Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sin... Christmas passed

Christmas came and went in a flurry of forgetfulness. We didn't even have the complete, world-at-a-standstill snowstorms to turn the outside as white as the inside.

The Christmas lunch, though, was special. I think we were given turkey. I say 'think' because the only evidence of any change in our dietary delights was that the slop had a little more plop. I also 'think' that the roundish, brownish, charcoalish chunks of doughish discs were meant to be Yorkshire puddings. In a previous life, they may well have been. Now, we could have used them for art class, if we had any classes.

Or class, for that matter.

I'm sure Aunt Bessie would have been turning in her grave, or her armchair if she was still living.

They didn't give us 'pigs-in-blankets' though. As much as I enjoy the little bacon-wrapped sausages, I could honestly say I didn't enjoy, last year, Perry, the young Emo who had taken self harming to levels heretofore unseen, screaming that the pigs were trapped in their own brothers' carcasses. That seemed to put everyone off their lunch and, once the chaos had calmed, pigs-in-blankets were decidedly off the menu.

They didn't trim the recreation room. No tinsel was put up for fear of someone strangling themselves - or someone else -with it. There was no tree. You could guarantee it would be used as a pine enema by one patient or another deciding they wanted to be the fairy or star upon its top.

We didn't have cards (we weren't allowed pens to write with anyway) and nor did we have the opportunity to have a mass Meadowhall excursion to buy any gifts with. Not that Connors would relinquish his hold on our finances anyway.

Was there any 'did' to distil the 'didn't'?Jeremy 'did' wish us all a Happy Christmas. Jersey 'did' take pleasure in telling us all about the sumptuous meal he was apparently going to be having and made a point of commenting that he'd spat in one of our meals and he wouldn't tell which.

Which, of course, was rubbish as the slop was served from large pans by ladles that seemed very adept at hitting the plate and our clothes (such as the scrubs-like garments were) at exactly the same time however the kitchen staff dolloped it out.

So, that was Christmas in the asylum. A time for giving and for goodwill... somewhere. Methinks the 'Spirit of Christmas' is off haunting some other halls.

At least we have our own crackers...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sin... Free today!

Apparently my book, my story, is available free today from Amazon as an Ebook. If you want to look into the mind of a madman, break it out. Not that I'm mad of course...

Sin Ebook

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sin... The Pain...

There's a pain in my head.

I don't why it's there, humming around like a busy little bee, but it's irritating the hell out of me.

It was there when I woke up this morning. Usually the glowing white of the walls, floor and everything else doesn't bother me too much. I'm sort of used to it. Sometimes you feel like you need to walk around with a squint in lieu of a rather fashionable pair of sunglasses, but it's just background pain. Little needles piercing your eyes, rather than Crocodile Dundee style 'now this is a knife' blades hacking away at your inner cortex.

Today, though, I have a pain in my head. My sinuses are playing up, so maybe that's it. The bridge of my nose feels like it has a steady stream of cars and trucks driving over the stream beneath. Thankfully Mucous Micky is around to help with that. When my sinuses are doing their thing, which is usually a runaway success, I just have to hope my head doesn't explode from the pressure.

But this pain in my head is different. It's not the steady throb of a subwoofer pulsing against the back of my eyes to an unheard beat. It's not the crick that'll crack if I turn my head just so, sharply enough to make it swim on down the road, almost taking the rest of me with it. It isn't the moanings of a migraine, attempting to wipe me out for the day so I'll be holed up in a darkened room.

Not that there is such a thing in the asylum.

It's like an insect has crawled in my ear and is using the surface of my brain as a trampoline. The bee is bumbling and the beetle is bouncing. Ba-doyng-a ba-doyng.

Interesting how some onomatopoeic words are SO difficult to spell, even though that is what they sound like. Unlike knock-knock. Who's there? Nobody. Nobody who? No... Actually nobody is there. You're all alone hunny.

That's not funny, I know. But oh, so true. In an asylum, no-one cares if you scream.


This pain.

I wonder if Rentokil are like pizza delivery places. You ring them up and they drop by within half an hour or you get the service free. I wonder if they can do anything about this buzzing in my bonce. I wonder where they'd shove the nozzle.

Maybe I'll just persevere. Although, if it went up my nostril, like Arnie in Total Recall, at least it'd flush out my sinuses.

Ah. The pain is subsiding. Or changing. Morphing as Michael Jackson did at the end of that music video. Which one was it? Black or White? The one with Eddie Murphy in? I forget, but he changed into a panther - black and sleek and pretty damned cool.

Nothing cool about this pain though. I recognise it.

How could I not?

It's happened again. The whole reason I entered this place was to avoid this. To get pumped full of their drugs so it couldn't happen again.

But it has.

And it's not a pain. Well, it is and it isn't. It's not MY pain. It's theirs.

And the incessant buzzing is their screams.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Sin... Twittering...

Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but I'm on Twitter now.

Not that I know my tweet from my elbow, of course. And what an odd name for a social media network (see, I know all the jingo-jango-lingo!). Twitter. And the icon of the bird?

Trust me, I have given people 'the bird' in my time - not least certain psychiatrists -and it's never needed as many as 140 characters. Often far less is required.

I think it's kind of appropriate, though. Being on Twitter when I'm meant to be cuckoo. If only Jack Nicholson had a computer back in the day, hmmm?

Of course I can't tell anyone. If Connors found out, he'd go... erm... crazy. He'd be wondering what sort of secrets and revelations I had been revealing to the world. Not that, of course, I'd have any. Not when he's whiter than the walls and his halo shines brighter than the incandescent lightbulbs that are recessed into the ceiling (I think the heat from them made them sink - if it's possible to sink upwards...).

Why on Earth would I have anything bad to say?

I mean... As if...

Anywho-be-do. Twitter me this, Twitter me that, don't let the bird get eaten by the cat.

And we all know who the cat, fat or not, is, don't we? So, like I say, shhhhh....


Monday, 5 December 2011

Sin... Little Willy Wire

The one they called Little Willy Wire
Decided to climb up a church spire
He thought he was King Kong
But something went wrong
And the results were really quite dire

The Wire who was never called Bill
Was, oh, so very very ill
Twas touch and 'twas go
A recovery so slow
But the Wire had a very strong will

One leg ended shorter than the other
So he walked a bit off to one side
And he couldn't walk straight
With an ungainly gait
So he went in a circle so wide.

Yet still a gorilla he was
And his chest he would beat
Just because
And though he got some flack
Claiming to be a Silverback
At least he wasn't the Wizard of Oz

Like Butter
The nutter
Dragged up from the gutter
Who spoke with a stutter
When words he would utter
To cast spells with a flutter

Little Willy the Wire
He didn't last long
The internal injuries
So bad
In a month he was gone...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sin... Break Free

I want to break free. I have to break free. I've got to break free from this prison that wraps bars so tightly round me. I need to break free.

Who knows? Who knows what it's doing to me?

I've fallen so far. I've fallen so far that I don't know just what is or isn't real. I've fallen so far.

I know. I know I've fallen so far.

It's strange and so true, how the screams they haunt me as they do. But I know that I'm sure, I can't walk out the door! But, how I need to break free, oh yes, I wish I could break free.

I just have got to break free.

I wish life could go on. I can't get used to all of the cries, taunting inside, splitting me wide open, like a knife. I don't want to carry on. God knows, and I think He's always known.

Oh, you've really got to see, I've got to break free.

I have to break free. You have to agree..

I want, I want, I want, I want... bring an end to me.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sin... Peter...

I'm told that a single match can burn a thousand dreams. As the Olympic Flame can light the fire of hope in a million hearts, one tiny match can turn hope into hell.

Meet Peter.

Pyro Pete, of course. What else could he be called?

Well, he could be called a lot, and was. Scum. Murderer. Filth. Many more that I can't bring myself to repeat here for fear of them tainting my tongue with their tragic touch. Mostly he was called Pyro, though that would often be followed with him being spat at in the face, with a good cough-up of phlegm added for effect. A kind of physical full stop, or exclamation mark. Or two by four.

I simply called him Peter. My disgust prevented me from putting any effort into cannibalising his name. He didn't deserve the firing of my neurons that it would take to decide which pseudonym I was going to attach to his despicable derriere.

He knew the family. Don't they usually? He blamed it on the voices.

Again, don't they usually?

He was possessed, he said. A demon had taken him when he was sitting on the toilet one Friday morning, apparently. When things should have been exiting, something entered. And it told him to.

They were evil. The father, who worked too many hours but always made time for his children and his wife. The mother who worked too, but was always there to pick up her boys from school.

The boys. Twelve years old. Twins. Not star pupils, but doing all right, you know? They'd glide more than soar, but wouldn't plummet.

Well, until Peter - or the demon within -struck that match.

Then their wings were burned. Then they were basted in their own tears. And there was no need for the mother to collect them from school or help them with their homework. And the father didn't have to go to work anymore, nor did he need to read to them at night, something he'd done since they were little and they didn't want him to stop. But he did stop. He had no choice. The books were gone. He was gone. They all were.

One match burned all their dreams.

And now he's in here with us, because of that demon he says told him to.

They should keep him separate, for his own safety. But they don't. Is that because they don't care? Or is it that they do?

He's still here, but, somehow, I don't think it will be for long. Retribution sneaks along the corridors of a place like this, hiding in shadows, waiting until it's time.

