The story of Clara, a paranoid schizophrenic, and her journey towards freedom from her personal demon.
(Very minor bad language)
I am sick and tired and fed up. I’m fed up of all these white walls, the smell. The smell! There’s nothing like it in the world. The smell of plastic, disinfectant. The smell of insanity. That’s what I am, apparently. I’m insane. A danger to myself and to society. So here I am. In a ridiculous plastic box, in plastic pyjamas, being fed plastic food, being prodded, poked, medicated, interrogated and in many other ways made to feel like a particularly unusual and poisonous pet. I have another meeting soon. Well, I say ‘meeting’, because that’s what They said. I have deciphered Their code; a meeting is an interrogation. ‘I see’ means ‘I don’t believe you’. A doctor is a torturer, but his implements aren’t cruel whips for lashing bare, pale flesh and twisted slivers of metal for sliding under fingernails. They’re words, for bending and breaking you. Gestures, for disarming you; a raised eyebrow here, a knuckle crack there. They know I’ve broken Their code. They don’t try to hide it from me any more.
One of Them opens my door, and straight away, I’m flat against the back wall. I don’t want to go, I won’t. They can’t make me, I can’t endure it! They don’t understand that Their words hurt. I don’t want a doctor, to tell me I’m sick. I don’t want to hear about Their ‘cures’. I want a friend, to talk to me. I want Carlo, to jump up in to my lap and lick my face. I want my mother, to hold me while I cry into her shoulder. To tell me she loves me. To not judge me. I don’t want Them! But scream as I may, cry as I may, They come anyway. As I’m kicking and struggling, a woman tries to wipe my face with a cloth. I hear her ‘shh’ at me. She wipes my cheek and I bite her. Then there’s a man there, I let out a squeak as a needle pokes into my arm. Another one of Their tricks. As I slide into unconsciousness, I hear myself mumble ‘I want Carlo. I want Mum’. Then it’s black as black can get and it’s quiet as quiet can get and I’m alone, finally. All alone.
I smell tea. I’m at home, I must be. Mum’s kitchen always smells like tea. She drinks too much of it. I dare to creak open an eyelid, and instantly regret it. I’m not home; of course I’m not. Instead, I’m strapped to a hospital bed. Further examination reveals a tray of needles next to me, and a line of some of the stronger nurses at the side of the room. In case the dangerous girl, fragile as a paper doll, breaks free and attempts to kill them all. I start crying. I want to go home – I don’t want to be here any more. The door opens. In comes a doctor. I can tell she’s a doctor, because the nurses have to wear plastic pyjamas, a bit like mine. But there’s are blue. Mine are white and blank and plain and if I stand in front of one of the white plastic walls of my box, I can almost disappear. She’s wearing a pale green blouse and black trousers and heeled shoes that clickety-click across the floor towards me. She smiles down at me. She’s got very red lips.
“Hello, Clara. Can I call you Clara?” I glare at her, and she smiles with those rich, red, venomous lips. “Okay,” she says. She pulls a chair up and sits next to the bed I’m strapped to. “You haven’t been taking well to the therapy we’ve been offering, Clara. I went over your records, and it turns out that you’ve not been spoken to by a female doctor. So, at my request, here I am.” She smiles a ridiculous, beaming, over-confident smile. She looks slightly oriental. Her face suddenly becomes very serious. “I want to help you, Clara. And I know you don’t believe that. You have shown some disturbing symptoms over your time with us, Clara, and I believe that you may have developed schizophrenia. Do you know what that is?”
“I’m not sick!” I say, before I can stop myself.
“I’m not saying you are, Clara. I’m saying that you’re deeply troubled. And I may be able to help you, but I need you to talk to me.” I eye her curiously.
“About what?” She glances down to her notebook.
I’m silent for a long time. I know who Cynthia Palmer is, but I don’t want to tell this lady about her.
“I tell you what,” she says, suddenly. “Why don’t I untie you? I’ll untie you, and we’ll go sit in a room with chairs, instead of this one. I’ll pour you a cup of tea.” She gives me her ridiculous, false smile again, but I nod slowly. I don’t want to be tied to a bench like a lab experiment any more. I feel as though I’m about to be vivisected. I can image one of Them poking about in my head, trying to find what’s making me sick. I’m not sick!
