16 May A Shadow of My Former Self
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"A Shadow of My Former Self"Written by Megan Thompson
Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
Mad. We were all called that by the “normal” people who lived outside our white padded walls. Believe me, none of us chose this life. It was almost as if we were looking through a mirror and that image of ourselves was moving on its own. We couldn’t stop it, nor could we comprehend it. We were trapped inside our minds. Most of us had been abandoned, while some still had family that would come in on the weekends to bring them some sort of comfort. Me, I was alone. Which made me all that more interesting to the doctors and entrepreneurs of science, but that’s for later.
I was seventeen about to have my eighteenth birthday. My favorite caretaker, Vanessa, had told me we would do something special to celebrate. I grunted a happy response to her as she brushed my long black hair. It was always tangled and wiry, yet somehow she could manage to glide the brush through without making me squeal in pain.
“Bend down a bit so I can reach you,” Vanessa cooed at me. I did as she said and crouched so she could finish brushing my hair. I was apparently tall for my age and stood a head’s length taller than my career.
I tried to move my arms that were bound within the white strapped jacket they had placed on me for trying to claw at my face, so that I could get more comfortable. At first I had thought I was in trouble when they had put it on me. I was told by the headmistress of the institute that it was only for naughty boys and girls and that I should behave. I had immediately retaliated and tried to run out of the room. The guards had expected this reaction and pinned me down. The care taker at the time had inserted a sharp object with a clear liquid into me. I had remembered writhing around until all I could see was black and then nothing. I woke up to Vanessa running her rainbow colored fingertips through my hair and the jacket hugging me tightly. I whined and whimpered hoping she would understand I wasn’t a bad girl. She saw the tears reaming my eyes and had told me it wasn’t my fault I was like this.
Apparently when I was a baby my mother had been abandoned by her boyfriend, or my father to put another term I was vaguely familiar with out there, and had resorted to meth. She had fumigated the house with the wretched smell and it had affected me, but that wasn’t the main reason I lost my ability to function. She was twacked out on whatever she was doing at the time and had forgotten to feed me. I laid on the floor screaming in hopes that it would gain her attention. It had, but in the wrong way. She had gotten sick of it and started to beat me. First a blow to my head with her heel, then a bite to my arm. She had continued until she got the bright idea of choking me. I don’t understand how a baby of only four months could have taken all that I had, but when she wrapped her yellow nails and wrinkled fingers around my neck she had cut off any circulation I had going to my brain. I think I would have honestly had preferred to die instead of having to be in Bluebell Mental Institute, but I didn’t. The police had arrived at the dingy apartment and arrested her thanks to the landowner for coming over to collect his overdue pay.
Vanessa had finished her story and told me not to think of this as punishment, but as a warm hug to keep me safe. Ever since then I had grown to love my jacket and smiled brightly when I had to wear it. I even complained with snarls and growls when anyone tried to take it off. It was my only comfort when Vanessa wasn’t there to do it herself.
Vanessa finished brushing my hair and went to put my shoes on so that I could play outside. I grunted and kicked my feet around in order to keep her from restraining my sense of feel with shoes. She gave me a frustrated look and I grinned knowing she wouldn’t be able to resist the toothy grin that seemed to spread from ear to ear.
“Fine!” she said with an exasperated sigh.
I jumped around giggling and running around my padded room. I bounced myself off of a wall not seeming to understand that I couldn’t walk through it. I sat up in a daze and grinned at Vanessa who was placing her hands on her hips.
“Are you done, little miss?” She teased helping me up. I leaned into her affectionately and rubbed my cheek against hers. She rubbed my back and lead me outside to the fenced in play yard. It wasn’t anything extravagant. Just some flowers, a swing set, they took away the slide when Ashton fell off of it, and that was pretty much it. Others had beat us to the play yard already and were being far too energetic. I noticed the rays of the mid-morning sun glistening in the dew drops that scattered along the grass and decided I would play along. I rolled around in the wet laughing so hard I snorted. Vanessa watched me happily until one of the psychiatric doctors came up to her. It was normal for them to come ever so often to check up on our well being, however I never enjoyed seeing them. I sat up quickly and growled at him bearing my teeth. Vanessa gave me a concerned smile and rose her index finger to signal that she wanted me to wait there so she could see what the doctor wanted.
I sat there very still watching them intently for a few minutes before I became bored. I looked around the yard trying to spot something I could study with my eyes when they fell back to Vanessa. She was very pretty and I admired her curly brown hair and sparkling blue eyes that always had a smile hid in them. As I bounced up and down impatient for her return, I noticed her soft smile quickly curve into a frown. I had never seen her do this unless she was upset, which usually never happened. I stopped bouncing in fear that I had done something wrong to make her upset. The Doctor and her both turned in my direction and she smiled at me, but it felt different. I didn’t take time to think about it because she had started to stride back over to me. I started bouncing up and down happily.
“Go ahead and play sweetie,” She had said with red-stained eyes. Had my mind been clear then I would have know something was wrong, but I didn’t. I went back to rolling around in the grass paying no mind to the world around me.
