Like You’re Under Sedation
Jensen sits on the window seat that overlooks the front yard, one foot on the ground and the other in front of him on the wide bench so he can rest his chin on his knee. Even though he hasn’t been here long, this has already become his spot in the common room. He spends all his free time here, watching, and waiting.
“Hey kid, you wanna play some cards?”
Jensen turns from his scrutiny of the hedgerow. A tall, beefy boy with brown hair in a crew cut style is standing there, a deck of playing cards held casually in one hand.
They don’t allow electronics in here, no game systems, not even cell phones. Jensen has seen the other boys playing cards, board games, table tennis, even volleyball with the net out back. None of those things interest him though.
“No,” he says in the dull voice that seems to be the only tone he’s capable of and goes back to gazing out the window.
He’s not sure exactly how long he’s been in this place, maybe a couple days. Long enough for Jared to come if he was going to.
Your misery is delicious...wait for me...I‘ll find you
The voice inside his head croons to him constantly. Jensen doesn’t really see any reason to fight it anymore. He listens and he waits. Time passes, unheeded.
His name spoken loudly pierces the fog, makes its way past the incessant susurrations that whisper, taunt, and cajole. Jared is the only person he wants to see and Jared isn’t the one who just said his name, but the insistent inflection brings Jensen’s head around nonetheless.
“Jensen, you really shouldn’t let yourself zone out like that. Hasn’t Doctor Speight explained about dissociative behaviors? You should try interacting with some of the other boys.”
The woman speaking to him works here. Jensen recognizes her wavy, brown hair and kind eyes, but he doesn’t remember her name or what her role here is. She might be a nurse? He doesn’t care enough to find out.
He nods because it’s probably what she wants him to do and goes back to watching the front lawn, good arm wrapped around the leg he has drawn up in front of himself. A piece of the driveway is visible from this window. If Jared comes...
There’s a disappointed huff of air from behind him. “Jensen, please look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Oh, he’d thought they were done. He lifts his head again listlessly.
She stares at him intently for a moment, brown eyes sharp and measuring. “The medication you’ve been prescribed might be too strong,” she says, a concerned frown wrinkling her brow. “Take these for now and I’ll talk to your doctor.” She hands him a small, paper cup with three pills in it and another cup of water.
The oblong one he recognizes as a pain pill. The other two are round. He’s not sure what they’re for. It doesn’t really matter and taking them will get her to leave him alone, so he upends the paper cup over his mouth and swallows all three pills with a slug of water.
“That’s good, Jensen.” She takes back both cups and smiles. “Lunch starts in ten minutes and after that you have a therapy session with Doctor Speight.”
The ache in his shoulder throbs. Wincing, he reaches over to massage the joint through the sling. He remembers the last time he saw Jared; how carefully Jared had removed his shirt and helped him get dressed; how his touch made the monster’s voice go away. “Can I...Can I make a phone call?”
“Who do you want to call, hun?”
“My boyfr-” He stops. Is Jared still his boyfriend? Are they even still friends? “I want to call Jared,” he says in a small voice.
“Jared. Isn’t that the boy you tried to call yesterday?”
He bites down on his lower lip, nods. He didn’t have Jared’s cell number memorized, so he’d called the Padalecki’s listed home phone. No one had picked up. Or returned his call.
“Oh, Jensen. His mother has asked... Um, not today.” She pauses, thinking. “You know, there are several other boys here your age. Maybe you could make friends with one of them.”
Your world beckons me...such sweet despair...so ripe
“What do you mean, ‘your world’?” Jensen asks. The monster has never mentioned a different world before. Jensen has tried communicating with it off and on over the past couple days, asking it questions. It never answers him directly. Still, every once in a while, it says something that makes him curious enough to try again.
“Jensen? Who are you talking to?”
Glancing up, he catches the nurses appraising eyes. He’d forgotten she was still there.
“It,” he states simply.
“It? The voice you hear?” Her tone is carefully neutral. “What is it saying to you right now?”
He’s been telling the truth ever since he got here, even though no one believes him. They make no secret of it, explaining that he’s been traumatized and the voice he hears is simply a manifestation of that trauma. It isn’t real. That’s what they keep telling him. He knows they’re wrong.
The doorway is closed...hate it...hate it here
“It says a lot of things, a lot of the same stuff over and over again, mostly about how it likes sadness and despair. Right now, it’s talking about a closed door and how it hates to be there.”
She makes a speculative humming noise like she has just come across an interesting new species of butterfly. “I’m sure Dr. Speight has already explained this to you, Jensen. You aren’t stuck here forever. You’re young and strong. There’s no reason why you can’t get better and live a happy, productive life.” The smile she gives him is falsely bright and cheery.