Doctor Aines’s office is a sort of pale, sickly greenish colour. She’s lounging on a brown leather sofa, a cup of coffee in her hand. I’m sitting on the very edge of an armchair, staring intently at my untouched cup of tea. I can’t drink it. I can’t lean back. I know Them, I won’t lean back into the razor-sharp knife blades. I won’t drink their poison.
“Clara. I know you’ll tell me you’re not sick. I know that. But do you feel like you’ve changed at all in the past few months?” She’s trying to trick me into agreeing with her. Then they can strap me down and pump me full of drugs and cut bits of my brain out until I’m as docile as the good little dog they’d like me to be.
“Have you had difficulty talking to people? Trouble at work?” I stare into her eyes. Their mind tricks won’t work on me. My conscience talks to me. My little guardian angel voice – it’s telling me that They’re lying.
I’m crying again.
“You’re lying. You’re always lying, lying, lying. Your little tricks, your little mind tricks... They won’t work on me! I’m not sick, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!”
“I know you’re not sick, Clara. I just want to talk to you. Will you please talk to me?” She’s calm and collected. I’m not. I’m shaking and I’m scared and I want to go home. I want Mum. “Clara, listen to me. Some of the people here think you’re too sick and they want to give you a lot of drugs and leave you in your room. I do not want that to happen! If you talk to me, I can get them to stop telling you you’re sick. I can help you, Clara. I can make the needles and the drugs go away.”
I look up. I take a deep breath. I don’t know if she’s telling the truth. I decide to do something. I reach over and pick up the mug. My hands are shaking. I think I’m going to die. The poison’s going to kill me. I shake so much that a little bit of the tea splashes out of the cup and on to my arm and I yelp with surprise. It’s really hot. I take another deep breath and I realise that Dr. Aines is watching me intently. I move the mug to my lips and take a tiny, tentative sip of the tea. I quickly put the mug down on the desk and close my eyes, still shaking, waiting for the pain. I’m waiting to die. But minutes pass and it doesn’t happen. Or maybe I’m dead, and this is just what happens when you die. I creak open an eyelid. I’m still in the doctor’s office. She’s still watching me. Breathing very quickly, I slowly lean back. My back collides with the chair, and the spikes have not run me through. I sit bolt upright and turn round. I can see them, they’re there. Sneering silver spikes, protruding from the back of the chair. I slowly touch the end of one, and my finger passes straight through it. I let out a terrified whimper. I’m scared, and confused, and I don’t know what’s going on. I look to Dr. Aines.
“I... I can see them. But they’re... I can’t feel them!” I start to sob, and Dr. Aines picks up a box of tissues. She comes over and offers me one. I accept it and wipe my eyes.
“What can you see, Clara?”
“The... the spikes in the back of the chair.”
“But you can’t feel them?” I shake my head. “Where are they? Here?” She reaches towards the back of the chair. I nod, tears still escaping from my eyes. She runs her hand over the entire back of the chair, and her hand also passes through the spikes. She looks up at me. “Do you want to sit on the sofa? Would that be better than this chair?” I look over to the sofa; there aren’t any spikes. I nod, wiping my eyes furiously. “Okay. Make yourself comfortable.” I get up and shuffle across the room, glancing over my shoulder as I go. Dr. Aines is staring intently at the back of the chair, apparently lost in her thoughts. She seems to sense my stare, standing and studying my face. I perch on one end of the leather sofa. She walks to the other end. “Do you mind if I sit here? Or would you feel uncomfortable?” I shake my head. She smiles, but it’s not her fake smile. It’s a real one.
“Okay, Clara. I would very much like to hear a little bit about you.” I’m not sure if I trust her. Don’t trust her. Don’t, you mustn’t. She’s one of Them. The voice is back. “But I’ll begin, shall I?” she says. “It seems unfair for me to know your name, and you not to know mine. You can call me Hannah. I’m what’s called a psychoanalyst; I’m a bit like a doctor. But I help people who have illnesses you can’t see. How about you? What’s your job?”
“I don’t have one any more.”
“What was it?”
“I was a journalist.”
“Oh, really? Did you enjoy your job?” I nodded. I miss my job. I don’t like not having anything to do.
“You must miss it terribly.”
“I was just thinking that.” Don’t trust her. She can read your mind. She knows what you’re thinking! “H... how did you know I was thinking that?”
