Bernadette shifted slightly trying to find a more comfortable position. The soft murmur of the waves and the strident cries of the gulls mingled opposed each other but created an unexpected calming effect overall. It was a thoroughly relaxing setting until the strong ocean breeze had kicked up and the sand began to pepper her bare skin with its stinging caress. A frown creased Bernadette’s brow and with a sudden realization she cried out, “Sand?!?”
Sitting bolt upright, she was surprised to find herself not on the beach but securely between the sheets of her Murphy bed in her small studio apartment. Fumbling on the nightstand beside her, she located the pill bottle there and fumbled it open with shaking hands. Concentrating, she calmed the tremors and took two of the small shiny capsules in her palm. She placed them into her mouth and followed them with short swallows from the nearby water glass. Within minutes her body had relaxed again and she sank back down beneath the top sheet. It was happening all over again…happening as it had nearly every night for the last two weeks.
As she drifted in a drug-induced haze she heard the voice of Dr. Streicher as if he were right there with her on the day that she had finally been released.
“Now Bernadette, I can not stress strongly enough just how important it is for you to follow your post-release treatment regimen. The medications will make your life more manageable only if you continue taking them every single day, as prescribed.”
“Yeah. I get it. Take all my pills. I’m not a kid you know?”
“I realize that, of course, Bernadette and that brings me to my greatest concern of all. You have been with us here for nearly 17 years. All but a few brief years of your entire life has been under the controlled conditions at Brookwood. I greatly fear that you will be highly susceptible to a condition known as Displacement Anxiety.”
“Great…another condition? What the blazes is Displacement Anxiety?!?”
“Calmness Bernadette..calmness. Displacement Anxiety is a syndrome first documented in individuals recently made homeless. A traumatic change in living conditions can be quite severe.”
“Sleepiness or insomnia…either or both. You may experience loss of appetite, severe mood swings and panic attacks. In the worst known cases the subjects even experienced hallucinations…auditory, visual…very disturbing indeed.”
“That sounds lovely. I thought that’s what all of the freakin’ pills were for? What’s the point of me taking them if I’m gonna be crazy anyway?”
“Bernadette! Crazy, as you know, is NOT a word we acknowledge here at Brookwood. Of course, the medications are essential and WILL make your transition easier and, most likely, prevent any problems. BUT..I can not strongly enough express my very real concerns for your well being. You know we have come to think of you as part of our Brookwood family.”
“Right. Okay. But you’re NOT my family. They all died in the fire that wound my mentally-damaged ass up here in the first place. Right?
“You need not be cruel or vulgar Bernadette. While it is, of course, true that we are not your biological relations, family is not always about biology. I want you to know that I will never stop caring about you or for you. If you EVER need my help or simply just someone to talk to, I will always be available to you.”
Bernadette rolled over on her side and waited for sleep to reclaim her. The pills always took care of that fairly quickly. Although she was not a religious woman she whispered a silent prayer. Please…don’t let it be that Displacement Anxiety jazz. Yes, she had been having some small issues with sleep and her appetite was a bit off but that kinda stuff happens for no special reason right? With a sigh, she drifted back to sleep.
She awoke to her jangling alarm and quickly prepared herself for the day ahead. As she turned the door knob to leave, she allowed herself a quick look back at the small apartment. At Brookwood she often worried that someone had been in her room as she slept. Old habits die hard, she mused, as she looked and saw nothing out of place. She stepped out the door and in to…knee-deep white powder.
The door to her apartment had vanished and she stood shivering in a harsh cold…where was she? All about her people in parkas and snow suits laughed and strolled. Many had skis or snowboards in hand and so this must be some kind of resort?? Disbelieving, Bernadette’s pulse thundered in her ears. Her breathing became labored and she felt she must be hyperventilating. She closed her eyes tightly and willed it all to please, please go away.
When she began to feel calmer, she hazarded a peek through veiled lids and saw…the front steps leading down to the sidewalk and her bus stop.
It can’t be happening she muttered to herself over and over as the bus rumbled on its way toward her job. Was this really happening or was she finally sliding right off the edge into a Displacement Anxiety wasteland?
This is the third story recycled for Vault cleaning. It was originally posted July 8, 2011. As a side note, the photo has been added since at the time of the original post, I was only able to blog from my not-so-smart phone and didn't have the option to add pictures.