It’s not like Jensen doesn’t know what she’s thinking. He may feel like heavy fog obscures his senses most of the time now, but he isn’t stupid. She thinks the voice he hears is part of him, his subconscious. He knows differently. It’s not him saying that he feels trapped here. It’s the monster who’s trapped somewhere. It wants to get free. Not him. Jensen doesn’t really care where he is or whether he’ll ever get out. There’s nowhere for him to go anyway.
“Why don’t you make your way over to the dining room? Lunch is almost ready.” She puts out a hand, but is careful not to touch him. No one touches him here, not even a comforting pat on the back.
Despite the other boys in the room, lunch is a solitary affair for Jensen. Some of the others sit at the same table as him because there aren’t enough tables for him to have one to himself. They pretty much leave him alone though. He’s the newest arrival and, once he made it clear he wasn’t interested in joining one of their groups, they lost interest in him.
The tray in front of him holds a carton of milk, a bowl of fruit salad, two breaded fish sticks and some fries. He didn’t pick this meal; everyone gets the same thing. Even at school, he’d had some choices. Not here. Not that it matters. He’s not hungry. He nibbles on a fry.
Doors upon doors...doors without end...all locked
“Are you gonna eat your fruit?”
Jensen contemplates a spot on the wall, the fry remains forgotten in his hand. The monster’s voice continues to drone, and Jensen gets lost in the buzzing whisper.
“Hey! What’s wrong with you, freak? Can’t you hear? I asked if you were gonna eat your fruit!”
The boy’s loud question catches his attention. The monster’s voice fades into the background.
“You can have it.”
Without a second glance, the kid swipes the bowl from his tray.
Jensen goes back to staring at the wall.
The doctor’s office is modest in size and sparsely furnished. A blue folder and a pen lay on the desk which is otherwise uncluttered. Forest landscapes in every shade of green and brown adorn the walls.
“Jensen, I have some good news for you. Your aunt will be coming by to see you tomorrow and she’s bringing your sister, Mackenzie.” Doctor Speight steeples all of his fingers together and presses his index fingers against his close-lipped smile.
“Mackenzie is coming?” He hasn’t seen his sister since before that night. She’d been at her friend’s house, and Jensen is beyond glad she wasn’t at home when the monster attacked. “And Aunt Samantha?”
“Yes, I believe your aunt got in last night. She’ll be here tomorrow afternoon.” The doctor sits back in his chair, propping one ankle on his other knee.
“Is she coming to get me? Will Mackenzie and I be going home with her?” He thinks he would like that. Ever since he got to this place, things have been so muddled.
Which light is yours?...I search for you...where are you?
“That’s something we can discuss. First, I want to talk to you about the voices you hear.”
Concentrating on what the doctor wants from him is hard. The monster hisses and stammers out partial phrases and nonsense words all the time. It’s easier to lose himself in the constant muttering, to just float along like a paper boat adrift in a slow-moving stream. He doesn’t feel like he’s in control of anything, and that doesn’t bother him the way he thinks maybe it should.
“Jensen, did you hear me? I asked you about the voices. Tell me more about them.”
Jensen pulls himself up from the slouch he’d adopted upon first sitting in the chair in front of his doctor’s desk. “I don’t hear voices.”
Eyebrows drawn together, Doctor Speight drops his foot to the floor and leans forward in his chair. “Are you saying the antipsychotic medication you’ve started taking is working? You’re not hearing voices anymore? That’s marvelous. It’s only been a week. It usually takes longer-”
“No, I mean I don’t hear voices; I hear one voice - the monster’s voice. The one that killed my parents. Remember? I told you about it. It killed my parents and then it tried to kill me, only it couldn’t.”
The doctor returns to his previous position, ankle on knee, his expression schooled into professional interest. He opens the blue folder, flipping through the sheaf of papers. “Right, right, you did tell me that. But Jensen, you do know that there are no such things as monsters, right?”
“Monsters do exist. I saw one.” Jensen’s gaze wanders to the oil painting behind his doctor’s head. Within the depths, among the tree trunks where sunlight cannot penetrate the leafy canopy, a dark figure lurks.
“I have no doubt you saw something horrific the night your parent’s were killed. Something so horrible that your mind is trying to protect you from it by creating this monster.”
What the doctor is saying makes no sense. “Nothing could be more horrible than the monster. Nothing.”
Doctor Speight clears his throat. “As I was saying before, antipsychotic medication can take a while to work. It’s not a one size fits all type of situation. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Usually there’s a period of trial and error before we can zero in on the course that works best for an individual patient. Nurse Ferris is concerned that what we have you on now may be exacerbating some of your other symptoms. I’ll make a few changes to your evening regimen and we’ll see how you react to the new course.”
Leaving off his contemplation of the painting, Jensen blinks slowly. “Medication won’t help me because I’m not hearing nonexistent voices. I’m hearing a real voice. The monster is talking to me. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I do know I’m not crazy.”
