XII | Someone Watching

Where did the nurses go?

I walk to the bench
by the rowan trees

where they once
watched over my shoulder.

but I’m


the only one here.

I go back
to my room

but the door is locked.
They’re all locked

and I’m really alone.

I search the whole asylum

but there’s only
patients around.

‘Where do the nurses come from?’
I ask Gavin

when I eat lunch.

He jumps at my voice,
almost choking

on his drink.


His eyes dart around,
looking for the nurses.

When he doesn’t see them,

he leans close.
‘They’re always watching.’

I regret

asking him.

‘Some of your screws
‘are loose,’ I tell him.

He just stares at me

like I’m not
making sense.

I go to the study room
and eat my hamburger





I don’t see her
until I’m done with my burger.

She sat

so still,
not moving,
that I didn’t

notice at all.

I haven’t talked to her

and I don’t talk to her now either.

But when she feels me

staring at her,
she turns around

and fixes her dark chocolate eyes

on me.

‘Hi,’ I say.

She lifts her chin,
glaring down at me.

‘Who are you?’

Her voice is arrogant

and scratchy
(like she’s been screaming).

My first instinct
is to get offended

since I greeted her nicely first.

I think

it’ll be better to ignore her

but the moment
I stand and
walk away,

she demands,
‘Where are you going?’

So I turn
to give her

a piece of my mind.

She continues


‘I’m the kaiser,

Her hands shake
even though she’s gripping

the armrests real tight.

‘Bow down and pay your respects.’



in my chest.

She’s obviously Malay.
Not remotely European.

She looks so determined,
          so serious,

it takes all my self-control

not to crack up.

I clear my throat
and sit back down.


Her eyes bore into mine.

She: Sorry what?
Me: Sorry Fatima.
She: You can’t address me by name.
Me: Sorry Ma’am Kaiser.

Fatima relaxes visibly.

I get an idea.

‘Ma’am Kaiser,’

I begin to say.

Her eyeballs shift
to look down on me once more.

‘Where are your servants?
‘The ones in white.’

She thinks for a while

then points
at the wall
behind the table.

‘When they are not needed,
‘they become

‘one with the wall.’

I blink
in confusion.

That was not helpful at all.

What does
‘one with the wall’
even mean?

I decide to ask.

She clucks at my tone,

thin fingers
running through
black hair,

and leans back in
(what she obviously thinks is) her throne.

Crosses her legs.

‘They’re not statues
‘for the likes of you to stare at.’

‘Ah,’ I say,
pretending to understand.

Fatima begins
a lecture about her lowest slave
being higher ranked

than the likes of me.

While I return to the greenhouse,

I try to make sense of this.

On my way up,
I examine the smooth walls and ceilings.

No cameras.
No speakers.

But during medicine time,

the other patients and I
hear it


Moonlight Sonata
blasting through the stone walls,

calling us to gather.

As I step onto the cold stone path
in the greenhouse,

I am hit

with a familiar foul stench
(and a realisation).


The nurses are always watching.

The first week of hovering
was because you’re new here.


The slight figure
standing in front of the rowan trees

gives me

an apologetic smile.




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