Apologies! Your web browser lacks required capabilities. Please consider upgrading it or switching to a more modern web browser.
Initializing. Please wait…
At night my mind chases all the terrifying thoughts one can have as I stare at the ceiling.
Orion's belt is visible through the window. My girlfriend is coated in the dark blue light of the stars.
I have to ask her.
I need to know the truth.
[["Claire, are you poisoning me?"]]
[["Claire, are you cheating on me?"]]I wake up, and the spot on the bed next to me has already gone cold.
I stand up and go to the bathroom.
I look in the mirror.
The reflection says, "[[You are a wolf.]]""I am a wolf," I say.
My reflection nods.
"I am a wolf."
[[Take off all your clothes and go outside.]]The freezing air of a Montreal winter blasts my skin, but my blood is hot, and my fur will keep me warm.
I take the four steps down the stoop and my bare feet plant in the fresh snow.
I have one word in my mouth: [[Lycanthropy.]]As I walk naked down the street, people are crossing to get away from me.
They are afraid of the big bad wolf.
My stomach growls.
[[Howl, then go to the grocery store.]]People don't make eye contact with me. They don't want me peering into their souls.
I get to the meat case, pick up a steak, and start eating it raw.
A teenage boy in a button up shirt and tie points at me and tells me to stop.
[[Growl at him.]]
[[You're hungry, keep eating.]]I growl at the teenager.
He looks frightened and runs off out of sight.
I am about to devour more meat, when I smell something else in my territory.
The smell gets stronger.
I see a man in a suit with slicked back hair carrying a fur coat under his right arm, talking on a cellphone with his left.
If I had a tail, it would be low to the ground. He's a threat, but I don't know why.
[[Lunge at the man.]]I ignore the teenager and continue to devour the steak.
My feet feel numb and wet.
But the raw meat is making me feel powerful.
[[Leave the grocery store.]]
[[Eat another steak.]]I take the scenic route through the grocery store.
All the smells are overwhelming. I feel cow's blood leaking down my chin.
Moving through the bakery, the smells become too much.
I run for the exit...
[[But...]] My attention shifts back to the meat case where you scan the layers of steaks and roasts looking for the best cut.
I see a 20oz ribeye, perfectly marbled.
I pick it up, and tear off the cellophane wrapping.
I'm about to bite into it...
[[But...]] I growl and start to run on the balls of my feet, needing to build up speed to tackle the man in the suit...
[[But...]]Four police officers close in around me.
I see their guns, though they are smiling and speaking slowly and calmly.
They put a blanket around me and then escort me to an ambulance waiting outside.
"Where are you taking me?" I ask.
"Can I go home to get my smokes?" I ask.
Rarely is so much laughter heard in an ambulance.
I feel a pinprick on my forearm, and then I hear a voice say...
[[Go to sleep...]]Claire mumbles something about having to be at the airport in a few hours.
"Go to sleep," she says.
[[Go to sleep.]]Claire mumbles something about having to be at the airport in a few hours.
"Go to sleep," she says.
[[Go to sleep.]] I wake up handcuffed to a hospital bed. There is a doctor looking at me. I am reminded of The Lion King.
[[Sing Hakuna Matata to him.]]
[[Sing I Just Can't Wait To Be King.]]I sing and snap my fingers until the sound of the vent behind me reminds me that everything is alive. Everything breathes in its own way.
The doctor smiles, shakes his head and walks away.
I pass out again thinking of the universe.
When I wake up, the handcuffs are gone, and a nurse standing with her back turned to me seems to be waving her hand at the exit sign.
[[Escape!]]Halfway through singing the song, the police from before come around the corner with their gloved hands holding paperwork.
"You're so happy," one says with a light Quebecoise accent.
"I am god," I say.
[[Everyone laughs.]]The woman with the tattoo of a rosary on her wrist sits down next to me. Both of us wear light blue hospital gowns.
"The floors in here are dirty," she says.
"Cramped too," I say.
She says, "You can date my daughter."
"My girlfriend wouldn't like that."
She says, "She's 14."
"Who do you think I am?" I say.
She frowns and goes back to her room.
The phone rings.
[[Answer the phone.]] "You need to sign the form," my father says on the phone.
"What is it?"
"You need to see the big picture," he says.
Three feet of silence pass.
He asks, "Before I hang up on you, can I get your netflix password?"
