Home Stories Inner Power by Sully Stone

Inner Power by Sully Stone


Jen Marshall has been sectioned after self-harming, but she does not trust the medication she is being given.

Image generated with OpenAI

And the clock’s hands turned to yet another arbitrary number. The tick-tock of its mechanical insides wormed through my head with its dulling beat. I flicked my raven hair past my shoulders and tried ignoring him.

My therapist slid his hands over his tan dress pants, as if he were ironing them to smoothen the wrinkles out.

It was as captivating as the clock, compared to the paper walls of his office, with the tiny desk in the far corner. There wasn’t much to break away from blending into the background. The most engaging part of his office was the static camera, pronounced with its bold black casing. It recorded us with a blipping red light, proving to us it wasn’t dead, like it usually was by the end of a session.

His fingers drummed along the top of his clipboard. Why he bothered bringing it, I didn’t know. He rarely wrote during our sessions. He finally spoke. ‘Miss Marshall, how are you feeling today? I understand there have been some issues lately.’

‘I’m fine. Not really. Same old.’

He sighed. His suit couldn’t hide the gravy stains on his white collared shirt; the red and green tie he wore today pointed like an arrow to the largest stain across his pot belly. His brown mop of hair oozed along the side of his head.

‘Let’s see,’ his voice lingered with a resounding quality, ‘last week. You refused to return your food tray. Can you explain the reason behind this behaviour?’

Instead of meeting his gaze, my eyes turned to the white clinical gown I wore. I ruffled its hem and watched the fabric jostle like a sea wave.

‘I don’t know. Guess I didn’t want to return it. Isn’t it wrong to starve someone?’

‘There are rules. When you break them, you must be taught a lesson. How easy is it to return a tray, Miss Marshall?’

‘Doing anything when I’m taking those pills is incredibly difficult, actually. Okay. Maybe I did it so something would happen. Happy, Connor?’

He pushed his glasses over the bridge of his nose. ‘You enjoy getting a reaction out of people. I suspect this relates to your belief of possessing… shall we call them, powers? You can refer to me as Connor if it helps you engage with our discussion, Jennifer.’

‘Jen.’ I corrected him without missing a beat. ‘And yes, powers. That has nothing to do with this.’

‘As I was saying. Do you find fulfilment in knowing you have upset someone, or that you’ve broken rules set by someone else?’

‘No. It’s the pills. I always feel like I’m inches away from falling apart. Recently I’ve been scared something bad is happening to me.’

‘Yes, your pills. How are you finding your current treatment?’

My mind reeled like a fish caught by a hook.

A month ago, I was caught flushing my medication down the toilet. A guard came in with a doctor. Never can remember his name. The guard restrained me as the doctor force-fed me the tiny, beige pills. He plugged my nose and smothered my mouth with a gloved hand until I swallowed. Everything afterward blurs in my memory. Something about the stress of the situation made it impossible to recall. Black outs happened more and more since then.

Connor watched me shiver. He presented a friendly smile. ‘Please, tell me how you’re finding the pills.’

‘They’re shit. I don’t want them. They’re killing me.’

He lowered his head and murmured, dragging the pen with its lid over the clipboard. ‘Despite medication, patient still presents anti-social behaviour.’

I watched him pretend to work. Whenever our sessions ended, I pictured him saying the same thing to himself, again and again. ‘Woman’s batty. Can’t let her leave.’

As often happened now, my attention wandered. Glancing to my exposed arms, I reminisced over the scars that ran along them. It was hard to consider they were all from life outside of the mental ward. Although not long before. Whether due to the pills or the ward itself, time and space were manipulated into funny shapes in my mind; birds and clouds, left to scatter and lose all significance.

The scars were thick white lines; memories. Slivers of proof I had a life outside. They unlocked moments from before I even made these cuts. One reminded me of the time I was at the park with my dad. I must have been eight, wearing a frilly green dress with my favourite pink shoes. Dad had paraded me on his shoulders, and I’d felt like a princess. Flowers would twist unnaturally to face me, as if saying to me, hi.

The memory dissolved when my eyes trailed lower along my arm. The next scar was longer than the others. I was with my mum, guided by her toward the mental ward’s entrance. She ignored my screaming. Men waited there, ready to give me the mental ward manicure; nail trim, haircut, body wash, and a fresh gown. It may as well have been torture. That was my most recent one. Still slightly red.

When I snapped out of my daydream, Connor was standing over me. He must have taken his glasses off at some point. The camera’s red light wasn’t blinking anymore. The clocks hands had passed an hour from when I last looked. We were nearing the end of the session.

‘When can I be given a different prescription? My body isn’t reacting well to it. The old pills were nothing like this. I don’t feel right.’

