How Do We Feel?

Submitted into Contest #42 in response to: Write a story that ends with a character asking a question.... view prompt



Today they’ll decide. Today they’ll ask us how we are. How we respond depends on who they ask.


If they ask Mr Crowther, I’ll say I’m doing good. In fact I’m doing more than good, I’m doing great. I feel fantastic. Never better. I feel positive about the future. I have plans, ambitions. I want to work in I.T. It’s the sort of thing I’d be good at, not having to work with people, working with code so I don’t get upset. I could make a good fist of things if I did that.

I know I’ve got to keep taking my meds, but that’s all under control now. I realise I’ve got to report every week, and that’s fine. I really want to show that I can do this. I know that if I don’t keep to the regime, I’ll be returned here. And I don’t want that. I want to be in control of my life; I don’t want us – I don’t want me to be controlled by others. 

I’ve been ill; I realise that. I’ve been really ill, not right in the head. But that was down to a chemical imbalance, right? And the meds, the therapies, they’ve sorted that out. I know that when I was sick I did some bad things. But that wasn’t me. That was the illness.

Now I’m doing great. Really.


If they ask Danny, we’ll tell them to watch out. We’ll tell them that Danny Crowther is not to be trusted. Mr Crowther thinks he can pull the wool over their eyes. Mr Crowther will make promises. Mr Crowther will deceive. But Danny knows that he’s lying, that he’s covering up. We’re taking our meds at the moment, but only until we can get out of here, only for as long as necessary to get away from this place. Then he will have control and he will stop Mr Crowther taking our meds. If he gets control, if he gets us out of here, what will happen then? 

We don’t like it in here. We don’t like the doctors. We don’t like the nurses. But Danny knows that while we are in here, we are controlled, we are safe, and other people will be safe. It was Danny got us in here in the first place.

Danny knows best, and Danny doesn’t want us to be let out. Ask Danny and we’ll tell them to watch out for him.


If they ask Cameron, we’ll smile, we’ll beam at everyone. Cameron likes all these people. Cameron wants them all to like us. Cameron will look them in the eye, he’ll look each and every one of them straight in the eye (don’t ask the rest of us to do that, we can’t), and tell them that there’s nothing to worry about. We’ve got it sorted. And Cameron will force us to smile, even though he cannot force us to look the others in the eye.

Cameron is full of confidence. Cameron does not see any reason why we should be in here. Cameron will not make any promises, he doesn’t see the need. Cameron will sit up, shoulders back, that smile plastered across our face and exude confidence. He will con our way out of here. Or they may see the con and keep us locked up. That might be best.


If they ask Joseph we will start to panic. We don’t like it when they start to ask questions. We don’t know what answers they want. We’re scared of getting it wrong. We’re scared of what might happen if we get it wrong. If we get if wrong, what will happen? Will they take our shoes and socks off and beat us on the base of our feet? Will they tie our ankles together so we cannot walk and then leave us out in the rain to get cold and wet? Will they tie us to our beds and not let us go to the toilet, then beat us when we wet ourselves?

Joseph doesn’t know any answers. Joseph’s too scared to think of any. If they ask Joseph, we’ll just twist our hands in our lap and shrug our shoulders and look down at our feet. Joseph doesn’t like being asked questions. He doesn’t know the answers. Joseph will cry and we’ll unravel.


If they ask Brian, a stupid grin will slowly stretch its way across our face. We will get up to our feet in an uncoordinated fashion, raise an imaginary glass and sway as if we were facing a force 9 gale. Brian will be half cut, even before a drop has passed our lips, and if Brian were asked, we would say ‘bye-bye’ to sobriety.

Of course, if they asked Brian, they wouldn’t get the answers they wanted, and we would not get our freedom. But the alcoholic would be back, and even though we have not touched a drop in four years, we’d have to face cold turkey all over again. We really hope they don’t ask Brian.


