XIII | Some Rules

I run towards her,

stopping short
of actual contact
because of

the stench.

It feels

but it is a bad smell after all.

We stare at each other
in absolute silence.

Then Tammie


Aren’t you curious
about what happened to me?


I don’t know how to reply.

No, not really.

I wanted some space to think?

You were annoying so
I was glad you were gone?

I am too tired to care?

The week
passed by
in a blur

without my knowing it.

She gives me
that apologetic smile again
as though my silence

is her fault.

It is, actually.

Now that she’s
out and about,

ready to follow me like a parasite again,

I’m not going to
make much progress

figuring out

what kind of hell
this is.


This asylum?



hides her hands behind her back.


What have you been up to
while I was gone?


I shrug.

‘Not much,’
I say truthfully.

‘The nurses disappeared.’

Tammie smiles.


So has your knife.


I check
the gap
between the rowan trees

for myself.

My hands
brush past rough bark

and close around
cold dirt.

It’s gone.

‘The nurses took it?’ I guess.

Tammie nods.

‘You said you wouldn’t tell!’


I didn’t.




They know everything.


I examine her crestfallen face
and apologetic smile

for a trace of malice

but I only find



It occurs to me

that I’ve been

of her

because I suspect
that she is one of them,

ever since
what happened
in the bathroom.

Is that why
she stopped

following me around

for a while?

the one they want

is her?




We sit on the bench
near the checkerboard flowers

and watch
the shadow of the sun

shift across the plants.

Her breathing is laboured,
her hands tremble a little

and I notice

her skin
is translucent.

More so than usual.

‘Are you okay?’
I ask,

breaking the meaningful silence

that was our
most intimate conversation

with one another.

Tammie’s smile is apologetic.


Sorry for falling sick.


I want to ask.

But are the nurses
listening here too?

Tammie shakes her head.


They don’t listen.
Not normally anyway.

There’s eight of us.


She giggles at the thought.


eight of us
isn’t that many.

In the wards I remember,

there’s always
more patients than staff.

But even if
all the nurses I’ve seen so far

are their only staff,

it’s already a one to one ratio.

Having someone
monitor us 24/7

is not impossible.

Something Tammie said…

‘Not normally?’


What’s so interesting
about crazy people conversation anyway?


I remember the doors and corridors.
So many of them.

Maybe they’re confident
that’s enough.

Tammie touches my hand.

The one that’s

to her on the bench.

She leans over.


Listen, Fifi.

You mustn’t be so suspicious.
There’s no conspiracy.


I stare at her.
Her grey eyes capture mine.

I squirm

but her hand squeezes mine.


Even if they’re watching us,
we’re safe here

because of the rules.



What rules?


Number one:
There are always eight patients.


‘What kind of rule is that?’
I demand.

Tammie’s moves on.


Number two:
Not seeing the nurses is a good thing.


I ask about
the first rule again.

Tammie’s eyes
gleam as she replies
in a strange voice,


You’ll understand soon.




error: Content is protected!!