The road was dark, rich, tilting upwards, rivulets of rain sunk without
trace. The wire gate was a good fourteen feet high, tilted at an angle,
inwards. Up here, the dirt was red.
And then I saw it. A woman lay on the ground. Her arms and legs were outstretched. Her hands were covered with a black sooty substance. Black and red dirt caked beneath her fingernail, extending up her sleeves to the shoulders.
Her neck was a dark blue and black contusion. Her mouth was open. The tongue stuck thick and straight. I had never seen a dead body before. They were like the corpses of animals. Fragile, quiet, unreal and flat as if air had been pressed out of them. I wondered if I should alert the authorities or if they already knew. Chances were, the body had already been discovered, help had been sent.
I hurried up to the hospital gate, knocked and informed the gateman about it. The gateman only muttered, where, where, I don't see it. When I pointed, he only said that his eyes were bad, he couldn't find his glasses. They were propped on the shelf. The incident was approaching the macabre. I don't know why, but I began laughing. The incongruity of a dead body on a roadside-----the gateman fumbling for his glasses, mercury poisoning---it was all out of place.
I signed the visitor's book, gained entrance to the grounds. The building itself was a sluggish clump, boxy. A light blue porcelain tile line belted the concrete facade. On some of the side windows there were vertical metal bars. On the front, the windows alternated. A blue sign swung from a metal pole. St. Maarten's Mental Institute. Small white pebbles had been scattered in circular patterns, a few vines stretched up against the wall. He could hear nothing at all. Beneath the vines, there were a bed of nasturniums with their leggy stems, flat leaves, tooth flowers. Their sharp fecal odor. Perhaps this was the door. This building did not seem to have a front or back to it.
No one answered.
I walked around to the other side, tried again. Hello. Hello.
I tried another door. Perhaps no one knew about the dead woman. If they asked, how would I describe her?
Long brown hair. Rather large nose. Red lipstick. Mid thirties. I tried to think of something more specific. The shape of her nostrils was fox-like. Yes, in all, she looked like a fox that had been hit.
Finally, I tried opening the door and found, to my amazement, a long corridor ending in a stair case. There was no sign of anyone. Perhaps there would be on the second floor. There was no one on the second floor. Someone tapped me on the shoulder.
Who are you?
Brother of a patient.
Mika Axel Pavic
Take a left, second entrance to the right. Door four. It has a four printed on the door handle. Ask for Doctor Emmet. He will help you locate your brother. He handles everything. God day.
Doctor Emmet was out to lunch. So I went back to the gate to see if the woman was still there.
She was gone.
I sat on the steps awhile. The concrete was moist. The smell of earth and rain persisted. The sun was white here--the dirt was red, the sun was white. It was unusually warm for this time of the year. I walked about the grounds, finally coming to the side which had been eroded into a small but steep cliff that blurred into woods. Beneath this was the town of Maarten. Far below with its numerous spires, Maarten was a crown rimmed with ice. Gravel fell loose and scattered downwards.
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