Here at Sacred Chickens, we are going to be publishing the stories that won our writing contest over the next couple of days, with the first going up today in this very post! Be sure to check them all out and happy reading!
FIRST PLACE: Coping Mechanism by Adam Padgett
Entry one, May 3, 2007
So the people in the white coats insist that I start writing down my personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I feel like it's stupid, but they'll probably take something away from me if I don't do this. I guess, since this is my first entry in this journal, I'll write a summary of things so far.
I think my name is Max. It's what the doctors call me. I wish I could remember my last name, but I've been in this place so long now that I forgot. I guess I'm about sixteen. All of the “experiences” they want me to write down are boring. All I do is stay in this white room and follow a schedule. I wake up when the lights come on; I bathe and take my meds. Someone comes in and teaches me about math and English and crap like that until time to eat. After I eat, the therapist comes in and we talk about junk. She's probably the one who suggested this stupid journal. After that, I just do whatever I can in this room until dinner and lights out.
That's my life as far as I remember. Same things happen every week. Nothing changes. As far as “thoughts and feelings” go, I've got nothing to write down that I haven't already told the therapist. There. I started the journal. Maybe this will be enough.
Entry two, June 8, 2007
Looks like I haven't been writing enough. Therapist and I kinda had an argument. She insists I've been through some terrible trauma and asks how I cope with it. I tell her I can't remember any trauma because the meds screw my memory up I think. She tells me they help with the pain, but I tell her I don't hurt anywhere. She seemed frustrated, which I don't understand. I have no injuries, so I don't need medicine for pain. Maybe I can find a way to stop taking the medicine.
Entry three, June 21, 2007
I wish I had some friends. The only people I talk to are teachers or therapists. Maybe I can treat this journal like writing letters to a friend who lives on the outside of this place. Nah...too dumb.
Entry four, August 2, 2007
I think I kinda understand what she was talking about with the meds. I stopped taking them for a week, and my chest started feeling weird and I had nightmares. I noticed this sad feeling. I didn't like it. I probably shouldn't tell anyone about this.
Entry five, September 13, 2007
I lost the journal for a while. It doesn't matter. I didn't have anything to write. I want to go outside. All the books I read make the world sound like a wonderful place. I may be happier if I just had a window to look outside.
Entry six, December 1, 2007
I guess another year is about to waste away in this stupid cell. My medication doesn't help me. Not really. I still feel bad when I take it; I don't notice until it wears off. Sometimes, when I get really sad, I look in the mirror and imagine seeing my reflection in a new place. Sometimes it's a big city with lots of cars and big buildings with windows. Sometimes I imagine seeing my reflection in a lake in the woods. It helps for a moment, but I get sad when I look away.
Entry five, January 5, 2008
I lost track of what number I'm on and had to go count the pages. I thought I'd written more, but I guess I was wrong. I read the other entries. Now I'm sure the meds screw with my memory because I don't remember losing the journal. They keep asking me if I want new books and comics, but I swear they feel new whenever I read them. My therapist says I've read some of them eight times.
I don't like this place. I'm told it's my home, but I don't feel like it is. I'm very lonely. I wonder what it's like to have friends and family. The closest thing I can think of is my therapist. I wouldn't want her as family though; she's too pretty to be family. That's weird... maybe I should mark that out. Nah, it's not like anyone else will see this.
Entry...eight apparently, January 27, 2008
I found a couple of pages from my journal bawled up in my trash can, so this I guess is eight. I had to read them again. From the looks of my reading, I should stop taking my meds. Today, a doctor came into my room and gave me this weird talk about puberty. He said that's why I've been feeling weird lately, that it's part of growing up. I don't buy it though. I grew my first chest hair a long time ago, so I would have been feeling weird sooner.
Entry nine, February 11, 2008
I don't know if I should write this down, but I stopped taking my meds. I'm very excited about it. I can feel more stuff if that makes any sense. Things seem less dull. The bad things do too, unfortunately. I think it's worth it. I just hope I don't get caught.
Entry ten, February 22, 2008
I started to get really bad headaches so I took my medicine again. I never realized exactly how bad it made me feel. I lose my appetite, and it's hard to think. I'd rather have the headaches and feel sad. My environment is so dull that I welcome any feeling as long as it breaks the monotony.