“No one’s saying you’re crazy.” A genuine look of compassion on his face, Doctor Speight leans forward again. “How about this, you give medicine a chance. Give me a couple months. I think you’ll start to see things differently if you do. By the time the school year starts up in the fall, I bet you’ll be feeling much better. What do you say? Will you give me a chance?”
A vague sense of disappointment surfaces. “Does that mean I can’t go with my aunt? I have to stay here?”
“Oh, no. When I say ‘me’ I’m referring to the collective medical profession. I’d be happy to treat you here, Jensen. But the decision will be up to your aunt as your legal guardian. I can refer you to another psychiatrist who would be able to continue your treatment if she decides to move you elsewhere.”
That thought isn’t exactly comforting. Jensen can’t bring himself to care much though.
“So, what do you say? Will you give medicine a fair trial?”
Jensen shrugs. He has nothing to lose.
The house is utterly dark, windows and doors boarded over. A scrapping sound bounces and echoes from all directions, like he’s standing at the bottom of a canyon. Straining his eyes against the pitch black, Jensen turns in a slow circle.
“Who’s there?” His voice sounds tissue-paper thin.
A dry, brittle laugh comes from behind him. The smell of rotting flesh and fetid body odor wafts by on a current of hot air.
He flings a hand out, and it slaps against a hard, smooth surface. A wall. Heart beating frantically and lungs pulling in heaving gulps of air, one after another, like a bellows, he fumbles for a light switch.
The scraping sound gets closer.
His hand brushes against the light switch and, with a cry of relief, he flips it on. The sudden burst of light he expects doesn’t occur. Instead, the bulb overhead emits a buzzing, static-like hiss and a weak flicker that creates more shadows than illumination.
Like autumn leaves blowing across a sidewalk, the humorless laughter comes from behind him again.
Jensen spins around. An inky-black shadow surges up from the floor, its shape morphing from one horror movie cliché to the next. One minute it’s a werewolf with snapping, slavering jaws, its wickedly sharp claws outstretched. The next it’s a serial murderer, chainsaw slung over its shoulder and a hockey mask covering its face. It settles on a Godzilla-like creature, covered in slime.
Panic grips him in a vice as the monster continues rising upwards, growing more and more massive. Simultaneously, Jensen begins to shrink. Every time the light strobes on, the monster is bigger and he is smaller. He looks for a weapon, anything he can use to fight, to inflict even a modicum of damage. There’s nothing. The room is empty.
Reaching out a clawed hand bigger than a refrigerator, the creature scoops him up. He struggles wildly, flings himself from side to side, throws punches, thrashes, and bucks. Nothing helps. The fist begins closing around him, squeezing the air from his lungs, squeezing the life from his body. In a last ditch effort, Jensen opens his mouth and screams.
“Shut up, asshole. I’m trying to sleep over here.”
“Leave him alone, Brock. Can’t you see he’s having a nightmare.”
“Yeah, you should know all about that, Colin. You’ve woken me up enough times with your hysterical crying.”
Jensen’s eyes pop open. He’s lying on the floor, his sheets tangled around his waist. Someone is screaming bloody murder. No, not someone. It’s him. He is screaming bloody murder.
Both his roommates are staring at him from their beds, blinking sleepily in the light of a small bedside lamp.
“Hey, are you okay?”
He stops yelling and gets up off the floor. Without saying a word, he gets back in bed, rolling over to face the wall. After a while, the light turns off. The only sound in the room is his labored breathing, until one of the other boys mutters, “Figures I’d get stuck with another freak as a roommate.”
Jensen spends the rest of the night staring into the darkness and shivering as the monster whispers its threats.
Pretty boy...got away once...won’t get away again
Jensen is sitting in his customary spot in the common room, watching the sliver of driveway that’s visible from his perch, when they pull up. He watches them walk up the front path to the door.
Mackenzie’s hair is pulled back in a ponytail, emphasizing her drawn features. Her eyes are downcast. Aunt Samantha has an arm draped over her shoulders as though Mackenzie needs encouragement just to put one foot in front of the other. She looks miserable. The sight of her reawakens Jensen’s protective instincts.
His Aunt has dark circles under her eyes. Her long, blond hair hangs lank around her face. She looks...wrung out. He supposes that losing a child and an older sister will do that to a person.
Look what losing his parents has done to him.
Soon after they leave his field of vision to enter the building, one of the staff, an older man with a closely trimmed beard more grey than any other color, comes into the room with what’s left of Jensen’s family trailing behind him.
“There he is. Just like I told you. We always know where to find him.” The man beams at Jensen like he’s a well-trained dog. “Well, I’m sure you have lots to talk about, so I’ll just leave you to it. If you need anything, come find me. I’ll probably be at the front desk where you checked in.”
