Part One

Shari

The Storyteller

It glitters. It all glitters like a brilliant facetted jewel. Like my wedding ring when it catches the light. It had always glittered in my life. A princess. I wanted for nothing. Everything was roses. Maybe. Maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Unlike my beautiful ring, it wasn't true gold. Because there were monsters. Because the storyteller heard the voices the voices until one of them was too loud…one of them got out.

I was brainwashed willingly. I choose my path selfishly. I wanted to join the military. I wanted to get away from my life, I wanted to do something. I didn't know what. I didn't know that I wouldn't be able to handle it. Was it all my own fault? No. This is just the beginning.

Ugly.

Worthless.

A failure.

Lazy.

Good-for-nothing.

Stupid.

Don't you cry. Don't you dare cry. Good airmen don't cry. I couldn't hold back the tears. No matter how hard I pinched myself. I shook like an ankle-biter. Don't you fucking cry. Finally released, I smoked two packs of cigarettes and hoped I looked as bad as I felt.

I took the abuse for three years. Two of them without saying a word.

No one ever believed me.

Worthless.

So fucking ugly, it's amazing anyone married you.

God don't reproduce, please, for the sake of the world.

Can't you ever do anything right?

If I'm so bad, why do I keep getting so much work? So much responsibility? Why not give me paperwork? Why not kick me out if I'm not good enough?

Lazy.

Good-for-nothing.

Worthless.

Worthless.

Worthless.

Worthless.

Ugly.

It mattered.

Jump when they say jump.

Yes, sir; when you say I'm worthless.

And the doors opened.

The darkness took over when I had no strength left.

And I finally snapped.

The panic attacks came soon after. The demon had a name:

Despair.

Mental Illness, the doctor's said.

I sought help.

Meds didn't work.

And then they said the words: "Inpatient therapy."

I heard, "Insane asylum."

I was losing it. Had I already lost it? I was a mess of snot and tears, holding onto my husband's hand. Wondering why he hadn't left me. Wondering if he was going to leave me.

And I thought, "Will crazy people be my friends?'

A useless, inane thought. But it was suddenly very important to my wellbeing. I wanted to die. I smoked another pack of cigarettes, held my husband, and sobbed all the liquid from my body.

Worthless.

Ugly.

Insane.

Snotty sobbing mess.

Terrible wife.

Insane.

Lost.

Plagued.

"What will it be like?" I asked shakily, know my husband wouldn't know. He wasn't crazy.

"A nice calm, safe place for you to get better. Don't cry. Tell me a story. Story with a happy ending."

Stories.

Once there was a girl. She was beaten within an inch of her life and no one cared.

"A zombie story?" I asked.

"About a man who goes to every length to find his wife after the zombies attack. He does everything to find her because she's at a mental facility. And when he does find her, he find a warrior who has saved all the patients with her quick thinking and badass fighting skills."

"You just told the story."

"I know. Write it for me while you're there. You know I'm no good at writing."

There.

I feel the tear begin to burn at the corners of my eyes.

No.

Yes.

Worthless.

Weak.

Stop it!

And suddenly we were there.

It was unassuming.

White.

Sterile.

Hints of hospital green.

Nurses in cutesy scrubs.

It took forever to check in.

I could not stop sobbing.

Weak.

Worthless.

"I'll come by this weekend to see you."

"Don't go. Please don't leave me."

"Please get better. Promise me you'll try."

"I promise. Don't leave me here."

"Five days, love. Five days."

He pulled away.

Sobs, unbroken sobs.

They pawed through my things, taking what was "unsafe". I was given a bed, nightstand, and a shelf for my clothes. The room was white. The window was covered with a sheet held up by velco. Stupid, stupid hospital staff. Didn't they know any better?

How easily I could hang myself.

I stared at it.

Slowly I went and looked out.

I saw the parking lot.

My husband driving away.

I sobbed.

I screamed.

I beat at the useless hypo-allergenic pillow.

There was a knock on my door. "GO AWAY!"

"Hey, it's Callie."

"Are you are nurse."

"Nope. Are you decent? I don't care if you're not honestly. Can I come in? Do you wanna come by my room?"

"Give me a few minutes."

Contact from the "outside/inside" world. Hastily I went to the bathroom and scrubbed my face raw. It was red, my hair was a rat's nest. It was impossible to hide the fact that I was miserable and I had just cried. I didn't care. If they had a problem they could go to hell.

Cautiously, I opened the door and stuck my head around it. The hallway wasn't very long. Four doors on each side at the end was several couches around an old TV. There was also a gray nurses' station behind which stood a harried-looking women with a clipboard.

A blonde woman poked her head around a door across the hall. "Over here. Hurry, before they notice. I mean, it's not like we're going to have sex, but whatever. They like to pretend we're all horny as fuck. Which we are. But whatever, that's another story."

I hurried over and ducked into the woman's room. It was covered with pictures of her and children. "Those are my stepkids, well, they're mine for all intents and purposes. It also helps that I like my soon to be ex-husband's ex-wife. It's pretty awesome. I'm Callie."

"Shari." I muttered.

"Don't worry, first day or night is always hard. No one minds. You don't have to tell anyone why you're here. I tell them it's because I'm sad." She paused. "It's really because I'm a coke addict."

She looked hard at my face.

I was surprised, but hardly disgusted. She was pretty, clean, well-dressed, talkative, energetic, no crazy piercings, or heavy tattoos…

I was of course being stereotypical.

"Does that bother you?"

"No." I said honestly. "I'm afraid of everything and clinically depressed. Oh and I have panic attacks…a lot."

"I think we'll be good friends."