I also noticed that my memory has gotten better. It's hard to explain. I noticed that if I hadn't seen something or done it every day, my memory of it got foggy. Now I can remember things a little better. Like, I can remember what I wrote in January.
Entry four, May 3, 2008
Guess I've had this thing for a year and managed to barely write anything. I started working out more, but I don't remember if the doctors told me to or if I just wanted to. My therapist keeps asking me if I remember anything from my childhood. He gets frustrated easily. I think he doesn't like me. I feel bored a lot now. Not sure what else to say. I don't like the way my meds taste. I think I'm getting taller because my clothes don't fit as well. Now I have to shave. The razor scares me sometimes.
Entry five, May 16, 2008
Okay, something doesn't feel right. I wanted to write about how I like to look in the mirror and imagine myself in different places, but I feel like I've already done that. I looked through my journal, and some pages are missing. I don't know how many.
Entry six, May 20, 2008
I found a small scrap of paper tucked behind my mirror today, and now I'm terrified. I left myself a note in April. It just says, “If you're reading this, Max, stop taking your medication.” I don't know what to do. I don't see a reason not to take my meds, but I trust myself.
Entry seven, May 30, 2008
Entry eight, June 27, 2008
After I stopped having withdrawals, I started having nightmares. Now I feel much different than usual. I'm more conscious. I can tell something is wrong with me, and I'm scared. I no longer trust the therapist. I remember having a different one. I don't know what's going on. Something inside me hurts. I don't want to think about it. Maybe I should take my medicine.
No more entries
There will be
One two three
Look at me.
In the mirror
I see thee.
Look no more
At the bottle or mirror.
Entry nine, October 14, 2008
I'm finally well again. They gave me the journal back. They said I tried to escape, but why would I ever do that? There's a stain on my pillow that has an odd orange color. I can't look in the mirror anymore. It scares me. Sometimes I feel like it looks back. I never see people. I just read about people in books or hear voices from the ceiling telling me what to do. I want to take this bandage off of my wrist, but they tell me not to.
Entry ten, October 21, 2008
I had a strange dream last night. A poem kept playing over and over. Said something about the mirror. In the dream, I had restraints on, and the doctors were feeding me.
Anyway, sometimes, the voices don't sound like they're coming from the ceiling. I only hear them when I'm doing my coping exercises. Apparently, I asked to feel better. It must be working because I don't remember feeling bad.
Entry eleven, February 1, 2009
A strange series of events has unfolded since my last entry. Though I have full cognition, I still have trouble wrapping my head around it. It started when I got curious and took the bandage off of my wrist. I had words carved into my wrist. I don't remember how they got there, but I think it's self-inflicted. My wrist says, “The meds don't help.”
This made me very curious, so I devised a way to find out what I'd meant. Every morning, I have the same routine: get up, go to the bathroom, take my pills, look in the mirror, bathe. The only time cameras aren't on me is in the shower. What I decided to do is hold the pills under my tongue until I can spit them down the shower drain.
I very quickly developed withdrawal pains. I had headaches, stomach aches, and terrible nightmares. Once, I even had a seizure. I was scared more than anything that the doctors would come in and find out I haven't been taking my medication, but instead, they resolved that I had too high a dosage. Lucky me!
The only reason I endured these pains was that the benefits were amazing. My thoughts grew more and more clear; my imagination was allowed to run freely; my senses became less dull. At first, I found this to be super nice. It allowed me to enjoy books so much more. When I spent time imagining myself in new places, I could go on longer and more elaborate adventures.
However, after a week, things became less fun. I started to feel painful amounts of loneliness and depression. I started having worse nightmares that gave me this lingering terror. The haunting voices from my dreams began to linger as well. They seemed so real, so genuine... I found it unsettling but never made mention of it.
One night, I was too freaked out to sleep, so I tried to calm down by doing my mirror trick. I stared at my reflection for what felt like hours, but I couldn't bring myself to imagine a new place. I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to run. Obviously, I have nowhere to go. After that night, the lingering dreams stopped. I could no longer bring myself to look in the mirror. The voices on the com in the ceiling insisted upon it, however... this made my inward pain far worse.
