In Asylumland it wasn't too hard to become a big fish in a small pond. By virtue of my status as head of the federal reserve I found my very presence in high demand. Never mind that anyone could paint a Billy Buck, as long as The Brain kept Thor convinced that all currency should bear my signature I remained in control of one branch of government. Of course, I did so by not openly questioning the actions of the other branch of government. If I had a problem I took it up with The Brain who almost always was already working on persuading Thor to change his policies even before I brought it up.
In the asylum I was a superstar. I would have preferred my status have been earned for something I had actually done like say, my writing, but most of what I penned was simply over the heads of the already confused and too often sedated, other patients there. In writing class, when I shared my work they only stared, never quite sure of what I had written or what it really meant. And unlike myself, the instructors and only a handful of the other inmates, most there were unable to fake emotions, enthusiasm and encouragement for things they could not understand.
The teachers were mostly college students there to get class credits towards graduation. A few were seeking degrees in psychology or some related field but most were English, Art and History majors hoping to become teachers someday. That is, except for the few that taught the health related classes. Most of them were going into medicine or nursing. The one thing most of them had in common was that few if any were comfortable with being inside.
One particular creative writing teacher, a beautiful woman named Jessica who was going back to school after some years away, took a particular interest in the poetry and short stories which I wrote from her prompts. I had seen all the prompts years before so everything I wrote was pretty much something I had written once before but she never knew that. She was almost 20 years my junior but old enough to know what she was getting into and I couldn't help thinking that if I had met her somewhere other than as a patient inside an insane asylum she just might have taken interest in more than my writing.
One day while I was walking outside near the tree lined outer walls I noticed Jessica was following me. "Are you following me?" I asked.
"I am," Jessica smiled. "I heard you would be out here searching for holes in the wall."
"I'm afraid there are no holes. I've searched every inch of it."
"So what are you searching for?" Jessica asked.
"Do you want me to leave you alone?" she asked.
"No," I smiled, "sometimes two can have privacy."
We talked for a while. Jessica wanted to know all about me and I about her. She was curious as to why someone who seemed to be so sane was locked away inside Asylumland. I almost blurted out the story of Veggie Head Stalker, The Adventures Of The Vegetable Stalker and how I'd been locked away inside for what seemed like years to keep me quiet but thinking that would make her think me loony tunes for certain I changed the subject and asked, "So how'd you find me here?"
"Irene told me you come out here every day to look for holes in the wall.," Jessica answered.
Irene was a drop dead gorgeous 25 year old cutie who wanted nothing more than to have sex at every opportunity that presented itself with any man or woman available. She was also emotionally disturbed in so many ways I couldn't begin to name them all. "Irene followed me out one day and offered me 5 bucks to have sex with her," I said.
"Wait a minute," Jessica asked, "women pay men to have sex here? How's that work?"
"Only men with status get paid," I replied. "It didn't always work that way but since there's a huge shortage of available men among the population that is free to mingle the few who have achieved some sort of status are able to capitalize on their status."
"So how did you acquire your status?" Jessica asked. I knew she was thinking it was because of my writing as it certainly wasn't my youth and good looks.
"Have you seen our money?" I asked. "My name's on it as the head of the federal reserve."
"You have your own currency here inside the hospital?" Jessica asked.
"How did your name get on it?"
"It was my idea."
"So that makes you a big fish in a small pond," she smiled.
"I can't help that the bar was already lowered before I got here," I replied, "but I'm doing my best to raise it now that I'm here."
"Did you?" Jessica asked.
"Did I what?" I asked.
"Did you have sex with Irene?"
"Why not?" she asked. I could see the wheels turning inside her head wondering why a man such as myself wouldn't have sex with a hot 25 year old. And then it came, "Are you into men?"
"No," I replied.
"That was honorable. Was she upset when you turned her down?"
"Only for a second," I smiled, "until I gave her 5 bucks to go away. Then she had enough money to go have sex with Thor."
"That was horrible," Jessica complained.
"Not really, that's who she was really wanting to have sex with all along."
"So did you want to have sex with Irene?"
"Of course I wanted to," I answered, "but I'm not 25 anymore. I think about the consequences."
"What kind of consequences?"
"The emotional damage it does to the patients here and the fact that holding out increases my value in the economic market."
"Seriously," Jessica complained, "you're holding out for more money?"
"I'm pushing up prices across the board," I answered. "As sick as it may sound, Asylumland is quite limited in resources, has no trading partners and stuck with a service sector economy. The only thing we are blessed with is excellent border security so that few ever come here competing for our jobs. Available men are the only form of human capital in short supply. So by holding out I help to keep the economy in a very slow growth state."
I decided it best I not tell her about the system of regulation and taxation The Brain and Thor had imposed and just let her think it was all entirely voluntary. "So why are you here?" Jessica asked. I could see our conversation have left her even more puzzled than before we started
"I wish I knew. I wish I knew."