Short Story prize Runner up Year 10&11
aged 16 (year 11) at Pate's Grammar School.
The Colourless Pill
There’s a quote I really love.
“I wanted to write down exactly what I felt, but somehow the paper stayed empty and I could not have described it any better.”
That’s what it was like. That’s what she was like. She was a cloud of gas, grey and poisonous gas, infecting the whole of my mind, seeping behind my eyes so that I saw the world to be a place devoid of colour. Like rose-tinted glasses, except I’ve never seen a rose that grey.
When she first came into my life, I mistook her for sadness. Grief, even. I mean, who wouldn’t? I had just lost a parent; it was what I had been told to expect by everyone. By nurses, kindly putting a hand on my shoulder, making me tense and nearly drop the cold cup of tea in my shaking hands. I’d been told the same by teachers, by family friends, by therapists whose rooms all smelled like that limited edition Christmas pine tree air freshener from Sainsbury’s.
It took a few weeks before I realised that sadness wasn’t staring at your wall for days on end, wondering why you felt nothing. Grief wasn’t gazing at the pavement below your attic bedroom window, calculating whether the eleven metre drop would be enough to finish you off, and then asking yourself if you even had the energy to try.
She wasn’t sadness. With sadness, you felt something. I felt nothing. I felt nothing but numb, and I saw nothing but grey.
I tried to feel something. I tried to kill her. I tried to erase her the way that she had erased all of the colours in my life. I attempted to lose her in a way that only led to losing control. I went to parties with people I neither liked nor respected, letting boys touch me in places that should have been touched with love, not with sweaty hands that just wanted to touch, that didn’t want me. I tried to feel that buzz, the buzz I was always told about, the buzz that apparently came with substance abuse.
Needless to say, it didn’t work. I still felt numb, just with a side effect of dizzy. Surprise, surprise: drugs and alcohol didn’t show me the meaning of life. Neither did they scare away my lovely lodger. My lovely, lovely mind guest, who most certainly had not been invited. Her.
So, that was it. It seemed she had rendered me immune to highs. I knew what I needed to do. I just wanted all of this to end. All of this numbness, all of this fog. All of this grey.
My mum found me lying on my bedroom floor, unconscious, thick blood staining the pale carpet, the big kitchen knife in my hand. Gashes ran horizontally along my left wrist, more wound than skin.
But I woke up. I was alive, lying in a hospital bed. Surrounded by doctors with official uniforms and official medical qualifications and yet...
None of them understood. Not a single one of these trained professionals could figure out why I had tried to do this to myself. They didn’t understand me, and they certainly didn’t understand her.
Until he came. Doctor Mendoza. He was a paediatrician specialising in young people’s mental health. He seemed to recognise her. He seemed to understand what she had done to me, why I had done what I had done. He knew the face that he saw in my lacerated forearms, and he looked her directly in the eyes.
He even had a name for her.
He had weapons, too. He called them antidepressants. They were small white pills, encased in a bright blue box. I thought they looked pretty standard, but apparently they were the best thing to erase her from my life. The best thing to save mine, in his words.
Ironic how a white pill could be the one thing to bring my colours back.
I trusted Doctor Mendoza, though. I knew he wouldn’t give me anything that he didn’t have complete faith in doing the job.
So, I took them home. I sat quietly in my room, half aware of the hushed, concerned conversation that my mum was having with somebody on the phone downstairs.
I took the little box out of my bag. I tipped three into my hand. I took a deep breath. I knew they wouldn’t kill her. I’d been told they would only temporarily paralyse her, so I’d have to take them every day. But that was enough, it was worth it.
I took a gulp of water from the cup beside my bed, and swallowed the first pill. I felt her slipping away, as the second pill passed my lips. She would be back, soon, but I knew I would be ready. I knew how to beat her now. And as I picked up the third and final pill, I could feel her hold on me loosen.
And then, whilst I sat there, perched on my freshly washed duvet, feeling the third pill slide down my throat, there was one unshakeable thought, so loud inside my head. Something I, to this day, have never once admitted to Doctor Mendoza, nor my mother, nor my friends who visited me. I hadn’t been trying to kill myself. That was what everyone had assumed, and I hadn’t bothered to correct them. But, actually, it was always her I wanted to kill. Her, and only her. I simply thought I needed a low, after she rendered me immune to highs. I didn’t care if the colours I saw weren’t pastel pinks and baby blues; I just wanted to see them. Anything but grey.
However, as I had come to realise, nothing could really kill her. Not even the colourless pill. I was at peace with that now. Paralysis was enough. A feeling of tranquillity, of acceptance, washed over me, as she gave a small wave, turned and walked away.