The longer I went without my medication, the worse I seemed to feel. Now I see how much sense that makes. Still, I continued not to take them. Surely I had a good reason to carve a reminder on my arm. I was sure eventually some good would come to me. Nope. I felt worse and worse. I stopped eating. My reflection has grown pale.
Though I no longer have nightmares, my coping time became like torture. I could only imagine myself in these terrible places. What's worse is that it began to feel like I was remembering instead of imagining. In the mirror, I began to see my childhood, something I'd previously had no recollection of. I now wish I never had. The memories I began to see... Not only that but, in the mirror, I no longer see my own reflection. Instead, my imagination runs so wild as to turn my image into this foul, dark creature. Some days I could feel it beckoning me.
I want it to end. There's no escaping this cell, but I refuse to be driven into further madness. I cannot bare to see my reflection again. Maybe I was wrong to stop taking my medication. Should I atone? I don't know what to do. I want the pain to stop. I can't sleep. I can't leave. Maybe there is a way to escape.
Entry twelve, February 3, 2009
I'd had a panic attack the previous morning. I couldn't make myself get up. I passed out and didn't wake up till this morning. When I rose, the power was out. Only what I assume the emergency lighting was on. Yet, the doctor's voice that greets me every morning still played. In fact, throughout the day, every prompt I usually hear played on time. It made me think.
Something else was off today. No food came through the slot in my door. I think I may be alone. Maybe I've been alone this whole time. I don't understand what's going on. Just now I swear I heard a noise coming from the bathroom. Though I have just realized how truly alone I've been, I fear I may have a visitor.
Entry thirteen, February 5, 2009
I haven't left my bed since the power went out. I want out. I am haunted by voices and nightmares constantly. I want out. The recorded prompts no longer play. I want out. I need water but the voices beckoning me to the bathroom can't be trusted. I want out. I now only write because it feels like a habit. I want out. Maybe if I just took my medicine everything would go back to normal, but I left the pill bottle in the bathroom. I want out. Something keeps calling me, but I can't tell if it's coming from in my head or outside. It wants out. Maybe I could just... see about my meds. Go to the mirror. It wants out.
Entry fourteen, February 6, 2009
I now no longer fear for my sanity, but for my very life. The door to my bathroom creaked open. Outside of my own volition, I find myself standing in front of the mirror and holding this journal. However, it was not a mirror this time. It was a door. I opened it as if compelled with every fiber of my being. I had hoped it was my means of finally escaping this cell. Now... I wish I had stayed.
As soon as I left, the door closed behind me, and I found myself alone in this decrepit city. I walked around for hours trying to find proper shelter and maybe some food. In the distance, I saw a building that was fully intact. It seemed like something from a dream.
It was a very tall building with many windows. The building was the only thing in this city that didn't seem to be broken down and abandoned. As I got closer, my heart began to drop. I had walked in a circle and made my way back to that cursed building I had been held. Still, I walked closer. I walked until I could see my reflection in one of the windows.
Something about my reflection fascinated me at the time, so I kept getting closer. I felt compelled to keep going. Finally, when I was only a few feet away, I saw something else in the window. I saw that creature. The one my mind had changed my reflection to before in the mirror. Only now, the creature was behind me. I stood frozen for a moment, too frightened to move. I hoped my mind was just playing tricks on me like usual, but still, I was too scared to move. The creature screeched with a loud, terrible voice. The noise came from behind me. That's when I knew it was no longer a reflection.
Instantly, I snapped out of my frightened trance and ran, barely managing to escape the creature's initial attack. I ran and ran. The creature seemed to run in the opposite direction, yet I still felt as if it were right behind me. I turned a corner, and it was right in front of me ready to attack. I went back as fast as I could. I ran from the beast until the sun went down. It was pitch black out. I managed to find an abandoned building that only had one entrance. I figured it would be the safest spot for me. While inside, I tripped over a flashlight, which turned out to be my only good luck for the day. It is how I now see what I am writing. I don't know if I will sleep tonight. I fear this may be my last entry.
