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The replacement doctor shuffled into my room, making his way towards the worn out, burgundy armchair in the corner. He was the third that month and it was only ten in. My best record yet.
Although, I did make a deal with the nurses that promised them I would be good. “Have you had the dream recently, Alex?” Doctor Millrose inquired. Oh boy, he’s a bright one. Forty different doctors, all with the same stupid question. He’d been informed of my “conditions,” as they call it. I guess they never really knew where to start. The obvious question to ask was, “What happened to your sister?” Since he didn’t, I simply stared in response to the perfectly stitched smile. He briefly examined a few papers in a folder before he set it down on my desk and sunk into the seat.
Funny, his grin gave the impression of security while his eyes revealed how anxious he was, jumpy even. I giggled in spite of myself. The doctor tensed before settling back into the cushions.
“Tell me about yourself, Alex.” He fidgeted a bit when I sat up.
“Look, doc. I know it’s your job and everything to find out about my ‘mental imbalances’ but you’ve got the wrong girl. My name’s Gwen,” I smirked.
“Alright, Gwen… what would you like to talk about?”
“Come on, doc. Have a little spunk,” I said more impatiently than angry. The sedatives this place pumps on a daily basis can do that to a person.
“I’m not sure I know what question you’re referring to.”
“How I got here, duh. Sheez, guess Med School makes them duller with every generation, huh?” I laughed at his expense.
“I see. Well, what were you like in school?” At the mention of school I shuddered. “Alex?” He hesitated. “Alex, what were you like in school?”
“Umm, I guess I wasn’t so bad. Given I had scared kids at my school and even a couple of teachers, so what? The stories were all rumors, none were actually proven. I mean, after awhile you get pretty fed up with the smart remarks from Little Suzy Nobody, ‘She's a basket case.’ Yet, the staff never did discover who was behind the snake scandal. The rattler was slithering around the school for two periods before Mrs. Webber noticed her missing reptile…” Dr. Millrose stared at me, disturbed. I shook again and laughed.
“The snake wasn't poisonous or anything. Besides, the next month a murder prank demanded the attention of not only the school board, but the police department. On Halloween, the gym floor had been suffocated beneath a coat of paint. The outcome was pretty incredible, I must say. The paint passed for blood, unbelievably sticky and wet after eight hours... Mixing the paint with water usually does the trick.
“This one day, I’d had it with them. I couldn’t take it anymore. Everyone talked about watching bonfires on the beach. All I did was bring one to the chemistry lab. Didn’t you read the file? Does it seriously surprise you? I’m the one sitting in a psych ward.” Adding my best cartoon impression of Bugs Bunny, “Keep up, Doc.” The girl next door showed me how. When he didn’t respond, I continued, “Anyway, all of Mr. McGregor’s students got out in time… The firemen wanted to know who started the fire and I told them, ‘Someone mixed the wrong chemicals in huge proportions,’ and added, ‘Accidentally, of course.’ It went over smooth as ice. The students complained like whining babies about having to sit in class and listen to boring lectures, well? Be careful what you wish for.
“They were just like my cousin, Florena, except… she solved her problem,” I smirked mischievously. “She didn’t whine. We were peering over the side of Vida’s Cliff when she said she's always wanted to see what it’d be like to free fall. We made a bet. I bet that if she dove from the cliff and kept her body tight, she’d pierce the water without a splash. She thought it was impossible, but she dove anyhow. She dove, 3,000 feet she dove, straight into the harbor. She had perfect form. I think she went straight through to the bottom. It’s not my fault she believed she could fly. She made the bet, and I won. I always won my games. Like that game ‘Nix and I used to play…”
Inside, the lights had all been turned off. This was my favorite game, Sniper. One person tags, the Spy, and the other person, the Sniper, tries to move around the house without being caught or tagged by the Spy. During the expert round the Sniper had to stay in stealth for an hour, I always win. This time, ‘Nix was the Spy. Relishing in my yet to be claimed victory, I set my traps. They distract ‘Nix long enough for me to get by if I’m in a tight spot like behind a door or something, generally bad hiding spots. Once, I turned on the TV. Another time, I made a recording of a girl screaming. Every time she lost focus for just a second, I tackled her to the ground. After a while, ‘Nix didn't want to play with me as much.
“Gwen? Are you listening to me? Gwen, I was asking you how you liked living in Pleasure’s Cove.”
“Who’s Gwen, Doctor Millrose?” I asked confusedly.
“I’m sorry,” he looked through his papers. “Uh, oh yes, Alex. Alex, how was Pleasure’s Cove?
