In A Mental Hospital Again, A Psychiatrist Listened To How I Discovered The Demon That Torments Me

“It’s going to be alright,” the nurse said, gently placing her hand on my forearm.

Securely strapped to the gurney, I watched the fluorescent tube lights passing over my head. The stainless-steel ceiling of the elevator quickly replaced the lights, and I heard the orderly press a button. I didn’t need to see his finger to know that he pushed the number 4.

Few people notice that the button for the fourth floor is missing in the elevators by the main lobby. Concern and worry consume most visitors stepping into those little grey boxes. They come to visit someone they love, so little things like missing numbers on the elevator’s pad go unnoticed.

Only the service elevators and this one by the E.R. have a number four on the keypad.

They wheel me out of the elevator and into the waiting room. The hushed whispers of those visiting the unfortunate souls admitted to this floor fill my ears, but not for long. The buzzer sang almost instantly, and through the thick steel doors, I rolled into the secure psychiatric ward.

Attempted suicide.

That’s what the doctor downstairs wrote on the chart and on the forms that secured my passage through these doors, but that’s not what it was.

I answered their questions and played their game. I know the drill. If they don’t hear what they want to hear, then for my own safety, I’ll be put in a straitjacket again. You can’t imagine how miserable it is unable to scratch an itch when your arms are wrapped tightly around your chest. So, I told them what they wanted to hear.

They relieved me of my belt, my shoestrings, and the cord from my hoodie. Then forced me to empty all of my pockets. Perhaps, I should’ve been thankful that they left me my clothes.

Forty-eight-hour suicide hold.

Another official form with handwritten notes sealed my fate for the next two days. It’s not like I was sent to jail, but I still received a prisoner’s treatment. My room for the next few days featured padded walls, monitoring cameras, and a large window by the nurse’s station. Privacy is nonexistent as evidenced by the stainless-steel toilet and sink mounted to the wall — no sharp edges, perfectly rounded and smooth. Standard procedure, I know.

At least, he’s not bothering me here.

Psychotic episode due to schizophrenia.

Another doctor explained it to me as if I were a child; as if I hadn’t heard that same set of words before.

It’s really just shorthand for giving me more drugs.

The days passed as quickly as water freezes outside on a hot day. Meticulous moments ticking painfully by, one after another, into eternity.

Once the 48-hour hold ended, the choice was mine — stay or go. I choose to stay. After all, a room shared with another patient who screams in the night is still better than waking up knowing he’s near. The demands here are almost effortless — take the drugs, talk to the people, do the therapy, and ultimately watch the time fritter away.

So began another stay in a mental ward for me. Little did I know that I would finally meet someone who wouldn’t belittle my tale. When all you’ve known is derision and contempt, when everyone only wants to “help make you better,” the idea of an ally is like a breath of fresh air. Of course, it didn’t start off as easy at that.

“How did you meet this demon?” asked my new psychiatrist, a pandering tone leaking into her words despite her best efforts to remain emotionless.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve told the beginning of this tale. Nor is she the first to hear it. The diagnosis is always the same and consistently arrived at well before I finish telling the story. The only thing that changes is the drugs. For somehow, medicine is to be my savior, at least that’s what those who worship at the altar of the science believe.

So, I began once again, with only the tiniest shred of hope that just maybe this woman can inscribe the right incantations on her prescription pad and bless me with a new cocktail of psychoactive drugs to shoo the demon away. Of course, I know, deep inside the core of my soul that the demon waits unconcerned with the pharmacology of mental modification.

“He spoke to me from the darkness of the confessional box,” I said as I began to tell my story, “Saturday evening when I was a very young man. I’d gone to confession so that I could receive communion at mass the next day. I did something terrible and believed that I needed absolution for my sins.”

“What was that?” she asked, looking over her dainty reading glasses, the color of wine with pointed horned-rims.

“I unlocked the Gates of Hell.”

• • •

Her face belied the cascade of thoughts sweeping through her mind, one after another. Discomfort. Disbelief. Disdain. I watched as the next emotion melded itself across her consciousness. In her profession, she’s convinced herself that she hides her feelings from the patients, but I see it. Pity. Alone it hovers, oozing from each motion as she writes on the yellow notepad resting on her desk.

She pushed her long brown hair behind one ear, working to lock it in place so that it won’t attack her face while she works. “Why did you do that?”

