The autumn wind raised goosebumps along my exposed skin. The
white, slip of a dress I wore, did little to protect me from the
chilly weather that came with the changing of seasons. Red and
golden leaves were torn from their branches and sent spiralling
to the ground in front of me. Some landed on the small, bubbling
creek and were taken by the current, slowly pulled under by the
heavy water, until they were ripped apart by the river stones.
I shuffled over to the creeks muddy bank, trying to keep my body
as compact as possible to reserve heat. Reaching out a skinny arm
I broke the rivers constantly moving surface with my bony hand.
The freezing water flowed around my fingertips, sending its icy
temperature up along my fingers, though I didn't pull away.
It was not often I was allowed contact with pure water, which I
craved with every part of my being; both physical and spiritual.
I drew my power of seeing from the ancient knowledge of
water, but I had never been exposed to the powerful element
enough to reach my full potential. Instead I spent my days cooped
away in a cramped, white building; dreaming of escape and
surrounded by people who were slowly loosing their last shreds of
"Your dead Aunt is sitting next to you."
I sighed irritably, twisting around on my feet so that I could
face the person who'd interrupted me, without loosing contact
with the creek.
Chipo stood behind me, her large blue eyes vacant as they stared
at the patch of damp grass next to me. She'd forgotten to brush
her long, red hair again, leaving the thick mass tangled and
knotted atop her head.
"Pardon?" I said, staring up at her gaunt face, with a patiently
"Your deceased Aunt Lucinda," Chipo said airily. "She's sitting
next to you."
"That's nice," I replied calmly, knowing that it wasn't Chipo's
fault that she was unable to tell I wanted to be left in peace
while I could get it.
Chipo, like me, was a naturally gifted person, but unlike me,
Chipo's gift was connecting with those who had passed onto the
spirit realm. However, her gift had never been nurtured, or shown
boundaries and she crossed over from being able to converse with
the dead, to actually seeing them. The long, drawn out process
had tortured the twenty-year-old into madness.
"She doesn't like you playing so close to water," Chipo
continued, blank eyes turning to stare at my face, though I knew
she wasn't really seeing me. "She wants you to stop."
"But I don't want to," I said softly, watching Chipo's expression
intently. "Is it ok if I keep my hands in the water?"
"No," Chipo said quickly, breath starting to come in quick gasps.
"No - bad -water bad - no go - water bad -"
"Ok, it's ok," I soothed her, standing up speedily to help calm
her down, trying to ignore the empty feeling the engulfed me at
the lose of contact with my element. I slowly reached out to grab
Chipo's shoulders, directing us both away from the shallow creek.
"It's alright now, Chip, you're alright, I'm alright and we're
away from the river."
As I tried desperately to calm the babbling adult, I glanced over
at the guards who stood, backs against the low white building,
watching us all walk around the small, fenced-in garden. Today we
had been given an hours free time outside, and I didn't want
Chipo to be blamed for getting us all sent back inside. The
inmates longed for these small breaks, away from the crushing
white walls of the Facility and the last person who had us sent
in early had been moved to another ward the next week. I wasn't
the only one who needed this journey to the outside world.
Noticing the guards looking at the pair of us curiously, I
redoubled my efforts to calm Chipo down. She'd quietened down to
a whimper now.
"I promise I'm ok," I said evenly, making sure Chipo was looking
into my eyes as I said it. "Everything's fine, just breath."
I noticed Chipo's eyes focusing in on mine as she followed my
instructions. Her deep breaths returning what little colour she
had back to her pale cheeks. Sometimes I thought that Chipo was
only fully sane when she was panicking. The stress of the
situation forcing her connection with the spirit realm closed so
that it was only her conscious left in her mind.
"Are you ok?" I asked tenderly.
"Yes," Chipo answered me, her voice the strongest I'd heard it in
a while, but then in the blink of an eye - literally - Chipo's
eyes turned vacant once again. "Mr Caron's mother just died."
"Good to know, Chip," I said, smiling tightly. It was actually
nice to know that the bastard warden of this place was going to
be feeling some pain in the coming days, though that didn't take
away from my sadness at seeing such a lively person reduced to
the hollow girl in front of me.
When I'd first arrived as a scared six-year-old, unaware of what
was happening, Chipo had been ten-years-old. Back then she was
only suffering the affects of hearing the voices of spirits and
had had a ready smile for the frightened new girl. She'd taken me
under her wing, looking out for me when the others got rough or
started to scare me with their constant mumbling.