It has been many days since my last meal, but I was lucky enough to find water as I fled from this beast. I've seen no calendar, and cannot recall the date. My world has become utter chaos. I now have to sleep during the days, for the creature hunts me during the night mostly. Even during the day, however, I am never free from torment. It screeches and roars and barks all throughout the day. Its voice pierces my very soul. Something about it reminds me of people's cries in pain, but I do not know where the memories come from. This creature is so odd. Nothing about it makes sense. I've never read of anything like it in any of my books.
I have only managed to get a few good looks at it, not that I really wish to get a close look at it. It seems to appear from nowhere without warning. It looks humanoid, yet it doesn't have a definite shape. Just being near it, I can feel both a chill of fear and an actual chill. Its movement has no rhythm or pattern. It's so unnatural my eyes don't even seem to be able to decide what they saw when I looked at it. I don't have any idea what to do. I just want to survive.
The other day, as I was running, I came upon a person. He asked me if I needed any help. He ran alongside me for a short time. I warned him about why I was running. I told him that he'd be better off leaving me alone. He didn't listen. I told him I didn't want his help. He should have gone away.
I watched as the creature devoured him. I felt like I had to, like the man deserved not to be alone as he died. I know I don't want to die alone. I looked the man in the eyes as the beast mauled him. I was paralyzed with fear, yet I couldn't help but shift my gaze to the creature. I watched it as it consumed the man.
As I looked at the creature's dark figure, I saw that it was constantly changing form. It was this jagged movement across its whole body. The creature varied between being purely black to semi-transparent. When it was transparent, I swear I saw images and faces from my dreams on its fragments. Could this creature be reflecting my memories? I also saw the creature grow quickly as it ate.
It is never far from me. I can hear its terrible cries now. They've grown more powerful as well. Its sad screech is so loud, and it echoes throughout the entire city. Each time, I get a headache. Sometimes, the noise is so powerful, it pierces my horrid dreams as I sleep.
Since my last entry, I have made three more friends. All have been consumed. They never seem to believe me about the creature. Do they not hear its cry? Do they not feel its chill? Do they not see it appear at every turn as I do?
It keeps growing. It is now twice the size it was when I first saw it. The larger it gets, the odder it seems. Its effect on me has grown as well.
Now, when it cries out, I no longer hear the same screech. I hear many voices at once. All of them are the same as in my dreams. All of them feel painfully familiar. I think it's not just hunting me. I think it's trying to make me suffer. I think it's screwing with me.
I can feel it watching me as I sleep. It could get me any time, yet it doesn't. The other night, it just stood across the street from the shelter I'd found and didn't move until I stepped outside. As it stood there, it beckoned me with its growl. The moment I stepped outside, it was gone. Then, the chase began again.
This creature is inescapable. Even in my sleep, it chases me. The chase never ends. I'm barely managing to nourish myself to keep up the running. The creature never reaches me. I never get away from it. It has stopped growing, but its form now changes more rapidly. It has consumed two other people who were surviving in this decrepit city. They always ask me if I need help, and I say they need to stay away. I asked one of them about the creature; she said she had neither seen nor heard it.
In one of my dreams, I met my mother while I was resting. She ran from the creature with me, but she couldn't keep up. The beast wasn't after me anyway. It wanted her. In another dream, I had a sister, and the same happened. Then I dreamt of a brother, a cousin, an uncle, and my father.
These dreams make me wonder about the facility where I was being held. I remember my old therapist, the female one, talking about some great trauma. What if this monster had devoured my family when I was young?
I wish I knew how long it has been since I left my cell. Hell, I wish it was easier to tell when I was sleeping or when I was awake. It snowed the other day. For a moment, it was beautiful.
There's really no point in keeping count anymore. Sometimes, I think I've written something in my journal, but it turns out to have been a dream. I grow tired of this chase. Food is scarce. People are even scarcer...not that they'd survive being near me. I remember reading stories where the characters make it through something bad because they have hope. There's no such thing as hope. There's just more running.
I've had enough of this! I wish the beast would stop messing with me and just end this chase already! Last night, morning, I can't tell which it was anymore, its game went too far. I came face to face with it. Neither of us moved. I became furious and attacked the monster. As soon as I started running towards it, it looked like my mother. It held its arms out as if to embrace me, and it gave me this evil smile. It's not fair! I've decided that I'm going to kill this beast. No more running. I'm tired of the game. If this is my last entry, I don't care.
