It’s now time for our therapy session. I’m completely dreading it. I want to confide in someone who’ll listen to me about this whole predicament and I know a psychiatrist will, but they’re only interested in diagnosing me with a mental illness that I know I don’t have and throwing a prescription at me. Any medication that they’ll prescribe won’t have the desired effect because I’m not sick.
Each of us are assigned a doctor and we’re waiting outside their room. There’s a handful of us in line to see Doctor Franklin. Cole has a different doctor, so I’m unacquainted with any of his other patients. But, that Lenny guy is sitting at the other end of the queue. He’s resting his elbows on his knees and rocking his leg up and down. He’s keeping to himself and none of the others around are so much as even acknowledging his existence. I feel bad for him because of that, on top of Marc picking on him earlier on. “Hey, Lenny, right?” I say, taking a seat beside him.
“Yes, that’s me,” he mumbles.
I smile at him. “I’m Tho--”
“I know who you are,” he states. “And I’d rather you’d stay away from me.”
I frown. “What do you mean? Look, I’m just trying to--”
“Don’t act like you’re this good-natured guy who just wants to be everyone’s friend. You’re no better than your dad, so stop pretending to be. You’re only fooling yourself.”
I raise my eyebrow. “What exactly do you mean by that? My dad’s--”
“Got a lot of secrets,” he interjects. “Maybe at your visiting slot, you could ask him all about it.”
“What are you talking about?”
The door to Doctor Franklin’s office swings open. “Thomas Burton,” he calls. I take a glance at Lenny and stand up. I’ve got to find out what he was talking about, so I’m going to both approach him again later, and bring this exchange of words up in a conversation with my dad when he and Mum visit later on.
“So, Thomas, it’s on your file that you had a very upsetting nightmare and some traumatizing visions. Do you want to tell me about those?”
He slowly takes a seat and gestures for me to sit opposite him. “They’re not just visions,” I sigh. “They’re real. I know everybody else has thought so, and you’re probably thinking it too, but I’m not delusional. And, I didn’t have a nightmare. It actually happened.”
“What happened?” he asks.
I swallow. “There’s this murderer. Actually, he’s a serial killer. Every Halloween, he comes to our town and he goes on a killing spree. Last year, he killed my friend, and I wanted to catch him. But, he had been stalking me, so he sent me a note, telling me to meet him. When I came face to face with him, he knocked me out using some kind of drug,” I explain. “He tied me to a chair, and made me choose one of this year’s victims. And then he, he, he--”
“I’m sorry,” I swallow, looking down. “Take your time,” he says.
I nod painfully, trying desperately to regain a sense of composure. “Then, he told me that I could free his soul. He said he could fragment part of his soul in my body, by taking some of my blood. He cut my arm and filled a tube with it. He then poured in some of his own blood and mixed it together. Then, he threw it onto a fire and I could feel my muscles tightening. My body started reaching a sweltering temperature. It felt like my skin was physically on fire. The pain was unbearable. I genuinely felt like I was going to die. And I think I passed out, because when I woke up, I was back in my bedroom. It was like I had woken up from a nightmare. Except I didn’t. This definitely happened.”
He nods. “Okay. Tell me about the vision you had.”
I look down. What’s the point? I know that he’s already coming up with a list of possible mental illnesses I could have and is trying to eliminate some of them. He thinks I need to recover from it. But there is no recovering. Part of him is living in me and I’ll never get rid of that. When I decided on Mr Blanchard, I thought I could do something to stop it. I thought that maybe I could lurk around his house on Halloween and stop the Reaper before he could actually commit the murder. But, it’s Halloween in tomorrow and I’m stuck in here, helpless to do anything. Doctor Franklin is watching me intently and it’s making me uncomfortable. So, I just continue.
“I was with my girlfriend. And I sort of... collapsed. I didn’t fall unconscious, I could still hear her voice, but I couldn’t focus on anything but what I could see in my mind. First of all, my friend who was killed, he was in front of me. I called him but I don’t think he could see me. And then the Reaper approached him with the knife. I couldn’t help him because I was back in the chair, tied up. So, I closed my eyes, because I didn’t want to see it. Then, the thing happened again, with the blood and the fire. And that burning sensation came back. Then, I could see myself in a mirror, wearing the Reaper’s mask and I looked down. The guy I chose as his next victim was lying in front of me. I had his blood all over my hands and shirt. And the Reaper was gone,” I gulp. “It was like.. It was like, I had turned into the Reaper and I had killed him. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s like he’s living in me, and my body is connected to his soul somehow.”
