Butterfly Collector

I was pinned to the hospital bed by two security officers as I screamed. 

I hadn’t slept properly for a week, keeping the sleep at bay with short naps during the day. I knew I seemed crazy: my perfect driving record falling apart with a major accident. The court had deemed me a danger to myself and others. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but here I was, pushing two grown men off of me to the best of my ability. 

“Rose! Rose!” The doctor in charge of me tried to calm me down or distract me so I could be properly pinned, “Rose, it’s going to be okay! We’re here to help you,”

No one believed me. My psychiatrist had tried insomnia, anxiety, and bipolar medication. They had done endless tests and sent me to endless therapists, but nothing helped. The final consensus was I needed to sleep to alleviate symptoms. They didn’t listen when I told them that I couldn’t fall asleep at night because it would hurt me. 

Two more doctors came over to help pin me down. The very mention of sleep had set me off. The doctor had explained they were going to sedate me just slightly so I would be able to sleep without being in danger. I would be able to sleep in the hospital and would be guarded by security. But guards wouldn’t help. 

I felt the slight coldness of an alcohol pad on my arm and then warmth spreading across my body. My arms drooped and the familiar feeling of sleep took hold. 

The dreamless bliss of medication barely lasted an hour. Through bleary eyes, I could see the hospital room foggily drifting into existence around me, the dark corners grinning with malicious intent. It was about to begin. I could feel eyes on me, prying apart my thoughts. I was trapped with my limbs tingling. 

The first time it happened, I chalked the experience up to sleep paralysis: scary, but a figment of the mind. The symptoms and science on Google matched with what was happening to me and gave me the comfort to fall asleep the next night. But then the whispers started.  

The bed started tilting backwards, a sure sign that it was here, ready to start. I could feel the blanket that covered my body sliding over my head as gravity pulled the soft fabric to the ground. I was exposed, legs together like a soldier, my head to one side, sticking to the bed like a dead butterfly pinned in a frame. 

Air puffed on the back of my neck, words seeping directly in my mind, “You have been avoiding me, Rose. Why?” 

It was acting childlike, whining as though it had genuinely missed me, but I could hear it grinning. It knew exactly why I had been avoiding falling asleep. There was only so long I could have avoided sleeping, but now I was trapped by the medication. 

I stayed silent, wanting desperately to shout profanities at the thing, but decided against it.

It laughed, “You know, this would be a lot easier if you just said yes, Rose. It would hurt less.”

It said this last time. And the time before and the 10 other times it had visited me. Offering relief in exchange for permission to become its own being in the waking world. It was getting stronger. 

My head started turning with an invisible force. I felt shooting pain as something inside my neck snapped, the rotation turning me so I was facedown on the bed, the rest of my body limp. I felt pain, cold without the blanket, trembling because of a sudden impending sense of danger. It reached out, tendrils of smoke caressing my frozen cheek affectionately. 

“Permit me, Rose. You are young. You have so much to live for.”

I vowed I wouldn’t say yes. Whatever it wanted felt evil, but it was getting harder and harder to keep up with that vow as I felt things slipping away. It was the reason for the accident, for the fights with my mom, for me cutting my cat with a knife. 

Go…go away, my conscious thoughts stuttered more than I intended as I spoke to it.

“I can’t do that, Rose,” It said without remorse, “I am hungry and it is almost done. Now, give me permission so I don’t have to hurt you,”

I felt tears spring to my eyes. I always got scared when it threatened meal time, but this time had me balling. 

Please, I begged, please don’t do this.

“Give me permission and I won’t,” it stated firmly. 

I remained silent. And I felt it embracing me, cold surrounding me. I would fight back. So what if I was sedated? This time would be different. I had to fight!

“This is going to be the last time. I promise,”

A hiss rang in my ears, scuttling around in my brain like tiny bugs clawing at my brain tissue as it crawled into me, the sound invading my thoughts. It spread slowly, and with it came a seizing feeling: my muscles harding and cramping, my head pounding to the sound of my heart. It was getting faster. The sound of the monitor beside me ringing in the room accordingly. My back came off of the bed and I suddenly became aware that my mind was taking a backseat. It hurt as it started to eat, the sudden understanding that  I wasn’t going to heaven. That I was going to die, but be forced to sit and observe the darkness taking over. Tiny jaws latched onto my skull and my eyes buckled in vision as something was severed. My right eye went dark, the room disappearing on that side. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t wake up.   

I was gone. The monitor rang out in a long beep, but there was no body left behind for them to autopsy. 

“There…now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Written by Isabella Osborne

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