Bourbon and Nuts

By Davina Lee, Guest Writer

I always suspicioned sanity was overrated; I suppose that’s how I ended up coming to this place. I took a deep breath before passing through the wrought-iron gates that led to the turning point of my career. The garden was well-kept, and the cracks between the concrete pathways remained clean of weeds. I paused about halfway to the building just to take in the artificial beauty of it. It was it was the peak of summer, and the oaks in the front yard stood erect and full. Warblers fluttered from the low branches, creating the rustling, living shade I recalled from those summer evenings beneath trees as a child. This place felt familiar; it felt right, but it was significantly smaller than I had anticipated, so much so that as i approached the heavy white door, I hesitated, like I knew I didn’t belong here.

The door creaked open before I got the chance to ring the bell that was mounted crookedly to the left of the doorframe. On the other side of the threshold stood an older man in his mid-sixties, straight as one of the oaks on the lawn, an engaging smile that spread from ear to ear. His black shoes were polished and reflected the peeps of sunlight that scattered across the marble tiles. His lab coat beamed a brilliant white, radiating the daylight of the afternoon.

“How can I help you?”

He spoke with ease. The words seemed so calm, fluid, unpracticed. His voice was sturdy, like my grandfather’s, with a certain quality that could build a sense of trust in anyone. He reached for my hand.

“Welcome to Evergreen Manor. I’m Doctor Gates.”

I saw a road sign for the place when I was on my way to work about a week ago. With my writing career headed nowhere fat, I was desperate—for inspiration, for the creative drive that seemed to be hiding from me. The thought of a nuthouse reinvigorated interest in my barren wasteland of an imagination. Fabricating a plausible motive to show up was not difficult. I thought of my mother. I always thought that a place like this was waiting for her—with the bug-eating, shadow-kicking, and hair-ripping crazies. Not a day went by that she didn’t pop, shoot, or sniff to feed her monsters, so I felt little remorse fabricating this ruse to feed my own. I thought of all the nights she spent on the couch shooting up and drinking bourbon straight from the bottle while my siblings and I worked our asses thin keeping the house in decent enough shape to avoid eviction.

And when reality came too close, she beat us, until we grew up.

Dr. Gates led me through the doors into a dimly lit hallway that led to his office.

“What brings you here?”

He walked with his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, with one of his strides consuming two of mine.

I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth behind my real motive. Hell, he’d think I was crazy.

“My mother isn’t… doing well–aging hasn’t done her poor old mind any justice. She’s been delusional lately. I’ve come to check the place out. Wouldn’t want my dearest mother to be stuck in just—anyplace.” Truthfully, I haven’t talked to my mother since I graduated.

He looked at me with an expression that showed little concern. He’s probably used to sob stories about how loved ones driven suddenly off the deep-end, or others languishing gradually on the throes of dementia.

“Unfortunately, our minds dissipate along with our youth. It’s hard to deal with, especially if it is someone you love. It’s hard to see them go through such a change. It’s like they’ve become… different people. Have a seat while I scrounge up some papers.” He directed me to a small mahogany chair with crimson cushions.

He was mumbling something. I didn’t know whether it was a message intended for me or not. I just continued to gaze at the walls that were plastered with framed degrees and awards. There were newspapers highlighting the success of Evergreen. The carpet was thick and an odd shade of green that clashed with the scarlet interiors. His desk was a deep cherry and was hoarded with piles on piles of papers forming skyscrapers of confidential information that were ready to fall at any given moment. Glad to see that his filing cabinets are being put to good use.

His mumbling grew much louder and much more aggressive. His once rosy cheeks now resembled the red interiors that filled his office. I couldn’t make out what exactly he was rambling on about, but I could hear a few obscene curse words slipping off of his tongue.

“Is everything alright, Dr. Ga—“

“Yes, it’s fine. Perfectly fine. Uh, give me a minute. I need to take care of some business.” His words were rushed. Much like mother’s were when she was having one of her fits. His fancy, polished shoes made a loud stomping noise through the carpet as he trudged out of his office in a panicked hurry.

I was left to my lonesome in the painfully silent room. The lights were even dimmer than before. The brass lamp on Dr. Gate’s desk occasionally gave a subtle flicker. The cloth lampshade cast a yellow tint upon the ceiling and painted the walls.

The clacking of Gate’s shoes could be heard faintly from down the hall. They grew louder as he continued his path back to his desk. His steps were no longer forceful and frantic, but calm and soft, instead.

“I apologize for any inconvenience. I really needed to find these papers.” He waved a small stack of papers in the air. His silver hair was a tattered mess as opposed to the slicked back style he had just a short ten minutes ago.

“Alright, now where were we?” His smile was now obviously forced and his voice was cracking on every other word. He began to ramble on about how great of a place this is and that my mother would be in good hands. Honestly, I didn’t care about his speech. With every phrase he had said, with every twitch of his eye, and with every crack in his voice, he was proving himself to be crazier than all of the patients that resided here.

Something seemed off. There was a tension in the room that i had not felt when i first arrived. The tension was almost suffocating. I wanted to vomit. I felt the burn and chunks make their way up my throat. Sweat was dripping from my brow. My mind was racing. Millions of thoughts dashed across my mind, all too quick to comprehend, except for one. Run.

