I was not sick. I refused to believe that something was wrong with my brain. They all said the same thing and the process of medication was structured. One pill a day; three medications crafted for psychosis, seizures and depression. The thing is, it ended up being the same routine every single time. If I missed a couple doses, the things come back, the shadow monsters, the shadows…my shadows.
I am not sick, I am not crazy. There is just something inside me that is not me. Sometimes that thing lives outside of me as well.
I fidget in my plush chair and stare out the window to my left. There is something out there that will not let me remove my gaze; but I cannot see anything but cars, grass and the window of the hospital’s east wing. Beyond that is the shadow created by the sun. The day is partially sunny, partially cloud, No, it is not a gloomy Sunday. But I like that song. My mind flits between ideas, music and patterns, as I sit with my therapist, Marva.
“Chelsea, are you okay?”
The therapist leaned across her desk and folded her hands together. She really didn’t look all that concerned by my wandering gaze. Her job was just to listen. I didn’t answer; I just turned toward her and nodded my head. My lips moved a few minutes before I managed to get the words out.
“I am okay. It’s just the thing, you know.”
I turned back toward the window to watch the thing that was almost invisible. The shadow retreated from the surface of the brick wall and moved across the parking lot. Even though my eyes could only detect minimum changes in the outside environment, my brain was sending alarms. I recognized the sensation immediately.
Turning toward the therapist again I spoke. “They are coming for me.”
The tears streamed down my cheeks and my lips quivered. Gripping the arms of my plush chair, I start to rise. I felt them all around and I stop trying to rise from my seat. Inside my chest, beneath my ribcage, I feel my heart thumping furiously. All around me they flew and moved in to make themselves known. I feel the cold breeze caress my nose and then move down my neck.
“Please, you got to help me! They are going to get me.”
“What do you mean? Who is going to get you, Chelsea?”
Marva, my therapist rose from her chair and walked around to the front of her desk. She reached for the phone and lifted the receiver. After pressing a series of buttons, she put the phone to her face. I knew exactly when someone came onto the phone line because she sucked in a sudden breath. It was as if she had been holding her breath and waiting for those things to make themselves known to her as well. Who was I kidding, Marva didn’t see them. No one saw them but me. I hated myself for being different.
“Paul, talk to the medic and ask him if Chelsea can take those old medications until her psychiatric appointment Friday.”
Marva listened and nodded her head. She frowned suddenly and spoke.
“Yes, I understand.”
She set the receiver back onto its cradle and cupped her hands. I stared at Marva. She was a pretty middle-aged therapist. Her red hair cascaded onto her shoulders and I couldn’t stop staring at her green eyes. At the moment, she looked very concerned for me. Sometimes, she looked as though she cared less. Trying to focus on something had been proven to me, a helpful endurance to the visitations that surrounded me. I focused on Marva and tried to read her mind. I focused on her form, her beautiful curves and how she looked like a cartoon. There was no darkness about her, she was pure. I could have sworn she didn’t even have a shadow.
Marva stared at me and frowned. I waited, staring back into Marva. I was whimpering and digging my nails into the chair arms.
Marva spoke. “Well, you cannot take those old medications. It seems that a year can take away the effectiveness of the seizure medication. If you take the other two medications they will take away the psychosis and the depression, but you will still have the mania to deal with. I cannot suggest that you take the old meds.”
Fear gripped me tightly. “So, what do I do?”
Marva rose and walked back around her desk. She pulled out the chair and sat down slowly. As she opened her mouth, I saw rows of perfectly placed white teeth.
The therapist spoke slowly. “Listen, I am going to try and get you into the office before the week is up. You can get your medications then. Personally, I do not think you need the medications at all. If I could convince the psychiatrist that all you need is therapy, I believe you could recover so much faster.
I panicked. She had no idea how hard it was to avoid the “things”. She was clueless about how they ruled the shadows in the corners of the room. Marva didn’t take me seriously.
“I cannot leave like this.” I held out both hands exposing the scarred underbelly of my forearms. Rows of healed slash marks contrasted against the unmarred flesh of their surroundings. Marva couldn’t help but look at my arms. She furrowed her brow.
“Chelsea, would you like to be on inpatient status?”
The thought rolled around in my head. I hadn’t thought about that. I could stay in the center and the shadows may not be as bad, at least some of the time. If I grew frightened, I could call for help. I could stay here until Friday, and then get my meds. By the time I got back home, I would be free of the shadows.
“Yes, can I?” I leaned forward and rubbed the wood of Marva’s desk.
She smiled and picked up the phone receiver once more. “Sure, let me make arrangements for you. This will only take a moment.”
Who was I kidding, the shadows would always come without my pills. I just felt better knowing that I didn’t have to be alone with them this time.
The room was small, very small, and I was alone. I appreciated that fact. On the bed was a stack of clothing and a bag of hygienic products. I had also been allowed to contact my brother so that he could bring any other items that I may need. I looked around the room and saw a television, a chair and a small table. This seemed good enough. The air was a little too cold but I would manage. The first thing I wanted to do was sleep.
I crawled beneath the blanket and fell fast asleep. It was late when I woke again. I could tell by the darkness of the room.
