Madness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Madness is something we obtain rather than something we are born with. It has a versatile smile but a monotonous expression that creases the face until it scars into the film of our past. With its paradoxical qualities and ever-changing appearance, madness is illusive to the naked eye. But becomes clear when one looks closely.

Submitted: September 29, 2013

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Submitted: September 29, 2013

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Madness

The world looks different at night; everything looks hidden – shrouded in secrets and mystery. I stopped and kneeled down to try and tie up the fraying laces on my tennis shoes. The world seemed safer at night. I walked through the small track towards Home.

A rabbit scattered across the lane in front of me but I didn’t jump, I didn’t even flinch. If you spend enough time in a particular place your mind adjusts to the dangers of that place and reacts appropriately. So when the rabbit scattered across the track I didn’t react.

Nathan sat on the thin step ladder that he had crafted out of the thick oak of the tree when I was younger. I walked over to him and kicked out my foot to shift my already undone laces.

“You don’t remember?” he asked. I frowned at him.

“Remember what Nate?” I replied. Nathan shook his head and slid off the step he was perched on.

“Never mind,” he replied solemnly and looked down at my shoe. “You have to twirl them if they fray, otherwise you’ll tie a massive knot in your shoe,” he told me and I knelt down.

I twisted and turned the laces in to a small, tight bow. I looked down at my brother’s knotted laces. He was always too scared of feet to tie them. I had tied those gorgeous monstrosities when I was four.

I stood and looked at his chestnut hair. It easily complemented his hazel eyes and made his face seem almost appealing. I had the same hair – longer obviously, but with ice blue eyes. That’s what Nate tells me anyway.

“All done?” he asked. I looked down at the neat bows and smiled.

“Yes, I’m hungry,” I said to him. Nathan sighed and turned back towards the small hut built in between two split oak trees.

“What do you do when you’re hungry?” he asked me and turned around. I raised an eyebrow.

“You find food,” I answered. He raised his eyebrow to match mine. “Yes, I know but can you get it for me?” I begged him. Nathan shook his head.

“You have to learn to find it for yourself, you have to learn to survive by yourself,” he answered. I huffed and walked away towards a bush to look for wild onions. He was right though, I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

***

A bird cackled above me and I looked up to see the red and orange bird perched on a branch on the tree above me. It was pretty but that wasn’t what I was looking at. Nate sat on the branch above me with his legs swinging over the edge. The bird sat calmly beside him.

“What sort of bird is this, Cassie?” he called down. I began to swing myself up the tree.

“A Ryber,” I replied.

“Right and what can you get from a Ryber?” Nathan replied. I stopped climbing and looked up at him.

“Eggs,” I said sadly. I didn’t like taking birds eggs, they made me sad because they are its children. It has no one else.

“You know you have to do this to survive,” he called down to me softly. I put my head down and kept climbing the tree until I was on the same branch as Nate and the small bird.

“I don’t want to, Nate,” I started to cry. He frowned and crossed his arms over my chest.

“Do it, Cassie,” he replied sternly.

I sobbed and reached under the bird to pull out the hibernating eggs. I held three small pink eggs in my hand and creased my face into an upside down arc.

“Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to if we want to survive,” Nate explained. I frowned at him and swivelled on the branch to hold my shoe in his face. Nate toppled backwards off the branch and clung onto the bark next to the Ryber. I clasped the eggs in my hand and made my way down the tree.

“You’re a hympocrit!” I struggled with the word. He had called me it before but I wasn’t quite sure how to say it. It sounded right. When I reached the bottom I slipped the eggs softly into my pants pocket and ran away from my brother.

***

Nathan was almost double my height at this point. We scratched it into the tree to the left of our hut every birthday. On the other side of the tree we had our birthdays scratched into the bark. Nathan’s was +55 days and mine was +150. Below were hundreds of neat scratches, one after the other.

There were two boxes and each 365 days we drew new ones. In each box we marked out the days of the year. When Nate’s got to 55 strokes it was his birthday, and when mine got to 150 it was my birthday. Nate said something about my birthday being on the 30th of May but I didn’t know what he was talking about. He looked sad when he said it. He then said that his was on the 24th of February. I like the word February, it rolls off my tongue.

I asked Nate how tall he was and he just said:

“One-eighty,” but didn’t explain it. So I asked how tall I was and he said “One,” but didn’t explain that either. So I asked him.

“One what?” I asked.

“One metre,” he replied. That was the end of the conversation.

My brother is always telling me to watch, listen and learn from what he does, but when I ask him questions about the things he does, he doesn’t really explain them. I, for one, have no idea what a metre is, or February or May. All I know is that I have six boxes and Nathan has thirty-two.

***

I watched from the tree I had climbed looking for food. Nate was sitting on the step as usual and the uniformed men held a stick at his head. Nate seemed to fall backwards and a loud bang went off. But I didn’t react because that bang was familiar now. Because I see this scene at least once every day.

I had grown used to my environment, adapted to familiar objects, scenes and sounds and learnt to keep quiet when the uniforms came and to keep still on the Ryber branch. I have learnt to live on my own.

The uniforms walked away and Nathan stayed fallen back on the steps. I was scared, but I wasn’t sure why, and I was crying, but I wasn’t sure why. And I couldn’t forget this day, but I wasn’t sure why. I climbed down the tree and walked over to Nathan.

“Just remember, Cassie, just remember and let go,” Nate whispered to me. And then he left. Just like he left a year ago. His body was fading to rotting bones now and I saw his short chestnut hair fall away. I twisted my hands together and felt the tears cascade down my face.

“Nate, I’m scared,” I whispered to the scattered bones that had spread across the floor now. I closed my eyes and opened them only to still see the bones. “Nate, come back,” I whispered.

***

“Do you think she has figured it out yet?” the first doctor asked the second.

“She is too savage to know,” the second doctor replied. They both turned their heads slightly and watched the small six-year old stare back at them with an ominous smile cascaded across her face.

Cassie knew. Cassie remembers.

***

Madness is something we obtain rather than something we are born with. It has a versatile smile but a monotonous expression that creases the face until it scars into the film of our past. With its paradoxical qualities and ever-changing appearance, madness is illusive to the naked eye. But becomes clear when one looks closely.

If one were to look close enough they would see that . . .

We’re all mad here


© Copyright 2018 Rose Burg. All rights reserved.

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