“Is everything alright, Ms? You seem a little disgruntled.” For being concerned, his conning grin was surely giving the opposite impression.

“I’m sorry, but i think it’d be best that i leave. I’m not feeling well. It was nice meeting with you, Dr. Gates. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.” I made my way over to the door before hearing the creak of his chair as he hoisted his body up, keeping his weight on his arms that leaned on his desk.

“I don’t think so, Ms. You stay right there. Don’t take another step,” he demanded, “once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no going back.”

“What do you mean I can’t leave? I have every right to leave!” I was forcing the tears of anguish back. With every breath I took, the lump in my throat tripled in size.

“You can’t leave, Kyra. You simply can’t leave, Darling. You will see in time. Trying to escape will only make the reality of the situation worse. Now calm down and come take a seat in my office until the nurses come to get you.”

“My name. How do you know my name? Who are you? What do you want?” my voice was just shy of a scream. My head was shaking forcefully in disbelief. No, I must be going insane. I’m just imagining things.

“Oh Kyra, I know everything. Like I also know that you don’t even talk to your mother. You haven’t spoken a word to her since you were a teenager. Trust me, I know a great deal more than what you think.”


“No, you’re lying. There’s no way. No way.” I began to walk backwards toward the front door.

“Come here. Do not refuse me.” His voice was grim, almost threatening. He was no longer the kind-hearted man I met earlier today. He was nothing shy of a monster.

I turned around on myself and began to quickly walk toward the main entrance, just short of a sprint. The faster I ran, the longer the hallway grew. It was as if the walls

themselves were stretching. Changing color. Laughing at me. My heart was pounding in my throat. I’m surprised nobody heard its fearful song.

“Better run a little faster, girly. They’re gonna get’cha!” The voice was unfamiliar. It wasn’t Dr. Gates’. It sounded as if it belonged to an elderly woman. It echoed in my mind and shattered in my soul. They’re gonna get’cha. It played over and over in my mind, changing pitch and tone with every repetition. They grew louder and closer together until they started to overlap each other and made my ears ring.

I looked back. No Gates. He was gone. Disappeared. This did not provide any relief, for he could be anywhere. They could be anywhere.

I let out a sigh of relief when I felt the coolness of the brass doorknob against my shaking fingertips. All joy was brought to an abrupt stop as I felt the sheering pain of a needle into the side of my neck.

“Ha Ha! They got’cha!” the voices were like nails on a chalkboard.

There was two of everything. Two ceilings, two doors, two Dr. Gates’, two empty syringes, two tall men in sea foam green scrubs, four tall men. Six. Black.

I woke up in a bed made neatly with stained white linen, clueless as to how I made my way back. The last I had remembered, I was taking a stroll in the courtyard. My body was

incapable of movement. I felt an overpowering numbing sensation throughout the entirety of my body with the exclusion of a minute area on the side of my neck, about two inches below my right ear. The springs of the mattress dug themselves into my back, making it impossible to feel comfort.

As I lay on that bed, I could hear the faint and distant words of a familiar voice. Dr. Gates. The clacking of his heels crept toward me. He was not alone. There were another set of footsteps accompanying his. They were softer, yet still heavy. Probably the result of the same sneakers every nurse wore.

“She tried escaping again. She had a minor spell last night. Poor thing was just taking a walk in the courtyard when she saw one of the others writing in their journal. Must have set something off. For a while she thought she was still a writer. She was every English teacher’s dream. She had talent until she snapped. Tried to sell me the ‘mother’ story again. She still hasn’t forgiven her mother for admitting her back when she was eighteen, and now copes with that anger by imagining her mother as the crazy one.” He let out a sigh—a sigh that expressed that he had clearly told this story one too many times.

“She was doing so well. She has been taking her medication right? She suffers from a severe case of schizophrenia. She can’t go without that medication.” A slight tone of panic was beaming through the words of Dr. Gates.

The nurse spoke up, “Yes, Doctor. I give them to her every day with her lunch. I—“

“Have you seen her take them? Have you seen the pills touch her tongue?” Gates hastily interrupted the nurse.

“Well, I saw her pick them up. I saw her put them to her mouth. She must be taking them, sir. I’m sure of it.” Her voice was shaky.

In a furious rage, Gates’ clacks scampered down the rest of the hallway to my door. I heard the rattling of his keys, but didn’t even feel scared. I just continued to stare at the swirls painted on the opaque white ceiling. Dr. Gates barged through the pale green door sounding like he just finished a marathon. He took in a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.

“Looking for these, Doc?” I reached into my pillow case and pulled out a small handful of blue pills that formed a cluster in the palm of my hand. I looked at them in disgust. These pills made the voices stop. The voices fed my imagination; the pills starved it. Without them, I had my inspiration back.

Just as Dr. Gates reached for the pills, I clenched my fist and watched the baby blue dust gracefully fall to the ground like the first snow of winter. It was almost beautiful. I threw the half-crushed capsules to the ground and watched them scatter, destroying the mesmerizing picture created by the dust. A lot of beautiful things were destroyed by this place. Unfortunately I’ve come to realize that beauty, like sanity, is only temporary.