Maybe it'll be today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Sin... The Scream...

I'm feeling fuzzy headed today.

Did someone come into my room in the night and inject cotton wool in through my ears? Did my brain leak out from my nose, pushed out by the fluffy white intruder? Or did I sleepwalk to a fairground and eat so much candy floss that it filled me up from my tootsie toes to the tip-top of my head?

Either way, I feel fuzzy headed.

My eyes don't feel completely open. I've looked at my reflection in the window and I seem to be the same person I was yesterday. Tired from sleeping too much or not enough, drawn from life taken me by the hands and pulling me every which way at once.

But that person isn't me, is it? I don't look like that. I don't look like the life is slowly being sucked out of me as if I have an invisible leech hanging off my back, and every hour is lunch hour. I don't look haunted.

But I am, aren't I. I am haunted. I have the cries to keep me company each night. I have the knowledge and the memories. I haunt myself, my own guilt a spectre that follows me, tapping me on the shoulder every so often and shouting 'BOO!' in my ear.

I think it and my shadow gang up on me sometimes..

In my head, I look... better. I look healthier for a start. Those bags under my eyes aren't suitcases for the darkness in my soul. There's more volume in my hair.

There's more hair...

If I put my hands to my cheeks, I could do a passable impersonation of Edvard Munch's The Scream.

In my head.... there's more of me. I don't mean I have clones walking around. I'm not bumping into myself or having to share my lunch with... what would be the collective term for a group of Me? A Shiver of Sins? A Sin of Sins, in fact? Either way, I'm not playing host to a Dabble of Doppelgangers.

I mean, I am more present. I'm more here. More substantial.

So where did I go? Has my body walked off and I'm not actually me but my shadow?

Is that why I'm fuzzy headed? Because, in that abyss inside my head, there's only darkness?

If so, who turned out the lights?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sin... Bonfire of the Sanities

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, porridge, poetry and plots.

Hmmm... Don't think it goes quite like that, does it? Isn't it something about gunpowder and treason? I'd ask the goodly Mr. Fawkes, he was ever the bright spark, but I hear he went with a bang.

Hardee-har. I'm so hilarious sometimes. Sometimes. Honest. You've got to laugh, haven't you? Or you'll cry.

Ask my father. He'd laugh. I'd cry.

Anywho. Gunpowder, porridge and pus. I mean plot. I think.

I'm a bit hazy-wazy-double-dazy today, so you'll have to forgive me. Well, I suppose you don't actually have to... I can't force you to. It's entirely your decision, but a (un)healthy dose of Risperdal has me dancing with the pixies and snorting fairy dust - much like Luscious Lily was prone to do.

I had to. I had to kick off so they'd give me that little prick of purgatory that washes away - or at least dilutes - the cries and the memories. They came on a little too strong this morning and I felt as if I had the entire audience of a Justin Bieber concert in my head, except the atrocities that caused it were more horrific than even that. It doesn't often take me that way. Not quite as bad. They're there almost constantly, but it's a wave in the background, the cries little more than a far off sea-gull's call.

This morning, however, I was center stage, and no-one was throwing their knickers at me or hoping I'd invite them backstage for a 30 second fumble.

So I threw a wobbler and they were kind enough to catch it and administer their antidote. Wipe you out, that's their philosophy. Drown your sorrows in a sea of drugs. Or throw you in Room 101. Depends on whether there's a 'D' in the day or if they can be arsed, I suppose. There's no rhyme nor rational behind some of their decisions.

I was thankful, this morning, that they'd had their leg over last night, or they couldn't be bothered with the fight to drag me off to the Room. It was the drugs that I wanted, and today the Verve were wrong. The drugs did work. To a certain extent. Enough to dull the roar and to soften the screams.

It's Bonfire Night tomorrow. A celebration, of sorts, of a plot to blow up the government and all who sailed in her. If I could control this beast within me, I wonder if I could let off fireworks of a different kind - an all consuming fire that would reduce my guilt to a glowing pile of ash and embers.

Then I could be the phoenix rising, born anew, and my salvation would be at hand.

Let me hear you say 'I believe!'

No? Yeah... Probably right. There's been enough fireworks from me to last a thousand lifetimes, even though those thousands didn't last very long.

They don't let us have a fireworks display, of course. Not even sparklers. I don't blame them, to be honest - this is an asylum, after all. There's enough fireworks on a daily basis without adding fuel to the fire.

Today, I feel like a Catherine Wheel. Dizzily showering off sparks, as round and round I go.

Where I stop, nobody knows.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Sin... Halloween

It's Halloween in a few days.

I know this because they hung a glow-in-the-dark skeleton from the ceiling above the door. It was, deliberately of course, placed right where it brushed your head as you walked in beneath it. Four patients freaked out. One cowered in the Cornercopias' corner, two ran round screaming (one pulling the hair out of the other's head) and the fourth ran straight for the window and attempted to throw herself out of it.

The window is fine. Not even a cut or bruise.

Kristy is in the infirmary now. Concussion. And half a tongue seeing as the other half was bitten off upon impact.

The severed part wasn't found, so couldn't be re-attached. Although the butchers here would probably have put it on backwards. Or served it up for lunch. I suspect someone dines on it for a snack anyway.

The fifth person to come through the door and suffer the skeleton's touch was Abbie. She was like the two sides of a certain famous coin. Calm one moment and a whirlwind the next.

She looked up and batted the swaying foot with her hand, causing it to swing like a hangman's corpse. Then she simply sat down and stared at the TV.

She stayed that way for about half an hour. Then she flipped and not even I could catch her. I've not seen anyone pull one of the chairs from its bolted fixings before. She didn't seem to notice the bolts at all. She kind of shrugged the chair from the floor and waved it aside as if she were the Queen greeting her subjects.

She's in the infirmary too, I believe. Broken collarbone from the impact of the orderlies as they jumped on her to hold her down.

Who needs pumpkins? Who needs fake headstones or webbing? Who cares if Jason or Freddie are going to drop by and disembowel you?

We have our own demons here, and they're not entirely of our own making.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Sin... The Great Escape...

You kind of forget what fresh air actually is, if you don't breath or taste or feel it for any extended period.

The cool chill of a breeze. The smell of fresh cut grass or bread baked equally as fresh. When you're permanently enclosed in walls the colour of the pulsing heart of the sun - white hot can be a colour, you know - and breathing recycled air pumped through an asthmatic air conditioning system, fresh air isn't even a memory.

It's a myth.

You wish it existed, but you're so sure it doesn't.

You don't even miss it. You become so used to air that you could chew on - that grates your throat like Cheddar on a baked spud - that your lungs don't even bother to expand or contract anymore. They just sit there, playing Texas Hold-Your-Breath, betting that the imitation air won't kill you.

But then, when you do manage to take a real breath of the real thing, and you fill your entire body with one great gasp, you realise.

It's not just about the taste. It's not just about the feel or the smell. It's not even about the fact that your lungs put down their cards and spring back into life. It's that fresh air means you're free.

Carla was trouble. It followed her about like a puppy, yapping at the heels of anyone who came close. She embraced it, gave it cuddles, fed it water and let it sleep at the foot of her bed each night.

She spend a lot of time in Room 101. Carla was our Steve McQueen, sans baseball. Spending half her time in the Cooler, and the other half figuring out ways to get thrown in there. That she was, on occasion, literally thrown in there, I don't doubt. When it took three orderlies to carry her, with one losing a tooth and another possibly unable to be intimate with his wife for a week or so, it was unlikely she'd be gently guided through the doorway.

Yet still, Carla would be there, in the middle of the plots or tying the orderlies up in knots.

She told us she was different. Well, we could have told her that. But she meant she was a different kind of different.

She had purple skin. Apparently. And she called us Squishies.

Well, it takes all sorts.

When she first arrived, she told everyone that a mysterious illness was wiping out her town. See, I never thought of that one. Possibly because I'm one of the only sane ones in here (and I include the orderlies and a certain doctor in that), I have a lot of 'friends'. I don't babble, or wet myself, or drip mucus everywhere as if I'm a snowman melting on a hot summer's day. I sit. I think. I watch TV or I watch the clouds chasing the sun around the sky.

As such I'm a prime target for 'friends'. To be honest, that's a little unfair. Some of the residents are, actually, my friends. Bender Benny. Penelope. Caroline... Are or were...

Anywho-be-do. If I'd have wanted a little peace, or I'd wanted to be left completely alone, I could have played the Disease card. It worked for her. Once Carla had announced that her town was, basically, dying, nobody wanted to go near her.

Well, you wouldn't, would you?

Unfortunately, with Carla, you never got the choice. Whether or not you wanted to avoid her, she didn't let you. Especially, in fact, if you wanted to avoid her. She was a live wire permanently plugged into the mains. And she was so inventive in finding ways to wind up the orderlies or Connors, Thomas Edison could have taken notes and learned a thing or two.

But even so, quite how she managed to get those windows open, I'll never know. I wasn't even aware they did open. But she managed it. The room emptied in a heartbeat. Spilling out onto the grass like beans from a can, the residents - friends, acquaintances and pans in the posterior - exited as fast as they possibly could. I was with them. And with my whole body open, I took the biggest breath of air I had ever done in my life.

Granted it was knocked out of me a second later as I landed face with a knee in my back and tie-wraps around my wrists.

