Hi Lovelies! It’s Friday!
It’s been a big week, both for me personally, and for the mental health community as a whole. You may heave heard that Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, ended her life this week. That is pretty big news for a lot of people who saw Amy and her project as an icon of hope and healing. My new blogger friend Sheila, wrote a touching and enlightening piece about the event that I consider a must-read.
In my personal life this week I lost a friend who I had known since high school; a comrade in PTSD recovering who I thought would always be in my life. But for the fourth time this short year she did something which made me feel like an afterthought. In this case, she completely mismanaged a project of mine which she had volunteered to make huge (I had asked her help for something much smaller) and ultimately canceled the whole thing one and a half days before production, effectively destroying a creative project of mine for the second time this year. I realized that this person, who is a competent creative when she cares about the project, regularly schedules me in her life between other, more important meet-ups, and has displayed a pattern of being totally unprepared for projects of mine which she agreed or even volunteered to help with. So I told her that I could not have her in my life anymore. My life is hard as it is. My self esteem is a dark pit without my own friends showing me that I’m not important.
The day after my ruined project, a day which passed heavy with angry regret, I had to meet with a Family Court Services interviewer who grilled me about the dates and intimate details of the worst instances of my abuse. By the end of the interview, I was freezing cold and shaking. My PTSD was triggered so badly by all of this that I am still feeling the effects; I woke up crying from nightmares last night, which had not happened to me in years. I will write more about my hell week soon (make sure to subscribe if you just can’t miss all the terrible details); all this is to say that it has been a rough week.
So this week’s Fiction Fridays I slid a little and I hope you’ll understand. This piece is borrowed from the world of what was supposed to be a longer novella, though I never completed writing it.
I am also excited to announced the Fiction Fridays #3 winner!
In case you missed it, the prompt was to choose a favorite book, and then tackle a problem or issue from your life in the style of the book in 300-1,000 words.
Here’s the winning story:
Dasha Buchanan has been writing since she could read and hopes to become a published author someday. Check out her blog: DKB Writings
Book: Winnie The Pooh
Unresolved Issue: Growing up
My old desk which once held paint splatters and pretend tea cup saucers now is covered in the college pamphlets and brochures sent to me by the most kind college admissions hoping to scrounge my every last penny. It didn’t hit me till this year that my whole life was about to tilt a little more forwards and a little more topsy-turvy than I am used to. Senior year was supposed to be the grand party with the hot boyfriend and good GPA but instead is barely even a hangover with a nasty headache, and what GPA? It’s like I’m stumbling through every step of this life-changing journey when I should be leaping for joy. It’s not as black and white as we are taught from a young age. You don’t just graduate and move out. There is so much more and it involves mostly numbers. The amount of money you have will get lower and the amount of credits you need will continue to increases like the freaking fountain of youth and you will think about quitting at least once a week. No it didn’t hit me how effed up this year was till I was cleaning my out my closet. Under an old pillow there, laying in the dust, was my dear stuffed elephant Eeyore. I remember the day I got that toy I was so excited. I saved every dollar and waited till mom would drive me to the Disney store 20 miles away from home. (I’m still sour that they closed it) Eeyore was my bear hug when my best friend wasn’t with me, he was my tear sponge when I found out my parents were divorcing, he was my sense of home when we had to move, he was my grandpa’s memory when he passed because Eeyore was sad yet his friends accepted him. I feel a lot like Eeyore. Even today at 18 years of age I can relate to a cartoon. A stuffed animal. A piece of fabric and stuffing. After all the crap life has in it something so untouched by the cruelty of our world can simply exist. Now as I’m holding him I think to myself either I have some weird complex like Linus and his blanket or I am just not ready to keep going. I don’t want to leave Eeyore in the closet again for another ten years and then pass him along to my child or find him and remember all the sh*t that happened since the last time I found him. No. Today I want to pause. I want to just hug Eeyore and say that everything will be alright. I want to have a tea party in the hundred acre wood and finger paint my worries away. I want to be content with the simple things in life and I don’t want to leave him behind. Who knows maybe you’ll find me and Eeyore taking on the world one hug at a time.
There you have it! The winning entry! Thank you so much Dasha for sharing your wonderful story with us.
