by J.L. O'Dell
Horror story about a man losing it.
| They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I don’t like lemonade or stupid sayings. Life didn’t give me lemons. It gave me shit. My marriage to her was only a part of the big festering problem building inside my head; the other was work. I imagined my head inside an old wooden vice. She took her turn twisting a little harder, then my co-workers. The vise grew tighter with every twist as the people responsible for my pain laughed and took their next turn. The voices grew louder with every turn. Kill her, kill them. Kill them all.
I wasn’t surprised to find myself on this stretch of interstate driving north to where I didn’t know. I was drunk, again. My only retreat from reality was at the bottom of a beer glass. Or can. I was drunk and drinking more as I headed up I82. I was trying to be careful as I drove slower than the rest of the traffic. It was after mid-night and my field of vision had shrunk to a narrow view of reality. It was as though I were peering through a rifle scope. That was all I could see, this small circle above the car hood.
A semi passed honking his horn. He was pissed I was going so slow blocking his way. I finished the beer, crushed the can, and threw it in the back seat of my Camaro. Reaching behind the passenger seat, I took another from the 24 pack I bought less than an hour ago. Still, in my head, I was in control.
The car seemed to know where I was going. I knew what I wanted, and I knew where to find it. I decided in that moment to end the pain, the hurt and deceit. The voices said no. Kill them first. Kill them all. I was being accused at work of harming someone and my wife jumped on it. She didn’t side with me, take my word or believe I would never do that. My coworkers didn’t like me; they were jealous that I moved up faster than they did.
I knew were the rock face was. I drove this road a hundred times over the years. And I knew I was close. One more can crushed, replaced by its cousin. I drank and laughed at the thought. Soon this all whole tragedy, my life, would end and my soul would be free of all earthly concerns. And to hell with everyone. To hell with the voices.
As I approached the rock wall, a police cruiser pulled from a cross road between lanes and pulled in behind me, blue lights flashing. It hurt my eyes, so I changed my mirror to night driving. The siren wailed. Should I stop? I saw another coming up the other side of I82.
I finished my beer and threw the can into the backseat. Something told me to stop this madness before it was to late. It wasn’t a high-speed chase. I was only going forty. There was a turn off into a rest area ahead. I decided to pull over. They had me. There was no escape.
Getting out of the vehicle was a non-starter. I could barely stand up. So, I sat and waited for the officer to order me out of my Camaro. It didn’t take long for the flashlight to hit my face and hear the command.
“Out of the car with your hands where I can see them.”
I complied as best I could. The door was heavy, and I struggled to open it. After a few attempts I was out of the car and standing against it trying to stay upright.
“You been drinking tonight, sir?” One of the troopers asked. It seemed a foolish question considering my state. I thought it best not to answer.
The ride to the county jail was short. Patrol vehicle back seats are not made for comfort. The trooper booked me, and I was placed under a suicide watch in a private cell. I rammed my head into the cell wall several times, finally rendering myself unconscious.
“Doctor, he’s waking up.” I heard the voice. It wasn’t one of mine. This voice was soft, pleasant and female. The voices in my head were loud, biting and anything but pleasant. I realized my head was on fire. It hurt like a thousand drum sticks were beating a tune out of me.
“Sir, do you know where you are?” The young, male doctor asked. “Are you in pain?”
“Pain, yes. Location, unknown.” I tired to move just a little. My right hand wouldn’t move. I realized in my haze I was handcuffed to the bedrail. My head was throbbing. The nurse, Asian I think, smiled.
I lifted my handcuffed arm up and asked in a rasped voice, “Necessary?” It was all I could get out. My eyes tried to remain focused, but the overhead lights were blinding.
“The guards think so. At least for now. We had to stitch up a nasty gash in your head. Seems you used it to try to break up a concrete wall. I’m sure you have one hell of a headache. But you’re going to have to suffer it. I can’t give you any more pain relief for now. Sorry.” He didn’t appear to be all that sorry. The nurse told me she would get me some ice water.
I realized my voices were silent. Where were the haunting noises that have been with me for the last several years? Did I beat them out of my head? Is that all it took was to smash my head into a concrete wall a few times? It couldn’t be that easy. No, something was going on. They wouldn’t give up that easy.
Two days later I appeared in court. The judge was a 60-ish woman with short gray hair. I stood with my lawyer when told to.
“Your Honor,” my court designated attorney began, “the prosecutor and I have worked out a plea.”
“And that would be?” She asked all the while staring at me.
“We ask that my client be admitted to the psych ward for 14 days observation and counseling, that he attends a six-month alcohol treatment program, and attend two AA meetings for at least 6 months. No jail time your Honor.”
“Mr. Prosecutor, do you agree?”
“Yes, judge. I think the defendant needs counseling more than jail time.” The prosecutor, a young woman in her late twenties agreed to the terms of my punishment.
“I’ll grant your terms. Make sure your client understands the conditions of his release. Also, make sure you understand,” she was looking straight at me. “That if you don’t fulfill the conditions of your release, this deferred prosecution will become a DUI and you will serve six months in county jail. A probation officer will contact you weekly at random times and you will submit to a mandatory blood/alcohol test. Failure to follow the conditions of your release or if you are caught drinking, will land you back in my court.”