It was fine, though. After we'd all been rounded up and ushered (read dragged) back inside, I could still taste that fresh delicacy that is freedom.

We were minus one, though. Carla was gone. Apparently she'd shouted, as she left, something about finding a cure for her brother and ancient archives. And something about foam.

So. I didn't think you get powdered air. I wonder if it says on the packaging "May contain nuts"?

I mean, this is an asylum, after all.

(This blog entry is based on the excellent teen book Whatever Became of the Squishies by Claire Chilton, available now in print from and as an ebook from

Friday, 30 September 2011

Sin... Black Curls...

In here, people change.

Usually anyway. The meek become wild, the confident, shy and the arrogant become shadows. A mix of medication, neglect and the fact that you never knew if the person next to you was going to continue staring into space or leap up and attempt to gouge your eyes out meant that you became less than yourself. It sucked your identity away like a leech feasting on your soul.

I, myself, have tried with everything I have to keep hold of my Self, or those parts I want to save, anyway. I don't know if I've been successful, though. I don't know if the Me now is anything like the Me who walked in here. The change can creep up on you, sneaking around, hiding in corners until you're not looking then BANG!

You're no longer, entirely, you.

Black curls, black eyes and black attitude. A smile that could slice your heart out of your chest. An innocence lost. Miriam was that way when she first appeared in the recreation room and she was one of the only people I knew who stayed that way until she left.

Did they leave? Were they pushed? Did they disappear? Well, they were no longer here, that much was true. But sometimes the individual had neither improved nor deteriorated when they were, suddenly, absent.

Miriam was one of those. Like me, I very much doubted she was crazy. Well apart from her tales of Mana. Apart from talking about some typewriter that could bend time and space and was a masterpiece of quantum physics, of course. Hey, people died because of me. At the toss of a coin, no less. But I kept my own issues to myself. I was paranoid (I told them).

Miriam, however, was very vocal. From the day she walked in, she made sure you knew who she was and why she was here. Not that she believed she belonged in here, but not many did. I did wonder, though, on more than one occasion, if she was the only other non-lunatic in the asylum.

She didn't seem crazy. There was so much conviction in her stories you felt she was actually telling the truth. As far as she believed it, anyway. Did that make her more crazy than the crazies? Or more sane than the psychiatrist. Considering Connors was the doctor in question, the jury is still out.

Kidnap is a strong word. Strong is a strong word, too, isn't it? Words have meat, don't they. 'Strong.' 'Whisper.' 'Light.' Because you know their meaning you infer substance and weight to them in varying degrees. 'Kidnap' could pull you down like concrete overshoes in the river.

Connors denied it, strenuously. The orderlies openly laughed in her face. The residents did both of those and threw some disbelief in for good measure.

I was undecided. In the realm of Farfetched, I was King, so I had to take everything with a pinch of Lot's wife. But Miriam was insistent. She'd been kidnapped. Her horrible guardians' evil business partners, the Cartwrights? Cantrells? Anywho, they'd stolen her and her friend away and bundled them on a train. Of her friend there was no sign and I had to admit that I'd never heard the choo-choo of Thomas anywhere near here before. And then there was Mana, her Island governess. She could control people with her mind. But, did I mention people die around me? I may have. I forget.

Hold on... Governess? Did people still have them? And Miriam had left her childhood behind long ago, anyway.

Still. With her black curls, black eyes and black attitude, Miriam still made you feel she was whiter than the light that was inset into the ceiling of Room 101, the one that would blind you for a good half hour if you so much as happened to glance in its general direction. You, or at least I, felt that she hadn't quite learned the definition of deceit. Her innocence was lost, but its effect still lingered like Room 101's bulb.

Maybe she told the truth. Perhaps she had been kidnapped and her friend was being held too, and her guardians were plotting with their business partners to do unspeakable things.

But, as she's no longer here, I can't find out any more. I can't delve into her stories to see if there are any chinks - or discrepancies - in the armour of her conviction.

Was she pushed?

I hoped she jumped.

Maybe she'll write me a letter on that grand typewriter she kept mentioning. It would be nice to receive a letter.

Even if it is from another time.

(This blog entry is based on the excellent steampunk novel The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca, available now in print from and as an ebook from in the US or from in the UK)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sin... The Confessional

Forgive me Doctor, for I have Sinned.

It's been a while since I last wrote anything. I wonder why that is. Why am I missing those days? Why is there a blur where there should be a memory?

Has a five year old come along and rubbed it out, but not been quite thorough enough so there's still the smudge of thoughts left behind on the notepad of my mind?

It should be Wednesday, but it's not. I don't know, exactly, what day it is, but it's at least Saturday. Cheap Thrill Phil, that orderly of note to whom any small chance to humiliate a patient is a moment of personal glory, is on duty. He only works weekends.

I think that's the days when he's let out of his cage at the zoo. After all, with knuckles that almost scrape the floor and a body odour that could kill an Ox at twenty paces, even the gorillas would want some peace from one of their own.

But it should be Wednesday today.

Me and Bender Benny always played cards on a Wednesday. Chinese Patience or Rummy. The pack was missing two twos and all of the aces (that was Willow - she thought aces were evil), but we didn't mind. What difference did it make? Benny often forgot the difference between sevens and nines anyway. We made up the rules as we went along, with no two games being the same. Today should have been card day.

But it wasn't.

It was... somewhen else.

Where has the time gone, Doctor? Where have my days disappeared to, to leave behind this grey stain in my head? Is it the shadow of a memory, or the skid mark from whatever excrement your drugs leave behind. Has your treatment just failed to wipe the arse of my brain?

Sometimes, when you've forgotten something, if you don't really think of it, or you turn your head fast enough to catch the tail end, you can grasp at the memory and pull it back. You can reel it in like a pike fighting the line, regretting it had taken the bait. But not in this case. It's a smoke screen that I just can't see through.

And what was the bait, Doctor? What did you use to steal the memory away from me?

I don't suppose you need one, do you. This pond is ripe for fishing, and you can dip in anytime, knowing you'll always catch a bite.

We're like lobsters in a tank. You can point to one of us and tell the waiter - or orderly in this case - "I want that one."

Waiter/orderly. Fish hook/syringe. It's all the same. You say tomayto, I say comatose.

Do I want to remember? What was it about your treatment that took days, Doctor? What did you do that deleted time from my mind like a file from a folder? Was it you or I that scrubbed them out?

I wonder.

Forgive me, Doctor, for I am Sin.

But you know that.

Don't you.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sin... Cloudbusting

I wandered lonely as a cloud.

Are clouds lonely? Do they wander about, up there, all full of sadness and despair? Do they float about, wishing for a brief gust of wind to give them a push towards one another so they can merge into a bigger one? Is it a competition to see who can reach the lofty heights of Cumulo Nimbus first?

But, when they do become the granddaddy of all clouds, do they then become angry, bustling and tussling for supremacy? Does a battle then ensue and we who walk upon the Earth below feel the outpouring of their war in the deluge that follows? Is rain a cloud’s blood, rather than God's pee?

I actually don't think so. I think clouds have a great life. They float about carefree, not worried whether it's rain (which is down to them) or shine. They spy one of us looking up at them and morph into pigs or dragons or trains for our amusement. When they see another one of their own, they drift on over and hook up for a while, chilling and chatting before wandering off to ride the air currents.

A strong wind is like a rollercoaster to them. It grabs them and they fly along, screaming, fluffy hands held high.

And the Cumulo Nimbus? I think that's their party. And I think that the rumbling thunder and the flashes of lightning are their music and dancing and we're the neighbours that they take great pleasure in irritating.

Though, saying that, I love a good storm. I gladly stand out in it, letting the rain soak me as the party carries on high up above.

Sometimes I wish I could join in.

The recreation room is like that. We're all clouds, drifting from one corner to another, pausing by the window or the TV. Occasionally we'll be caught up in the storm of one of the residents having a 'Moment' with a capital 'M' for 'Mental'. Then we continue to float on our breeze of Risperdal.

I wander lonely as a cloud.

Thinking about it, perhaps clouds are lonely.

Monday, 22 August 2011

2500! wow!

We've hit 2,500... erm... hits!

To celebrate this milestone, the first twenty people to comment on this post will receive a free ebook copy of Sin!

Thanks to EVERYONE for dropping by and reading the exploits of Sin from within his asylum! And thanks for all the wonderful comments I've had regarding the blog/diary entries.

I can promise there's much more to come, and a sequel to Sin is in the works!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sin... Shirley Temple...

At first it seemed cute, the way she would pick her nose and show you the "buggers".

She was funny like that. Yes, it was disgusting, but she was far too sweet to turn anyone's stomach. You half expected her to be wearing a little flowery dress with her hair in bunches, licking a lollipop.

She was our own little girl. The one we all looked out for and felt pat/maternal towards - or both in certain cases. In a way, you wouldn't have thought she belonged in here. It was a bad place, as she would often remind us.

Like we needed reminding...

"Don't like it in here. It's a bad place. The walls look angry and they shout at me."

I could sympathise. Glaring white, meant to look sterile and clean, did look angry. It looked like it was furious, in fact, at being stuck in here with us lunatics. Why couldn't it be in a palace or hotel, painted in lovely neutrals, instead of being made to look like it was barely holding the Sun in check?

Why indeed. I doubt Connors had put enough thought into the general decor of the hospital. Saying that, I suppose he actually had. Burn out their eyes and their brains will be easier to get to to fix. But their will will have gone up in smoke along the way.

