The bell in the antique grandfather clock of the rec room of the psych ward struck twelve. It was time for your appointment. That was good.
You actually liked your visits with Dr. Ophelia (officially, she was Dr. Ophelia Garten, but she preferred “Dr. Ophelia”). She was a very attentive listener. And she asked a lot of questions and didn’t make you talk too much.
You strode down the hall in the direction of her office, hands in stuffed into your pockets, and ready to see her. A lot of the time, psych appointments felt pointless to you.
“I don’t have anything new to say,” you would think to yourself in advance of them. “The sky is still blue, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, and I’m still depressed and anxious.”
While the other doctors and counselors you had spoken with had pressed you to elaborate, to explain what was making you sad and nervous when you just couldn’t, Dr. Ophelia was content to simply let you be. To offer constructive criticism on your poetry and tell you which of your pieces she really liked. The thing was, she meant it when she had something nice to say. And she often did.
But this time, you really wanted to talk about mental health stuff. She had written you a prescription, and you weren’t sure if it was the best one for you.
A scream that came from the end of the corridor made you jolt and silenced your internal monologue. You looked up and saw another patient getting wheeled out of Dr. Ophelia’s office on a gurney, writhing and straining at the straps that held her in place. Dr. Ophelia stood in the doorway and watched the howling patient getting taken away, her hands folded together before her.
You stopped in your tracks, heart pounding in your chest. Dr. Ophelia turned to look at you.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, my dear,” she sighed. “But don’t worry. She’ll be all right. There’s nothing wrong with her. Not really.”
Dr. Ophelia looked the same as she always did, wearing her immaculate black lab coat with a black necktie and white shirt underneath, black heels, and black stockings. She wore silver earrings that almost matched her silver eyes. She had no hair on top of her head, but you assumed that she must have just shaved it off, because she still had black eyebrows.
Dr. Ophelia smiled at you and gestured for you to come in. “Come along, now, it’s time.”
You forced a smile of your own, entered her office, and took a seat on her dark brown, studded leather couch as she closed the door behind you. She sat in the ornate, padded wooden chair across from the couch.
“How have you been?”
“Oh, uh…pretty good, I guess,” you answered earnestly, wanting to ask about the patient on the gurney, but deciding not to.
“I’m glad to hear it. How has the medicine I prescribed been affecting you?” she asked.
You suspected that the pills she had prescribed you were different the moment you opened the bottle. They were grey, unlike any other medicine you had taken before. And you took them before you went to sleep at night instead of in the morning like your other meds. But you thought nothing of it and did as you were told. And, well…
“I don’t know if I want to take them anymore,” you told her.
Dr. Ophelia’s brow creased ever so slightly. “Why is that?”
“They give me…like, these really intense nightmares,” you explained.
And they did. Nightmares were one of your symptoms, but these were worse than any you had had before.
“When I wake up, I’m either drenched in cold sweat or I can’t move at all. Like I’m petrified.”
“What sorts of things do you see?” she asked.
You told her about most of the ones you remembered: standing in an elevator, riding it to the top of a skyscraper, only to have the floor suddenly vanish under your feet. You plummeted down, down, down, going under the basement and into total darkness. But you still kept falling. And you heard the snapping of moist, ravenously hungry jaws. The soft cackles of the demons that awaited your arrival.
Next, there was the one with the butcher shop. You were lying on the table behind the counter, numb, broken-boned, and helpless. You heard a customer ask for a pair of skinless drumsticks, meaning yours. The butcher chopped your legs into pieces and splattered the ceiling with your blood. He yanked the skin of your legs off, wrapped your disembodied thighs in paper, and presented them with a flourish to the happy customer.
Finally, there was one with the lady in the mirror: a withered crone. She had a face that wrinkled and sagged so much, it looked like it was made of melted wax. The sight of her disgusted you so much, you swung your fist into the glass and shattered it. Her reflection haunted each of the framed pictures in the room, and you smashed them all. When you looked down at the pieces of glass, you saw the crone’s reflection was your own. Revulsed and horrified, you seized one of the larger pieces of glass that lay on the floor and-
“That’s enough, dear,” Dr. Ophelia interrupted. “You mustn’t overexert yourself. Remember to breathe.”
You closed your eyes and breathed in through your nose and out through your mouth.
“So,” you began after clearing your throat. “Can you change my prescription?”
“Yes, if that’s what you want,” she said with a nod. “I think you’re doing fine, but we can certainly increase the dose by fifty percent.”
“What?!” you cried, unable to contain yourself. “No, I don’t want a higher dose! I don’t want to take those pills at all!”
“Oh, darling,” she said. “That is not an option. You are doing wonderfully. Look.”
Dr. Ophelia turned her pad around so you could see it. She had sketched each of the scenes you had described in vivid, excruciating detail. Your jaw dropped and you felt the color drain out of your face.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” she said, grinning.
She tore each page out of the pad and added them to your manila file. When she opened it, you saw that there was another ink drawing of you in there: of your face contorted in anguish and terror.
“You don’t need to be cured. You simply need to be nurtured.”
“You’re sick!” you snapped at her.
“Alas, I am not,” she replied. “And some may say that you are, but not me.”
You got up. “I’m leaving. I never want to see you again. I’m getting out of here!”
Dr. Ophelia got up and frowned. “No,” she said. “You are not.”
She raised her voice and yelled for the nurses. You opened the door to try and make a break for it before they arrived, but there they were. With a gurney. You tried to fight them, but Dr. Ophelia helped them strap you down. But she raised your head up off the gurney.
“This patient needs to be sedated,” Dr. Ophelia told the nurses, handing them a bottle of grey pills from her coat pocket.
“Administer a double dose.”
Credit: R. Heath
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