I stared at her for a moment. This is new, I thought. No one ever asked why. I was confident that the disbelief that I identified on her face was no fluke. She didn’t believe me, she can’t believe me, right?

“Youthful curiosity,” I replied, deciding I would tell her the truth rather than playing the game of reality versus the impossible shit my mind makes up, “The abandoned Benova mansion, deep in the woods, my friends and I went out there on a dare. The place is supposed to be haunted … you know … the family murdered and all that. We spent the night, but I couldn’t sleep. I just explored the old place.” I paused, wondering, is she playing a game with me or waiting for the right time to slap me with accusations of a mind that created some twisted alternative world?

She adjusted her glasses again, looking over the top of the horn-rims rims, “A foolish errand, I’m sure, being in that dilapidated, old building is dangerous. What happened next?”

“I climbed up to that turret-like room, that round taller part of the house that goes up about four stories. I knew it was risky, but I wanted to see what was up there. Of course, just like the rest of the place — nothing. Just a dusty old room without furniture and nothing on the walls. So, I just looked out the windows. It’s a good view, but that’s when I saw it.”

I drank from the glass that she’d left on the desk for me. Nothing but water, of course, but I needed it. I felt my pulse picking up and the dampness growing in my armpits. I’d never told this whole story to anyone. I tried to the first time that I was committed but got redirected into a discussion of what was real and what was only spinning in my head. I coughed, trying to work the phlegm in the back of my throat to a place where I could swallow it. Even after drinking the entire glass of water, my mouth was still just too dry.

“What did you see?” she asked empathetically, looking directly into my eyes. I almost asked her right then and there whether she was fucking with me.

“A dim light in the rocky hills. Kind of like a reddish glow,” I replied before I finished my thought.

She nodded as if she understood. I didn’t want to respond like a giddy, overly excited doofus, but she was listening. I didn’t feel that analytical judgment and sense that I was being evaluated for a treatment protocol.

So I continued, “The next day, we all went home, but I came back a few days later by myself. I don’t know why. I just felt like there was something important in those hills. Maybe something valuable. I didn’t want to have to share. I mean … my friends were cool and all, but what if it was some type of treasure. Well, that’s what I thought back then. I know, it sounds insane.”

“No, not at all,” she interjected, “it sounds like you thought you had an opportunity and decided to pursue it.”

“Yeah, that’s it, but that’s not what it turned out to be. I made it to the Benova place and … and headed toward the hills. It started to rain, and I got a little turned around. Night was upon me before I knew it, but then I saw the light again, and it guided me to what I’d seen from the turret at the mansion. It was a small opening into a cave, or so I thought. It was covered in brush and branches, and when I pulled them away, I saw that it was more like a door or entryway that someone made. The sides and top were carved marble. And on the top piece were some words. The dim light was coming out of that opening. The weird thing was that the opening really was small. I had to get on my hands and knees to crawl inside.”

The doctor removed her glasses, and I stopped. All I could think was this is it, now she’s going to tell me that I’m just imagining shit. That my mind is creating things that aren’t real. But she just asked another question, “What did it say over the entryway?”

I told her that I couldn’t read it, but I remembered what it looked like.

She flipped to a blank page in her notepad and pushed it towards me, “Can you write it down for me?”

So, I took the notebook and write it down.

Brány Pekla

She looked at the words. I couldn’t tell if she knew what it meant, but something seemed to change in the way that she looked at me.

“What happened next?”

“Well, I crawled for a few feet and then it opened up so that I could stand. It wasn’t a cave. It was a big room with a bunch of fancy coffins. You know, stone ones on the ground, with lots of carving and big holes in the walls with bones. The wall on the far end of the room was totally covered with skulls like someone wallpapered it with old heads. Right in the middle of the wall was another door, but instead of a door, it was a gate made of old iron bars with a chain and an old padlock, you know the type with the keyhole on the front rather than the bottom like a new Master Lock. That’s where the light was coming from. Someplace behind those bars. Someplace lower from where I stood because I could see stairs behind the bars, going down. That’s where the red light came from.”

My mouth suddenly felt drier than it did before. I think my tongue was swelling up. I tried to pull some moisture into my mouth. I needed to lick my lips. Cracks were forming. I just knew blood would start seeping from the edges of my lips.

