I’m mesmerized by a giant brain almost completely filling the black space around me. I can’t see much past its pink mass, its parts are weaving together so large they look like a pink palace maze. My eyes are lost in the flesh, they follow its grooves trying to spot the beginning and the end. I can find neither but I do notice lines that do not belong to a brain. A vertical rectangle is etched into the flesh. I think it may be a door but I see no handle. Even a door on a giant brain needs a handle. How would I open it? I just keep watching the brain, admiring it…what a lovely brain.
I feel the urge to touch it. I think it will feel good to touch it. I walk towards the brain and as I get closer it’s grooves loom overhead, they look like the discarded intestines of giants. I stand before the brain and raise my hand in front of the door shape. I feel vibrations pass through my palm, shooting through my body and up into my own brain. The vibrations sing in my mind with a hundred different voices, starting louder and then fading away.
‘Mind your mind. Mind your mind. Mind your mind…’ They sing, not in unison, there are so many voices, they sound like echos dancing around in my mind.
I bring my hand so close I can feel moisture, a brain cloud tickling my hand. The voices intensify, getting faster and louder.
I take a breath and place my hand on the brain. The voices stop. The brain feels clammy under my palm, it does not feel good like I thought it would. It’s making my mind feel weird. I can’t place it but I feel something is wrong with the brain. I try to pull my hand away but the brain holds on, I can’t move. I don’t want to touch it anymore, something is wrong with it.
I see mould beginning to line the edge of my trapped hand. At first just small growths, a tiny forest spreading along the flesh, but then more begin to spread across the brain. I hear it sprouting through the flesh, all around the brain, my hand the epicentre of the rott. I start screaming, I grab my trapped hand with my other and use all my weight to try to release it, but it’s no good, the brain has my hand as a prisoner. The mould is spreading from my hand now and covering the brain. Soon it no longer looks like a brain, it looks like an aged palace maze. The mould surrounding my hand begins to age further and fragment away. Small ashen lumps detach and float away from the brain. Gradually all the mould within the rectangle disintegrates releasing my hand and leaving a doorway to a galaxy in front of me.
I walk through the brain door and I float into the vast network of stars around me. I see something in the distance, I want to go to it but everything fades to black. I’m reaching out but my hand becomes engulfed in darkness as the stars start to fade away and go to sleep.
I open my eyes. Everything is blurry. It’s strangely silent. I turn my head along the room. I look from wall to door, everything is in its right place, except the door, which is slightly open. That makes the silence stranger. I look from my door to my window, everything looks right, until my eyes reach the window.
A small thing, on the edge of my windowsill, it’s slightly covered by my gold embroidered curtains. I raise my hand to block the sunlight and flinch. It’s the witch’s cat. It sits there tending to its long white coat. I make a noise towards it and it darts its evil yellow eyes towards me.
‘Prrrrince.’ It purrs.
It slinks off my windowsill, landing without a sound on my marble floor. It saunters through the door while piercing me with its evil eyes. I crawl to the back of my bed, clutching my gold satin sheets. I’m fairly certain the witch has been here and she has taken everyone away. Next she’s going to try to take my mind and make me go insane.
I’ve heard what she’s done to princes far and wide, she doesn’t ever kill them, she makes them lose their minds.
I’m certain she is watching through the slits in her familiar’s yellow eyes. I need to kill it and escape, more likely unwatched, to somewhere safe. This palace may only have one floor, but it’s incredibly large, hopefully, I can get some poison from the sorcerer’s quarter and find the beastly thing fast enough.
I slowly open my bedroom door to peek down my entrance corridor. My eyes travel down the family portraits lit by chandeliers, the dark wooden floors, the deep cream wallpaper covered in twisting, damask patterns. Everything looks normal but I need to be cautious, the sorcerer’s quarters are on the left at the end. Anything could happen between my room and the quarters. I spotted the cat’s head sneak out from inside the sorcerer’s room. It stops, only its ugly head visible, glaring straight at me again.
‘It’s a lovely corridor. Prrrrrince.’
