Written and Copyrighted by Tim Miller 2010

If you're looking for chapters prior to this one, you'll find links to them below:

Chapter One

Chapter Three

Chapter Two


            Siera was going to be on Television! This was it: her fifteen minutes of fame. She could hardly believe it. Then again, she could hardly believe anything she saw those days.

She’d been delusional for over a month now, and she didn’t recall much about her latest episode. No. The last thing she remembered was Ray and her parents wheeling her into Crossman Hospital’s Mental Ward in Duluth. Then, just a few hours after she’d left the hospital, she was in New York.

She figured her doctor must have found another drug cocktail to ward off her illness between now and then. After all, reality wasn’t all tangled up with her hallucinations anymore. Plus, she could think clearly and remember again.

The drugs made Siera groggy, but she felt like her medication’s sleepy bubble was always better than her schizophrenic hell.

On the plane to New York, Ray’s raven hair, dark eyes, and pale skin kept popping into her head. He’d been alone for a month now. And as she looked out of Cathy Kipling’s limousine at the giant buildings of some New York street passing by, she whispered, “A whole month. How could that be? I’m sorry Ray.”

A tear spilled out of her eye. Her mind had become a tattered dishrag of partial remembrance. Each tear was a memory rent in two by demons. She wondered if their claws might rip out her recollection of Ray one day too.

For now, she clung to the image of her son. Thank God he’s still here, she thought. She was a little scared that God might answer because that would mean her drugs hadn’t neutralized her schizophrenic delusions completely.

With that thought, Siera’s seat grew hot. She smelled decaying flesh in the limousine’s leather. A shadow materialized next to her. She jumped on the floor and clamped her eyelids closed. She curled up and said, “No! No! This seat is cold, not hot.”

Her hand felt for the black leather. “I feel it, and it’s cold,” she said. And, to her relief, it was cool. The driver’s side door of the limousine opened quietly. Siera said, “See, they opened the door gentle—not hard and, and whatever they are, you know they are not…”

“Maam? Are you okay?” A hoarse, yet high voice sounded in the world outside Sierra’s eyelids. The fetid flesh smell slowly drained from Sierra’s nostrils. She uncurled herself and fought with her fear to keep her eyes open. An old woman’s face stared at her from across the limo. The woman’s double-breasted suit glistened with black water spots from the rain outside as she said, “It’s me, Fanny the limo driver, remember?”

“Yeah,” Siera opened her eyes and uncurled herself. “Sorry. I just got a little…uh…disoriented. I’m claustrophobic,” she lied, “—and I’ve never been in a city this big before.

“Oh, I see.” the driver’s voice was apologetic. “You should’ve told me. I could’ve rolled down the window or something.”

“No, that’s alright. I think I’m used to it. I just needed to get it out of my system, you know?”

“Yeah, sure.” Fanny backed her head out of the cab and coaxed Siera out the door with gestures. Siera scooted over to the driver’s side, hopped out, and smelled city smog right away. Cold rain spattered Siera’s skin, cleansing it of her fear until the Fanny unfurled an umbrella over their heads. Siera wondered if her doctor had figured out the right combination of drugs after all. She’d almost gone to hell for a second there.

Tall concrete steps led to the doors of a skyscraper in front of Siera. The building was a huge glass column in a crystalline forest. A boiling sky from another world shone back at Siera from its mirrored windows. She followed the glass all the way up.

“Wow, that’s high,” she said to the limo driver, forgetting her mood. “I have no idea where I’m supposed to go in there. Can you help me?”

The Limo driver smiled, “Of course Ms. Stevens…may I call you Siera?”

“Sure.” Siera’s tone was listless, mechanical.

The Limo driver put a hand on Siera’s back “Don’t worry about finding your way. Cathy asked me to escort you to all the way up to the 15th floor.”

“Cathy? Oh, you mean Ms. Kipling. It’s great you call her by her first name.”

“Yeah.” Fanny smiled warmly. “Cathy treats every one like a friend.” The two women began walking toward the building. “Oh shoot!” The limo driver said. “I almost forgot your luggage.” She gave the umbrella to Siera and went to the limo’s trunk.

Siera said, “No I…I…didn’t have any luggage, remember?”

The driver spun back around and grabbed the umbrella. “Oh yeah,” she said. “When you get to be…” She looked at Siera. “…our age, you start to forget. You know?”

Siera nodded, even though she didn’t know. The woman was at least ten years her senior. Little moments like these made Siera Realize just how bad her disease had hurt her over the years. This woman, who could even be her mother’s age, thought they were from the same generation. She frowned.

Seeing Siera’s expression, Fanny realized her mistake. She quickly added, “Of course, you’re a little younger than me.”

Siera tried to turn her frown over. But sometimes smiling was impossible. So she looked away at her strange surroundings.