I'd repaid her it four years later when she'd started to descend
into true madness. Her mumblings with spirits had become more
frequent and obvious, her eyes had started to blank out on me
more and more often and she'd started to see people who weren't
really there. It had been a traumatizing experience for me, who
at the age of ten had to hide her episodes from the guards and
Warden, who would have taken her away from me for 'research'.
"I'm going to go tell Simon his twin sister doesn't want him to
keep cutting himself," Chipo announced suddenly, pulling away
from the loose grip I had on her shoulder.
Looking in the direction Chipo was staring off into, I saw Simon
crouching on the rain soaked grass, his bandaged arms clasped
around his thin legs. He wouldn't hurt Chipo for saying anything,
it was unlikely he'd listen to a word she said really, so I let
her go without a fuss.
Finding myself alone once again, I turned back to the crystal
clear lake. Walking back over I kneeled on the water-clogged dirt
of the creeks bank, ignoring the huge circles of brown it left on
my white dress. Giving into the strong pull of the running water
I submerged my arms up to my elbows, having to bend my arms to
get all of my forearms under the water. I sighed in pleasure as
the presence of water travelled into my conscious, filling the
holes that constantly ached in its absence.
Suddenly some of the presence entering my mind shone a bright
white, instead of the relaxing baby blue it usually was. I'd just
been gifted with a vision. My whole body shuddered as the heavy
presence of the future forced its way into my mind. My eyelids
twitched rapidly over my glowing eyes. The pull had strengthened,
something I thought was impossible, calling me deeper into the
water. Unable to ignore its pull, I crawled forward, allowing the
cold water to flow over my shins and lick at the fabric covering
my stomach. My whole body broke out into violent goosebumps.
I hadn't experience a vision in the past ten years, having never
been allowed to meditate in water long enough to pick up one of
the scarce droplets that held knowledge of the future. The last
time I'd experienced one I had been a terrified young girl,
playing in a pool with her cousins. I'd almost drowned, panicking
my cousins and parents. When they'd finally revived me, I'd
started to babble about some man who 'fought his comrades for
They'd shipped me off to the Facility within the week.
The sports star Henry Daniels, who had been convicted of taking
drugs during the week, died seven days later.
My family never came for me.
A jumble of colours; mainly reds and oranges suddenly replaced
the blackness of the back of my eyelids. Dark shapes that looked
like the outline of a laughing face danced across my conscious,
which was replaced quickly by hundred of small screaming faces.
Tiny teardrops that followed the screaming faces washed the whole
image away, leaving behind only black.
I snapped back to myself just in time to see the grim face of a
guard hovering over me. Feeling weak, I lifted my head sluggishly
to peer down my body as another guard plunged a sharp need into
the crook of my elbow. I felt the burning pain of the medicine
entering my body before everything went dark once again.
I woke with a throbbing headache. It felt like millions of tiny
woodpeckers were carving out their homes in my skull. I knew not
to open my eyes, the bright lights of my 'room' would blind me
for the next hour if I did. Just because I'd never experience a
vision while living in the boring, crowded building didn't mean
the guards didn't take every chance they got to pump my veins
full of some strong medicine that rendered me unconscious and in
a lot of pain when I awoke.
I was lying on my hard mattress, which wasn't much different then
lying directly on the hard, concrete ground. All my muscles felt
stiff and tight, another side affect of the dreaded medicine the
guards were so fond of. Trying to remember what happened in the
moments before I had been injected. I came up with a blurry image
of hot colours and screaming faces. Wishing I had the ability to
rub at my aching head, I wished for sleep to over take me,
allowing me to escape this hell for a few more hours.
I knew by tomorrow morning everything would be back to normal. I
would be forced to live in the same room as twenty other people
suffering from mental illnesses ranging from people suffering
compulsive disorders to people who believed they were invisible.
They, of course, would all hate me for getting their free time
cut short and I would be subjected to pushing and cold shoulders
for the next week. Isolating me in an already isolated life.
I was used to it though, I had to be after ten years of it, all
because I was gifted.
A week later
four people died in a house fire. It was said to be started by a
laughing man, who got out of his car and started throwing
gasoline all over their prized garden. The news never reached
sixteen-year-old Isoke, saving her from the quilt that would have
truly crushed her and kept her company for the next few decades
she was trapped in 'Grant's Institute for the Mentally Ill.'