Fiction logo

The Psych Intern

Blame it on exhaustion

By Claudia NeavesPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 8 min read
The Psych Intern
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The psych intern is a mouse with silver blonde hair and large eyes obscured by glasses. She shakes constantly. She shakes during morning report, shakes over the keys of her computer, shakes as she brings her Styrofoam cup to her pencil thin lips. Her voice trembles, sputtering over her ink smudged notes. She isn’t unkind—not that any of us have interacted with her enough to determine her kindness. I don’t know what it is that bothers me so much about her. It must be the shaking.

In the early mornings, we huddle in the workroom. The hospital is drowsy quiet, but the workroom is always bustling, even at dawn. The night shift defends their admissions to the grumbling day team. The coffee pot switches on, percolates its bitter revelry. Sign out is always an irritable affair, but when the night shift escapes to sleep their day away, the call bells start ringing and the nurse crackle over the pagers. The Orchard Medical Center awakens, summer sunlight filtering through pristine glass windows, and still, a chill runs down my spine when I see her shivering in her lab coat down the hall. The psych intern. The mouse.

“What are you still doing here?” asks Fitz at lunch. He is leaned back in his chair, loafers on the table, and tossing a stress ball at the ceiling so that it disrupts the tiles before plummeting back into his meaty hands. He is a football player with a stethoscope. He is another I would just love to hate, but he is brilliant, and even better, throws wild resident parties. The psych intern pauses, like a gazelle who has been spotted by a lion, then looks up at him. “The emergency room is bringing up an overdose. I was asked to evaluate.”

“Nice, nice,” intones Fitz, not quite tearing himself yet from his riveting game of ceiling ball catch. “What’d he OD on?”

“Shoe polish.”

I nearly spit out my coffee. It isn’t uncommon by any means, but it can be funny in a dark hospital humor sort of way. Fitz too is laughing, but the psych intern doesn’t crack so much as a smile.

“For what?” he shrieks. “To hallucinate?” She nods.

“That’s what we need in here, Kate,” he says to me. I roll my eyes from behind my computer screen. I’ve put in orders twice and the system has kicked me out both times. A glass of wine, a bubble bath, hell even a wild hallucination sounds like a welcome escape right now.

“Hallucinate we’re in a magic rainbow world full of unicorns? I’ll take it.”

“Hallucinate you actually have a personality, maybe,” he jokes. It stings a little. It’s his favorite retort, especially at parties, handing me drinks and mock rubbing the tension from my shoulders.

“Loosen up, doc, gain a personality.” I shrug it off though, and plump out my bottom lip.

“I hope you drop your ball.”

We both erupt into laughter. We are stopped short when the psych intern squeaks at us:

“I wouldn’t joke about hallucinating.”

We quiet then. Our conversation is considered “bad form.” I think Fitz might mansplain dark humor to her, but he tucks his stress ball into his pocket and nods solemnly.

“You are right. We’re sorry,” he says for both of us. “I mean clearly this patient is desperate and needs our help to be huffing shoe polish like that.” His face is somber. He is a good physician, after all. “Any side effects?”

I can’t explain what happens next. Not completely. The mood shifts. From joking, to apologetic, to this strange swirling spell she has cast on us. We turn our faces to her, ready to drink in whatever she has to say. Suddenly, I am captivated by her halo of silver blonde.

“Oh yes,” she whispers grimly, pushing her glasses up the slope of her nose. “Several.”


“Wasn’t that weird?” I say to Fitz after work. My feet are in his lap. He uses one hand to adjust the volume on the televised football game, the other working slow circles into my heel with his thumb.

“Hmmm?” The spiral of the football is reflected in his eyes.

“Seriously,” I tell him. “I felt like the air was sucked out of the room when she spoke.” One of the teams touch down. Fitz swears, grabs his phone, starts tapping a message to a buddy.


“That psych intern,” I nudge him with a foot. He doesn’t look up from his phone.


He doesn’t miss me when I pad across his apartment, grab my keys, and drive home.


Shaky mouse is already seated in the workroom, knees, drawn up to her chest, steam billowing from her cup into her face and fogging her glasses. She doesn’t look up when I enter and turn on the coffee pot.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I decide to tell her. She makes eyes at me over her white out glasses but doesn’t respond. “It’s not cool to make fun of patients.”

“Ok,” she says. I am taken aback. She is much more receptive when Fitz is in the room. I remember it’s his day off and cringe inwardly.

“Yeah,” I say, leaning against the work space countertop because the silence is make me uncomfortable. I point to the coffee pot, just now brewing, and to her cup. “Did you bring coffee from home? You’re welcome to the stuff here. Although, I think they have a cappuccino machine on Peach,” I continue, referencing the pediatric floor here at Orchard.

