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"No, just a friend."

"Oh. Well, until Monday you'll only be able to visit in the reception room during the day. However, when you're moved downstairs there'll be no restrictions other than the usual requirements that you remain on the base and return to the ward before lights out.

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Be seeing you."

The control ward had eighty beds in four rows--two rows along the walls and two down the middle of the floor. It was a cramped, barren, austere place with everything colored white or drab green. The patients all wore dark blue pajamas and shuffled around instead of walking. They were either temporarily lobotomized from electric shock treatments or too phenothiazined to lift their feet. There was no conversation. Just what was left of people sitting on beds in dumbfounded silence or talking to themselves with vacant stares. There was also a lot of openmouthed dribbling.

The patients in the control unit ate in a mess hall which could have been designed by the Marquis de Sade. It was the basement of the building: a dark, high-ceilinged, concrete dungeon with a stainless-steel steam table and long metal benches attached to several long metal dining tables bolted to the cement floor. There were no windows, and the lighting was purposely bad so no one could see anyone else's eyes without it being obvious.

There were a dozen girls and a handful of women. The girls were young dependents of career soldiers, and pretty in that raw, simple way girls are when they're vulnerable and fragile. The women, on the other hand, were old and tired. They were either in the army or the wives of men who were, and they had reached their own rock bottoms without any intention of bouncing back. The girls and boys and men and women sat together at the tables during mealtime but there was seldom any contact made. Nothing was said to anyone, and even the food was left practically untouched. Sometimes, someone would laugh or cry but only to themselves.

Kenny was nearly overwhelmed by the sadness of it all. The sadness of seeing so many young people with their minds broken-- knowing that none of them were faking. He wondered whether they could tell that he was . . . and how long it would be before he wasn't. He had been locked inside the ward for three days and had conformed his appearance to its style of madness, remaining silent and shoveling himself around. How long would it take before the role [end page 229]


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