by Tricia Windowmaker
Mira had only been in the group for a week. Ever since her diagnosis and failed surgery, she had been struggling with depression, as if cancer hadn’t been disease enough for her. Her psychiatrist, Doctor Lowry, recommended she try the center’s new art therapy program to help boost her mood. She’d never been an artist, but she thought, “Why not?” Better paint and pencils over another pill to swallow.
She randomly sketched while the class listened to Bach for inspiration. When the music stopped, and she finally took care to look at her drawing, its contents frightened her. “Could something that dark really come out of me?” she whispered to herself.
The picture looked as if it had begun as a flower, which was what she intended, but the flower looked more like a demon. Mira laughed at the idea. It was silly. But it was as if the daisy moved on the page, had eyes hidden inside the pollen, and its leaves were blades. Mira ripped the sketch up before her psychiatrist could see it. Either her drawing really was of a happy flower and she was so depressed she saw only gloom, or she had drawn something so disturbing it could push her psychiatrist to recommend a longer stay.
“Why did you tear it up?” asked the woman beside her.
Mira was sure she should know the woman’s name, but could not recall it. The woman noticed and added, “I’m Janet, but I don’t expect you to remember. I can’t for the life of me remember yours.”
Mira smiled. Janet was a stout woman, older than her by ten or so years, with grey in her hair, laugh lines, and crow feet. She envied Janet’s extra years of life. “I’m Mira, and I didn’t like what it said about me.”
“Hell, I hate everything I do. Always seems to come out strange to me, but I’m no artist so what do I know.”
“Strange, how so?” Mira asked.
“You know, bizarre, eerie, pick your synonym, but strange is my word for it.”
“Does it seem dark?” Mira shrugged. “Yellow doesn’t seem cheerful on the page to me.”
“Yellow is the new black in this place. They call me crazy for it.” Janet sighed. “Guess that’s why I’m here.”
“Me too,” Mira added. She considered that maybe it was the depression that made her see a dark flower, a demon flower. All the women here must be suffering from some kind of misery. That could explain why nothing is seen as cheerful but rather, as Janet named it, strange.
Mira sat in the art room with these same women for weeks, their easels set up in an expanding circle. She made sure to always sit by the big bay window where she could see the giant oak trees as well as the farm land out past the institution’s property line. The medical facility felt more like a nursing home with its resonating eeriness from the taint of forthcoming death. But from the outside it had the appearance of an old Victorian style estate house.
Sunlight shined in at certain angles when the clouds parted and would hit Mira’s sketch pad or blank canvas. It was the light that penetrated the darkness she felt around her.
The darkness from a broken family. The darkness from the daisy.
Mira rubbed her temples, a headache forming. She took a deep breath in and lifted her gaze, catching a glimpse of a billow around Janet. It swarmed and obscured her, a manifestation of a smoke from a fire.
Mira realized she’d seen this darkness on the page before, many times. But this was the first she’d seen of it, in its purest form, exposed, tangible. Tingles were sent up her spine and she felt them linger on her neck. Goose bumps traveled the length of her arm, and she began to shiver with fear.
It was just a daisy. Just a daisy crying evil…