She pushed her hair behind her ear again and sat back in her chair. The thick brown leather nearly consumed her small frame, but still squeaked as her weight shifted. I could tell she was analyzing me, but not like the other shrinks. She wanted to hear my story.

“Did you have the key to unlock that padlock?”

“Don’t need a key,” I proudly boasted, “I could have picked it even if it was a Master Lock.”

• • •

I coughed and tried to wet my mouth by swallowing hard, but I was completely parched. My voice sounded raspy and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I wanted to keep talking, but my body appeared to be rebelling against me.

She stood up and walked to a bookshelf. I hadn’t seen the pitcher of water sitting there. She refilled my water glass, and I thanked her before downing most of it. To say I was confused and surprised would be an understatement. She was listening. She wanted to hear what I experienced. We weren’t sitting here talking about techniques and strategies for identifying what’s real and what’s not.

“What happened next?” she asked with genuine interest.

“Well, I picked that lock, pulled the chain off the bars, and opened the gate.”

She leaned forward in her chair, resting her arms on her desk, looking deeply into my eyes, searching, scouring like she was digging for something that only she could see. I heard the air flow out of her nostrils after a deep breath. Here it comes, I thought, the moment where we switch gears and try to manage my insanity.

“Then what?”

“What?” I asked her like a fool. I was ready for the gentle words designed to calm my reactions so that we could discuss the misbalanced chemicals in my cranium. I could barely believe that she wanted me to go on — continuing telling this tale that sounded like a 1960’s B-horror flick.

“What happened after you opened the gate?”

“I stepped through and walked down the stairs.”

“And?”

“At the bottom of the staircase was another room, smaller than the one upstairs, but big enough. It was longer than it was wide. On one end were two square stone pillars about six feet apart sitting on a little raised platform. It was weird, that platform had a hole about the size of my fist, right in the middle between the two pillars. And on each pillar were two chains… with chains and handcuffs. It looked like you could shackle someone’s ankles and wrists between the two pillars forcing them to stand there in the shape of an X.”

She leaned back again, pensively running her hand across her chin, “Sounds pretty chilling.”

I took another swallow of water. Her gaze burned into me like she saw something deep within me that only she alone could see. Had we reached the end of her patience with my story? At some point, her attention to my account would turn. It had to shift back to her professional opinion and duty. Every shrink wants to fix their patient’s broken mind, or at least teach them to function normally … Whatever the hell that is.

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks, I’m an entertaining a psychopath. She was indulging me in sharing what happened because she’s amused by me. But I couldn’t see amusement or entertainment revealed on her face, but that had to be it. Otherwise, she would be working to reconnect me with reality, not listening to something like this.

She removed her glasses and set them on the desk, looking at me intently as if she wasn’t exactly sure she whether or not she wanted to turn the next page of this story. Her lips pursed together, revealing that look of pensiveness and deep thought.

My shoulders slumped. I knew that I should be relieved to finally tell what actually happened, but the leash grew too long, and she was preparing to yank me back from my fantastical retelling of that fateful day. If she could find the slightest, tiniest bit more patience, I could tell her what else was in the room, and how hard I ran away.

A stabbing pain poked through my forehead as she asked her next question. A zap of disbelief on my part as if I’d been stunned by what I least expected to hear. “What else was in that room?”

A few moments passed before I could find the composure to answer. We still traveled down the path of my experience rather than shifting gears and focusing on developing a new “treatment plan.”

“Another doorway, well, an arched doorway. You know the kind with stones set one on top of another, then bending and meeting together at the top with a bigger keystone?”

She nodded her understanding.

“That doorway was on the opposite end of the room from the stone pillars. The entire wall around the doorway was like upstairs. Nothing but skulls. I realized that the light that I’d seen was not like a fire or light bulb. The walls of this room glowed. I can’t really describe it. If you looked right at a point on the wall, all you saw was the stones that made up the wall, but in your peripheral vision, you could see that the walls gave off light. Bizarre, but not as bizarre as that arched doorway.”

I paused waiting to see if she wanted me to go on. Her head bobbed up and down slightly, and she raised her eyebrows as if asking me to continue, so I did.

