Short Story: Medicinehead - A Fairy Tale



I sit in an empty room.

Wooden walls, concrete floor.

Worn mattress.

Someone fashioned this stool from an old iron tractor seat. I'm very uncomfortable, but that doesn't matter.

I sit here.

Waiting.

Waiting.

What time is it?

How long until sleep?

I have no frame of reference.

The room doesn't have windows. Miranda removed the clock years ago. She said it only made me anxious.

It did.

I'm nervous all the time.

My hands shake.

People make me nervous.

I don't like talking to them, and they don't like talking to me. That's fine. They're here for a service.

A service I provide.

For my useless family.

When their debt is paid off, I can leave.

Escape this room.

The wooden walls.

Concrete floor.

Worn mattress.

Iron stool.

Someone knocks on the door. They use the familiar rhythm, the one that tells me they've paid Miranda.

They must pay Miranda first.

Always.

Those are the rules.

Once, someone broke that rule.

Opened the door.

Rushed in.

Grabbed my ear.

Sucked.

I screamed for Miranda

 She entered the room with a shotgun. Her husband, Eugene, followed close behind. He had an ax.

"Stop it," she said, leveling the shotgun at the intruder.

But he kept sucking.

The fluid drained from my head.

I could feel my eyes drying out.

That happens.

I can't help it.

The feeding dries me out.

 I could feel my skinny body begin to seize.

The man sighed and stepped back.

Satisfied.

"Doesn't matter," he said, laughing. "I've got the medicine. I'm all better, huh? Nothing you can do now, bitch."

Miranda smiled.

Pulled the trigger.

The shot caught him in the gut, sent him flying back against the wall. His insides spilled out of the hole.

Healed?

Broken.

It took two seconds to change things up.

Miranda fixed the problem.

She handles everything.

Money.

Feeding.

Bathroom breaks.

Shackles.

Eugene provides the muscle. When Miranda needs something done, she points. He immediately sets to work.

Completes the task.

Retreats.

He's never spoken to me.

I'm not important.

I am Miranda's prisoner.

I am a product.

A machine.

Until the debt is paid.

The knock on the door returns, harder this time.

Insistent.

I was lost in thought.

No room for mistakes in this place.

With wooden walls, concrete floors.

"Enter," I call out.

The door slowly opens.

A young mother and her daughter stand in the doorway. They look nervous. I know that feeling well.

Too well.

"Hello," I tell them. "Step forward."

The process unnerves people.

It unnerves me, too.

I try to put them at ease.

Relax.

Take a breath.

I am here to help.

Not harm.

I motion for the mother to step forward.

"How can I help?" I ask.

"Molly," the mother said, gripping her daughter's shoulders tightly. "She's so sick. She bleeds."

I look at the little girl.

So frail.

So pale.

She coughs.

Blood flows from her mouth.

Nose.

Lung cancer? I don't know. I don't diagnose. I just assess the problem and put my mind to work.

I process what I see.

Fragility.

Malnutrition.

Bleeding.

Sadness.

Hopelessness.

She's dying.

Mentally and physically.

My mind comes alive.

The juices flow.

I can feel the substance bubbling in my skull, splashing against my brain. It tickles, hurts. But I have no choice.

Until I've paid those debts.

Here I sit.

And help.

Under different circumstances, perhaps I wouldn't mind so much. But I am a slave to Miranda.

I am a slave to my father's debts.

My mother's weakness.

I am a slave.

"Step forward, please," I say.

Gently, the mother pushes her daughter.

The little girl takes small steps.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

She's in front of me.

I close my eyes.

"Don't be scared," I tell her. "In a moment, you'll see a straw stick out of my ear, okay? I want you to take a drink."

I can't see her reaction.

I don't need to.

I feel the fear.

Terror.

Horror.

She knows this situation is unnatural. She understands that what happens here doesn't happen anywhere else.

It's instinct.

Human instinct.

She knows.

Then, I feel it.

I'm told it looks like a tube fashioned from spoiled meat and bad dreams. It drips green fluid, thick and slimy.

Once, I was normal.

Long ago.

When I was young, my mother thought I was ill.

All the time.

She took me to a doctor.

Small town quack.

Drug addict.

Sex fiend.

He filled me with drugs, which my mother paid for with sex and food stamps. And she kept coming back.

You are sick.

Am I?

You are sick.

I don't think so.

You are sick.

Am I?

Yes.

Okay.

More drugs.

More.

More.

And soon, my head swelled to three times its normal size. So many pills and capsules and liquids.

I mutated, transformed.

Are you sick?

I am now.

My neck wobbles. My ears ooze. My eyes bulge, roll in their sockets. People stare and point and laugh.

I am gross, people say.

You are gross.

No one will love you.

Medicinehead.

No one will love you, Medicinehead.

You are sick.

Am I?

Yes.

You are gross.

Am I?

Yes.

They tell me these things.

So it is true.

I am sick. I am gross. I am Medicinehead. I am Miranda's slave. I will pay off those debts or die trying.

My eyes snap open.

"See the straw?" I ask the little girl.

"Yes," she tells me.

"Take a drink," I tell her.

She walks over to my ear, pulls out a very long tube, and begins to suck. I can feel my head dry out.

My eyes stick to my eyelids.

Lips crack.

Tongue goes puffy.

She sucks and sucks, taking it in. My large head wobbles on my weak neck. I feel like I'm going to pass out.

"Stop, now," I tell her.

She doesn't.

"Stop, please," I beg.

She doesn't.

"Make her stop!" I tell the mom. "Please!"

She doesn't.

"Make her stop!" I scream. "I'll die!"

Eugene storms into the room. He grabs the little girl. I fall off the stool and curl into a fetal position.

"What did we tell you?" Eugene snaps.

"I don't know..." the mother says, trailing off.

"Goddamn it," Eugene grumbles.

"Is he dead?" the little girl asks.

"I am alive," I tell her.

She kneels down in front of me.

And smiles.

"Thank you," she tells me.

Her face, full of color.

The cough, gone.

My heart warms.

That's the first time anyone has thanked me.

I am a slave.

Why thank the slave?

I am a product.

Why thank the product?

Eugene escorts the mother and daughter out of the room. Miranda comes in and helps me onto the stool.

Gives me an orange drink.

Drugs.

More drugs.

Am I sick?

No.

You are paying off a debt.

"Drink up," she tells me. "You're on again in fifteen."

I drink the orange punch.

My head feels more normal.

"Rest up quickly," Miranda says. "That debt is close to being paid off, huh? Then you can go home again."

I think about that.

"Can I stay?" I ask.

"Stay?" she laughs. "You mean, stay here?"

"Yes."

"And do what?"

"Help. Heal."

"Who?"

I motion to the door.

"Everyone."

She gives me an odd look.

"I'll discuss it with Eugene," she says.

With that, she leaves the room.

Wooden walls, concrete floor.

Worn mattress.

I sit on the uncomfortable stool.

I am a slave.

I am salvation.

I am a healer.

Am I sick?

I don't know.

Am I gross?

Yes.

Will anyone love me?

Maybe.

Maybe.

In the future.

For now, I don't know.

I am a slave.

I am here.

Paying the debts.

I am a slave.

I am a healer.

I am me.

I am Medicinehead.
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