13: In a Fog


Noises surround me, muffled – like I'm swimming underwater and they're coming from above the surface. Distorted, unintelligible, floating in the background in my head and not making any sense.

Slowly I blink, but don't move in response. It's just sound.

"Michael?"

The word is slow to penetrate the fog in my brain. Slower still are my reactions to the stimulus.

"Michael, did you hear me?"

I blink again, more purposefully, feeling the slack muscles in my face finally start working again. Several more blinks and I'm able to surface from the morass and focus on something outside myself. Even that is something of an effort.

"Huh? What?" drops dully from my lips.

There is a sigh of frustration from somewhere behind me and I try to turn to see who is talking to me. It's like a slow pan from a movie, and by the time I get my gaze aimed the direction I think the person's standing, they're no longer there.

"Did you get your homework done?" comes from right next to me, and while I startle internally, it doesn't reflect in my body's reactions. It's obvious she's asked me this several times.

Once again, I twist my body, returning to neutral and look up to find my mom staring down at me in exasperation. From there my gaze drops taking in my idle tablet and as yet unopened notebook. Trying to recall whether I'd finished or not yet started, I slowly shuffle the items around.

"Um," I say in one long, dragged out syllable.

"Michael, you've been sitting here for over an hour!" she cries. "What have you been doing?"

"Um," I repeat, throwing in a bit of a shrug as I meet her frustrated expression.

She looks up, away, and starts moving out of my line of sight bellowing, "David?"

I push into a straighter posture, dead set on getting back to what I was doing – whatever it was. I move to check my agenda, surely my homework is on there, only to find I'm unable to read what I wrote today.

"Damn," I mutter.

Turning my attention to the tablet, I wake it up from its nap, relieved to find that I had started working on a document. I reread it, or try to, finding that the words simply do not want to coalesce into something that makes sense. I can't figure out whether that's because what I wrote is gibberish, or that it's fine and my brain is too muddled to interpret it.

Mom and Dad obviously step back into the room. I can hear the conversation, almost able to make out the words.

"This isn't what I was expecting," Mom says. "I don't want my son to be a zombie just to keep him from potentially hurting others."

I hear Dad's frustrated sigh. "We can get the dosage adjusted…"

"Again?" Mom growls. "We've changed meds twice and adjusted it three times. I think there's something else going on with it – him. This reaction isn't even one of the possible side effects."

"The doctor said it may take some time for his body to get used to it." Dad's argument is weak, and I can tell it's not heartfelt.

The doctor told us all that there would be adjustments, side effects. She was confident they would be temporary and I would level out after some time on the regime. It's been a month – I think.

My face scrunches up some as I contemplate that closely. Yeah, a month – and none of us are happy with the way I'm acting. Sure, I haven't had a flare of anger once since they put me on the medications, but it seems at the expense of every other emotion I usually feel.

In the time it takes to complete this sloth analysis of myself, it seems my parents have stopped the heated discussion and Mom is once again standing next to me.

"Okay, hon, you can finish this later. It's time for dinner."

I frown, "But…"

"It's okay," Mom says seeming to sense my argument. "You'll have time before bed. Go ahead and set this aside and wash up before dinner."

"O… okay," I mutter, slowly rising from my slouch to my feet. I manage to drop half my things in my attempt to scoop them into my opposite hand. A heavy sigh escapes me as I lean down to pick it back up.

Somehow, I manage to get everything into my bag and my bag next to the couch without further mishap and shuffle down the hall towards the bathroom.

I wash my hands absently, dry off, and return to the kitchen table to find that the night's dinner is laid out. Fish tonight, pan fried with rice and veggies. While it looks good, or, it would normally, I find I have very little appetite.

Still, I take my seat and dutifully break off chunks of battered fish to put into my mouth. It tastes about what I expect in my current state – washed out and flavorless – which my memory tells me isn't true because my mom is always one for excellent spicing of food.

My forced enthusiasm for eating becomes evident to my mom pretty quickly. "Everything okay, Michael?"

I glance at her, flash a small smile and then turn my gaze back to my plate. "Fine. It's good."

For show, I scoop a forkful of rice, missing how half of it falls off before I get the utensil to my mouth. I might get ten grains. While that's somewhat funny, I can't even bring the smile to my lips. Internally I'm pretty mortified, but even that's not translating to my actions.

I barely catch her frown in my peripheral vision. Turning my head, I'm just in time to catch a loaded glance she gives Dad. His expression fluidly changes, and I wonder why. I feel completely stupid when I realize they're having a private brain to brain conversation again.

