“She killed three out of her four children by gouging their eyes out and then stabbing them in the chest.”
I stood watching her from across the room, my mind trying to wrap itself around this new fact. She had seemed so normal, pleasant. I had enjoyed talking to her every day.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why?” My attending stared back at me, puzzled.
“Why did she do it?”
He shrugged. “She said their eyes had glowed red so they were possed by Satan. She had to rid the world of them.”
My heart stopped. I wondered silently if it had been the red reflex that had been the basis for her observation; the thing that makes eyes glow red in photographs taken with a flash, the thing I am looking for when I shine a light into an infant’s eyes, the thing that tells me that they do not have a retinoblastoma tumor.
“What happened to the forth child?”
“She is blind…”
How can you listen to your child’s tortured screams, hold a bloody eyeball in your hand, and not question what you are doing?
I watched as she filed over to take her medications. She had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. She waved happily at me. I waved back, afraid not to smile. I would have to talk to her in a few minutes, keeping up the appearance of normalcy.
“She has two more weeks here, then she is going to be released.” I was doing an elective rotation in forensic psychiatry at the state hospital.
I genuinely liked this woman. At least I had. I took that emotion out (like) and turned it over in my hand to examine it more closely. I didn’t want to stop liking her.
But if I had known this to start, I would not have given her a chance.
What bothered me most, aside from the fact that she should never be released in the first place, was that it was impossible to tell what this woman was capable of just meeting her on the street. How could society protect itself?
And if she can appear so normal, how many other “normal” people do I know that are capable of this? Maybe more than anyone cares to admit.
What makes me different from her? Am I different?
She is going to be released…