Sunday January 10th, 2016

The exercise:

Daily Writing Practice's yearlong prompt tradition began in 2013 when I introduced you to Mejaran.

It continued in 2014 when Greg brought us to Vancouver Irrealis.

2015 saw me invite you to visit The Colony.

It's 2016 and the tradition must continue. So, for only the second time in this blog's 7.5 year history, the words below are not Mine. They are Morganna's.

Without further ado, I'll allow her to introduce us to the House of Mercy.


Julie sat at the tiny table in the tiny apartment kitchen and held the knife to her wrist. She admired the silvery blade gleaming against her skin. She imagined slicing downward, watching the warm, red blood well out until she passed out and died. She pressed down. The apartment door opened and her roommate came in.

"Julie!" screamed her roommate, Anne. Anne ran into the kitchen, grabbed the knife from Julie, and stared at her, panting. "That's it! That's the second time this week. I'm checking you into the mental hospital."

Julie stared at her dully. Things were changing.

Anne ran into Julie's bedroom and grabbed an overnight bag. She quickly threw a week's worth of clothing in, along with Julie's toothbrush. She zipped it closed and ran back to the kitchen. She grabbed her friend's arm. 

"Come on. You're getting in the car." Julie did not resist as Anne led her out of the apartment and into her car.

When they reached House of Mercy Psychiatric Hospital on the other side of town Julie nodded at everything Anne said, signed when told to sign, and was soon bundled off to a room for an extended stay.

Anne hesitated at the front desk. "She will be all right, won't she?" she asked the front desk clerk.

The clerk looked up. "Of course she will, honey. Now, we'll give you a call in a few weeks when she's ready to go home. Until then, you don't need to worry about a thing. We'll take good care of your friend."

Anne nodded and went out to her car, glancing behind her as she went. She knew this was the right thing to do, but somehow something didn't feel right.

The next morning, Julie woke up in a bright, white hospital room with sunlight pouring in. She smiled and stretched before she remembered what she was doing there. Before she could worry about the wreck of her plans, the door opened. A breakfast tray came through the opening, carried by a giant lizard in a white coat. "Here's your breakfast, sweetie," croaked the lizard.

Julie gasped. "You're a lizard! I can't eat breakfast brought by a giant lizard."

The lizard glared at her. "I'm not a lizard! Now eat your breakfast."


Marc said...

A big thank you to Morganna for agreeing to get us started this year. Let's see where it goes from here!


Julie stared at the silver dish cover on the middle of the tray the giant lizard had left on her bedside table. He'd left in quite the huff after their brief, awkward conversation. She hoped she hadn't offended him.

"Don't be stupid," she muttered. "Lizards don't have feelings. Not even giant ones."

Or did they? Maybe just the ones that could talk? She hadn't met one of those before.

"I've lost my mind." Julie's legs gave way and she sat down heavily on her bed. "I must have been hallucinating." She thought about that for a few moments. "I've never done that before though."

It was probably just a bad reaction to her new medication. She was on medication now, right? Had they given her anything last night before putting her to bed? That didn't seem totally safe to Julie. What if she'd been allergic to whatever they'd given her? They would've had a big lawsuit on their hands, that's what.

But she couldn't remember being on the receiving end of any needles or pills. In fact, she couldn't remember much at all of the previous evening. Anne had been there, hadn't she? Yes. Who else would have cared enough to check her into a nuthouse? Certainly not Doug. He wouldn't have wanted to get any crazy on his leather car seats.

Poor Anne. Julie had put her through so much over the last month. Too much, for someone who'd only been her roommate for less than a year. Her friend for even less than that.

A growling in her belly drew Julie's attention back to the present moment. She looked again at the hidden breakfast dish. What had the giant lizard brought her?

No. She had to stop thinking thoughts like that. What had the man brought her? Something bland, probably. That's what they served in places like this, right? No cutlery, probably. Wouldn't want her to try cutting herself again, or forking her eyes out, or whatever.

Despite the urgings of her empty stomach, she couldn't make herself reach for the dish cover. What if she hadn't been hallucinating? What if it really was a lizard that had served her? What kind of food would a creature like that expect her to eat?

"I think it's probably for the best," Julie said as she lay back down, "if I just don't eat. For now."

Greg said...

Oh wow, this is good! I wasn't sure what to expect from the title, but as Morganna opened the piece I began to suspect – though I was still wondering about a nunnery – and then we were whisked off to save a woman's life. I like the scene-setting especially, Morganna, with the knife and the reference to the multiple attempts. And then the twist at the end... I still don't know quite what to make of that!
@Marc: I like how you've expanded the character and started to fill in the background a little, so that we can see how she became who she is. Doug seems like he might be a problem later on, but Anne's supportive at least. And I like how you've handled the reaction to the lizard... or hallucination... or whatever it might be.

