I can't sleep. This is what came out. I accept no responsibility for what I write at 5 am.

Disturbing imagery, blood, gore, fragmented narrative style, unreliable narrator. Abuse of dark imagery.

Five Times Carlos Might Have Been Insane


1.

The sun peeks bright over the bleached and burnt-out hills.

"You can sing to me, if you want to," the little girl says, pink blooming in her pale cheeks.

Carlos can't find the words, his chest is too thick with feelings, and there is ice forming in his veins.

"You're not real," he tells her and her laugh is louder than the wind. The sound carries through the stillness, takes up all available space, expands like cotton placed in water, a body left to rot, engorged with decomposition fluids until the skin breaks and splits.

"That's a mean thing to say."

He supposes that it is.

"I'm sorry," he doesn't sound honest, not for a second. He can't even hear his own words. There is a rush and thump somewhere, way way off, and it resembles the beating of a dying heart, one last spasm of muscle after another (trickle, squeeze, rest). "Don't go."

"We eat the smile," she speaks with Logan's voice, reciting those lines from an old poem.

"And spit out the teeth."

She walks over the edge, up into the sky.

The sun stretches its wings and burns everything in sight.

2.

"Carlos," James' eyes are two tiny moons, glowing impossibly bright.

(The bathroom mirror is splashed with blood)

"I'm almost done." Razor wet in his hand, slippery to the touch, harder to grip. (He can go deeper if he tries, it only takes some pressure)

He pushes through.

James shoves him to the floor.

"Oh no, oh no," James gasps, his palms cupping Carlos' cheeks. "What did you do?"

"They said they didn't believe me, but it's there, you see them."

His neck is wet. (Blood doesn't feel thicker than water, people always lie)

"I don't understand." James' hands are wet now too.

"I told them no one could take my bones."

His skin is lying in the sink, flesh and nerves and muscles, the parts of a human. People are puzzles; people are presents with layers of paper to peel away.

James' fingers rest against the bones of his jaw.

3.

"I wanna be famous," he whispers, again and again and again, autotuned and stuck on replay.

"Of course you do, baby," Kelly strokes his hair while Nurse Knight pulls on a pair of latex gloves.

"I am famous." He announces two weeks later from atop an orange, plastic chair.

No one bats an eye.

Kendall drools, Logan rocks in his seat, and James' arms don't stop shaking. The walls are trembling, great, and white.

"Of course you are," Kelly reaches her hands up to help him off. He hops down, rubber shoes squeaking on linoleum floor.

"I'm going to be just like Kendall, James, and Logan."

One of the orderlies manages to pin him down, arms pressed across his back, the weight of bulky bodies and solid chests. He's a superstar. Soon, no one is ever going to treat him like this again.

"Then you have to start taking your medicine first." Dr. Griffin laughs as a needle slides into his neck to spread liquid fire and ice and poison and crazy into his heart and soul. He twitches, metal jerks out and away.

4.

"Do you believe me?"

He's never had a reason not to.

Only, the ocean seems so far.

"Abuelita always said that we could fly."

She said that he was born on a lucky day and the strength of his heart could carry him past the clouds. Like the angels fell from heaven with decrepit, molting wings, he could ascend with nothing, with the muscle of conviction.

"It can't hurt to give it a shot." He's right. There's no harm in testing opportunity. A bird never dies from its first fall.

His own hands give him that gentle push.

He could always trust in himself.

5.

His ears fall off and flop like dying fish on the floor. He picks them up and stores them in a shoebox beneath his bed. His expensive headphones hide the gaping, bloody holes.

"First the helmet, now you always wear headphones?" Carlos can't hear, so he's learned to read Gustavo's lips or translate the vibrations from Gustavo's screams that rattle his bones. "I don't know what to do with you sometimes, Carlos."

"Sorry," he says and wonders if he's talking too loud. "I can't help it."

"Whatever."

They go back to singing.