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The Quiet Ones

October 20, 2018


    Number 227 had been stealing medicine. Not a lot, just a little bit, every day, hidden away in a vent on the third floor. The kind that could dissolve in someone’s morning coffee if they weren’t careful. Of course, nobody could prove it was 227. The nurses had searched every room, digging through blankets, drawers, and examining the undersides of mattresses. It had been a fruitless search, ending in the discovery of an ominously fizzing mug of coffee sitting on the break room counter. 227 was already back in her room by the time they reached the third floor, staring blankly at the tray of capsules and the paper cup of water on the table beside her bed. Eventually, the nurses stopped bringing the tray of pills to Room 227. It was best not to provoke her.
    167 had a peculiar fascination with photographs. Not the typical scrapbook photos, mind you. The neat squares of polaroid film that papered the peeling walls were full of background shadows and lights that seemed to glow out of the depths of their photos. Upon inspection, one of the nurses discovered that the backs of the slowly yellowing pictures were decorated in the telltale scribbles of a fountain pen, smeared by years of rubbing the smooth lamination. Some of the jumbled letters resembled names while others were just a series of numbers that most assumed were dates. When asked about the polaroids and their mysterious labels, 167 would only smile politely before going back to picking at the cotton sheets on his bed. The nurses eventually gave up asking questions and only nodded their approval when 167 pointed out a particular shadow that didn’t quite match its owner. After all, there was no such thing as ghosts.
    23 had been there longer than most people could remember, and no one could ever find enough motivation to dig through the mountains of files for a reason why. The new employees would ask why he was there, avoiding direct eye contact as they fiddled with TV remote in the breakroom. What had such a placid person done to deserve a room on the first floor? The answer was always a mild shrug and a muttered excuse. By their third week in the Ward, they learned that some questions were better left unanswered. After all, it was the quiet ones you had to keep an eye on.

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