If they ask Mark, we’ll be eager to answer. We’d sit forward in our seat, arms across our legs, right knee hammering up and down as we tapped our heel in nervous anticipation of the next question, the next answer. Mark is everyone’s friend. Mark likes people. Mark won’t just answer questions, he’ll make us ask them too. We’ll ask the doctor how his mother is. But some of us know that it is the cleaner who has the sick mother. Mark is just trying to be friends. We’ll ask the young Asian man on the panel what part of the world his family comes from, what religion is he, did he have an arranged marriage, what was that like? We’ll ask the young woman in the neat grey suit if she’s married, has she got a boyfriend, if not, is she a lesbian? Nice legs. Nice tits. What’s she doing after work? Oh yes, Mark likes to be friends.

But Mark cannot be trusted to take our meds. If Mark is feeling good, he won’t see the point in us taking them anymore. He’ll think we’re cured.

But if someone thinks he’s a bit full on, if someone isn’t quite ready to be best buddies with Mark, if someone says ‘Whoa there, let’s take a step back, let’s go slower,’ we’ll take offence, we’ll fester on the slight. Mark’s all buddy pals when things are going his way, but not when he’s crossed. Watch out for Mark when we’re crossed.


If they ask Ben, we’ll look at the panel with those solemn and serious eyes of ours. We’ll raise our eyes up from the gathering of earthly judges to the heavens and the unseen host. Ben believes that God Almighty has a plan for us, that this will be revealed in the fullness of time, that this plan will be our redemption. He believes that whatever else has happened, it’s all part of God’s great plan. Ben sees the good in all of us. Ben trusts us when that trust has not been earned.

If Ben is in control, he will take our meds, until someone else says no. Then he will try to talk, try to reason for us to take our meds, but he won’t force us if we don’t want to. For all his blind faith, Ben is weak. Ben cannot talk or reason. Ben cannot control. Because Ben thinks God will control us. But He won’t.


If they ask Lyle… But then they’re not likely to ask Lyle, are they? Because they don’t know that Lyle exists.  They haven’t found Lyle yet. In four years of conversations, therapies, treatment, Lyle has remained silent. Lyle has always sent out one of us to talk to them. It is Lyle who created us all, who cut out our characters, who sewed and stitched us all together to form this cloak of invisibility in which to hide. But if they did? If they did know about Lyle? If they asked Lyle how he felt? What would Lyle say?

If they asked Lyle, we would sit with our hands in our lap, fingers intertwined, fingers that should have love and hate tattooed crudely on the knuckles. If they asked Lyle, we would sit with our legs spread in defiance. If they asked Lyle, we would sit with our head bowed. And slowly, oh so slowly, we would raise our head and survey the others with hooded eyes and a sneer on our lips.

You don’t mess with Lyle.

If they had found Lyle, if they had questioned Lyle, they may have found out about Betty Parker. If they had found Lyle, if they had been able to get him to talk, they may have found where she lay. It would not have saved Betty Parker, but her family would be able to bury the lonely bones that were left. If they had found Lyle, if they had questioned Lyle, they may have found out about Lindsay Miller, Katy Bristow, Lauren Whitworth. And the rest. If they had found Lyle. But they never found Lyle. Lyle has always been good at hiding. Lyle has always been good at covering his tracks with us.


It is time. It is time to go in, where we will be told to take a seat and face the panel, the doctor, the young Asian man, the woman in the grey suit. And then we will be asked how we are. And what happens next will depend on who they ask.


“So, Mr Crowther, how do we feel today?”

May 22, 2020 14:18

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Nyema James
23:56 May 25, 2020

This was clever and relate able. The different people we have in us whether pathologically or not. Each version had their own voice narrated by the collective. Great writing


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11:40 May 24, 2020

I read through and I loved it. It matters, the question being asked, and yet the people who will be asked is the key. I love the way you showed us everyone so that we understand the answers depending on who was asked. Mr. Crowther? Now that's something. And I'm guessing you will all smile.


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02:14 May 24, 2020

After scrolling through many stories, I decided to click on this one. As soon as meds and mental health were mentioned, I decided to sit up right and became interested in the rest of the story. I am able to relate to each personality, and have struggled with therapy and taking meds as well. I can be the drunk, or the people pleaser, who ever I decide to bring out that day. Very intriguing, keep up the good work, don't stop writing! :)


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