The conclusion to my short story posted last week!
Dr. Pettigrew had various degrees on the wall behind her and a shelf full of psychology books to prove she was qualified to analyze and make decisions about what drug cocktail to try on people. She had even been published a few times in Psychology Today. She wore a pinstriped suit jacket and skirt combo. Her salt and pepper hair touched her shoulders and curled under forming the perfect shape of a “Peggy Sue” Halloween wig. Sometimes I wanted to yank on it to see if it would come off. She held a pen in her hand but there was also one behind her ear as if she’d forgotten she put it there. Her official title was “Director of Mental Health” although most considered her to be nothing more than a glorified drug dealer. She always asked the same questions every session and didn’t seem to care about having a real conversation.
“Lets start out with something simple,” she began. “How have you been lately?”
“Okay. I know this one. Fine.” I don’t like this woman. It’s obvious that she doesn’t give a shit about her patients; she’s going through the motions.
Dr. Pettigrew began writing things in my file and it was obvious she’d written more than just “fine.”
“Have you been sleeping through the night?”
“Yes!” Hardly. I answered that way too quick.
“Do you feel drowsy at all during the day?”
“Not that I’ve noticed.”
“Do you have trouble concentrating?”
“Well it doesn’t take that much brain power to concentrate on TV, and that’s mostly all I’m doing these days. Oh and karaoke. I realize I have a decent singing voice.”
“Do you always do that?” Her painted red lips thinned into an angry line causing the color to bleed into the creases of her smoker’s mouth.
I was so mesmerized by those wrinkle lines I hadn’t realized she’d asked me a question. “Do what? Sorry?”
“Do you always deflect with humor? You hardly ever just answer a question. Everything is a joke with you.” She waited for an answer and then sighed and continued to scribble. “Any feelings of anxiety or nervousness?”
“No.” Of course! Wouldn’t you be nervous if a whispering cloud of death descended on your head every night?
“How are you doing with the Clozaril?”
“Really? Last time we spoke you told me you hated it. In fact you said, ‘I have no energy and it’s making me fat.’ Have you adjusted?”
“I guess. It’s not bothering me anymore.”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed and the entire shape of her face changed from patronizing to amused. She looked like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland flashing me all of her teeth. I could have counted them.
My skin reacted to the change in mood and my arms became covered in gooseflesh. The temperature seemed to drop five degrees in an instant. I’m not sure what I said to tip her off but that look in her eyes made all my body hair stand up.
“When did you stop taking the Clozaril?” Dr. Pettigrew’s tone was expectant. She’d caught me and now she took pleasure in my fear. .
“I’m not psychotic. I know what that drug is for and I don’t need it. There are real lunatics out there who think they know the president, who cry hysterically one minute and think they can conquer the world the next. I’m not like them. That drug isn’t going to help me!”
“It’s designed to help patients who suffer with auditory and visual hallucinations. You’re telling me that isn’t you?”
This is what she’d been waiting for. All these weeks she’d been biding her time and now she was forcing me to say it out loud. “I had them before I came to Whitetail. These last few weeks things have become clearer to me. I know the stuff I saw before wasn’t real.”
“So whatever you saw last night wasn’t real?”
I shot to my feet. Every instinct told me to turn and run. “Who told you that?”
“No one had to tell me, Avery. It’s obvious by those bags under your eyes. Your face is too pale; you’re irritable and clearly paranoid. I’m guessing you haven’t been sleeping through the night for weeks.”
“Bullshit! It was Jen, had to be. Or maybe Paige. I know that twat doesn’t like me.”
“Avery, sit down and stop swearing. Now.”
“Maybe I don’t feel like sitting down. I’m an adult you can’t make me sit down or tell me what the fuck to say!”
“Actually, I can do both.” She never raised her voice or swore but when Dr. Pettigrew became very calm, I knew something bad was about to happen.
The doctor must have had a panic button under her desk because two male orderlies burst into the room and grabbed me. I yelped as one man twisted my arm behind my back and marched me down the hall. It was a bad idea to fight. It gave them a reason to pump me full of sedatives. But I couldn’t control myself. All the pent up anger and fear I’d carried for so long exploded out of me. I finally had something physical to fight. I screamed at the two men that held me and would have used my fingernails if my arms had been free. No one had to tell me where I was headed, but I wasn’t going to make it easy.
Patients lined the hallway to watch as I struggled, cursed and kicked every step of the way. Some of the female patients cried.
A skinny black man in his pajamas shouted at the orderlies and waved a scrawny fist. “You can’t treat people this way!”
Paige was also present for my march of shame. She stood there with her head bowed and her hands covering her face. She might have been crying or laughing. It was impossible to tell. I was about to yell something at her but one of them men holding me wrenched my arm even harder and my threat turned into a cry of pain.