Keep reading to see what this week’s prompt is and how YOU can be featured right here on my front page…
As Maria sloughed down the last, over-sweet sips of her tangy coffee, the neuronic buzz that had replaced her grogginess settled into the old familiar apathy. During those brief moments when the coffee flickered her nervous system awake, the day seemed to thrill ahead of her, full of vague but exciting possibilities. It was this feeling, alone, which drove her out of bed each morning; this brief, chemical trick which everyday led her to the inevitable moment when she stood in her small, square kitchen holding an empty mug, staring down the long, unblemished mouth of her day…
The patient lay on the procedure table, his lips fluttering slightly as he counted backwards to unconsciousness. Maria watched from behind the glass as his limbs relaxed in concert with the anesthesia. He was dressed only in a thin white hospital slip-a custom she always felt was unnecessary-and she noted how close in shade the gown was to his doughy limbs. It did not surprise her when she flicked on his mind and found a chaotic jumble of signals.
“The whiter the fellow , the more distorted the mind file,” Maria said to Leonard Mackenzie as he stepped into the room.
“Coming from anyone else I would take offense to that statement.” The doctor had his skin tightened and tanned to the fashion. He flashed Maria a grin, which she knew he did not expect returned.
“Merely an observation Doctor.”
“Yes I know.” He looked at his Palm. “Patient complains of depressed mood, disordered thinking in the form of anxious patterning and suicidal ideation, yeesh-ah, but I see you’ve already begun clean up.”
“Yes, Doctor.” Though she showed no sign of it on the outside, Maria was amused. The Psychiatrist could no better read her mind files than he could a body. She was reminded again that the term “doctor” was just an archaic ego-boost for the overpaid, vapid PR monkeys that worked under the Technicians. Still, any old fool could distinguish the basic difference between an organized and a disorganized sequence. While Dr.Mackenzie watched, she finished re-patterning the intricate code that made up the patient’s mind. She hit the completion button without checking her work-there was no need-and allowed herself a small, brief smile as the patient’s eyelids twitched in the next room; proof that the re-patterning was taking effect.
Dr.Mackenzie leaned toward Maria.
“Technician Day,” he said, and she knew by the use of her honorific that he was going to make an uncouth request, “Can you tell me when the patient will die?”
His breath was hot against her cheek, and laced with something rancid. He’d eaten dairy for breakfast, a disgusting luxury.
“I don’t work in Life Systems.” Maria nudged back her chair so that the doctor was forced to straighten and take a step back.
“I know of course but, ah, um,” he stuttered as the forced motion took its desired, nerve-wracking effect. “You know how to read life plots, don’t you? And can access it on your, ehm-“ he motioned toward Maria’s System.
The screen flashed, signaling that the procedure had successfully completed. She clicked the idle button.
“Your patient will be waking.” She saw Dr. Mackenzie’s strained smile reflected in her darkened screen.
“You know,” he said as he turned to leave, “most Technicians enjoy hearing about the patients’ histories. Call it…vestigial emotionality. Curiosity.” He paused in front of the door. “You are the most efficient technician I have ever seen.”
The door clanged behind him. A dull aching sensation flared somewhere deep and rarely accessed within Maria, but she ignored it, and the feeling eventually faded away.
The three Bobbleheads stood in a circle chattering. Maria sat alone, taking slow sips of her second sucrose sweetened coffee, her only indulgence and driving force. She didn’t much care what those fanciful, painted interns were talking about. She hardly believed those three had graduated from an academy and she was certain that none of them would make Technician grade. If they were really smart enough to work there they wouldn’t need to be so pretty, would they? They were irrelevant. And yet, they were loud. An eruption of raucous laughter startled Maria enough that she choked on her coffee, burning her tongue. She rose from her seat.
“You. You, girls, right there.”
The circle swung open as the girls swiveled to stare at her. Had they even known she’d been there?
“Yes, Technician?” replied the brunette with the stupid shoulder tattoo and clearly artificial cheekbones. She glanced into her cup.
Maria strode toward the group. The brunette hugged her mug into her chest. Maria snatched it from her.
“Hey!” she protested with a pout.
