“It touched me, it touched me, and they washed me clean.”

The girl sits, long brown hair covering her face, rocking back and forth, on a sea foam floor, chin on her knees, such an ugly colour, pulled up close to her chest, rocking back and forth.

“It touched me, it touched me.”

Why were institutions always painted such a hideous green? Back and forth, dark circles, charred spots, burnt onto both temples. They'd touched her alright, one of their kind — constructors. Tried to pull her out of her mind, as if she was a machine; thoughts and memories just more data to be uploaded, taken. Had it worked? Was there anything left inside this withered shell?

If only I could reach her, see what thoughts were racing around her mind; watch her memories. What secrets were hidden away inside her brain? She held the key to unlocking it, she'd seen the omega event. The terminus sparking, creating the first of their kind. The terrible birth of a species, one event almost ending our existence. But she was struck dumb, or might as well be, just the same phrase leaving her lips, over and over, nothing else. The doctor warned me before I flew out here. She hadn’t uttered another phrase in ten years. I move further into the room, she catches sight of me with her soft brown eyes, the sing-song chant becomes more frantic.

“It touched ME!”

Hearing the noise from outside the door, white lab coats rush forward, a nurse and two orderlies, far too bright against the threadbare, faded rug. Her rocking increases in tempo. They know what comes next. A hard wooden chair sits forgotten in the corner of the room, seat scratched and worn. Her arms, joined as one, lash out, no longer wrapped tightly around her legs and bandaged fingertips strike against the floor. The nurse sighs, gives me a look that says did you have to? She pulls a hypodermic from her pocket, lifting it to the light and tapping the end; I watch a pale yellow liquid squirt from the tip of the needle.

“It TOUCHED ME!”

Her voice rises to a higher, keening pitch, the whites of her eyes showing as they dart around the room, seeking unseen aggressors. The orderlies eye me, up and down, as if I'd violated their charge, looming bulk making the room feel tight. They roughly push me aside, as they tighten the straps of her straight-jacket and heave her onto the bed.

“IT TOUCHED MEEE!”

Screaming, she twists, the last vestiges of sanity leaving her face with each new outburst. Thrashing, eyes rolling, spittle flies from her mouth, she spasms and fights against the restraints. The girl's hysteria was my fault, though I'd asked only her name.

“CLEEEAN!”

Strong hands force her jaw open, as the nurse watches, the orderlies force a leather bit between the girls teeth; to stop her from biting off her tongue. The nurse moves between the white coats and stabs the needle down into a pale thigh, depressing the plunger. The girl tugs, arms pulling, trying to get away from demons only she can see. She screams, a primal thing, makes my ears ring, and a wet stain spreads down across the straight jacket. What a twisted and horrible thing to witness. I turn away, disgusted by her condition, horrified at what they could do to a person. Did do to a person. My footsteps echo off tiled floors as I walk down a long hallway, a sound soon lost among the shouts and wails of the other inmates.

A loud buzzer sounds as the desk nurse releases me from the asylum, there is nothing left to learn here.