doctor said again. His chest lifted up as he inhaled heavily again. “Who else do we have here?”
Holmes pointed to a corner of the room. “Well, that sixty year old man there thinks he’s Napoleon.”
“The short one,” he answered pointing to a stout little figure in the corner.
“Is he hurting anyone?”
“Presently? No. But when he stormed the second floor thinking it was Russia, things got a bit…” Holmes searched for the right word, “militant.”
“My God.” The doctor said. “Did anyone sedate him?”
“No, the heater up there broke, and he hurried back downstairs.”
The doctor groaned. “Hmm…that’s not a TV character like your hypothesis, you realize?”
At his point, Watson stepped in. “Well, on TV. It’s the adaptation, obviously. It gets the boiled down ideas right, but it’s not very true to character.”
“Indeed,” Holmes muttered. “It’s elementary, my dear –”
Watson interrupted him. “We also have a patient on our floor who believes he’s Columbo, the cop.”
“That’s not so bad.” The doctor rubbed his hands tensely.
“Well, we also have a patient who believes they are Walter White.”
“I see.” The doctor bounced on his heels recalling the drug dealing hotshot. The dry hum of the air-conditioning unit overtook half of the conversation around him. He could feel a migraine coming on -- or at least something was coming on.
“We have two Martha’s…..that’s from The Brady Bunch.”
“Do they get along?”
Holmes bobbed his head. “Not really, they both think the other is ignoring them…we also have one Gilligan.”
“If this is an island, where’s the water?” The doctor spoke.
Holmes looked around his body at the tile floor. “Indeed. What a tricky island…surely, we’ll never get off.” Holmes looked very deep in thought. “Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cartoon characters.”
“What about them?”
Holmes took on a serious countenance. “Well, I’ve never seen such reckless and sick and soulless violence.”
The first doctor rubbed his chin, hard enough to pull the skin on his face down, giving him a dour look. As he did so, a young-looking patient ran by them and crouched before the window as if seeking cover. “And who are you?”
“Buck Rogers.” The young man looked up with wild eyes as he held one index finger upward towards the skylight, presumably in place of his ray gun. His bare skin against the cold tile seemed to make him shiver.
“So…this is a foreign planet?”
“And how do you know?”
The man eyed him up and down. “Because everybody in this place – you included – is trying to address the situation with respect and logic and no fear-mongering.”
The doctor rubbed his temples. “Uh-huh…” It was all out of control. The common room was a zoo, the bustle of which Buck went off to rejoin. The doctor let out a stream of air that could have turned the Gulf. “Well, thank you, Holmes. We’ll take it from here.”
Doffing a deerstalker cap he was not wearing (although the image immediately came to mind), their own personal detective walked away. Watson followed close on his heels leaving the two doctors alone.
The first spoke absently. “What madness.”
The second doctor cocked his head. He spoke with something of an Austrian accent. “It…is a mental hospital.”
“Even so.” The first doctor licked his lips. “Well, at least we’re here now.”
“Mmm-hmm.” The second doctor said nodding. “Dr. Frasier Crane, I have never seen anything like it.”
The first replied whimsically. “Me either, Dr. Freud. Me either…”
About the Author: Michael T. Smith is an Assistant Professor of the Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University, where he received his PhD in English. He teaches cross-disciplinary courses that blend humanities with other areas. He has published over 50 poems in over 20 different journals (mostly within the past year). He also has critical work recently published in Symbolism and Cinematic. He loves to travel.