“We don’t keep sugar cubes in the break room.” Maria returned the mug of hot chocolate, laced with its still dissolving lump of THC fat. How pedestrian. “Go ahead and drink it. We have all of our interns on file. I can go alter its effects from your mind. When I’m done with my coffee. Which I prefer to enjoy in silence.” She punctuated her statement with a thin, wry smile.
The intern scoffed. “Prohibition has been over for decades.”
Of course, Maria knew that. Decades ago, in what seemed like another life, Maria herself had protested for the lifting of marijuana prohibition. But that was before she had gone through Technician adjustments; that was before she had lives on her hands.
Maria’s voice took on a harsh edge. “How would you like it if your technician, say when you were getting your melatonin adjusted into that fashionable tan, were unlooped on that stuff?”
The intern rolled her eyes. “I’ve already looked over my inventory. My assignments today are all easy and boring.”
“Every day is easy and boring,” Maria snapped.
The girls began to snicker.
“Maybe you need a re-patterning. You sound depressed.”
“Are you aware that speaking to a superior in such a manner is cause for expulsion?” Maria forced her voice to remain firm, but inside she was trembling.
The intern, despite herself, paled. “I’m sorry, Technician. Please accept my apology. I was…only teasing.”
“There is no place for teasing within our coveted community. You will know my decision by day’s end.” It took every effort of Maria’s extremely strong will not to run from the room.
The work day passed with its usual monotony. Maria performed six more psychological adjustments and oversaw two interns cure two cases of mild insomnia. She did not see any of the Bobbleheads again.
As Maria was packing her coffee cup into her tote, she was approached by another Technician. She knew the woman by face, but not by name, and when the other technician spoke simply the word “Maria,” she was forced to ask for it.
The other technician blinked. “Oh, ah, Andrea. Songham.” She extended her arm tentatively. Maria stood, shook it once, and released the grip. Andrea smiled. “We’ve worked together for seven years.”
“We have both worked as technicians in the same facility for six years and three months.”
Andrea blushed slightly. She straightened the hem of her shirt while squaring her shoulders. It was a slight motion, but enough for Maria to see that she perceived herself the inferior of the two. As did Maria.
“Yes, well, I suppose that is true,” Andrea said in her best imitation of Maria’s brisk efficiency, “We haven’t worked together, have we? You’re psych, right?”
Maria nodded and shifted the tote on her shoulder with an exaggerated effort. She cocked an eyebrow. Her apartment was waiting.
“I work in physical. Worked, actually. I’m being upgraded, I suppose, to psych. Next week it’s official. Technically right now I’m an intern but…well, anyway, I hadn’t realized the adjustments were so, ah, different.”
Maria stared at the short, plump-cheeked blonde babbling before her. It wasn’t against regulations to talk about the professional adjustments the technicians underwent, but it wasn’t done. The young woman’s cheeks deepened in color under Maria’s gaze.
“I was training for Life Patterning when my initial adjustments were completed,” Maria spoke finally, her tone iced. “Yours will not be so extreme.”
“Oh.” Andrea sighed. “Good.” Her eyelashes fluttered as her eyes widened. “No offense!”
“None taken, obviously. A side effect of my adjustments. Another is an intolerance for ‘small talk.’ I am leaving.” She took a step toward the door. Andrea blocked her.
“Actually, Maria, I’ve got an adjustment order for you.”
“Incorrect. I’m not sick. Move out of my way please.”
“It’s a psych adjustment Maria.” Andrea held out her Palm so that Maria could see the order.
Maria looked at Andrea, truly looked at Andrea for the first time.
“If there is an order for a psychological adjustment to be performed upon myself, why are you presenting it to me?”
Andrea broadened her smile. Maria noted the slight tremble at its edges. “I’m performing the procedure.”
“You?” Maria sneered, “You are an intern. Who is the attending?”
Andrea’s eyes dropped. “It’s only a small adjustment.”
“Not the question. Who is the attending?”
“Well, technically, you.” She paused, then rushed into speech. “I’ve been an employed technician for six years.”
“Human psychology is far more complex than the body.”
Andrea laughed. “Not when you’re fixing a malignan-“
Andrea met Maria’s glare but Maria, with her thin straight lips, high angular cheekbones and tall, bony frame was built for stern glares. Plump, still girlish Andrea was no match. She dropped her eyes.
