The following is a short story from my upcoming psychological thriller anthology, “Hallucinatory Tribulation.” The full book will be published on October 30th, 2019 ©️ All Rights Reserved. I will be posting one full short every Saturday until the book is published. Please comment with your thoughts or share if you enjoy the story. (You can also read on Wattpad.)
My screams could be heard echoing through the corridors of the hospital as the attendants at my sides tried desperately to console me. But how could they expect me to stay calm? The monsters were everywhere! They were taking control of the soft-spoken nurses even now.
“Let me go! They’re going to get me. You don’t understand! You’re all in danger!”
I wailed uncontrollably, feeling my end was near. Surely the beasts would take control, consuming what last bit of sanity I had. They could feed on the utter chaos my body would wreak after I’d been rendered incapable of restraining myself and keeping the bad thoughts in check. I had tried to warn them, tried to warn my mom. She was the one who took me to the hospital.
The woman had been worried about my behavior for some time. I knew because she kept making comments, asking if I was alright. I didn’t mean to keep yelling, withdrawing myself from others, but I didn’t know how else to make sure they stayed safe. I was a ticking bomb. It was a guessing game as to when I’d blow and I couldn’t risk doing so around anyone else. When I finally told her about the demons, about the feelings I was having, she convinced me to come here.
“Calm down, sweetie. It’s going to be ok.”
“Here’s something to make you feel better.”
Squirming and writhing where they had my small body pressed against the bed in the observation room, I watched helplessly while they injected me with their poison. My head fell backward onto the pillow, aptly sinking through its soft feathers and onto the mattress. Eyes caught sight of the camera nestled above the door; the one meant to lay watch over me so that I wouldn’t hurt myself again. How though, was I supposed to have the chance when they were the ones pinning me down, forcing their hands and their medicine on me?
As my sight clouded, a blackness appeared. A dark face with a long beak like a bird and white eyes that bore into my soul like daggers. It’s a mistake, the voice said the moment I disappeared from consciousness.
It’s a mistake…
When I awoke, my mind was far from me. Everything felt cloudy. I imagined it was what a bad hangover felt like. Groggily, I forced my sight to open and my head to roll back and forth. I could barely make out the whiteness of a strangely barren hospital room before I heard footsteps.
“You awake, hun?”
“Unh…” I moaned, “Where?”
“Do you not know where you are?”
My vision had just begun to clear. The man beside the bed where I lay wore blue scrubs. It was hard to tell if he was a nurse or doctor or something else. There was no stethoscope around his neck or tablet in his hand. His demeanor didn’t speak one way or other either.
“Hospital,” I replied lazily, still trying to become aware of my body and surroundings.
“That’s right. How are you feeling?”
“T-tired,” dry lips smacked as I talked, “Thirsty.”
“Well, let’s see if we can’t get you some water then, alright? A nurse will be in shortly.”
The apparently-doctor smiled and nodded, leaving the room quickly through the door below the camera. It was on my other side though. This wasn’t the same room I fell asleep in… I continued fighting to feel my body, finding gradual success. Although by the time I could move my arms, the presence of belts was revealed.
I was tied down?
Even having no prior personal experience with psychiatric care, I knew what I had seen on TV was an exaggeration. That being said, I didn’t expect such treatment. The medicine made sense now that my head was clear enough to think about it. Probably why I was so heavy now was antipsychotics or something of the sort having been pumped into my system. I heard they could make you fatigued, especially when first being put on them.
But the straps? I hadn’t done anything violent. I only didn’t want to be put asleep. Surely it was overkill, especially with someone my age. Not that I was super young, but since I was still a student… Did they really expect so much trouble from me?
As I contemplated this, the door came open and another man walked near with a cup which he offered with a smile.
“Are these necessary?” I wondered, gesturing with fingers to the restraints.
“Oh,” his face fell, “You’ll have to wait and talk to the doctor again about that. You gave everyone quite a trip the other night.”
“The…other night?” my brain registered I had been sleeping for at least a day.
