IX | Something We Play

I know what you did
with the plastic knife.


I’m sitting in the study room,
hiding behind

a large paperback.

Tammie’s perched on the armrest,

the foul odour
as unsettling as always.

Why is she

following me around?

‘Are you a patient or a spy?’
I demand.

An apologetic smile.


A patient.


‘Don’t believe.’


I’m sorry.


‘Why are you here?’

She repeats
what she says before.


I know what you did
with the plastic knife.


I lean close to her,
holding my breath

for as long as possible

until our faces
almost touch.

I can hear her heartbeat.
or maybe it’s my own

—it’s hard to tell cause
we’re so close together.

‘The nurses will hear you.’

I move
to a different armchair.

Grey eyes watch me
from across the room.

She sits beside me



I won’t tell them.


‘Then why are you
‘bringing it up?’

An apologetic smile.

She hands me

a folded piece of paper
from between the pages
of the book she held.

I unfold it

and stare at the stickman
hanging from the gallows.


It was our favourite game.

Her smile is bright.
Her grey eyes glow.


You remember now?


‘I played it a lot
‘when I was younger.’

There are seven blanks.

I hand the paper
back to her.


She draws a noose
around the stickman.


She fills in the last blank.


She fills in the third and fifth


She colours in
the stickman’s eyes,

draws the eyeballs
on the ground.


She fills in the second letter.


She finds a red pencil
and draws perpendicular scars

on the stickman’s arms.


She fills in the first blank.

I stare at the paper.
The half-formed word.

Then at the gleam
in her eyes.

A proud smile

in place
of the apologetic one.


Come on, Fifi.
Can’t you guess it yet?


I take the paper from her
and shred it to bits.

I see the light extinguish


along with the paper.

I shower her
with the bits of paper.

‘Is that what
‘you’re here for?’

An apologetic smile.

She scratches her arm
and I notice the scars

for the first time.


I have something better
than a plastic knife.


Tammie finds another piece of paper,
blank on one side,

and draws another stickman.

Another set of gallows.

This word has
ten letters.

I guess the vowels first
like before.

‘I’ and ‘O’ don’t appear
and the stickman gets

long black hair

and two stickmen shadows.

‘Play properly.’
I glare at her.

_ U _ _ E _ _ A _ _




The stickman gets a noose.

_ U _ _ E R _ A _ _

Cuts on her arms.


A blindfold over her eyes.


_ U _ D E R _ A _ D

I pause.

Two ‘D’s.
That was unexpected.

I think about

the word again.


I go through









Tammie drags the game out by
giving the shadow stickmen


I recognise them.

They’re obviously the nurses
that follow me around.



She fills it in.

I stare at the paper.
‘That’s not how you spell wonderland.’

Tammie writes ‘W’
in the first blank
and gives me the paper,

gesturing for me
to rip it to shreds.

I crumple it
and slide it

into my pocket.

The first movement of Moonlight Sonata
begins to play.

Tammie stands up
and raises both hands.


It’s a pick-up line.



I follow her to the main hall.


I’ve never used it though.


‘What pick-up line?’

She grins.


It’s not Wonderland without ‘U’.




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