The Little Black Box…

13 Jan


Rebecca watched her father walked through the double door without looking back at her.  Her mother and husband were making a fuss over how she had been upset with the miscarriages and talking of killing herself.  She looked at her arm, the rubber tubing, the syringe, and felt the numbness that caused her to feel heavy, weightless at the same time.  Her vision blurring, the fleur-de-lis wallpaper in her mother’s living room became waves of beige and gold swaying in an invisible breeze.  The reason she was there dissolved into an ocean of oblivion.

When Rebecca began to regain her senses, she was lying on an examining table in a Shelby County Tennessee Medical Clinic, she recognized the doctor who had given her a shot at her mother’s place.  Standing in the corner of the room were her mother, husband and two sheriff deputies.  This time Rebecca did not protest when the doctor gave her another shot of his magic that sent her to a place where she no longer cared.  The wheelchair bumped over each crack in the sidewalk, each feeling as if she was falling into a crater.  The doctor and nurse put her in the back of a squad car as her mother began to tell Rebecca’s husband that his wife would never leave him.  She leans far into the back seat, and in her own heartless way said in a low evil voice.

“You see what happens when you try to disgrace me, putting you away for being insane will be more acceptable than have you leave your husband.  You’re a southerner for god sake, southerners don’t leave their husbands”

Her body quivering beneath the threadbare blanket as Rebecca fought violently against the straps confining her to a bed, her mind battled with drugged hallucinations; when she slept, they became chaotic dreams.  In the end she always gave in, lie quietly watching the unwanted souls shuffle back and forth in the dimly lit hallway.   Rebecca knew of Challis Manor, at the edge of the Appalachian foothills it provided medical treatments for the mentally ill, a place where wealthy Tennesseans paid to have members of their families placed to avoid embarrassment; Rebecca was not there because she had a mental or physical problem, it was 1959 she was there because she tried to leave her husband.

Rebecca struggled in the confusion, she had already undergone several shock treatments, and it had not taken away her need to be free.  She fought confinement, she fought treatments and she wanted her father to come and take her away.

A nurse brought Rebecca two small pills, it was extra medication and it could mean only one thing, it was time for another treatment.  They put her on a gurney and placed her in the hallway outside her room.  She could not stop her mind as it suspended itself between reality and the delusional.  Should she doubt herself, she examined the redness of her wrist made by her constantly fighting the heavy leather straps causing deep cuts.  Finally, Rebecca’s involuntary thrashing turned into calmness.

Rebecca’s mind seemed frozen in time and her body was controlled, but they could not free her of the madness of her confused memories.  She would drift for what seem like hours in hopelessness, her flesh burning, she wondered if she would ever escape her anguished nightmares of her childhood, her marriage, her life.


“Daddy I’m afraid.”

“Daddy, are you there?”

Rebecca’s visions clung to her like the sweat that gathered and rolled down her face; she remembers a little girl riding with her daddy on the back of a fine Tennessee walking horse in an open field.  She felt someone pick up her hand, turning it was another white clad figure, the gurney was moving, and then stopped.  A glass syringe glittered in the semi-lit room; it was more medication to help them imprison her mind.

“Daddy, daddy are you there, I’m afraid.”

Rebecca knew about the small room designed for suffering; the plastered walls had cracks that snaked toward the ceiling like vines in winter.  She tried to open her eyes but the glare from the lights blinded her.  The room filled with people, nurses, doctors; one saying shock treatment again might be risky; somewhere in the distance, Rebecca could hear her mother’s voice fervently auguring with someone.  She could picture her mother’s face contorted with anger; her mother preferred a lunatic in the family instead of a divorced daughter.

White flecks began to explode behind the lids of Rebecca’s closed eyes.  Her arms and legs strain against the leather straps as convulsions, a reaction from the drug that raced through her body.  She opened her eyes and watched as the blood coming from her bound wrist spread across her pale flesh leaving a crimson trail down to the sheet.   She drifted among abysmal visions of pain and humiliation; traveling into a realm of kaleidoscopic dreams when she heard her mother say…

“I am paying you people enough to take risk, I signed a waiver, and I will be responsible for anything that happens.”

Rebecca opened her eyes and looked at the mirrored window across from her; she knew behind it stood her mother, and husband.  The poignant smell of antiseptic became heavy in the air.  Rebecca felt herself losing control of her thoughts, her body; she could feel her eyes as if on a mission of their own dart back and forth taking in the limited boundaries of the small treatment room, a surge of electricity violated her body, her mind, and her senses.  A nurse had put a wooden paddle between her teeth; the electrical current coursed deeply into her brain.  If she woke, she would try to remember how she got into the asylum and who she was before she married the man her mother had chosen for her.

Rebecca’s eyes opened and were oblivious of the intense light invading her enlarged pupils; she tried to focus on a large mirror above her.  In its reflection was that of a young girl lying on a small narrow bed, leather straps on her arms, legs and across her chest, her skin had the bluish tint of death; her body emancipated, her hollow raven eyes seem more animal than human.  Then the lights became soft, a white garment of serenity blanketed the young girl.  Rebecca closed her eyes then opened them for one last look looked; she knew that she and the young girl were the same and would soon be free; she smiled.


It was just a small black electrical box sitting on a chipped white enamel table, nineteen-year-old Rebecca her eyes now dark stagnant pools.  Before they wheeled her from the room she closed her eyes for the last time, she had firsthand knowledge of the power of the little black box!  It altered minds, made people submissive; her mother and her husband would no longer have to worry about being embarrassed, there would be no a divorce in the family, she would miss her daddy.  Rebecca knew that her mother and money controlled “the black box”!

Rebecca smiled; no one noticed that the innocent young girl had just taken her last breath!



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4 responses to “The Little Black Box…

  1. jackcollier7

    January 13, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    sad, poignant, brutal, brilliant

    Liked by 1 person

  2. derrickjknight

    January 14, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Beautifully and insightfully written. As late as the 1980s, as a Social Work consultant, I helped residential staff caring for an elderly woman who had been released from psychiatric hospital having spent her life there as an unmarried mother, or ‘moral defective’.

    Liked by 1 person

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