“You are mine, every part of you.” The thing hovered over me. Its bright eyes were the most prominent thing about the creature. I saw shadows swirling about its body and the smell was horrible. I held my breath and whimpered.
“Leave me alone, please.” I spoke between sobs.
As the thing got closer, its breath burned my face. I saw the eyes get smaller as the thing spoke again.
“You have always been mine, Chelsea.”
Pieces of the creature broke free from the host and swirled about. They were flying black leaches that suddenly bared needle sharp teeth. I cringed drawing back from the swirling mass of monsters.
The large part of the shadow stood taller suddenly and let out a choking noise from its maw. I saw the sharpened teeth as menacing as the small parasites that rushed around it. The thing reached out embracing its parasitic babies.
“Because you see us, the shadows.” The thing looked back down at me and I could see its eyes grow brighter. It smiled and tiny fangs protruded from its bite. A long black tail whipped from behind the creature and brushed the skin of my face. I gasped suddenly drawing back from the jagged and dark shadow monster. I couldn’t breath suddenly and my heart was pounding.
I awoke in a puddle of sweat and grasped my chest. My breath was coming fast and my heart was beating hard. I could hear the meaty drum in my ears. I could also still remember the shadow’s words.
“You are mine.”
I shivered and pushed the nurse’s button.
“Yes, may I help you?” The nurse spoke across the intercom.
I hesitated and then spoke slowly. “I need someone, I am freaking out.”
The intercom was silent for a moment, then the low voices of two people consulted with each other in a hushed tone.
“Ms. Roberts, are you okay?” The nurse asked.
I held my face in my hands and spoke once more, becoming irritated. “No! I am freaking out. I need someone! I am scared, please help me!.”
The intercom died.
The wait was long, or so it seemed. Moments may have passed but they seemed like years. I watched the darkened areas of the wall as they moved with the sun’s rays which shot through the window. I watched closely to see if the shadows suddenly became “the shadow thing” and if they would start to talk with bright eyes. I looked out the window at the trees. The green leaves swayed in the breeze.
Time went by and no one came, neither did the shadow. My heart raced furiously as the wait dragged on. My eyelids grew heavy just as Marva entered the room. She was smiling at me.
I watched Marva’s red hair sway as she took a seat in the corner chair. Her smile never left her. She has a small notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. I suppose she wanted to document the strange moment with the psychotic patient. I was the psychotic patient and she was the normal lady. I hated the card that I had been dealt.
“So, tell me what is happening today, Chelsea.” Marva took a pair of glasses from her white coat and placed them on her face. She moved the pen to paper and wrote something down.
“The shadows are trying to kill me.” It was the only way that I could make Marva understand. I had no tangible evidence of what was happening to me. The only way to convey the process of the shadow was to speak frankly of the shadow and wait for the traditional scratch of the head. It was obvious that Marva did not believe that the shadow existed because of what she said next.
“What I think is going on here, is the fear of being alone. You were adopted then abandoned, your love life has been very sparse and you feel like an outsider with your friends. I see that you are pushing everyone away with your insecurities.”
Marva stopped writing, she stopped talking and looked up at me. Removing her glasses she deemed to speak once more.
“Now, let’s be honest. These shadows are not real, Chelsea, they are just fear, insecurity and rejection.”
I looked at her eyes and understood that my case was a hopeless one. I could never get Marva to believe the shadows were real. I would take the medication and hope that my mind would be numb enough to not care. This is what I have always done before; and this is what I will do again. It is the only way.
“Chelsea, I really do not think that you need the medication. A good counseling session would work wonders for you. Now, I have talked to your regular psychiatrist and he agrees with me.” Marva removed her glasses and chewed on the ear piece.
My heart suddenly leapt into a thrumming beat. I felt sick and even dizzy. The thought of doing this on my own terrified me. Climbing down from the bed, I went to my knees.
“Please, Ms. Paterson, I have to have the medication. I cannot face this, please”
Marva watched me with criticizing eyes. She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat.
“Chelsea, I really think this is for the best.”
I was defeated. Although I knew in my heart that she was not going to budge, I cried to her. I sobbed pitifully on the floor, face against the hard linoleum. Then I screamed until someone came to save Ms. Marva from the crazy girl. Unfortunately, this still did not warrant my medication. I was doomed.
Don’t get me wrong, I hated the meds. I wanted to be free from the confines of “their” world. The thing is, after freedom was realized, something else followed along behind this freedom. The longer that I went without my medication, the closer I got to something much more complicated than the therapy and its structural aspects. I was on a wild ride, up and down from mountain top to low land valley. I felt the wind through my hair, the sun on my face and my senses were reeling.
But something was watching me. It grew larger as time went on. I could feel it whip around my head and pull close to my ear. The whisper was low but very distinct. It wanted to possess me for its own. I do not know why and what diabolical plan the shadow had, I just know that I had to make it go away.
I started to weigh my options. I loved the freedom from the medications but I hated the shadow thing, it terrified me. It lurked just outside my vision waiting for me to falter. I thought that maybe it was death or maybe even some ghost who was at unrest. As my thoughts drifted from one hypothesis to another, the shadow pulled near to speak again.