I spend the rest of my meal staring at my plate, more picking at the food there than eating it. When I feel their eyes on me, I make more effort to pretend I'm hungry.

Finally, Mom's frustration with it breaks through, and she snatches my plate from under my idle fork.

"Why don't you get back to your school work, honey?" she says in a way to take the edge off her action. Not that I reacted to it in the first place. Not that I'm even a little mad for her removing the plate.

Instead, I nod at her without looking, get up, and retrieve my backpack.

Hours later, as I'm climbing into bed, I can't even recall whether I finished what I was supposed to do. Any worry over that drowns in a sea of medicated neutrality.

Sleep is the one thing this medication makes me good at, and I slip easily into slumber.

Morning is a little clearer, the meds being thinned by eight hours of sleep. I'm a little faster through my morning routine than I was through my evening.

I shower, having to remind myself not to linger too long under the warmth and steam of it – despite that it feels so very good. After shutting off the stream, I dry off completely in the shower stall. Somehow, I'm feeling the cold more the past couple weeks. I step out and dress before opening the door to the hall and letting the air in. The mirror is still fogged when I go to brush out my hair. I'm pretty much through the effort by the time the surface is clear.

Briefly, I frown at my reflection, realizing my hair is probably longer than I really want it to be, and I should ask Mom or Dad to take me to the barber today. Combed straight, it's well beyond my shoulders. I fluff it to get the wave back, but realize it doesn't make it really any shorter.

Yup, I definitely need a haircut.

Now, if I can hold onto that thought until later, I'll be golden.

I frown again.

Drawing a deep breath and letting it out once more, I escape the bathroom and finish up preparation for the school day.

Mom and Dad have both left for the day, which is typical. They do work after all. There is a note and my daily dose of medication sitting on the center block.

I pick up the note and read it.

"We're picking you up early from school."

A brow lifts.

"See you around two. Love, Mom."

Okay.

I fix a bowl of cereal, sit at the table and eat it, at the same time I'm checking my tablet to see what I was able to get done last night. I'm pleasantly surprised to see it's more than I expected. Less errors as well. I pick at the ones I do see and then save the progress again.

If I could feel this even all the time, I wouldn't mind the medication they've been giving me. But I know it's currently on an ebb, and as soon as I'm done eating I have to take my morning dose – and I'll be back to zombie land again.

I frown and briefly consider not taking it. I only dump the thought at the repercussions of such a decision when Mom and Dad find out. It will be especially evident if they're picking me up early. I'm just not good enough an actor to try and play the part if I skip my meds.

They may be upset with how its making me act, but they were told in no uncertain terms not to stop the regime unless they consulted with the psychologist first. Besides, this is court mandated, and they would have to be able to prove something about the meds in order to pull me from them.

I finish my bowl of cereal, pack my lunch, and, bringing my glass of milk to the center block, take the two pills set out for me. I toss them back, down the rest of the milk and then gather my things.

Letting myself out, I lock the house and walk the eight hundred feet up the driveway to the street.

Already, I feel my senses dulling out.

While I want to people to be safe around me – to control the white hot aggressive urges that hit me now and again – I'm with Mom, I don't like the way I react to the regime the doctor's prescribed me.

And lord knows I'm tired of going back and forth with the doctors over the medication. I'm sure Mom and Dad share the sentiment.

My gut compresses a moment at that thought. What if…

I groan.

They're probably picking me up early to take me back to that quack of a psychologist to get my meds adjusted again.

I shoot a beleaguered expression at the sky, feeling my shoulders droop.

I manage to muddle my way through my day, though classes, work, and conversations all have that slow dreamlike quality. And like a dream, the more I try to concentrate on one aspect or another, the more the details fade away.

Right on schedule, the PA goes off at two o'clock, telling my teacher that I need to bring my things to the office because I'm going home.

Dutifully, I pack my stuff, and shuffle out the door. Mom and Dad are both waiting for me as I enter the front office. Principal Matthews is also there and so is my probation officer.

Oh, right, change in schedule.

"Your wrist please," Beck says, his voice congenial and professional, for once.

I extend my house arrest bracelet towards him, and he fusses with his device for few moments before waving it over my wrist. He reads the display a moment before nodding silently and stowing the device in his belt again.

"Mr. and Mrs. Scott I'll be stopping by later to ensure that he is back on schedule," Beck adds officiously.

"Of course," Dad says, smiling insincerely at the man, before herding me towards the door. "We should be home by four."

