XXI | Someone's Life

Why are you crying?


I can’t
turn my head

to face Tammie.

I don’t need to. I can smell her.

The rancid vomit

that clings to her
like a curse.

I inhale
the scent of half-digested proteins

like my life

depends on it.


I can’t speak.
My voice doesn’t work.

She hears me anyway.

Her scruffy head,
apologetic smile,

block out the bright lights,

down at me.

Her expression

is a little blurry.



You’re safe now, Fifi.


She wipes the tears
on my face,

talking all the while.


Why didn’t you listen to me, Fifi?

Do you really think
the whole world

has been brainwashed
except you?

That no one
but you

knows what the world is like?

You didn’t think this through,
did you?


I want to shake my head,
to object,

but I can’t feel my body.

I can’t.

Only the tears

that continue running.

Only Tammie’s hand

that strokes my cheek


There’s no conspiracy.
You’re here

because you’re sick.

You see and hear things
that are not there.


The nurse from the other hospital
said I could go home.

Was that a lie?

Tammie smiles

eyes silver like coins.


There are always eight patients.

Someone had to die
when you tried to escape.


What!? Why?!

Tammie’s smile

until the smile
reaches her ears.

Her eyes bend

like rainbows
without colour.

Her voice sounds muffled,
too low and too high

all at once:


You’re not supposed to know this, Fifi,
but I think you should know.

Your escape attempt
costs someone’s life.

Which patient
do you think
has been replaced

because of you?


I can’t hear my voice
but I can feel

Tammie’s hand,

wiping my face
with her fingers.

Who? Why?
What did they do?

They brought me back!
They brought me back!

Her face comes into focus.

Her mouth isn’t warped anymore.
Her eyes are sad,
no longer arched like rainbows.


Have you already forgotten?




I’ve forgotten!
I don’t remember!

How I came to be here,
what I did to make them



Tammie pulls back her hand,
moves out of view.

I want to turn my head.

It does what I say.

Feeling returns
to my body

one inch at a time.

Tammie sits in a chair
beside my bed.

She swings her legs,

because of the silence.


It’s not the silence.

You’re not the only one


I stare at the lights,
hoping they’d

illuminate my mind.

‘I want to make a sandwich by myself,’ I say.




Despite her discomfort
being in my bedroom

that’s now full of beeping machines,


doesn’t leave.


The nurses come
every now and then

to check my vitals,
inject medicine to make me

and calm,

make sure I haven’t
wriggled out of the straps

holding me down.

I can’t tell

what’s hurting

because I’m tied down
but I think

it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t try
to talk to the nurses.

I don’t want

anyone else to die.

I don’t eat
even when they lift the head of the bed
so I’m sitting upright

and put the spoon of soup
to my lips.

‘I want to die.’


No, you don’t.


Tammie doesn’t look at me
when she says this.

I’m looking at her.

The smell of vomit (gone rancid)
is even stronger now.

She’s balancing herself on her toes.

Her legs
are trembling.


the nurses stop bringing food.

the injections





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