“Do you really think it was Sister Dixon that killed Barry?” Taylor whispered to the side of me and leaning in so close that I could smell the sugar puffs she had eaten for breakfast that morning against her breath. My tummy fluttering a little at the thought of those husks of sugar-coated cereal turning over within her mouth. I had been doodling absentmindedly in my exercise book with a blue biro pen, which was the only stationary they ever seemed to allow us to use in here. I lowered my eyes to the image that stared back from the pages of the book. The ink that was thick and the paper that had ripped and torn away in places where the nib of the biro had pressed down. A goblin’s face that was tattooed upon the centre pages of my exercise book. A wide tear of flesh where the mouth should be and the lips that were pulled back to reveal rows upon rows of tiny pointed teeth that were barbed and cruel looking.
I covered my doodling’s with my hands.
I lifted my face and studied Sister Dixon where she continued to drone at the front of the classroom about this that and the other and turn occasionally and write sentences in white chalk upon a decrepit looking blackboard. And the rest of the loonies that were gathered in the room and studying Sister Dixon as though she were a thousand times crazier than they would ever be.
“I dunno.” I said, continuing to study Sister Dixon and her beautiful face. The lipstick that was painted across her mouth that would hide the skin beneath. Her complexion that was flawless. The unnatural hue to her skin as though she were covered from head to toe in wax. And part of me wondering if maybe it had been little old Mandy all along that had shoved that packet of jammy dodgers down Barry’s throat?
And so, I closed my eyes briefly and summoned the image of Barry being murdered to my mind. My chains rattling in anger and my hands about the fat boys’ neck as I thrust the tasty jam-based biscuits down his throat. My hands that were covered with grey scales and my fingernails that were cruel and hooked like the talons of the hawk.
I shook my head and the image away and studied Sister Dixon where she continued her teachings at the front of the room.
“There’s something off with her.” I said, studying the woman as she turned her back to our little class briefly and began to scribe some more sentences across the blackboard with white chalk.
“You’re not wrong there.” Taylor said, chuckling a little as she said it and leaning to her side and beginning to scratch a little at the wound that was beginning to seep against the electronic tag. And how I wished that I could unshackle myself from my chains and pull Taylor’s hand back and get her to stop. But I couldn’t. And so instead I turned to her and whispered quietly.
“Don’t do that.” I said, my gaze shifting briefly from Taylors face and down towards her ankle and the scab that was beginning to bleed a little down there. And Taylor looking back at me and her eyes that were wide as though she were about to suddenly burst out crying for some unknown reason, but she didn’t. “Please stop doing that to yourself.” I said, moving my right hand towards her and the chains biting down against my wrist and preventing me from moving but allowing my hand to settle against Taylors arm. The warmth of her skin beneath my hand that excited me.
Taylor blinked, and kind of shook her head a little. And the thought that some maelstrom must be bubbling away within her mind that she found unable to resist. So that her eyes began to well a little with tears as her lips fell open and the scent of sugar puffs that was smelled against her breath.
“I can’t stop.” Taylor said, and the sound of her voice so pitiful that I nearly burst out crying there and then. But I kept myself together and instead squeezed her arm a little, like my Mummy used to do with mine when I was upstairs in bed and Eddie watching Game of Thrones in the living room below.
“I know,” I said, studying the helplessness that had settled against Taylor’s sweet features. And the craziest notion occurred to me that I might be able to help her somehow. And so, I squeezed her arm a little harder and I was sure that my fingernails were beginning to extend and snag against her white overalls and the skin beneath. But Taylor didn’t cry out in pain or make a single sound to betray me. “But I want you to stop.” I said, and my voice not quite mine. And Taylor blinking and her eyes that were wide. The confusion that seemed to hang briefly against her face until finally the broadest of smiles that stretched against her lips.
“Will you get us out of here Mandy?” She asked, and I was sure at that moment that I would, I really was. And so, I leaned in towards Taylor a little closer and could feel my teeth pinching a little against the insides of my gums. And I was just about to whisper something I had kept secret all along when Sister Dixon’s hard vowels invaded the moment.