Mr. Matthews stands silently by through this whole exchange. I have no doubt he'd been talking to my parents and Officer Beck about something, but none of them feel it's my business to know what they were saying.

The worry fades as we move towards the car parked in one of the visitors' spaces. I sling my backpack into the back seat and then slump in after it. I barely have the sense to get my belt done.

Part of me wants to ask, where we're going, what we hope to achieve once we get there. But the more sensible part of my brain convinces me we don't want to know.

I pay enough attention as Dad makes his way through the streets of New Fresno to know that we're not headed for the psychologist's office.

"Where're we going?" I pipe up.

"To get a second opinion," Mom practically growls. Yet, beyond that statement she doesn't elucidate further.

Her tone keeps me from asking any kind of follow up questions, and I settle back into my seat, hoping the suspense won't last too long.

After a few more turns, I get an inkling of our destination, and push up sitting straighter once again. I swallow, embarrassed beyond words that we're about to involve another in what should be a private affair between family.

Sure enough we pull into the parking lot of the New Fresno Medical Center.

As the car comes to the stop, Mom releases the buckle and steps out, opening my door for me. Slowly I pile out of the car and look up at the low slung building where Uncle Tom works.

"Mom," I groan.

She doesn't respond except to push my shoulder in an effort to herd me towards the door. Dad hems me in on the opposite side and we march in silence towards the entrance.

My fears are confirmed as we head up to the second floor.

Uncle Tom meets us in the waiting room.

"Michael," he says, nodding at me, before greeting my mom and dad. "C'mon in, your timing is impeccable."

"Thanks for fitting us into your schedule," Mom states.

"No problem, Angelina. You know I'd do my utmost to help here."

We all sit down in some weird synchronization, and Uncle Tom leans in a little. "I understand that Michael has recently been put on a treatment of Risperidone." Tom takes a breath before adding, "And you are concerned about how the psychotropic treatments are affecting Michael?"

"That about sums it up, Tom, yeah," Dad sighs.

Uncle Tom turns his bright blue eyes my way. "How are the meds making you feel, Michael?"

I only hesitate a moment. "Like I'm constantly walking around in a fog… like I'm wrapped in cotton. I can't think straight. I can't translate thoughts to actions half the time. I… I can't remember even twenty minute ago."

I'm actually very surprised that I can articulate those thoughts. Because even now I can feel and see the fuzziness that envelopes me.

"He's lost interest in pretty much everything that used to excite him. He doesn't even want to go swimming these days." Mom sounds exasperated. "He lives to swim, Tom. His recent behavior is like nothing we've ever seen from him." She throws herself back into the chair a moment before saying, "We're half-temped to drop the treatments."

"I can't in good conscience let you just stop Michael's meds, Angel." Uncle Tom sits back, sighing. "Beyond being court mandated, there is a very real danger of deep depression or a resurgence of aggressive behaviors if you just stop."

The silence that falls following his words is heavy, weighted – suffocating even.

Mom looks stricken. Dad brooding.

When my uncle draws a deep breath we all start. "There is a growing body of evidence that suggests gemues react differently to many of the long held medicinal staples of our society. Things humans use day to day with little to no side effects – things as simple as aspirin – have shown to cause dramatic changes to gemue systems. It's very possible that sharkmue physiology is counteracting the intended effect or exacerbating the side effects."

"You're not saying anything to win me over to the idea of leaving him on his regime, Tom," Dad growls.

Uncle Tom makes a little patting motion. "Continuing his current meds will be a temporary measure until we can prescribe something that will do what you want it to without the pendulum swinging completely the other way."

"So what can we do?" Dad asks, sounding very worried.

"First we need to figure out why Michael's having such strange reactions to what he's taking." Uncle Tom's face screws up in thought. "I'd like to perform some blood panels to see what's going on with Michael's interactions with the Risperidone."

"Okay," Dad answers.

"I would need to have something to compare it to. Would it be possible to arrange Michael to stay overnight so we can get a second sample of his blood first thing in the morning when the levels are the lowest?"

Mom and Dad glance at one another, and I watch them have another mental conversation.

Finally they both look at Uncle Tom and Dad nods. "I think that can be arranged."


A/N: Sorry for the wait on this, I got the first three quarters of the chapter knocked out pretty quick, but then RL jumped the tracks and I ended up putting this all on the back burner to get other things taken care of. The subject matter was a bit touchy too, so I wanted to give due diligence to the idea of medicating to alter a mood in specific ways.