The worn leather chair was uncomfortable. I shifted myself away from the coil that was threatening to poke a hole through my butt and leaned into the wooden armrest. I stared at the man in front of me, Dr. Ketchum. I couldn’t see his eyes, the light from the desk lamp created a glare on his glasses which masked his expression.
In his giant hands was a manilla folder holding documents of my life; observations from other shrinks and notes taken from hundreds of therapy sessions. Schizophrenia was my diagnosis which I noticed was written in red marker on the outside of the folder. I saw things that the ‘professionals’ considered to be visual hallucinations. It didn’t matter what I said, they had all made their minds up despite the fact that I swore I wasn’t crazy. It was my word against those who were trained to know what crazy looked like and apparently, I fit the bill.
Dr. Ketchum finished leafing through his notes. Clearing his voice of obvious sinus drainage, he shifted his focus onto me. I simply sat there, ready for our first date to begin. I hadn’t been on any dates but I figured meeting with a new shrink and meeting a new guy were similar in the fact that the same story was exchanged. Only, these ‘first dates’ were one-sided stories met with nodding and the scribbling of notes on legal paper.
“It’s nice to meet you, Star.” His voice was deep and with a slight accent, “I’ve looked over your case file and I believe I can help you.”
I rolled my eyes and nodded, I still wasn’t able to see his peepers so I focused on the halo the light cast on the funky part of his male-patterned baldness, “I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly thrilled to be here.”
“Here” happened to be a mental institution for high-risk teenagers whose parents or guardians had no clue what to do with them. “Here” is called Magnolia Park Institute of Wellbeing located in a remote area of Maine that probably doesn’t even have a dot on the map. It is kept on the down/low and is for kids who come from wealth. My aunt, who is my guardian, has a ton of money and a low tolerance for me and my issues, made arrangements to have me shipped here and then left to go on an African Safari. If that isn’t family love, I don’t know what is.
Dr. Ketchum exposed bright white teeth as he smiled at me, “Of course, my dear. No one really wants to be here. Why would they?”
“Especially if they aren’t crazy.” I suggested.
“There is concern that what you are experiencing is a form of schizophrenia, as you are aware. Why don’t you describe to me what it is you’ve been seeing?” He propped his elbows onto his giant mess of a desk and steepled his fingers together as he waited for my response.
“I’m sure you’ve already read about it in my substantial file there, Dr. Ketchum. Is it really necessary for me to repeat what you’ve already read?” I was tired, my first night at Magnolia Park had been trying. My roommate had been up all night, chatting away to whatever visions she was seeing. Not to mention, the commotion in the hallways was a constant throughout the night. The floor I was on didn’t keep the room doors locked and a few patients were strolling around, zombified on anti-psychotics or whatever meds were presented in the little white cups. I wasn’t allowed to bring my iPod so I couldn’t block myself with music. I was completely certain the dark bags made the blue of my eyes stand out stunningly. Not.
He cleared the phlegm from his throat, “Ah, you are a fiesty young lady, Ms. Lindstrom. I respect that. Okay, then I’ll tell you what I read and you tell me if it’s true. Agreed?”
“Fine. Get on with it.” I inspected my stubs of what were once nails. Long nails were considered a risk so they were cut and filed down when I arrived.
Once again, he picked up my file and leafed through the papers, “Yes, here are the notes from your most recent psychiatrist, Dr. Kole. She’s a fine doctor, I had the pleasure of meeting her at a conference a couple years back.”
“That’s great. Really.” I got up and moved over to the overstuffed couch in the shadows of the office. As much as I hated shadows, I hated that chair with the light shining directly down upon it even more.
“It says here that you see things within shadows. What types of things, Star?” He turned his head to where I had moved. I could now see his eyes behind those glasses and they were so brown they were almost black. He was less creepy in the glare.
“Things. I see things. Stuff. I can’t explain it.” I knew I wasn’t going to get away with being evasive in my answers but it didn’t stop me. I was fully aware of what I saw, what I experienced. I just didn’t understand it. And I didn’t want to explain it to a doctor who had already prejudged and pre-diagnosed me.
“Do they talk to you?” He cocked his head and expected me to answer.