He nods. “Thank you, Thomas. For now, I’m going to give you a couple of tablets to take and I’ll be tracking your progress. Please don’t be afraid to come to me at any time. I’m generally here all around the clock and when I’m not, there’s plenty of other doctors you can talk to. But, hang on a minute.”
He opens his desk drawer and pulls out a fresh needle. I grimace at the length of it. “Thomas, I hope you’re okay with me giving you an injection now. If not, I apologize but I’ll have to get some help in making you have it.”
I take in a deep breath. I really don’t want to have this done, but it’s going to happen, either by force, or by me complying. I’d rather the latter option. “Yeah, okay,” I say. “Just make it quick, I hate injections.”
He nods curtly. “A couple of seconds, I promise.”
I nod. As he steps closer with the needle, I look away. He takes a seat beside me. I take a deep breath as I feel the needle going into my left arm. “All done,” he says. “Thank you for co-operating, Thomas. I hate having to force medication on patients. I’ll see you tomorrow morning to see if there’s been any progress.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I say. I’m irked that he, like everybody else, thinks I’m crazy, even though I know he’s just doing his job. And I suppose, if it was the other way around, I’d think I was crazy too. I’m just glad that I have a nice doctor. It makes this situation just a little bit easier. He nods as I stand up. “Thomas, there’s no need for the formality. You can just call me Owen.”
I smile at him. “Thanks, Owen. See you tomorrow.”
He nods as I close the door over. Lenny is still sitting there. I step towards him. “Leave me alone, Thomas.”
“Look, Lenny, I just want to--”
“Thomas, you ready for Group Gathering?” Cole asks.
I turn to face him. “It’s not for another half an hour.”
“Yeah, but we’ve got to get a good seat, seen as you and the other newbie, Matt will be the focus of the group today,” he smirks.
“Great.” I roll my eyes. I glance at Lenny again and Cole eyes me intently. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say, moving away from Lenny. I will approach him later when I get the opportunity to get him alone. For some reason, I think this conversation needs to be guarded with utmost secrecy. I don’t want anyone else to overhear it. Including Cole. I’ve only met him this morning, and while he seems like a sound person overall, I just don’t want to get too close to anybody just yet.
“We’re seriously not allowed our phones?” I ask.
“No,” Cole dead-pans. “They’re confiscated from all of us upon arrival and given back as we’re discharged. Apparently, they 'inhibit our troubled minds from clearing and serve as distraction which steers us from our road to recovery'.”
“I know,” he sighs. “There is a phone at reception that you an use during Free Time. But you’re allowed a maximum of one call per day and cannot spend any longer than five minutes. Not only that, but the nosy receptionist and the amount of doctors walking by make it impossible to have a private conversation with anyone. Also, I’m pretty sure the phone is bugged, so they an keep tabs on all of us.”
I shake my head. “I just need to talk to Lucy,” I mutter.
“Oh, Lucy,” he teases. “Who’s she?”
“She’s my girlfriend, but I don’t think she even knows I’m here. And, my parents being my parents, I doubt that they’ve even told her.”
I look down. “My dad’s kind of the Mayor of my town. And him having a mental wreck for a son wouldn’t exactly boost his reputation in the eyes of the locals, I don’t think.”
“Thomas, I’m so sorry. That’s really shit.”
“Yeah,” I agree. “Anyway, how about you? You never told me why you’re here.”
He looks away. “I’ve been here, on and off, since I was fourteen. The last time I was admitted, I was sixteen. I’ve got bi-polar. Every time I leave, I end up back in a state again. So, my parents just thought they’d leave me for a bit longer this time, and two years later, I’m still here.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“It’s fine,” he replies. “I’m not that close to them anyway. But, I just want to get out of here, you know?”
I nod. “The feeling’s mutual.”
