Posted in Character Stories, Uncategorized

High School Nightmare

I’m in a white room with white curtains and a white couch. I’m in here a lot. It’s a no distraction room. Sitting with my legs crossed in the center of the couch, I stare down at the question on the first page of my spiral bound notebook.

Who were you in high school?

I don’t get to leave until I put something on the paper. The dull tip of my pencil rests on the page, but words don’t come. I can’t reorder my thoughts because there’s nothing up there in the foggy expanse of my brain. 

They should have laid off of the medication before this exercise. I can barely function. 

High school. High school. High school. What do I know about high school?

I like to watch a lot of movies. High school kids always end up talking to each other inside a hectic cafeteria. They talk about the cheap food and toss slices of cheese at the next table, cheering when it plasters itself across the chipped, blue surface.

The cameras pan around the wide space, making it clear for the audience that each table has its own click of kids. Those closest to the door are wearing cowboy hats and talking about the next project for their class inside the future farmers program. They’ve already decided that tending chickens and growing crops is going to be a good path for their lives. It must be nice to be so sure of what’s ahead.

In the center of the room are guys pushing extra tables together, their jerseys sporting different numbers as they make space for the whole team to sit together. They likely play football. They’re the coolest kids in the school just because they can catch a ball and have a mob-minded posse to back them up. Girls from the cheerleading team flit around them. Their captain, the girl who stands on the top of the pyramid, lays across the lap of the quarterback. She’s all smiles and innocence, her outward persona covering up the mischief simmering behind her hazel eyes.

A girl like that runs the school. She’s the top of the proverbial kingdom. She’ll wear the crown at the school ball and kiss that boy in front of the school. 

That’s not who I am.

I let my mind’s eye trail over the rest of the picture I’ve created. There’s the kids who like anime. They’ve spread out their notebooks covered in amateur artwork. It’s all bright colors and action scenes. They are close to the bottom of the high school power network, but they can’t care less. They’re happy with their oddball friends. 

I wish that was me. I don’t remember having friends. Of course, I’m in therapy because I don’t remember anything, but that’s besides the point. 

Who else? 

That girl in the corner. She has an untouched lunch in front of her and a book open. She’s just a green flannel and brown hair around the edges of The Odyssey. It’s her hiding place and current salvation from reality.

I think I might be a bit like that. I don’t really care for episodic poems, but I read plenty of books in my spare time. 

My pencil at the perfect angle, I press it hard enough to put a dent into the page, but my hand doesn’t move any further. That’s not who I was. It’s who I’ve become. A man in need of hiding from my life by slipping between the comforting pages of a fantasy. 

How did I get here?

The door across from me opens and this week’s therapist walks in. I didn’t bother learning his name. Matthew will fire him by the end of the week if he doesn’t figure out what’s wrong with me. Since nobody has done it yet, the odds are truly not in his favor. 

“How’s the progress?”

I cross my arms over my chest, pressing the blank page to myself, so he has no way to see that I’ve failed yet another writing prompt. Why does it matter who I was? I have amnesia and I can’t access those memories anyway. Why do I need to know who I was in high school?

The dark-skinned doctor takes a seat in the white chair across from me. He doesn’t pull out a pad. He likes to take notes on his phone. He probably thinks it makes him look cool or hip or less confrontational. It doesn’t. I wish people would stop writing about me. 

Since I haven’t given an answer and he has probably assumed that I’ve gotten nowhere in my writing, he presses ahead. “You still function as an adult with a proper education, Miles. From your file, I know you have no problem remembering details of previous literature and you quote old films easily. Fiction isn’t a problem for you, but reality is.” He taps the screen of his phone several times. “There’s a patchiness to your memory that’s uncommon in most amnesia patients, so we can’t treat you with the usual practices. You need to be open to alternative healing exercises.”

Yeah. I’ve heard that before. Something’s wrong with me that hasn’t ever happened to someone else. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but it’s been a long time. The faces of the doctors blur together, lost to the depths of my memory just as much as the facts of my life. 

“Let’s try this same question, but together. Sometimes talking helps.”