“I don’t remember. I remember… I remember…”
“Did you have many friends in school?”
“Ha! That school? Please, give me a break. Let me tell you something about Seasick Cove. It was a dump, another stupid surf town. I hated it, hated her.
“Who are you referring to? Which girl didn’t you like?” Doc just kept falling behind.
“Nix! She got everything. I faded into the background and dreamed of taking her place, being her. Living felt like being forced to watch the same movie everyday and I was sick to my stomach with those people. As far as everyone else was concerned, compared to Nix, I was always second rate. What better way to show people who’s second rate then by having some fun? I decided to have some fun with them. Let them feel their blood rush through their veins,” A devilish grin spread across my face. All of a sudden I felt my head pulsing like I was standing under a church bell. I collapsed to the ground.
“Why did you bring me here? I don’t want to be here! Leave me alone!”
The nurses in stark white suits charged at me. The doctor had released me after I convinced him so easily, “I promise to be good.” He was, like the others, so naïve.
I had made it down the hall before they caught me. Two burly nurses hurled me onto the bed while I thrashed my limbs trying to release myself from their iron grips.
“What are you doing to me?” I cried. “What did I do? Let me go.” I started crying.
“Shut up! No one’s falling for your act anymore.” His nose was still a little crooked from the last time I tried to escape. Luckily the dope had a short fuse.
“Be careful, Johnny boy. Mommy might have a relapse soon. They’ll need you to clean up the mess afterwards,” I glared. That struck a nerve. His mom was my next door neighbor. They give her drugs four times a day now.
One after another they came in to hold me down. It took eight of them to restrain me and one more to inject that precious sedative, the one thing that lost its element of surprise on me. I took a deep breath and let the key to my perfect world work its magic. A kind of secret mysticism that stripped Nix of everything she had in our world. Where I became her and Nix was helpless to stop it. I began to lose all the feeling in my body, slipping into unconsciousness.
I woke up to an empty room. The doctor had left and taken his folder. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. My fingertips glided across the glass and it mystically cracked beneath them. The bars disintegrated at the slightest touch. I climbed out the window onto the forbidden ground, freedom. The crisp blades of grass tickled the bare soles of my feet. I walked toward the forest past the unguarded gate, towards the civilization I once knew.
Creeping into the darkened depths, a sort of hysteria gripped my soul. “Run!” A single command pierced the air, and I did.
I was reminded of the sound of bones cracking as twigs snapped with the crushing force of my feet. Leaves stirred in a whirl wind as I dashed past. I felt a tug on my jeans and caught a glimpse of a protruding branch before I tumbled onto the matted dirt of the forest once more. From the ground, I glanced through the intricate lacings of tree branches at the hidden sky. I breathed a pleasant sigh of contentment inhaling the bitter smell of water logged roots and decaying bracken. I scrambled to get to my feet.
I had left my boring life in the psych ward and returned to my beloved nightmare.
A shudder bolted through my spine that erupted from my mouth in laughter. The whispers of the wind blew forcefully, creating a haunted melody. A voice instructed me to keep running, “Don’t stop. Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't.” A threat lurked deep within the field of oaks.
The adrenaline pumped in my veins. Despite billowing winds that threatened to snap the frail and warped trees, the roots remained motionless beneath the surface. Darkness continued steadfast as if a cloak had been thrown over the sun. Perched among dying, russet leaves, owls gazed at me as I passed. Their eyes sneered at a joke I wasn’t in on. This obviously wasn’t headed anywhere near the field of gumdrops and fairy dust.
My spirit was livened with every second of the chase, but my body strained to keep up. My soul fed off the fear and urged me forward. I savored the apprehension, the rush of blood in my veins. The rest of me lagged. My lungs fought with me to breathe evenly, my throat blazed. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the chilling whisper.
“She made me do it.”
“Alex!” The slam of the metal door lock jolted me awake. “Lunch in five,” instructed the nurse. In the last month I’d earned the privilege to solve puzzles with my friend. I proved I could keep calm enough with her. She was very nice.
“Can I have my lunch here today?” I asked timidly.
“What am I supposed to tell-“ She said before I cut her off.
“Nothing. Just say, I’m sorry,” I urged.
“Alright,” she said exasperatedly and left. I crept over to the window and passed my fingertips on the icy crystal. I stood there for awhile. My hand lost all feeling by the time the nurse returned with my food. I was only allowed finger foods with paper plates after something had happened in the cafeteria. I didn’t understand what they were talking about… Today I got chicken fingers and fries. Not the customary meal, but I had a way of making deals with the cooks. I ate without tasting. After I finished, I ambled over to my bed and rested my head against my pillow counting ceiling tiles. It happened again, I was alone. A shiver rolled down my spine, and then the doctor entered.
