The Dead House - Dawn Kurtagich


I curse anyone who reads this book.

If you touch it, hell will be waiting.

Screw you. Happy reading.

Diary of Kaitlyn Johnson

Sunday, 29 August 2004, 12:24 am

Claydon Mental Hospital, Somerset

I am myself again.

Carly has disappeared into the umbra, and I am alone. Ink on my fingers—she’s been writing in the Message Book.

Good night, sis! she writes. We’ll be back at school soon. I can’t wait!

I wouldn’t have done this diary thing, except Carly thought it was a good idea too. See, Dr. Lansing thinks that getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper will allow me to be free of them. She gave us both a journal with lock and key, and the instruction to “be honest and whole.” Mine is black (ha ha), and Carly’s is green. I’d like to think mine is black because it’s Lansing’s impression of my nature—solid, unchanging, hidden—but really I think she chose it because black’s not a color.

You see, Diary… Dr. Lansing is convinced I’m not really here.

I’m not the diary sort, but if I’m going to record my life, I’m going to do it thoroughly. Honesty, honesty, honesty. Yes? Lansing can’t tell me I don’t really exist—product of trauma and all that—when my thoughts and feelings are as real as Carly’s.

I am real.

I exist.

They won’t kill me send me away.

Message Book Entry

Monday, 30 August 2004, 4pm

Kaitie, do you realize that we might never be coming back to Claydon Hospital after this year? Our LAST YEAR at school! Do you realize that? So close! We’re so close! We just have to keep going. We just have to stick to it. All the lying will end as soon as we’re free.

Okay, breakdown in case she tests you tonight:

Breakfast: 2 tablespoons of shredded wheat with skimmed milk

Lunch: Skipped (sorry)

Supper: Tuna sandwich, half a bit less than half

I love you, Kaybear. Please let us sit rest tonight. No breaking the rules. I really need to feel top-notch tomorrow.



Diary of Kaitlyn Johnson

Tuesday, 31 August 2004, 2:14 am

Claydon Mental Hospital

A crow caws outside my window each night. I can never see him, but I know he sees me.

Elmbridge High School looms before me like some awful miasma—we return for our final school year in a few short hours! Our progress has been “admirable.” What that really means is that Carly is eating again and that I haven’t done anything “potentially self-harming” in weeks. Dr. Lansing thinks she did that, but it was always Carly. What it boils down to is a series of carefully planned and executed lies.

Everything is timed. Everything is coordinated. Everything is rehearsed.

Carly and I pretend to be recovering from a sickness we don’t have. But when no one will believe you, you become the liar they think you are.

We work the system.

After our parents died, they sent us to Claydon. I can barely write the words without flinching. Without the deepest dread sliding over me like freezing water. Claydon is what you’d call a live-in nuthouse—excuse me, “psychiatric facility”—for troubled teens. Really it’s a place for embarrassed parents to hide away their mistakes.

Carly isn’t the mistake, though. I am.

We were fifteen and orphans and wards of Her Majesty. Wards of the social care system. In 2003, from January to September, they watched us, because they thought Carly might try to off herself. When it became obvious she was mostly fine, they went looking for a school. I guess Elmbridge High School won because it has a boarding facility. That was last year. We were sent back here for the summer. Until we turn eighteen (count: 274 nights), we’re their problem. All the other Elmbridge High pupils go home to their families, but we don’t have one of those anymore.

Elmbridge is definitely a step up from Claydon, but it’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate City of Gold is the sweet haze of urban cityscape light pollution, that rot scent of rubbish gone sour, and the endless living night that is London.


Where the night is vivid with noise, people, and anonymity—where the depraved live hand in hand with the righteous. London is awake all night. London is somewhere I can disappear. Or not. As I choose. I can find some kind of life.

Elmbridge is the gateway; Dr. Lansing is the gatekeeper.

Anyway—what else matters except that Elmbridge isn’t Claydon? Because anywhere outside of Claydon pretty much takes the cake; a sewer in hell would be a step up. Anywhere that freedom is an option is automatically better than being locked behind a pristine white door, forgotten in