She'd sit and talk to anyone, and it was rare that the company was unwanted. Her view of the world was filled with the wonder only a child could conceive of. Why didn't the clouds fall out of the sky, or break when they hit each other? Why was grass green, when lots of pretty rainbow colours would look much nicer? And why couldn't she have a piece of that rainbow to play with? She'd give it right back!

And no-one could fail to raise a smile when her giggles filled the room.

But then there were her tantrums. Then there were her banshee-screaming, floor-rolling, leg-kicking tantrums. Over nothing in particular. The wrong song on the TV. Someone sitting in the seat she wanted to use, or standing at the window where she wanted to be. The fact that it was probably Thursday.

I say 'probably', because it could be any day in a place where the weeks merged into a scribbled-out calendar of gloom.

Her moods could turn on the toss of a... of a coin... and she could spin from tantrum to tiara in a heartbeat. Her eyes would be magically dry once more and her smile would be as sweet as a sugared doughnut with extra sugar, dipped in sugar. So sweet, in fact, you felt like you'd gained 3 pounds just by spending a few moments with her. When her tide turned, the hair you'd pulled out sprouted back and your blood pressure settled back down to acceptable levels.

She'd skip, too. It seemed impossible for her to walk. A bounce always had to run up to her and bump her into the air like a playful dog that wanted you to throw that frisbee just one more time.

Most of the time, apart from when she changed from delight to demonchild, she was the spark that ignited the flicker of a smile on your face.

Her name, Annabella, suited her Shirley-Templeness.

Everyone liked her. Unfortunately, that included some of the orderlies. Fortunately for Annabella, Silverback, a huge brute of a man with the IQ of a postage stamp but the heart of a football pitch, was very protective of her. The one time Dominic - Dirty Dom - had gotten a little too close, in more ways than one, Silverback had ensured that we all heard the snap of the arm. It earned him a month in Room 101, but he didn't care. He was a sandwich short of a finger buffet.

She exuded innocence.

Bizarre, really, since she was 34 and had once been the busiest prostitute in town until her drug dealer had wanted payment on top of the cash she was giving him, and had taken her mind and memories and soul along with it. I suppose he thought of it as interest. Or a bonus.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sin... in a mo, Flo...

In a mo, Flo.

That was her name. Not 'Flo', not 'Mo', not 'In a so and so'. Just 'In a mo, Flo'. Simple. There you go.

Well, occasionally one or another would go, "Hey, Mo Flo!" thinking it was rather funny. But she'd come along and kick them in the tummy. She'd give it some welly, with a fair bit of force. For a few days after, they'd talk a bit hoarse. And when they went to the loo, it was really quite runny...

You didn't mess with Flo, now THAT was soon learned. She had respect and esteem, and THAT was soon earned. Flo, in a mo, taught everyone here the meaning of Terror and the definition of Fear. A look that was wrong, a word said amiss, a bump or a nudge or a taking the... dessert before it was missed. An eye that was black, a rib that was broke, a nose that dripped blood or a throat begging to choke, Flo, in a mo, was a wind that could whirl and knew just the pressure points that could make you hurl. A belt that was black as the eye she could punch would make you, in a mo, lose all of your lunch.

Not that, of course, it was worth keeping down. Slop, a mucous-like shade of dark brown, with a side dish of something that didn't have a name - to eat it you'd have to be... erm... insane...


Residents of an asylum, I suppose are just that. But don't tell a soul. Keep it under your hat.

So 'In a mo' was what Flo usually said. And if you tried to rush her, you'd get a kick in the head. So you gave her her time, whether a minute or nine, and if she still wasn't done or was having some fun (which often consisted of someone's arm being twisted), and your courage had fled, or you wanted to keep your head, or not end up dead, or bled, or buried beneath an old garden shed - not that there were any, but you get my gist - anything could happen if Flo had got pissed. And then, in the end, you'd ask a friend.

Or what passed for one, cos, when all's said and done, we are all the same, regardless of name. Prisoners of demons all of our own, in this lunatic asylum that we all call home.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sin... the extra finger...

She went to great trouble to always keep her left hand hidden, until the fateful day when she fell and put her hand out to save herself.

Then everybody could see that tiny extra finger.

"Freak." That's what they called her after that. Or "Mutant." Not as an insult, but as a name. Like Fred or Mary or Jemima.

Granted you didn't often hear the name Jemima. Except as a Puddleduck, perhaps. We had one in here some time ago. A Jemima. She didn't last long. She kept staring at me, an accusing look in her eyes. To my knowledge I had never met her before. I'd remember a name like that, surely. I don't know what she blamed me for (perhaps her name?) but I kept out of her way. She'd just sit there, anyway. Sit and watch. Her eyes would throw their daggers like a circus act in the Big Top, and I could almost feel the balloons popping by my head and between my legs.

No applause, please, Ladees 'n' Germs! She's doing this without the aid of a safety net!

Before she could replace those imaginary weapons with real ones, Jemima was no longer. She was absent, never to be seen again. I didn't know what her particular brand of Crazy was, nor did I care. But it was nice to not have to dodge the daggers.

Jemima, apart from her obsessive malevolence towards me, was normal. As 'normal' as a mental patient can be, anyway.

And Freak? Mutant?

I preferred to call her Abby. It was her name, after all. In most cases, the names you were given in here were humorous or descriptive. Mucous Micky. Bender Benny. Nothing was, usually, meant maliciously. Even, in all honesty, Mutant Freak from Mars. It was just a nickname. Not nasty, not spiteful, just there.

But it made her cry. I didn't like that. Often, tears will fuel, rather than extinguish, the fire and people will twist the knife that the name-calling has impaled all the more, leaving a wound that will never heal. And, again, it's with no particularly vindictive intent. Not always, at least. But I'm not like that. We all know I'm no saint. Ask the dead that haunt me each night, twisting their own knives. But I could see, the way she'd hidden that hand, disguised that finger, that she'd had her unfair share of taunts in her life. Why would I want to add to that?

I was called Sin. A kicking each day and twice on Fridays (one for luck, you see). I had the standard number of fingers, toes, heads etc., but I still had a name that invited the fists and the phlegm.

So I called her Abby.

After a while, Abby didn't react to the names. Freak didn't bring a tear. Mutant failed to raise a sob. She answered to them as if her parents had had a similar sense of humour to my own and had signed the birth certificate themselves. But I knew, I understood, that the knife still twisted. The wound grew.

Eventually, it can grow so big, there's more rent than real. Rent as in gash, rather than as in dues to pay - though sometimes it might feel like that. Eventually, the wound can feel as if it's all you are. You have to be your own bandage. You bind the hole with a blind eye and hope it will heal. Sometimes it will.


Sometimes you lock yourself away in an asylum and cry havoc so the dogs of war will administer the drugs.

Trust me, it doesn't work.

Abby. She bound the wounds with herself. She became wrapped up in a cocoon of self-consciousness that created a wall between her Self and her sanity. The two gazed at each other over an abyss of Abbiness that neither could circumvent. To everyone else, Abby was just quiet. Didn't speak much. Bit boring really. To me, she was a spark extinguished.

I hoped, I really did hope, that I didn't follow her lead.

I didn't have an extra finger. I had something much less visible, yet so much more terrible.

I had me.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sin... Time...

The clock is evil. It's corrupting Time. It hangs on the wall, a little to the left of the TV, and laughs at us.

It has a face, doesn't it? And hands? Then it can laugh. And it can show us the two fingered salute.

Poor Time doesn't stand a chance, and we, as mere spectators, can only watch as she falls under the clock's wicked spell. We can't even begin to intervene, to try to prevent the corruption.. We're held by Time as firmly as gravity holds us to this planet, and there's not a jot we can do.

I think all clocks are evil. They run chasing after Time, speeding up its pace like hounds after Holmes, right when you just need those few extra minutes to finish that report, or catch that bus, or eat that bacon butty.

Oh how I'd love a bacon butty. Does slop come in bacon flavour?

And when you need that report, or need that bus, or are waiting for that bacon to crisp just the right amount, the clock catches hold of Time and drags her, screaming, backwards, extending those seconds into minutes into hours.

The clock is the second most watched thing in here. First is, obviously, the television. Second would have been the view from the window, but the clock, though it couldn't beat MTV or Eastenders repeats, attacked the view with a baseball bat and beat it into submission. After the window came the Sacred Spot of the Cornercopias, but that wasn't even going to try and reach the podium for fear of the same fate the view received. It was a spot, an empty piece of floor tile that held a group of asylum inmates rapt, but it wasn't stupid!

So the clock, evil, sly and deceitful, is corrupting Time. Once upon a... time... Time was forced into compliance by the dictatorial disc, but now I'm not sure that that's the case.

You see, I was told Time tiptoed by. But I can hear her footsteps running past me.

And I fear we may run out...

... of Time..

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sin... her...

I was sure it was her, and ran to catch up.

15 years since I saw her last, and I still remembered her walk and the colour of her hair and her... sense of self. She knew who she was. In a world where most were flailing about in a sea of senselessness, she knew. And, at those moments I'd spend in her presence, I knew my Self too.

Granted, once I was away from her, my Self ran and hid in whichever shadowy recess it called home.

I called out her name, my voice suddenly running faster than I and so sounding too quick, too high, too desperate.

