As can be expected in a psychologist, mental health often features in my creative writing. Here is some ‘Gothic’ flush fiction inspired by some of the stories shared with me by the patients suffering hallucinations.
Till next time
Blissful numbness engulfs me cell by cell. Warmth shoots through me like an ivy spring. My body feels heavy, heavier with each breath I draw. As I stir in my pre sleep jerk, the fluffy duvet creased by the movement, expels a dim fragrance of lavender. I sigh with pleasure, relaxing the muscles around my diaphragm. My cheek glides across the pillow in search of a cool spot. On finding it, I succumb.
A creak of the floor.
My eyes flash open and I stare. My tatty green armchair, my shelves filled with mementos of special times and favourite books, my oak wardrobe – all drown in blackness disturbed only by the moonlight shafting through the verticals. There’s no one there. I must have dreamt the sound. My eyelids fall. My breathing slackens.
A crunch, now closer than before.
I’m all ears, suddenly alert. The timber floor in the corridor outside my room squeaks. It’s the house cooling down in the frosty weather, the wood shrinking. I explain to myself.
Another screech. My breathing stalls. A crunch. And now a moan.
‘Is there anyone there?’ I whisper in a tentative voice. My body tenses up like a string of a newly curved violin. The thudding of my heart deafens me.
Another sigh, this time shaping into a groan. I draw my knees to my chest and weave my hands tightly around them. My legs shudder, the skin on them suddenly spiky. My eyelids leap. Up and down, up and down, in a crazy staccato.
A smack. A giggle, first soft, then bolder, almost hysterical.
I block my ears with my fists. A sob grows in my throat. I draw the quilt to my chest for protection.
A click of the tongue, so close, just by the room’s threshold. Something rubs itself against the door. It then sniffs underneath.
‘Go away,’ I say faintly.
The thing on the other side of the doors pauses as if to consider. And then the whispering starts.
‘No, no, no.’ Each time with more malice.
I scream with full force of my lungs, tears of helplessness spilling down my cheeks.
The door handle clicks. I follow its turning with my eyes, suddenly paralysed, mute.
The white-painted door pushes in, cutting through the gloom of the night. I screen my eyes with my moist, trembling palms, every muscle in my body strained. I await a bite.
‘Darling, are you all right?’
A warm plump hand strokes my forehead. I recognise the voice, but I’m too afraid to open my eyes. What if the thing is playing with me again?
‘Alice, my darling, did you forget to take your pill again?’ She perches next to me. ‘Here it is.’
I let her take my hands away from my face, eyes still tightly shut, just in case. She lays a round slippery object in my left palm, placing a glass of water in the other.
‘Just swallow the pill and it will go away.’
I nod and take a gulp.
After a minute my breathing settles. I squint. It is really Mum. Her face is her own. She smiles at me. And I smile back, ignoring the snakes’ heads springing out of her tummy, their sharp teeth in readiness to bite should I stir too close. In a few minutes even the snakes will fade, rocked to sleep by the happy pill. Till next time.