The human brain is an astounding creation. An electrical device not dissimilar to a computer masked as a soft and malleable organ surrounded by a skull. There are entire fields of study dedicated to this one device that makes us “who we are” and yet we are so very far from ever understanding it. One of the most miraculous abilities of this deep dungeon of human consciousness is the memory. The ability, at any time, to recall in vivid detail the sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel of a fixed moment in time. For most, this function of the brain even extends to the ability to block or lock away those memories that would be devastatingly painful or frightening to relive. Yet what of us that lack those mental barriers, those strongholds of sanity; those to whom any memory, at any time, can come rushing back in such resplendent clarity that it is like time never moved from that single moment at all?
I remember the sharp and shrill tick, tick, tick of the second hand of a clock and the always constant but barely audible humming buzz that would permeate even the most unaware consciousness. There was a faint hint of mint in the air that was drastically overwritten by an almost nauseating combination of bleach and latex. The scratchy blue and purple patterned fabric of a dilapidated over-sized armchair prickled the skin of my long and pale legs that even my much too large shorts did not cover.
My neck was craned to the side, almost painfully, to allow my head to rest on my shoulder as my glazed brown eyes drifted slowly, reverently, to observe the clouding grey sky through black barred windows as a storm rolled in along the horizon. My brow was furrowed, as was usual, and my sharp but crooked teeth pulled menacingly at the thin skin around my fingers. My legs were crossed beneath me in the chair, almost cradling my torso, and a particularly perceptive individual may have noticed the slightest rocking motion as I meandered through my thoughts.
Despite my ever apparent lack of involvement in my current surroundings, I was acutely aware of the twelve other bodies occupying this same mid sized room. Eleven other shells like me, or so they thought. The one that was not the same was staring at me again. I could feel her cold, hard, analyzing gaze attempting to pierce my mind without even giving her the satisfaction of looking up. Someone else in the room was talking, but I wasn’t paying enough attention to understand the scrambled words between his violent sobs. She had managed to break someone again; maybe she would leave me alone for today, unlikely.
When my fingers no longer satisfied my oral fixation I drew my dry and cracked bottom lop between my teeth and began chewing lightly, just enough to sever the smallest pieces of skin. I could feel an almost burning itch begin just near my left elbow, quickly traveling upwards to the base of my wrist and ran the tips of the digits on my other hand haphazardly over my long sleeved sweater that temporarily masked my bandages. It was then that I heard it; those familiar piano tones blaringly pounding out the notes of a warning song indicating just what was to come if I was not able to maintain control of my mind, if I could not remain in the present. I brought my teeth down full force on the sinewy inside of my lip and felt them sink through the fleshy barrier as a wave of warm blood and a familiar iron taste washed over my tongue. That should be enough for now; the music stopped.
I had relaxed too much in that room, listening to the hushed tones and barely stifled moans of agony of the other occupants. I would not let it happen again, not today; that was much too close. Once sleep claims me after hours of exhausted avoidance I may not be able to escape, but while I am awake I will do everything that I can to prevent the images and the voices that haunt me from taking over.
I vaguely notice the rustling and quickened voices around me and come to the near joyous realization that the sixty tedious and everlasting minutes have finally come to an end. The others around me are rising and nearly running to escape from the confines of this chamber of analysis to the more judgment free area of the common room. All I can manage to think about is how I want to escape to my own room and not end up alone, in here, with her.
To that end, I hop most ungracefully over the arms of the chair almost tripping out of my converse that, of course, are lacking any laces to hold them in place on my feet. Just as I am contorting between the door and another girl I feel a sharp, tear inducing pain in my wrist and my knees almost buckle beneath me before I am pulled and dragged and vaulted into another room and shoved violently against a now closed door. The doorknob without a lock presses sharply into my spine and my eyes snap up to take in the dull brown emptiness before me. I have no idea why this obviously malnourished and slightly homicidal looking girl has dragged me here, but I immediately know that getting away from her is in my best interest.
“You think no one can figure you out, don’t you? Well you are wrong.” She snaps me out of my mental escape planning with her words that drip with hatred and maybe just a hint of something else. Understanding? Can this lanky girl in front of me really know? She answers before I have time to analyze her further, “I know what you think about, where you go when everyone thinks you are there, listening.” That isn’t possible; I tear my wide and captivated eyes from her sunken face long enough to glance quickly to the ground and shake my head almost imperceptibly. “One day,” she continues in a saccharinely sweet and almost sing-song voice that doesn’t fit the body of the girl before me, “I am going to sew your eyes shut. How will you escape it then?”
She takes a thin and boney, jagged-nailed finger and runs it painfully slowly across my eyelids as they blink closed, attempting to shut out her threats and the sickening smirk plastered upon her face. My breath catches in my chest in panic and I can feel the all too familiar tightening as my heart starts thudding wildly, begging to break free from my ribs and land on the floor in front of me. The cogs in my brain spin out of control, analyzing every word with painful accuracy trying to understand. Then it hits me; if she were to follow through with her threat, I would be trapped… with them. I would cave, crumble, and collapse into darkness permanently; there would be no escape. I snapped my eyes open intending to scream, fight, run, cry, something, anything; she was gone.
The panic that I had felt before was rising, multiplying exponentially at an all too alarming rate. My head was swimming and I tried desperately to remember when it was that I had started cheeking my Risperdal. My mind flashed to the taped paper pouch hidden beneath a drawer in my room and I vividly remembered seeing three pills there when I had managed to trick my nurse this morning. Seventy-two hours, that isn’t enough to get it out of your system, is it; that isn’t enough to mean she wasn’t real? The analysis begins again and I realize I had never seen her here before… that I know those eyes from somewhere… that I never heard the door shut when she left. Wait, no wait… I’m still up against the door.
“My new worst nightmare,” I choke out in a strangled whisper, and with that final thought, the room begins to spin and fade as I am claimed once again by the darkness.