This short story by Robyn Gower of Ohura won first place in the local section of the William Taylor Memorial Short Story Competition for 2018



     Bob Simmons, interesting nutter number one. Continuously calls out iconic or nonsensical statements, sometimes they’re so spot on its scary.

“Donald Trumps’s dirty undies” is one of his favourites, he saves it for whenever there’s a visiting specialist doing the rounds. Every now and then he even has an old pair of his own undies rolled up in his pocket to throw, for extra amusement. Five months I’ve been in here and I’ve never heard him say anything normal yet. Given the fact that he was once married and working as a science teacher at St. Cuthbert’s, I reckon he’s just having a holiday, and taking the piss while he’s at it. His wife and daughter used to come and visit him all the time apparently. I’ve actually seen his wife from my spot by the window, I could tell it was her because of some old Christmas party photos they used to have on the TV room wall – but she never came up. Just sat down there smoking cigarettes on the bench, struggling by the look.

     King, where are your people now…? LowLow, a guy whose real name is actually Francis, loves UB40 and plays this one tape over and over on a more or less continuous loop. Most of us other ‘clients’ don’t mind too much; LowLow – that’s how he likes it spelt (he’s a serious, self-harming depressive) – is pretty unobtrusive, he just hangs around in the corner over there doing the Lithium shuffle. Not everyone is so tolerant though. Ovine obedience – managed mainly with chemical shepherding – is rife in here, but there is one big exception. Penelope Blackheart. Queen of Mean; luckily she’s in quarantine at the moment. ‘Resting’ after trying to stab LowLow with her chop bone.

     Some of the staff are arseholes too, old-school loony-bin bullies.

     “The Wonderful World of Disney!” cackles Bob as nurse Hughes starts dishing out pills from the medicine trolley.  Unfortunately, some of my powers have been detected, I’m not sure how, but I know they’re trying to drown the special-ness in me, and I get a handful of lollies like everyone else – not that I take them of course. Visionaries have always been persecuted, and I’m a visionary in more ways than one: I see everything.  

     X-ray vision is a burden as well as a gift: I can see right into people’s hearts, so I know what I’m talking about. You would think Bob’s heart would have dark virus infected cracks too, like everyone else in here, but it doesn’t; it just looks too big.

     Zoom in on him now though, now that he thinks everyone has zoned out: he has walked to the window and is pressing his forehead against it, staring down at the bench – searching for something he doesn’t even want anymore.

Robyn Gower