I processed out of the county jail and was transported to the local hospital. The psych ward didn’t seem that bad at first. I only had one roommate and the room across the hall was occupied by two women, one of whom was pretty. After lunch I attended my first group session. I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect a bunch of people whining about how bad their lives were or how the world screwed them over.
When it was my turn to speak, I just said my name and that was it. But that’s not what the counselor wanted and so he began to poke at me.
“Now, Steve, tell us more. Why are you here? Everyone wants to help you and they want your help too. That’s how this works. We all help each other. Now, tells us why you’re here.” The pasty faced, overweight shrink smiled at me. “Come on.”
Looking around the group of twelve other totally screwed up people, I felt nothing. No connection. To me they were all whiners.
“The court ordered me to come here,” was all I was willing to say.
“That’s true but why? You were arrested for drinking and driving. Right?”
I turned to look at this new tormentor. “Yes.” My head began to hurt. I massaged my temples trying to get some relief.
“You told the arresting officer you were going to drive your car into a cliff face along the side of the highway to kill yourself. Is that true, Steve?”
Everyone was staring at me. Some were smiling as if they were enjoying my torment. Others looked sad as though the thought of killing oneself brought back painful memories. My new tormentor kept talking but I couldn’t hear the words. All I saw was his mouth moving. And my head hurt. Kill him. Kill them all.
The voices! They were back. I thought pounding my head into the cell wall had to have ridded me of them. The voices were silent for days. I stood up and walked away from the group. Anywhere but here right now.
“Walking away isn’t going to solve anything.” My new tormentor yelled at me so everyone could hear. A couple of orderlies, more like guards, watched me closely from the nurse’s station as I walked to my room. Kill him. Kill them all.
My roommate, a young junkie, suffering from everything known to man, came into the room and went to his bed. I could feel him staring at me. His eyes boring holes into the back of my head.
“Dude, if you don’t want to talk that’s ok you know. I understand. They couldn’t get me to open up when I first got here. Now it’s easier to talk. Everyone here has problems and talking helps.” He rolled over in his bed and left me alone.
Everyday was the same. Breakfast, meds, counseling. Lunch followed by counseling and then a one-hour private therapy session. Dinner and more meds. There was a television if you wanted to watch. I preferred the quite of my room and a book.
“What are you reading?” I looked up and saw the pretty blond from across the hallway standing in the doorway of my room. She was slender and looked sad all the time.
“Nothing, just a history of the Civil War.” I sat up straighter in my bed. “Come in.”
“You know I can’t do that. We’re not allowed in each other’s rooms. Did you forget the rules?” She smiled for the first time since I’d been here. “Besides, you know Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum will come down here if they can’t see me. I guess that’s part of their job. Are they really our guards? I thought when I first got here, that they were nurses.”
The next day I had a visitor. It was her, my wife, to see how I was doing and feign love and concern for me. I told the Tweedles to send her away, but they said the counselor insisted that I spend some time with her. Looking at the glint in their eyes I had the feeling they would love to drag me down the hallway and throw me into a chair next to her. I got up and walked down the hallway with the Tweedles behind me. My head throbbed. Kill them. Kill them all!
As I approached the visitor’s area, I saw her sitting on the couch. I headed for a chair.
“No, sit by me.” She padded the cushion next to her. “How are you?”
I sat down. “Fine, why are you here?” I noticed the Tweedles walk back to the nurse’s station. Why not. Both the on-duty nurses were attractive. My head hurt and I began to rub my temples.
“You know everyone’s worried about you. What with trying to kill yourself and all the drinking. And now the trouble with the cops and your problems at work. No-one knows what to think.” She continued on, but I wasn’t listening. It all ran together as I rubbed my temples. “My mother thinks I married a loser.”
“I don’t care what your mother thinks. I don’t care what anyone thinks.” I rubbed the back of my neck. My head throbbed. Kill her. Kill her now! “Shut up.”
“Are you talking to me?” She looked at me like I had two heads.
“No. My head hurts.”
“That’s what you get for pounding it into a concrete wall. Of all the stupid things to do. What were you thinking?” Her voice scratched against my senses.
“Please, just go.” I heard it again. Loud and deafening. Like someone were using a megaphone. Kill her. Kill her now!
“No, not until I’m done.”
The Tweedles were busy flirting. I looked around. No one.
She opened her mouth and all I saw was a large tongue flickering at me and massive rows of teeth. She was going to eat me. I knew it.
Kill her. Kill her now!! The voices screamed at me. I held my hands to my ears to drown out the noise, but they were in my head and all I could see was this monster before me. Kill her. Kill her now!!
I grabbed her by the throat and pushed her down on the couch. She looked surprised. Kill her. Kill her now!!
She began to struggle but I held tight. I put my hand over her mouth, that hideous mouth. She screamed but no one could hear her. Kill her. Kill her now!!
I bent down over her. I heard the guards rush towards me. They grabbed my shoulders and pulled me off, but it was too late. When the Tweedles spun me around, they both stood back, shocked. Their pulling me off her gave the extra strength needed to do what I wanted. I stood there as people ran to see what had happened. I stood there with blood on my face and a portion of her throat hanging from my mouth. The voices were silent.
"Play stupid games, win stupid prizes"