Ollie Francis
Ollie Francis
Published in
3 min readApr 4, 2016


Once you get over the initial weirdness of the thing, it doesn’t tend to bother you all that much — not at first, anyway. You just let them get on with it, let them take you back to your cell and let them just leave you there. That’s it; no fancy hoo-hah, just pop the pill and then back to normal life, everything just where you left it.

It seemed ridiculous, in some ways. This is supposed to be a punishment? I thought to myself when it started. I can read a book back to back now without breaking a sweat, I gloated. I used to have to pace myself, go back and reread pages from the previous night just to catch up on all I had missed when my eyes had started closing on their own. I’d be staring at the inside of my own eyelids, groping around on the floor for my bookmark; the next day, I’d have to reread the whole page again, just to get back to where I thought I should be in my head.

And then, after the treatment, it was so simple. I just kept going. Read right through the night, through breakfast, lunch, dinner, keep the torch burning through lights out and then on into the next day. It felt incredible. This was a reward, not a punishment.

Idiots. All those protests. All that uproar from the nay-sayers and human rights activists and left wing nutcases. All that fuss over the dangers and the torture and, oh!, the humanity of it all! — and they’ve gone and given me a fucking superpower. I loved it.

But then, funny things can happen after a few weeks. The human mind was never meant to go on for this long; it was never meant to work this hard without a break.

It starts with sounds. Little things just at the edge of your hearing: a comment by a cellmate; a whisper between two guards; a scratching in the pipework. Vibrations on the edge of tangibility. You ignore it at first, but then you just find your attention drawn to them. You hear them saying something, but their lips don’t move. You half catch a conversation and nobody knows what you’re talking about when you ask them a question. They look at you and you can tell from their eyes that they’re not lying. They don’t have to.

So you come up with little strategies to cope with it. You ignore everything unless you’ve got direct eye contact. You check everything you think you think you overheard, once, twice, three times a lady. You know you’re mad, but you can deal with it. You find a way. You keep going.

But then you start to see them. When you’re locked up and you know they couldn’t have got in on their own and you know it can’t be real, but they are still there, you just know they are there. A shadow on your wall or a face in the letters on the page. Those long dead. Other versions of yourself. Half-faces that don’t match with their body. And they blame you. They all blame you. And you can’t stop them. You can’t hurt them. You can’t kill them. Not again. Nothing you try works. But I guess nothing ever makes sense in dreams.

Not even when you’re awake.

Originally published on Tumblr