I hissed out a breath, “Sort of.”
“Sort of? Please my dear, please elaborate. I can’t help you if you aren’t willing to help me understand what your symptoms are.” He tried to be inconspicuous as he glanced at his watch. Even in an institution when there was basically all the time in the world, we still only had those 45 minute sessions. I planned on wasting every single remaining second of them.
“It depends on whose shadow it is as to what it chooses to reveal.” Yeah, I wasn’t going to make this easy for him. I already was judged based on my file, it was clearly going to be impossible to convince this doctor that I was sane and it was just insane things that were happening to me.
For as far back as I could remember, I saw shadows differently than the way anyone else I knew saw shadows. I could look at one and know what a person was like in the deepest recesses of their minds. I knew if a person was good, bad, honest…I knew what they were thinking before they opened their mouth to prove me right.
Unfortunately, I learned too late to keep my mouth shut about this ‘shadow reading’, as I started calling it. Because I didn’t get what was happening, anyone I tried to explain it to thought I was crazy. My grandmother, the foster homes, my aunt. Everyone.
Maybe I was crazy. Crazy people don’t realize they’re crazy, from what I had noticed. They seemed to think everyone else was nuts except for them. Which was exactly how I felt most of the time. It’s not me, it’s you. Which meant, perhaps the world was right and I needed to be locked up in a room and pumped up full of meds that kept me fuzzy.
I looked back over at Dr. Ketchum who seemed to be used to his patients becoming introspective, he was waiting for me to continue. Perhaps this time would be different, I thought for the millionth time. Maybe there was a chance this doctor could help me figure out what was happening to me without calling it a mental illness. Fifteen out of my seventeen years of existence, most of those years in some sort of therapy, left me doubting anyone could help me though.
“I see shadows, doctor. Not regular shadows. They are different. They aren’t always the kind cast by a human. Sometimes, they are floating in unexplainable places. And I can read them. You asked if they talk to me. They do. Not really in a tangible way, not in a way I can explain to you because I don’t get where their words are coming from. But they are there, talking to me. Whispering to me about things I shouldn’t know, flashing images into my mind full of deep dark secrets.” I flipped my legs up onto the couch and fluffed the cool, leather pillow into a more comfortable form.
“Are you seeing shadows now?” Curiosity thickened his voice. I was positive he had never heard that type of ‘crazy’ story before.
“Yes, Dr. Ketchum. I always see them. They are everywhere.” I admitted truthfully. This office was swarming with them. I wished I had my earphones to block out the static in my head, the whispers of words not forming coherent sentences. So many different stories all mingling together to create one that made not one iota of sense. One, however, began to stand out. The evil of it began to overpower all the others. I tried not to shudder, I didn’t want the good doctor to get an idea of what I was experiencing.
Dr. Ketchum was taking notes on some sort of tablet. Every time his finger hit the keyboard it made a little “kitch” type sound. He stopped typing, “Do you see my shadow?”
My lips turned up into a small smile because I finally did find his shadow, it had been hiding when I walked it. It was as if it didn’t want me to read it’s secrets. But I caught it, I heard it loud and clear. I finally let the chills I had been trying to control sweep over me, “Yes, I see yours. You, Dr. Franklin Ketchum, are a bad, bad man.”
His dark eyes flashed red and I could have sworn his face completely changed form. Whatever it was, it scared the crap out of me. I was overcome with a sense of danger. I covered my ears and started screaming; wailing so loudly that nurses charged through the door to see if Dr. Ketchum was safe from one of the hundreds of lunatic patients he sees throughout the week. I mean, if I was being locked up as a crazy person, I had every right to act the part. Screaming like a banshee included.
With a wave, the doctor gave the nurses permission to drag me back to my lavish quarters. I was forced to take some sort of pill that calmed me down. They stood over me as I put the pill in my mouth and swallowed it down with the tiny cup full of water. From experience, I knew that any pill they forced me to take would have no effect on me. They never did but I had become an expert at pretending.
When the hovering nurses were satisfied I hadn’t hidden the medication under my tongue, one of them helped me to lay down and then they both left the room. I was left alone.
Well, as alone as someone like me could be. Especially once the shadows started appearing.