That didn't go well. After my previous entry, I went outside and waited for the monster to come at me. Why did I think I would even be able to hurt something so large with my bare hands? It toyed with me for hours as I struggled to find ways to hurt it. Finally, it decided to attack me with the intention to kill me. I'm sure of this because I almost died. However, when I woke up next, I was in this raggedy bed. So much more comfortable than the concrete I'd been laying on.
I was rescued by this very nice lady about my age. She hasn't told me her name yet, but she says she's seen the creature before. She says it's been hunting her too. She wants to help me kill it. I'm just glad someone else in this world can see what is hunting me. Maybe now I stand a chance.
We've been hiding away at her camp for a few days now. As soon as I'm healthy, she says we're gonna attack. However, she insists that, for now, I focus on recovery. She's really nice, and not too bad looking.
She says her name is Clara. She has lived in this city her whole life. She told me that, a long time ago, her mom was taken away to the same facility where I lived. Clara said that she'd hoped her mom was gonna come out when the door opened. She was surprised to see me step out.
I've been at Clara's camp for a week now. We get along great. Of the few people I've met in this city, she seems to understand me the most. Each of us hopes the other survives to see this creature killed. I think this girl makes me happy.
The beast doesn't seem to be able to find us here, but it still chases us in our dreams. We talked about the creature a lot. We've got a plan of attack now, and I'm all better. Tomorrow, we leave camp and attack the beast.
I don't think I'm capable of expressing in words how bad I feel right now. I've never felt so helpless, so lonely.
We attacked the creature. It was so different than when I did it alone. Before, nothing seemed to work. When Clara and I worked together, however, the beast seemed very vulnerable. We managed to weaken it severely. Clara was so beautiful as she fought next to me. We both smiled as we beat down the creature. It looked like the creature was going to lose. It was finally gonna end.
Then.. that stupid beast played dirty! It took the form of Clara's mother. She stopped fighting. All it took was a few seconds. I couldn't get it off of her. I've never heard a worse sound than Clara's screams as the creature rent her flesh. After she had been consumed, I was alone again. The monster left me crying next to a puddle of her blood.
I give up. This could be my last entry. If I see the thing again, I'll just let it consume me. I have no way to escape it, no way to stop it, and no reason to keep living. I don't even know why I bother writing this. No one will see it. The monster consumes all. No one is coming for me but death. Why didn't I just embrace it sooner?
I was ready to die. I meandered around town for hours waiting for the creature. I stopped when I heard its cry in the distance. It found me. I remained silent and still. Then, it walked towards me. To see this creature walk like a normal person was jarring. Still, I remained still. It looked down at me. I stared up at it. It let out a cry and knocked me to the ground.
It began mauling me. I felt the pain of all that it had consumed before me. Not just that, I felt the pain of all that I had yet to remember. There was a sudden peace that came over me as I embraced the creature's attack. Everything went dark. The moment I embraced the pain, it went away. I may have actually died.
The doctors say they found me in the bathroom in a puddle of my own blood. I had an empty pill bottle in one hand and a shard of glass from the mirror in the other. They say I tried to kill myself, that I took all my pills at once, shattered the mirror, and used a shard to cut my wrists. They say I barely survived. I don't know if I believe them. They say there was no monster, but only Clara an I could see it. Why'd they save me? Whatever. I'm done with the journal.
Entry one, August 19, 2009
So the people in the white coats insist that I start writing down my personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I feel like it's stupid. I guess, since this is my first entry in this journal, I'll write a summary of things so far.
I think my name is Max. It's what the doctors call me. I guess I'm about eighteen. All of the "experiences" they want me to write down are boring. All I do is stay in this white room and follow a schedule. I wake up when the lights come on; I bathe and take my meds...After I eat, the therapist Clara comes in and we talk about junk. She's probably the one who suggested this stupid journal. After that, I just do whatever I can in this room until dinner and lights out.
That's my life as far as I remember. Same things happen every week. Nothing changes. As far as “thoughts and feelings” go, I've got nothing to write down that I haven't already told the therapist. There. I started the journal. Maybe this will be enough.