I want to preface this story with some thoughts. The title was a given, a course exercise, and not a choice as such, but I did have a choice about where I went with it. As a professional working for a large mental health and learning disability Trust and in the context of current campaigns to eliminate stigma, I’m bound to say something about how I arrived at this grim image. The exercise was one of perspective and the result is fiction, not fact. That said, I have worked as a nurse in conditions not dissimilar from these and observed at first hand, individuals whose behaviours shaped these characters. This was many years ago and I would hope that the picture here is no one’s present day reality. Let’s remember though, that when we dismiss others as so different and so removed from ourselves, the resultant social disengagement can lead to environments that are neglectful and abusive for all who have to exist within them.


The Detached Observer

In the bleakest corner of hell and damnation, Clarisse had finally found sanctuary. Knees pulled up around her ears, gown pulled down as far as possible towards her bare feet, she plucked and twitched with her fingers over the abdomen containing His Child. She had tried to hack it out but they had stopped her, brought her here, strapped her down while she had screamed and howled her impotent protest.

A few feet away, a nurse peered through the finger-pawed, gobbed-over security glass, and flicked at a syringe with casual negligence. He had come to the end of his shift, the schizo in the corner marinading in her own urine had better not kick off now.  ‘Lock and load!’ he thought to himself as he unbolted the office door, creaked it open and slid out into the corridor, holding the depot injection ahead of him like Excalibur.

But Clarisse had known; her Devil’s Child had been watching, it had told her. ‘Kill the bastard!’ it had shrieked into her mind’s ear while it churned and spat in her womb. ‘We are the Second Coming and you are the Whore Mother!’

Clarisse gathered her thoughts; thoughts that were scattered, fragmented and blurred by psychosis and tranquilisers. She focused them, death was the answer, exhumation of the child of death from her own rotting corpse. She gripped the scalpel she had sequestered while in A&E and waited for the nurse to come close. He was an enemy, his blood would cleanse.



I know this place with its cold stone walls, dark stone floors, and its hummings and buzzings everywhere. The blather in my head is new though, the bastard crap in my head from the crap bastard in my belly. SHUT UP! I have to stay quiet, silent in the sanctuary, invisible, but my knees hurt and I’m cold. I need to pull my thin robes more tightly round me. My ritual robes. I know what they’re planning, they’re going to drug me and pull this bastard out of me arse first. Second Coming only from the distaff side, Mr Hyde, take a ride. But not if I cut it out now, the slimy, roiling hell git. Slit open my stomach, grab it by its evil little ankles and chuck it out of the window. That thought feels good, it’s a good thought, it warms me up a little so my fingers start working again. If I can just…SHUT UP you goddamn freak! Ha – GODdamn, that’s funny! Little shit. Cut you out, I will, little shit.  Spawn of the devil on the level bevel weevil evil…

Who’s this? Keep still, don’t move. What’s he holding? What are his robes? His face is death, has he got the weapon? Oh revelation! A saviour! An angel of redemption! We are partners in Hell, my dagger of cleansing and his sword of truth, his pure blood to rot my corpse and snatch eternity from the Beast within. We will be remembered beautifully!



Joseph twitches the corner of one eye, best to keep tabs on the honest-to-god nutcases. What’s the Virgin Mary up to now, he wonders. Been crossing herself and muttering all day, scrunched over in the corner and soaked in her own wee. Now she’s looking furtive, glancing about and hissing ‘Shut up!’  every few minutes. Joseph isn’t too concerned for himself; being catatonic you’re pretty much invisible which is great when there’s a kick-off, not so great though when it comes to meals. But then, whatever’s on the menu, it looks and smells like cabbage boiled in piss for three days so who gives a shit?

Uh-oh, she’s fiddling. Joseph spots one of those hinky little signs only inmates recognise, and he thinks he can see blood on the peek-a-boo hospital gown. Was she cutting? He’s seen psychos before, the sort that ramble and mumble, hiss and squawk, they all went the same way. Mega dose of mega meds in the backside then into the huggy jacket for a few days. He watches, the dullest of eyes blinking at the slowest of speeds. A nurse is approaching with a needle. Well hell, they’re gonna dose her up before the shift change, what a surprise! He blanks his eyes some more, going for the dead fish look. Shit, she’s got a knife in there! Joseph watches in creeping, brain-numbed slow motion as Eamon takes steps of clinical expediency towards his target and the Virgin Mary mutters a salutation.

©suzanne conboy-hill 2010

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