XV | Someone Count

We’re playing

in the study room

when Elliot walks in

accompanied by
two nurses.


One dozen.


‘Correct,’ I reply

and fill in the blanks with her answer.

They’re not
the same nurses
that followed me around.

Their uniforms

the male ones.

One of them has hazel eyes.



sits in front of the computer,

the first patient I’ve seen
to switch it on.

He turns,

like he feels my gaze

on the back of his head,
but continues typing

his name

when the computer
asks for it.

It’s not Elliot.

He types:





Hey Fifi,
did you count?


Tammie’s tapping my

violently now.

It hurts.

I turn away
from Elliot— or Mason—

whatever his name is

and look at the paper
Tammie’s flapping in my face.

She’s drawn

a cheshire cat’s smile
on the man getting hanged

and a speech bubble

with the words: HA HA HA
in it.

The smile on her face,

is apologetic.


Hey Fifi,
did you guess the word?


As soon as I see it,

a shiver
goes down

my spine.

I take the pencil from her
and fill in the blanks


The nurses are watching

the computer screen
continuously churning out


for every URL
their charge

in the search bar.

They’re making no move to tell him
the Internet

doesn’t work


Tammie folds the paper with her word and the laughing hanged man

and eats it.


Let’s go to the greenhouse.


‘Am I right?’

I follow her,

‘Hey, Tammie!’

Up the square spiral stairs,

into the open sitting area
without anything to sit on.

Tammie prances into the greenhouse

without me


caught my eye.

The door

Next to Krishna’s.

The one that said
this morning,

after the scream,

before the first note
of Moonlight Sonata.

Now it says


Hey Fifi,
did you count?




I count

the patients

I know.

There are always eight patients.

A chill
runs down
my spine.

Li Wen.

Eight patients.

There are always eight patients.


With Mason,

Tammie’s singing in the greenhouse:


Seven, eight! Lay them straight..
Nine, ten! A big fat hen..


I hear footsteps
on the stairs

and close the glass door

behind me.

Tammie smiles

Too loud!
I shush her.

A nurse walks by.

The same one
I saw this morning,

coming out of Elliot’s room.

She looks like
the pretty nurse,

(same hairstyle)

wearing a mask.

She enters

Elliot’s room with a pillow.


That’s Mason’s room now.

Tammie takes the hangman paper
from her mouth,

dripping saliva onto the cold stone pathway.


the word I filled out
on the blank dashes

is almost unreadable.

Smudged and half digested.

‘Ew, Tammie.’

She crushes the paper,
saliva squeezing through her fingers

like slime.

‘That’s gross. Stop it.’

Tammie tucks the paper
in the gap

between the two rowan trees.


What do you think
happened to your plastic knife?


When Tammie
brought up the two rules,

I thought she might be
making it up,

just her delusion

of how this asylum

But it wasn’t.
That wasn’t what Tammie meant

at all.

These rules 

were really

how this place
is run.


That high-pitched
unearthly scream

in the morning…

That was Elliot, right?

What happened
to him?

Tammie’s tapping my arm.
Grey eyes waiting patiently


Fifi, are you listening?

What do you think happened
to your plastic knife?


I take my time to respond.

(To be honest,
I’m a little spooked
by her.)

Do the walls have ears?

Is this a trap?

I’m not really sure
that Tammie isn’t with them.

so I say,

‘Ma’am Kaiser’s servants took it.
‘He’s become one with the walls.’

Mason came,

so someone had to go.


There are always eight patients.


In order
to stay alive,

we have to be

one of the eight patients.




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