“Black darkness. I don’t know how to describe it. Nothingness… An endless void… Not just the absence of color, but like it would suck any color and life out of anything that entered that space. At first, I was mesmerized and curious. I walked toward the opening. Standing there staring into absolute empty eternity. Then the wind or something blew out of that space. How can something be so hot and so cold at the same time? When it hit me, I felt like I’d been tossed into a fire, scorched all over my body, but also dunked naked into the coldest water ever.”

My hands shook as I spoke, and I held them together in my lap trying to keep the shaking from spreading, but it didn’t work. The shiver ripped across my shoulders and back. I inhaled as deeply as I could, trying to emotionally grab hold of a space in time that was calm. Exhaling, I clamped my mouth shut, commanding my body to stop rebelling. Someone was listening. I needed to finish this story.

“I tried to scream into that black endlessness, but when I opened my mouth, it felt like my whole body exploded. Dizziness hit me, and I stumbled forward and tripped over my own foot, thank God. It made me veer sideways, and I slammed my shoulder into the side of that arched doorway. If I hadn’t, I’d have fallen through that doorway into … to … well, into hell itself.”

I heard her exhale as if she’d been holding her breath while I told her this. Mesmerizingly good story-telling psychopath, I told myself. At least, I kept her attention — a small victory for me. I got to share what really happened. I know she can’t believe me, but the sense of relief practically overwhelmed me.

“And then what?” she asked.

“I ran. Harder and faster than I’ve ever run in my life. Through the forest, all the way to town. Right to the front door of St. Thomas. But it was the middle of the night, so everything was locked up. So, I ran home and grabbed a bottle from my parent’s liquor cabinet and drink it all. Next thing I remember, my parents were shaking me awake.”

• • •

I exhaled and wiped the corner of my eye. It was feeling a bit damp. I wasn’t going to cry, but I have to admit that I was unnerved by sharing the whole story and not being told that I was out of touch with reality. She hadn’t asked once if I was taking any meds, doing any drugs, or just drunk.

I didn’t know what to say next, but it was okay because she had another line of questioning. I kept wondering when we’d hit that pivot point, that stage where she’d finally have enough of my story, where we’d move toward the “treatment” phase of the discussion.

“Let’s talk a little about how you ended up here, okay?” she asked, “Tell me what happened and why you have those bandages wrapped around your wrists again.”

It’s always hard to know whether I should be embarrassed or what. How are you supposed to feel when someone thinks you’ve failed at killing yourself?

For a moment, I gathered my thoughts. Do I continue? The voice in the back of my head kept saying that she’s going to change course in the conversation and attempt to help me understand what’s wrong with me. I pushed the thought away. As the saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. I decided to continue and tell her the truth.

“I had to make a blood sacrifice.” There I said it. The tables are about to turn.

“What does that mean?” the doctor asked without judgment.

“I don’t know for sure, but the demon keeps telling me that it will set me free. He says, ‘The blood sacrifice will set you free.’ I don’t know what it means. I don’t hear it very often, and I’m always alone when I do. I can always feel his presence when he arrives. The hair goes up on the back of my neck. I want to tell you that it turns cold, but it’s so much more than that. The air around me feels like it’s on fire, but I get so cold that I can hardly move. That is until I begin to do his bidding.”

She looked at me again and then wrote more on her notepad. “He tells you to cut yourself?”

“Not exactly. He doesn’t use any other words, but I wish he would. It’s like I’m drawn toward someplace to do something, but I don’t know where. The first time that I heard his voice, I used my fingernail to cut my leg. Then the priest came in, and everything went silent.”

What about the other times?”

“I hear his voice. I go, but I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. I’ve gone to churches, into the woods, alleyways, broke into an old folks’ home. Each time, I cut deeper and poured more of my blood out. I ended up arrested most of the time, brought here or Trinity Hospital. I get stitches and an IV and a round of time with head shrinks, like you. I take the drugs. I try to tell myself it’s not real, but I know that’s a lie. It is real.”

I stared at the bandages on my wrist thinking about how this last time was almost the end of me because I’d soaked the church alter in red. I could feel her gaze moving up and down. I knew that she had to be crafting the words to sound comforting but explain to me that my head is whacked.

“Have you ever gone back to that crypt in the woods?”

I felt my eyes almost pop out of my head. What the hell? Did she not listen to me about how horrifying it was down there? Before I could temper my words, I heard them burst from my mouth, “Are you fucking kidding me, lady?” I threw those words at her with an incredulous tone, and I wished that I hadn’t. She’d listened to my whole story and not made me feel like my mind was making things up. “Sorry, that place was too much.”

