Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nut House Hunger

Collins Land

Event: 500 Word Challenge
Host: Harriet Gausman
Time: 30 mins
Prompt: He ducked just in time as the china plate sailed past him and hit the wall.
MOOC: from 5.7: The serial killer who is an extraordinary gardener in her "free time"...


Natasha ducked just in time as the china plate sailed past her and hit the wall. None of the wardens had foreseen that, coming from Ruby, the soft-spoken, gray-haired elderly patient.

Had it been Natasha, then they would’ve expected it for sure. She was prone to sudden states of extreme irritability. But not this time, this time, she just ducked. Well, not “just”… She immediately felt the urge to wrap her hands around Ruby’s skinny neck and tighten that evil-speaking throat of hers into a total and final silence.

However, Natasha had bigger issues to deal with. Her planned but increasingly annoying stay at the nut house was starting to wear her out.

A few weeks earlier, at the trial, she had uttered a few incoherent sentences, a few unintelligible words and absolutely no reply to any of the questions either the prosecution or the defense asked her. Although she had been strongly advised not to testify, she proudly sat on the stand, swore she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so helped her God, and smiled the most captivating smile, looking at the horrified jurors. Then she smiled to the judge.

Natasha was convinced it had been the smile, that innocent-looking deviously misleading smile that saved her from the electric chair. When her defense attorney threw his hands in the air for the dramatic effect, he was quite good at that, and asked to approach the bench, the judge had already decided. It would be prudent and advisable to have the accused undergo a thorough psychiatric evaluation.

A few days later, she was visited in jail by a shrink. She told him about her past, her obsessively controlling and abusive father, at whose hands the entire family suffered some of the most sickening punishments. She told him about her mother who never took her side, an accusatory tone in each sentence. She told him about her small sister who was found dead in her bed; they said it had been a sudden death syndrome. Natasha knew what happened. She heard it all. She was only seven years old and her sister, four.

She never smiled while talking to the psychiatrist. It didn’t take long for him write up a report and deliver it to the court. There Natasha would hear the verdict. She would be committed to a mental health facility.

And here she was, ducking just in time while another china plate sailed past her and smashed against the wall. The old broad would have to go, one way or another, perhaps just like she had done it to her mother. Yes… just like that, she thought.

There was a generalized confusion in the recreation room. The plates kept flying, coming from nowhere. The wardens tried to catch Ruby, who ran around in circles behind the sofas and the tables and the benches and the piano. The patients yelled and screamed and hit their heads with their fists. Some drooled and laughed uncontrollably. 

Natasha grew impatient, hoping no one would find the small door. They would block it and destroy her chances of becoming free once more. I must go, she thought. 

She found this door quite accidentally when looking for garden supplies. She had taken up gardening as one of the occupational therapies the hospital offered its patients. 

A Gothic gardener was something most wardens found quite amusing. She would wear the bland cream uniform for patients and her long black braided hair, the sides of her head shaved, her nails painted in a deep shiny black nail polish.

Although it did seem a bit off, gardening soothed her inner turmoil. She loved watching something grow from nothing into a wonderful plant. She didn’t like flowers too much though. They would die eventually. She preferred bushes, small trees. They would grow and grow, and bloom in their own particular, sometimes peculiar ways.

I must go… I must go, she thought. She had spotted the hidden door when her shoulder accidentally hit an empty cupboard that slid slightly to one side. She found out that the small door led to a narrow corridor, probably the way in for supplies. The level the recreation room was located in was the same level of the kitchen. The hospital had previously been a hotel.

Natasha was almost caught a few times, snooping around that narrow corner under the staircase, but her relentless smile disarmed even the most suspicious of the wardens. For some reason, that clown’s smile, a middle ground between innocence and devilish incoherence, made people think that she was an idiot, that she could not understand things too well. She could. She understood things far better than anyone, even better than most of the staff.

That small door would be her way out, back to her hunting grounds. Natasha was hungry again, longing for that sense of completeness of the senses that always appeased her angry fears, the storm growing within.

I must go, but not yet, she thought, not yet. The Ruby issue was still pending. And maybe solving that would satiate her hunger for now.


Character building: The idea here is to use the stereotype (Gothic) and go beyond it, giving the character something a Gothic person would not likely do. Does gardening work with a Gothic-looking character?! Umm... I'm not sure...!

I wonder what would work? I want to show the kill/nurture dichotomy inside of her. A pet? Somehow, I don't see her with a pet... And choosing a crow or a rat would go back to the stereotype of portraying a certain oddity.

I must reshuffle "the cards" and see what comes up. Any ideas? Please, add them in the comments. Thank you!


  1. I so wanted to read more!!! Yes great character build and why not a gothic garden. One can bury things in the garden too. Great story Lizzie. It completely held me in thrall!!!!

    1. Oh, interesting! Burying things in that garden. Ok, now you've given me food-for-thought! TY! I hope this will be a part of the short-story they'll ask us to write at the end of the MOOC course. We'll see!