She walked quickly. She always did. Heels pushing her legs up to her armpits, she could out stride Superman, leaping buildings in a single bound. By the time I finally was toe to heel and could reach out to grab her, she was already at the bus stop. The number 5.

My hand was on her shoulder, turning her, her name stalling on the tip of my tongue, afraid to leap out into the abyss between us.

Then she turned.

Then she faced me.

Then I saw the ravages of her face.

I saw the gaping hole in her chest.

I saw how her arm hung loosely from her shoulder.

How three fingers of her other hand were missing.

A bus crashing through a post office would do that to you.

I woke.

In the asylum, no-one can hear you scream. That's because they're all drugged up. Or they don't care. The darkness lay heavy on me, suffocating. I waited for it to smother me, to squeeze the air from my lungs and release me.

But it didn't.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sin... Second Death

These visions of being a deserting Confederate soldier were really interfering with my work day.

Well, I say 'visions'... That implies I went into a trance and mystical images visited me, foretelling events in my dim, dark future. I always thought the future was meant to be bright and it was the past, especially in my case, that was supposed to be dim and distant and dusky - on the edge of radiance but always with the shadow of night terrors.

And I say 'visit'... That makes it sound like they came bearing gifts of grapes and three week old magazines with the coupons cut out, and we sit around with our cups of tea going cold whilst staring out of the window commenting inanely on the weather for just long enough to say they've been but not long enough to say it made a difference.

And... well... I say 'work'... Everything in here is hard work. The brilliant, in intensity not wonderfullness, white. The slop that attempts, and fails - though can't be blamed for its failings - to be classed as food. The minutes that hold their breath long enough to become hours.

But I seemed to be phasing out. I seemed to be daydreaming, my mind wandering around outside the confines of my head, even going so far as to exit the asylum - probably on the Number Five bus. It was my only escape, my only way out. It was my only chance to feel free of the strait jacket you wear even when you weren't wearing one. The daydreams, however, had ceased to be mundane journeys to town, grocery shopping, bed with a beautiful woman - the things you had to think about to keep yourself sane... in the asylum...

They were becoming... odd.

Apart from films and vague memories of history lessons with Mr. Benson at school, I know not-a-lot about the American Civil War. Not being American means it's talked about, but takes a back seat to the many wives of a certain portly king and how one of his ancestors received an arrow in the eye as a thanks for leading the country against the invaders in 1066.

So why would I be imagining I was a Confederate soldier on the run from both my comrades in arms and those I was sworn to defeat?

I know exactly why.

Every so often you meet a person who is so completely convinced about their own story, no matter how ludicrous it might sound, you can't help but be swept away. You're drawn into their surely make-believe world until you almost end up convinced yourself. In here, there's a lot of people who live in worlds of their own creation, bubbles that are reinforced with despair to ensure they never pop. But you know that's all they are. Protection against the forces of darkness, or of reality.

But Mark Richards was different. Somehow. He wasn't necessarily more eloquent, weaving his surreality with words. Nor was he excessively manic, his fears or phobias becoming a facade of fact.

It was in his eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul, apparently. In an asylum, usually, those windows are locked tight, with the shutters shut and the curtains closed. Not so with Mark. His eyes were bright. They were alive.

We were friends. He was insane but appeared not to be, if you ignored his stories. I was not insane but appeared to be, if you didn't ignore my own. We both had our curses. In my case, it was the deaths. In his, there were hunts and rituals and Isis and Osiris. And faceless enemies.

In both there were suicides. His father, my sister.

We were friends.

Did I believe him? You'd think I'd be mad to. Insane even. But I've said I'm not. I told you that already. Look past the things you know about me, those that haunt me, what I can do, that coin... that damned coin. See beyond.

OK, so I still look crazy. Fair enough. As does Mark. But it doesn't mean that we are. Yes, it doesn't mean that we're not either.

Mark told me he had only a month left. But for what? He wouldn't say. He just kept telling me that she was coming. She had a name. Sylvia Dee. His wife? Daughter? Mother? Postman's next door neighbour's third cousin's chiropodist? No idea. But he was afraid of her. As thirty one days counted down, Mark became drawn. He wasn't eating. His blackouts increased. He would flinch if anyone came in and would watch them intently, just in case they were someone else hiding in the sheep's clothing of an orderly or patient.

Mark believed Sylvia Dee, her name always spoken together, never as simply Sylvia, was watching him. She was manipulating him. If he wasn't gone by the end of that month, then terrible things would happen, not just ot him, but to everyone.

Fear can be contagious. In an asylum, where everyone is dumped in a recreation room to fester and ferment, contagions spread quickly. Mark's fever was a wildfire that burned all in its path. Patients were no longer patient. They were anxious. They were afraid, and they didn't even know why.

That was how you were with Mark. You believed him, and you shared his dread.

When he was gone, the apprehension disappeared like breath on a window. It faded to only a few drops of condensation that disturbed the clarity of the glass. But where had he gone? It wasn't like it was overnight, when he might have been carted out by Connors, or released in the wilds to fend for himself. Or even that Sylvia Dee had turned up early and spirited him away.

No. It was during the day. He was there and he wasn't. People don't disappear. They really don't. He wasn't in the room. To my knowledge, he hadn't gone to relieve his bladder or bowel, not that it takes days to do either. He had just gone.

And then I started to see myself as a Confederate soldier, circa 1860, with fear and blood and smoke and noise following me around like dogs desperate for me to open a tin of meat and feed them. I could even smell, could taste the air. It was acrid and bitter at the back of my throat.

Nothing odd about that, you might think. You'd be right. It's just the musing of a madman. The thing is, Mark Richards had a thing about him. You kind of believed what he said, as crazy as it was. And the curse? His own version of my affliction? It had lasted, he said, about a hundred and thirty odd years. It had started during the American Civil War.

That Number Five bus has taken my mind on some strange journeys. Now it's taken me back to a battle that shaped a country.

Really interferes with my working day, that.

I reckon.

(This blog entry is based on the book Second Death by Donna Fitch, available now in print from and as an ebook from

Monday, 20 June 2011

Sin... the black stump...

Have you heard of the black stump?

It's not like the fabled black spot of the pirates, immortalised in Treasure Island - although if you came across it, your time might be ticking away just as much as if the palm of your hand had suddenly had a black hole appear on it, sucking your life away until you didn't even exist anymore.

The black stump.

You'd expect it to be capitalised. Bee and Ess. But it's not.

There's one outside the window. Not right outside, just a bit further away. All on its own, as if the other trees had fled in fear or simply didn't want to be associated but such a deformed, maimed exhibit. IT's only a few feet high - a little over waist height at most. Charred and black, the top disintegrated by the lightning bolt that destroyed the rest of the stump's trunk, probably a million years ago. Well, possibly not that far back, but it was before anyone that currently resided in the asylum had arrived.

It was a spectre, haunting the edge of where any dare to go. Promising untold horrors if you were ever foolish enough to stray beyond its marker.

The black stump.

It was black. Completely. Not a hint of browns or greens or greys, or anything treeish remained. And, as mentioned, it was a stump. The other trees that adorn the vista beyond the bars on the window are behemoths in the world of flora. This was a maimed shadow of what was surely its former glory.

But the black stump's power lay not in what it was, but rather in what it had become.

To colonial Australians, it signified, effectively, the end of the world. It marked the edge of what was known and what was unknown. Safe and scary. Okay and ohhhhh no!

Here, we were probably not so distant from them. The black stump was a sentinel, guarding against unwary travellers, warning them to step no further. And if you did, you'd quite possibly suffer the same fate as the stump itself. A lightning bolt from the heavens, striking you down, leaving nothing but your smoking shoes.

Not that we get to go out often, of course. Or are allowed anything more than simple plimsoles.

But that one time. That one time.

I hadn't been here long. A few weeks. I was still the new boy, not yet Reverend Sin, yet to find my feet or have them swept from beneath me. I can't even remember his name. And no-one knew how he had managed to be outside in the first place.

But he was.

Apparently he knew of the Antipodean reference. It obviously translated very well to here.

But he would be the one. He would be the courageous adventurer who tamed the savage beast. Yes, that savage beast was the burnt remnants of a long dead tree, but the significance was the same.

Unfortunately, it seemed the Institute's very own Indiana Jones was actually scared of his own reflection. The bravado was a facade to disguise the fear. He'd hoped, if he pretended to be brave, some of it would actually rub off on him.

It didn't.

We all watched him. We could see him shaking from the Recreation Room. His hands were moving as he was playing an invisible piano impossibly fast. His legs were wobbling enough to make him stumble on more than one occasion. The orderlies saw him too, but, rather than stop him, they enjoyed the entertainment. He wasn't going fast enough to warrant them initiating a chase.

As he approached the black stump, lower case bee and ess, his advance slowed and his trembling increased. He was walking through treacle with ten thousand volts coursing through every sinew. His eyes were glued to the stump as if to look away was to invite an attack.

After forever, he drew level. Even from our distance we could see his face was almost purple. His breath was laboured. His whole body one enormous shiver.

Then he stepped beyond.

He left safe and entered scary.

And he collapsed.

He didn't move and, for a long moment, nor did anyone else. Then everyone did.

Except him.

The sounds of crying mixed with those of cursing as the orderlies reliased they should, perhaps, gone after him a little sooner.