She cuts me off. “No,” she says quickly. “It is hot water.” She looks up at me, wild eyes for some reason I can’t place, an abrupt warning. “The hospital coffee is dirt.” I watch her leave, startled again by the sudden shift in mood. The door clicks closed, leaving me alone with the pot. I shiver again, finding myself weirded out again by the strange girl and her near-cryptic ways. The pot finishes its rhythmic drip and I pour my mug, letting it cool as I log onto my computer. The night team enters and start to fill me in on the new admission. Chest pain, always chest pain. I fight an eye roll and take a sip of my coffee.

My mouth fills with ash and dust. Horrified, I grab the mug, ready to spit the vile liquid and find it filled to the brim with a black, tarry mud, sticky, popping putrid bubbles at the top, and stinking of sulfur. I retch—the other residents don’t seem to notice, just monotonously run through the sign out list—feeling my throat constrict and my vision go hazy. I can’t spit it out. My leaden tongue won’t let me. Fearing I’ll choke and turn blue right here in the workroom, I force myself to swallow. It slips down like an earthworm, wriggling, writhing, alive all the way down.

No one notices. They file out, leaving me alone. The psych intern’s words toll an eerie alarm in my head.

The hospital coffee is dirt. I don’t have time to rinse my mouth out or process what happened. I make my rounds, call down to Peach for an adolescent consult, race down to Apple for a few bites at lunch. I spend most of my break picking through my sandwich, waiting for a tomato to ooze blood or my turkey to turn to maggots. The psych team pages me while I’m eating, and in a fit of frustration, I turn the thing off. What if it’s her? I can’t see her now, not with my skin still pickled with the sensation of choking, the toxins hot in my throat. I throw the sandwich away and make my way back up to my floor. Doctors pass me in the hall, asking if I’m ok. I smile, nod, but keep moving.

When I reach Pear, the Orchard’s special name for the medicine floor, I pause at the mural behind the nursing station. There are no nurses at the desk, not even watching the telemetry, and the screens beep for attention. I take a breath, and admire the mural.

Painted by the hospital admin’s wife, each floor is adorned with the trees that bear that floor’s name. The Pear tree mural is my favorite especially; each hand painted yellow fruit is inscribed with an encouraging message. Today, I need the words of affirmation.




The last message makes me freeze, lean closer, such that my nose is nearly touching the gilded wall. We are watching you. It could just be a creepily worded encouragement, but the events of the week have me so on edge I find myself breaking into a clammy sweat. I scan over the other pears, breathing coming in short gasps.




I spin on my heel, ready to scream, to run, to fight whatever strangeness is lurking among the Orchard. Fitz is there, casual, collected, leaning against the nurse’s station like he had been there the whole time. He throws up his hands.

“Whoa, whoa, where’s the fire?” he asks, and when he sees the fear on my face he pulls me into a hug. His arms bring me back to earth. I close my eyes and breathe in his scent.

“Come here, let’s talk,” he murmurs, pulling me by the hand. We enter a patient’s room, bleached and mercifully empty. He sits on the bed, crosses his arms over his chest and regards me for a moment. “What’s happening?’ he says finally.

His presence is calming, sobering even. I shrug, feeling ridiculous.

“I’m just exhausted,” I tell him. “Delirious even, or hallucinate—” the word sticks—“Whatever.” He opens his arms for an embrace again. I go to him tentatively. A bed, even a patient’s bed, is uncharted territory for us. But I settle into his arms. His breath on my hair is intoxicatingly lovely. He shuffles, moving so that my body is between his knees. His hands run up the length of my arms. When he kisses me, his lips are thrilling, electric shocks of pleasure. I am hungry for more. I use the palm of my hand on his chest to push him further onto the pristine white sheets. He opens his mouth and I think he might whisper something when a corpse-like rattle passes through his lips:

“Run, Kate, run.” His face is twisted into a wicked smile, his hands on my arms are vice-like talons, and where his handsome blue eyes used to be, there are only pools of fire. I fight against him, trying to hold in a scream. When I break free, I run. Past the pear tree, past the shocked nurses at the station. I have nowhere to go, I can’t leave, I can’t quit, I can’t stop my heart from beating like this. The door to the workroom is open. I race inside, shaking, trembling, shivering as I fumble with the lock to close the door behind me. I turn.

She is there, silver tresses hanging in a ghostly veil around her pinched face.

“You!” I hiss, my voice mounting to a feverish pitch. “What have you done to me?”

I am panting as she shuffles her papers into an orderly stack. She stands, and I balk, leaning against the now locked door like I can melt into it. There is nowhere to hide as she glides over to me, a spectral being, like Fitz, like the coffee turned ash in my mouth.

“What did you do?” I say again and when she wraps her long white fingers around my wrist, my stomach heaves with repulsion. “Oh,” she squeaks. I think I might actually be sick when she leans in, too close, much too close. In a fit of clarity, I notice her eyes look sad when she whispers to me:

“So you see them too?”


About the Creator

Claudia Neaves

Mother, Soldier, Physician, Reader, and Writer

If you like me on the page, you may enjoy a more immersive listening experience. Catch my episodes, Destinations and Beyond a Shadow on Full Body Chillls by Audiochuck

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Claudia NeavesWritten by Claudia Neaves

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.