The Finer Points of Becoming Machine

The Finer Points of Becoming Machine


Firstly, I’d like to thank my friends and family for their love and support during the creation of this book, especially Victoria Lane, who introduced me to Peter Lancett and Ransom Publishing.

Special thanks to: my mother, Kyle, Jenna, my fathers, and my husband, who have in some way or another walked through each step of hell with me. Thank you for loving me, despite the fact that I am a complete mess.

A special thank you to Peter Lancett for his patience, knowledge, skill, and never ending support. You are an amazing writer and editor, and I am truly humbled as well as incredibly grateful to call you now my friend.

Lastly, I would like to dedicate this book to each and every person who has lived, died, or survived a life of abuse.

‘Call 911. I did something really stupid,' are the last words I remember saying clearly. Whatever pills I had swallowed had begun to make me loopy, or maybe it was the bottle of Puerto Rican rum I had washed it down with, or hell, maybe it was from the blood loss as my arms streamed ribbons of ruby red. Either way though, the night takes on a nightmarish quality that leaves all but the major details hazy to me.

The day had started out normal enough. I woke up, and sighed in exhaustion at still breathing. I had gotten dressed in my usual outfit, black combat boots, black pants,
black shirt, black sweater, heavy eyeliner. The vacant look in my eyes comes naturally now; I don't have to put that on anymore. I am sixteen years old. I am that weird kid in your class you whisper about and make fun of because she dresses in black and the few friends that she does have also dress in black and listen to depressing music while smoking cigarettes in the bathroom at lunch time.

My name is Emma, but that isn't important. This could be your story, the kid down the street's story, and in a way I wish it was; but it's not. It's mine, and mine alone to tell.

It was a fairly non-eventful day. Get on bus. Go to school. Ditch most of my classes. Smoke cigarettes. Get on bus, go back home. December 16
. The only reason I remember the day is because this is the day that shit hit the fan and I was forced to start dealing with all the crap in my head – or spend more time in a padded room than anyone should ever have to.

I had an older boyfriend named Donnie. He was a 21-year-old musician with bleached blond hair and beautiful features and looked
like the lead singer of my favorite band, which is probably the entire reason I loved him in the first place.

Anyways, school ends and he doesn't meet me like he was supposed to. A phone call a few hours later manages to tear my heart in two. ‘You've got too many problems Emma. I'm sorry, I think we shouldn't be together any more.'

Looking back, it wasn't so much him that broke me. It was the fact that I poured what was left of my love and humanity into him and he, like everyone else in my life, hurt me. When I called my mom for condolence, she simply said, ‘I'm sorry you're hurting,' but her voice told me the exact opposite. She didn't care either. Something bad and dark inside me clicks.

You see, I am the product of an abusive home, where violence, guilt and lies are a way of life. I grew up watching my mother
get beaten black and blue, and eventually that happened to me as well. But I'll get to that a little later.

Anyways, after years of stuffing it in, hiding it, drowning myself in booze and drugs and sex in the vain attempt to forget the past, I had finally reached a breaking point. I was going to kill myself.

I put my favourite song on repeat, grabbed a butcher knife, emptied the medicine cabinet and crawled into the bathtub with a bottle of rum. ‘One way or another, this is going to end,' I had told myself. I had scrawled the requisite suicide note but I couldn't think of anything to say, so all I said was that I was sorry.

I steel myself for this. Take a deep breath. Go. Slice ruby lines into porcelain skin. Swallow this bottle of pills. Chase it with rum. Repeat until finished. I don't know what made me get out of the tub and tell my grandma and little sister to call 911. But I did. And everything gets hazy after that.

Flashing lights and sirens. Emergency medical team working on me. And I was laughing, can you imagine? Laughing at the whole situation. It wasn't anywhere
funny, but somehow, it was all I could do.

Fade out.