“Hello, Alex. Did you enjoy your lunch? I heard its favorite,” he offered.
“How many times do I have to tell you my name isn’t Alex? Do me a favor and stop coming in here with this Doctor Phil nonsense!” I spit out a few choice words to get that slime off my back.
“Ah, yes, of course,” he said recollecting his thoughts. “What is upsetting you, Gwen?” He countered and I lost it.
“Nothing. Nothing, except for you coming in here acting like I’m your decrepit patient that welcomes pity. That annoying little brat has been talking to you hasn’t she? Figures… Let me tell you a story. That’s why you come here, isn’t it? For those stupid stories about my life?” I figured the quickest way to make him leave was to tell him one, though. The memory flashed before me as I recounted it to him.
I primped in front of my locker mirror, waiting anxiously for Bobby. He made a big show in class about how he planned on asking a girl out. Of course, the girl was me. I helped correct him so many times and met him at lunch without him having to say he wanted to meet me. Who else could it be?
Down the hall ‘Nix stood at her locker. I guess she thought she looked pretty cute in that plaid miniskirt and ankle boots with a cropped-T. Whatever, I wore a classic outfit: black skinny jeans, a burgundy sweater and a Venetian cloak. Plus, my dark make-up brought out my gorgeous emerald eyes.
Bobby appeared and I smiled at him. When he didn’t react, I waved to him, too. He never even glanced at me, he stopped… at her locker. I watched her coo and giggle while he toyed with her hair. He rubbed her arm and whispered something in her ear. Then they left all of a sudden… holding hands. Fire burned behind my eyes and swelled in my chest. I punched my locker mirror. Glass shattered and spilled on the linoleum tiles. The glass crunched under my boots, I stalked over to class, my steps slow and heavy. I got past the teacher’s desk and she screamed.
“Oh my! What happened to your hand?!”
I didn’t look at her. I peered down at my now throbbing hand. I’d left my tiny ruby colored trail sparkling from my locker to the room. I muttered, “’Nix made me do it.” I uttered nothing more before or after they rushed me to the hospital. Funny, how you never feel the shards of glass stuck in your hand, even when the surgeon pulls them out.
“Alex…” Doc hesitated. What a joke. I never understood why they picked skittish, gutless doctors. They’ve got nothing to worry about; I’m the one who’s mental!
“We used to play games. Lots of games, like Sniper. Every time I wanted to play she begged me not to. She’d scream, ‘No! Leave me alone. I hate that game!’ I would laugh again and again. I convinced her once to play with me just one last time.” I curled into a ball, clutching my knees. I rocked back and forth. I saw it all happen as if I were there in that house.
The memory of our last game flickered into life. I was hiding and ‘Nix seeking. I peered at her from behind a desk when she opened the closet door. I knew what ‘Nix was gawking at. As she pulled the door open the rest of the way, light poured onto him. Our black Labrador, Happy, was lying on the carpet with a dark puddle next to him. She bent forward to take a closer look at the crimson liquid pooling at his neck, seeping through to the floor boards and shrieked.
In the bathroom, water ran red. The stuff was stickier than I thought. The mess splashed all over the counter. I couldn’t keep from grinning when I felt ‘Nix’s presence behind me. Her reflection gave away the words she wouldn’t say. A terrified and paralyzed gaze fixed on my coated hands.
Later that night, ‘Nix sat down on the carpet where Happy had been. My parents did their best to rouse her and bring her to her room, but she wouldn’t budge. She scrubbed the carpet long after the stains were gone. Poor ‘Nix, she had lost her mind.
I began to cry. The only way I knew of to get the doctor to approach me, and then I could make my move.
“I didn’t mean to. I never wanted to hurt her. The thing is, her dog always got more attention than me.” I heard his footsteps draw nearer. “I started to disappear right in front of myself. No one cared. Ever,” Finally, he rested a hand on my back. I sprang to my feet seizing him by his neck. My teeth bared and I spoke slowly, “Do you know what it’s like to feel death reaching for you?” His eyes held panic. “To hear no sound, smell no distinguished scents, to feel nothing,” He took in a short breath. “And see only,” I tightened my grip slightly. “A single,” they tightened again, my thumbs at his esophagus. “White,” my fingers felt for the sensitive base of his throat. “Light,” a thud sounded the air. Poor doc fainted. “Weakling,” I muttered before two nurses grabbed hold of me injecting my sleeping meds.
A girl bolted through the forest, in fright.
