by Alison McPherson

Alison McPherson is a fiction writer and prose poet from Oakland, California. They have been featured in the college literary magazines The Moorpark Review and The Walrus as well as Oakland-based Terrain and a zine trilogy by Ladybox Books. The following piece is an excerpt from their in-progress novella, Him/Them. It’s an experimental piece that details the protagonist's mental processes while suffering from psychosis in a psychiatric hospital.

My thoughts are scattered and I don’t care enough what’s real and what isn’t to sort them out. The door creaks open and yellow light bright as cupcake frosting cuts into the room. There’s no person behind the door. Only a force turns the handle and props it ajar so I will know it’s there.

I run to the window. I see wind shifting through the trees and the fading shades of sundown. There are birds flittering among the branches. They dot the leaves then disappear like light bouncing off of water. I know myself and I know this isn’t normal. Maybe I’m seeing things. Maybe there are no birds. I want to look out of this window and feel hope, see the serenity of nature and know someday I will be free, but what if the birds aren’t real? I’m too tired to care anymore.

This is when I know It has won. It made me crazy and locked me here and made it so that the outside world isn’t real anymore, or half-real, or unknowable even upon contact. There is no contact. It wants to watch the hope die with me. I press one set of fingertips against the cold glass and bend my other wrist inward to trace my collarbone. Tears well in my eyes and wish I wasn’t alive. Thinking something makes it happen. Since I wished for my death, I’m no longer alive. I believe the current condition is all that ever was, that the future unravels the past. Since I died, I never was alive. It’s the zombie apocalypse and no one has ever been alive because they all eventually died. Time works in reverse like this. My thoughts erase the past. I think people will die and they become dead. If only I could stop myself from thinking, people would no longer die. It has made me this way so I know that I’m bad. I’m a murderer spawned by the ultimate malevolent force taunting me as it hunts me down. It’s sadistic joy at my suffering is all that has ever existed, what the universe was created for. People die because I’m fun to scar. This is why I deserve it all. It sounds like scissors sniping in the hall as the vitals cart squeaks by. This confirms I have finally figured it out. These are the fundamental truths. Time to write them down.

It’s here again. It found me here. We’re connected (I can evade it by moving around but it will eventually find me through our link and track me down.). It’s mad I’m telling people. I wanted to hurt myself to appease it (It rewards me with the high.) so I told myself—can’t remember in head or out loud—“Don’t hurt yourself.” Then I remember what that one annoying classmate with the yin yang tattoo (white girl) said about how brains gloss over negations/the “no”

[1. I love dashes! Great grammatical device. V Saussure? Derrida?]

doesn’t stick. So then I told myself  “Be
good to your body today” a few times out loud. I had a panic attack before bed last night and again just now. My ♥ is fucked though (last night rate was 114 and 80-something over 50-something and a nice nurse explained

[2. So pretty! Wish I was her.]

[3. Room mate Raquel just came in & I jumped so hard! Startled. We laughed.]

[4. Anxious the water device will run out of water.]

[5. They want to join together. These brackets. Just like this, like a column. So good they are!]

to me that my ♥ has to beat faster to pump since the pressure is low.) so I can’t take Ativan.

Glad they listened. Today I have drunk more water.

Acid flows through the cavern of my chest. I can’t feel my extremities. As I write I push closer and closer to death. I need to stop writing. I need to calm down. I can’t breathe.

I run to the nurse’s station.

“Excuse me can I please get some Ativan?” I blurt out in one strenuous stream.

“I’m floor staff. Ask a nurse,” a woman in mint-colored scrubs tells me.

“Can you tell me who is a nurse? I can’t tell the difference.”

“Marc,” she calls to her right.

I race to Marc, who’s diligently typing something on a computer.

“What’s wrong, Morgan?”

“I’m anxious. I need Ativan,” I tell him.

“What’s making you anxious, Morgan?”

I can’t tell him It wants to kill me. It will be mad and they will know I’m crazy.

“I don’t know.” I brush the hair from my face and lean on the counter, trying to appear casual. “I was journaling. Now I’m scared.”

“Maybe that’s a sign to stop.” He clicks out of a box on the computer.

“Yes, definitely. That makes sense.” I agree.

“Or maybe that’s just some stuff you have to work through.”

“Oh, yeah. That could be,” I agree again.

This makes me understand how cruel people prey on the sick. We lose faith in ourselves and just want someone to tell us how to make it go away. He hands me a dusty white tablet.

I take the Ativan and sit watching the wall. The grains of plaster create static and misshape the wall into one menacing eye. I realize that It is telling me It’s watching. The Ativan, I think, will make It go away. Maybe I can beat this.

          Layout design by Céline Strolz, Eilis Searson and Will Bindley