He sat back down and picked up his clipboard. It must be like people who hold a cigar without intending to ever smoke it. His top was creased like his trousers.

‘I’ve explained it to you before. I’m not willing to switch your medication until you’ve completed your current course of doses. In regard to previous medication, your natural tolerance to them meant they were ineffective. You’ll be on these for the rest of the year before I start considering if you should stay on Rit-‘

‘But it’s not helping! I don’t feel like myself on them! Maybe the dose is too high. It’s making my life hell. Can’t you see that?’

‘For God’s sake. The only way you’ll get better is by doing what you’re told. Take your medication, Jennifer. Got it?’

He hadn’t snapped at me before. His eyes pierced me.

I returned to my cell afterward and went straight for my bed. The springs squeaked quietly beneath my weight. Ahead of me was the toilet. There was dried puke on the rim of the seat that hadn’t been cleaned properly. My room’s camera was above it, unable to see directly down. That constituted privacy. The rest of my room was like a vacuum.

A thrill went through my body and ignited the nerves in my fingers to flex sporadically. Restlessness caused me headaches. Or maybe it was the other way around. I rolled my shoulders stretched my arms, then began my workout.

I started with sit-ups. Rising and falling, developing sweat on my neck and chest, spreading pain through my gut. My throat itched and I tugged at my gown’s collar. Next, a routine of push-ups. Pill-shaped thoughts floated through my mind even as I reached my tenth rep.

The itching spread around my neck and grew hot. I stopped to strip out of my gown. I threw it down and rubbed the side of my neck. My fingertips scuffed the rash left behind by the gown’s polyester collar. My allergy only reacted when I got sweaty. I only worked out to clear my mind. It wasn’t until taking these pills that my mind went foggy.

From out its metal bedframe I took my mattress and propped it against the wall, securing it into the corner of the room. Then I raised my fists and landed them against it, denting the foam with my scrunched knuckles. Before long, sweat dribbled along my face, and the tips of my hair stuck to my rash. I screamed. And my cell’s camera blinked red, red, red.

Time passed. I was none the wiser of how long I’d been going for. I was jogging on the spot with my gown bundled in my hand – my sweat rag. In this repetitive motion, I imagined climbing sand dunes in a desert somewhere, rolling from their peaks and heading any direction I chose. Total freedom. The price being my impending death. That’s the point of life. Death would be okay, if not for the fact I’d never have freedom again. Staying here forever would be the final layer of hell.

My headache didn’t pass. Time kept slipping, like in the therapist’s office. My powers repressed. The reason I was called crazy.

If I was crazy, then they would keep me here until they believed otherwise. If I wasn’t crazy, then I truly possessed supernatural powers. Then, like I’d suspected, the pills are designed to block them. The reason I could be blacking out; to stop me from using my powers. My breath quickened.

I had to convince them I was a changed woman, that no, of course I didn’t believe in any of those crazy things I’d said in the past. Why could I control nature?

Tears brimmed and I collapsed to the floor, cross-legged. I couldn’t bear to do it. That was defeat. I gripped my thighs and rocked there, weeping. The camera recorded me from behind, leaning to and fro, my spine rigid. If I was lucky, they wouldn’t bother checking the tapes.

Connor walked into the office, late for our session. His suit was soaked. ‘Weather has been dreadful.’

I wondered if the rain was due to me. Since our last session, I had been dreading the few days to our session today.

He draped his jacket over the tiny corner desk and sat ahead of me. He cleared his throat. ‘How are you feeling today?’ He wore blue instead of tan. His mop hair was slick.

‘Terrible. I think I’m going to die. No one believes what I say. Everyone thinks I’m crazy.’ I rose my hands and made speech marks with my fingers.

Connor smiled casually. ‘Let’s address the root issue today, then. In the past, you’ve strayed from the topic. But in order for you to improve, you must come to terms with reality. Your parents feared you could kill yourself before you arrived here; due to your believing in supernatural powers.’

‘I know reality. Reality’s a scary place filled with lonely children, and flightless birds waiting to die. That’s all I thought life was. I was the lonely child. The only people who mattered were my parents. I don’t even have them, now. Being stuck here without a life has taught me to make the most of what I have. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting to die, all you can do is make your time on Earth worthwhile.’ My head lowered.

Time silently passed between us. Once it was awkward enough, he continued.

‘Your parents sent you here because of your self-harm. You cut yourself because you believed you can control nature – and no one believed you. Your parents believed your behaviour stemmed from a traumatic event. Correct?’ Connor leaned in.

‘That’s why I’m here. They avoided talking to me the more I tried convincing them. I heard them calling family friends, asking them what to do. All of a sudden, I was a stranger.’

‘It’s common for families to struggle in aiding loved ones with mental illness. They’ve done the right thing in sending you to receive professional help.’ He met my glare with a cold look.