Fade in to an ambulance and being strapped to a stretcher. I can feel my mascara running down my face. I think I am afraid, but I'm not entirely sure I can feel any more. My body is bones and skin and blood right now. I am wet and cold. I try to hold on to this paramedic's clothing, to feel something so I know that I am still here.

Fade out.

Fade into intravenous lines and tubes being pushed down my throat, and that's when I black out, hoping oblivion has finally agreed to take me.

I wake up and have no goddamned clue where I am. The lights are too bright, the
walls were obviously once painted white, but time and dirt have turned them dingy and sallow looking. I try to sit up and realise that I am strapped to a stretcher. A slow moan comes out of my throat when it dawns on me that I am not dreaming. Things start to flash back to me, the phone call with Donnie and then my mother, the pills, the knife, the bath, the ambulance ride.

I notice a fat, middle-aged man dressed in a black uniform. He's not paying attention to me, though it's my guess that he's supposed to. I twist my arms, even though the leather straps dig into my cuts and reopen them, until I get a hand free. I am beyond feeling pain now. I undo the buckles quietly, slowly. He's chattering away with some pretty female nurse who couldn't care less about him but is trying not to be rude and tell him straight out to piss off.

I am in the emergency room of a hospital and look for signs to the waiting room. My feet hit the floor, and Jesus, could it have
any colder in there? It's the dead of winter and it doesn't feel like
the heat is on in this dirty, overcrowded hospital building.

I make my way to the entrance of the waiting room. I look through the bulletproof glass in the door and see my mother. I try to open it, but the door is locked. She is crying and hunched over, my stepfather is holding her as her body is wracked with sobs. I put my bloody and bandaged hand on the glass. She looks up and sees me and runs to the glass, slipping from my
's embrace. About this time I hear the fat security guard asking people ‘Where is that girl who was just in this bed?' and I figure I have about five seconds when I hear the footsteps coming behind me. I do not look behind me, I know what is coming and I just want to be near my mom, even if she hates me after what I've done tonight. I start to cry when she starts to cry and she puts her hand to the glass too.

She says one word in the form of a question, and if I could have felt anything at that moment, it would have broken my heart. ‘Why?' I cannot hear her, maybe I
didn't want to or maybe it was the bulletproof glass and the locked door, and all I can say is that I'm sorry before security guards drag me away.

I am held down by a combination of nurses and security guards and strapped down to this bed again, in this alien room, cold and praying that this is all some horrible nightmare, just like the rest of my life has been.

A nurse comes and sticks a needle hard into my damaged arms. I remember thinking to myself ‘She didn't have to be so damned rough. I mean shit, obviously I am
having a good day…', but the thought disappears. I am fading into black, and the last thought in my head before the dark claims me are the words ‘Can you feel, now?'

Cold, sharp metal pierces my skin again and I wake up. Sort of. Whatever the nurses gave me has put me into a complacent haze and my limbs move wherever they decide to push them into place. Which happens to be in front of me, as more cold metal touches my body. This time, it’s handcuffs. I look down in an amazed stupor and then look up again. The police are arresting me for trying to kill myself? How screwed up is this?

But they aren’t arresting me; they are transporting me to a mental hospital. I am placed in the back of a police van and I slip back into sleep until the door is slammed open and I am ordered out of the van.

I am escorted into the county mental hospital. I am guessing it’s around 3 am. Red night-lights illuminate the hallways and I cannot help but think that some extremely screwed up individual planned that. Wails of inmates, prisoners, patients – whatever the insane are called in a place like this – greet me and chills go up my spine. I am half convinced that I am actually dead and I am in the waiting room of hell.

The policeman handcuffs me to a cold fake leather bench while he goes to talk to the night orderly. I can hear them arguing. I can hear a female voice telling him ‘there just simply isn’t any room, you know how busy it gets in here around Christmas time…’ and I silently say a prayer of gratitude. The nurse brings me a blanket and I curl up as best as I can on this cold bench, that one wrist is still handcuffed to. I fall asleep.

