It Knows My Name (short story – first draft)

First, a few announcements. I will be posting at least twice a week on average and am going for a Thursday/Sunday schedule. Posts may be short or long but come Hell or high water I WILL be posting twice a week.

Also, this is old CSS and I refuse to change it because the black with gray lettering is much better for the eyes than a stark contrast of black and white. Considering my habits, I know what eye strain feels like :). As for why I’m bringing that up, this old CSS won’t let my blogroll work properly so, if at anytime you want to know what blogs to read, or want to suggest one to me, look to the left of my page and there will be a few pages like ‘about me’ and ‘current list’. The one titled ‘bloglist’ is where I link all of the blogs I read.

One more thing before I begin with the story. Feel free to critique, mock, destroy and otherwise spit on it. I need to have it made better. I just warn you. Any comments directed at me will not hurt my feelings. I’ve spent years hangin’ wit da trolls 😉

This story was a prompt in our creative writing group with my friends.  This particular prompt was: write in first person, a characters observations while on a controlled substance and keep it between 3 – 5 pages.


It Knows My Name

© Ashley Hallworth 2009

She’s biting her lip again—the nervous new intern, her pristine uniform crisp, starched to perfection. She’s afraid of me, of us. The patients. They are always afraid of us in the beginning. They stay behind the glass, nervously handing us our cups, trying to make sure we swallow and terrified if we don’t. If we don’t they call the orderlies and watch from a distance until the pills are shoved down our throats.

I hate the pills. It reminds me of Uncle Sherman, eating cockroaches or shoving them in his pants. Every time I eat them I think of Ol’ Sherm, crunching on a fatty from behind the fridge. Mama always said his crazy was catching.

She’s fiddling again, holding out a cuff, telling me I need to cooperate while she takes my numbers. I don’t mind. It feels like a snake squeezing my arm before he dies of exhaustion. I like it a lot more than all the needles they use. They say it’s for our blood. They say they need to know in case we get sick or hurt. Why do they need so much of it? Segal thinks they sell it on some black market. I have another theory.

She’s finally got the cuff on me, smiling and still shaking. Poor little thing. They haven’t got to her yet. I don’t move or protest. I don’t mind as long as it’s not the needles. I know why they use the needles. I know why I’m here. I know too much. I know about them and their plan. I know why the hospital needs us.

She’s finally done and I’m free to go as I please, but I’m not sure I want to go anywhere. I can see them all from here, walking around together, talking, mingling, muttering. They’re all crazy. They belong here, but I know I don’t. The hospital only wants me because I know its secret.

“Mr. Travis, how are we feeling today?” Dr. Somers is smiling through his scraggly white beard, big, pearly teeth like God’s would be. I can see my face in them. He knows that I know. I know what he really is.

“‘awful, Doctor Somerz.” I keep my eyes on him, my head lolling back and forth. He laughs.

“I know you don’t like this new treatment, but I’m sure you’ll become accustomed to it. It’s rather experimental but it’s greatly helped other patients like you.”

“Like me?” I know why they give me drugs, but they take everything from me. I’m unable to move and my mind is slow, but they also take my tongue. The hospital clips it from my mouth so that I cannot speak.

“Other patients with your condition.”

“My condishun?” I can hear a throaty laugh, like mice playing on a gramophone. I know it’s me, but I can’t feel it in my chest. “‘m not sick.”

“But, that’s why you’re here, Mr. Travis.” The thing wearing Dr. Somers skin smiles again.

“N-no, ‘m here b’cuz I know too much. I know about this…all of this.”

“Maybe another two weeks and it will start to take affect. Are you feeling sick, Mr. Travis?”

“I always feel sick. Sick of this place.” I can’t focus anymore. They patterns on the carpet swim, so many colors dancing like blue, pink, red and yellow confetti. I can see a woman’s face. She’s watching me too.

“But do you have an upset stomach?” He lifts my head and tries to peer down my throat. “Most new medications make patients sick.”