Screw talking. Arguing and debating and talking haven’t done anything for me yet.  I want to crawl into my bed and pull my blue comforter over my head and pretend like there’s nothing wrong. Talking is the last thing I want to do right now, but fighting against the doctor’s suggestions doesn’t get me out of this room. The only way to get from here to there is to answer the doctor, play nice, and act as though any of this matters. 

Matt wants me to get better. My husband is slowly going mad and he has paid too much to all of these doctors to get no results. I’d like nothing more than to give Matt some good news at dinner tonight. I don’t know how many more times I can watch disappointment cloud his dark gaze across the table from me. It’s for him that I lean back against the couch and nod to the doctor. 

“High school, Miles. Tell me who your friends were.”

I put my pencil to the pad, making my writing big enough to take up several lines so he’ll be able to see it from his seat. I don’t think I had any.

I hold the pad up between us. His eyes flick over the words. He nods and then jots a note into his phone. “Did you play any sports?”

Blowing a hard breath through my nose, I shrug. There’s no point in writing an answer out for that. I have the physical build of a pool noodle. I get winded coming up the stairs to our apartment. There’s no way I was on an athletic team. 

The doctor holds his hand up for me to calm down. “Hey, we have to keep our minds open to any possibility.”

Whatever. Not an athlete. I was definitely more like the girl hiding with her nose in a book. I was probably the kid who never left the library. A bottom feeder in the high school aquarium, that’s what I was. The kind of disabled guppy that nobody notices until it ends up floating belly up near the top of the tank. 

“Family? Did your mom drop you off at school? A sister pick you up?”

I shake my head. My family is Matt. I don’t remember anyone else. 

He doesn’t push me on that question. I’m sure my file details how I can’t remember anyone before coming to live in this hotel with Matthew. I know lots after that. Julien usually runs the lobby counter. He has a nice smile and always remembers how much creamer I like in my coffee. Then there’s Stephanie who manages entertainment. Her fingernails are always an odd color and she never speaks directly to me. Paul delivers our laundry from the laundromat. Jessica brings me lunch everyday. 

Lucy. 

She’s my favorite. A dancer and singer who runs her own club somewhere else in Vegas. She always says hi to me after performances. If Matt is busy taking care of clients and business partners, she stays by my side. Her makeup is always beautiful and she shares the details of her handmade costumes with me. Someday, she promised, she would teach me how to sew. 

I suppose if she and I had gone to high school together, Lucy wouldn’t have seen me. She’s the center of every party, the light in every room, the reason to show up and smile. We’re a very odd pair to become friends. 

“Hey. I can’t read your thoughts, Miles. Can you write down what you’re thinking?”

Right. The doctor is still here. I shake my head. Lucy is my friend, not the topic of my therapy. Next question, I write instead.

His lips press into a line. He’s frustrated. Good, so am I. 

“You like to draw nowadays, Miles. Did you take any art classes back in high school?”

I pick at the blister on my thumb. Matt lectured me last week about taking care of myself. Sometimes I start a project and I don’t stop to eat, to rest my hands, or to think. The world disappears when I sit down in front of my sketchbook. Graphite sinks under my fingernails. Ink stains my palms. Paints smear up my arms and occasionally find a home on my cheeks or forehead. It no longer matters that I can’t speak, that I can’t remember, that there’s something wrong with me when I start an art piece. My hands work just fine and I can create beautiful things. 

Can’t remember. I’ve always liked drawing.

The doctor lets out a slow sigh. We’re not making progress and he’s feeling discouraged. Hopefully, that means I’m out of here sooner rather than later. 

“Did you get good grades?”

I shrug. Not good at tests, probably B or C student.

He adjusts to lay his ankle across the opposite leg. Crap. It’s never good when they start to get comfortable. It means they want to stay for hours. 

“First sexual experience, Miles? Lots of people have them in high school. Tell me about your first partner.”

The pencil falls out of my hand. It clatters to the ground, sending ripples of sound through the room, announcing to the doctor and anyone else in ear shot that I’m nervous, caught off guard, and actually surprised by a question. Sex. Nobody has ever dared to ask me about that before. I’m with Matt. Nothing else should matter, should it?

The doctor latches onto the break in my passive position, spitting his next question before I can lean down to pick up my pencil. “Was it a woman? Are you worried Matthew would be upset? Is there someone else you like more than your husband?”