“Has anyone heard of someone called Sigmund Freud?” Sister Dixon asked, turning from the blackboard and the name Sigmund Freud that was etched across the board in white chalk. Instantly, Bieber prodded his arm upwards and wiggled his hand around and squirmed against his chair expectantly.
“Malik!” Mrs Dixon said, motioning her hand away from Bieber and towards Zayne and pointing the white stick of chalk towards him.
“He was a famous psychiatrist Miss.” Zayne announced and his eyes shifting a little nervously from beneath the attention of Sister Dixons glare.
“Good Malik,” She said, casting her gaze around the rest of the class so that her attention settled briefly upon each of us in turn. My skin itching a little as her focus settled a moment upon me. Eventually her gaze moved towards Ariana who remained quietly sitting towards the back of the class. Ariana’s head lowered towards her exercise book so that the dark pig tails that she wore fell over her and her face couldn’t be seen.
“And do any of you know what Sigmund Freud was a famous psychiatrist for?” Sister Dixon asked, as she continued to scrutinise Ariana and a curious expression against Sister Dixon’s face that I couldn’t quite read. And I wondered to myself what conversations Sister Dixon must have shared with Ariana when the two of them were alone together. Ariana’s pig tails that swung from left to right as she shook her head and the question with it.
“He was famous for being the founder of psychoanalysis!” Bieber said from the table where he remained seated at the front of the classroom. His feet kicked out and jiggled a little from left to right as though he were squashing an army of invisible ants down there. Bieber turned his face briefly from Sister Dixon and peered out across his shoulder. And I could see the brightness and enthusiasm that flickered against his face as he answered the question. As though all of this was so perfectly normal. So normal. Us bunch of loonies locked up in Deadwood with Sister Dixon. Barry lying dead in the chapel somewhere. Eminem rubbing the bruises from his eyes. And Ariana shaking her pig tails from left to right. Taylor scratching at her scabs. And who knew what the heck Zayne was doing in Deadwood because he seemed as right as rain to me. Apart from the odd swear word now and then.
The brightness that still hung against Biebers features as he collected the words that rattled about his brain.
“Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind, especially involving the mechanism of repression, his redefinition of sexual desire as mobile and directed towards a wide variety of objects and his therapeutic techniques, especially his understanding of transference in the therapeutic relationship and the presumed value of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires, he is commonly referred to as the father of psychoanalysis and his work has been tremendously influential in the popular imagination, popularising such notions as the unconscious, defence mechanisms and Freudian slips.”
Bieber fell silent, the air all used up and his face that was red and sweating with perspiration. And I’m sorry to say that I wished that he would be the next one dead then. That I was tired of listening to his garbled nonsense and that it was curse enough to be locked up in here with Sister Dixon and the rest of these Loonies without having to endure a teacher’s pet.
“Very Good Max.” Sister Dixon announced warmly, but her face wasn’t warm, not one bit. In fact, I reckoned she were wishing like me that old Bieber would be next to die, and I couldn’t blame her for that at least.
Sister Dixon turned once more towards the blackboard and began etching in chalk some other names I had never heard of. Like Carl Jung and Jean Piaget and Ivan Pavlov and I’m sure that all these dudes were equally as pointless and famous as Sigmund Freud and that Bieber could wiki-dump about the lot of them for the next five hours. And that probably I should be listening to this stuff, because I might learn something interesting about why I thought the things I did. And that maybe it would help to push the darkness back and keep the demons at bay. But the truth is, I was bored of listening to Bieber drone on. And I was bored of people telling me that I was a loony.
Cause I wasn’t a loony. I really wasn’t.
And the goblin’s voice I heard within my head was real and that was that.
And so, I turned to Taylor who was studying the back of Sister Dixons head as though she could quite happily rip that needle from the copper bun and pierce the woman’s throat with it. I leaned in towards Taylor’s ear and whispered so that the others couldn’t hear.
“I’m going to the chapel after lesson to see if I can find out what really happened to Barry.” I said. And Taylor turned to me and blinked. “You coming?” I said.
Taylor blinked again and kind of swallowed funny so that her Adam’s apple bobbed up and down.
“Ok.” She said. “I’ll come.”