40. Nightmares

Shou wakes up choking and knows that he must have fallen asleep. His hands are already up and tugging at the thick tendrils of scale and muscle that are tightening around his throat. He rolls off the bed. 

“Whazzat?” His roommate murmurs.

Shou fights to tear the giant snake off. Darkness bites at the edges of his vision. 

A light flicks on and his roommate screams. The coils loosen and still he fights and chokes. The door is thrown open and footsteps and voices enter.

Shou coughs raggedly, drinking in grateful breaths of air. It’s over. The snake is gone.


Where to Begin

39. Readjusting

It’s a golden, August day in the courtyard. 

Lye’s reads the same page of his book over and over.

Shou, eyes fixed on Miranda’s flat expression, rambles. He winces and clicks, but he doesn’t give up. He tries jokes. Then riddles. 

Nothing works. 

Shou and Lye cannot reach whatever mental corner Miranda has retreated to.

Lye re-reads the first line. Understands nothing. Tries again.

Shou describes New York’s subway system in stuttering detail. 

“But if multiple trains run on the same line, what happens if one is behind schedule?”

Miranda’s scratchy voice is the best thing Lye has ever heard.


Where to Begin

38. Release

“How are you feeling?” Dr. Smith asks. He looks tired and his eyes flick toward the shadows with every other word. 

“Fine,” she replies. Her voice is hoarse. “Can I go back to my room now?” The doctor and the orderly are still blocking the doorway. She is still trapped.

“At least one of your personalities wants to leave. A very exciting development.”

“There is only one other.”

Dr. Smith wags a finger. “Dissociative identity disorder requires at least three separate personalities. Doctors know best, Miranda. Trust me.” 

She doesn’t answer. They lead her upstairs, back toward light and sound.


Where to Begin


37. Relapse

Lye delicately lays his knife and fork on his tray. “Didn’t you sleep well?” 

Shou grunts and continues to stare at his cold, untouched eggs. 

“Not hungry?” 

Another grunt.

“Done eating?”

Grunt. 

“Alright, then.” 

When Lye reaches for his tray, Shou jerks back with a shout, arms flailing, knocking both trays to the ground. 

Lye raises his hands and steps back, his eyebrows knit together in concern. “I’m only clearing breakfast away. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Shou winces and looks away.

Lye stoops to collect the spilled food and trays. “Don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.”



Where to Begin

36. Shou vs Smith, Part 2

“This has been a productive session!” Dr. Smith stands. 

Shou doesn’t. “What about Miranda?”

“We haven’t left enough time. Maybe next time.”

“You said we could,” Shou accuses. “You said—”

“Next time, Shou.” Dr. Smith holds the door open to reveal a waiting orderly. “I have other patients to see. Please don’t be difficult.”

The orderly looks at Shou with merciless eyes.

Shou uncurls his fists. He can’t get what he wants, but he can get revenge. He stands and holds his hand out for the doctor to shake. “Next time.” 

Dr. Smith looks surprised, but takes Shou’s hand anyway. 


Where to Begin

35. Shou vs Smith, Part 1

Dr. Smith smiles. “She’ll be out the day after tomorrow. While I am very glad to see that you—”

“She is a prisoner against her will! It’s unethical! What happened to patients’ rights?” 

In the subsequent silence, Dr. Smith asks, “How are you sleeping?”

“Are you kidding me?” 

“I understand that you’re worried about Miranda, but this session is regarding the state of your health, not hers.”

Shou crosses his arms over his chest and doesn’t answer.

“We’ll spend our last few minutes talking about Miranda, ok?” 

“Fine.”

Dr. Smith clicks his pen. “I notice the tics are improving, too.”


Where to Begin

34. The Story

Lye spent most of the afternoon putting the story together. All he wants now is a nap. 

“Why? For how long? Why?” Shou demands.

“A day or two. Until they’re sure she isn’t a danger to herself or others.”

“She isn’t dangerous! That’s crazy!”

Lye massages his temples. “She assaulted an orderly and tried to dig her way out of a mental hospital. Sounds dangerous and crazy to me.” 

“It isn’t fair!”

“Fair!” Lye throws up his hands. “Nothing is ever fair! The sooner you learn that, the happier you’ll be.”

Shou shakes his head then, without a word, leaves.


Where to Begin