TODAY’S BREW: Fancee Mistobox coffee
I can’t trust myself not to go on and on about Jolene Haley because my heart bursts with love for the girl. When I was having my roughest time she got a bunch of folks to write what they love about me and made an entire Friday event out of it. She’s there for all of us, whenever we need it, but without that do-gooder vibe that makes a person run, you know? And her jokes are the dirtiest. The DIRTIEST. And there is nothing she doesn’t do. The girl is a miracle. And then she goes and writes stuff like this. Raw, but polished and frightening and heavy-hearted. Beautiful.
by Jolene Haley
It’s whispered behind my back. It’s written on my charts. It’s murmured from professional to professional as they discuss me.
I don’t feel crazy.
I don’t look crazy. I‘m just an average teenage girl. Long blond hair. Brown eyes. Freckle-faced.
I’m not like the rest of the people locked away in Friendly Hills Mental Institution. For one, I don’t walk around drooling or screaming.
One of my favorite authors wrote something that fits these people perfectly. They’re “like haunted houses. The lights were on but no one was home.” That’s what it’s like here. I’m stuck in a house of horrors, complete with wailing.
I’m not dangerous like they say. It’s all a misunderstanding. If they ask Emily, she’ll tell you.
“Layla,” a soothing voice says. “Ready for your three o’clock?”
Every Tuesday and Thursday at three o’clock sharp I see Dr. Novak, the resident psychologist.
No. I’m not ready.
I hate the doctor. He isn’t making me better. He makes everything worse.
Everyone at Friendly Hills knows that you have to go willingly. If you don’t, you still go. But with a new syringe mark in your flesh.
I slide the paperback back on to the shelf. I’ve read every book in the building three times. Maybe four.
“Sure,” I say, forcing a smile. “I’m ready.”
I know where the psychologist’s office is but the nurse escorts me anyways. The white walls and white floor are accented by white, tattered curtains moving gently in recycled air.
Before I know it, I’m outside the office. The blond woman in scrubs opens the heavy metal door.
I slip through the entrance, letting the door thud close behind me. This entire place smells like burst water pipes and mold.
An empty desk and rusty folding chairs are scattered around the waiting room. There’s another door to the left. This one is propped open. It’s the doctor’s office, so I walk in.
The round, middle aged man stands when I appear.
“Ah, Ms. Barnes,” the man says. Like he didn’t know that I’d be here. Like it’s some sort of pleasant surprise. But it’s Thursday, at 3:00. We both know better. We’ve had this schedule for the last six months.
“How are you doing today?” he asks, almost like he genuinely cares. A warm smile spreads across his rosy cheeks. I want to cringe. I want to scream.
Instead I bite my cheeks and reply. “Great.”
He sits back in his seat, his large belly extending over his khaki pants.
“Well, you’re certainly looking well.” Dr. Novak’s eyes travel from my face downward. A shiver runs up my spine. Dr. Novak grins, his lips pulling up at the sides, displaying his yellow teeth.
My eyes slide over his desk. Messy stacks of paper, Bent manila folders full of secrets, stories. I hate that my entire life boils down to one fucking folder, strewn on his desk.
“Why don’t you shut the door,” the doctor suggests.
I didn’t like shutting that door. Nothing good comes after the door is shut.
“No,” I tell him.
A smile spreads on his face in such a strange way, it looks like a snarl. “I can help make you better, Layla. I can fix you.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me.” I’ve told him that since the day I arrived.
“Your family doesn’t see it that way,” the doctor says matter-of-factly. “After all, it’s my report that can get you out of here. Don’t you want a good report?”
Movement catches my attention. We aren’t alone. Emily is here too, peeking out from behind the curtains. How did she sneak in without getting caught? Emily is great at sneaking.
Her long brown hair is stringy and she looks pale. Her hospital gown sags on her shoulders but it doesn’t matter. She’s my best friend. I love her. She won’t let the doctor hurt me.
“I said, shut the door Layla,” Dr. Novak repeats. He’s growing impatient.
I nod and pad over to the wooden door. I peek my head out. My heart sinks. The waiting room is still empty. There’s no one around to help me if I need it. I close the door behind me.
“Pull down the shade,” Dr. Novak instructs me.
I pull it down and turn, leaning against the door. My heart is racing.
Emily gifts me an encouraging smile. One that is wordless but says everything. I’ll protect you. Just like I always do.
“Come here,” the doctor orders.
I want to throw up. Every bone in my body screams for me to run. But where? Every white corridor only leads to three more. Every door is locked. Every window has bars.
“Come here girl,” the doctor orders. “You don’t want me to tell your family that you’ve sunken worse into your madness, do you? Come.”
Come, I think bitterly. Like a dog. Like an obedient pet. I am to come, stay, sit, and roll over whenever he commands.
