In here, people change.
Usually anyway. The meek become wild, the confident, shy and the arrogant become shadows. A mix of medication, neglect and the fact that you never knew if the person next to you was going to continue staring into space or leap up and attempt to gouge your eyes out meant that you became less than yourself. It sucked your identity away like a leech feasting on your soul.
I, myself, have tried with everything I have to keep hold of my Self, or those parts I want to save, anyway. I don’t know if I’ve been successful, though. I don’t know if the Me now is anything like the Me who walked in here. The change can creep up on you, sneaking around, hiding in corners until you’re not looking then BANG!
You’re no longer, entirely, you.
Black curls, black eyes and black attitude. A smile that could slice your heart out of your chest. An innocence lost. Miriam was that way when she first appeared in the recreation room and she was one of the only people I knew who stayed that way until she left.
Did they leave? Were they pushed? Did they disappear? Well, they were no longer here, that much was true. But sometimes the individual had neither improved nor deteriorated when they were, suddenly, absent.
Miriam was one of those. Like me, I very much doubted she was crazy. Well apart from her tales of Mana. Apart from talking about some typewriter that could bend time and space and was a masterpiece of quantum physics, of course. Hey, people died because of me. At the toss of a coin, no less. But I kept my own issues to myself. I was paranoid (I told them).
Miriam, however, was very vocal. From the day she walked in, she made sure you knew who she was and why she was here. Not that she believed she belonged in here, but not many did. I did wonder, though, on more than one occasion, if she was the only other non-lunatic in the asylum.
She didn’t seem crazy. There was so much conviction in her stories you felt she was actually telling the truth. As far as she believed it, anyway. Did that make her more crazy than the crazies? Or more sane than the psychiatrist. Considering Connors was the doctor in question, the jury is still out.
Kidnap is a strong word. Strong is a strong word, too, isn’t it? Words have meat, don’t they. ‘Strong.’ ‘Whisper.’ ‘Light.’ Because you know their meaning you infer substance and weight to them in varying degrees. ‘Kidnap’ could pull you down like concrete overshoes in the river.
Connors denied it, strenuously. The orderlies openly laughed in her face. The residents did both of those and threw some disbelief in for good measure.
I was undecided. In the realm of Farfetched, I was King, so I had to take everything with a pinch of Lot’s wife. But Miriam was insistent. She’d been kidnapped. Her horrible guardians’ evil business partners, the Cartwrights? Cantrells? Anywho, they’d stolen her and her friend away and bundled them on a train. Of her friend there was no sign and I had to admit that I’d never heard the choo-choo of Thomas anywhere near here before. And then there was Mana, her Island governess. She could control people with her mind. But, did I mention people die around me? I may have. I forget.
Hold on… Governess? Did people still have them? And Miriam had left her childhood behind long ago, anyway.
Still. With her black curls, black eyes and black attitude, Miriam still made you feel she was whiter than the light that was inset into the ceiling of Room 101, the one that would blind you for a good half hour if you so much as happened to glance in its general direction. You, or at least I, felt that she hadn’t quite learned the definition of deceit. Her innocence was lost, but its effect still lingered like Room 101’s bulb.
Maybe she told the truth. Perhaps she had been kidnapped and her friend was being held too, and her guardians were plotting with their business partners to do unspeakable things.
But, as she’s no longer here, I can’t find out any more. I can’t delve into her stories to see if there are any chinks – or discrepancies – in the armour of her conviction.
Was she pushed?
I hoped she jumped.
Maybe she’ll write me a letter on that grand typewriter she kept mentioning. It would be nice to receive a letter.
Even if it is from another time.
(This blog entry is based on the excellent steampunk novel The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca, available now in print from http://amzn.to/pDG0Al and as an ebook from http://amzn.to/iqifef in the US or from http://amzn.to/qTZgSI in the UK)Learn More
Forgive me Doctor, for I have Sinned.
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything. I wonder why that is. Why am I missing those days? Why is there a blur where there should be a memory?
Has a five year old come along and rubbed it out, but not been quite thorough enough so there’s still the smudge of thoughts left behind on the notepad of my mind?
It should be Wednesday, but it’s not. I don’t know, exactly, what day it is, but it’s at least Saturday. Cheap Thrill Phil, that orderly of note to whom any small chance to humiliate a patient is a moment of personal glory, is on duty. He only works weekends.
I think that’s the days when he’s let out of his cage at the zoo. After all, with knuckles that almost scrape the floor and a body odour that could kill an Ox at twenty paces, even the gorillas would want some peace from one of their own.
But it should be Wednesday today.
Me and Bender Benny always played cards on a Wednesday. Chinese Patience or Rummy. The pack was missing two twos and all of the aces (that was Willow – she thought aces were evil), but we didn’t mind. What difference did it make? Benny often forgot the difference between sevens and nines anyway. We made up the rules as we went along, with no two games being the same. Today should have been card day.
But it wasn’t.
It was… somewhen else.
Where has the time gone, Doctor? Where have my days disappeared to, to leave behind this grey stain in my head? Is it the shadow of a memory, or the skid mark from whatever excrement your drugs leave behind. Has your treatment just failed to wipe the arse of my brain?
Sometimes, when you’ve forgotten something, if you don’t really think of it, or you turn your head fast enough to catch the tail end, you can grasp at the memory and pull it back. You can reel it in like a pike fighting the line, regretting it had taken the bait. But not in this case. It’s a smoke screen that I just can’t see through.
And what was the bait, Doctor? What did you use to steal the memory away from me?
I don’t suppose you need one, do you. This pond is ripe for fishing, and you can dip in anytime, knowing you’ll always catch a bite.
We’re like lobsters in a tank. You can point to one of us and tell the waiter – or orderly in this case – “I want that one.”
Waiter/orderly. Fish hook/syringe. It’s all the same. You say tomayto, I say comatose.
Do I want to remember? What was it about your treatment that took days, Doctor? What did you do that deleted time from my mind like a file from a folder? Was it you or I that scrubbed them out?
Forgive me, Doctor, for I am Sin.
But you know that.
Don’t you.Learn More