Introducing Sal


They let me go, because my insurance wouldn't pay anymore. Or at least that's what Mom said.

Personally? I think I just ran out of interesting noises to make when they prodded me.

I got a prescription...Seroquel, they said. The loathsome pills that turn you into a drooling zombie. Your senses are still working but your mind is just gone. It's like someone came along and hollowed you out with an ice cream scoop, leaving a blood-stained empty unfeeling shell. I don't feel anthing. It doesn't get better for as long as you take the drugs. And best of all? They think that somehow they're doing you a favor by inflicting this on you. Because me being blank and soulless is better than those moments where the world breaks. Rip her open, her grasp on reality is too weak!

They ripped me open, told my mom I was a danger to myself and others, and then kicked me out. Too broken for the psych ward. She came to pick me up. Didn't want me going home on my own, she said, but she seemed every bit as hollow as I felt, driving home in the rain, in utter silence. Mom looked dead. I knew how she felt. I wished the rest of me could feel that way too. Suicide never seemed far away after that.

 She didn't want me to go home, so she had me stay in my old room. I stopped taking the drugs they gave me. Mom couldn't even be bothered to raise hell. I pretended, for a while...I'd slip the pills under my tongue in her presence, quietly dispose of them in the trash or the toilet when she wasn't looking. Yuki tried to keep me company for a bit -- sweet, stupid cat -- but I was beyond anything mere purring and snuggles could cure. Eventually, I think even he got the idea that I was too lost. I was about ready to kill myself, so I painted.

I painted those nightmares. The ones that got me landed into therapy back in high school, because I was dumb enough to answer honestly when my art teacher asked me what the dim dark purple clouds in all my pictures of people were supposed to represent. Maybe I should've said something stupid and noncommittal back then, but it wouldn't have made any difference. They'd find me out for what I was eventually.

I told him that these clouds slipped out of my closet when I was trying to sleep and extruded knife-like claws and appendages and threatened to do terrible things to me in sepulchural voices if I cried for help, that they were servants of something bigger and nastier that I'd never met, but I could feel watching me from behind the paper-thin sheet that seperated everyday reality from the unthinkable truth outside of it. I didn't use those words, of course. I was shy enough as it was, and trusting him with that wasn't easy.

That's how all this started...not the night terrors or the hallucinations or the broken sense of reality. I know I'm schizophrenic. I even know what it means. I didn't back then, but it was unthinkable to me that other people might experience the world any differently. I always assumed they could just tell what I was thinking. It's not like I wasn't broadcasting it, clear and open for everyone to listen to. I never did grasp, until I was a bit older, why they didn't respond...or why they freaked out when I told them what should have been so obvious.

So I painted, after I got back to Mom's place. It worked for a while. I staved off those moments where reality goes hyper-real and you feel like you're in a Japanese horror film. The moments where even the cat seems to be an inscrutable, alien thing, quiet and still and watching you with unreadable intentions. Where you don't go into the basement or outdoors or back upstairs to the bedroom because you know that if you do, the world will break and you'll find out what the horrible plot twist is this time around. I can't say I hate those moments exactly -- in a way they make me feel almost as empty as the seroquel does -- but they're very difficult to pull out of, and seeing other people always makes it far, far worse. You just get consumed by the mindless motion of it all.

 Eventually, I stopped painting. Mom came home to several nights of me shaking, curled up and crying, in the fetal position, on the couch. She couldn't go out, it seemed, without leaving me prey to those horrors that lurk *just* around the corner, waiting for you to step into the room and see them. I knew they weren't there, but on another, far more evocative level, I knew they were. I wished I could make it go away. I just couldn't stand to be hollowed out and dead anymore. It was worse, somehow. I was far more ready to kill myself on the meds than I ever had been without them.

 Eventually, Mom couldn't handle it anymore, and she sent me home. I was alone, seperated from everyone in the world by the walls of a single apartment and the impenetrable gulf of rogue neurology.

Then I woke up one day and found everybody gone. I felt lucid that morning, for the first time in months...I'd cried myself to sleep and it almost seemed like the spell might be lifted. I stepped outside and waited for the bus.

It never came.

I went for a walk, after an hour. It was eerily quiet. No cars passed me. The sounds of activity, of city life, were conspicuously absent. Everything seemed still. It was eerie, intensely so. I wondered if I was in the middle of a hallucination, the most complete and all-encompassing I've ever experienced.

 I don't know what happened, but when I woke up that morning, I discovered that everyone was just gone.