Theo’s Guides

Author’s Note: “Theo is one of the most deliciously tortured characters I’ve ever written and while writing Vision of Darkness, I got  a bit carried away with his subplot. Eventually, I ended up cutting out most of his scenes because they had little to do with the main storyline, but I still love him as a character and I’m super excited to share some of those deleted scenes now. This excerpt takes place at the hospital in Boston the morning after Theo calls to warn Alex about the lighthouse.”

Theo curled on his side, the padded floor giving a little under his weight, and let the voices overtake him.

The spiders. They’re everywhere. Oh, God, get them off me! Get them off!

One, two, three, four, five… Five, no, come back here. Five! You can’t do that! Get in line.

They’re gonna kill me. Kill them first. Kill them. Kill them before they kill you. 

He couldn’t remember how he ended up in the rubber room again with all the crazy Guides. With his brain fuzzed, stuffed with cotton balls from the chemicals coursing through his veins, coherent thought was a chore. It was easier to lay there and not think, but he had the vague notion there was something he had to do. If he could just remember.

I just want to cut myself so the pain stops. Why won’t they let me? It’s a free country. I’m not hurting anyone.

Hmm, that aide wants me. I can see it in his eyes. He loves me. Loves only me. We were meant to be together.  

A line of drool trickled from the corner of Theo’s mouth and pooled on the floor. If he could lift his hand, he’d wipe it away, but his arm felt encased in cement. His eyes drooped shut under the weight of the meds. He forced them open. He couldn’t fall asleep. Not again. There was something important he had to do.

The door opened and Dr. Mason Romano strolled in, looking pressed and chic in knife edged trousers, polished-to-a-shine loafers, and a button-up shirt the color of ripe eggplant. He offered a distracted smile.

“Good morning, Theo. How are you feeling?”

He cheated on his wife. The new disembodied voice rang out from the white noise in Theo’s mind and cleaved through the fog of drugs with its rage. Ask him! Ask him what he did to her!

“No.” Theo brought his knees up to his chest and curled his arms around them. He hated the meds. When he was sober he could block out some of the angrier voices, but the antipsychotics turned his mind into an open door. Anything could talk to him then. He had no control. “No questions. Please, leave me alone.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Theo.” Romano considered the clipboard in his hand before passing it off to a nurse who hovered in the doorway. He knelt down and light pricked Theo’s eyes as the doctor flashed a thin beam back and forth in front of his face. He grimaced and shrank into himself, hiding his eyes with one sloppy move of his arm.

“Hmm,” Romano said. “How much Haldol did the on-call prescribe last night?”

“Five milligrams Q4 hours PRN,” the nurse said, her voice sounding miles away to Theo as others crowded in, vying for his attention.

“When did he calm down?”

“Not until around six this morning. He’s been like this since.”

“Theo?” Romano said and touched his shoulder. “I hear you had a rough night. Can you tell me why you were so upset?”

The cheating, lying no-good bastard. Ask him! Ask him!

He tried to focus. It would be easier if he could think straight, if he didn’t feel like he was floating on a soft cloud somewhere above his body with all the noise and faceless voices screaming at him. Had he been upset last night? He tried to ask, but all that came from his throat was a soft groan. Romano motioned to the nurse, and together they lifted him into a sitting position against the wall.

“You know you’re not allowed to use the phone after hours unless it’s an emergency,” the doctor said while the nurse dabbed away the spittle dripping from his mouth. “We have these rules for a reason.”

Rules, hah! What about the rules of marriage? I saw him with that whore, going at it right up against the wall. So many dirty little secrets. Ask him.  

He blocked the voice and forced his eyes open. His tongue felt thick as it fumbled and slurred over the words. “Alex…an emergency. Had to tell Alex…something.”

“And that was?” Romano asked.

He struggled to recall the conversation. He’d tiptoed out to the communal phone, dialed his brother’s number. The shooting. Alex didn’t sound okay, but said he was. Then Alex said…

What?

Sharp pain stabbed though his temple and he pressed the palm of his hand to his eye. “I-I don’t remember. Something…”

“It must not have been too important then,” Romano said in a reasonable tone. “I’m sure your brother doesn’t appreciate a call that late at night when he’s trying to sleep. It couldn’t have waited until this morning?”

“No. It was important. It was…”

Ask him what happened to his wife. 

“Was it worth hurting one of the aides like you did, Theo? Ryan had to go the E.R. last night and get stitches in his hand after you hit him with the table leg.”

Theo jerked his head and felt tears burn behind his eyes. He gulped them back, his mouth working like a man struggling to breathe. “I-I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just didn’t want… the meds make it worse. I can’t control… Needed to talk to Alex. H-he’s in trouble.”

“How do you know that?”

“The Guides. They told me.”

Frowning, Romano patted his shoulder twice and stood. “We’ve had this discussion before. The voices you hear—the Guides—they are not real. They are auditory hallucinations that—”

Ask him what happened to his wife! 

“No! Both of you, shut up!” He pressed his palms to his ears and shook his head hard. “Alex knows it’s real. He hears them too. He sees things. I’m not crazy. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not.”

Romano stepped back as Theo hugged himself and rocked against the wall. White noise pounded at his brain in hot waves, the voices within screaming, crying, cursing.

Don’t let him walk out. Don’t you dare let him walk out! Ask him. Ask him. Ask him about his wife!  

“We’ll try a new treatment,” Romano said to the nurse after a moment and headed toward the door. “This one is obviously not working. I’ll put in a call to his brother this afternoon and discuss our options. I’m sure Alex will be expecting it after last night.”

Their voices faded into all the others as they moved away. They were leaving. The door was closing, shutting Theo in with the noise. He panicked. He need the distraction, needed the contact with other living people. “Dr. Romano!”

Distracted, Romano signed the clipboard the nurse handed him. “Hm?”

Ask him. Ask him. Ask him. Ask hhhiiimmm!

The screech was like a knife twisting in his brain. He sucked in a sharp breath, bolted upright and looked directly at the doctor’s back. “They want to know why you cheated on your wife.”

The voice cackled at getting its way.

Romano’s shoulders stiffened. After a heartbeat, he turned. “Excuse me?”

“Your wife. You cheated on her and then something happened. What happened to her?”

“I’m sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t have a wife.”

Liar! He killed her!

Beads of sweat popped out on Romano’s suddenly pale face as he addressed the wide-eyed nurse. “Let’s give him another dose.”

“No!” Theo staggered to his feet, gripping the padded wall for support. “Please, don’t. I won’t say anything like that again. I’ll be good. I’ll be good. Please…”

“We’ll keep him in here a while longer,” Romano added. “Later, if he’s calm enough, he can rejoin the rest of the patients.”

The door shut and Theo slid down the wall until his butt hit the floor. The voice screamed, spewing venom at the doctor and at Theo for not getting answers. He drew his legs up, rested his elbows on his knees and tunneled his fingers through his overgrown hair.

When four burly aides came in to hold him while the nurse administered the shot, he didn’t bother fighting them.

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