Dr. Pettigrew stepped out into the hallway to try and corral the other residents before they became volatile. “Everything is fine. Avery is going to take some much-needed rest in isolation. I need you all to go back to the yard or the community room.”
That was the last thing I heard before they pushed me into an empty room and strapped my arms down to the bed. It was soundproof so I could scream until my voice died and no one would come. I’d tested that theory my first week at Whitetail. Nurse Gabby came in with a large needle full of something foul to knock me out. I whimpered and struggled with my restraints but it was no use. I could do nothing to stop her.
I looked at the woman with tears in my eyes. I hoped she would take pity. “Please. Don’t give that to me. It’ll just make everything worse.”
Her brow furrowed in concern. She genuinely wanted to help and stroked the top of my head as if comforting a child. “After what I just saw outside, I’d say this is exactly what you need. You’ll feel more like your old self after you sleep. Just a little pinch now.”
I began to feel all the tense muscles in my shoulders release. I became warm all over as the drug dulled my fevered mind. “Will you stay with me?”
“You know I can’t, dear. I’ve got rounds to make.”
“Can you stay until I fall asleep?” I couldn’t move my arm but I opened my palm and mercifully put her hand in mine. Her touch was comforting.
Nurse Gabby looked over her right shoulder at the security camera. Someone was watching us. “Only for a minute. Until you’re asleep.”
When I next opened my eyes it was obscenely dark. My nurse was gone and her kind words had been replaced by a hundred whispering voices. It took a minute to orient myself but I soon remembered I’d been locked in an isolation room. I was alone, and very much not alone. I could feel the presence of it more than actually see it. The only window to the outside world was the one in the door and there was no light coming in through it. It gave me the horrible feeling that light no longer existed. Despite this, I could still see the nightmare. It was blacker than the darkest shadow and it floated above me, waiting. I wanted to make the sign of the cross but my arms were firmly flattened to the mattress. Did they leave on the restraints? No. It wasn’t anything as simple as that. It held me down. A wheezing sound escaped from somewhere in the center of the shadow. It was laughing at me. It had always been in my room waiting for me to go to sleep, for when I was the most vulnerable. The night always returned and with it my nightmare.
I held my breath and tensed every muscle in my body waiting for vicious claws or teeth to tear my flesh. It didn’t happen. The whispering grew louder around me and I felt my body press into the mattress so hard it hurt. A warm wet pool expanded beneath me. When it was inches from my face I had the sensation of something sitting directly on my chest. It was so heavy I couldn’t breathe and I wondered how much it would hurt when my chest caved in. Inside my head I screamed in terror. I wanted to turn my head away but couldn’t move. I had no control over any part of my body, not even my eyes. It forced me to stare. There was no face to focus on but something shifted and I heard sounds both deep and high pitched at the same time like multiple beings speaking at once. I was thankful I didn’t understand the horrible language.
I couldn’t open my mouth to pray but made a request inside my head, “Please God, let it be over soon.” The inky black miasma expanded like a cloud until it covered the length of my body. At least the years of torment would finally end. I felt tiny pricks all over my skin like tiny needles stabbing everywhere at once. It finally released my mouth and I screamed with my entire body. I was sure it was the last sound I’d ever make. Something ice-cold filled my gaping mouth and expanded within me. I stopped screaming.
Paige painted her fingernails silver and hummed along while listening to Green Day on her itunes. She had the volume turned up in an attempt to drown out the birdsong outside. Wildlife had returned with a vengeance. Black birds this time. I have to admit I like them better. Today it seemed every black bird in existence congregated in the Oak tree right outside our window. An additional flock of them circled the air right above the tree protesting the lack of space to perch. I closed the curtains so Paige wouldn’t notice how many had gathered. It would only upset her to see the evidence.
“You’ve been coming around a lot more lately,” I told her.
“Yeah. You know, you’ve been a lot less annoying to me these past two days. I think I’ll stick around a little longer.”
Paige laughed. “Something is just different about you. It’s like the feeling I used to get like a thousand fire ants were biting me at once when I talked to you, I don’t get that anymore.
“Hmm. Jen never seemed annoyed by me.”
“Jen’s lame. Say, you got any glitter polish on you?”
“Sure. I’ve got some right here.” I retrieved a small green bottle from the top drawer of the dresser but handed Paige a silver glittery polish with tiny stars floating inside. I allowed my hand to linger over Paige’s enjoying the brief contact. “You’ve got nice skin, Paige.”
“I’ve got someone I want you to meet.” You know, since we’re friends now.”
“No shit? You’re finally getting a visitor? Jen is going to be so jealous that I got to meet them. Who is it?”
“It’s a surprise. They can’t come until tonight.”
“But don’t visiting hours end at five o’clock? Did you get special permission or something?”
“You could say that. You’re going to be so excited. In fact, you might even piss yourself.”