‘Emma… wake up Emma…’ my mother’s voice whispers to me. I jerk awake and look around. She is not there, just some strange nurse and the policeman from before. ‘Wake up Emma. We’re moving you.’

Once again, I am loaded into the police van and I am checked into a new hospital, where I am handed a blanket, a pillow and a sheet and shown into a room with two beds. ‘Keep quiet, you have a roommate; don’t wake her.’


I am convinced that my roommate is the type of inmate that eats flies and spiders while thinking that she’s Santa Claus. I am mildly concerned that there is going to be some horrible incident in the middle of the night with her. Sleep claims me quickly though, and she doesn’t bother me.

I am woken up again, after what feels like just a few minutes, by more needles in my arm. I don’t even care at this point. I cannot feel the cold any more or the pain in my arms and the ache in my heart. I fall back asleep.

Nurses pound on the door, announcing their unwanted and uncaring presence before entering. I am given a pair of pyjama-style
pants, a hospital gown, and a pair of socks. I am told to shower, where I am watched by a nurse who is there to make sure I somehow don’t injure myself bathing.

This creeps me out, and I am irritated as the water doesn’t seem to get above 78 degrees. Shivering, I put on the crappy,
, nearly paper-thin hospital clothes that hang off my broken and emaciated body. The nurse leaves.

I sit on the edge of my bed and notice, now that it is daylight, that there are old bloodstains on it. But I am too exhausted to be as grossed out as I should be. I notice my roommate and she is younger than I am, cute and bouncy and chipper. This annoys the shit out of me. Who the hell is happy in a place like this?

Her name is Cindy, and I don’t get to find out why she is here before we are told to go to the dining room for breakfast.

I follow everyone else, seeing as how I don’t know where I am going. I look around
at the other patients here and I notice that they’re all minors. Some of them are zombies, shuffling towards breakfast. I try not to dwell on this thought too long because if I do, fear will kick in that ‘they’ will turn me into one of those drooling, shuffling patients.

We are served cold, nearly inedible cafeteria food with plastic spoons that are counted up at the end of the meal. I am not hungry and let the other inmates pick from my tray.

Next, we’re all herded into a room with half-inch thick windows, scuffs and stains on the cheap linoleum floor, and couches that were most likely brand new about twenty years ago. A doctor comes into the room and all the giggling and talking comes to a stop.

Dr X is a fairly young and not unpleasant looking brown-haired, blue-eyed male doctor, wearing glasses and a white coat. ‘Good morning everyone. Please get out your journals.’

I don’t have a journal and somehow, I feel instantly ashamed.

He looks at me and says, ‘Emma, I understand you got here late last night. We will provide one for you during this session. You are expected to write in it at the appropriate times. Failure to do so will result in loss of privileges.’ I don’t say anything at all, I just simply stare and finally nod my head when I feel the rest of the room staring at me.

Dr X continues with the bored monotone of someone who does this every single day. ‘Since we have someone new here, let’s all introduce ourselves and say why we’re here.’

Oh Lord. I roll my eyes as I get flashes of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Everyone goes in turn, announcing their name and why they’re here. Some of the patients are so out of it they have no idea what the hell their names are, and say them slowly; like it’s a new word they’re trying out, off the cover of their journal.

When it is my turn, I stand up and I say ‘Hi. My name is Emma. I’m an alcoholic.’ Nobody gets the joke, or if they do they don’t appreciate it.

Dr X scolds me and says, ‘I don’t find that very appropriate Emma.’

Chastised, I blush and manage to stammer out ‘Uh, I tried to kill myself.’ The words sound strange to me, and again I am awash in the feeling that this can’t really be happening.

During this group therapy session, people talk about their feelings. I scoff, and sit there silently judging them. Some of them have no reason to be here from what I can tell, other than that they wanted attention. I hate them. They make me sick. I feel superior to them in my pain, in my suffering. My walls go up. ‘You will not reach me,’ I scrawl on the inside cover of the journal that was passed to me.

