Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 26 of 64

As soon as I said the f-word, the guns came out. I tried to relax. I knew intuitively that this could either be a routine and impersonal affair, or a screaming, kicking, biting nightmare. I knew that arriving at the intake in a calm frame of mind would make the difference between a chemical straightjacket and a sleeping pill.

The guns were nonlethals, and varied: two kinds of nasty aerosol, a dart-gun, and a tazer. The tazer captured my attention, whipping horizontal lightning in the spring breeze. The Tesla enema, they called it in London. Supposedly club-kids used them recreationally, but everyone I knew who’d been hit with one described the experience as fundamentally and uniquely horrible.

I slowly raised my hands. “I would like to pack a bag, and I would like to see documentary evidence of your authority. May I?” I kept my voice as calm as I could, but it cracked on “May I?”

The reader of the litany nodded slowly. “You tell us what you want packed and we’ll pack it. Once that’s done, I’ll show you the committal document, all right?”

“Thank you,” I said.

They drove me through the Route 128 traffic in the sealed and padded compartment in the back of their van. I was strapped in at the waist, and strapped over my shoulders with a padded harness that reminded me of a rollercoaster restraint. We made slow progress, jerking and changing lanes at regular intervals. The traffic signature of 128 was unmistakable.

The intake doctor wanded me for contraband, drew fluids from my various parts, and made light chitchat with me along the way. It was the last time I saw him. Before I knew it, a beefy orderly had me by the arm and was leading me to my room. He had a thick Eastern European accent, and he ran down the house rules for me in battered English. I tried to devote my attention to it, to forget the slack-eyed ward denizens I’d passed on my way in. I succeeded enough to understand the relationship of my legcuff, the door frame and the elevators. The orderly fished in his smock and produced a hypo.

“For sleepink,” he said.

Panic, suppressed since my arrival, welled up and burst over. “Wait!” I said. “What about my things? I had a bag with me.”

“Talk to doctor in morning,” he said, gesturing with the hypo, fitting it with a needle-and-dosage cartridge and popping the sterile wrap off with a thumbswitch. “Now, for sleepink.” He advanced on me.

I’d been telling myself that this was a chance to rest, to relax and gather my wits. Soon enough, I’d sort things out with the doctors and I’d be on my way. I’d argue my way out of it. But here came Boris Badinoff with his magic needle, and all reason fled. I scrambled back over the bed and pressed against the window.

“It’s barely three,” I said, guessing at the time in the absence of my comm. “I’m not tired. I’ll go to sleep when I am.”

“For sleepink,” he repeated, in a more soothing tone.

“No, that’s all right. I’m tired enough. Long night last night. I’ll just lie down and nap now, all right? No need for needles, OK?”

He grabbed my wrist. I tried to tug it out of his grasp, to squirm away. There’s a lot of good, old-fashioned dirty fighting in Tai Chi—eye-gouging, groin punches, hold-breaks and come-alongs—and they all fled me. I thrashed like a fish on a line as he ran the hypo over the crook of my elbow until the vein-sensing LED glowed white. He jabbed down with it and I felt a prick. For a second, I thought that it hadn’t taken effect—I’ve done enough chemical sleep in my years with the Tribe that I’ve developed quite a tolerance for most varieties—but then I felt that unmistakable heaviness in my eyelids, the melatonin crash that signalled the onslaught of merciless rest. I collapsed into bed.

I spent the next day in a drugged stupor. I’ve become quite accustomed to functioning in a stupor over the years, but this was different. No caffeine, for starters. They fed me and I had a meeting with a nice doctor who ran it down for me. I was here for observation pending a competency hearing in a week. I had seven days to prove that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others, and if I could, the judge would let me go.

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