It was fear, abject and total, that killed him. A legend reached out and stopped his heart without the need of a heavenly dagger.

But it could have been something else.

It could have been that, beyond the torched carcass of the tree, no-one could actually go. The world ended as literally as his heartbeat had.

It could have been the black stump.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sin... Wendy Wotsit....

Wendy Wotsit, in another life, may well have been the female equivalent of Billy Graham. She had a tone and a presence that commanded respect and had a voice that swept over you like a tsunami, washing away all fear and self-loathing.

It was a pity she was doolally. As dippy as one of those funny little weighted birds you used to put on the edge of a glass and wait for it to swing enough to take a sip. She also had a personal hygiene problem - well, she didn't. She didn't mind that her B.O. was Bloody 'Oribble one bit. It was everyone else who had the problem. Wendy Wotsit was more than happy with her odour. Sometimes she'd talk to it. Preach, almost.

Like it was a disciple.

Wendy Wotsit was so called for two reasons. One, her name was Wendy. It kind of seemed natural to call her that, then. Two, she couldn't remember her second name. Just as she forgot to wash and I had discarded my surname somewhere along the rocky path to lunacy, Wendy's wotsit had wandered off too. But that was ok. That was fine, actually, as something else had come along to fill the gap. Or someone. Or, rather, to be precisely precise, someones.

Wendy Wotsit loved to talk. She loved the sound of her own voice. But she wasn't the only one. On a Sunday, because it had to be a Sunday, Wendy would hold court. She was a messiah in the midst of misery. Her messages of hope filled her followers' collective heart with visions of life in the 'real' world - dreams of walls that were more magnolia than glaring.

Until she lost her train of thought and stood staring into the distance, even when the furthest she could see without her spectacles was roughly just short of the tips of her fingers.

Her followers, those who were enraptured by her words, would wait, though. They'd know that, eventually, she'd pick up her lost thought, figure out what order they were meant to go in and get right back into the swing. Then, when she was finally done, they'd follow her (as followers are prone to do), as she'd wander around the recreation room aimlessly. Her path would cross itself more times than an Easter bun, but they'd sweep along her like ducklings following their mother. And she was mother to them, even though every single one of them was over the age of seventy. She was easily twenty years the junior of the youngest, but still they would be lost in her sway.

I couldn't blame them. Everyone in here needed some semblance of hope. They all needed to believe that the asylum wasn't the sum of their lot.

I think I, out of them all, was the only one who dared not dream. My dreams were filled with the cries of the dead. One day, I was sure I wouldn't wake up and I'd heard them haunting me for all of eternity.

Wendy Wotsit, when she could hold her lucidity in her hands and smooth it over her children like a soothing cream to fill out the cracks, was a preacher to her flock. When she couldn't - when her lucidity went off searching for her surname and her hygiene - she existed in a flurry of forgetfulness.

I didn't have that luxury. I dropped my surname like the grenade it was. My mind stayed right where it was meant to be, rattling around in my head, banging on the bars of my self-inflicted prison.

I envied Wendy. I really did.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sin... Raindrops...


I prefer the big fat bad round drops that almost hurt when they hit you in the face. The ones where you could almost dance between them. Much more satisfying than the miserly mizzle of the thin and weedy "can't be arsed" variety.

Connors doesn't care - he'll use either for his own peculiar form of water torture.

Sorry, that'll be 'therapy'.

He figured that, if you were being particularly contrary, stick you outside, strapped into your jacket and attached to a small post that had been hammered into the ground for this very purpose, and you'd quickly change your mind. He wouldn't do it when the sun was shining, oh no. Strangely, he didn't when the ground was covered in three feet of snow and foot long icicles were hanging from the branches of the few trees we could see. He missed an opportunity there, I think.

No, he waited until it was raining. He believed that standing in a downpour with no way to take cover, the rain soaking through your clothes until it made every nook and crannie slick, was the best way by far to knock off that 'UN' that had so sneakily attached itself to 'cooperative'.

It was worse when it was cold. Then the water would seep in through your pores, wriggling like maggots into your bones to chill you from the inside. You'd be shivering for about a week afterwards, your body shaking to try and free itself of the sub-zero infestation. You'd feel that, no matter how much you tried to dry yourself off, you were trapped in a liquid bubble that kept you drenched. Granted you often had to use your bedsheets as towels seeing as the best you were offered otherwise was a few squares of paper that aspired to be cardboard. And your clothes weren't replaced. So you either slept naked in sopping sheets or you slept in sopping clothes in sopping sheets, the soppiness increasing exponentially to keep you wet until a week on Thursday.

Of course, as things often do, it didn't always work in the way Connors would have liked. John Willow, for example. He was a beast of a man. Angry always. Called Silverback behind his not so silver back. You could almost expect his knuckles to be dragging along the floor. It took four orderlies, with two in reserve, to subdue him when the Silverback was feeling 'grumpy', and even then cattle prods sometimes had to be employed. He was found across the grounds, the uprooted post still attached to his strait jacket by the thick strap. He was dead. Hypothermia. His brutishness hadn't been enough to protect him from the bitter cold and the onslaught of the rain, not after it had taken him two days to yank that post from the ground before he could make his getaway.

Then there was the lovely Mr. Adams. There was never a more gentle soul. He was gracious and kind and, most times, not even slightly insane. Then Friday afternoon came around, roughly half past three, and he would be a quivering wreck that would screech and lash out at any who dared come close. The schoolboy louts who'd waited for him did that. He still walked with a limp and couldn't properly move the left side of his face.

He was found strangled. The strap was wrapped twice around his neck and was pulled so tight it had embedded itself in the skin and had to be pulled away rather than simply released.

The strap was shortened then. And the post concreted in place.

Every so often, when a storm is brewing, I cause a fuss. I hunt around for a little 'UN' to stick on to the 'cooperative' that I normally am (unless I really need those drugs) so I can be trussed up like the Sunday roast and shoved outside to face the onslaught of the elements.

The thing is, it's OUTSIDE. The thing is, it's FRESH AIR.

The thing is, when things were normal and I could walk along the street and dance between the raindrops without hearing the screams of the dead echoing in my head, I LIKED the rain.

The thing is, Dr. Connors, I like it. Even the drizzle. You know, the rain that gets you really wet.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sin... Surprise...

There's a town in the old mid-west - that's out there in the US of A, y'all - called Surprise.

They say it's called Surprise because the founders would be surprised if it ever became more than the meagre scrabblings it began life as. They'd be surprised if that one-horse town, little more than a one-trick pony, would grow from a few houses, a post office and a saloon - complete with swinging doors fitted to an entrance big enough to accommodate your stetson, your gunbelt and your swagger - into a thriving metropolis.

I've never been, so I can't comment. The Surprised, as I'd guess the residents of such a place might be called, may believe their beloved town has reached the heady heights of city-hood. They may believe it hasn't changed at all and that one horse should have been taken out back and shot, the remains being dragged off to the glue factory. Then, at least, it would be worth something.

My own place of birth, which may aspire to being more than a mere town - although its true title is Great Grimsby but it still has 'Town' in the name of its football team - began as the refuge for a Danish prince and his protector. It became one of the biggest fishing ports in the world. But that was then and this is now. The people of Grimsby, joined so closely with the resort of Cleethorpes they could be Siamese Twins that could scratch each others' backsides without even moving off the sofa, either think it's an OK place to live or it's a hole in the ground that forgot to swallow. Or they don't think anything at all and simply exist.

I suppose that's the same anywhere. It's great, it's OK, it's a dump... or it just is.

Anywhere, of course, except here.

The asylum.

Dr. Connors' personal Paradise.

The residents' private Purgatory.

I can't say it's a dump. It's not. It's fastidiously clean. It's so crispy white you could cut your eyes if you looked up too quickly. But the food is slop. The orderlies - most of them anyway - are arrogant or apathetic. And Connors reigns supreme.

So it's not a dump, but it's not OK and it's certainly not 'great'.

Its founding father didn't hope to turn the one-trick pony into a thoroughbred racehorse, nor was he protecting the heir to a foreign throne. He wanted to help, to cure... no, he wanted to dominate. The latter, though, doesn't appear in the ads.

The asylum, the institute, the home away from anywhere and everywhere - home away from hope - isn't anything really.

It just is.

Why am I not Surprised?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Sin... Backpacking...

Laura, as loopy as a magnificent man in his flying machine, was a Little Miss Chatterbox that probably inspired the Roger Hargreaves classics. She could talk the hind legs off a donkey at 50 yards, said donkey using its forelegs to cover its burning ears, said ears smoking after the continuous onslaught of noise.

Sometimes that noise made sense. Often, it was simply a jumble of words thrown together. It was as if a hundred monkeys were tapping away on typewriters in her head - eventually she'd either recite the works of Shakespeare or she'd say something that wasn't just a car crash of cacophony.

I was pleased, and surprised, to be there when such a one in a million (words a minute) occurrence... occurred. It wasn't necessarily that Laura was going to say anything of Earth-shattering importance necessarily - but you never knew. We all deserved at least one Eureka moment in our lives.

As it happened, I wasn't just in the room when she managed to string the words together in a daisy chain of meaning - Laura had actually chosen me to be the victim... I mean 'focus' of her tirade. I, being me, didn't mind. If she wanted to let rip the dogs of dialogue, then who was I to attempt to stem the flow? In most cases I switched off, the tone becoming a monotone that I could rest my weary head upon, drifting off on a diatribe of discord. Noise became white noise. Bedlam became blah-blah-blah.