"You want my netflix password?"
I look around at all the other patients lined up to use the phone. All their impatient faces.
I hang up the phone and sit down. The doctor and his student trainee motion to me to follow them into the interview room.
[[Go to the interview room.]]I start screaming at the top of my lungs as some alien force takes over me.
Repeating what the voice wants me to say.
They are coming. They are coming. They are arrived.
A nurse runs over to my bed and puts a big needle in my arm.
"This is ativan," she says. "It will keep you calm."
[[Float.]]I notice an IV in my arm.
Tears start rising like the smoke from a bong.
"What did you give me?" Shaking the gurney.
"You kept me here you bitches." Hissing.
"I could have died," said with inflection the exact opposite of what you’d expect.
The soul hangs on. I feel it dancing in my body. Safe in its warm shell for another night.
Crying in the hallway of the hospital, I think of the largeness of the universe. The smallness of my body. My mind no longer expanding to fill the void between the two.
"It's over," sobbing.
"Game Over," said with transistor tongue.
They wheel me to the holding ward, and move me to a bed in a room with someone already in it. The man is small, and the whites of his eyes are the size of the moon.
[[Talk to roommate.]]
I try to leave my bed, but I'm attached to an IV. I try pulling it out of my arm when a nurse runs over to stop me. I yell at her that I want to go home.
The cops from before come around the corner and form a wall around my bed.
Another nurse runs over with a big needle.
She says, "This is ativan, it will help keep you calm."
"Fuck calm," I say, trailing off as the drugs cross the blood brain barrier.
[[Float.]] I dream I'm in a spaceship, far away from earth.
There are transmissions coming from the radio.
Aliens want to give me their secrets.
Secrets no one else will ever believe.
I hold the receiver close to my ear.
I wake up with a woman telling me it's time to get up. I've slept for 12 hours.
In the hallway, a woman sits with a tray full of breakfast in front of her.
She has a [[rosary tattoo.]]
Another woman has [[dreamcatcher earrings.]]I say, "Hello."
He murmurs, "Hi," and then he rolls over to face the wall.
[[Sleep.]] Outside the hospital everything is covered in three feet of snow. The brick houses look like they are bodies covered with white sheets.
Outside the hospital, no one makes eye contact with you no matter how much you smile. It makes sense, everyday the emergency room creates new ghosts. New tragedies.
Outside the hospital, pregnant women wait to go in. Corpses wait to come out.
Outside the hospital, if you ever go to Montreal, there is a statue near the front entrance. It's a pyramid. The pyramid that only takes shape when you look at it from a certain angle. Measure the degrees and I bet it's thirty three.
Outside the hospital, the pyramid represents the world. At the tip of the pyramid is an all-seeing eye. The few with the big picture, and every step down more and more people get less and less perspective. Half the pyramid is buried underground like an iceberg. Halfway from the bottom of the pyramid, you are no longer meant to conceal what you are. Above ground, things are revealed. The foundation is hidden, but the underworld has its own hierarchy. At the apex you’ll find him. At the bottom of the pyramid, that’s where the king is buried.
<<display "sqDeparture">>\"Let me tell you this, I believe in a higher power."
The psychiatrist says, "I'm increasing your risperidone."
"The real tragedy is that God doesn't start talking directly to most people until they are way too old to do anything about it."
The psychiatrist doesn't blink before looking down to scribble some notes.
"Lilith says to wait for spring."
"Who is Lilith? Someone in the ward?"
"You could say that."
Out the window the snow starts to fall again in big clumps. Frost grows around the edges of the pane.
"What's the point of this? What evolutionary purpose does insanity serve?"
The psychiatrist licks his lips. "In hunter gatherer societies, people who could build associations between things quickly were at an advantage. Ideas of reference. People who had hallucinations were treated as a direct link to the supernatural."
"So I’m vestigial. Like an appendix for processing tree bark."
The psychiatrist smirks. "With medication you can live like any other functional member of society."
"That was never my goal as a sane person."
The psychiatrist closes his notebook and puts it on his desk. He hands me a prescription and motions to the door.
[[Refuse discharge.]]On January 7th 2014, they release me. My girlfriend has dark circles under her eyes, but she smiles anyways. Waiting to be released from East Wing, my roommate tells me the proper way to hold the large box of clothing in my arms.