My gaze travels above the doctor’s head and they’re met by warm brown eyes. Emily moves out from behind the curtain, beckoning me closer.
I take a step towards them both. Then another.
The doctor narrows his eyes at me. “What are you looking at?” He sits up in his chair and turns. I’m afraid that he’ll see her, that we’ll be caught. I don’t want Emily to get in trouble.
Dr. Novak’s gaze moves straight past her, before turning back to me with a look of confusion.
For an all-seeing doctor, he sure is blind. Emily’s right there. Right behind him. And she doesn’t look happy.
Emily lifts her arm and brings it to her neck, dragging her finger across her throat. Then she points at Dr. Novak.
I shake my head. I hate the doctor. But that doesn’t mean I want him dead. Or maybe I just don’t want to be the one to kill him.
Emily won’t understand. She doesn’t forgive. She doesn’t forget. And Emily wants Dr. Novak dead.
Emily points to the doctor’s desk.
My eyes wander over the mess. Amongst the files and papers there is one thing that catches my attention: a pair of large, sharp scissors.
“Layla, come here now,” the doctor demands, frustrated. “You’re being naughty. You ought to listen to your doctor. I know best.”
Dr. Novak settles back in his chair, tilting it so far backwards that for a moment I’m afraid that he’ll topple over into Emily.
I tiptoe to the edge of his desk, a scream settling in my throat. After all, who will hear? It’s no use. I don’t like to fight it. The doctor likes a struggle.
I run my fingers along the desk. The scissors are close. Very close. I can have them in my hands in a matter of seconds.
Emily nods encouragingly. Her nod says it for her, “Do it. End him. He doesn’t deserve to live.”
I don’t want to hurt anyone. Just like I didn’t want to hurt anyone last time. But Emily is never wrong.
“That’s it, girl,” Dr. Novak murmurs. “Just a little closer so we can begin our session.” He chuckles. I grimace.
“Do it,” Emily whispers. Dr. Novak doesn’t seem to notice.
I step around the desk stopping inches from his chair. He clasps his sweaty hand around my wrist. “Thata girl,” Dr. Novak coos.
“If you don’t, I will,” Emily warns me, standing right behind him. “And I’ll make him suffer.”
My eyes travel back to the scissors. They’ll do the job nicely.
Dr. Novak places one of my hands on his knee.
“He deserves it! He hurt me too. Don’t let him get away with it!” Emily’s shouting now. Her brown eyes are darker, cold. Her wispy hair is swaying, like there’s a draft in this windowless room. “Do it! Kill him!” she screams.
Emily’s right. He deserves it.
The doctor chuckles, grabbing my hand and inching it down his thigh. Then, he releases me, wrapping his hands around the back of his neck. He trusts me to keep going. He knows that I don’t want a bad report.
“Now!” Emily screams. Her dark eyes gleaming with bloodlust. “Just there,” she points to the doctor’s neck. “Jam them right in and twist.”
I keep my right hand on the doctor’s leg and with my left, I grab the scissors.
I stare at his neck, covered tightly with a stained button-down shirt and tie. The veins in his neck are crimson streams that soon will be set free.
I raise my hand, the shining scissors clasped tightly.
This is for Emily.
Emily dances with glee behind the doctor, waiting for the moment to come. She’s enjoying this. She always does.
“Doctor,” I say quietly, so not to alarm him.
“Yes?” he asks. His eyes are still shut. A smug smile is plastered on his face.
I clear my throat and perfect my aim. “I think my madness is getting worse.”
Emily rears her head back, screaming in laughter. She knows I’m not crazy. She knows that he deserves this.
The doctor’s eyes snap and land on the scissors pointed at his neck.
Before he has time to react, Emily grabs my hand. Just like last time. Just like all the other times. Before I can blink, the scissors are in his neck. Twisting. Turning. Setting his sin free, which comes out in squirts.
Emily’s hand is still on mine, pushing the scissors deeper.
“Oh yes,” she laughs. “Your madness is much worse.”
She giggles so loud it muffles the other sounds. The drips. Gurgles. Murmurs. Pleas.
I realize Emily isn’t the only one laughing. I am too. Giggling. Dancing.
Emily and I whirl around, holding the scissors in the air like a treasured pet.
The door opens, the blond nurse from earlier gasps. Her face twists up in horror and fear. She plasters herself against the office door. She screams.
I look over at Emily. Maybe she has an escape plan. But there, just where she was a moment before, she is gone.
Emily is gone.
Jolene Haley is an author and the curator of the best-selling horror anthology The Dark Carnival through Pen & Muse Press. She also runs a YA horror blog The Midnight Society and the author resource site Pen & Muse.. She writes every genre under the sun, but prefers horror. When she’s not writing she can be found cuddling her two dogs and enjoying the beach, where she lives.