“Feel fine.” I’m trying not to think of vomit.

“Alright then. I think I want to try something else, too. It’s a sort of physical therapy. They put you in water and you have to relax, like you’re floating. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

“n’t fuckin’ touch me.” I know that look. They give that look when they take you to the other room. They mess with your head. They do things that change you. There was this one guy named Mario. He said there was an old lady chasing him with scissors. They took him there and when he came back he couldn’t see her no more.

But, his eyes! They were so empty, like someone ate his soul. I know what did. It’s not gonna get me.

“Harlen Travis, please. I only want what’s best for you.” He reaches out to my arm but I jerk away, spit flying onto his perfect coat.


“Harlen, please.” I hate it when he uses my first name. Only mama can use my first name. Papa only used it when he belted me and Uncle Sherman always called me ‘Harley’. Dr. Somers always said Harlen because he knew it ate at me when he did. It gave him power. Mama always said the eyes were the window to the soul, but I think names are the key. He’s calling two orderlies over.

Precautions. He knows I’m going to fight him. “I only want what’s best for you.”

“You wanna eat me!” I kick at his knee and I feel a pop. I know I didn’t break it, but the two men behind him jump me as he falls, grabbing the injury. I taste copper as my mouth kisses the woman on the floor, her yellow fibers biting my face.

“Harlen, I don’t know where you got that idea, but I don’t want to eat you.” He’s in pain, straining through every word.

“Liar! You only say that to trick me! I know you and I know you’re just feeding it!” I see the new nurse trailing after a veteran, a needle between her fingers. The hospital has grown tired of me and wants to eat me. It knows my name. I feel the prick in my thigh, the bitch, uncaringly punching it in. Dr. Somers looks sad, but I know it’s only because he has to wait for me to wake up before he can feed it.

I dream of mama. She’s feeding a baby that’s made of bloody scraps of cloth. I hear her singing to it, smiling, even through the rats nest hair that she never brushes. Mama turns to me, her skin rotting away and her teeth growing sharp. She rips the baby apart until my head remains, gouged and mouth caught in a scream.

I awake on a table, things surrounding me. They are wearing the nurses and doctor’s skin. They all are the arms of the hospital, the things that go and do its bidding. It gives them bodies and they feed it in return. One of them, a younger one is happier than the others.

“You’re going to like this, Mr. Travis. Many patients find it relaxing.”

I’m horrified. They took my tongue. It’s gone. I can open my mouth but there is nothing. I can only scream at them, but it is a weak trembling. I can’t feel anything. Mr. Somers is by my head, touching my hair.

“It’s okay, Harlen. You’ll be alright.” I can feel my self shaking my head, trying to move, to get up and run away. Maybe I can find my tongue before the hospital eats it.

“Shh, It’s alright, Mr. Travis.” They’re all smiling, their crooked teeth too large for the skin they’re wearing. I can feel water tickling my finger tips. They want my eyes. I won’t let them have my eyes. I can seem my hands. They’re in the air. Mama, I can move my hands!

They didn’t get me yet! I can still move my hands!

They won’t get them. They won’t get my eyes. I see Dr. Somers look upset as I take them away from him. My hands can move and that makes him angry. They hospital won’t get my eyes. That makes him worried.

I know I have to keep them safe. I can’t just throw them away. I will keep them where they will never look. They will be with my soul.
I can’t run anymore. It’s dark and the bindings are tight. I can only shift back and forth on the bed. I’m in a tall, dark room, though I only know this from memory. I am in a cocoon of their making. They are angry with me. It cannot eat me.

I am blind but safe. I dream of mama again.

She’s standing in our old doorway. I run to hug her but she starts crying before I get there. I frown, telling her the exciting news. I beat them! It can’t get me! It can’t eat me! But, she shakes her head.

“Oh, Harlen. It knows your name.”

~ by sniffits on October 7, 2009.

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