Bent in half, my fingers inches from the yellow pencil, I freeze. When did this become an inquisition? Is he here to help me or here to make me look like a fool?

“What are you scared of, Miles?” He starts berating me once more, his voice higher pitched and his words fast. “Do you think someone is going to find out that you’ve faked your condition just so you can continue to live off of your husband’s money?”

His words ring through my ears as heat rushes to my cheeks. This can’t be happening. He’s a doctor. A doctor can’t talk like this. My eyelids burn. My nose tingles. Tears are coming and I can’t stop them. 

“Answer me.”

I pick up the pencil, barely able to hold it in my trembling fingertips. I press the tip of it to the pad. I’m going to write stop and he’s going to get out. I’m done with this. We’re done. 

Just one word and this is over. 

The doctor is on his feet. He snatches the pad out of my hand. “Use your voice, Miles.”

I can’t. I haven’t spoken since the accident. I know for damn sure that is in my file. 

He’s not done. Dropping the pad, he leans into my face. “Anything, Miles. Talk.”

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. 

My mouth is open, but no sound comes out. Not a whisper, not a cry. A hot tear streaks down my cheek. 

“He’s going to find someone better, Miles, if you can’t get over this.”

I know. Snot drips to my upper lip. 

I’ve known that for a long time. He takes pictures with plenty of other people. He was in a celebrity magazine last week as a bachelor. A different report bragged that he had been seen leaving a bar with a woman named Victoria. I’ve been cooped up in our home for so long that everyone has forgotten that Matthew Quinn is a married man.

I’m going to lose him if I can’t get better. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that. 

Red starts to bleed into my vision.

No. No, no, no. 

This can’t happen. Not here. Not now. 

Matt says it’s a bad reaction to my medication. 

Breathe. Please, just breathe. 

I squeeze my eyes shut. I can stop this. I won’t let myself be a victim to the hallucinations.

The pencil in my right hand snaps. My eyes open. In front of me, the white room has been bathed in maroon. The doctor is on the floor, his face frozen in a look of horror. There’s claw marks through his suit. 

No. This isn’t real. Breathe, Miles. 

High school. That was the question. Think about it. 

Who was I in high school?

I push off of the couch and stumble across the doctor’s still body. I’m seeing things. The room isn’t red. That’s not blood on the floor. Somebody is going to come in here and sedate me and I’ll wake up with Matt by my bed. 

I lift my hands in front of my face. Black claws extend from each of my fingers. 

High school. 

Who was I? 

Not the cool kids at the top. Not the nerds and outcasts at the bottom. 

What was I?

A monster. A nobody. A danger that wasn’t contained in time.

Author’s Note:

This week’s creative writing prompt was “high school hierarchy.”
I wanted to spend some time with another character from my future novels. Miles Quinn has gone through a hundred revisions. A decade ago, he was a cliche vampire who got the girl at the end of a very basic, supernatural romance. Today, he, as well as a mix of other characters from my cast, is redefining what it means to be a monster, a vampire in his case. His story will deal with a lot of psychological trauma, black outs that leave him at the mercy of the vampire virus raging through his system, and a challenge to find love even when he doesn’t understand what that looks like. If you read last week’s prompt, you’ll recognize Lucy. Someday in the future, they’ll share a novel detailing their troubles amongst the hectic layout of Las Vegas.

Thank you for reading this far! I hope you have a great week.

Make sure to also check out Bridgette and Anna’s stories:

https://bridgettetales.com/2022/05/28/challenge-week21/

https://loscotoff.com/week21-hierarchy/#comment-250

Author:

Married. Writer. Dreamer. I have some obsessions with the supernatural, so look out for the upcoming vampires and syrens and more.

4 thoughts on “High School Nightmare

  1. Oh, what a great take on the prompt! I love how you are using these to explore characters in your novels. It was fun to know that this characters is in the same world as Lucy from last week. You have such a great ability to draw the reader in with just the right details. I can’t wait to read more!

    Like

  2. This is such a fascinating take on high school hierarchy, I really didn’t suspect the direction it was headed and loved when we got where we were going. I’m fascinated by Miles and what’s true and what’s not, what his history it, and where his story with take us. Very nice writing this week.

    Liked by 1 person

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