Written for the Flash Rider LiveJournal community in 2010.
You raise the blade
You make the change
You rearrange me ‘til I’m sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
-Pink Floyd, Brain Damage
In the end they decided it was probably for the best. Alex was already beginning to exhibit signs of emerging psychosis, and the failed assassination attempt in December only exacerbated his already deteriorated emotional condition. MI6 realized then that Alex would never be safe—not from SCORPIA, not from himself. They explained to him, in those calm, reasonable, grown-up voices of theirs, that he would be safer in a facility, looked after by caring, trustworthy individuals, given the comfort and security he needed, and possibly even molded into a functional member of society again.
Alex told Blunt to go fuck himself.
The next day a social worker and two armed men came to collect Alex. He didn’t struggle or put up a fight; he simply pulled a Walther P22 from the back of his jeans and stuck the barrel in his mouth. The two men acted quickly and the bullet ended up lodged in the ceiling instead of Alex’s brainstem. He was cuffed at the wrist and ankle and led quietly away. He didn’t even lift his head when he passed Jack, who stood helplessly in the foyer, gagging on tears. She watched the medical personnel, under the supervision of Mrs Jones, load Alex into the back of the van and drive off into the gloomy January rain.
Three weeks before his sixteenth birthday, Alex Rider was committed at the Brookwood Institute of Mental Health in Surrey, England. He laughed and made a comment about passing from one Brook to another. The doctors diagnosed him with schizo-paranoid personality disorder and immediately put him on Risperidone. The only thing it did for Alex was make him flushed and dizzy. The doctors tried another method of treatment. And another.
And another. And another.
Alex hadn’t been insane when he was brought to Brookwood, but two and a half years and twenty-seven experimental antipsychotic medications later, he was almost there. His mind had turned to soup. There were regions of his brain that would never again fire an electrical impulse—dead matter, little black spots that showed up on his CT scan. He’d lost the feeling in two of his left-hand fingers. His frontal lobes were so pitted they must look like sponges by now.
Electro-convulsive therapy had almost completely fried his temporal lobes. Alex knew this because he hadn’t heard voices before they started him on shock treatment; now he heard them all the time. Faint whispers in the halls. Conversations of ghosts. People who weren’t there. People he knew. People he didn’t know. Never the ones that mattered most.
The auditory hallucinations were enough for the doctors to tag Alex as schizophrenic. He was moved to another wing of the institute, a wing for the seriously fucked-up, never-see-daylight-again types. The Department of Lost Causes. Alex knew that this was the last stop, the end of the line. They’d had their fun with him and now they were bored. The little rat no longer responded to their treatments, chemical or otherwise. Phrases like “permanent effects” and “irreversible damage” came up often in his therapy sessions, along with heavy sighs and head-shaking, scribbled notes in the margins of his medical chart.
Alex was beyond their help. He’d already known that, even before being committed. No one could save him from the assassins or the spies. No one believed him that there were bugs all over the hospital. The nurses thought he had pathological arachnophobia. He was forever babbling about scorpions and black widow spiders. He often switched languages mid-sentence. “To avoid be listened to,” he said. They were always listening. Schizophasia, the doctors wrote in their notebooks. Word salad. Paranoid delusions. Hypervigilance. Insomnia.
Additionally, Alex didn’t eat anything that wasn’t tasted by someone else first. Old habit. It took over a year for him to explain to his therapist that he wasn’t eating-disordered; he was simply afraid of being poisoned. He especially distrusted the tap water.
He’d gotten to know some of the other patients, but he wasn’t friends with any of them. It wasn’t exactly encouraged, given his violent tendencies. He may have been the youngest patient at Brookwood to don a straitjacket, but nobody fucked with Alex Rider. Howard McHughes, a 46-year-old former university professor and sexual deviant, once made the mistake of touching the back of Alex’s thigh in the cafeteria line. Alex had cracked a fiberglass tray over McHughes’ head and kneed him in the groin.
Alex got a week of solitary confinement for that incident. He actually enjoyed it, so much so that the nurses had to strap him to a wheelchair to remove him from the room. A few days later Alex attacked a man just so he could go back into solitary. The doctors sighed, shook their heads, and gave Patient 337 his own permanent residence in Hall C. That made Alex happy. Or something like happy. He couldn’t really feel much of anything these days. But a room all his own was nice, far away from the noise and madness of the other patients. His meals were brought to him, vacuum-packaged and safety-sealed. He was able to check his room for bugs as often as he liked, bite his nails until they bled, and go for long walks between the door and the toilet.
Even better, there was a little window high on one wall that let in light. That was nicest of all. Alex would lie awake at night on his narrow bed, bathed in silver-blue magic and totally zen, talking to his ghosts like old friends he never had.
Some nights Yassen would ride down through the window on a moonbeam and sit on the edge of Alex’s bed. He’d listen to Alex’s unmedicated mumblings and touch Alex’s knee, tell him that one day soon he would come and set Alex free, that they would leave together and go someplace where no one would know their names.
Alex told him it was lunacy.
Sitting in the moonlight, Yassen would just smile and glow.
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