It’s still glaring at me as it slinks across the corridor. I watch it disappear, into the throne room, it’s dark shadow trailing. Arrogant cat. I’m nervous now but I take a step into the corridor. Immediately I feel like gravity has been turned up. My knees buckle and struggle under the weight. I watch as the chandeliers float sideways and out of sight. The wooden floor is coming towards me. Then everything is completely black.
Darkness and silence.
In the darkness all I can see is a purple, cloaked figure, lit in the distance by an invisible spotlight. They are facing away from me. I walk towards them and as I move closer I begin to hear soft crying.
‘Prince…I want… to..help.. you..prince.’
Their words escape between distant sobs. I step curiously forward, the folds in their purple cloak start to become visible, then I stop to listen.
‘I want… to..hold… your..mind… just let…me hold it…’
As I move closer, I recognise the sobbing voice. Of course, it’s her. She’s trying to trap my mind. Her figure continues to jerk up and down with sobbing. I storm forwards into the darkness, heart pounding with anger, to confront her. She senses me coming. I see her body go stiff, she stops crying, her voice now has a razor-sharp edge.
‘You’re not listening! Your mind is dying Prince. Let me keep it safe…’
I don’t let her finish. I grab her roughly by her purple shoulder and drag her around to face me. She looks familiar, she doesn’t look like an evil witch from fairytales. Although her face is very pale, her hair is jet black and her face is slightly angular, she doesn’t have a crooked nose, a single wrinkle, boil or zit. She looks beautiful.
Her purple gown falls away, revealing her pale nude body. She starts cackling loudly. The shock of her naked body makes me immobile and the witch takes advantage. She deftly grabs my hand from her neck and shoots up her other hand, slicing a long purple fingernail down my wrist. Blood starts pouring out of the wound. She grabs my bleeding wrist and pulls it roughly towards her breasts.
‘WITCH!’ She screams, drawing the letter W with my bloody wrist across her breasts.
I want to struggle but the shock keeps me immobile so I watch in horror. She pauses holding my wrist laughing. I try to pull my wrist away but she snaps it towards her face and licks it, leaving a trail of blood flowing down her chin.
‘WITCH!’ She screams, yanking my wrist in a straight line, down across her howling face.
She licks it again as it passes over her smiling, blood-covered mouth and reaches the bottom of her pale, blood crusted chin.
‘WITCH!’ I scream.
But the witch is gone. I don’t feel her hand on my wrist anymore. My eyes open and I see my wrist finishing a T across my cream corridor wall. I flinch my hand away, screaming loudly. I throw the bloody shard of glass in my other hand away and stare at the deep gash in my wrist, cradling it in my other bloody hand. I look around, all the pictures along the corridor are now destroyed and covered in blood. In their place is the word WITCH scrawled all over the corridor wall, in my own blood. I can feel bits of glass piercing me all over my body. I need to find something to kill her familiar and escape, before she catches my mind.
I’ve never been in the sorcerer’s quarters. The head mage told me an apprentice mage once sneaked in on his own to try an illegal spell and he ate all his toes thinking they were baby carrots. I know there are no fumes right now but the thought of eating my own toes makes me cup my face while I look around the room.
I had to have been asleep for longer than a night. Every cupboard I open gifts me with something nicely decaying. I was hoping for at least three sets of lassos but I’ve only found one. I don’t know if they will be enough to kill the cat. The lassos are solid sticks of small rope at the moment. Not hard enough to spear the cat and not nimble enough to strangle it. They need to be heated for a while.
I use the only cauldron without maggots and begin to heat the lassos. I pick up the magical poison. Inside there is a blue, strong smelling liquid that makes my head spin. Patiently, I add in the liquid and watch for a few minutes. In the first minute there is no movement but soon the mass of lassos start to wriggle and writhe violently with new life. I rush over to bring them a large pewter bowl and coax them gently inside.
‘Master of magical lassos, what shall we do?’ They squeal happily in unison, as they crawl into the bowl.
‘I want you to strangle the witch’s cat.’
They start to chant together, ‘Strangle the witch’s cat. Strangle witch’s cat. Where is it at? We will be happy to strangle the witch’s cat. Strangle it. Mangle it. Strangle the witch’s cat. Yes of course, for you master.’
