Oh the despair! You captured the bleakness and hopelessness just fine. I would watch overdescribing things, sometimes the extra words are just repetitive and don’t flow.
“People who come here, who are sent here” for example. I know some patients are voluntary and some not, is that what you were aiming for?
Now on with the tweaks:
The dim hum of institutional halls, the severe click of hard-soled heels on polished tiles; thick, odiferous air reeks of burnt hair (yer a poet an’ didn’t know it), exhaust fans somewhere far away try in vain to freshen the air. This place didn’t smell fresh the day it was built, no reason it should today.
Comment: I love fragments. I use them all the time. But I think having an actual sentence in the beginning would help the flow.
Suggestion: In these dim institutional halls, hard-soled heels click off polished tiles, and the oder of burnt hair overpowers the faraway exhaust fans.
Note: Since the doctors and nurses seem to be the enemy here, working “hard-soled heels” into “hard-souled staff” might be fodder for a nice transition between these two paragraphs. I’ll leave that as an exercise for you.
They simply call everyone in white “staff”, everyone in blue “guest”. The staff call each other “doctor” and “nurse”, call those in blue “patient”. None of the labels mean much, though. If their goal was honesty, they would call the whites “criminals” and the blues “victims”. But that would still only tell a part of the story. To call the whites’ bosses “masterminds” would be to give them some level of genius unevidenced; to call the families of the blues “accessories” or “co-conspirators” would be truthful enough.
Comment: Be mindful of the word order with “whites’ bosses”. That made me think of slavery.
Suggestion: Simplicity is their watchword: “staff” for those in white, “guest” for those in blue. Amongst themselves, the staff prefers “doctor” and “nurse”. To the blues, they say “patient”. Simple, yes, but honest? “Criminals” for the white and “victims” for the blue would be more truthful. But that only tells part of the story. The whites have bosses, yet calling them “masterminds” would lend them some level of unevidenced genius. But “accessories” or “co-conspirators” would fit like a glove for most families of those in blue.
This place is supposed to help people, the staff are supposed to look after and care for the guests. People who come here, who are sent here, are supposed to get better, are supposed to go home. You know that (typo alert – what) happens here, though. You know no one gets to go home, no one gets better.
Comment: I like the idea that the treatment here is a farce. I’d play this up a little more.
Suggestion: There is a conspiracy afoot, a collusion rampant among all colors. This place will help, the staff will heal. Come here and get better, get well. Follow our rules, obey our directives and the play the game, nicely. The prize awaits; eventually you go home.
Even the staff get worse the longer they stay.
Comment: Love that!
In another part of the building, another wing, another floor, some great beastly machine surges to life, is put to its designated task. The exhaust fans slow in protest of this new addition, this new burden. The fans take up their normal duty only when the other machine’s job is done, its purpose fulfilled.
In that other part of the building, that other wing, that other floor, someone gets a little worse. – A keeper.
Comment: The first time you have the repetitive “part of the building, another wing, another floor”, it doesn’t add anything. Nor does “new addition, new burden” or “job is done, its purpose fulfilled”. I’m not against the idea of repetition, but these fall flat. I probably can’t do any better, but that’s never stopped me before!
Suggestion: In another part of the building, down an empty wing, on a nearly deserted floor, lies the beast. This monster requires a lot of juice and when it howls, exhaust fans from all over the building stop, as if in fear. These timid fans resume their duty once the beast is silenced, its dreadful duty fulfilled.
Yowza, that was fun. Last comment: Is “only” one of your favorite words?
Ghost in the Machine