Head Spin (1st Prize, Category 3)
Two hours, twenty-nine minutes, fifty-eight seconds.
Two hours, twenty-nine minutes, fifty-nine seconds.
Two hours, thirty minutes.
Someone is very late. They were meant to be here a long time ago. Who was it again? You can’t remember.
You take a furtive look around the waiting room. It’s small, with two oak doors leading off it; one directly in front of you, and one to your right. A lone stained glass window, its lead piping flaked and a piece missing, so you can just about make out the sloping green on the outside. The carpet’s off-white, although your mother would have called it ecru. You’d always had trouble distinguishing those words: off-white, ecru, beige, and cream. They all seem the same to you, a load of unnecessary words people made up just to confuse you.
The two black couches in the corner are new. They were not there the last time you were here, and they make you anxious. You sit on the floor to avoid them. You like it here, and the feel of the carpet as you run your fingers through it reminds you of your rabbit’s fur. The second one, the ecru one that got eaten by your neighbour.
Suddenly, the lights go out. All of them, even the light from outside the window. The room is bathed in darkness as black as the couches, and now you can’t see them anymore. This makes you even more anxious.
You do a breathing exercise to calm yourself down. In, Mississippi, out, Mississippi. In, Mississippi-
You never get to finish your exercise. A hand, cold and calloused and cold, grips you tight around the throat and throws you hard against the wall. The impact sends a jolt of pain through your whole body, like electricity. Your vision is a firework show. You whip your head back and forth in a futile attempt to locate your assailant in the blackness. When you try to flail your arms, they feel pinned to your sides. You want so badly to fight back… but you’re frozen, and there’s nothing you can do but scream.
But before the sound leaves you, the cold, cold hand around your throat tightens and lifts you right off your feet. You choke.
“Quiet,” the attacker hisses. “Make a move and the wall’s gonna get a new paint job. Got it?”
You don’t got it. You give what you hope bears some resemblance to a shake of your head, but a blade even colder than the hand stops you.
“I said, you got it?”
You look down to see a knife held steady to your throat. It has a ruby embedded in its hilt, and looks uncannily like your mother’s. That’s odd. But you can’t be sure- your vision’s blurring and your heart’s an earthquake. You need air. Now.
Just when you’re sure that you’re going to black out, the attacker relaxes his grip and lets you slide to the floor.
“Good,” A voice says from somewhere far above you. “Now we understand each other.”
No. You really don’t. You try to rub the pain away from your neck, but for some reason your arms still aren’t responding. You hear a thud as the attacker drops to his knees in front of you. He’s close now, and you can feel his breath on your skin. It’s cool and tingly and makes you laugh.
“Listen up, retard. Where’s Lauren Fitz?” You let out a whimper as the voice rings out again, much closer this time.
Who’s Lauren Fitz? Where’s Lauren Fitz? Who is this man? Where’s Lauren Fitz? So many questions. It’s confusing you. It takes you a while for you to understand, and it takes even longer to regain control of your voice. “Miss- Miss Fitz?” She’s the receptionist. Nice lady. She gave you candy canes last Christmas; one of them was exactly ten point oh oh inches long.
You lift a finger in the general direction of the door to the right, and hear the attacker get up and walk away, light on his feet, towards the door.
Wait. He’s just going to leave you alone again? Just like that? That’s not right. What’s he up to?
Uh oh. Miss Fitz. Your muscles respond immediately and you find yourself jumping up and careering after him. Somehow managing to avoid running into any walls, you reach the lobby to hear Miss Fitz’s surprised voice: “Eddie? What’s-”
“It’s not me! It’s not me, Miss Fitz! Run! Run away!” You want to help her, but you can’t tell where she is. You take a few tentative steps forward, until the cold grabs you by your collar again. You freeze.
“Oh god, not you again.” And he throws you to the floor. You lay there, frozen, terrified, screaming.
“Run! Run away!”
Your eyes start to adjust to the darkness, or the darkness is getting lighter, and now you can see Miss Fitz’s silhouette, sitting behind her desk, and the attacker seated on top of it, twirling the knife in his fingers. “Wouldn’t, if I were you.” You can hear his smile. “Running never helps.”
Miss Fitz draws back in her chair. “What are you talking about?”
“Run! Run away!”
The attacker brushes a strand of her hair away from her neck and strokes her throat with the knife. “So pretty,” he purrs. “A shame, really.”
She recoils. “No! No, you don’t have to-” Her cries are cut off abruptly. Just in time, you close your eyes. Phew. You only hear silence and it feels nice on the carpet. It’s like a bed made of rabbits.
In, Mississippi, out Mississippi. In, Mississippi, out, Mississippi. In, Mississippi, out, Mississippi.
You open your eyes, and see the room. Really see the room. The yellow lamps are on again, and the windows are blue. Everything’s okay again.
And then you stand up, and realize that it’s not okay. It’s not okay at all.
Miss Fitz sits in her chair, but her head is tilted backwards, and a red smile is painted across her neck. The red drips down her chest and makes pretty patterns on her white shirt. A messy line of red spots is sprayed over the oak desk in front of her. The attacker is gone.
“Run,” you breathe. “Run away.”
Then you hear a door open and footsteps coming towards the room. You whirl around, then relax as you smell the mothballs and recognize the wheezing voice: “Lauren? Could you check up on Eddie Volkers, it’s been nigh on three hours, he’s never missed- oh my God!”
Dr. Erebus stops in the doorway, then rushes to Miss Fitz’s side. He places two ringed fingers under her jaw, then steps back in horror. “Lauren…” Then he turns to face you. “Eddie, what did you do?”
You don’t know what to say. “Nothing - I swear - there was a man - he-”
“You killed her. By the Gods, you killed her.”
“No! No, no, no, no. It wasn’t me!”
Dr. Erebus looks like he wants to throw something at you. It scares you. He’s never been mad like this before. Then he stops, watching you, analyzing you, and starts to back away. “Eddie, how long have you been off your medication?”
You’re confused. You always take your meds, the nurses made sure of it. Clozaril with breakfast, Paxil after breakfast, Clozaril with lunch, Pro-
Uh oh. You forgot. You didn’t have any Prozac left, that’s why you had to see Dr. Erebus four days early. You wanted a prescription. But that doesn’t matter; it doesn’t change anything. It wasn’t a hallucination this time, something actually happened. Dr. Erebus can see it too.
“One- one day. The Prozac ran out-”
“And you neglected to take the others to even it out.”
You don’t answer.
“Oh God, Eddie… And now she’s dead. She’s dead Eddie, do you understand? And to think that the others thought I’d prescribed too many pills.”
What’s he talking about? He’s missing the point. “But the man-”
“There was no man!” He takes a step towards you. “What do I always tell you? There’s never a man! It’s always you.”
“But look! Miss Fitz!” You raise a finger to point at her, then let out a sob and lower it again.
“No, Eddie. You look.” You are looking. You can’t stop looking. “Look at your hand.”
You furrow your brows, then lift up your hands and stare at them. You don’t see anything weird. But your right hand feels stiff; you unclench it, and hear a squelchy noise followed by a metallic clatter. That’s weird.
Then you blink. And you scream.
Your hand is red now, red and dripping with congealing blood.
And on the floor is your mother’s knife.
By Amy Wei,
15 years, The British School of Beijing