I just found this short story that I wrote earlier this year. I have very little memory of writing it, so reading it was an interesting experience. My first thought was, “That was kind of good…and really dark…” followed by, “How did that come out of me?!” I am haunted by my own creation. That’s probably because it’s a punch in the gut. It takes place in a juvenile psychiatric hospital. It’s dark and upsetting, and there isn’t a happy ending.
Can I suggest having a kitten nearby if you read it?
I will be attempting more short fiction in the near future, but now, without further ado…
The world came back into focus slowly at first. Cinderblock walls stretched as far up as I could see, and someone next to me was screaming something about being harassed. I sat up with a start and immediately regretted the motion because the room started spinning faster. I turned my head to find that the woman next to me was actually screaming in her sleep, and that I was in a large room resembling a warehouse with about 50 other people in hospital gowns and various states of consciousness.
I tried to rub my head with my hand and that’s when I realized that my wrists, which were heavily bandaged, were tied to the reclining chair in which I sat. That’s when I felt the first muted twinge of panic. I looked down and saw that I, too, was wearing a hospital gown, stained with something I didn’t want to think about.
The woman next to me had stopped screaming and started staring at me, open mouthed and drooling. When she reached one finger out to try to touch me I began yanking at the arm restraints to try to loosen them and free my hands. I had to get out of there. Whatever this place was, I wanted no part of it. I yanked, I pulled, I noticed that the bandages around my wrists began to spot with blood. My blood.
“Get your finger out of my face if you want to keep it,” I said with the most threatening snarl I could muster. The woman next to me left her finger where it was and started laughing. The panic was rising, and just as I wondered if anyone here was in charge, I saw an imposing figure wearing a badge.
“Casey?” she said.
“Casey,” I repeated. That was my name, but no one called me that except… The imposing woman released the arm restraints, grabbed my elbow, and stood me up too quickly. I nearly passed out from the dizziness, but the imposing woman with the badge seemed to have no time for easing me back into consciousness.
“Do you know where you are?” she said as she steered me into a small clinic room that was used for first aid. I realized I knew that’s where we were going because I’ve been there before. It was the last time I felt safe. I relaxed a little.
“Yes. I’m at Red Bridge Psychiatric Hospital.” I said, making eye contact with the nurse.
“Do you know why you are here, Casey?” the nurse asked. I could not read the look on her face.
“I…” I felt like the reason was at the tip of my tongue but just out of my reach. Last time I was here because I hurt myself by cutting my arms and I talked about killing myself a lot. I was only fourteen then. I had grown and matured so much in the last three years; I don’t do that stuff any… I startled as the nurse ripped my blood soaked bandages from my right wrist. Those bandages told a different story.
I saw the scar on my left arm above the bandages and remembered having to have surgery and wear a cast for two months. Because of my foster dad… A shiver ran up my spine at the thought of him. Walter. I remembered that I didn’t have to go back to him, but I couldn’t quite remember why.
“Walter hit me,” I gave her as my reason. It was the only information I had available.
“Ok sweetie, do you remember anything else?” I know all the nurses call you sweetie and dear and honey and stuff like that, but this nurse, Angela, said it like she felt sorry for me.
“I don’t…I don’t think so,” I said, but I knew the rest of the story was there just waiting to reveal itself to me. I watched Angela clean and start to rebandage my wrists when I noticed that the cuts were jagged and some were deeper than others. When I cut myself (really only a last resort for dealing with my pain) (if my foster mother actually believed any of the things I said about Walter, I probably wouldn’t want to cut myself so much), I was very meticulous. The lines never crossed or even varied in length. Something wasn’t right. But what?
A scene flashed in my mind, like looking at part of a movie that’s playing on television and then looking away again. Walter’s face over my bed, pocket knife in hand, grinning like a maniac… then nothing.