‘Where is my mind?’ A voice whispers again from the back of my mind.
I grab the bowl and rush across the corridor towards the throne room before the witch invades my mind again. The door is ajar, I slowly push it open, cradling my chanting lassos. I look straight towards my throne. As I strangely intuited, the cat is curled up in the middle, a white mass, in the middle of my red satin throne. It’s head slowly rises.
‘Those lassos might kill rats but I am no rat, Prrrrince.’
I bring my hand, not losing eye contact, into my bowl of magical, chanting lassos. My hand is shaking but I am encouraged by the lassos’ supportive chants.
‘Yes, master. Yes, Prince. Strangle. Mangle the cat.’
I take a breath and throw a handful of lassos towards the cat. My aim is off so half of the lassos miss and crawl along the edges of the blood-red throne, they squirm around it looking and sounding like oversized, unhappy maggots. The others do not manage to get to the cat’s throat, they cannot penetrate its long white, bristling fur and instead remain disappointedly stuck and crawling along its neck.
The cat looks smugly towards me, dips its head and slurps away all of the lassos from across its body. I watch in shock and disappointment but then I am the one who starts to feel smug.
‘They are tastier than they are deadly.’ Hisses the cat.
It seems arrogant but then it begins to choke violently on the poison. I start laughing but then I realize I have an opening. I charge towards the choking cat, flinging all of the lassos towards it. The cat is now swamped, with raging lassos, but still it manages to clamber off the throne, lassos in tow, before I can annihilate it. I try to lunge for it but I end up landing on my throne chair.
I stay slumped, face cradling red satin, not turning to look after the cat, before pulling myself up to slouch into the throne. I feel so at peace in the throne that my body slumps further into the chair, so much it feels like it is starting to sink through the red velvet.
I feel like I should fight it, I’ve got a cat to kill, a mind to save, a witch to escape from, but I chose not to because it feels too good.
I take a deep breath and lean into the madness. The throne cradles me in return, holding me in place. The room begins to fade away, my eyelids flickering between the room and darkness. Soon they slow, the room a blink, the tiredness is winning, soon there is nothing but darkness around. I can’t feel my body so much now, just a strange feeling of waves where it should be.
A voice speaks softly through the darkness.
‘There’s too much pain here. You can float to distant lands, leave your body far behind.’
I see stars shyly start to flicker and glow around the darkness. They seem scared of me but they grow brave as I feel peace deepening and I begin to feel like I’m floating through space. Strange vibrations fill my insides, I can hear them and feel them all around. Not like sound, the sound of a feeling. Similar to the feeling of sensing someone is standing close behind or the person you like is looking your way. Spine tingling. The stars become braver and they fly around me, through me, with me.
I can’t tell if I’m moving or they are, or both.
The voice speaks again, ‘You don’t know you anymore. You don’t need your mind right now. Float here for a while, let me help you find your mind. Stay right here and travel safe and far. Where does your mind want to go?’
I think and my thoughts immediately come into existence. A sphere of water appears amongst the stars in the far distance. I think towards it and without either of us moving, the stars travel by bringing us closer. I gasp as I feel myself cross the watery membrane and become submerged in the centre of the watery sphere. I feel warmth surrounding me. The water around me casts a slowly vibrating, pastel-blue veil across the galaxy behind. I think to myself if the womb felt this good, I’m sad I left.
I stay curled up in my warm, watery space womb and begin to forget about the world. I stay there, at peace, suspended in space. Time seems like an imaginary concept, infinite, never-ending. I imagine a small golden clock with its hands moving and whirring past fast. The hands get faster and faster, until they become invisible and soundless. I watch as all the stars fly by me slowly and then, like the clock, they zoom past faster, until it looks like thousands of years of space are passing me by in beautiful streams of white, purple and yellow. I feel the vibration of my being, no happiness, no pain, something and nothing. I stay in peace, unmoving, ignoring that there is any other reality. I Close my eyes and I don’t feel where I am anymore.
Nowhere is bliss. I could stay nowhere.