“Ready or not, here I come,” I smirked to myself calling to her. In a spilt second I took off and in a few minutes, I was on her tail.
Time froze on this replayed horror scene. I gazed at the moon positioned at the center of the sky; my favorite nightmare of a dream had come to its pinnacle. A clearing came into view; a smile crept across my face. It was finally here. My heart began to race when I was half way across the field; my entire body pulsed in one beat.
“I’ve got to keep going. I’ve got to find someone to-“ ‘Nix quivered.
I interrupted her, “Phoenix!” I screamed with growing impatience. “Oh, sorry, I forgot, it’s ‘Nix now isn’t it? That’s really cute sis,” I cooed.
She trembled with fear, stopped, and turned around. A cry pierced the silence like the screeching of bats and my eardrums throbbed. With one last hyperventilated breath, ‘Nix collapsed to the ground losing consciousness. The scream sounded just as it had that last night, when I finally ripped her out of my life.
I peered down at a puddle of black liquid catching my reflection. The face staring back at me wasn’t mine. I was staring at Alex. Funny, my name’s not Alex, it’s Gwen. Alex was weak. She couldn’t get rid of ‘Nix, so I stepped in and did it for her.
Another face appeared over my shoulder behind me in the puddle. It was ‘Nix. She stared in concentration as she tried to surprise me. I turned away from the puddle and spun to face her, my hand grasped her neck.
“Hello Phoenix, did you miss me?”
I sat in bed comfortably and glanced over at the flowers someone had left me. She shouldn’t have; I knew just who it was.
Doctor Millrose seemed to drift into my room. He had a small bruise on his forehead and neck. Out of courtesy, I asked him, “Are you okay?”
“Never better, don’t you fret, Alex,” he smiled.
“Dr. Millrose, I heard someone say… did I hurt you like I hurt ‘Nix?” The words rolled off my tongue easily although I mulled them over, unsure. A faint memory was tugging at my conscious. He looked stunned. “I remember something… There was a lot of blood. She was barely breathing when they brought her to the hospital…”
“Alex, can you tell me what happened that night?” He scribbled furiously on a piece of paper, odd coming from him. I closed my eyes anyhow to watch the movie play again in my imagination, it seemed so far away. I like scary movies, they always make me shiver.
I walked home in the rain from school. I skipped class and no call home ever came. Every person I passed saw right through me. To break the routine, I glared and flinched at people. Most gasped, some screamed, a few actually ran. They must’ve seen the glimmer of metal in my pocket. They were stupid of course. Why would I waste my time on them? I could’ve done that last year when I set the Chem. Lab on fire. The little spark could’ve been a roaring flame.
Upon opening the door, I heard the television in the living room. ‘Nix twisted in seat to see me. And then took a double take. Her eyes grew in horror and terror. “What happened to you?” she squealed.
I glowered at her, “I didn’t like that you took Bobby away from me, ‘Nix.” She rose from the couch stiffly and walked toward to the back wall. She did her best to keep the farthest possible distance from me. The knife circled in my hand once.
“What are you talking about?” her voice quivered. She reached the corner of the room. The only way out was to get past me and that was not a feasible option. One small step at a time, I closed in on her. “I don’t understand, what’s going on Alex?” she whispered.
I laughed just then. I laughed a cruel, sadistic laugh. I ignored her question and replied with one, “Aren’t you going to ask what’s wrong with me? What my problem is?” A single tear rolled down her cheek, her chest heaved although her breath remained quiet.
“This isn’t funny, Alex,” she breathed terrified. My jovial demeanor disappeared, the smile replaced with a grim expression.
“Funny? Whoever said it was funny?” I uttered and she screamed.
I chuckled, “Funny.”
I exhaled the breath I unconsciously held and opened my eyes.
“Why did you do it, Alex?” he asked desperately.
“I… I don’t know. What do you mean, Dr. Millrose? What did I do?” He looked extremely disappointed. Gradually he took in my appearance and spoke carefully, “Alex, you’re hands are clenched. Is something bothering you?”
The moment I thought of my hands I released them. Scarlet fingernail impressions now burned on my palms. I felt the lingering pressure of hands wrapped around my neck, I shook off the feeling and stretched.
“Dr. Millrose, can I see her?”
“Sure,” he seemed a little down as if he expected something more from me.
She sat there at a table. Happy to see her, I ran over excitedly, “You came!” She gave no verbal response. A puzzle lay scattered in front of her. The white mark that cut across her neck caught my attention. She never told me what happened. At least with our white outfits no one could see the lacerations across her arms and legs. The cuts used to really scare her.
“’Nix, will you finish the puzzle with me?”