As such it was a good few minutes before I realised I could understand what she was saying.

"Lights on, lights off. Lights on, lights off. It was like a scene out of the Karate Kid, if Norman Bates was Mr. Miyagi." she said.

That made me jump off my cloud and land with my feet firmly on the floor. I didn't want to admit I hadn't heard anything up to that point, so I simply nodded and raised an eyebrow.

What followed was an account of Laura's adventures in the land of Lunacy. How she went from carefree student, backpacking across Australia, to the delightful but disturbed walking fountain of furore. For three quarters of an hour I was, genuinely, held captive by her story. Its weaving way wrapped around me, not letting me escape and barely allowing me breath. How so much could happen to one girl - 21 at the time - and NOT taint her I couldn't imagine. How this particular girl, dark hair flowing as much as her tongue, managed to be sitting next to me, I could. Stalkers and crazies (more so than anyone in here) dotted her journey like a sewing machine stitching a hem. She mentioned friends, she spoke about places with something akin to awe, and she told me of times where she was so scared she didn't know where to turn.

It was times like that that unpicked the seam and redirected it to chair next to mine.

The final straw, the one that broke the backpacker's back, was the wizened woman who turned the lights on and off. The woman who stood in the middle of the hostel room and watched her sleeping. The woman who took photographs of you without you knowing - in the kitchen, watching tv, in the shower. The woman who cackled malevolently to herself, and had access to the knives in the kitchen drawer.

You try not to let her know you're awake and know she's watching you. You try not to move, to keep your breathing soft, to look through almost closed eyes, your eyelashes like bars on the windows of the prison you feel yourself in.

Then you see the knife in her hand. You see her move with a fluidity one so old shouldn't be able to manage. No more pretence. No more pseudo-sleep. Only reaction. Only self-defence.

Only an accident.

I think Laura talks so much because she's trying to tell herself it wasn't her fault, but she can't quite believe it.

Some tribes in darkest Africa or deepest Amazon believe that a photo robs you of your soul. Laura kept hold of her soul, but the photos the old woman took robbed her of her life.

I'd tell her so, if I could get a word in edgeways.

(This blog entry is based on the true events depicted in the book Secret Confessions of a Backpacker by Laura Watts. Find it here:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sin... Mad Mick...

Do you think 'crazy' and 'insane' are the same thing?

Are they hand in hand, wandering down Asylum Avenue, seeing dragons and butterflies in the cloud shapes - Nature's own Rorschach test? Are they like tomarto and tomayto, you say 'potato' and I say 'spud'? Or are they everso slightly not the same? Reaching out to each other with their fingers barely touching, desperately wanting to be one but each being a slightly twisted version of the other?

I think it's the latter. I think they're a shade apart, like white and ivory or magnolia and cream. And I don't think they want to be together. Crazy and Insane stare daggers at each other over the back garden fence, with their only desperation being the desire to be in opposite corners of a ring waiting for the bell to tell them to fightfightfight.

There's a patient. We don't see much of him as he tends to either be in Room 101 or in his own cell. He prefers solitude. Silence is his friend. Michael is his name, and Mad is his game - one he plays very well. Mad Mick has been here longer than anybody else. He's a Founding Father, a legend in the world of weird. The fact that he looks and acts like the secret love child of Back to the Future's Doc Brown and Crocodile Dundee helps label him as a touch... touched. That he built his own tank - the army kind not the fishy kind - throws a hint of tapped into the mix.

When the police came to ask what the big boxy thing with the long turret and camouflage paint (though if it was camouflaged, how did they see it?) was doing parked in Tesco car park, he told them it helps in traffic jams. When they wanted him to sit in their car to have a 'chat', he pulled a knife his father Mr. Dundee would have gone weak at the knees at out from the back of his jeans. He tried to tell them he was simply removing it because he didn't want to do himself an injury when he sat down. Besides, it might damage the upholstery in the car seat, let alone the upholstery in his boxer shorts.

The two officers didn't quite see things like that. He had a knife which, phallically speaking, made them both feel inadequate and he held the keys to what looked like a baby Challenger. And he saw nothing wrong with that.

His knife was confiscated, his tank was impounded, and his collection of guns, ammunition and blades was met with astonishment - not least because most of it dated from the war. Which one? All of them!

Eventually Mad Mick ended up in the care of Dr. Connors. And that was the last the world saw of him. He was deemed clinically insane and a danger to himself and everyone he came into contact with. And you know what? A bigger load of bananas I have yet to hear.

People confuse insane with crazy. They mix eccentric with lunatic. That Mad Mick wasn't the brightest bulb in the flowerbed wasn't in question. That he was insane and would chop out your liver with a flick of the wrist most definitely was. You see, Mad Mick liked a knife that was better endowed than he was. He liked his World War II pistols and his Spanish Civil War helmets. And he liked to go shopping in a tank. But he would also give you his last Rolo - if packets of Rolo were allowed, which they weren't because the last thing Connors needed was a patient on a sugar rush or shoving a sweet were the sun daren't ever venture enough to shine. I'm a nice guy (ignoring the deaths), but he had me beat, and he didn't need Mr. Switchblade to help him do it.

To be honest, I'm not surprised Michael's best buddies were the silence and the solitude. In a world where odd was ordinary, he was extraordinary. He didn't fit in amongst the damaged souls that wandered the halls of the asylum - patients and staff alike. He was out of phase with us common folk. He didn't see things the same way. He saw beyond the horizon, where the world hides from view. And now he hides from the world.

Mad Mick is crazy, just a little bit. But he's not insane.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Sin... room 101...

It's quiet in Room 101. You can hear a pin drop or a mouse's whiskers twitch.

Of course, the only pins are the needles they use to fill us full of drugs and if a mouse managed to get in here it'd probably be eaten by Kevin "Haggis" McNally, who would eat anything, whether it had a pulse once, still or not.

Room 101 is also the only room where, when the lights go out, it's actually dark. There's no phosphorous glow from the glaring white of the walls, floor and ceiling that burned itself onto your retina. Extra thick padding adorns the walls like a landscape of snow covered hills and valleys that's only missing the odd smoking chimney from remote farm houses and the occasional huddled copse of trees. It deadenes all sounds and all light. When you're locked in there, you experience a deadening of not just your senses, but also of your soul. When it's lights out, the lights go out inside you.

I don't really know what I did to be worthy of a stay within its venerated walls. One minute I was staring into space wondering if I really could see the colour blue out of the corner of my eyr and why it kept running away if I quickly turned my head to check, and the next I was under a pile of arms and legs as a fight between Hilda, the woman with the glass eye and black teeth who had served up her pet dog on a barbeque, and Darcy, the girl who had apparently tried to marry her labrador, swept by like a tornado leaving a wake of destruction in its path. I was one of the cars or homes that were lifted like twigs and cast casually aside.

I can't remember what happened after that, really. I know I tasted my own blood and I do recall the weight of three orderlies seeing if each could be the straw that broke my back. Then I was in the Room wondering, instead, if I could actually see little people wandering over the hills that covered the walls. Was I Gulliver to their Lilliput? Was I the giant to their Jack, feeing, fying and foeing while they scaled their beanstalks to hide the golden goose?

Time takes its own course when there's no ticking to keep it on a leash. It will speed up and slow down as it fancies to mess with your mind, taking great pleasure in dragging your days out to weeks or squeezing your weeks into hours. In the end, you forget Time is even out there, watching you, playing with you. In the end you simply ARE, lost in the moment with no notion of past or future. In the end there's only you and Now. And Now is not the best conversationalist in the world.

If you weren't already in an asylum and, by default, mad, you could go insane in there.

I think that's the plan, though. I think that's part of the fun. I think the whole point of Room 101 is to flick the switch and turn your Crazy up a notch or two.

All in the name of therapy, of course.

I don't mind it. I don't fear Time and its games. I sometimes talk to the wee ones on the walls. I embrace the darkness because it's so welcome after the ultra brightness of everything else. And, when I am in there and the lights go out and I die inside, I (for a little while) can't hear the screams.

It's quiet in Room 101. You can hear a pin drop or a mouse's whiskers twitch.

But you can't hear anything else.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sin... the glow in the attic...

The light in the attic was noticeably different - it had a strange pink hue.

I remember it even now. It glowed with a faint pulse and there was a low hum that accompanied the glimmering.

I think I was around 8 years old at the time. I was the worn-down brunt of my father's jokes. The steady stream of strangers that came and went through the back door were often entertained by his playful banter at my expense and his rough'n'ready prodding. They never saw the bruises from the prodding - verbal or physical. They just laughed as they ruffled my hair. I tried to ignore it all, just as I tried to ignore the pricking at the corners of my eyes.

I'd never let my father see me cry. Only Joy, my sister, ever saw that. And she understood. She had it too, in her own way.

I was never allowed in the attic, though I never actually wanted to go up there. It was dark. It was dusty. Dad told me that monsters slept in the shadows and, if you put a step wrong, your foot would go through the ceiling and you'd be trapped. Then the monsters could feed on you as they wished. They'd chew on your fat and gnaw on your bones until all that remained was your eyes - they left them until last so you could watch them eat you.

I stayed away.

The odd creaks and muffled voiced that I heard from up there only served to confirm what Dad said.