But I start to feel a buzz. I feel deeply irritated. My womb is being invaded. I can feel the vibration of something close to me. Spine-buzzing. I frown and scrunch my eyes, I don’t want to look but the buzzing bothers me so I open my eyes and nearly choke on non-existent water.
The witch’s cat is glaring at me from the galaxy outside. Its head is the size of a baby meteor, looming in front of the galaxy, bloated by my sphere’s watery membrane. I feel like a goldfish in my granny’s little fishbowl. It moves its head while it glares at me and it’s left yellow eye balloons like a giant sun in hell. The cat moves closer and one of its paws moves towards my face. I see the paw coming towards me in slow-motion. Dread fills me.
I know that paw will break my reality. Paw touches cheek. Pop. The water splatters in hundreds of directions across the vast area of space. I stay in the centre, feeling cold and exposed, not taking a breath. Hoping, somehow, I can hold onto this world but everything bursts apart simultaneously. I start to see the stars fading and shooting away in all directions. The darkness starts to recede back into my throne room.
I struggle to focus my eyes and mind to the real world and realise the weight on my lap is the cat. Its evil head blurs into focus. It is still pawing my face. I want to be back in my space womb. I want to kill the cat.
I try to lunge for it but it screeches, jumps away and darts out of the room. I go to run after it but I have to steady myself. I can’t stand properly, my body has gone dead and my eyes hurt from the light. I must have been in my throne for a long time. I shudder, the witch will know I am close to killing her cat and she will try harder to pick out my fragile mind.
But I know where my mind is. My mind is here and she cannot take it away from me.
I pull myself towards the corridor and carefully walk across it, glass cracking under foot. The dining room door is slightly open so I peek in first, slightly pushing the door as I peek. I can hear the cat making low moans. I see the white and blue, lasso ridden cat sprawled across the table. The poison must have weakened it. I walk slowly towards the cat and sit on a chair across from it. I should feel pleased but as it looks over to me, it’s eyes don’t look evil at all. I feel like it’s yellow eyes are filled with suffering and sadness. Weirdly, I actually feel the urge to stroke it and cry.
I might not like the witch’s cat but it’s still a living thing and now it looks vulnerable. It isn’t even talking anymore, just making low moans.
I sit with it for several minutes, until its belly becomes completely still. I stare at the limp cat covered in lassos and blue poison. I don’t feel much anymore, I feel slightly dead. Deader than the cat. I sit and drop my head.
‘Where is your mind.’
I snap my head up. A whisper. It sounded like it was coming from the cat but the cat remains still. I lower my head closer to the cat.
‘I think my brain is mouldy.’
I recoil. A whisper again, it sounds like it is coming from inside the cat’s head. I stare at the cat’s head.
The cat’s paw moves up. I try to spring out of the chair but I can’t, I feel strapped in. I look for straps, there are no straps. The paw scrapes open the cat’s head, showing the edge of a pink-green brain. I keep struggling. I’m not passed out or asleep. I feel sick. The paw pulls away the rest of the surrounding head, making a slurping sound, easily, like it’s fresh pancake. Then I gag, the paw starts slowly, in delicate circles, stroking the stinking, rotting brain.
‘Try it Prrrrrinceee.’
I pass out before the dead cat can continue. I feel myself alone in the complete darkness again, I feel that I am sat and strapped down into a chair. I pull my arms and look down at them they’re strapped to the metal handles of the chair. Metal with leather straps, It looks like an asylum chair. My legs are tightly bound too. I try to swing the chair by struggling but it is chained down to the darkness, immovable, invisible chains holding it down. Her face appears again but this time she doesn’t look threatening or gleeful, she looks slightly sad.
‘Where is my mind?’
Her unhappy face morphs into the watery sphere and the scene from before is brought back to complete reality. The calm, watery sphere floating in the middle of endless space. Every star in the same place. All I have to do is call it with my thoughts and we’ll move back together. I can curl inside it, feel peace, forget my pain and forget myself. I want to call it so much.
‘Don’t you want to let go of your mind? Lose yourself? Go back to the beginning?’ Whispers the witch.
I look at the floating sphere throbbing in the middle of space and my anger boils. It’s mine. I know my mind. I scream. Long and loud, so loud all the stars stop moving and begin to shake and die with my piercing noise. They are shutting down like broken lamps all around me, many of them beginning to burst loudly.
