“Hey, you must be Cat?” the man asks. He has honest eyes, steely blue and he smiles kindly.
“I understand you’ve been feeling down lately?”
An image of driving a needle into my arm enters my mind and I flinch. “I…guess you could say that.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be able to make you feel better,” he tells me certainly. “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
You’re not the first one to try and convince me, buddy. I just grimace and let them wheel me off into a cubicle enclosed by curtains. I’m already hating this place, and I wish to god that I had kept my mouth shut. Then Lolly wouldn’t have admitted me.
Daniel gives my hand a squeeze and I can only look at him helplessly. Personally, I’m about to implode, but all I can think about is how horrible he must be feeling, watching me lie on a hospital bed, crying for no reason. I keep smiling and telling him it’s okay, but the tears may be a bit of a contradiction, as he reminds me. Still, I’m glad he’s with me.
I go in to see the psychologist and her friend Tig the nurse. “I’ve got a brother called Tig,” I tell him. I leave out the fact that he’s a thieving little shit who causes my mother to have emotional breakdowns.
After millions of questions which I’m lacking in energy to answer, they tell me their recommendation; I should stay in this hospital for a night or two and undergo a mental assessment.
Three hours later, I’m thinking Fuck this place.
The thing with hospitals is that people are used to pain. It’s nothing for them to see a teenager with tears streaming down her face huddled in a ball on the bed. And they ignore it, because there’s worse people than you right now. I get it, I really do. It doesn’t stop it from hurting though.
Nurse Priscilla comes in and tells me of the situation. The Mowa Ward, where they wanted to take me, is full at the moment, meaning I could be here for a few hours. She also offered me antidepressants to take the edge off what I was feeling. Remembering the effects of the St Johns Wort, I declined, and watched her give me a funny look.
They let me call people here, but I can’t use Internet. So I call the only two numbers on my iPad worth keeping. Papa Willis doesn’t answer, but Flash does. When I tell him I’m in hospital, his mind leaps to the worst scenario, and he asks me what I did to myself. I quickly reassure him that I’m okay, I’m just there for observation, and he calms down. He tells me that he’s so happy I’m okay, and for that moment, I felt a peacefulness that had been absent since I first entered hospital.
Then the fucking phone disconnected and the nurse took it off me. Bitchface. Never trust anyone named Tig.
I talk to another nurse for a while. I actually like her. She knows how horrible I feel, and she seems to hate hospitals as much as I do. She offers to bring me some ‘gourmet’ food, and I agree, remembering too late that food in this hospital is incompatible with my picky eating habits.
“Want a sandwich?” I hold the plate of cheese and salad sandwiches out to Daniel. He just raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, me neither.”
“When was the last time you ate?” he questions suspiciously.
“That would be lunchtime.”
“You didn’t have lunch.”
“Wait, I bought a chocolate before I caught the train,” I pointed out. “So it was after lunchtime. And I had a cup of tea.”
He doesn’t look impressed. “I’m not eating the sandwiches.” I fold my arms.
“I’m not making you,” he replies. “The nurses however…”
“They can’t force me to eat. I’m not anorexic.”
“You are suicidal.”
“That’s not the correct term, but whatever. It’s not a matter of not wanting to eat, it’s the fact that there’s nothing good to eat. I’ll prove it.” I begin drinking the apple juice. “See? I’m consuming sugars. This gets converted into glucose. Glucose gives me energy to have more nervous breakdowns. It also helps me stay alive, which I am now proving that I want to do.”
“I never took you for a picky eater.”
“I always thought that you were someone who took what you got and dealt with it.”
I just stick my tongue out at him. “Want the list?”
“Sure, why not?”
This conversation is somehow distracting me from bursting into tears, so I continue. “With me, I’m fine with anything as long as it’s warm. Toasted sandwiches are fine. The only cold sandwiches I’ll eat are peanut butter ones.”
He laughs at that. “Peanut butter?”
“Don’t diss peanut butter!” I pretend to be outraged. “Peanut butter was my childhood, I’ll have you know.”
“Very well, very well. So cold food is off the table.”
“Well, cold meats. I hate cold ham and cheese. It turns my stomach.”
“What about vegetables?”
“I prefer them cooked, but I’ll force down some salads. But I love roast vegetables. Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin. And hot broccoli and cauliflower is wonderful. Like I said, if it’s hot, I’m usually happy to eat it.” I wrinkle my nose. “Avocado is off the table. But there’s a legitimate reason for that; I’m allergic.”
“Yeah…I get violently ill if I eat it. My brother once gave it to me on pizza, and I vomited on him.”
“Sure that wasn’t on purpose?”
“The projection of the vomit was. Actual urge to vomit was not.”
“So that’s it?”
“Well, there’s sweet food as well,” I told him with a grimace. “I hate very sweet food, like donuts. I despise alcohol in Ether; not only is it very potent, but it’s horribly sweet.”
“How on earth do you survive in our world?” he asks incredulously.
“Immortality. And rat steak. Lots of rat steak.” It’s actually not bad, once you get around the idea of eating rats. Plus they’re a lot larger in Delirium than in Reality. The meat’s softer and more bitter than beef steak, but it smells really good when cooked properly.
“Kaya used to try catch rats in Delirium,” Daniel remembers. “She had more success with fish though. Rats were harder to kill without them rotting immediately.”
“Didn’t you have a go a hunting?”
“At the time, I pretty out of it. I’d just been broken out by a giant dragon and I had no idea where I was. I just ate what I was given.”
“Fair enough. I wish we could eat fish…”
“Fish is Helevian food,” Daniel points out, rolling his eyes. “Christan hasn’t even seen one, let alone eaten one.”
“True…but still. Fish hasn’t changed too much from Reality. I think I’d prefer it to rat steak. Plus it would probably be better for me.”
I’m vaguely aware of the nurses watching me as I have this conversation with my imaginary friend. But it’s the only thing keeping me in Reality, these conversations. They almost manage to convince me that things can go back to normal after this nightmare.
Nurse Priscilla comes back and takes my blood pressure. Again, she offers me medication. I deny again. I don’t trust myself to judge whether or not I need sedation, nor do I have any idea of what they’re going to do to me head-wise. What if they get rid of Daniel? Then I’d really be alone…
This makes me start crying again. I just want my friends, to be around people I love. I’m banned from Delirium, and I’m locked away from everyone I care about in Reality. I wish I’d never come here. I want to go home, wherever the hell that is.