“Did I let a demon in?” by Sassi Bhutto
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Sassi Bhutto forces herself to go out.
Did I let a demon in?
by Sassi Bhutto
Emptiness walked in uninvited and refused to leave. When? How? I can’t recall. I stare at the ceiling as I lay on my bed. I don’t want to get up. Every morning is the same. I lay in bed for hours, and if I hear someone approaching my room I pretend to be sleeping. My phone on the nightstand constantly buzzes. I ignore it. I throw a glance at the clock—it’s going to be noon in half an hour. Reluctantly, against my will, I force my body to move.
Footsteps—I hear someone approaching my room. Rachel dashes in. She’s only four.
“Play with me,” she requests as she places the beach ball in my lap.
Sometimes it feels as if she is the only person who knows how to drag the blankness out of me. The shine in her eyes, the joy in her smile, and her petite self always demanding attention make me forget how I feel. But it lasts only for a while, and then the void returns. It fights itself into me as if it owns me. I surrender.
Mom and Dad are waiting for me in the living room. I have a feeling that I am going to get the talk. I beg them to let me be, but only in my head. As I approach the kitchen table, they stop talking. I look at them and smile briefly.
“Honey, can you sit with us for a while after breakfast?” Mom says. It is not actually a question. No, is not an option. It is more of a signal for the talk. I cringe inside and pray, Please let it not be today.
I walk in that trap despite knowing what it is. They start talking. I can’t hear them. Those words have no meaning for me. I merely regard them as their expressions change. They say something about talking to friends. What they don’t understand is that no one gets it. Everyone tries to talk me out of this, as if I want to be this person.
There’s silence in the room, but not for long. Rachel squeals with joy. Last thing I hear is the mentioning of a psychologist before I leave the room in dismay.
Rachel is sitting in front of the TV and trying to change the channels with my phone; it is still vibrating. I grab the remote from the shelf and trade it for my phone.
The screen goes black, but it lights up again. Fiona has been constantly calling and WhatsApp-ing me for days; I have not responded. I decide to answer her call this time. Besides, I need to pretend that I have started talking to friends to avoid seeing a shrink.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Fiona barks.
“Sorry, I was kind of busy,” I try to diffuse the bomb with an apology.
“I don’t need your shitty excuses,” Fiona goes on. “I fucking don’t care what you are doing tonight. Meet me at Luke’s.”
I try to think of an excuse. I am not in the mood to party, and Luke is a jerk who spikes the drinks with drugs and then records embarrassing acts of people to blackmail them later. But Fiona is too angry to reason with, so I agree to go.
There are three disco lights flashing in Luke’s tiny, stinky apartment. This place is so crowded. It looks like a mini-India. I see Fiona sitting on the floor laughing like a hyena. She’s high on something, I guess. I look wasted even though I haven’t had a drink yet. Fiona spots me. She grabs my arm and takes me to one corner of the room to introduce me to a muscular guy, Scott. Charming, I think.
“You will love this,” Fiona says, handing me a pink pill she took from Scott.
“And when you do, you know where to get them from,” Scott adds as he shows me a ziplock bag filled with more pills.
“What is this?” I ask Fiona.
We toss the pills in our mouths simultaneously. Ten minutes later, I’m dancing with a guy I have never seen. I see unicorns farting rainbows. I’m laughing, and in my laughter is a hint of triumph that no one notices. I beat up emptiness so bad it’s sulking. Exhausted, I collapse on the couch and contemplate, Did I really win, or did I just let a demon in?
SASSI BHUTTO is an absent-minded professor in the making. She is a visiting faculty at SZABIST University and is also doing her PhD from there. Art has always fascinated her and therefore, she reads and writes stories.
Submissions for the Thursdaze series are currently closed. Please visit our submission page for detailed information.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series,Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: May 12, 2016
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