As they walked through the doors and past the skyscraper’s security desk, Siera felt the world grow distant. It was like she sensed everything through a telescope. But one emotion always lurked nearby:

Fear.

Siera could still think logically. That meant she could still ignore her paranoia. So she hadn’t fallen completely into another delusional episode. However, her doctor had definitely drugged her wrong. Or, she thought. Maybe I just spaced taking my pills on the plane. She couldn’t remember, so she took her pillbox out of her purse to check. The container was made of seven blue boxes with weekday initials on their tops. Wednesday’s space still had ten pills packed inside it. “Oops,” she said.


Siera took her medication after Fanny dropped her off in her dressing room on the 15th floor of the United Broadcasting Channel building. She was alone for a couple minutes. So she looked at herself in a light-bulb lined mirror as her medication faded her telescopic bubble.

Anxiety still clawed at her brain. She was scared she might not get to see Ray again if she had another episode. The medication was helping, but she couldn’t tell if she was feeling what her doctor called “functional.” If she couldn’t hold herself together through the show, they might ship her right back to the Crossman Mental Ward without letting her visit Ray.

That’s the worst thing they can do, she thought. Ray is my medicine. He helped her let go of her fear. Sometimes his just being around had stopped her from having an episode.

Now Siera felt the drugs taking effect. Reality was more solid.

She put her hands over her eyes and massaged her face. “God,” she prayed “Please let the medication work.” She didn’t know if she could take another trip to Crossman. When she thought of the place, her hellish hallucinations sometimes came back. For her, Crossman was just another outpost of hell.

A vaguely familiar voice interrupted her thoughts from the doorway. “Is everything okay?”

Siera jumped and spun around. She didn’t realize she’d left the door open.

Cathy Kipling herself stood in the doorway like a petite demi-goddess. She wore a pink business suit, with matching high heals and lipstick. Her blonde hair twisted into an intricate bun on the top of her head. Diamond-studded platinum earrings dangled from her ears, sparkling in the dressing room light.

Ms. Kipling put out her hand and smiled. “Hi, I’m Cathy,” she said. Her voice had a warm broadcast flavor to it.

Wide-eyed, Siera put out her trembling hand. Cathy took Siera’s hand and shook it gently. The talk show hostess shone her big, amber irises into Siera, who averted her eyes immediately.

“Yeah…hi…I’m Siera Stevens,” she said.

“That’s what they told me.” Cathy’s voice echoed in the hallway.

“Oh, a wh…who’s they?”

Cathy folded her arms, leaned against the doorframe, and smiled disarmingly. “Well, first your parents in Wisconsin. They called. Too bad they couldn’t come. I’m sorry about your dad’s gall bladder by the way.” Regret stung Siera. She’d missed her father’s surgery while she was in Crossman too.

Cathy Kipling’s eyebrows scrunched together. “Oh, I’m sorry for mentioning something personal like that. I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“It’s okay,” Siera said meekly. “It’s just…I didn’t really remember his surgery until you said that. My doctor says it’ll take a little while to get my memory back.”

Cathy nodded. “Your parents told me you had a hard life.” She pointed at Siera. “But we should save this conversation for the show. Is there anything I can do to help you get ready to be on TV?”

“Um, yes.” Siera hated that she sounded like a little girl. “I don’t want to put any extra burden on you and your people.”

“Nonsense.” Cathy waved Siera’s worry off. “What do you need? We’ll do anything within our means. The show starts in a couple of hours, so my producer Mike has plenty of time to take care of you. All he does is twiddle his thumbs anyway.”

“I was just wondering if I could maybe borrow some makeup from someone.”

“What? Mike hasn’t come by and told you yet?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Sierra wasn’t sure if anyone had stopped by. Her medication was still fading her schizophrenic bubble.

Cathy put her hands on her hips. “I tell you. That man. Sometimes I want to…” She left the thought unfinished.

Cathy continued. “Listen, I’ve decided to give you a makeover. You won’t have to suffer through it on the show like most of my guests, but we will take before and after pictures. You’re obviously very beautiful. You just need to…let it out.”

Siera dared a glance into the talk show queen’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said, looking away immediately.

“My pleasure.” Cathy backed into the hallway while speaking. “I have to go meet the other guests. My makeup and hair people should be by shortly. And don’t hesitate to come find me if you need anything. The whole 15th floor is mine. So no one here will harass you.”

Cathy blew a kiss to Siera and disappeared down the hall.

Siera’s medication made her sleepy. She felt like the darkness just under her eyelids might close in around her anytime. But she couldn’t wait to get her makeover either. I look so haggard these days, she thought.

She didn’t want to look up at the dressing room mirror, but her mind’s eye envisioned her reflection anyway. Somewhere, in the topsy-turvy tumult called time, her beauty had sagged and crinkled. Her blue eyes had receded into her skull socket skin. Her blonde hair had frayed and gone gray.

God I need a makeover, she said.