Won felt like she had been slapped in the face.

Of course, she didn’t buy Top Dog’s answer completely. Dr. Madison had also diagnosed Won with an outrageous disorder of severe nymphomania. However, there was no guarantee that this asylum was free of actual psychotic patients. There could be a mix of genuinely ill patients who need to be hospitalized, and those who were locked up like Target.

It’s unclear which category the girl named Ju-hee falls into.

‘This is like Schrodinger’s paradox.’

Won doesn’t know if the people inside are normal or psychotic until she opens the box and observes them, and then voila!

Won made a face as she thought about it, but there was another thing she needed to address.

“How am I supposed to believe you?”

It was possible that this man was lying.

“You’re a patient, too. You might be lying to me because you’re a fanciful person with a delusional disorder, too, right?”

The other person has a sharp tongue, and it isn’t within Won’s taste to be the only one to be respectful. She didn’t wish to be completely rude, so she only used half-formal words.

Top Dog wasn’t offended; he seemed amused like he was exposed to a new stimulus for the first tie in a long time.

“Why are you speaking informally1 top dog spoke informally to won, so won spoke informally as well. there is no way to translate the formal/informal way of speaking in korean to english btw to me?”

“Because you spoke informally to me first.”

“So if I respect you, will you respect me?”

“If I see you doing it.”

While accepting it, Won was skeptical of this conversation. It might be appropriate for two elementary students to talk about respect, but apparently not for Top Dog. A grin spread across his tight-lipped face.

“I like you because you have a nice little body, but I think you’re more like my kind of girl, don’t you think?”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t like your face or body.”

“You have a temper, so you aren’t boring. Seriously, though, you don’t like this? Really?”

Top Dog smirked, cupping my face. He didn’t seem particularly hurt since he was absolutely confident in his appearance.

In fact, it was inevitable. Because as long as the concept of universal beauty exists in human history, you can stop 100 people on the street and ask them. All 100 of them will tell this man he was handsome, and they would say the same of Dr. Madison.

Of course, if they opened their mouths, the assessment might be a bit different. Good looks don’t make up for a poor and cheap vocabulary.

When Won ignored him, Top Dog asked another question.

“How old are you?”

“Mind your own business.”

“I thought you would at least tell me that.”

“Dream on.”

Top Dog chuckled at my firm rejection, then left his hand and swept my bangs away. The long-sleeved patient’s shirt sagged under gravity, revealing the underside of his wrist.

‘Snake tattoo?’

The snake inked on his veined forearm wriggled with the movements of his muscles. At that size, he probably had it wrapped around his entire arm.

‘Snakes are in bad taste.’

Getting a tattoo is a matter of personal freedom, but putting such an intimidating creature in such a prominent place was clearly a sign showing his intent.

Not seeing the value in further conversation, Won turned away.

“Welcome to the shithole, new guy.”

Top Dog’s voice rang from behind her.

“There’s more shit to come, but if you keep one thing in mind, you’ll be able to live in this shitty place just fine. I’m going to tell you the precautions to take in the locked ward, so open your ears and listen.”

Won didn’t realize it when she was face-to-face because of his brusque demeanor, but now that she paid attention to it, his voice was surprisingly heavy, with a strange, sarcastic, bass tone.

“Watch out for snakes.”


Won immediately thought of the snake tattoo on his wrist.

‘Was he warning me to watch out for him? If so, I could only assume he was putting on airs. So much for the bravado.’

Won chuckled and went back to her room. At least she checked on Target’s condition. After 48 hours in the care room, it would be difficult for her to make direct contact with him tomorrow. She heard that if you stay in the room for more than 24 hours, you become super dopey.

After taking on the case, Won did some research on what a closed ward was like, and it is the place that patients hate the most.

Despite the word “stabilization,” it was more like a punishment than in a normal hospital. Once you’re in there, you have nothing to do in a room that is only about a square meter. You can’t sleep because you aren’t allowed to close your eyes. Most can only tolerate it for about four or five hours, but if one is locked up for longer than that, they will go crazy and beg to be let out.

Add restraints to the mix and it will be a wreck. Compulsions are limb restraints in the name of safety for patients who are at risk of self-harm, and as Dr. Madison says, no one can even go to the bathroom alone, let alone eat.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for seclusion and compulsion, adults should be prescribed no more than 12 hours of seclusion and no more than 4 hours of compulsions. It can be extended by a physician, but should still try not to exceed 24 hours of consecutive seclusion and 8 hours of consecutive compulsion.

