Written By Riva Agarwal (Grade 9)
Working double shifts during the festive season in the December cold was painful. Being the only person living on campus, and not celebrating Christmas at the table with my family for the first time since childhood, made me nauseous. But all these thoughts subsided as I opened my room and walked into the warmth. I took a quick glance around my room, and my eyes caught the yellow bottle of pills staring at me, luring me into taking it. But my willpower made me walk right past it, and I threw my body onto the bed, passing out.
A waft of stale, rotten air made its way up my nose, waking me up with a start. Throwing my hands up to cover my face, I try to get off my bed. But my arms feel something warm wrap around them, like a snake circling an egg, slowly, strongly. Horror thunders inside me as I turn my head to find a man sitting on my bed. The low yellow light highlights the panes of his chiseled face, and the sharpness of his jaw seems like it could cut through a diamond. His lips curl into a grin, and just as I’m about to open my mouth to let out a scream, his finger lingers around my lips, forcing me to remain quiet. “Hello, sister, how have you been?” His voice is low, and he talks like he knows me. He could be a creep who stayed around for the break, hoping to catch a girl living alone. I won’t fall for it. I’ll play along. “Sister, really? That’s your pickup line?” A chuckle escapes his lips, as he releases his grip around my arms. “Your sense of humor is the same as I remember. Your features haven’t changed much, but why the goth hair and piercings? You look a little…” “Scary? Like I could beat you up?” I snap back, while busying him in conversation, while I try finding my phone. “How have you not asked who I am, Jane? Or do you remember your brother? You remember us playing on the swings every afternoon?” Nothing he said made sense. I have no brother, and I have no reason to believe a creep who broke into my dorm. “Oh my god. Where were you? What happened?” I force my face to put on a mask of remembrance, pity, and love. My voice adjusts to the environment, and my years of working at customer service finally come to use. He believes me when I pretend to remember him.
“Our parents… remember when they sent me away? To the rehab? All because you kept saying I slashed your hand with the knife. When it was you self-harming yourself.” My hand vibrates around the scar that remains. A man did slash my arm. How does he know that? My heartbeat thunders in my ears, and adrenaline flushes through my body. Heat builds up around my face, and I feel my breaths turning into pants. It’s happening again, my panic attack is coming back. I try to close my eyes and focus on my breathing, but my breaths worsen. And then, I feel my palm close around cold metal. My phone.
“Jane? Focus. Breathe.” The boy sitting across me holds my face, and his rotten breath makes me wince, and back away. “Water, drink water.” He forces a glass of water into my hands, and the only way to get out of this mess is to be normal. I accept it and chug the water. Amid this panic, with the boy trying to calm me, I press the SOS on my phone.
After I calm down, I pretend I need more help. Through the fake hyperventilation, I tell him to go get my pills from the bathroom. Reluctantly, he runs to grab the bottle, and just then I dash towards the door and run out. The identical doors on the sides of the corridor make me feel trapped in an endless maze, and it’s not until I crash into an open door and end up inside a hall, I realize where I am. In the canteen, the blue tables looking emptier than I have ever seen them. I get back up and hurry through the chairs and duck behind the fridge. I make a call to the police. “Hurry, or I’ll die. Christ college, I need help.” “We are two minutes away ma’am, hold on.”
Panting, I rest my back on the fridge and slowly sit down. Suddenly, I catch a shadow from the corner of my eye, and before I can identify who it is, a cold metal burns through my arm, in the same spot. Blood gushes out of it, as I slip into a puddle of my own blood. I feel my body giving out, as my eyes shut.
A loud voice booms in my ear, and my eyes open to two men dressed in uniforms. They offer me an arm, using which I get up. “Are you okay, ma’am? What happened? Where’s the suspect?” I look down to see my arm, but the fresh wound is invisible. The blood on the floor or the knife isn’t there. What? This didn’t make sense. “He’s in the room, he claims to be my brother, he slashed my arm, I swear.” Panic overpowers my voice, and a wave of anxiety takes over me, as I hear the police say “No one was here, and the only thing we found in your room were your anti- depressants. Have you been taking them?” “What! no. I’m okay, and I do not need the pills, I haven’t for 6 months. I am perfectly alright.”
I see the confused look on both their faces and know they do not believe me. “We called your therapist, he said you need to be on medication. Leaving them causes hallucinations. We checked the cameras too, there was no one here but you. Please, come with us.” Which therapist were they referring to as a man? My therapist was a lady, who I haven’t seen in months. “What- no that’s not my therapist.” One officer looks annoyed at me and holds up a picture of the therapist. “Young lady, this, your therapist has told us you had been hallucinating and stopped visiting him. He is concerned about your breakouts, and this one just proves you need help. We are to put you back on your medications so that in the future you do not waste crucial police time due to your stubbornness. If you refuse to take the pills, we have no option but to hand you over to the rehab center your therapist oversees.”
Everything inside of me shatters, as I realize, the man in the picture they claim is my therapist, was the boy sitting across my bed, claiming to be my brother.
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