It’s now visitation hour. I can see Mum coming towards me with Belle. I’m delighted to see them. But, my heart sinks slightly when I realize that Dad isn’t accompanying them. “Hey,” I greet Belle. She crashes into my side, gripping me in a tight hug. I place my hand to her head and ruffle her hair playfully. “I drew you a picture, Tommy.”
With a flick of her wrist, she produces a sheet of paper and I catch it. Mum smiles at me as she and Belle take a seat across from me. “Awh, thanks, Belle. I’ll stick this up in my room.”
“It’s a family portrait,” she tells me. I look to the scribbled picture. I smile at her. “It’s very good, thank you.”
“Tommy, why are you in hospital? Are you okay?”
Mum tenses up and shoots me a warning look. I wrap my arms around Belle. “Hey, yeah, I’m fine. I’ll be out soon, because there’s nothing really wrong with me,” I tell her, looking Mum in the eye over her shoulder to emphasize my point. Mum swallows and looks away. “Belle,” she says, pulling a pound coin from her purse. “Why don’t you go buy yourself a bar of chocolate?”
“Okay,” she squeals excitedly, taking the pound. “Thanks Mummy.”
Mum smiles weakly at me. “How are you?”
“Do you care?” I ask.
“Thomas, of course I do. That’s why--”
“Don’t tell me you sent me here because you cared. You just don’t want to deal with having a problematic son, so you just send him away the first chance you get.”
“Thomas, that’s not true.”
“Oh, no, sorry, Mum,” I say. “I mean, Dad can’t deal with it. Nor does he want to. But, you don’t want to challenge him, because you’re a spineless housewife who doesn’t want to be the Mayor’s ex-wife.”
“Thomas, that’s not true. We made this decision together.”
“Then counteract it, Mum. Get me out of here, because I’m not crazy. Well, not quite. But the majority of the others in here are. And if I stay here any longer, I’m going to be worse than I was when I came in here. Dad couldn’t even have been bothered to put aside an hour to see me, so I don’t care about his opinion.”
“Thomas, it’s not that he didn’t want to come, he just had to--”
“He had just had to work,” I say. “How many times is he going to use that excuse to hide behind the fact that I’m an embarrassment to him?”
“Thomas, don’t say that. He loves you.”
“If he did, he’d be here.”
My dad doesn’t love me. In fact, he doesn’t even care about me. All he is is an ego-maniac obsessed with his own image. He has no regard for anything else. That much is obvious to me. And there’s no point trying to sugarcoat that truth anymore. I’m with Lenny on this much. I’m starting to think he’s got some skeletons in his closet.
Belle is bounding back towards us, a mint crisp Cadbury’s bar in her hand. I stop this conversation dead and smile at her.
It’s our free time slot. I’m sitting in the lounge with Cole, and the other new kid, Matt. We’re playing with an old deck of cards. There’s not much else to do. The television is on the blink and obviously, our phones have been confiscated. Life in here is miserable. I want to talk to Lucy and Andrew. I want to be with them right now. I want to be back in Eventide. The feeling of home sickness residing in me in this moment is overwhelming. It’s all I can think about. “Hey, is Thomas home?”
“Sorry,” I said, placing my cards down on the table. “I need some time alone.”
I get up and head towards my room. I take a seat on the bed, the metal frame creaking. I look to Belle’s picture on the bedside locker and look around the dismal, boxy room. I rest my face in my hands and let it out. The build up of tears. I want to go home. I can’t stand this place any more. I miss Belle. I miss Mum, Lucy, Andrew. And as much of a prick as he is, I miss my dad. I want to be back with all of them. I want my life back.
Cole sticks his head around the door. I quickly wipe my eyes dry, but it’s too late. He’s already seen it. “Thomas, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to barge in on-- Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I lie. “It’s okay, you can come in if you want.”
He nods and closes the door over. “I actually came to give you something.”
I look up as he reaches into his pocket and produces a mobile phone. “As you know, we’re not supposed to have phones, but I managed to sneak this one in, so don’t get caught, or they’ll confiscate it. Give your girlfriend a call.”
He stands up and proceeds towards the door. “Cole,” I say. He turns back around. “Yeah?”
“Thanks,” I utter.
“Anytime,” he smiles. “Call a few people if you want.” He nods and steps out of the room, giving me the privacy to make a phone call. I punch in Lucy’s number with a smile spreading across my face.