Chapter 4

Kylie Mullaly, Author

Timothy laid on the floor amid his abandoned laundry. He had contorted his limbs in awkward angles, so he could squeeze between the cramped furniture. Each breath of dusty air expanded his abdomen and threatened to grind his flesh against the edge of the bedpost. His jaw exhibited a placid grin, but his head felt as vacant and malleable as a rubber balloon. Except, instead of helium, his head was pumped with the concoction of medication he swallowed as an afternoon snack.  

The right side of his mind had an insatiable craving for music, but the left was preoccupied with counting the nodules of the cottage cheese-like ceiling, and he couldn’t stand to disturb it. Besides, the hum of the lights was as lyrical as a symphony. He even considered singing along.

“Timothy?” Someone rapped at the door.

He shot into a sitting position, slamming his ribcage into the corner of the bed. He yelped in pain.

“Timothy, what’s going on in there?” a shrill female voice called.

He responded with a maniacal laugh.

Darla pushed through the door and marched to where he sat. “Timothy, what on earth–”

“Oh, Darla, I feel good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good.” He fell back onto the hardwood. “But what do I know? I haven’t got the faintest idea of how I used to feel.”

She crossed her arms across her crinkly, blue smock and apprehensively glanced over him. “Timothy, you seem…different. Not like yourself”

“It’s sweet of you to be concerned.”

“It isn’t you I’m worried for; I’ll get in trouble if you start acting strange.” She bent over him, looking into his immense pupils.  

“Look around you, Darla!” Timothy swung his hands in the air, hitting his wrist against the dresser. “Does this look like a place for sane people? White walls and breakfast with lunatics? It’s a haven for the strange.”

Darla huffed. “What medication did you take today, Timothy?”

“I didn’t take anything out of the ordinary,” he said, lying back down.

He recalled downing his medicine after lunch, specifically the way the oblong shapes rolled along his tongue, leaving behind the distinct flavor of chalk. They weighed him down with despair and a pounding headache. It became so unbearable one of the orderlies escorted him to his room. Upon entering, Timothy had frantically yanked open the nightstand drawer with the intention of taking a painkiller. He took a deep breath, realizing they wouldn’t be enough. His hand plunged into the drawer, groping for whatever he could reach. An hour later, the pain finally subsided.

Now Darla patrolled the room, searching for evidence of his devious acts. She plucked his clothing off the floor, revealing the clean surface beneath. He wished she would just leave him and his mess alone.

“I don’t know how you can breathe in all this filth. Maybe if I requested you get a roommate, you’d make some attempt to keep your room clean….”

Timothy blocked her out, allowing the white noise of the electrical lights to resonate throughout his body. It offered the same tranquil meditation as the vibrations of a tuning fork. He might have drifted off into an endless sleep if Darla hadn’t begun screaming.

“Timothy! What is this?”

He slowly arose from his corpse-like pose and faced Darla. Her cheeks were as red as her hair and her fingers rested on the opening of his nightstand.

“How long have you been stashing medicine?”

He didn’t see a need to answer.

“Why won’t you take your medicine? You are sick, Timothy. These will help you,” she insisted, emphasizing each syllable with a thrusting palm of white pills.

He lay down on his bed, his mind once more entrapped in the texture of the ceiling. “I don’t like how they make me feel.”


“I feel heavy,” he continued, “and confused. You give me one pill so that I’ll sleep, but it makes me sad. And then you give me a pill that’s supposed to make me happy, but it just makes me tired. So then I take the energy pills, but they make me paranoid. And then they give me the anxiety medication. I don’t know who I am, but I know I’m not going to find out by swallowing a bunch of contradicting chemicals.”

“Your brain isn’t working, Timothy. You don’t know what’s best for it.” Darla collapsed into his desk chair. “You have to trust me and the nurses and your doctors. We know what we’re doing, and we know what’s best for you.”

Timothy chuckled ironically. “You, who have only known me for a week, know me better than I do.”

Darla ignored his comment. “You clearly had some of these today. If you hate taking them so much, then why did you– How much did you take?”

“My head hurt. I took what they give me after lunch, and then I grabbed a bit of everything else.”

Darla rushed back to the nightstand, collecting each capsule and placing them in her pockets, counting under her breath. Timothy thought it must have the same effect as counting sheep because he began to feel exhausted. His eyes drooped as though golden rings had been sown into his eyelids.


She gripped his shoulders with her talon-like manicure. “Timothy! Did you take any of the sleeping pills? Timothy?”

“No…saving…for later.”

He heard Darla’s call for help as a thick, warm blanket of darkness fell over him.