A sharp wail cut through the silence of Woodbridge Mental Hospital. A nurse immediately rushed towards the far end of the hallway, her footsteps echoing off the walls of the hospital. As she approached the door of the patient’s ward, she heard equipment crashing to the floor and shattering. She fished out her cell phone and dialed a number. Ten minutes later, a ravishing woman sashayed down the halls of the hospital, oblivious to the ear piercing shrieks of the woman at the far end of the hallway. “We weren’t able to calm her down, Miss Hale.”
The guards nodded at her as she approached the entrance of the ward and let her in. The ward was a mess, shattered glass covered the ground and broken lab equipment lay haphazardly all over the room. And in the corner, hugging her knees, sat the scientist.
“Danica, calm down.” At the sound of her sister’s voice, the woman stopped screaming and raised her head, her breath jagged. Her wild hair framed her face, nearly covering her bloodshot eyes, but not quite. In a cold, monotonous voice that chilled to the bone, she said, “This is all your fault.”
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I hadn’t meant to overhear them; I wasn’t even allowed to be in this wing of the hospital. “What are you doing here? Who are you?” A voice demanded. I straightened my back, quickly making up a story, but as soon as I saw her standing just inches from me, I froze.
“I…. I… I’m new here, I lost my way.” I stuttered, deciding to tell her the truth. Her eyes seemed to harden as she said, “Please leave. You are not authorized to be here.” I scurried away, my heart beating like the wings of a hummingbird.
“Where were you? I waited for ages but you didn’t show up, so I just went ahead.”, said Natalie, a resident I’d befriended on my second day. I’d completely forgotten about meeting her for lunch that day and I was so intrigued by what had happened that I didn’t think before asking her, “Who lives in the Restricted Wing?” Natalie blinked at me blankly, and then asked accusingly, “Why?” I immediately realized my mistake and played dumb, shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Just wondering.” Natalie relaxed and looked around, “Okay, I’ll tell you.”
Rumor had it that in the Restricted Wing lives a scientist by the name of Danica Hale, world-renowned for her substantial contributions to cancer research. She had laid the building blocks for hopes of eventually finding a cure for cancer. She was in the prime of her career, so close to finding that cure when she disappeared from the scientific world. The woman I had seen earlier was her younger sister, Emily Hale. She was a prolific fiction writer who had several international best sellers. Eight years ago, she had donated a large sum of money to build an entire new wing in the hospital.
Natalie wouldn’t tell me any more than that, but I was determined to find out the story behind how Danica had ended up as a patient in Woodbridge Mental Hospital - a mental breakdown perhaps? Over the next few days I peppered her with questions, hoping to wear down her reluctance at telling me the entire story. After a week, she said in exasperation, “I honestly don’t know the whole story! You’ll have to ask Emily or Danica yourself, they’re the only ones who know what really happened!”
I had been observing Emily Hale from a distance and managed to find out from the head nurse that she came at least once every two days. Emily must have noticed me watching her because a few days later, she confronted me. “Are you some kind of stalker? I can see you, you know.” “Sorry, I’ve heard a lot about you that’s all.” I said, pulling out a copy of her latest book, ‘Heartbeats’. She looked shocked for a moment. “I had no idea doctors read fiction.” She said smiling. “It’s my way of escaping from reality. Do you mind signing it?” I said, holding out my copy.
I walked away thoroughly pleased with myself, not because I had gotten her autograph, but because I had managed to uncover a new addition to the story. We had been talking about cancer and I had gushed about the recovery of my aunt, thanks to a new drug in a clinical trial that was still ongoing. Emily then told me about the rare form of cancer that had struck her ten years ago, when she was just twenty-five.
Later on, it dawned on me that ten years ago was exactly when Danica had vanished from the research scene. It can’t have been a coincidence that at that point in time; Danica Hale had sent a sample of a cure for the same cancer her sister was suffering from to the Health Ministry for approval for human trials.
The next time I saw Emily, I was eager to get more information. I asked her seemingly innocent questions, and to my delight, she answered every single one of them. I think by then, she was just happy to have someone she could talk to. Between her constant visits to the hospital and the busy life of an internationally acclaimed author, she probably did not have much of a social life. Eventually, I was able to piece together the whole story.
Ten years ago, Emily Hale had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. There was no known cure, but her sister, Danica, was inches away from finding one. After successfully testing her drug on mice, all Danica needed was to get the drug approved for human tests. Meanwhile, her sister’s condition was worsening and with her sister’s life on the line, she couldn’t possibly have waited 6 months for the Health Ministry to respond. It would have been too late for her sister.
Throwing caution to the wind, she decided to test the drug on herself. She monitored herself closely and after 2 months, without noting any adverse effects, she decided it was safe for her sister to take it. After six doses over a period of three months, a scan showed that Emily’s tumor had shrunk to the size of a bean. At six months, there was no sign of it anymore.
In a sick twist of fate to what would have been a happy ending, Danica began to behave strangely and often did not seem like her usual self. At first, she was simply suspected to be developing symptoms of bi-polar disorder. Emily, however, was filled with a sense of foreboding that this could be related to the drug. Gradually, Danica’s mental state worsened and her mood swings became more violent and difficult to handle. Emily thought it best to remove her from the research institute.
After making a fortune from her first two best-selling novels, Emily decided that a more permanent home at Woodbridge Mental Hospital would be best for Danica. She then donated a huge sum of money to the hospital for them to build a new wing, which was to include a fully equipped laboratory for her sister. The cure that Danica had discovered was found to cure cancer patients, but had the unfortunate effect of mental instability in a healthy person. Although Danica was mentally unstable, she was able to continue her research work with these facilities. Eventually, the drug was released after some modifications to eliminate the side effects and thousands of lives were saved because of it.
Books and movies portray mad scientists as deranged people set on world domination. After hearing the story of the Hale sisters, I now have a rather endearing image of a mad scientist in the person of Danica Hale, a tragic figure gone mad after saving the life of her beloved sister. Today, despite her mental condition, she still continues to serve humanity with whatever sanity she has left. Truly, a genius gone mad for the sake of love.
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