Where Is My Mind?

This is a short story I wrote in early 2015, but I still really love it. I wrote it while listening to Where Is My Mind (oddly enough), the version from Suckerpunch, although I’ve since developed a fondness for the Pixies’ original version. I hope you enjoy!

Why are these places always green? And not a nice green, that insipid spearmint colour. Seriously, it’s like the most depressing colour in the universe and they think it’s a good idea to use it in a building full of crazy people. Just proves my point that the people running these places are idiots.

Note to self: don’t say that out loud. Calling your doctors idiots never ends well.

There’s a fricking analogue clock on the wall over there. The only people who use analogue clocks now are hipsters and those weirdos who think steam could be used to power the universe. And they think I’m crazy. Of course, they still teach you how to read analogue clocks in school for some reason, so I know it’s exactly sixteen minutes and forty seven seconds past eleven. Sixteen minutes and forty seven seconds late. My doctor is always running late. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him within twenty three minutes of my actual appointment time.

Note to self: don’t complain about him running late again. If he uses the word ‘confrontational’ one more time I’m going to punch him in the nose and then I’ll really be in trouble.

. . .

Note to self: don’t punch the doctor in the nose.

God, the sooner they put this fricking implant in my head, the better. Then I won’t have these damn appointments all the time. You’d think, once they figured out what was wrong with me, they’d be able to just plonk the thing in there, but no, they have to calibrate it or some shit. They’re a bunch of sadists, the lot of them. I think they just like prodding the crazies, like we’re a bunch of monkeys in a lab or something.

Note to self: don’t compare yourself to a monkey in a lab, even as a joke. This doctor’s sense of humour is set at zero. He’ll probably think it’s a symptom of some new and interesting psychosis and then they’ll have to do more calibrating.

Oh good, the nurse is back. No, she’s sitting down and pretending to do something very important. Wonderful. I forgot my book, too, and they make sure you can’t miss the sign about turning off all mobile devices. I guess I’ll just sit here then.

That girl over there definitely hasn’t been here before. She’s sitting on the edge of her seat like she’s about to jump up and run away. I felt like that the first time. I thought they’d knock me out as soon as they figured out what was wrong with me and shove the metal in my head. It sounded pretty scary at the time. Of course, she could be one of those paranoid types. They must get them in here all the time. I might be nuts, but at least I know it. Those crazies have all kinds of weird ideas and half the time they don’t even know there’s anything wrong with them.

Note to self: don’t use the word ‘crazies’ in front of this nurse. She thinks political correctness is next to godliness. As though being referred to by my proper term will make the fact that I’m officially insane better somehow.

Note to self: don’t use the phrase ‘officially insane’ in front of anyone. They never get the joke.

Note to self: stop checking the time every thirty seconds. He’s not going to hurry up just because you know how late he’s running.

Twenty four minutes and thirteen seconds. Oh damn, I did it again. That girl is actually pretty cute. Pity we’re both nuts. If I could be sure she wasn’t a potential axe murderer I might ask her out. If I didn’t have trouble talking to actual real people I might be able to ask her out. Ugh, I am so sick of being crazy.

Oops, she’s looking at me. I should probably smile or something, but my subconscious is suddenly really interested in my sneakers. They’re pretty great sneakers, I have to admit, but if you’re going to offer me a choice between smiling at a cute girl and looking at my shoes… Yeah, okay, so I’ll choose the shoes every time because I’m literally incapable of making eye contact with anyone.

Note to self: don’t tell the doctor you prefer looking at your shoes to looking at cute girls. This is something that will only make sense to another nutter.

I wonder what Doctor Needles would think if I told him I was interested in girls. Well, looking at girls from a distance. It’s a 50/50 chance he’d decide I’m an obsessive weirdo and lock me up. Heaven forbid I act like a normal human being in any respect whatsoever.

Note to self: don’t call him Doctor Needles. Again. He didn’t like it the first time. That will not have changed.

Twenty seven minutes and three seconds. How good is my peripheral vision?

Pretty damn good is how good. She’s still sitting there, right on the edge of that seat. They’re real bastards, these chairs. If she shifts her weight wrong it’s going to go right over on her and she’ll end up on the floor. Of course, a normal person would warn her about that. Or at least offer to help her up when she fell. Hey, it’s the perfect excuse to start a conversation right? Pass on the word about the dangerous furniture…

Note to self: don’t try and start conversations about the dangers of furniture. She already knows you’re nuts, don’t make it worse.