“That’s very kind of you,” his aunt murmurs.
Neither Aunt Samantha or Mackenzie have looked directly at him yet. Mackenzie’s mouth is scrunched up like she’s about to cry. When her eye’s finally dart up to his face, Jensen can see they’re red-rimmed. He tries to remember how to smile so he can reassure her, but before he can, she looks back at the floor. It makes him want to give her a hug, tell her that it’ll be alright, even though he doesn’t believe that himself.
He thinks maybe he should stand up, great them properly. He lowers his foot from the seat in front of him to the ground. Everything seems to be moving in slow-motion, especially him. As he stands, he gets lightheaded, possibly from lack of sleep. He never did fall back asleep last night. The room dips and his foot catches on thin air. He stumbles, catches himself, and looks up to find his aunt staring at him, mouth drawn into a tight line.
“Hi Aunt Sam. I’m so sorry about Isabella.” He turns to his sister and takes a jerky step forward, good arm held out at his side. “Hey Mackie.”
Mackenzie cringes back behind his aunt.
Jensen doesn’t understand. Why would she do that? They’ve never been close siblings, never hung out together or had much in common, but she’s never been afraid of him before. He lowers his arm, awkward and unsure. Doesn’t look like he’s going to get a hug from either his aunt or his sister, which is a shame. If Jared were here, he’d probably give him a hug. Jared gives good hugs. Jensen wonders what Jared is doing right now. Is he working on his graphic novel? He’s such a good artist. A damn good artist.
“Jensen,” Aunt Samantha’s clipped tone catches his attention. “Sit down, please. You look like you’re about to fall over.”
He sits, looking between the two remaining members of his family. “Have you come to take me back to your house. Are we going to live in Wyoming with you now? Can I...can I stop at Jared’s to let him know where I’ll be?” He doesn’t mean to blurt all that out. It’s probably not polite to just invite himself into her life like that. Maybe he should have waited for her to bring it up first. But things are just too hazy and, lately, he gets easily confused.
His aunt sighs. The lines around her mouth soften. “Are they helping you here? Are they treating you for...” She waves her hand around in an all-encompassing gesture. “I hear this is one of the best facilities in the country. It certainly seems nice. The staff...well, the ones I’ve met anyway, all seem very nice.”
He can see where this is going, can see the writing on the wall. She doesn’t have to say another word. It’s clear he won’t be going to live with them in Wyoming. He’s slow to answer, but when he does, his voice is firmer than it had been in a while. No point making this any harder than it has to be. “Yes, they are.”
“That’s good, Jensen, because you’ve got to know...this story you’ve been telling everyone, about a monster killing Donna and Alan, it’s nonsense. You know that, don’t you?” The words start coming faster, more shrill, and any pretense of concern for his well-being evaporates. “Are you doing it on purpose? Are you lying to cover up for someone? Do you know who did it and so you made up this wild story to throw the police off their trail. Because I don’t get it. I just don’t understand why you’re doing this.” Her hand flies up to her mouth as if she can physically reel the words back in and swallow them.
Shocked, Jensen stares at her, unblinking. He’s so numb he doesn’t feel the tears roll down his cheeks.
Eyes wide, his aunt says, “I didn’t mean that. Jensen, I’m sorry.”
His gaze slides around the common room, landing on the card tables and the television and the ping pong table, anywhere but on his family. “So, you want me to stay here?”
“Just until you’re better. It’s for your own good.”
Jensen thinks her words are more for her benefit than his. She just doesn’t want to think of herself as the kind of person who would abandon family. But she doesn’t want him. Doesn’t want the hassle and the trouble of dealing with someone as messed up and broken as him.
“Mackenzie will come live with me and when your doctor says you’re ready, you’re welcome to come as well. Your parents had life insurance. It’ll pay for you to stay here as long as you need.”
Anger wells up in him. It burns away some of the fog. “That’s good then, isn’t it?” he sneers. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine.” Dismissing them, he turns away to gaze out the window again. He doesn’t need them. He can handle this by himself. Somehow, he’ll find a way.
“It’s just until you get better,” his aunt repeats. There’s a long moment of silence, like she doesn’t think she should leave it like that, but doesn’t know what else to do. Eventually she sighs and says, “Goodbye Jensen.”
He waits a few minutes and, when he looks over his shoulder, they’re gone.
His sister never said a single word to him, not even goodbye.
Yes...give in...don’t fight it...your sadness pulls me closer
Through the lens of his new-found anger, the monster’s words take on a more sinister quality, and Jensen recognizes them for the threat they are. Up until this point, he’s been giving the monster exactly what it wants.
Well, no more. It’s time to fight.
Link to Chapter 13
Link to the Master Post