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In a certain country, in a certain city, on top of a certain hill, there was a series of buildings. They were new, and well kept. Each building had windows all along the sides, allowing plenty light into the buildings. This was magnified by the seemingly perpetual good weather in the area. On top of one of the buildings was a greenhouse and aviary. Around the edge of the large property was a fence and wall. It was an unfortunate consequence of the conditions of the patients inside. It wasn’t terribly secure, and wouldn’t stop those truly determined to break out- but it would prevent casual wandering off. With the addition of a few security guards, it kept people in, and on rare occasion, others out.
This set of buildings was a clinic. It was a clinic for the mentally ill- North Star Mental Clinic. Not a dark, scary castle covered in ivy, filled with raving lunatics and howls of “patients”. No, a real clinic, that helped people. They provided a safe environment for people to stay in while they helped them recover. Or, if they would never recover, they provided a comfortable environment in which they could live. There was no distinction between the two, however. They believed that everyone, with proper care, would eventually be ready to leave and integrate themselves back into the outside world. Perhaps this would require some yet undiscovered methods, but there was always the hope that everyone could recover.
The people who visited the clinic were not on a specific time schedule for recovery. Some needed just a month or two in a safe environment working through their problems. Others took years. The longest had been there for two decades, but they still had hope. Although two decades was a long time, this was not their hardest task, just the longest lasting. In recent times, there had been an influx of people who were different. The doctors and nurses knew how to handle people with different problems. If they didn’t, they would learn. These new patients had familiar problems. Agoraphobia and acrophobia, the fear of heights and open places. Haphephobia, or any of the other names for the fear of touching and being touched, but only skin-to-skin contact. Opposite him, someone with a strange compulsion to touch the skin of others, usually in a handshake. These patients had clear enough problems, but the roots behind them were what was particularly unusual, and the doctors had trouble finding out just what to do.
A young man named Brian entered the cafeteria of the clinic and scanned for anyone he remembered. As was often the case, he had no friends eating lunch at the same time as himself. Not that he didn’t have friends, but he ate lunch early. It was the same with breakfast. He would likely see them at dinner, or somewhere else. Now then, if there were no friends, who would be a potential friend?
The one sitting in the corner caught Brian’s eye. He was wearing a face mask, as if worried about getting or distributing a cold or flu. This was currently pulled down- it was lunch, after all. He also wore gloves, and long sleeves. His eyes seemed to be inviting Brian to sit with him. Of course, he could also have been warning him away. There was a simple solution to the dilemma.
“Hello, my name is Brian. Can I sit with you?”
“Of course. It’s good to see you again.”
“… Sorry, I can’t remember you. You see, I have memory problems.”
“I know. You’ve told me before.”
“Oh, well I could remember if-”
“No, sorry. I don’t touch people.”
“I didn’t mean to be rude. I suppose I should have known.”
“About half the time. Hey, have you seen the latest episode of Space Ninjas?”
“That depends. Is the latest episode 26? I saw that one.”
“Yes. I liked the part where…”
The two quickly hit it off. They appeared to have many common interests, and they all came up during the course of their conversation. As lunch was about over, Brian remembered he hadn’t asked for his new friend’s name.
“Sorry, I forgot to ask for your name.”
“That’s okay. I never volunteer it. You won’t remember anyway.”
“Then you won’t reconsider? It’s a shame to lose a good friend.”
“Sorry. But, whether or not I am your friend, you will be mine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Really? How can you know?”
“I haven’t been wrong yet. Goodbye, my friend.”
From the notes of Dr. Odran Crocetti
Patient Name: Brian Avery Coburn
Condition: Memory loss (Both short and long term)
Notes: Brian insists he won’t remember conversations if he does not shake hands after the conversation. (He seems to be fine with any form of skin-to-skin contact though). There is no condition that should cause this to be true, however, his actions demonstrate the lack of memories in the cases where he does not engage in physical contact. This suggests some form of self-hypnotic memory loss.
Brian also has a criminal history, but no signs of violence currently. Condition is likely tied to a trauma involving this incident. His first memory is the death of his best friend- murder at his own hands. Before that, he has no memories, and none of the friend except the status she possessed as “best friend”. Brian confessed to the murder, but on account of his obviously mentally unstable status, was consigned here. All signs indicate it was a crime of passion, although the details have been lost. Police investigations have garnered very little that he didn’t confess to. However, the investigations are still ongoing- there seems to be more to it, though of course Brian’s memory is no help in that regard.
The associates of Brian are few. Because of his memory issues, he doesn’t make many friends. However, he treats those who have professed casual friendship with him in a very friendly manner, to the extent of his memories. He keeps a set schedule, because otherwise he forgets what he was doing, and gets confused. He has two people I would designate as real friends. First is Ken Baker, whom he meets with regularly in the game room. This friendship I would consider “normal”. However, his other friend, Adrian Bauers, is a very odd case due to his own condition of haphephobia. Adrian considers them friends, when asked. Brian arrives at the cafeteria for lunch every day at the same time, and usually ends up noticing Adrian sitting alone, whereupon he approaches him, introduces himself, and they have a conversation. Because of Adrian’s condition, he won’t shake hands with Brian, so Brian always treats it as the “first conversation”, according to Adrian.
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