Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: There Is No Exit

madnessSeclusion

Based on true events.

I stand and look down at my bare feet. I see the scar from my youth creeping up from my toe to ankle, like a meandering snake.

My ankles. They are swollen from the restraints. The restraints they put me in when I was in the hospital. The restraints they found necessary when in my mania I said I wasn’t bound by their rules.

“Let me out!” I scream into the yellowness. This yellow room, reminds me of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper quite literally. In the walls I imagine the women, creeping around in eternal madness like me.

“PLEASE!” I scream. Scratching at my arms, I beg for release. I can’t escape. The room is locked. Four padded walls and a thick metal door with a narrow window are all I have for company.

Walking up to the window, I plead with the Indian woman at the computer on the other side of the door to listen to me.

“Please look at me! Let me out!” I scream into the window. “Let me out!”

She doesn’t see me. I’m invisible.

I am desperate.

“Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!” I slap my face. Hit my head with my hands. I claw at my arms, seeking freedom from my own skin, trying to let my very essence break free from its corporeal restraints.

She looks at me. “You are a good girl.” She smiles at me.

Hope.

She makes me feel hope.

“Please,” I cry. “Just let me out.”

She speaks soothing things to me. Through the window. My hope grows like a welcome, warm fire.

She hears me. I’m a human to her.

We’re interrupted. Another woman enters the antechamber wearing disdain like a regal robe.

“Stop talking to her.” She says. “She’s just trying to get your attention, she’s probably borderline and just wants sympathy. You need to ignore her.”

“No!” I am crying. “Please!”

The Indian woman, the woman who called me a “good girl,” the woman saying comforting things through the window, turns away from me. She pulls her computer back away from the door.

So she doesn’t have to see me.

No!

She is gone. I am alone again with four yellow walls and two cameras. One in each corner of the room.

I scream. I don’t know for how long but I scream.

I sit on the only object in the room, a mat with a symbolic picture of a man on a bed. It looks like the Tarot card of The Hanged Man.

The Hanged Man.

Submit.

“No!” I scream. “LET ME OUT!”

I start banging on the door. I feel my hands and wrists buckle under the weight of my body as I throw myself against the door.

This is madness. They are making me mad. They want me to be a madwoman.

I don’t know for how long I do this.

Eventually I get tired.

I sit on the mat in cobbler’s pose. I look at my feet, folded open like a book. A book. They ripped a book out of my hands when they put me in here.

The Poisonwood Bible.

They would never return it.

Staring at my feet, my vision grows sharp. I’ve never seen so clearly in my life. Even though they tore the glasses from my face when the security guards were piled on me before entering this hell, I see.

Leaning forward, I rest my head on my feet.

I breathe.

I can do this.

I stand again, and do yoga poses.

I’m not sure what happens next. Flashes of mania and flashes of awareness overtake me.

At one point, I scream at the camera and make obscene gestures.

“Fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg!” I shout a manifesto against Facebook. It seems appropriate.

“My brother is watching all of you! You all are fucked!” And I believe my brother is. He works for the government after all. In my heart I believe he is there, with me, telling me everything is going to be OK. Watching me. But most of all, he’s watching them.

He’ll make them pay.

“There is nothing wrong with me!” I scream at the cameras. “There is nothing wrong with me! I’m a human! I’m who I am and that doesn’t make me any less than you! You have me locked in here but it is YOU who are not free. My mind is free. I AM FREE.”

For a while I sing. I sing songs from Les Misérables at the cameras. I sing I’m Proud to Be an American.

Do you hear the people sing?”

I make the performance of my life.

At some point in the turmoil of events, I remove my scrubs.

I’m naked now.

As I piss myself, the warmth of fresh urine covers my legs and feet.

I don’t remember leaving the room, but at some point I do.

They don’t get a doctor to evaluate me or the bruises inflicted on me by staff. But they put me back in my room with a camera, so they can keep watching me.

Eventually they tell me I was in there for four hours.

That’s not a long time to liberate my mind.

-LH

This story was written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge “There Is No Exit.”

 

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Why I Ditched My Pen Names

“If you want people to love you for who you are, take the mask off.” – Quetzal

Writers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to publishing their work. The name they choose to use can be a big one. I understand why pseudonyms exist, and I don’t have a problem with anyone using one. But I realized recently that my personal reasons for having a pen name were unhealthy and blocking my creativity.

I have had a couple of pseudonyms over the years. There was a time when I blogged under a pen name about leaving my former faith. It was immensely freeing to speak honestly about my struggles with Mormonism without fear of being disciplined by church leaders or hurting family who had not yet known about my faith crisis. It gave me an outlet to process what was going on in my mind and to connect with others who were going through something similar.

Later, I used a pen name to publish a personal story involving religious abuse. This time I was more worried about protecting someone who had emotionally abused me. And I think that’s where I started to realize that maybe this was unhealthy.

Protecting people who’ve hurt me is something that I’ve done throughout my life. I’ve always struggled with emotional boundaries, and I empathize to the point of being unable to be an advocate for myself for fear of upsetting the other person. Because throughout my life, my needs were labeled as ‘selfish’ or hurtful.

I also had this silly fear that if I wrote something and someone would read it, then *gasp* they would know it was me. It was like I wanted to share something with the world, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was sharing it. It made me feel like I wasn’t truly connecting with my readers.

There was also a concern that people I admired or respected might read and dislike my work. But I’ve since come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like my writing. Not everyone is going to like me. And that’s ok. True friends will be there for me regardless of the quality of my writing.

It always felt like a weird tug of war between valuing authenticity while at the same time being afraid of it.

Eventually, because my reasons for using a pseudonym were based in shame and fear, I discovered that it was emotionally stifling to write under a different name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

When it comes to publishing, attending writer groups, conventions, etc., it’s just a lot easier to have one name for people to associate with you. I tried going to a convention with two names on my badge once and it just didn’t feel right. And, in the end, the writing is the important thing, not the name.

Plus, I’m fond of my name. Larissa means ‘cheerful.’ My last name is my husband’s. And while I don’t believe that women are obligated to adopt their husband’s surname, in my case I’ve come to cherish his as my own. When I found him, I felt like I found home, so it just feels right to me.

So I’m lucky enough to like my name as it is. And if that’s the case, why on earth would I use a pseudonym?