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Daniel C. Smith
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rachel2.jpg
Art by Kevin Duncan 2012

Rachel’s All Better Now

 

By Daniel C. Smith

 

 

 

            By the third day I was getting used to being off work.  Life as a med-tech in a psych ward isn’t as glamorous as it may sound.

          Not on vacation, understand. L-O-A-- leave of absence.

          Supervisor said Dennis Briscoe is taking some time off.  Or else.  Said I wasn’t the only big oaf on staff and that they could get a long just fine without me for a while. 

Then, rustling her papers, she mumbled something about me getting to close to my work.  Particularly Rachel.

          Yeah.  Rachel.

          But I couldn’t help it, I felt, feel, for the kid.  Who wouldn’t?

          Paranoid schizophrenia and multiple-personality disorder isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, either.  After all she’s been through, all that’s been dumped on her, now she’s got no one left.  The other techs treat her like shit because she tends to freak ‘em out.  And yeah, she freaks me out, too.  But the whole world freaks me out, sometimes anyways. 

But somebody had to be her friend.  So I took up the cause.

          Besides, if Rachel had a personality you couldn’t like, she had plenty that you couldn’t help but like-- know what I mean?  The jazz aficionado, the sometimes retro sometimes hip-hop teenager, the technophobe, the big tough on the outside but sensitive on the inside guy, the terrorist-behind-every door conspiracy freak, the old wretch who for some reason or other can’t stand any of the kids in the neighborhood, the recovering junkie, the bitter divorcee, the list goes on and on.

          Lot’s of them.  Men, women, kids.  Don’t tell me you walk into a room of twenty people and can’t find someone you like.  If so then there’s something wrong with you.

          Right before… the incident, Rachel told me-- she was in one of her more lucid periods, when she seemed to almost know what was going on, when she was just Rachel and when I felt the sorriest for her-- that she wished she had somebody like me inside of her, someone big and strong, someone who always took up for little guy and could never be hurt.  

I joked with her that someone like me couldn’t fit inside of her!

Then she told me she could make room-- get rid of certain personalities if she wanted to-- that in fact she could get rid of them all, but she thought of it as murder.  She said she couldn’t do it, but she could let somebody else do it.  Then she told me that she could even close her eyes and wish her own personality away-- but she wasn’t sure what God would think ‘cause it would require a sacrifice, and the sacrificed would have to come inside her dreams willingly, like when you have to invite a vampire into your house otherwise it’s powerless-- sort of-- and a sacrifice also required a piece of the sky, and she didn’t know how to steal a piece of the sky-- not yet anyways.

Then she smiled and said that as soon as she could figure a way to steal a piece of the sky, I’d be the first to know!

See what I mean about freaking people out?

          I told her to close her eyes and wish real hard, and maybe she’d have someone just like me inside her.  Then I winked and told her while she’s at she should get rid of the retro-hip-hopper kid.  I figured what harm could it do?

          Answer: plenty. 

          Looking up at me with her big blue eyes she smiled and grabbed my hand.  “Don’t let go Dennis, don’t let go no matter what!”

          Her eyes rolled back in her head and she started shaking.  No history of seizures, but she was having the mother of all seizures now.  The floor went code red and the team moved in, trying to shove me aside but Rachel wouldn’t let go.

          At least I think she was the one who wouldn’t let go.

          They got her into isolation ward, no thanks to me as my supervisor said.  The red team complained that I was ‘in the way’, obviously too ‘attached’.

Hence the leave of absence.

          I was standing on my porch still groggy and my head swimming from a dream about (who else?) Rachel when the little prick from down the street pulled his raggedy-ass bicycle-dragging-a-lawnmower contraption into my driveway.

          The kids in this neighborhood are the worst.

          “YO!  Mr. Briscoe, whaddup, B?”

          Whaddup indeed, Mr. Baggy Britches.

          “What do you want, Jared?”

          “It’s Saturday, I’m here to do yer' lawn.  Not working today?”

          “No I’m on a… took some vacation days-- that's all.”

          “Oh yeah?  Feelin’ a little stressed maybe, Mr. B?”

          “Aren’t you going to do my freaking yard?”

          “Sure thing, man, but first I gotta go fire it up, if ya know what I mean, Mr. B.”

          “The lawnmower?”  Why do I even engage these kids in conversation?

          “Noooo B, I usually smoke me a fat one behind your garage before I cut the yard-- course today I ain’t packin’ any weed.”

          “And just what are you packing, Jared?”

He smokes dope behind my garage?  And I pay him?