“You know the penalty for refusing an adjustment order. Please, Maria, it’s such a small one.”
“Let me see the order.”
Andrea extended her Palm toward Maria again. Maria glanced at it.
“No. Your order.”
“I can’t. You know that. You’re a patient!”
“I am apparently the attending as well. I need to see the instructional order.” She stretched forward her Palm to accept the file transfer.
Andrea sighed. “Alright,” she muttered as she opened the file and swiped her hand across Maria’s.
Maria stiffened as she read the order. She had not felt an emotion as strong as hatred in quite some time, but this was damn close.
“Little bitch,” she hissed.
“Excuse me?” Andrea asked, blue eyes widened.
“That intern. That bobblehead,” Maria spat the word in such a way that, coming from her, it was more virulent than her previous vulgarity.
She fixed her glare on Andrea. “Depression?”
Maria watched Andrea collect herself, smoothing her hair, tucking in her shirt. Certainly she had never seen a certified technician display such open emotion. Something small inside Maria wondered if, perhaps, the adjustment were necessary.
“You show the symptoms,” Andrea said.
Maria said nothing.
“Look,” Andrea touched her arm lightly and gestured toward the doorway. “If they’re wrong, I’ll be able to see that. You’re a good tech. Nobody wants to do unnecessary adjustments on you. I won’t touch a thing. If they’re right,” she shrugged, smiled, “you’ll feel better when it’s done.”
Maria considered refusing. Andrea would not use force. She could say no and stalk proudly from the office, return to her private little apartment, enjoy a coffee and a quiet evening in relaxing solitude, then go to sleep…but, when she awoke, she would no longer have the title Technician, or the sweet little government apartment, or any recollection of the last twelve years of her life. She sighed, looked down at the little technician who was now holding open the door with an awful, faux-sympathetic smile plastered onto her face.
This is ridiculous,” she said haughtily as she stepped through the door and waited for Andrea to lead her to her procedure room. “Utter nonsense.”
The morning after her adjustment, Maria Day awoke in her bed as she did every other morning. As had happened after every other adjustment, she did not feel particularly different or better. Just, in a sense, more “right.” No, “right” was not the descriptive. She felt unambiguous. As though who she was and who she could be were more closely aligned than ever before.
As had happened after every other adjustment, she wondered why she had ever resisted it.
She walked the short distance from her bed to her kitchen. She stared at her coffee press for a moment, then moved on to her pantry. The idea of coffee no longer excited her. As she ate her small bowl of unsweetened porridge, she wondered if that intern who had performed the adjustment-what was her name? Amber? Andrea?-would perhaps like to adopt her coffee press and grounds. They were excellent quality. Maria remembered the exacting process of selecting them. She had gone through various beans and blends until she found the most exquisite combination of earthy and slightly sweet with just a hint of tart. She had taken care, and such pleasure, in selecting her coffee, but she could no longer fathom why she had enjoyed such a trivial and unhealthy oddity. Before leaving for work she packed her coffee things into a small, beige canvas tote, to give to the intern as a thank you for a job well done.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my story for Fiction Fridays #4.
Here’s the writing prompt for the CONTEST! Enter to have YOUR writing published here on Betty’s Battleground:
-Imagine that a difficult problem in your life can be easily solved with some kind of radical “quick fix” maneuver
-Now, in 300-1,000 words of poetry, fiction, script, or creative nonsense, explore the repercussions of this “quick fix.” Try to find at least one way in which the quality of life has been diminished by this quick fix approach.
To enter your response, like and follow the Betty’s Battleground Facebook Page and leave your awesome entry as a comment under the Fiction Fridays #4 post. You have until 9am PST on Thursday April 6th to enter. That’s almost a full week so get writin’!
Readers, please leave a vote in the comments of this post: Do you want to see more of Maria and the world of human coding? Should I write the novella, or is it too weird and confusing? Should I leave it as a short-short story?
I would also so appreciate it if you can take a quick moment to share this post! StumbleUpon has been a great source of site traffic for Betty’s Battleground, and I always make pinnable graphics for my posts. Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc are all great too! Thank you 🙂