XLII | Someone's Replaced

Hey Fifi,
can I sleep here with you?


The next morning,
I wake

to the sour stench of vomit.

Moonlight Sonata
seeps through the walls.

‘Good morning, Tammie,’
I say.

She smiles
without opening
her eyes.

It feels good

to wake up
to somebody

by your side.

streams in


through the curtainless window.

I’m sweaty
without even

getting out of bed.

April. May. June.

It must be
one of these months.

don’t matter

in asylums

where forgetting
is commonplace.


the new patient,

isn’t in the hall
standing in front of her armchair,

like last night.

The nurses must have
got her to her room


(That explains
the screams we heard
last night.)

Medicine time begins

without her.

I remember
the times

I was given medicine in my room too.

When the nurses stuck to me like glue.


from across the room.


You’ve come

so far.


I count.
I count


Zuraida is the ninth patient.

the ninth.

The small boy
with the plastic ear

should be

Fatima’s replacement.

Or maybe it’s Urei
who never speaks.

Either way,
there’s nine of us now,

not eight.

I unclench my fists
and find deep red cuts on my palms.

My fingers move in

slow motion.

Or maybe Moonlight Sonata
is playing faster than usual.

Who is it?

going to be removed?



at me

from across
the hall.




While Tammie
is pole dancing,

I search for


I find him too fast—
sitting at the computer,

reading the news.

‘There’s Internet?’ I ask.

He jumps
and falls from the roller chair,


His face
twists in annoyance

when he sees me.

Whatever he’s muttering
under his breath

are curses I’ve not heard before.

‘Sorry,’ I say blandly,
as he sits down again.

‘Are you looking for porn?’

I just want
to irritate him more.

‘There’s no Internet here,’
he responds,

‘Are you dumb?’

He scrolls
to the top

of the page

so I can see the badly coded replica
of Google.

‘There’s no way
‘they’ll give us


He frowns at the screen.

‘I knew that.’

He sighs.

‘What do you want?’

I ask him


He shrugs (too quickly).

He replies (too quickly),
‘I don’t know

‘who she is.’

There’s recognition
in his eyes.

But he stares
straight at me
without fear.

He’s not lying.

‘What happened?’
I ask next.

He spins the chair around
so his body faces me.

His voice
is a nervous whisper.


He reaches up
with one hand

and touches the side of my neck.

With the nail of his thumb,
he slides it


my throat.

Then he turns back
to read his article on the effectiveness of therapy.

It takes

some time
for me to process

what he means.

The hidden message—
the truth

he’s afraid to say out loud.

I want to ask,

what are you so afraid

if I ask that,

I’ll reveal everything
to the very people

he’s hiding from.

The dark ugly scar
on his arm

is watching me.

Keeping my mouth

‘Maybe she got better and left?’
I suggest,

although I think that’s unlikely—

since I remember

she’s been
giving the nurses
a hard time


Gavin laughs
at the screen

but I know

he’s responding
to what I said.

‘No one gets to leave Wonderland.’
His voice is low.

Eyes shaky.

‘If you could,
‘you wouldn’t be here.’

He turns to me.

His face


‘So just forget her.’




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