          The little bastard smiled and pulled some tin foil from his pocket.

          Unwrapping it, he said, “Hash!  Ya gotta pee-zipe, Mr. Briscoe?”

I caught a whiff of the hash, and the memories came flooding back.   But looking closer, the hash was blue.

“Mmm… yeah I gotta pipe… but I left it in my locker back in the eleventh grade.  Hash, huh?  For real?  Pretty blue hash?  Never heard of it.  Blue, I mean.  Black, blonde, red, green, never blue.”

          “Oh it’s the realio dealio, Mr. B-- made it myself-- from the kindest bud-- Blue Dream.  ‘An that’s what it’s like, Mr. B, like stepping into a dream-- a blue dream!”

          He was beaming with self-satisfaction.  He handed it over for my further inspection.

          These kids today, you just can’t ever be to sure.

          But this was hash.  The realio dealio-- felt like it, smelled like it.  And hash was something special. 

At least that’s what I remember.  And like I said, who knows about these kids today?  What with their Me-pods and their MSG players, I figured these kids today-- maybe they took some giant leaps forward with their chemistry sets as well.

          Blue hash.  Hmmm.

          What the hell.

          “We don’t need a pee-zipe,” I told him.

          I turned on my heels and headed for the kitchen.  Naturally the little bastard followed.  I grabbed a book of matches and pulled a straight pin from the bulletin board.

          Now all I needed was a glass.

          I wanted a particular glass. 

Ah yes, there it was. 

A Reverend John Osborne Jesus-loves-you-if-you-tithe-glass-- the last of a set-- a gift from my ex-sister-in-law.  That’s the best part of being divorced, not the ex-wife, but the ex-in-laws.

          Four years of hell and all I got to show for it is… one last Reverend Steals-from-widows glass.  Jeesh!

          I used the matchbook as a base for the straight pin (yeah-- go ahead-- pretend you don’t know how it’s done) then I planted our little blue ball of warm fuzziness on top and torched it.  I let it smolder for a good while before I capped it with Reverend Osborne’s upside down smiling face.

          We both rested our mugs on the kitchen table, watching the glass fill with blue smoke.

          Slow and liquid, calm and purposeful the smoke snaked and coiled and fell in on itself-- blue, blue, and bluer ‘til it looked like we’d stolen a piece of the sky and held it prisoner under glass. 

I couldn’t wait any longer.

          I slid the glass to the edge of the table and up to my eagerly awaiting lips and took the deepest hit I could.

          Jared did the same.

          Back and forth, back and forth.

          Until there was no more smoke and the little blue ball was ash.

          I felt good.  Real good.

          There was only one problem.

          Jared.

          Hmmm.

          Floating into the living room I put on some Miles Davis, my favorite, Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet-- with John Coltrane on sax and Red Garland on the piano, you know-- I figured some real music might drive his punk ass away.

          Wrong.      

          Turns out he was into it-- and his ‘old man’ has the same record-- on vinyl no less!

          Hmmph.

Vinyl.  Excuse me for unloading all the snap crackle hiss pop in my life-- always twenty-five or fifty dollars worth at a time if you know what I mean.  Those were crazy times, but it was a growth experience.  After I got out of rehab and working again I had to learn to operate a whole new level of technical devices as I finally upgraded to the digital world, the switch-over may have been frustrating as all get out, but hey-- no more snap crackle hiss pop.

After time I convinced myself that I’d never really liked those big bulky things with their emphasis on fantastic cover-art anyway.

You know what else?  Vinyl is a petroleum by-product.  Using it supports you-know-who so they can do you-know-what.  But one shouldn’t be too smug.  I’ll bet you there’s a lot more you-know-whats involved in aluminum production than anyone’s willing to tell us.

The final bars of I Could Write a Book were fading and I smiled thinking that if we were listening to this on vinyl I’d have to get up and flip the goddamn record.  But no, instead, the opening riff of Oleo dripped from the speakers and into my living room.

The band was swinging and I was thinking how I was way more than just one toke over the line-- on hash, the first time in decades!  Everything was perfect.  That’s when the freaking kid ruined everything.

He started talking.

Yip, yip, yip.  Yap, yap, yap.

“Ya know Mr. B, I dig this jazz stuff, but I’m also into the classics.”

“Really?  Classical?”  I thought I was about to be pleasantly surprised

Yeah, ya know… the Grateful Dead, the Stones, Wings… all that stuff…”

“Unhuh… hey… Jared why don’t you go fu….”