I have a private meeting with Dr X right after therapy where he asks me a series of
what I imagine to be typical questions for this type of in-patient setting. I lie to nearly all of them and answer flawlessly until he comes to one question that throws me for a loop. ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, beaten or been witness to a parent or guardian being beaten?’ I pause. I want to say yes, some small part of me wants to say yes and wants help, but I push that weak voice back down and I say ‘No’ instead. Dr X notices the pause and he looks at me hard. ‘Are you sure?’ I cross my arms and repeat my answer.

Dr X looks at me until I feel like he can see through me. I fidget. Finally, he breaks the silence and says ‘You are here for a mandatory three days Emma. You can use this time to begin to deal with whatever drove you to try to kill yourself, or not. At the end of three days, however, if I decide you aren’t making enough progress, I can keep you here as long as I see fit. Do you understand?’

I swallow hard. My tongue feels like it’s made of wood, and it refuses to move at all.
I simply nod at him. ‘I read the reports of the police and the emergency medical team. I am prescribing some medications that I think will help you. You may go now.’

I pick up the stupid journal and I leave the room. I am ushered back into the group area, where the group has ‘free time’. Some pretty Asian girl comes up to me and grabs my arm. ‘Did you do this to yourself?’

‘Uh, yeah.’ I stammer. This idiot acts like I just told her that I was a movie star and gets all kind of excited and gushy on me.

‘Oh my God, I wish I could do that to myself! How does it feel?’

I jerk my arm away from her as she’s trying to stick her wretched fingers into the rips of skin. I am at a loss for words. I hate her. She is a vile creature and I wish she would just disappear. She does not notice my contempt of her and continues.

‘This is my seventh suicide attempt. I swallowed a bottle of aspirin.’

Without any further comment, I walk away. Unlike her, I am not proud of these cuts on my arm, not proud of the fact that I am in here. I sit in a chair as far away from her as possible and begin to brood.

A dorky, tall, white, pimply-faced boy introduces himself as ‘Ricky’ to me. He begins to explain how this place works; what we are allowed to do and when we’re supposed to do it.

When the nurses come in with trays of pills and water, we line up and take whatever is in the cup. I have a little blue pill and a slightly larger white pill in my paper cup.

‘What is this?’ I ask the nurse.

She curtly responds to me. ‘Your medicine.’

‘Yeah, I got that. What kind?’

This stocky, ruddy, un-pretty
nurse who is giving the opiates to 
the masses looks up at me. Like I am deaf or stupid, she repeats herself. ‘YOUR MEDICINE.’

Ricky is behind me and whispers to me quickly. ‘Just take it, or she’ll call a code on you, and you don’t want that.’

I take his advice, and swallow the medication with the tepid cup of what tastes like toilet water. I stick my tongue out and they check to make sure I took them.

An orderly comes in and unlocks a big plastic bin and passes out colouring books and crayons. I scoff. I colour the angel picture they gave me to colour in with the darkest crayons in the box. I colour her wings black. Then I draw blood dripping down them, just to upset people. ‘How the HELL is this supposed to make me better?’ I think to myself.

A bell rings and we put the books and crayons away. We go to lunch. We are supposed to write in our journals before evening therapy but I don’t do it. I think it’s
stupid. Not as stupid as the crappy colouring books and the cheap, shitty crayons they gave us to colour the pictures with, but still completely retarded and pointless. Besides, where would I even begin?

Other books

Intrinsical by Lani Woodland
Twice Loved (copy2) by LaVyrle Spencer
Three Sides of the Tracks by Mike Addington
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
A Friend at Midnight by Caroline B. Cooney
Under My Skin by M. L. Rhodes
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
White Man's Problems by Kevin Morris
Stripping It Down by Alden, Jami