The night had given me a warm blanket and a kiss on the head from my dearest care taker. She swaddled me so I could have that tight hug feeling without my jacket. With my white tee clinging to my skin, my white slacks, and my bare feet, now scrubbed clean from all the dirt and grime from play time, I lay content as Vanessa read to me.
It was only when she had paused when I looked at her. My room still lit I could see her face contorting. I attempted to sit up in my cocoon of blankets and scared her. She seemed to snap out of it and smiled oddly again.
“Tomorrow is your eighteenth birthday,” she said with a sad tone. I nodded excitedly not understanding the importance of a birthday. She gave another sad smile. “Sleep well pumpkin, you’ll need it.” She left my padded room without another word, turned out the light, and closed the door leaving me in the smothering dark.
As soon as my door opened I sat up in hopes to see Vanessa. That wasn’t the case. The doctor from the other day had appeared in my door way with two guards. I backed up to the wall in fear.
“Don’t worry young lady. My name is Doctor Richard Storm, but you can just remember me as Richie,” The old man held out a wrinkled hand. I stared at him for a long time trying to make out his features with the sliver of light that poked through the open door. He was old and looked very tired. His face had far more wrinkles than I could count, brown splotches, and white tangled hair. He wore a lab coat and formal attire such as what all the care givers wore to work. I poked his hand out of curiosity and he laughed. I blushed feeling as though I had embarrassed myself. Quickly, I remembered my caretaker and scanned the room frantically feeling my breathing quicken. Richie placed a warm hand on my shoulder.
“It’s okay dear. Your carer is waiting for you in the other room.”
My nerves vanished and I grabbed his hand, willing him to take me to see her. He had done just as I wanted leading me through the empty halls. Everyone must have still been asleep for there wasn’t even a pen dropping, just the sound of my feet slapping against the cool, tiled floor. It was much more scary this way and I tried to distract myself by looking at the drawings the other patients had made that were plastered along the walls. Drawings were a loose term for what they actually were. Most were scribbles with the occasional flower. The doctor squeezed my hand with assurance, sensing my unease. With the guards following close behind me, we made our way into a brightly lit room. I shielded my eyes so they could adjust and heard a heavenly giggle. I removed my arms to see Vanessa smiling at me.
I ran to her feeling her arms wrap around my thin frame. Knowing that she was there I felt safe and decided to inspect the room. There was a long metal rollie-thingie with items on it that I wasn’t allowed to touch, a bed type thing with a hinged bright light looming over it, and a sink.
I smiled at Vanessa thinking this was a part of my birthday, and it technically was. The doctor instructed Vanessa to strip me down, underwear and all and put a floral gown on me, but to leave it open in the back. I didn’t understand what was going on and growled at everyone when she tried to take my white shirt off.
“I think she wants her jacket,” Vanessa said looking at the doctor.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that miss,” Richie said with a fake smile.
“Then perhaps you can leave us so I can comfort her some,” Vanessa asked with pleading eyes.
“Fine. You get five minutes.” He said leaving us. Vanessa stripped my clothing off, not making eye contact even once. I patted her head and what I saw horrified me. She had tears streaming down her face causing her eyeliner and mascara to smudge. I started breathing heavily not sure of what to do. I had never seen her be anything but happy around me.
“I’m okay sweetie. It’s just… a big, big day for you,” She smiled wearily. She had just slipped the gown on when the doctor barged back in with the two guards at his side.
“Is she all ready for the procedure?”
“Yes,” Vanessa said looking at her feet.
“Good,” he grabbed my arm and lead me to the bed. He went to the metal rollie thing and started messing around on it. I looked at Vanessa who was smiling again at me. I relaxed some and looked back at the strange doctor. He was holding the same sharp object they had injected into my skin that knocked me out when I had to put my jacket on. I panicked and scrambled off of the bed. The guard closest to the door caught me and slammed me back onto the bed. Vanessa gasped and quickly covered her mouth. I grunted out in pain and stared up at the bright light dazed as they strapped me down.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt,” he smiled at me bringing the sharp object close to my skin. I shook trying to release myself from the restraints. “Darling, it will be just fine, even Vanessa wants this for you,” he whispered. I looked at my carer in dismay. She just stared at me with lifeless eyes and strained a smile. I screamed at her as the needle was injected into my vein and I blacked out.
I had no idea what was happening to me. No idea that just because I was an abandoned adult who couldn’t contribute to society, that, that had made me the perfect candidate for testing. What kind of testing? Testing to cure the crazy. Doctors were searching for a way to fix those whom were mentally ill. Little did I know that yesterday my carer had been informed that it was my turn to give to the community. I was to be their fifty-seventh test subject, for everyone ahead of me had died, and all were test subjects from my institute. We were just kept here like cattle until they didn’t want us anymore. Tormented by the doctors here some had been injected so many times their heart stopped, others had died from the foreign medication they had ingested, but they had something completely different to try on me.