But since she’s here because she’s nuts, surely she wouldn’t be so bothered by my being nuts? I mean, it’s not like I’m a Fringe or anything. We’re all here to get fixed, right, so I’m obviously not going to be nuts for much longer.

Note to self: logic is not your strong suit today.

Her gloves have little bows on them and no fingers. I always wondered what the point of those are, because when I wear gloves, it’s so my fingers don’t get cold. She has bright blue nails. I wonder what my nails would look like that colour. I do like blue.

I could ask her where she got it.

Note to self: do not ask the cute girl where she got her nail polish. Dangerous furniture would be a better conversation starter than that.

If this doctor does not hurry up, I am going to do something desperate.

Like sit here until he tells me to come in.

Damn.

Thirty two minutes and twenty eight seconds. Oh look, here he comes. Finally.

You’d think it wouldn’t take this long just to stop being crazy.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2015

 

Summer Storm

It’s a heavy day, the kind that hangs about one’s shoulders and crawls down one’s spine, an itchy kind of day. The clouds grumble to themselves overhead, threatening rain but never brave enough to follow through. Instead, they hold tight to their burden as they sink lower over the city, squeeeeeeeezing the air, down and down and down, the sky folding.

It’s a sharp kind of day, the air humming with static so that one almost crackles when one walks, waiting with tense shoulders and bated breath for the shock that never comes until one is almost ready… to… snap.

“You didn’t say anything.”

It’s not a shock, but another grumbling threat overhead. Not sharp, but low and ominous. Nauseous.

Xyr shoulders twitch.

“There’s no point with them.”

A lightning rod thrust into the lowering sky, tempting danger, a lone figure standing atop the tallest tower, watching the storm approach.

Her lips twist.

“What do you mean, there’s no point?”

Closer now, the sound rolling around the horizon, chasing the words, hunting them down.

Xyr stomach clenches.

“You know what I mean.”

When it hits, the storm is so loud it is silent. The thunder roars soundlessly overhead, the lightning throwing jagged shadows against the wall, the systematic demolition of that daring figure shown in stark relief, one frame at a time. The rain falls in a flat sheet. It assaults the earth below, washes away filth and top soil and new growth and next season’s seeds in a single second of silent, inevitable violence.

Her voice stops.

If you liked this, check out my novel Conversion here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LXOM7IZ

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Text and Image: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017.

Confessions

Neither of them expected it, yet it didn’t take them by surprise. It was one of those mild nights where the wind held off the frost, and the promise of spring was in their blood, making them feel wild and restless. They walked again, down her streets this time, the stars almost invisible above the orange glow of street lights. Xe wore her old leather jacket, the shoulders slightly too big, the arms slightly too long, the warmth smelling of her making it fit just right.

It was still early, the Market still humming with activity as they wandered from shop to shop, pausing to buy their favourite snacks, spending too much money on sweets. They meandered arm in arm up and down each long, brick-paved aisle, the sound of the other shoppers fading into insignificance compared to the warmth of the body next to them, the gentle bump of shoulder against shoulder, the squeeze of a hand as the crowd jostled against them.

They didn’t talk much. Words spun around them like a waft of perfume, the scent of a flowering daphne being warmed by the sun, hovering on the edge of the senses. If you chased it, it would be lost. You didn’t force it, you waited, let it come to you with the breeze. Xe bought her a baby mint plant in a pretty pot, and she bought xem their favourite hazelnut coffee. They debated over which stall sold the best fruit for the best price, and compromised by purchasing bananas at her favourite, and strawberries at xyrs.

When they emerged, the wind pushed them toward the river, the crowds thinning from the main streets, funneled into the clubs and pubs, or heading home with their late night shopping. They wandered, slowly, their destination only half formed in their minds, their purpose still unspoken. They ate the strawberries and shared one of the chocolate cakes she’d bought, licking the melted chocolate from their fingers, laughing at the icing sugar on her nose.

There were always people by the river, but their unspoken words wrapped them in a cocoon of quiet, the strangers passing no more than shadows, insignificant and irrelevant. The words were stronger now, their scent enveloping them, drawing them closer as they sat on the bank, their jeans damp from the grass.

The words would be said later. For now there was only fingers tangling, breath mingling, lips meeting. At last. At last. It wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: http://www.phuket.com/shopping/banzaan-market.htm

Snapshot: Charger

The phone charger is humming again. I’ve given up mentioning it to Brian, since he never seems to hear it. Just like the toaster and the DVD player and the light in the laundry. Doc Green said not everyone notices things like that, which is why she can’t hear the clock in her office whining even though it feels like a needle digging into your tympanic membrane. At least she believes me when I tell her about it, and sticks it in her drawer so I don’t have to hear it so much.