“I am none of these.” The voice was serrated knives dragging across my skin. I felt pain at the sound of the shadow’s whispering.
I guess it never really mattered what the shadow really was. I weighed my options and found the answer where I least expected it. I chose sanity over freedom; and I called Marva to schedule my appointment.
It was cold in the hospital bed. I pulled my knees up and under my arms, resting in fetal position. I waited. I knew it would come as it did on most other nights. It would come and do as it wished. Whether it had plans to take me away or whether it just loved to see my torment, the truth was beyond me. It was my birthday and I thought that I would be doing something different than lying in this hospital room, surrounded my pristine and sterile instruments of despair. I hated this place and wished that I had never came back here. What was the point anyway?
The curtains shifted. It was a slight movement that may have otherwise gone unnoticed if I hadn’t been gazing around the room, taking inventory of my surroundings. A inky black smoke crept down the curtain’s edge and onto the floor. I knew it was here.
“No, please, no!” I pulled the white sheet underneath my chin and shivered.
The black shadow moved toward the bed disappearing from my sight range. The air grew colder and the lights from the nurses call button flickered and then went out, as did the bathroom night light. The smell came again. It was the unmistakable smell of the thing, the shadow.
“What do you want?” I asked in desperation.
There was nothing but a low in-audible whispering which seemed to encase the entire room. Voices high and low swept in cradling my ears and then swept back out to fill the air again.
“Please, tell me what you want.” I pleaded. “you come to me and yet you do nothing.”
I challenged the darkness which twisted around and around itself. I challenged the two yellow eyes that formed within the dark shadowy nightmare. My teeth were clenched as were my fists; my eyes watered with emotions stirring deep inside me. I wanted it to be over. I wanted the shadows to cease their torture.
“Please stop tormenting me…please.” I spoke and then curled back into a ball at the edge of the bed. I felt a shadow hand touch my shoulder.
“Do not be alarmed. There is no pain and there is no more torment.” The shadow hand caressed my shoulder and then moved to pat my head. I felt the cool sensation through my hair as the shadow twined its tendrils underneath each lock. I felt strange suddenly. I felt as though I had been waiting for this moment my entire life. There was a sudden dutiful emotion; I felt the waves of sorrow and joy collide into something quiet and still. It was the monster’s touch which soothed me.
“It is time, Chelsea” The monster cooed.
I stared into blackness as the shadow formed a bright yellow smile beneath the bright yellow eyes. The evil smiley face grinned and grinned as if it was horribly delighted by my terror.
“Today is a special day, Chelsea. Today, you are welcomed into the flock.” The thing chuckled and whispered to the others. I couldn’t understand the whispers and frankly, I couldn’t understand why I was special on this special day.
“Please tell me why you are haunting me.” I asked pleadingly.
The shadow lost its smile and its eyes narrowed. The little yellow slits quivered suddenly. The thing made a growling noise and then whispered again to the flying shadow parasites which whipped and flew around its dark mass. Then the thing smiled once more; and then it spoke to me.
“Your world is dying, Chelsea. This place will be gone in a very short time. They know nothing of what will happen to them, to you,if you run from me.” The monster waited…” If you take the medication, you will not be able to hear me anymore; and your chance will be lost.”
I contemplated what the shadow said but it meant nothing to me. I couldn’t understand how the world would end and how I was to be saved by the shadows. Why me?
“Why me?” I asked with eyes now drying from the previous tears.
The shadows stood still. Even the swirling shadows pulled together and re-entered the shadow leader’s mass.
The shadow’s eyes widened and it spoke. “You, why you, huh… You have the ability to see the shadows. What most see as a reflection of their own form, you see as a living thing. That is just it, we are alive. We see what you do, we see how you act and we see the most intelligent of your species. Why, we have followed you for centuries and you have ignored us.
It is time that you followed us for a change.
You call us shadows and you are right. We are the shadows of mankind. Those who see us for what we truly are, these are the ones who deserve to live. You see, we do not truly follow. It is humanity which has left us behind. It is humanity which should be following our lead.
I sat there and thought about what the shadow said. I was no longer afraid and I understood completely. I decided to test the theory of what the thing was implying. I stood and walked around the bed. There by the bedside was a nightstand with a lamp. The light hurt my eyes terribly even when I wasn’t starring right into its brilliance. Moving between the light and the bed, I stood still.
I looked behind me to find my shadow; but my shadow wasn’t there. My shadow stood tall beyond the bed, a living breathing thing which just called me an intelligent being. I saw its yellow eyes and a bright yellow smile, these things intrigued me. He beckoned me to come and follow him home.
I am not sick. I will not get the medication and I suppose Marva expected a rise from me. When she came to my room with the psychiatrist, they were very kind. They talked to me for a while and made plans to find a residency for my inpatient stay. I would remain here for a while and undergo therapy. When time was done with them, I would be ready to go.
Marva moved toward my bed, followed by Dr. Kraus. Neither of them has a shadow and neither of them had a clue of their impending doom.
I am not sick, I am special.