Sunday 11 September 2011


The Paranoia Conspiracy

           I shake out the blue percale sheet, sending a balloon of cotton into the air.  I hum as I repeat this motion a few times until the sheet is properly in place.  Clean sheet day. Something about the smell of the fabric softener paired with the feel of the clean, crisp cotton makes everything in the world seem in order.  It isn’t until I steal a glance out the window that I see the world is in fact not in order and that things are about to go awry – horribly awry.  Across the street sits a large, black pick up truck with dark, tinted windows.  I take a step back from the window to assess the situation. 
            Three days in a row.  Not good.
            In the last two days, the truck has been parked on the next street over and further down my street – both locations in full view of my house. And now, the truck is parked across the street in front of my house. My heart races as I begin connecting the dots.
            They’re watching me.  They’ve found me.
            I back away from the window casually, so as not to draw attention to the fact that I see them.  If they know I’m alerted to their presence, it will just make them come for me sooner.  I swipe my hand across my forehead and am shocked that I am already dripping with sweat.  My body knows what my mind can’t seem to process – I’m in trouble.  I amble down the stairs, just in case someone is monitoring me with a camera.  Fast and jerky movements might cause them to jump the gun, so to speak.  I step into the windowless bathroom and close the door.  It’s now or never.
            I throw open the cupboard doors and remove my pre-packed gym bag.  I knew the day would come eventually and it is always better to be prepared.  As I open the gym bag, the metallic scraping of the zipper suddenly echoes around the bathroom.  Maybe it’s the stress that makes this simple motion seem so ridiculously loud. I check its contents and find everything in order– cash, fake ID, clothes, burner phone.  I place the bag on the floor and dig deeper into the cupboard for me ready-made disguise kit.
            I pull out the wig and fit it over my hair, making sure that the long, red locks completely hide my dark, black strands.  I struggle with the new contacts as I have not inserted a pair in years.  Anyone looking for a green-eyed, raven haired, bespectacled woman will look straight past this blue-eyed redhead.  I pick up the bag, give myself a quick onceover in the mirror and head down the stairs to the garage.
            I grab my ball cap and shove my hair up underneath it.  No sense letting them see my disguise on the way out the drive.  I pick up my sunglasses and head into the garage.  I climb into the car, fasten my seatbelt and place my hands on the steering wheel.  After a few calming breath, I turn the key in the ignition and open the garage door.  Showtime.
            I back out of the driveway slowly, just like any other day.  I make no eye contact as I drive past the black truck, and continue on at a normal speed until I reach the stop sign at the end of the block.  I turn onto the next street and continue following the speed limit until I can no longer see my house – then I gun it.  I run stop signs and traffic lights until I hit the main drag.  Once on the busy road, I weave in and out of traffic.  Out of reflex I look in the rearview mirror, but of course I see no one I recognize.  But just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.  The one outside my house is just a spotter.  Once I leave, he signals to the rest of the group and the invisible chase begins. Each car I pass could be one of them and I am woefully aware of it.  I’m almost to the highway and home free when the unthinkable happens.  Right in front of me, one of them slams on the brakes and I am going too fast to react.  With no time to swerve or stop, I plow into the back of the sedan, ashamed of myself for getting caught.  Damn it is the last thought in my head before I black out.
            “Abby, it’s time for your medication,” a voice calls from off to my right. 
            “You can keep your mind control pills,” I say, readying myself for a fight.  This is how they get you. 
            “Oh, come on now, Abby, you know that these will make you feel better.  Please don’t fight me on this.”  Nurse Smith cocks her head to the side in a playful manner and places her hands on her hips. Her voice seems sweet and kind, but her intentions are anything but.
            “You know as well as I do that this has nothing to do with making me feel better.  It’s all about me coming around to your way of thinking and I won’t.  You’ll have to kill me first.”
            Nurse Smith stifles a chuckle at my expense.  She doesn’t think I know what they have planned for me, but I do.  “Abby, are you having one of your bad days?”
            Everyday that I’m in here is a bad day, but I won’t give her the satisfaction.  I just stare at her, expressionless.  They twist and turn your words around here.  No point in giving them fodder.
            “Abigail Wheaton, have you been palming your meds?”
            Once again, no response from me.  I’ll neither confirm nor deny.  “Abby, you are one step away from being considered combattative.  If you don’t take these willingly, the doctor will order us to restrain you and I really don’t want to do that,” she says, faux concern on her face.
             “You’ll do what you have to do.” I cross my arms and tighten my lips in protest.
            Nurse Smith drops her head and wags it from side to side.  She picks up my chart, flips to the back and begins to write.  As she scribbles furiously, I can see what’s written in the first page of the chart.  Two words jump out at me – paranoid and delusional.
            Yeah, that’s just what they want you to think.

J.M. Vogel lives in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two small children.  With a Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University, she is setting out to show the world that an English degree does not predestine you to life in the unemployment line.  Other works of fiction by J. M. Vogel can be found in The Creative Minds Collection Volumes II and The Creative Minds Collection Volume III.


  1. An enjoyable read. Perhaps simplistic, but I was entertained.

    I tend to prefer a bit of depth when it comes to mental patients and the initial conspiracy is pretty good, but geez, I'm always wondering if the mental patient is really crazy or not. :)

    One of the best parts of the story is the reality swap in the middle, where the action suddenly dies and everything is silent for a moment.

  2. You really captured the paranoia. There are more people suffering from this condition than people realise.

    Particularly liked the last line, and the preceding set up.

    Good work.