‘Destroy that sphere and you’ll lose your mind. Then it will be mine.’ Spoke the witch.
I scream louder still, making the sphere shudder and fill with blood. I feel I need to scream louder with my mind to destroy it. I scream mentally with all the force I have inside me, I can feel the chair slightly struggling, even though held by powerful invisible chains. I feel I’m screaming so loud, if I was in space, all the planets and stars would smash like cheap ceramic. All the stars began to flicker violently, the pressure building up inside of them, making a high-pitched screaming sound to match my own. Then with a galaxy filling screech, everything silently bursts. I catch a glimpse of the sphere exploding in all directions, I feel the cold blood drench my body, whoosh as the blood drains into space, before everything goes back into darkness.
Darkness and silence.
‘I told you you’d lose your mind, Prince.’
In the middle of the darkness a spotlight turns on and faintly lights the space.
‘I haven’t lost my mind. It’s right here.’
Silence. The light intensifies.
‘Shall we open your head and see?’
‘I don’t want to..’
I feel my mouth gagged by an invisible force and I struggle as I watch the metal limbs of my asylum chair extend into living metal limbs. They make a teeth-grinding screech as they grow outwards. The spotlight follows their growth, making sure I won’t miss anything. They grow into a mass of metal tentacles, thinner and many at their ends. They begin crawling around aimlessly around the darkness, as if blind but looking for their prey.
‘Open his mind.’ whispers the witch.
The spotlight burns brightly and directly towards me, making their heads snap round with a metallic snap. Their heads all face me, frozen in the darkness, like a hundred, tiny metal daggers ready to launch.
‘Open his mind.’
The daggers dart towards my skull. I silently scream as I hear them metallically clattering and drilling around my skull, making incisions. I don’t feel pain but I feel the weight of my brain pulled out from behind my skull. The tentacles, delicately, cradle my freshly removed brain directly in front of my eyes. My brain in front of my eyes. Hot bile fills my mouth. I quickly clamp shut my eyes but then some other tentacles rush to behave like eye clamps forcing them open. I am forced to be a viewer as the tentacles slice a doorway into my brain.
The tentacles slowly and carefully open the door, immediately, images begin to fly from inside and scatter around, quickly filling the dark. Image files fly directly into my eyeballs and suddenly I am completely immersed in a film from inside my mind.
A brightly lit hospital room. Beeping and whirring of machines surrounds me. I can smell the sterility but I can also smell fish. I look down, my gloved hands are shaking violently and clutching scalpels. Below me is a fish on oxygen, split open, baring its guts.
‘We’re going to lose it Prince.’ Shouts her voice. The beeping gets louder. ‘You need to look in its mind, I think it’s going mouldy.’
I don’t want to open its mind but the film keeps playing. I can’t control this dream. My hands move forwards and I nervously cut at the fish head opening it up. Watery green liquid escapes from the gouge, filling my nose with the smell of rotten swamps.
‘Eat it Prince.’
I pull out the brain and my hands force the smelly mass into my mouth. I feel my teeth crush down on its soft mind and taste the bitter, rotten flavour. I can’t see the hospital room anymore instead I’m inside my own mouth now, watching the fish brain being broken apart, into small mushy chunks. I follow the chunks and my mind rides them, following them down my gagging throat. I can hear the sounds of my retching, they make the ride stormy. My insides are shaking us around as we travel down through my body.
‘It needs water Prince.’
I stop at a deep pink fleshy entrance. The fish parts float around me and bob around to the rhythm of my still retching body. I stare as the flesh opens up, like an anal theatre curtain, revealing a scenery destroyed by a tranquil, never-ending blood red sea.
The opening pulls me and the fish brain parts out into the blood sea. The fish brain slowly floats out into the crimson ocean before me, floating peacefully but then soon I see it beginning to rapidly reconnect itself. I soon notice it is not restructuring itself back into a fish, I realise with horror that it is reconnecting itself into a mushed-up looking fetus. It floats peacefully on the water, against a beautiful, blue sky horizon. I scream inside as the things head turns and smiles at me using a trail of mould.