Julie was sure that she hadn't meant to fall asleep again, but she was opening her eyes and feeling muzzy-headed, and someone was shaking her shoulder. Not hard, not mean, just – persistent. She tried to shrug them off, it must be Anne she thought, but they just kept shaking and pausing, shaking and pausing. Her eyes finally opened all the way and focused, and she screamed and tried to throw herself off the bed.
"You're all tucked in, love," observed the plump, rosy-cheeked woman who was sitting on a stool by her pillow and had been shaking her shoulder. "They tuck those sheets tight, you'll have to loosen them first."
Julie could feel herself shaking, and when she tugged at the sheets – if they'd been any tighter she'd have suffocated! – her hands felt too weak to pull them loose. The woman at her bed was the spitting image of her grandmother, who'd lived to be 84 and had died last year.
"Granny?" she said, still tugging ineffectually at the sheets.
"No dear," said the woman, smiling. "Though I get that a lot. I'm Babs. I do psychiatric evaluations. And," she leaned in a little with a twinkle in her eye, "I shouldn't tell you this, but not eating your breakfast when it's brought means I'm supposed to tick the box on the form that says you might be anorexic."
Julie stared down the bed: there was the silver cloche on the china plate still sitting on the little arm-mounted table on wheels that could roll alongside the bed and put itself right in front of the patient. She tugged at the sheets still, but she was getting hot and tired now, and the depression was rolling back in like a grey fog: why was she even bothering.
"I couldn't eat it," she said. "A lizard brought it."
"Mr. Richards? He won't like you calling him a lizard, dear. You didn't...?"
Julie stopped tugging at the sheets and tried to slide under them instead, but they were too tight even for that.
"Oh dear," said Babs. "That'll have to go down on your form as well. What are you actually in for?"
"I don't know what Anne said," said Julie. Babs looked at her with the kind of gaze a mother saves for a willfully naughty child.
"I didn't ask what you were brought in under," she said. "I asked what you were in for."
"Depression," said Julie in a small voice.
"And why are you depressed?"
There was a long silence while Julie thought unpleasant thoughts about idiots who asked stupid questions, but as her rage subsided and the familiar emptiness reasserted itself, another thought came into her head, and she was so tired she just said it out loud. "I keep seeing giant animals that can talk."
"There, that wasn't so hard, was it?" said Babs. "I've got to see other patients, but I'll be back later. Eat your breakfast dear, before we have to fill the forms in."

Greg said...

Just a quick extra note to clarify that Julie isn't contradicting what Marc wrote about not having met a giant talking animal before, she's just overgeneralising about having seen the one! If she were less depressed, she'd probably not say it at all because she'd think it was sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping I could upload this earlier but I was in new employee orientation all day, working on the prompt during the breaks. I'm glad I can still use what I wrote after Greg's, with only some slight alterations.


The rest of the day followed that morning. Julie continued to see things that, in all honesty, shouldn’t be there.
Why would a large, black rabbit in a white coat, who sounded suspiciously like Babs, hand out medication? She should be handing out carrots if anything. Or maybe she should be eating all the carrots? No, not a rabbit, then.
Julie hoped the brightly colored pills the rabbit gave her would calm her strange, otherworldly visions, but they seemed to only make matters worse.
The white walls of the hospital swirled in sparking tide pools whenever she walked from her room to the common room. Chairs void of everything save air suddenly grew voice boxes, proclaiming their inner thoughts and desires to the world around them. There was one woman-Lucky? Lily?—whose head was three sizes too big. Another man—Adam? Aaron?—who had two faces! Just like the theatrical masks hanging on Anne’s bedroom wall, one face was always in the midst of weeping while the other was elated almost to the point of bursting.
But walls were solid—they were incapable of swallowing her up. Chairs were just objects and couldn’t think or want much less voice anything at all. Heads came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but never that big, and people could only have one face.
She knew there was something wrong with her, she truly did. Julie just wished it would all go away, that she could simply blink her eyes and the hospital’s stark walls would magically fade into the light beige of her apartment, with her and Anne watching The Big Bang Theory on their brown, lumpy sofa.
Julie even tried to slowly blink, hoping she could will her dreams into reality. But, just like the talking chairs and guy with two faces, she could tell it wasn’t real and couldn’t possibly happen.

Marc said...

Greg - thanks! Glad to have you on board for another year :)

I like the introduction of Babs into the story, with the potentially troubling detail that she looks so similar to Julie's deceased granny.

Who knows what's really going on here, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

Ivy - glad to have you along for the year as well!

You've got some great imagery in here and I like the progress of Julie's thoughts. There are more hints that something isn't quite right here, but it still leaves the possibility that it's all to do with Julie and the staff are just trying to help.

And we're off on another 12 month journey!