If I pull Brian’s phone off the charger now, he’ll be pissed, so I have no choice but to go back to my room. Everyone says I spend too much time in there (well, not literally everyone, but most of the people I know), but if they didn’t insist on having every goddamn thing plugged in and playing all the goddamn time, I might spend more time out here. I mean, honestly, probably not, because they still all talk too loud and all at the same time, which makes it impossible to understand what anyone is saying, and Brian thinks dubstep is good music to play before 9am even though I think it was actually created by Satan. (Not really Satan, it’s a metaphor.) And Brian’s not so good at keeping up with the cleaning schedule, even though Katrina does her best to keep on top of things, so sometimes the kitchen smells kind of gross. I mostly just hold my breath and try to grab my food and get out before I have to take another breath. I’m getting pretty good at holding my breath, actually. Not in a creepy way, like Mum was worried about, because I used to hold my breath when I was two until I went blue, but just so I don’t have to smell the lentils that ended up going down the drain and are still festering in the bend in the pipe.

I wonder how long lentils take to stop smelling in a pipe. I wonder if I put vinegar and bicarb down there it would stop smelling. Monday is my turn for kitchen duty, so maybe I’ll try it.

As predicted, Brian has to knock on my door to ask if I’m going to spend all day in my room. I told him I’ll be out later. His phone only takes about two hours to fully charge, usually, so I should be safe to come out around lunch time. Doc Green says not everyone plans their day out like that, but I don’t really believe her. How does anyone ever get anything done, if they don’t plan it? I’m never quite sure how much I should believe of what Doc Green says. I know she means well, but some of the things she says don’t make sense at all. I can believe that not everyone hears the same noises. There are people who can’t hear at all, so logically, there should also be people who hear a lot more than others. But if nobody planned their days, they’d just be bumbling about, hoping for the best, completely at the mercy of circumstance. That sounds like a special brand of hell, like trying to walk across a crowded room with your eyes closed when you’re used to being able see, except there are bear traps on the floor (more metaphor, and maybe some simile). Although, having lived with Brian for a year, perhaps I should be more open to the idea. He seems to actually like ‘taking things as they come’, even though that means he never hands up his essays on time, and sometimes forgets to turn up to things, like parties and dates.

To be fair, I’d probably forget to turn up to a date if I could. Dating is terrible.

I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about the idea of dating all morning. Of course, I haven’t succeeded, even though I’m supposed to be writing an essay myself. Sometimes I can’t compartmentalise the way I like to, and this is one of those times. It’s very frustrating, because writing about the Industrial Revolution is in no way related to the various terrors of dating, and I’m finding it very hard to concentrate.

Maybe I should have said ‘no’, but Marie caught me by surprise, and if I’m honest, I had been thinking about maybe imagining dreaming about going on a date with her at some indeterminate point in the non-existent future where I’m not an actual human disaster. So instead of saying what I should have said if I’d thought about it for more than two seconds, which was “no thank you, I don’t date”, I mumbled something indecipherable that apparently meant “yes”, because now I’m supposed to be meeting her in five hours for coffee.

Why does everyone say coffee instead of beverage? I hate coffee, I never drink coffee, but even I say “we’re meeting for coffee”. Verbal conventions are very strange sometimes.

Rationally speaking, it’s quite ridiculous for me to be nervous about this at all. I’ve known Marie for six months, and we’ve sat in the same cafe and drunk beverages together quite comfortably before. Apparently labelling something a date assigns a significance to the event that warrants three days worth of obsessive worrying. This kind of illogical reasoning is precisely what I would change about my brain if I could. People always assume it’s the social awkwardness or the lack of eye contact (who would want to actually look other people in the eyes?!) or the sensory sensitivity, but I would be perfectly happy with all of these if they were accompanied by a more logical and rational thought process. Sadly, Doc Green tells me this isn’t possible, because I am still human. I think she thought I was half joking, which is why she didn’t take it very seriously. However, if I could find a way to rewire my brain to increase its logic circuitry (metaphor), I would do it in a heartbeat.

Why couldn’t we just keep having beverages in cafes without calling it a date? Ugh, human beings are infuriating. And I have an essay to write. I hope I can concentrate long enough to finish it.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

Image from: https://www.canterbury.su/opportunities/discounts-savings/mobile-phone-charging

Soulless Killer Series: Ch1 Moving In

This is the first instalment in a series featuring these characters. They will mostly be silly snapshots, and there will be other short stories posted here in between, but keep your eye out for more silliness featuring Christen and her … not friend…?