My limp body was rolled into a cylindrical chamber, a small one just big enough for a body, and was enclosed behind a glass door. They were going to try gasses on me. Gasses that were going to somehow increase my brain function and revitalize what I had lost. It was a ludicrous thought that somehow they could mutate my brain, but that’s exactly why it was me they were trying it on.
I lay unconscious as they mixed gas after gas causing my body to convulse even though I was asleep. After so long my lungs screamed for air as bile crawled up my throat and I awoke gasping. I could hear the murmur of the doctor from the other side of the door telling someone to maximize the gas volume. More gas leaked through holes in the chamber of a sickly green color. I choked as blood dripped out of my nose and mouth along with the contents of my dinner. My body shook uncontrollably allowing tears to stream down my face. Screaming out wasn’t an option for my voice was lost to the burning feeling. My last thought was that Vanessa wanted this for me too.
My brain ceased to function and I was pronounced brain dead.
I was stuck in what seemed to be perpetual darkness for a long time, however, everything felt much more clear. I felt like I had some sort of control, as though I was dreaming but aware. I felt something cold brush up against me and pitch black hands grabbed me pulling me to it. I gasped and sat up hitting my head on something hard and cold. I laid back down with a thud and groaned.
“That hurt.” I muttered. My eyes widened when I heard the words I had wanted to say spill from my… lips… but my lips hadn’t moved. I felt around quickly starting to feel claustrophobic. I was trapped in a small metal box. I pushed along the ceiling and heard a click. The metal table I laid on rolled backwards and cool air greeted me. Goosebumps spread across my naked form and I realized my vision wasn’t right. I couldn’t see any color anymore. I looked around frantically and hopped off the metal table when my eyes landed on a young girl standing naked in the middle of the morgue. It was me. I looked down and so did the look-alike, except I no longer looked like myself. Pitch black hands replaced my own. I was the thing attached to my body. I was looking through the eyes of my shadow.
I made my body turn around lazily so I could look at myself. My eyes were clouded over as if I were dead. I felt something wash over me and I laughed. It wasn’t necessarily anger I felt, but more like power. The torture they had put me through not only worked, but it had split my functionality and brought my shadow to life, for it now stood off the ground like a human. I was now in control of two bodies almost like a puppet master and could finally think clearly. I grabbed the white hospital gown off the hanger mounted to the wall smiled to myself.
“Wait until Vanessa se-,” my shadow said speaking for me when we stopped. We thought about the pain, the cold darkness, the betrayal.
“She deserves this too,” my shadow said. “Of course she does, and she should get this special treatment as well just because she’s taken SUCH good care of us,” I thought communicating it to my shadow. A wicked smile spread across my face until the handle to the room started to turn. Quickly I ran behind it and my shadow pooled back into the ground hiding itself. A nurse walked in and spotted the open case. She gasped at the sight, never having this happen before.
I knew I was going to be found out if I didn’t do something quick. I just wanted to slam the metal door in her face, but when my shadow went to help me push the door it came off it’s hinges and crushed the nurse under its heavy weight.
Her blood trickled out from underneath along with chunks of flesh that had splattered from her torso under the pressure. Just down the hall a shrill shriek echoed through the halls. I sent my shadow to look and see who it was. Just another nurse. I couldn’t let her find me out either so I grabbed one of the dissecting knifes off of the metal tray that was placed on the island table in the middle of the room. I ran quickly after the woman. Her hair flowing behind her as she desperately tried to run away. I let out a laugh, so shrill and wicked it didn’t even sound like my own voice anymore. All I could think about was my betrayal.
The nurse ran to the fire alarm and pulled it sounding many bells located throughout the institute. She looked at me in fear as anger crawled to my lifeless eyes. I threw the knife and it landed perfectly into her eyeball. She fell with a thud as blood pooled out of her eye. I must have hit the artery.
“Serves you right!” My shadow mocked her with a laugh. We ran through the halls as carers were frantically trying to lead the patients out into the yard. When some saw me they left their patients and ran trying to escape. I moved my shadow over to one who was almost out the door. The look on their face as I ripped their jaw off with a crack was exhilarating. I tore into more and more. Patients and carers alike fell to the ground as bloody messes. I wasn’t finished yet. I wanted them to feel my pain even after death. I cut into their flesh with my knife, tore their fingers off, skinned their heads, pulled out their eyeballs, and left multiple dissection wounds to their torsos.
It felt SO good. I grabbed at my face smearing the blood into my hair. Rolling in their scraps of stinky flesh. I had never felt so happy, so alive.
“What happened to you?” A shaky voice came from behind me. I bent backwards, arching my back with a sadistic grin on my face to see my beloved carer. She saw me at once and puked. It added to the smell of decaying flesh. I laughed manically and stood up keeping my shadow hidden in the ground.
“What’s wrong?! Isn’t this what you wanted for me?” my shadow spoke from beneath me.
“Who’s saying that?!” Vanessa screamed at me backing away.
“It’s just me.” My shadow continued to speak as I inched closer to her.
“This isn’t you! Please, stop!” She shook panicking.
“Oh don’t worry dear,” my shadow said rising from the ground, “Estelle wants this for you.”
Credit: Megan Thompson