At night I would listen to the sounds. I'd imagine the monsters staring at me from hidden holes, shuffling around with their stomachs growling, desperate to dine on 8 year old boy.

Then the light up there changed. It had always been yellowy-orange. Whenever Dad went into the attic with a bag of clothes or old toys - moaning that they should be taken to the tip rather than be shoved up there where they'll be forgotten about until the next owners moved in - he'd pull the cord for the light. It would be 'light' coloured. The same way my bedside lamp was. The same way the bulb in the living room was.

But then it changed. It became pinkish. And the hum started. And the strangers visited.

On the day of my ninth birthday, Dad wasn't there. Mum told us, my sister and I, that he'd been eaten by the monsters that hid in the shadows, and that we should listen to what Dad had said - NEVER go up there. Not that we would.

Dad wasn't there for a long time. I cried, then. He always treated me like he hated me. He always acted as if I embarrassed him. But he was always, still, my dad. Then he came back.

He hadn't been eaten by the monsters. That was just a joke my mother had said. He'd been staying in a hotel that was so safe they put bars on the windows.

The pink glow had gone. So had the monsters, Dad said. But we should still never go up in the attic.

Just in case they ever came back...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sin... sharp sand...

"Sharp sand."

Two words that once meant nothing, but now instil fear into the hearts of the unwary.

Teri, whom everyone thought was a Terry due to the oversized everything she wore that hung on her small frame like a marquee on a flagpole, short cropped hair and voice that was low and, well, ambiguous. She wasn't androgynous, and once you knew, you KNEW, but you weren't sure... not to begin with. And, as she (not he) shied away from any contact, you couldn't MAKE sure either.

At first, and for a long time, if you even walked past her, she would shrink back - becoming almost visibly smaller. Her clothing, way too big, was like her protective shield and she retreated into it in times of threat - which, to her, was almost constant. Because of this, it was impossible to get to know her. Impossible to get anything other than a shaky, guttural "Go away", hissed through clenched teeth, from her.

She was teased. By orderlies and patients alike. They'd poke her, taunt her, walk just close enough to be on the edge of the personal space bubble without quite bursting it. The patients I could sort out. A quiet word here, a veiled threat there. They listened to me. I was either saner or crazier than most and I was, in most cases, a friend.

The orderlies were another matter. I could do nothing to stop them having their fun. I tried talking, they ignored me. I tried asking Jeremy to intervene, he did, they ignored him. I had nothing to threaten them with. Yes, I had my... talents... but they were uncontrolled and were liable to be the tornado from the butterfly wing. I was here to NOT use them. I was here to HIDE, to SUBDUE them. I wasn't here to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of Sin, either metaphorically or metaphysically.

So Teri was kept, pretty much intentionally, terrified.

But what of? What had happened to her that made her so afraid?

Yes, there were those who didn't tell. There were those who kept their stories close and quiet and only let them out to haunt at night. Those that preferred the pain, because then they could feel. Because it would remind them that it wasn't - or it was - their fault. They were the ones with the distant eyes, who would speak to you but would look past you as if you, the wall, the institute and the world weren't there and they were gazing into the dark past of their personal purgatory.

But they weren't in the majority. And even they would give little hints - tasters of the delicacies that made their lives and their minds so sick.

Teri didn't. I don't think she even kept herself to herself. I think she gave that part of her she feared, loathed and everso slightly needed to someone else. Someone who didn't exist anywhere but in Teri's head, but someone who would hold onto that hateful piece and keep it hidden. Then Teri herself wouldn't need to look at it. She wouldn't need to bring it out at night, unwrap it from the blanket of guilt and play with it - turning it in her hands and her mind, building it into something more than it was originally until it took on a life of its own and devoured her.

Teri didn't. She remained silent. She stayed afraid. Until one day.

I don't know what changed. Her level of torment hadn't altered. The other residents had eased off and it was now only people like Terrence, who would tease for the sake of it, in a pulling the legs of spiders kind of way, that still prodded the jangling nerves. The orderlies regularly had their fun. Well, they needed something to relieve the boredom, bless 'em.

Something did change, though. Perhaps it was the person inside the person - the keeper of the secret - that had decided to hand in their notice and go spend their days on a beach sipping cocktails and dipping non-existent toes in the deep blue consciousness. Perhaps Teri had decided to take out her little bundle of psychosis and let it romp around in her cell until it grew tired and irritable and had turned around and snapped at her ankles.

Whatever it was... I was sitting in a chair. You alternate the chairs you sit in daily. Some know exactly where they've plonked their behinds every day for the last month. I don't. It doesn't bother me that much. But I do tend to - not necessarily try to - sit somewhere I have for the past few days. It puts a ripple in the monotony.

Teri sat down beside me, the spider to my Miss Muffet.

It wasn't much of a conversation. She wasn't much of a conversationalist. Her self-imposed silence had diluted her communication skills to the point that you could tell each sentence was forced, pushed out from within with every word taking a supreme effort.

"Sharp sand." Simple and succinct. Said as if the two words were laden with all the meaning necessary for me to understand their import.

I'm not simple. I'm fairly, I think, intelligent. But I didn't get it.

"OK," I said quietly.

The ensuing exchange was both meaningful and meaningless. She made random comments regarding the weather, the colour of the screws holding the chairs to the floor and the way an unseen assailant had forced sand into her throat when she refused to hand over her purse and mobile phone when she was walking home along a beach one summer holiday abroad. At one point I didn't know if grey referred to the colour of the food or the colour of the attackers eyes. She jumped from subject to object with a coherence that wavered between cobweb and candyfloss. But I grasped the meat from the mire. I realised in the end.

After her attack, three other shadows had continued what the first had begun. But they didn't want money or mobile. They only wanted her. They came as a group and left as a searing scar on her soul. And all the while she had choked on the sharp sand.

It was why she didn't speak properly. Why I had so much trouble understanding. What was left of her throat and her vocal cords after the three had mimiced the one couldn't properly form the words.

She told me she was going to show me. I said no, that was fine. She insisted so I told her ok.

She told me to open my mouth. When you're a lunatic amongst the loonies, you tend to trust your own. So I did.

Where she managed to get the glass, I have no idea. How she managed to break it into such tiny pieces and hold them in her small hands without the blood from the cuts dripping on to the pure white floor and being noticed, I have no idea.

How long it was before I could speak again, before my throat had healed, before I could eat solids once more, I really have no idea.

I don't know what happened to Teri after that. I didn't see her again, and I didn't really want to ask.

But I've gone off beaches for some reason.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sin... nothing...

Nothing comes from nothing.


If you don't work hard you don't get anything back. If you don't pay the Reaper you wander in Limbo. If you don't run for the bus, you walk into Cleethorpes for your night on the lash. Or ring a taxi, which is more expensive.

Hold on... Cleethorpes... Limbo... Damn...

In fact... Cleethorpes... Limbo... the asylum...

Would you recognise the Reaper if he came tapping on your shoulder, swinging his scythe, beckoning his long gnarly finger? Well, the long, black hooded cloak might give it away. As might the skeletal face with the hollow sockets where eyes should be. But what if he didn't look like that? What if Grim had dropped his deathly duds in favour of a pair of combats, a nice fitted shirt, some hiking boots and a pocket knife? What if a touch of foundation and some shades disguised the fleshless face and eyeless eyes? What then?

If he tapped you on the shoulder and beckoned you then, you'd probably tell him where to go. And you probably wouldn't be polite about it, especially as he'd likely be persistent.

I wonder if the Grim Reaper has ever been given an injunction to never set foot within a mile of someone. If that were the case, then I think MY Final Destination would be a nice beach somewhere. Maybe Bali. Or Skegness.

Anywhere other than here.

Anyway. "Nothing comes from Nothing." That's what Dad used to say. His sole inspirational. educational, motivational comment. His entry into the Dad of the Year award. What a guy. It was good to see him following his own advice. Not. It was good to see that he wasn't a complete waste of space.

Well, no-one can be a COMPLETE waste of space... can they?

Of all the things Dad used to say ("Sin-Sin-siree, there's no place for thee," was my own personal favourite) that was about the only one that made any sense. I don't know if it was because of that snippet of sense that I tried to be a decent guy, that I tried to work hard. It may have been because I wanted to be better than him. To be something instead of nothing.

But... Did he mean that he was Nothing? Did he mean that, coming from him, I was Nothing too?

What I'd taken as motivational could have been degradational. That'd suit him. Put himself down to have a go at me. Whatever the cost, don't give his own son ANYTHING to feel good about or aspire to.

Well, Dad.

Shove it. OK? I may be in an asylum. I may be kept company by the cries of those that have died because of me. I may, at times, hate myself. But if someone comes to me, as they often do in here, I'll offer a word, or a shoulder, or an arm. I'll offer solace or humour, whichever befits the situation. Whether Benny is Bending or Mickey is swimming in his steady stream of mucous, I can't help but be... whatever I need to be. And I DO need to be... whatever that is.

Friend? Yes. I need to be their friend. I need to bring smiles to placate the cries that nobody can hear but me. I need to raise a spirit for those I've laid waste. I need to be more than my father.

Nothing comes from nothing. Maybe that's true. I'm no philosopher. There's those in here that believe they are - one, in fact, who thinks he is Socrates himself. But not me. Nothing may well come from nothing, but I'm Something. I am.

I have to believe that.

Otherwise, what's the point?