‘And all it’s done is make me want to die even more. I just can’t summon the strength to do it. I don’t call that help.’

He shook his head, flicking his hair to the side. ‘Try explaining to me how you came to this realisation of your… powers?’

My shoulder flared with pain. The scar there ached, as if to pull my mind away into memories from before the ward, and leave reality. I felt like I was drunk.

‘There were moments. Nothing special at first. The carrots and potatoes we grew in our garden ripened before they should have, regularly. Whenever I swam, it felt like the water literally pushed me forward, without me having to try. Every time I’ve gone to a zoo, the gorillas and lions come out from their dens to see me. The sort of things you take for granted. Flowers always faced me in the park. Weird things.’

Connor tapped a pen against his clipboard, off-beat to the clock. ‘Carry on. I’m paying attention.’

My vision wavered. It was like my shoulder was on fire. The pain of the scar felt fresh. I gripped my knees and turned to the clock. I didn’t know how long we’d been there, but I knew I was still in reality. Beside it, the camera blinked.

‘When I turned eighteen, I snuck out at night to go drinking. I was bored and depressed. I knew the way to the closest nightclub, and I had enough to buy some drinks and maybe meet a guy in the process. I hadn’t thought it through. No one knew where I was heading.

‘On the way there, I was stopped by a drunk. It was freezing; I should’ve worn something less revealing. He called me a hooker. I tried running away. He attacked me with a penknife. He slashed my shoulder. Rain abruptly pissed over us. The sound of thunder. I was pinned to the floor, and he cut my dress. I kicked him and scrambled back before blinding light shot down ahead of me. He convulsed and fell over. I ran, and –

My mind reeled to the present. Connor was bent over me. His hands groped my breasts and thighs as he bit my lips. The stink of last night’s curry trailed from his mouth into mine. He noticed me wake up. Wordlessly, he clamped my mouth shut and gripped my throat. I punched his stomach, but he wouldn’t stop. His knee shot into my pelvis, and his weight crushed me into my seat.

He removed his hand from my mouth and slapped my cheek; the force knocked my head to the side. I nearly slipped off the chair, but his knee was an anchor. Through the daze, I rested my sight on the camera and its red eye, shining through my pupils. My peripheral vision grew dark and closed in, until only the red, blinking red, remained. Then, nothing.

I was headfucked. Moments flashed past me with the blurred speed of a bullet train. Guards came in. I was in my cell again. I was sat in their reception. Someone laid me on a bed. I walked past the therapist’s office and its entrance was blocked with black and yellow tape. Two men talked outside the door.

‘The police have them in custody. He had deals with Dr ———— and one of the security guards. Overdosing her —— and tampering with the —————— Our security discovered his accomplice tampering with footage ——– We can assume he has been ———– since she was prescribed Ritalin. The camera had been repaired without their knowledge prior to the assault. Dr ———— and Connor —- will have their licenses revoked, at the least.’

Camera blinking; red, red, red.

Outside, clouds rest so low they have become fog. An exchange takes place. Voices sound like piano keys. Then I’m in the backseat of a car. The smell is old leather and weak lavender. My hands are shaking. My parents in front. Dad drives and Mum keeps peering at me. She’s talking. I say something. Dad complains about road visibility.

If I pinch myself, I might wake up.

We’re home. The bricks are cool orange and red. Barking comes from inside. Mum and Dad are helping me out of the car. My legs are limp. I hope he’ll put me on his shoulders. I miss being a princess. The park can’t be far from here. I want to go there with him.

‘There, Jen. Come on. You can ——– when you’re inside.’

They carry me through the front door and Sally jumps at me. On the black fur above her eye, there’s a large red wart. Rain cuts through the fog and the ground shakes beneath my feet. This is it.

I’m going to wake up.

‘How are we getting her up the stairs?’ Mum asks.

‘Sally, down! Be a good girl.’

I smile and reach over to stroke Sally’s head. They nearly drop me from shock at watching me move for myself. Then I turn to them. ‘I can take myself to bed, Mum.’

I climb the flight of stairs like a ghost. Next thing I know, I’m in bed. I haven’t changed out of that awful gown. But the rash around my neck can’t upset me anymore. Dad stands by the doorway. Mum is to my right, soothing my arm.

‘I’m so sorry.’ She’s crying. ‘They told us what happened. They told us everything.’

Am I dreaming? Am I going to wake up and see Connor slowly crushing me?

I roll onto my side. Through the dense fog and rain, light breaks through. The sun shines in its perfection across the whole room. Mum and dad shield their eyes, but I embrace it before nestling in my duvet.

After such a long time, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can’t help myself. I close my eyes and let myself drift away.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here