“Hey… HEY!” Stephen whispers, and then shouts. “Hey, you, Mike. Yeah you. Come here.” He motions Mike over to join him at his table. Mike obliges, his game of dominos with Jean, or, rather, versus Jean can wait. He’ll finishing kicking her butt in a moment.
Mike sits opposite Stephen on the round formica table in one of the five plastic seats that are attached to the table at its stem.
“Can you keep a secret?” Stephen whispers, his expression is grave but his eyes are wild.
“Um. I’m not sure really. Probably. I think it would depend what it was.” Mike answers, honestly.
“Ok, well, never mind then. Go back to your game with Jean, back to your life of ignorance. You’ll never know the truth, man.”
“Ok. Bye Stephen.” Mike stands up with a *SCHLUP* as the skin at the bottom of his back peels off the shiny plastic surface of the chair.
“No. Wait. Mike, sorry. Wait, sit down.” Says Stephen with a faint whiff of desperation. “Listen. I’m going to tell you something and you cannot tell anybody in here. Ok? That’s really important. If you utter a word to anybody in here, the two of us, you and I, we will wind up down in seclusion. Got it?”
“Oh no!” Says Mike “I hate seclusion. I don’t want to go there. Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me!” He says, covering his ears with the palms of his hands.
“It’s ok, shhh. It’s ok Mike,” says Stephen, gently pulling Mike’s hands down towards the table, which is met with some resistance. “I’m going to tell you because I need to tell you. There’s no other way, trust me. Are you ready; I’m not actually supposed to be here. There’s been a mistake.”
“Hah! Really? There’s been a mistake has there?” Mike says sarcastically.
“Yeah, yeah there has. I shouldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, alright Stevo, mate. Why don’t you go tell that to Miss or one of the other Supports? They’ll just let you out, no bother.” Mike makes to get up, chuckling to himself, but Stephen grabs his forearm and motions again for him to sit. Mike glares for a moment, he doesn’t like to be grabbed. Stronger men than Stephen have felt the wrath of Mike for lesser misdemeanours, and Stephen knows it.
“It’s ok. It’s ok.” Stephen says, softly. “Please, just hear me out.” Mike continues to glare at Stephen as he slowly lets go of Mike’s arm.
“I’m not supposed to be here, I’m really not. It’s fucked up man, but I need to get in your room. I need you to let me in your room.”
“What for?” Says Mike suspiciously.
“Just, this is gonna sound crazy, but hear me out.”
“Stevo, I’ve heard a lot of crazy these last five years. I’ve thought a lot of crazy these last five years. Try me.”
“Ok, well; in your room there is a portal, it’s located in the toilet’s cistern. If you take the lid off the cistern and step inside, you will be transported to this very location twenty years ago.” Stephen studies Mike’s reaction as he drops the reveal and he notices Mike roll his eyes slightly. “I’m serious. Try it. You saw me, the first day in here. I was soaked head to toe and nobody knew who I was.” That part was true, Mike could remember seeing Stephen wandering aimlessly through the corridors, sopping wet and bewildered. But, then again, he had seen far stranger sights in his five years here. “I was taken straight away into seclusion and they brought in three or four different psychs to observe me. I told them that I had been clubbing, that I was fishing down the back of the toilet for some pills I’d stashed there when I was sucked in and, when I was spat back out, I was here. They kept me in seclusion for days. I was delirious. I was withdrawing from the drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and I had no clue where, or when, I was. I kept screaming at the Support staff, screaming that I had to get back to the toilet in that room. Eventually they let me out of seclusion but detained me indefinitely, they moved me to the other end of the hospital from your room, on account of my ‘obsessive tendencies’.”
“Huh, you’re telling me that there is a time machine in my toilet? And if I step into my own toilet then I will be transported to the nightclub that used to be here.”
“Well, yeah. I guess so. Have a look when you go back to your room and if it’s still in there we’ll get out of this place together. You in?”
“Sure,” Says Mike with an air of defeatism, “what have I got to lose?”
“Meet me back here at dinner, let me know.” Says Stephen.
Mike nods and leaves the table, relieved to escape the intensity of Stephen’s conversations. “Get ready to have your butt kicked, Jean!” He shouts as he heads back over to his game.
Mike eats his dinner quickly, he wants to be out in the open, a gazelle on the savannah, for the shortest possible time period. He shovels one final spoon full of chilli and rice into his mouth, checks his surroundings, and stands to leave. Just as he places his tray back on the cart, “Mike. Hey, Mike, I’m over here.” Mike fixes his gaze to the floor and makes for the exit.
“Mike. Mike. Mike. Hey, Mike. MIKE!” Stephen is stood on his chair waving his arms over his head.
“Shit.” Mutters Mike. He sits next to Stephen, who stares at him expectantly. “Sooooooo? You saw it right?”
“I don’t know what to tell you Stevo. It’s not there mate. Sorry.”
“No… It has to be. You probably just didn’t see it. Let me come with you to your room, I’ll show you.”
“I don’t think that’s a very good id…”
“Mike, please.” Stephen begs, putting his hand on Mike’s forearm. Mike’s stare could fry an egg. “Right, sorry. No touching. Sorry.” Stephen says, quickly retracting his hand. “Let me come with you, five minutes, I promise. I’ll just check it out for myself and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“Fine.” Growls Mike. “Be quick.”
Mike stands to leave and Stephen rushes to follow him out of the common area, grabbing the box of dominoes from the games box on the way out. “If anybody asks, I’ll tell them we’re going for a game in your room.” Stephen says as he’s striding next to Mike in an attempt to keep up.
When they reach Mike’s room Stephen immediately makes for the lavatory and lifts the cistern. Mike sighs as he falls back onto his bed, immediately regretting the decision to allow somebody into his room.
Stephen fishes around in the water, moves the float out of the way, and… Jackpot! It is still there! A small whirlpool directly underneath the float. Stephen’s eyes light up and he slowly reaches his hand into the swirling water. Before the water has even reached his elbow he can feel himself being sucked in, the current is strong and in an instant Stephen’s entire body is submerged and he is torpedoing forwards, what a rush! A moment later he shoots out onto a hard, laminate floor.
Stephen looks around, he’s back in the nightclub toilet cubicle, wearing the same Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt over the top of the same grey jumper he had been wearing the day he had been sucked through the portal. A feeling of ecstasy washes over him, he allows his hand to explore the cistern and he pulls out the bag of little pink pills he had been looking for just before he had inexplicably wound up in mental health services, 20 years in the future. He empties the bag into the toilet bowl and flushes the chain.
“Hey! You! You’re not supposed to be in here!” A hand clasps Stephen’s shoulder and he is immediately jolted backwards. He falls for what feels like an eternity before hitting the floor, hard.
When he comes around the first thing that he notices is the splitting headache. He raises his hand to his temple as he struggles to open his eyes, it’s wet and sticky to the touch, and sore.
Stephen pries his eyes open and takes in the view.
“Fuck.” He mutters to himself. “Seclusion.”