"If it has one handle, jam your key in the other side, and hold it like this." He mimes holding the box. Jamming the key into the side of the box, he tears a massive hole in it.
Smiling, I tell the roommate that I'll be fine.
The woman with the rosary tattoo walks past us, waiting next to the nurses station. She says, "When you play the game, be afraid of what you might lose."
After being let out of the ward, my girlfriend and I wait for a cab. Noticing a man in a peacoat look too long at the license plate of our cab, my eyes must be crazy, because she grabs my hand and squeezes.
Driving down Avenue des Pins, the people shovelling snow seem to hate me. It feels strange to be around people preoccupied with physical things rather than spirits and conspiracies. The buildings look unwelcoming. They loom with spirits of the dead.
[[Outside the hospital.]] In isolation, straining to hear people speaking outside the door, words become like water. We shouldn't live without them. Human interaction is sustenance. Forced silence is suffering. The voice has left. Now, I hold out my tongue in the rain with a dry throat.
I used to think the voice in my head was God, now I know that God's voice comes from outside. You'll hear it screaming in the hallways, booming through the PA system. It's so innocuous most of the time, you need to train your ears for meaning.
Within language, meaning is nested. Every word forms a tree of intent, commands.
The doctor will tell you not to trust your thoughts. Thoughts are unreliable. The voice in your head can lead you astray.
[[Pace the halls.]] I tell my girlfriend that I don't want her to visit anymore. I don't tell her about the voice. I don’t tell her that the hospital will kill her.
I tell her I hate her. When she visits, I grab her by the wrist and drag her out the front door of the hospital. The orderlies form a crescent around the two of us. I step in front of her and threaten them all with my eyes.
Waking up with my eyelids glued shut with sleep. On the locker next to the bed the phrase "best care, for life!" is carved. Finally, it makes sense. Trapped in concentric prisons.
First, the mind. Second, the body. Third, East Wing of MGH. Like Russian nesting dolls, the universe cradles us. It's freeing to know you're a prisoner, and there is nothing to be done about it.
[[Leave the room.|Leave the room 2]]
[[Talk to the psychiatrist...]] I do fourty pushups and a hundred situps while my girlfriend watches in silence. It becomes my sole occupation. Self-defense. At any minute the nurses or orderlies can decide to throw me into isolation, or inject me against my will. Visiting hours end. Claire goes home.
Pacing the halls with fists clenched so tight my knuckles start to form bruises, I stare down everyone.
The nurses set two plastic cups down on the nightside table in the afternoon. One with water, one with four milligrams of risperidone. They no longer ask how I feel.
[[Release day.]]The psychiatrist asks, "Are you still afraid of people with earpieces?"
"No." I believe the people with earpieces are sent to watch over me.
"Can I have my smoking privileges back?"
"I don't see why not. Are you hearing voices?"
My hands start to shake, and my girlfriend rubs my back.
She says, "For months I've been emotionally supporting both of us."
I start crying when the voice tells me that the hospital staff are going to kill my girlfriend if I don't break up with her. The psychiatrist chooses not to release me into an outpatient program.
[[Pace the halls.]] The woman with the rosary tattooed on her wrist is moved to East Wing. She paces the hallway whispering, "It is better to be a hidden king than a known king," until a nurse shoos her to her room.
[[Pace the halls.]] During dinner, the strangest feeling that all the food is poisoned overcomes all rationality. My girlfriend sits beside me watching.
I say "You can't kill me" between spoonfuls of minestrone soup.
Both legs go numb, and my mouth feels like it is boiling. Standing up, I flip the food tray onto the ground. A nurse takes my pulse. At one hundred and eighty beats per minute, they say, they are unable to let me leave the hospital.
The resident doctor tells me I am still symptomatic. He smiles too much.
He wears too much jewelry.
I challenge him to a fist fight.
He revokes my smoking privileges and orders the nurse to give me 8mg of morphine the next afternoon. I realize why so many people are addicted to opiates after having the best six-hour nap of my life.
My girlfriend is tearful, but I don't know why.
[[Get her to leave.]]I make eye contact with the girl with dreamcatcher earrings. Her hair is dark and curly. She wears thick black-rimmed glasses.
"Hello," I say.
"You should confess," she says.
"To what?" I say.
"Confess what you did."
"I didn't do anything."
The girl stands up and slaps me across the face. The orderlies immediately come streaming out of the nurses station and the girl starts screaming at the top of her lungs.
The phone rings.
[[Answer the phone.]]
[[Ignore The Phone]]The phone continues to ring until one of the other patients answers it.
They say, "Hello," and then hold the phone up to me.
"It's for you," they say.
[[Answer the phone.]] For leisure it's coloring books. The staff are humouring us, or we're humouring them.
I choose a blank sheet of bone-white paper and start drawing the narrative that's been cycling in my head nonstop for months. I'm too afraid to say it out loud. Trees, ravens, a river dividing two groups of men. A joker on a bicycle dragging a rock marked 808.
"I like how you have a clear vision of what you think is going on."
The nurse's attention seems threatening. The paper folds neatly into my pocket. In the washroom, I put the paper under warm water until the ink runs off the page.
The dinner cart rolls in.
[[Eat dinner.]] "What are you in for?"
"I was naked in a grocery store. I thought I was...I am a wolf."
"Are you here to spy on me?" I ask.
"Are you here to spy on me?" he asks back.
An old man comes out of the laundry room. Looking at our faces. Our hair colour. Mine blonde. Adam’s black.
"How many suns are there?" he asks us with his left hand in his pants pocket. His big-face silver watch reflects the halogen lights.
The old man smiles, snaps his fingers at me, then keeps walking down the hall like it's a red carpet.
"There are two suns?" Adam asks.
"Sons. Cain and Abel."
"You’re crazy," he laughs.
He puts a cigarette spiced with flakes of coke in his mouth. He turns his back and goes to the nurses station where the smokers are starting to line up.
"Info wars!" he yells back to me.
[[Go to the computer room.]]"You kept breaking up with me," she says over the phone.
"I don't remember doing it."
"It really hurts. Like I'm a yo-yo."
"You need to take the medication they give you."
"It makes me feel tired."
"You don't want to be with me when you're like that."
An orderly taps me on the shoulder.
"Time is up." I get a pain in my stomach finishing the sentence.
"I love you to pieces," my girlfriend says.
"Love you too," I say.
But it's a lie. She tried to poison me. She's conspiring with her friends. Angry about something. The announcements over the PA guide me to a conclusion. Adam's first wife, Lilith, is talking to me through other people, and she’s very angry.
I'm talking to myself, a nurse tells me that art therapy is about to start, and that attendance is mandatory.
[[Go to art therapy.]] My roommate has the same name as my father. A few other patients have the names of other family members.
We go outside to smoke every two hours. We watch the wind curl off snowbanks.
Icicles form in our hearts, there is no understanding among patients. Silence rules. Only the sound of cigarette butts fizzling out in puddles. Our fires extinguished.
[[Go back to the ward to sleep.]]I say, "You run the streets like a squirrel in a forest fire. Everything is dangerous. People follow me. They have earpieces. You can be a refugee in your own country."
They put the form on the table again and give me a pen. Thinking about predatory animals, wolves, I imagine tearing open the doctor’s throat with my incisors.
"Sign the form and we can help you," the doctor says.
Hours later I’m flying high on klonopin, being wheeled to a cab.
A nurse says, "They have better facilities where you’re going."
Later I'm taken out of the holding ward in a wheelchair.
I turn and wave to the people lined up in the emergency room, but nobody makes eye contact.
[[Go to Montreal General.]]At Montreal General, the first thing the orderly does is run my pockets. He counts the money in my wallet.
"What are you looking for?"
"Musical notes?" I laugh. “Bwahhhhhhhh!”
When the orderly finishes, I'm allowed to leave the room and explore.
Outside my door, a dark haired twenty-something sits on the linoleum floor.
"Hey," he says. "I'm Adam."
[[Talk to Adam.]]
[[Shake your head and go back into the room.]]
I'm about to go back into my room when an older woman who looks like my dead great-grandmother is wheeled into the ward. I stare at her for too long until a nurse shoos me away.
[[Go smoke.]]There’s one computer in East Wing, and thirty patients. We take shifts memorizing biblical verses. A woman draws sephiroth and writes down as much of the Qabalah as she can in her fifteen-minute shift.
There are paintings covering the walls. Whoever designed the ward must think the art is benign and calming, but I find two bluejays on a green branch to be heavily symbolic and allegorical to life so far.
A nurse shoos us to our rooms.
[[Go smoke.]]I am given a heavy dose of risperidone by my nurse.
[[Pretend to swallow it.]]The risperidone knocks me unconscious in twenty minutes.
I wake up groggy, foggy, but otherwise feeling less afraid.
Outside the room, I smell food. The patient phone rings on my way to the cafeteria.
[[Answer the phone again.]]
[[Ignore it.]] I hide the pills under my tongue, then wait for the nurse to leave. I run to the toilet and spit them out.
In the mirror, I'm smiling. Showing my canine teeth.
In my room, it's hard to sleep with my brain buzzing like a bee in a can.
I try to wait out my restlessness, but the sun peers through the narrow window sooner than I expect.
[[Leave the room.]]
[[Try to sleep.]]
Outside my room, I feel a charge of electricity in my hands.
It's the winter solstice.
Telling a nurse gets me sent downstairs for a brain MRI.
"Close your eyes," the tech says.
My heart sounds like bricks being dropped in a bathtub.
I repeat the mantra <i>Don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me</i> with eyes shut until they finish looking for tumours or microchips or enlarged ventricles.
[[Try to sleep.]] Waking up on a reality TV show is strangely exhilarating. I feel the weight of the hidden cameras on my body.
I’m made conscious of my posture at all times. In the locked-door shower stall, immodesty takes over and I take my time washing my emaciated body. My ribs poke out.
I’ve lost fourty pounds in five months. Pot is not a meal replacement, the nurses tell me.
In the halls of the ward, everyone seems dressed up, confirming that the cameras are on. A nurse says something mildly funny and I throw my head back and laugh at the ceiling. Everything must be exaggerated.
Compelled to perform by the thousands of cameras buried in the walls. If we put on a good show, we get to go home. The prison becomes a stage.
A psychiatrist invites me to the interview room to talk.
[[Refuse.]]Screaming is typical. A twenty-something woman is being dragged to isolation. She’s wearing the dumpy light blue pyjamas we have to wear when we first come into the ward.
All my attention is drawn to her face. I notice the intensity of her beauty. Her eyes are so alive. More alive than I’d ever been.
She catches me watching her, winks, and disappears behind a wall of orderlies.
"You’re all excellent actors," she screams.
The nurses come down the hall to tell us to meet in the art therapy room.
Participation, they say, is mandatory.
[[Go to art therapy.]] "Predictive algorithms determine our lives. We are being turned into slaves by machines."
"Yes but are you still afraid you're being watched," the psychiatrist asks.
"They are watching. All. Of. Us."
The psychiatrist nods, folds up his notebook, and then shakes my hand. "It's dinner time," he says. "I don't want to keep you."
[[Eat dinner.]]The psychiatrist nods and then leaves.
A few minutes later, all the orderlies and a few nurses form a wall around me.
"We need you to get better. It's in your best interest that you talk to the psychiatrist."
[[Flip them off and spit.]]The wall of people closes in on me and I wake up in my room, groggy. I think I must have dreamed my last memory. I hope I did.
[[Eat dinner.]] My girlfriend says on the phone that I have abandoned her. That I prefer my own twisted thoughts to her happiness.
She says it's over, but I can sleep in the living room until I find a place of my own.
I have a twenty three dollars.
The social worker helps me apply for welfare. I've been having seizures in the hospital. They got wise to me spitting out my meds, so now I'm being injected with clozapine.
You can't stay long in a hospital. So the social worker finds me a halfway house to stay in until I can get on subsidized housing.
It's spring, but it feels like winter still.
My eyes aren't used to natural light anymore.
I'm starting to prefer the cage.
On the outside I'm alone. There are no more voices to keep me company.
Sometimes I wish I had cancer instead of whatever I have. Prophetism. Schizoaffective whatever.
<<display "sqDeparture">>\It feels like I'm being carried as they roll the gurney to the tiny hallway this hospital calls a psychiatric emergency ward.
They roll me into a room with a wide window and then leave.
There's another person in the room.
[[Talk to roommate.]] THE HIDDEN KING
[[Start]]Background image: Dawn Hudson, adapted. Originally found at: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=128534&picture=blue-texture
Font: Kingthings License v1.00
This license can also be found at this permalink: https://www.fontsquirrel.com/license/Kingthings-Trypewriter<center><iframe src="/html/departureContent.html" style="width:150px;height:150px;padding:0;margin:0;display:block;border:none;overflow:hidden;"></iframe></center>