“Mhm. Knocked you out cold afterwards. It seems you’re doing a lot better now though,” he pressed the straw to my lips, “I’m sure he’ll take them off soon.”
And he did. It was explained to me later in therapy that after the initial dose of relaxant had been administered, I fought through it and punched one of the attendants clear in the jaw. The other had apparently received a kick to the groin and it took nearly an overdose to actually subdue me. It made me feel like shit, but I knew what had happened.
The demon took me.
It was the only explanation it seemed yet one I never voiced to anyone. I knew better. The last time I said something, I wound up subdued in psychiatric care. Instead, I did as I was told, letting my mind come to terms with the truth, now that the pills were working their charm. It all made me realize that I simply had a high tolerance for substances.
Also, a person in an already extremely agitated or psychotic state could be unpredictable. Much like an addict in withdrawal. I stayed in the hospital for about four days longer before they deemed me fit to go home. From there, I continued taking the medicine and going to therapy outpatient.
The psychiatrist diagnosed me with schizophrenia. Not a diagnosis a young person wanted their people to know about so Mom did her best to help me keep the dark secret. I ended up going back to school and ever so slowly started hanging out more with friends again. I felt like everything was becoming normal. The way it should be. The therapist helped me understand my feelings and taught me to curb my actions and thoughts with different healthy coping mechanisms like art.
Everything was going good until that one day. The day I drew him.
I had been hearing whispers, ones that despite not being able to make out the words, recognized as his voice. The one creature who had haunted my visions the most was returning. Remembering what they told me do do- what had helped so many times, I sat down and drew him. One scribble turned into a sketch and into a painting and then into a hundred. Black scrawls on paper depicting my tormentor.
It’s a mistake.
It’s a mistake.
“It’s a mistake.”
“What’s that, sweetie?” Mom passed by the door to my room just when I started mumbling.
“Nothing!” I smiled weakly, quickly shutting my notebook and turning several papers over before she could see, “Just working on some art.”
“Okay,” she peeked inside, “Let me know if you need anything. I’m going to fix supper.”
I watched her leave, opting to get up off the floor and shut the room behind her. Inhaling deeply, I closed my eyes and talked to myself. Everything is alright. He’s not real. They’re not real. I’m safe.
I spun around at the words as clear as day coming from my window. I expected there to be nothing, my diseased brain playing tricks on me again, yet…there he was. Tall black shadow, the beak, those iridescent eyes peering down at me.
“W-what are you doing here?” I began, “No! You’re not real and you can’t hurt me!” I corrected, putting both hands over my ears in an attempt to shut him out, but he remained inside my head.
“Silly child,” the demon tsked, “I was never here to hurt you.”
My vision opened ever so slightly to look at him, “Of course you were. All you want is to ruin my life! Make me lose control and hurt people,” I thought for a second, then added, “Or myself!”
Throwing my scarred arm down from the side of my head so that he could see, I was surprised when he took a step closer. I jumped, retrieving my arm. The motion caused him to stop moving, the head which had been hung to look at the old wounds lifting to gaze at me.
“You did that to yourself,” he spoke softly. It was like…he was sad.
“You’re lying!” I cried, “You made me think it was the only way to get rid of you. You said you’d go away if-“
“I said nothing!” the being growled, “You convinced yourself that if you hurt, we would be satisfied and leave. That you could cut us out of you.”
My heart was pounding in my chest. He was right. I did think that…
“Leave me alone,” my voice shook, “Just leave me alone.”
“The fuck you can’t!” I stomped forward to grab one of the paintings on the floor. Flipping it over to show him his image, I tore the paper in two, then four, then eight, “I don’t need you and I don’t want you. Get the hell away from me.”
Bright white eyes appeared to gloss over somehow as if I had hurt the creature’s feelings.
“You don’t exist! You don’t exist! You don’t-“
And suddenly he was gone. Just like that. No further word. No murmurs. Simply a pain in my head where the monster had once resided.