“It’s just an idea,” she said softly, “Perhaps something we should do together.”

It was one thing for a shrink to listen to my story, but something completely different to think that I’d go back to the Gates of Hell. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that after just one conversation she could be so interested in making me mentally sound that she’d trek through the woods with me.

Then it hit me — I knew exactly what she was thinking. We’d go out there and find some old cave, and she’d gently point out how my imagination created this fantastical tale of a demon that haunts me.

I interlocked my fingers together, pulling them tight against my stomach. Okay, I thought, maybe I had it all wrong. What if the demon was telling me that if I brought someone else, call it a blood sacrifice, that he’d finally leave me alone? My mind raced madly in circles, thinking about each possibility of what might occur if she and I crawled into that crypt and went down those stairs. I kept coming back to the same thing. Freedom. If I really were crazy, then she’d be able to help. If there were a demon, she’d be able to help. Either she could be the blood sacrifice, whatever that means, or help find my way back to sanity.

• • •

We hiked our way through the woods to the Benova mansion. Its Gothic-style architecture felt less intimidating during the day. I asked her if she wanted to go inside and climb to the top of the tower, but she said only if I wasn’t sure where the crypt was located. I knew exactly where to head, so we kept going.

After another hour of marching further into the forest, we arrived at the big rocky hill under which I knew was the crypt. It took a little bit of searching, but we found the low opening. She stood for a moment, tracing each letter of the words, Brány Pekla.

I watched her, waiting for a response. Wondering if she would be brave enough to crawl into that small opening. Even in the daylight hours, a faint red glow emanated from the low doorway.

“So, this is it?” she said, more to herself than to me.

“Yeah,” I replied, “We don’t have to go in if you don’t want too.”

She turned and looked at me for a few moments. I lowered my head, looking at the ground and shuffled my feet, wondering what she was thinking now. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to feel a sense of relief at seeing the words and the red glow, or if I wanted to scream and run away as fast as I could.

She dropped onto her hands and knees, looking back at me and signaling me with a cock of her head that I was to follow.

The moment she disappeared into that hole, a chill shot down my spine as a searing hot wave of heat blew across my body. I closed my eyes. His voice sounded closer this time, “The blood sacrifice will set you free.” The sensation of freezing while burning dropped me to my knees.

I heard her cry out, “This is amazing, come on in here.”

I willed myself into that hole, knowing that he was waiting.

The crypt remained exactly as it was etched in my memory, and she stood by the iron bars of that gate. The look on her face reminded me of a little child happily playing a game. “It’s exactly like you described.”

I couldn’t believe she was so happy. Didn’t she want this to just be some natural cave where my imagination created monsters and man-made artifacts? The excitement she was expressing might have been infectious if my soul hadn’t been previously infected by something else that haunted this terrible hole between life and death.

I watched her fingers running across the unlocked padlock. I wished that I would have re-locked that gate. Something or someone was down there, waiting.

“We have to get out of here,” I begged her, trying to sound calm and calm the shivers racing up and down my spine.

“I have to see this, let’s go downstairs,” she insisted, disappearing quickly down the stairs.

My feet stuck to the floor as I dragged them toward that gate. The rust on the iron bars flaked away when my hand gripped them to keep my balance. I looked down that slanted shaft, with the red glow filling the space below. My knees trembled.

“Wow!” I heard her voice. The tone filled with wonder and fascination. Did she not see those pillars with chains to bind a person upright? Was the doorway gone?

The hair on my arms seemed to melt away as another blast of heat consumed my body. In the same moment, the frigidness of being naked in the frigid winter air swept across my body and mind.

The demon was near. I couldn’t see him, but I felt his empty presence. “The blood sacrifice will set you free.” The same words that I’d heard too many times again filtered through my conscious mind, drawing my body through the gateway and down the stairs.

Each step that I took radiated excruciating pain into my legs as if I was sinking into molten lava and the waters of the Artic at the same time. My body no longer responded to the screams echoing silently within my head.

Stepping through that doorway at the bottom of the stairs, the red glow burned my eyes as its intensity flared. My sight returned for only a moment, just enough to see the rock in her hand as it smashed into my head.