‘Fish need water Prince. They can’t be born in blood silly.’
The thing starts laughing loudly, while opening up its mushed up head to reveal another larger, rotten brain. Still laughing, It points to its own brain and tickles it with a deformed finger, sending bits of brain and mould across the water and dripping down itself.
‘I think my mind is mouldy prince. Can you see? Taste it, it’s rotten.’ The thing laughs.
I don’t want to go through it again. Eating another brain. I fight with all my mind not to grab it and eat it.
‘Oh dear, you don’t want to? Well you better eat your own.’ It says.
I hear the sound of a plug being pulled. Suddenly all of the sea began to drain. The thing roughly shoves its brain more securely in and grabs my hand as we begin to follow the draining of the sea towards an underwater hole. It gives me a mouldy smile before pulling me down with the blood into the black hole.
I find myself sitting at a simple, wooden dining table. The fetus sat across from me head first, munching violently, in a bowl of raw fish. It lifts its head out to speak, chunks of fish dropping across the table below.
‘Where is your mind? Prince.’
It pulls its brain out again, displaying its mouldy insides. I keep staring at the mouldy brain. The mould is moving across the brain, like little termites. I find myself unable to stop staring at it.
‘Stop staring at mine. Where is yours?’
The fetus completely freezes in place, mid tickling its brain. Fish parts continue to fall down its face but it remains completely still. I stare for a few more minutes but the thing stays still.
I cautiously get up and take a look around the room, it’s drenched in blood but I faintly recognize it. I feel like I might have visited the room a long time ago, probably as a child.
It is no way as luxurious as my dining room, there is no gold, not even a touch of silver, the closest is the metal cutlery in front of me. The walls are a deep brown, the floor looks like fake wood. Almost, everything is plain and simple, boring. I notice there are only a few decorative items. A large wooden cabinet. I can see through the glass doors that it is filled with images and statues of white cats and a large purple chair facing a greatly embellished long mirror. I feel like the chair and mirror are out of place, they are not boring. They are too grand for the room. They’d be more suited in my own dining room, not in this sad place.
‘Sit and look at your brain.’ Whispers the fetus.
I turn but it remains still. I turn back and see a figure in the mirror moving slowly towards the chair and sitting down. I look in the mirror and I feel like the figure is me, same size and shape, but they are wearing plain and ordinary clothes. Their facial features keep morphing and transforming so I can’t identify with the face I am looking at.
I move my hands slowly upwards to touch my face and so does the figure. I touch my hair and so does the figure. I keep doing different things but nothing makes me feel like the figure is me so I sit in front of the mirror and just stare at it.
I begin to notice I can feel heat travelling all across my body, soon after gentle wisps of smoke start to rise up and make my eyes water. I try to jump out of the chair but I find my hands and legs are now bound with the same straps as the metal chair. I keep struggling, the heat is starting to increase. I look in the mirror again, everything is the same, apart from the figure has a mouth that is shaped like it is laughing. I look down across myself, my gown is on fire in several places, it’s beginning to burn and fall apart. I look in the mirror again, still everything is the same, apart from the figure sitting calmly stroking the witch’s cat. The heat is getting intense now. My hands are being cut by the straps. I feel myself screaming.
‘Eat your brain then.’ Whispers the fetus from behind.
The figure in the mirror, gently puts down the witch’s cat and pulls open his head to reveal a pink, ordinary brain. He gently plucks the brain out and stands up, walking slowly towards me. Flames are circling the space between us and dark smoke is filling the small room but the figure passes calmly through to my side of the mirror. The smoke and fire retract peacefully away, as he moves to bring the brain right in front of my eyes.
‘Eat your brain.’
I feel like I can smell my own flesh simmering now but I’ll burn before I eat that figure’s brain. The figure moves the brain closer to my face so it’s almost touching my nose.
‘Get it away, It’s not my brain!’
The figure morphs frowning eyebrows and I scream as it lunges for my head. I feel all the insides of my burning head being pulled out. A pile of what looks like rotten flesh is in his other hand now, it doesn’t even resemble a brain, it looks worse than the mould ridden ooze of both the fish and the baby. It is so decayed that it is dripping through his hands and I can smell it through the smoke.