“Oh my god. I heard you yelling,” Mom burst into my room, frantically looking from me to the shredded papers, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I sniffled, realizing as I wiped a tear that I was grinning like an idiot, “Just think I need my medicine adjusted.”
Mom embraced me tightly, caressing my hair against her breast. We were both so relieved. I had won. I had won! No longer would anybody be in control of my body, of my mind except me.
Now here comes the part where I give you a cliche happy ending. I suppose my ending was indeed a happy one. I went on to graduate high school. I went to college and although I flunked out, landed regular gigs producing art. Everyone seemed to love my schizo scrawls. I got married, had two healthy beautiful boys, watched them grew up. I grew up. I died in peace.
No, it’s what happened after my ending that wasn’t so nice.
At first, I saw my family circled around my bed. Each knew it was time to say goodbye. My lungs simply weren’t strong enough anymore. I consoled each of them, saying I would see them all again. We’d be together in Heaven at the end of days. I told them all while beaming, never for a minute doubting my words.
The scene of my corpse in the middle of grieving children and grandchildren faded to black. As the veil of death grew, a coldness in my chest did as well. What was happening? I tried once more to call out, but my distress went unheard. In the void, I began seeing movement- silvery in essence and eel-like. Whatever they were, there were hundreds and they were getting closer. Never in my existence had I felt so much dread.
I writhed, I yelped, I did everything I could to try and run, yet nothing would budge. All I could sense was a cold hand gripped around my heart, chaining me in place. Looking down to it, seeing that it was a red color and more tangible than my ethereal appearance. It looked like a string…like it was connecting me to something I could no longer see. My body? Was my soul stuck to it?
“Help!” I screeched, calling with my mind to the one thing I thought could help me…the demon.
“Afraid it’s too late for that, human,” a slimy noise articulated from one of the snakes which had drawn near “You had your chance.”
“Wh-what are you talking about?” I blathered helplessly.
“Sssee, some of you are lucky enough to be blessed with a guide,” it hissed, curling around my smoky form, “To help you pass safely to another realm when you die.”
“Oh yes. It’s the only way a human can hope to survive,” the beast slithered up into the air in a circle, “All this. You’re powerless without one.”
My entire being grew still. I recalled the hurt eyes of the demon I had shunned. He had…meant to help me?
“You’re lying,” I accused, unwilling to accept it, “That demon made my life a living hell!”
“Here’sss the deal sweetie,” the eel was around me, whispering in my ear, “Would you rather have been a little out of touch with things during life? Or have yourself rerouted here?”
“Rerouted?” I pleaded.
The statement was accompanied by a new beast identical to the one curled beside me, charging to me with mouth wide open. For an agonizing eternity, all I felt was pain. Teeth gnashed and bit and chewed against my core and every waft of energy I now was, slowly taking every ounce of my soul with it. I had my fair share surgeries, illness, and accidents throughout my life yet nothing compared to the million pricks of sharp teeth tearing through me.
“What happened? Oh honey, what’s going on???”
I heard the words, but barely registered that they belonged to my mom. Not as I remember her last on her deathbed, but from when I was a teenager.
“It’s okay, baby, I’m calling the doctor, it’s okay.”
The woman was frantic, but I didn’t understand why. Everything was numb. Nothing made sense. Carefully, I regained my sight and forced it downward. Arms, shirt, shorts, legs…it was all covered in blood. My blood. Dangling from one hand, I saw the culprit of the hundreds of puncture wounds on my skin: a pair of scissors. I was on the ground in my bedroom, leaned against the wall with my mother knelt beside me.
“Please, don’t leave me,” I begged.
“I’m not going any- Hello? Yes, I need an ambulance now! My baby is hurt!- I’m not going anywhere, sweetie.”
The women brushed my hair out of my face and kissed my forehead to assure me. However, it wasn’t her assurance I needed; it was my guide. I kept asking, kept pleading in my mind for him to return, but the connection was lost. All I was left with was regret and the words dug into the wall next to me:
It’s a mistake.
It’s a mistake.
It was a mistake.
~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden