I’m staring intently at the wall when Dr. Aines comes into my room. I glance at her – she’s got a scar on her throat where I scratched her.
“Hello, Dr. Aines.”
“Clara.” I turn to look at her.
“I’m sorry about that,” I say, gesturing to her neck. I’m sincere but I’m not sure she thinks so.
“Yes, well, how about you make it up to me? Tell me more of your story.”
“What, now?” I panic. I haven’t had time to prepare it, I don’t know what to say. The room suddenly feels very small, and I’m gasping for air.
“But I haven’t...” I trail off here because the wall has started bleeding. The padded walls are made up in a quilted fashion, with a little dip at each corner of the diamonds. They’re all bleeding. Thick, red, sweet blood. The smell... it’s in my head. Cynthia is laughing. Drown, drown, drown! I stand up, horrified. I turn around, the entire wall is slowly becoming red with the downward surge of blood. I let out a choked little whimper and stand as central to the room as possible.
“What’s the matter, Clara?” I look at her in disbelief. She must be mocking me. The walls are bleeding and she’s asking me what’s wrong! Of course she’s mocking you. You’re sick. And do you know why you’re sick? Because you should be dead. As dead as me... So DROWN. The last word booms in my head, knocking me to the floor. I splash into the blood; it’s now an inch deep on the floor.
Hannah grabs me under the arms and hauls me to my feet, turning me to face her.
“What is the matter?”
“Don’t mock me! I know you can see it!”
“See what, Clara?”
“The blood! It’s everywhere, it’s all around me. I’m going to drown in it!”
“There isn’t any blood, Clara.” I can barely hear her. I can hear my own heartbeat in my ears. Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum. Faster and faster.
“Everywhere... coming out of the walls.” Panic. I can’t breathe. It’s filling up so fast and I know I cannot escape and I’m going to die. It will all be over soon. It’s up to my shoulders, and as I flail around in it, it splashes into my face. The taste... it’s thick and it tastes dark. It tastes evil. I scream. “Help me! I’m drowning!” And then my head is under it and I cannot get oxygen and although I’m screaming, she can’t hear me. I can’t see anything, the blood is too thick. I try to swim to the surface, but I can’t. Something weighs me down, like a lead weight, like a corpse tied to my ankle... It’s me. My vision’s going black. Join me. Suddenly I don’t want to die. Join me, Clara. It’s vulgar. I’m scared. It won’t hurt. I want the panic to go. I don’t want to be afraid. Death will take it away. You’ll be okay. Trust me. Join me. Come to me. I can see her.
Join me. Come towards me. I try, but my vision goes black and suddenly I am nowhere. And then I’m in space. I can see the stars, the beautiful, iridescent stars, lighting up the blackness like a million candles. The stillness caresses me; the temperature is perfect. I can’t smell the blood any more, and most importantly, Cynthia is gone. Not just sleeping, but gone from my head. I can feel it. I laugh out loud, and I’m crying, happy, happy tears. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. It’s slowed down. I look down, and I am naked. Blissfully, blissfully naked. My skin is so pale that I look like a ghost, and I have to run my hand over it to check it’s really there. It is, and I can feel my long hair tickling my back. Da-dum. Da-dum.
And then Hannah is shouting at me and I wake up and I’m back in my white, plastic reality, away from the shimmering stars and the swirling nebulas. I look up into her concerned eyes.
“What happened?” I ask.
“You passed out.”
“Am I dead?” I genuinely don’t know. I drowned, I should be.
“No, you’re very much alive.”
“Oh. But I drowned.” She frowned.
“No, you didn’t.” I sat up and looked at her.
“But... but the blood. The room was full of it...” I look around me, and then I look at her. “Was it real?” She shakes her head. I breathe out slowly. She’s lying again. It was real. “Cynthia says it was real.”
“Clara, how would you feel if I suggested that Cynthia wasn’t real either.”
Now she’s being stupid. Very stupid. I’m more real than you are.
“I saw her body.”
“I believe she was a real person, but what if the voice in your head wasn’t really Cynthia? What if it was your guilt?” I don’t quite believe her, but I’m interested now.
“My guilt talks to me?” Of course it doesn’t, foolish girl. I talk to you.
“No, you subconsciously feel guilty for what happened to Cynthia, so your subconscious has invented a punishment for your conscious mind – this manifestation of Cynthia.” I shake my head.
“No... no she’s too real. I know it’s her, she’s really there... you don’t believe me, do you?”
“I believe that you think she’s real, Clara.” I narrow my eyes at her. I know things she doesn’t know. I know how she got into my head. I know... I know. She’s real. She’s so, so real. I realize that I’m shaking again.
“You don’t understand yet. I... there’s more to the story. I can... I can tell you. But you won’t believe it. Nobody would believe it. There are times when I don’t believe it.” I believe it. See, I’m the only true friend you’ve got. You’ll never get rid of me. I sob. “I will get rid of you, Cynthia. I will, I will. You... made me do things.” You did them yourself. “No! No, I could not have done that.” Yes you could. “Stop it! Stop it!” No. Hannah grabs my wrists and I look up. But I’m not me any more – I’m just watching. Cynthia’s in control. I have to watch as she tilts my head up, snarls at Hannah and strikes her across the face. I see Hannah’s shock – not only at that, but at the change in my eyes. They’re black, now. Completely black. It means that Cynthia is in control.
Cynthia’s a demon.