“Listen to my voice, Thomas, when I count down to one; you will find yourself in a deep relaxed sleep, every muscle in your body is relaxed, let go,” the distant voice whispered beside him. “5”
His mind dulled as the sensation of falling vibrated throughout him. “4” Chatter whispered in his ear. “3” The lucid part of him fought to stay awake. He tried to move his arms to push himself up, the heavy buzz under his skin radiating all the way down to his legs and deep into his bones. “2” He felt his body go limp, leaving his mind completely awake. He struggled to breathe. “Let go Thomas, I’m right here.” He knew this voice. He felt the warmth of a hand on top of his. As his mind descended into darkness, the tightness in his chest loosened. Static that resembled a hum stirred in his head pulling him down, filling him up. A sharp ripple under his skin began to sizzle, burning him from the inside out. The hum grew louder, deafening him as the lull devoured him into darkness. “1”
“Thomas…Thomas, can you hear me?” a distant echo whispered.
Thomas opened his eyes; his head heavy as it caught a glimpse of the burnt orange sky. He didn’t know if the day had just begun or if it was ending. He rubbed his face; breathing heavily into his hands. The softness of the cot he’d just been laying on moments ago was gone replaced by a harsh wooden bench. The chatter of voices gone. The panic he felt subsided. He thought of the closed in space of the psychiatrist’s tiny barren office with its sky blue walls and oversized chairs and one little window that looked out into the parking lot. He twisted and turned in his seat as his heart raced.
The voice that seemed to be everywhere and in him whispered. “Thomas? where are you?” Thomas took a breath as he looked around. He took in the metal pole with a white sign that stood adjacent from him and the brown stone buildings that stood on each side of him. The area felt familiar and new to him. “Thomas, focus.” whispered the voice.
He blinked a few times, “I’m…I’m at a bus stop,” he mumbled. Thomas moved thoughtlessly from the bus stop into the naked street. “Good Thomas, very good, now bring her to you,” the voice whispered. Bright copper orbs for eyes flashed through his mind, a crop of light reddish brown hair with a devilish smile, and skin the color of butter. “Morella,” he whispered. “Just breathe," the voice said softly. Thomas froze as he felt the slightest prickle of something sharp along his neck.
“Looky what we have here,” came a muffled thick voice behind him. “Thomas?” the voice sounding further away now. Thomas turned toward the figure, his eyes focused on the blade and then the girl who held it. “You came back,” Morella slid, the blade into the holster on the side of her thigh grazing her finger down the blade.
Morella pulled the scarf that hid her face letting it fall against the black cloak she wore to reveal a smirk and a bob of light reddish brown hair. She watched as his eyes flicked with bewilderment. He closed his eyes and took a slow shallow breath only to open them to discover her eyes on him. Morella eyed him without blinking. He stared back. His eyes began to ache as she stared unblinking into his blue eyes. He was in pain and she knew it. She smiled. He could feel the tears in his eyes as the urge to close them overwhelmed him, with a snort she blinked releasing him.
She jerked her head toward him. “Let’s go,” Morella grabbed his arm dragging him to the nearest building with an open door. They climbed up the steps. Morella closed the door with one hand. He pulled back, shaking his head. “I can’t,” he swallowed as he tugged his arm back into the pocket of his hoodie. He watched as her eyebrows dipped. “I can’t do this anymore.” He bent his head down, not sure what do next. Morella clicked her tongue as the wind shifted, “come with me, once were inside the portal everything will be clearer. I promise.” She moved to take his hand.
At the thought of the portal, a sense of excitement and wonder came over him, he moved his hand slightly to take hers. “Thomas,” a voice in his head spoke. “No.” Dread crawled up from Thomas’s stomach. Cold sweat broke out across his face. He made to turn, catching Morella’s blood red eyes staring at him, stopping him dead in his tracks. With a harsh grin, she snapped her fingers and the door behind her trembled.
“You’re not real,” Thomas stepped backward tripping down the steps and into the gravel. The light of the sky flickered, the buildings began to crumble with every step back.
“And why not?” Morella said eerily calm while glancing at her nails.
“Because this is crazy. This is an illusion conjured by my mental illness.” he said to her as he tried to convince himself. “That’s right Thomas, tell her.” whispered the voice in his head.
“Not necessarily,” Morella spoke with rawness. Thomas wanted to ask what she meant but decided against it. With a sigh and halfhearted laugh, she said, “and why can’t this be real?”
“Because …because,” he shook his head. She looked at him funny. Her eyes fell on his trembling hands. She rushed and grabbed his too cold hands. Thomas’s hands instantly warmed as they touched hers.
“Tell me this isn’t real,” she blew her warm breath onto his hands too warm them.
“Thomas you mustn’t fall for her tricks…Thomas face her and see the truth for what it really is. You must remember the TRUTH.” The voice said alarmed.
Morella yelled, “HOW LONG ARE YOU GOING TO LISTEN TO THAT LITTLE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD?” Thomas froze in place. His heart stopped. He couldn’t breathe. For a moment there in her eyes, he saw a hint of something he could not make out.
“I can’t, I need to get out of here” then Morella’s face shifted. Her cheeks lifted from ear to ear as she grinned. She took a step closing the distance between them. He could feel the heat radiate from her. She moved her hand to his shoulder, squeezing it firmly with a chuckle in his ear she whispered, “Wake Up Thomas.” Thomas felt a tap on his shoulder.
“THOMAS, eyes open, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!”
Thomas jolted from his seat. He sat up wide-eyed. He was back! He scanned everything and nothing all at once. Everything was exactly the way he left it. His chest ached as he struggled to catch his breath. The tiny office felt claustrophobic as he tried to catch his breath. “Thomas, breathe in and out,” He squinted up at the short brown woman kneeling beside him, not recognizing her at first. “Dr. Neely, she was….” He couldn’t finish.
“I think that’s enough for us today, you did very well.” Dr. Neely smiled lightly carefully moving to a standing position. Thomas swayed in his seat on the small cot, Dr. Neely patted his back, the sudden touch reminded him of Morella. Without thinking he grabbed her wrist pulling her back down to him, “I could still feel her breath on my ear, and the pressure of her hand on my shoulder….and she knew about you,” he said more to himself. His skin tingled, singed from her touch. Dr. Neely observed him. Dark circles hung below his eyes, his skin took on a worn-out olive tone. Even his curly hair hung low from lack of sleep. His file flashed through her mind: delusions, anxiety, confusion, insomnia all the symptoms of an oncoming mental break. Dr. Neely slid Thomas’s hand from her wrist, plopping herself on to the cot beside him. “Thomas these things take time. I promise you, one day she will be a distant memory. I want to try a new prescription.”
Thomas took a deep breath. As he stood to exit the tiny office. He took out the new prescription for Risperdal and Loxapine. He passed it to his mom who sat in the small waiting room. Without saying a word, he and his mom hopped into the silver 1996 Honda and pulled out into oncoming traffic. Thomas bit deeply into his nail. The bitter tang of rust dripped onto his tongue calming him. “Thomas?” Morella whispered his name. He glanced up as they drove past a bus stop, spotting her devilish grin and copper hazel eyes that burned red as they watched him go by.