—-> excerpt from a new story I am toying with, set in a post-modern dystopia, and involving a cast of society’s “unwanted,” tasked by the people in charge to do their dirty work. This is the introduction to the character, 27 year old Angela, a homeless schizophrenic.
note: It is easy enough to research the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. But I want to explore the mannerisms a schizophrenic person might exhibit, and then personalize the experience in the form of a character that will elicit a feeling of realism and empathy. It’s a bit more difficult then just relaying a clinical description to the audience. Firstly, it is a highly personal experience, different for everyone. Secondly, no one can really know what it’s like to be on the inside looking out, unless they actual have schizophrenia, so writing a character like Angela is a work in progress, apart from the actual story itself. Any constructive criticism is welcomed <–
When Angela awoke and opened her eyes, she didn’t recognize the room. This wasn’t actually unusual, and on days when she was properly medicated, she’d simply close her eyes and count to ten. By the time she was done, things often looked a little better, a little more familiar. It wasn’t that things necessarily changed while her eyes were closed, so much as her perception seemed to adjust.
But this room was ugly, and there was something frightening about it, beyond its lack of familiarity. Angela’s stomach clenched. She didn’t want to see anymore, didn’t want to recognize this place. She didn’t want to be there at all. She shut her eyes against the room and counted, but all that happened when she reached ten was that she opened her eyes upon a strange place for the second time that day.
The walls were a pale and textured paint of some indistinguishable light color and the only window was a tiny thing set high in the wall behind her and crisscrossed with heavy mesh. Pale sunlight filtered through and dust motes floated on the weak and sallow rays. The room was sparsely furnished, with only the utilitarian cot on which she had slept, and a tiny chest of drawers that seemed to be almost an afterthought was tucked into a corner.
Angela felt herself wanting to slip. It was a curiously liquid and tilting feeling that she recognized always led to worse things
things what things…?
Before her eyes, the pale light that could only belong to a late afternoon sun began to waver like a water mirage over hot asphalt. The room began to shrink, and Angela uttered a strangled whimper and pulled her legs up onto the cot.
it’s going to keep shrinking and you’ll disappear forever
you’ve been kidnapped drugged I told you this would happen
this is your fault
Angela could feel the anxiety building in her extremities. Soon it would be thrumming in her limbs like a high voltage current. She
gotta move gotta go gotta go go go go
sprung off the cot and yanked open the top drawer in the chest. There amidst a few scattered toiletries she found that for which she hadn’t even been consciously aware of searching. She popped the top off the prescription bottle and quickly dry-swallowed two Ativan. Even knowing that the drugs would take a bit to kick in did not temper a feeling of relief so powerful that it buckled Angela’s knees and nearly brought her to tears as she sank down the wall. She sat curled in on herself for an indeterminate time, until the walls stopped their ominous vacillations and she felt the familiar and comfortable pharmaceutical calm descend on her.
When she regained her feet, she returned to the top drawer of the dresser and located a second bottle immediately. It was the spare cache of risperidone she always kept hidden in the lining of her purse. The stuff wasn’t cheap and she couldn’t afford the doctor (or the often exorbitant fees the local hacks charged for a single signed slip of paper off their pilfered prescription pads.)
Pilfered prescription pads. Only a half an hour before, that tiny alliterated phrase might have run through her head unbidden for the rest of the day. But the Ativan was doing its job, staving off the anxiety that always made her brain lock up, and Angela’s mind wandered back to the very thing that seemed to be at the root of her every problem.
Angela had had to be exceedingly resourceful to come by this particular stash, and she was nothing short of parsimonious with them. She guarded them so well, in fact, that she often forgot to take them, and since the governmental shutdown a couple months before of the only halfway house left in the Village, she had no one to remind her. To anyone else, that might have seemed like the least of her problems. She was now homeless and unable to find work, unless she wanted to fall back on that oldest of professions (and in the grips of her worst waking nightmares, she wasn’t even functional enough to do that.) No, that’s how she ended up here
Angela’s brain suddenly short-circuited. It was something that happened often, and it usually sent her off on another train of thought until her logic, effectively derailing her speech or actions midway through completion. But every once I a while, the short circuit created a pathway to an idea, one she’d been circling dizzily, but on which she’d been unable to hone in. Now she remembered what had brought her to this terrible little room.
A job. One she had really had little choice but to take.
As Angela shut the drawer with renewed determination and turned toward the only door, she saw that the heavy looking utilitarian door was already opening, slowly, silently. There in the doorway, blocking the paneled lights from the plain and efficient hallway that split the barracks in half, was a very large man. His stealth belied his size and a wolfish grin broke over his atavistic features as he padded silently into the room and shut the door on the scream rising in Angela’s throat.