It’s not “can’t,” but “shouldn’t.”

If the doctor determines that one is a high risk and needs to be in isolation and compulsion for more than the maximum consecutive time allowed, it can be extended. This was the case with Target, who was quarantined for 48 hours.

‘I’ll contact him when he’s well enough. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who has no energy.’

After thinking about it, there was nothing for Won to do, so she exercised. She warmed up with a modest home workout to avoid arousing suspicion, washed up, and went to bed.

As she stared up at the ceiling, it suddenly occurred that the “snake to watch out for” might not be Top Dog. Snakes are usually associated with sneaky characters, so maybe the snake to watch out for in the locked ward was…

‘Dr. Madison?’

The man with snake-like eyes. The absolute power in this asylum. It’s so obvious to be wary of him that she shouldn’t need to be reminded.

Won tossed and turned a bit in her bed, then fell asleep.


“‘A snake to watch out for?’” Ju-hee asked, sipping her lukewarm tea.

In the closed ward, you can only get hot water from the nurses at certain times. If you need something like coffee or tea, the nurses will make it for you, but they’ll add ice to make sure it isn’t too hot. Due to the nature of psychiatric hospitals, hot water can also be used for self-harm or as a weapon to injure others.

Won took a sip of her lukewarm Americano. Even in the middle of summer, it was still insulting to the palate of a hot coffee drinker. This isn’t coffee, but just caffeinated water.

“Yeah. Yesterday, a guy told me to watch out for snakes if I wanted to live here, and he had a snake tattoo on his arm…”

“Oh, oppa Rock.”

“Oppa Rock?”

“The oppa with the snake tattoo on his arm. I don’t really know him, but I think he’s called that because his real name has ‘rock’ in it.”

One of the things patients are told when they are admitted to the locked ward is to not tell the other patients who they are because they are mentally ill. In fact, there have been cases where patients who have been discharged went to others’ residential neighborhoods and committed crimes. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon for patients to use a pseudonym or a single letter from their name in the ward. Of course, some still use their real names.

“But isn’t there a pretty big age difference between you and him to call him ‘oppa’?”

The Top Dog, Rock, is probably in his 30s. Aside from looking like he is at the peak of the power hierarchy, his laid-back vibe and the ease with which he went through every day are things no 20-something could ever do. Won was surprised to hear Ju-hee comfortably calling him “oppa” like he was only a year or so older than her. Even more so since Won, when at the girl’s age, considered men in just their 20s to be uncles.

“He’s handsome. If the psychological distance2 if she finds them attractive -> brother; if she finds them ugly -> uncle is close, he’s my oppa; if the distance is far, he’s my uncle.”

As Won sipped her bland Americano, she couldn’t stop thinking about how brash kids are nowadays. Then she stopped because she felt like a cranky, old lady.

Ju-hee excitedly chimed in once more.

“Maybe that’s the ‘snake’ oppa Rock was talking about, the one roaming the ward.”

“A snake… roaming the ward?”

“You know about school stories? We have one like that here.”

“What’s it about?”

“It says that if you hear something slithering around outside after bedtime, it’s a giant snake roaming the ward looking for prey. If you step outside your room, the snake wanders down the dark, unlit hallway, opens its mouth wide, and lunges at you, eating you from head to toe.”

Ju-hee, making chomping gestures with her fingers, chuckled and then grumbled, “Honestly, who believes this stuff when the dummy in the science lab walks the hall at night?”

Won was about to agree.

“Hooo, what are you talking about? Snakes are real,” a third person interjected.

The main hall was the living room and there were several other patients there. One of whom was a lanky man, and he overheard the conversation and barged in. He was incessantly shaking his head.

“It’s a tic,” Ju-hee whispered in Won’s ear.

“I-I saw the belly, the snake, the back, the back, but the-th-the-the-the… hic!”

The man, who was about to say more, suddenly seized up. Won immediately turned her head to the direction of where the man’s eyes had last traveled. She found Top Dog at the end of her line of vision.

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  • 1
    top dog spoke informally to won, so won spoke informally as well. there is no way to translate the formal/informal way of speaking in korean to english btw
  • 2
    if she finds them attractive -> brother; if she finds them ugly -> uncle
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