Silence and darkness permeated everything, spiraling my consciousness into a dark nothingness. A place devoid of thought or dreams consumed me until I felt the sharp metal of the handcuffs cutting into my wrists.

Naked, I stood battling back to consciousness to discover myself stretched into the shape of an “X” with my wrists and ankles shackled to the chains mounted on those two pillars. Violent tremors exploded through my body, making my muscles clench and forcing the metal rings that held me tight to cut deep into my flesh.

I saw her tongue moving across her teeth slowly through her slightly open lips. A wicked gleam sparkled in her eyes. She stood looking at me as I’d never seen anyone look at another. Hunger, hatred, and hope combined on her face in a sick symphony of emotion.

She stepped upon the platform, running her fingers across my face. Tears dripped freely from my eyes, begging for the same mercy that she’d shown while listening patiently to me telling my tale of this place.

How could I have let this happen? Never once did she push against my story. There was no fixing my mind or trying to help me see that I created my own illusions.

Her eyes told the truth, without a word being said. She was looking for me, seeking me out, on a mission to discover the path to this unholy place. Fixing me was never the plan, for she was the only one who understood that my mind was not broken. It never created the fantastical illusions that others claimed that it did.

I wanted to speak, but my tongue and lips refused to move, frozen in fear as I looked past her and into the vacuum of nothingness in the doorway behind her. Its darkness pulled at my spirit, promising me eternal emptiness.

She stepped onto the platform, looking me in the eyes, as she sliced open the inside of my thigh. The moist warmth of my blood flowed down my leg. My head dropped to see the blood running from my foot into that small hole directly below me.

She turned her back on me and stepped from the platform, kneeling down, facing that doorway carved into a wall of skulls. The red glow became darker, filling the room with dread. I had no illusions now. I knew that he was coming.

I could feel the pulse in my leg with each beat of my heart gushing more blood from the wound. The hole in the floor eagerly drank the red liquid as flowed from my body.

His form filled the door when he stepped from the black vacant space. My face declared my surprise when I saw the demon. My eyebrows pushed up, and mouth gaped open revealing my disbelief. No horns or fangs or long-tail did he sport, instead, the man who stepped through appeared as if he was on his way to an expensive, exclusive club for the rich and beautiful.

Well-polished wingtips adorned his feet, and his black, professionally tailored suit radiated elegance and style. A smile curved his lips while he examined the room. His perfect black hair matched the features of his handsome face.

She remained kneeling before her master as he walked toward his servant. He chuckled and said, “You’ve done well, my child.”

I could feel the pride swelling inside her. A sickness that propelled her as she culled through the unhinged masses of the mentally ill, seeking one foolish enough to unlock the Gates of Hell.

Stepping to her, he bent slightly at the waist as she raised her face in adoration of the demon. His smile revealed his perfect white teeth, and he lifted his arm preparing to gently brush the back of his fingertip across her cheek. “And now for your reward,” he spoke softly at the very moment that his fingers touched her face, and instantly, she turned into ash.

He stood upright, straightened his crimson red tie, and twisted his head to crack his neck. Those pearly white teeth reflected the red illumination in the room making his mouth appear as if it was filled with blood. Perhaps it was my blood, I thought as I felt the blood flowing from the still open gash on my leg.

No questions or doubts rushed through my mind, for at that moment, I felt some twisted satisfaction that this demon of hell had scorched the life from the shrink that I trusted. I shared my darkest secrets with her, and she brought me here as a blood sacrifice to him.

He walked forward, looking at me intently, and I saw the color of his eyes. A red tint flowed through a rainbow of cascading blacks, creating an impossible illusion of green, blue, and hazel. Deep in his mesmerizing pupils, flames burned upon a frozen wasteland. Staring at him opened a void in my soul as vast and as empty as all of eternity stretched over the infinite forever of time.

We both looked down watching the blood as it finished draining from my thigh. Silence filled my being as I realized that the quietness inside was my heart no longer beating.

His lips curled into a wicked, cold smile, and he said, “We’re both free now.”

• • •

Please Take Mental Health Issues Seriously

This story is a work of creative fiction, but mental disorders and suicide are serious issues that require professional assistance. Please talk to someone you trust, such as a healthcare professional or licensed therapist if you need help or are unsure whether you need help with your mental health.

If you or anyone you care for is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please get help immediately by calling your emergency services. In the US, please dial 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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Shea Oliver

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