“Don’t bring my mother into this!”

“Why not? At least she appreciates my superior wit.”

“It’s true, hun, she is pretty funny.  For a soulless killer.”

I will never wish for an interesting life ever again.

It all started about six months ago. (That’s how everyone starts these things, isn’t it? Never waste a good cliché, I always say.) It was one of those grey in-between days, where you’re too cold for a T-shirt and too hot for a jacket and you’re guaranteed to be rained on while you’re running for the bus you’re definitely going to miss. So pretty much like every other day in autumn. Despite my best efforts, I arrived at the bus stop in time to see the bus disappear down the street, which left me with two choices: stump up for the ridiculous parking fees and drive to uni, or invent an excuse for missing my tutorial that wouldn’t involve getting a doctor’s certificate. I wasn’t feeling particularly inventive, so that left me with driving.

I was still cursing my need for a second cup of tea with breakfast when I turned into the narrow street that would take me to the main road, which was perhaps why I wasn’t paying as much attention as usual. It probably wouldn’t have helped if I had been paying attention, to be honest, because what can you do when a black-clad stranger steps into the middle of the road and points a gun at you?

This was how I met Christen. How we came to be discussing the merits of her moving in with me six months later is still something of a mystery.

“Are you seriously telling me you think this is a good idea?” I asked Mum. I will never understand why my staid, normal-as-normal mother took to Christen so easily, but she did. Even when she heard the story of how we first met, she still took it upon herself to make sure Christen had a home cooked meal at least once a week and someone to iron her shirts. It’s a little hard not to resent that, all things considered.

“Maybe you could be a good influence on her,” Mum said. I snorted loudly.

“Yeah, because I’ve had so much success so far,” I replied. Christen was rearranging my alphabetised DVD collection according to some system of her own, while I ground my teeth and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening.

“What are you talking about?” she said, looking up from where she sat cross-legged on the floor. “I haven’t got into a single fight this month. That’s all down to you, you know. Imagine if we hadn’t met.”

“Oh, I do, every day.”

“That was such a good day,” Christen mused happily, sliding The Matrix in next to The Emperor’s New Groove. I felt my eye start to twitch.

“You kidnapped me,” I said flatly. “At gunpoint.”

“No I didn’t!” She looked up and caught my expression. “Well, okay, maybe I did kidnap you a little bit, but I said I was sorry. How else was I supposed to get your attention?”

“I guess ‘hi’ was too much trouble for you,” I muttered.

“You were in a car.”

“You could have called a taxi.”

“You know that leaves a paper trail. It’s like I haven’t taught you anything.”

Mum interrupted with cookies at this point, because she didn’t fancy the idea of her offspring committing murder. At least in front of witnesses in their own living room.

“If you two would stop bickering for five seconds,” she said.

“I’m not bickering!” Christen protested.

“I am, and I’m not going to stop,” I retorted.  “Imagine what it will be like living with that all the time.”

“Nobody’s perfect,” replied Christen serenely. I took a deep breath and counted to ten. It didn’t help.

Nothing ever did with Christen. It wasn’t that she was an assassin – god knows the world needs a few professional killers. And it wasn’t that she insisted on ‘dressing the part’ – all black and leather jackets isn’t exactly subtle. It wasn’t even that she had all the self-awareness of a pine cone. It was that she just assumed, after everything, that we were friends, rather than… whatever it was we were, which was definitely not friends. I’m told friendship requires mutual respect and shared values, but honestly, after Christen, I would have settled for someone who didn’t make me want to stick a fork in my eye.

I bit into my cookie and chewed resentfully in my mother’s direction. She ignored me and continued ironing Christen’s favourite black shirt.

“You know, I think you’re being a bit unreasonable about all this,” said Christen, putting Return of the King onto one shelf and The Two Towers on the stack next to her. I could feel the muscles in my jaw tensing. If I didn’t watch out, I’d have a tension headache to deal with as well.

“Oh, sure,” I said. “It’s totally unreasonable for me to be upset about a soulless killer moving into my spare room, what could go wrong? I should just chill out, obviously.”  Christen rolled her eyes.

“I wish you’d let the soulless thing go, it’s hardly my fault. I didn’t ask to be born without one.”

She gave me the Look, the same way she always did when this point came up. I really should have known better by now, but there was something about the big, pathetic eyes and pouty lip that got me every damn time. I sighed. I knew I’d lost.

“Fine,” I said. “But I’m not helping you move in.”

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

Image from: http://images.media-allrecipes.com/userphotos/560×315/1107530.jpg