This story falls into the same vein of the two before. Night Time Wanderer is a story I crafted specifically for No Sleep. I enjoyed writing this story more than the last two and I think it has a little more...meat.
I knew they loved me. My mother. My father. My sister, Vera. I knew they cared for me and just wanted the best for me. I'm the one that was broken. The one that isn't right. Normal people don't hear talking in their head. They don't hear screams in the dead of night that no one else hears. They don't catch snippets of conversation from people out in the middle of nowhere, while they are completely alone.
No. I'm the one that was broken. It came as no surprise when they finally sent me to St. Mary's. I fought and kicked and screamed. Yelled that they didn't love me. That there were other ways. I grabbed Vera as they pulled me out the door and she gave me big watery eyes and said nothing.
The drugs they gave me there...they were more...potent then the ones I was on at home. Three blue capsules in the morning. One red and blue in the afternoon and two horse sized red ones at night, right before bed. They made me sick at first. I'd spit the pills out or force myself to vomit. It wasn't long before I was strapped down and fed the pills forcefully. I learned it was better if I just did it myself and when they trusted me again I followed the rules.
I was prone to walking around the hospital or outside, on the grounds. Back, behind the hospital was a beautiful little garden that was maintained by the patients. I had my own patch of struggling tulips. They said it was good to have patients work on something that helped take their mind of their condition.
I hated that, but they were right. The pills, the garden, the therapy sessions and the walks. They were all working. The screams and voices all began to fade. Slowly at first, where I wasn't even sure it was happening. Then more obviously. I could sleep again. I could speak without tripping up after hearing someone counter me. I was getting better.
I began to take walks at night. Yes. That is against the rules, but I managed to get my room's door open and am pretty silent on my feet. I'd stalk through the darkened patient halls and avoid the well lit nurse stations, sticking to the shadows.
One night, I got out into the garden. I wanted to hear the night. Does that make sense? I wanted to just hear the night air and rustling tree limbs. I wanted to hear the bubbling little stream in the garden that was kept shallow because they didn't want the patients trying to drown themselves. I wanted to hear what the world sounded like without the screams.
And then I hear a hum. A familiar tune. A lullaby. At first I was terrified. Had the voices returned? My fears were quickly assuaged when I noticed a person, in a patient's gown, kneeling in the garden. Her long black hair flowing down her back while her hands carefully tended a something in the garden, her face was turned away.
Another night time wanderer. I walked down the trail toward her and noticed that the fear I felt earlier begin to come back. The hairs on my arms began to raise and by the time I had reached arm distance to her my stomach felt like it was doing somersaults. She stopped moving and it was then I realized what was upsetting me.
Quickly she stood from her crouched position and turned to me. Her mouth was open in a sneer.
I couldn't scream. I didn't have the breath to do it. The woman, the thing that was facing me, was me! Except she wasn't. No eyes. No nose. No ears. Just a mouth and lips, but I knew that she was me. I recognized the shape of my own face. The small mole where my left eyebrow should be.
I turned and ran. My steps were hushed by the grass. I heard her behind me, but I didn't look back. I entered the building and a hand like a vice wrapped around my arm. I finally found my voice. I screamed. I tried to pull away, but another arm wrapped around me and held me.
"Calm down Jessica, calm down!" It's Leo. One of the orderlies.
I began to calm down. He chides me for being out, but tells me he won't tell the nurses, if I won't scream again. He walked me back to my room and locked me in. I sat. Knees up. Staring at the door. Waiting for the other me to enter.
She never does.
From then on things begin to get worse. I stopped wandering at night. The voices didn't come back, but it would take people a few moments to notice me when I entered a room. When I spoke I'd have to repeat things for people to hear me. I started feeling weaker. Colors were losing their luster, turning grey, white and black.
I knew it was her. I knew she was responsible.
The day I wasn't brought medicine, offered food, or spoken too, I decided I'd find her and take my life back. Night came and I ran through the halls. I stopped when I reached a nurse's station and just stood there waiting for her to see me. Waiting for her to yell at me and send me back to my room.
Nothing. She even glanced up once and my heart fluttered, but she just looked back down to her computer. I ran.
The night air was getting chilly. I didn't mind. I saw the wind blowing harder then that night, rustling the trees, but I didn't feel it. The grass didn't prickle my feet. I reached the garden path and thought briefly, about turning back, but I forged ahead. When I reached the spot she was in, I stopped.
Nothing. She wasn't there. I waited. I couldn't bare it. If that thing came down the path...
Something in the garden caught my eye. I crouched down by my tulips and brushed dirt off a small music box. The girl that works the patch next to me uses this little box to help her calm down before she goes into fits. She lost it a few days ago. I knocked some of the dirt off and began to turn the crank. A small lullaby began to flow out. The same one I had heard that night. The grass behind me crunched.
I drop the box and stand and stare at her in anger. There she is again. Me, but her face is there. Eyes. Nose. Mouth. It's what I see when I look in the mirror. She has become me! She turned to run. I follow. She ducked into the hospital. I was right behind and when I reached out, just as she turned a corner, she slams into Leo.
"What did I tell you about getting out? I'll have to report tonight, Jessica." He took her by the wrist and hauled her back to her room. I followed behind them, but stop when I pass a handwash station and my reflection in the mirror catches me off guard. The thing looked back. Her lack of face is...my face. I reached up and touched it, feeling the smooth skin where my eyes should be. Where my nose should be. I scream and nothing comes out.
I've found my way home again. Vera has a light around her. No one seems to notice it. No one sees me. I can't effect the world anymore. Jessica, the other me, comes home. Everyone is happy. I scream and Vera looks up. Like she hears something. I've been screaming, now, for a year. Vera, can hardly sleep anymore. Her parents are talking about sending her to St. Mary's. It did wonders for Jessica. I keep screaming.
She'll go to the hospital. She'll take the drugs.
And then I'll take her place.