“I didn’t. But I would miss my job if I had it taken from me.” She’s lying.
“You’re lying! She told me. She tells me things, she knows you’re lying.”
“Who tells you things?”
I look down at my hands. They’re clasped in my lap. It’s funny; I don’t remember putting them there. I look back at Hannah, but I can’t meet her eye. I can feel tears again. I feel like I need to lie to her, I don’t think I can trust her. You can’t trust her. Don’t tell her who I am. You hurt me once. Don’t do it again.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper under my breath.
“Pardon?” I look up.
“I can’t tell you.”
“You can trust me, Clara.”
“No, no, no. I can’t trust anyone. You... you don’t understand. I... I can’t trust you.” I could trust Mum. I wish I was at home. I want to tell Mum, I want to tell her everything. Hannah Aines is sitting patiently, watching me. Staring, staring, always staring. I stare back. Don’t tell her. “I want to tell her,” I mutter. You can’t! “Why can’t I tell her?” Because I don’t want you to. “I’m going to tell her. You can’t stop me!” I shout the last sentence. It makes Dr. Aines jump. Do not tell her. You’re horrible. You’re a nasty person, to do this to me. After what you’ve already done! “I... I’m not a nasty person,” I sob. I look up at Hannah.
“Who told you, Clara?”
“Cynthia Palmer.” Bitch.
“And is she talking to you now?” Whore.
“Yes.” Traitor. I trusted you.
“What’s she saying?” If I was there, I would kill you.
“That she wants to k... kill me. I... I’m really scared she’s going to kill me. She tried to... she tried, already. A while ago, I...” LIAR! The voice is so loud that I clap my hands over my eyes and start sobbing, but I still can’t drown it out. I can’t drown out her accusations, because I know she’s right. I sob and I scream and I shake my head and will her away but none of it works – she’s still shouting at me and she won’t stop and I can’t make it go away. I look up at Dr. Aines with tear-streaked eyes and beg her to make it stop. She shouts something and a man in plastic pyjamas comes in, holds my arm and injects me with something and I’m asleep again, but it’s good because she goes to sleep when I’m asleep. She’s quiet. She’s quiet. I’m okay.
I wake up. I’m back in my room. My head is pounding, so they must have given me drugs. Hannah Aines is standing in the doorway to my room, watching me.
“Hello, Clara.” I look at her, and instinctively curl myself into a ball in the corner. I don’t want to go with her, and I won’t. I want my mother and I will not talk to anyone else. She lied to me, I should have listened to Cynthia. “I know I said no drugs.” She came in and knelt next to my bed. “But did they make Cynthia go away for a bit?” I peer at her through the lattice of my fingers. I nod a tiny, scared little nod. She smiles, weakly. “I did some research into Cynthia. I know what happened to her. I know... that you were involved. Now, you’re going to have to trust me when I tell you this, but you’ve got to talk to me about it. They’re going to lock you up, for life. They say you’re too dangerous. I need to prove to them that you’re sick...”
“I’m not sick.”
“I know, Clara. But if I can get them to think that you are, then you can stay here.”
“Why would I want to stay here?”
“Because they want to put you in prison, Clara. For life.” I drop my hands.
“But... but I didn’t mean to hurt her. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I never... I never meant for anything bad to happen. I didn’t even know... I didn’t even know...” The sobs are racking my body and make it difficult for me to talk.
“I know,” she soothes. “I want to help you, Clara. But you need to co-operate, or there’s nothing I can do. I know it’s hard, and I know that Cynthia will make it difficult, but you have to try, okay? She can’t hurt you. Just remember that. You’re in control. She can’t hurt you.”
“She... she can’t? Really?”
“She can’t.” Yes I can. I scrunch up my eyes and hide my face, stifling a scream. “What is it, Clara?”
“She’s back.” And I’m going to hurt you, Clara Daughtry. I’m going to hurt you really bad. I whimper. “She’s gonna hurt me.”
“She can’t hurt you, Clara. Clara!” She grabs my wrists and forces me to look at her. “She cannot hurt you. I promise you, she can’t hurt you.” She’s lying again.
“You promise? Can you make her go away?”
“I can certainly try. Will you tell me what happened?” No. You will not tell her. Do you hear me? You will not. I forbid you! I’m shaking again.
“I... I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you everything.”