“Know what my psychology teacher said, Mr. B?”

“One can only imagine…”

“She said humans only use ten percent of their brains.  Whaddya think of that?”

“I think she’s being generous.”

“Whaddya think we’d do with the other ninety percent if we could use it Mr. B?”

Well, how does one answer that?

I tried to think of something Jim ‘Morrisony’.

“My dear boy, we’d waltz through the doors of perception.  Our limits on what we can see, hear, smell, everything, increased a thousand –fold.  We’d see reality, all of it, the full spectrum in every sense, not just what our frail human brains can detect.  Maybe that’s what’s up with schizophrenics, they see too much reality, too many dimensions… too many of everything.  Maybe for them the doors of perception are laid bare, always open… sensory overload…”

          “Hmmm… heh… that sounds pretty deep, Mr. B.  But real cool, Mr. B. real cool.”

          Deep and cool indeed.

That’s when he did it-- he went too far, he took things over the edge.  That’s when everything really started happening, everything that led to now.  It could have all been avoided up to that point.

That’s when he said, “I got more Mr. B.  And it’s been aging a lot longer!”

More.  Hmm.  Aged… like wine I suppose.

I thought, if I remembered correctly, when it came to matters of hash, more is good.

So we went back into the kitchen and there was no turning back.

We smoked two more chunks big as the first.  I remember wanting to go back to the living room but I couldn’t remember the way.      

I tried to tell the kid to leave, but I couldn’t remember his name.

But I wanted him gone.  Real bad.  All of a sudden it meant everything to me. 

Getting rid of the kid, that is.

I couldn’t remember his name or how to get back to the living room, but I remembered where the knives were.  Cooking knives, chef’s blades.

Ginsu.

I don’t remember actually doing it, honest I don’t, but when I saw him laid out on the floor, blood gushing from his neck like it was in a hurry to get somewhere-- I knew I’d done it.  I knew there’d be no denying it.

I called the cops myself.  I wanted to get it all over with as quickly as possible.

I dropped the phone after spilling everything to the nine-one-one operator and everything went fuzzy, like I was swimming through a dream, like one of those dreams you know you won’t remember.

After a trial I can’t really recall I got handed a life sentence, no chance at parole. 

Hearing the jury foreman pronounce the verdict is really my first clear memory after the image of what’s-his-name bleeding out all over my linoleum.

Cops were taking me away when my lawyer told me he would appeal, that the insanity defense was legitimate, that it should’ve been allowed yadda yadda yadda.  Then one of the cops laughed and said I was going to prison, real prison, and I’d get what was coming to me, which was all fine with me-- I thought I deserved whatever was coming to me.

Lying in my bunk that night I cried.  Not for myself or even the little prick whose throat I slit, but for Rachel.

And when I fell asleep I dreamed, the first dream I can remember in I don’t know how long.

I dreamed of Rachel.  But not as she is now.

I saw her as little girl, a ballerina, a girl scout, then a young woman-- a cheerleader, a church volunteer, a bridesmaid and then a bride.  I watched as she grew old, surrounded by loved ones and not calloused hospital staff who are in some cases just as trapped as the patients inside of the hospital’s sterile, puke-green walls.

And she had been happy.  Every time.

But it wasn’t the life that she had really lived-- they were scenes from the life she should have had, all the things that she should have been if not for all of the other realities overlapping her own-- if not for all of those souls who trespassed upon the road that was supposed to be her life-- what should’ve been a straight and narrow path

But you know what?  I didn’t have to go to prison.  A higher judge reversed the decision to disallow my insanity plea and right after my second trial a spot opened up at the state hospital.  Just like magic, just in the nick of time.

Apparently Rachel’s all better now-- everyone says it’s a goddamn miracle.  All of her split personalities seemed to have… split.

I got to see her before she left the hospital, sort of. 

She was wearing a pretty blue dress and looking really fine sashaying her way down the sidewalk just as the police van pulled me up to the hellhole where I would be spending the rest of my life.

Yep, that’s right.  I’m a patient now in the same freaking ward where I used to work.

You want to know something funny?

The new guy, the one who took my place, he’s one of them, from over there.

I don’t trust him.

END

 

 

Daniel C. Smith has published over a hundred poems, stories, articles and reviews in publications such as Aoife's Kiss, Black Petals, Tales of the Talisman, The Leading Edge, Star*Line, and Space and Time.

Additionally, he writes a monthly column for the webzine Aphelion—an ongoing series reviewing golden age science fiction novels and movies titled RETROGRADE.

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