‘Eat your brain.’
‘Neither of them are my brains!’
The figure cries and throws both brains hard against the burning floor and they explode into blood. I begin to cry, struggle and scream. My scream doesn’t end. I’m screaming through my eyeballs. Screaming through the fish covered fetus. Screaming through the walls. The entire room begins to crack and shake with my screams, blood streaming in through the cracks and down the screaming, brown walls. I scream at the pain of fire tearing through my legs. I scream harder and close my eyes to the nightmare and I feel myself becoming lost. Darkness. Screaming. More darkness and endless screaming, until I feel myself becoming nothing more, than a scream in the dark.
Zara paused in front of the bungalow, her eyes sore, her mind in pain. She thought back to the first time she stood in front of the bungalow.
Marc was holding her tight by her side, smiling. It never had and never would be anything fancy, just one bedroom, a small corridor and a few cramped rooms but it made them excited. They often joked ‘it’s a pile of shit but it’s our pile of shit.’ They laughed at how shit it was but they were happy anyway, at first.
She walked through the garden towards the door, now it was overgrown, covered with weeds and cat shit but back then it was beautiful with flowers she had spent hours tending to. She even made miniature fairytale people to sit, peacefully, beside the flowers.
She looked around and saw that most of these lay either broken or mouldy and rejected in the soil now. She reached the door and already she couldn’t stop crying again. She struggled to push the key into the door and found it even harder to make herself open it but, in the end, there came a soft click.
The smell hit her first before her brain could handle the madness, she screamed and turned away holding herself against the doorway to retch. For several minutes she stayed like this, unable to move or think properly. The scene was burnt into her mind, she didn’t feel ready to look again.
The wooden floor was covered in a mixture of ash, blood, glass, spaghetti and blue stuff; which she guessed from the smell was bleach. Mingled in with the muck was all the pictures of them together in the past. The corridor was the longest wall in the house and from the very first week they chose it as a place to show all their favourite memories.
In better times, when new guests came in they used to gush at their compliments and both love explaining the story behind any picture. The walls held no happy memories now, instead the word WITCH was scrawled all over the walls. Zara felt sick thinking it might be in blood.
Zara stayed leaning on the wall for a while longer, letting her mind race and hurt, then she took a breath and tried to calm her mind. Okay, it can’t get much worse. keep breathing Zara. Take a breath. Zara doubted this, she was set on facing the dining room first, where the fire was started.
She stood in the middle of the ashen room, staring, still crying, hypnotized by what was left of her cat. He always, always hated that cat. I thought it would give him company…How fucking stupid.
Then she started laughing and crying at the same time, softly at first but then she had to clutch on to the side of the table to balance herself. She slumped to the floor, tiredly laughing and crying. She went quiet after a while, head in arms, breathing slowly.
She started to think about the state the cat was in, it wasn’t just burnt, it had been torn apart and something missing, its br…Don’t think. Think about something else. She looked across the ashen room and remembered that it didn’t look much better before. They didn’t have much to make things look nice, the only thing decorative was a cabinet, which she filled with images of her cat and her cat sculptures. Marc wasn’t the biggest fan of it.
‘We have the stupid thing, why do you need a shrine to it? It’s still living.’ She remembered him pinching her sides and joking.
Sickly ironic. She didn’t fancy spending any longer in the ashen room. They never spent so much time in the room anyway, except to eat. It was an ugly, brown room and she couldn’t think of many pretty memories the fire had destroyed. It was the “throne” room that worried her, most of her memories of him good and bad were collected in the throne room.
Zara nervously pushed open the door and sighed in relief. Apart from a mass of bleach smelling spaghetti, the room was intact. She looked straight to the far corner of the room where the thrones should be.
His red throne was spaghetti ridden but hers was untouched. The purple was still a lovely, deep violet. She cried as she realized, unlike everything else in the room, it looked like it had actually been cleaned often. They were the only thing in the house that they spent real money on, they spent a lot of time in the “throne” room together so they felt like in their shit little bungalow, they should have somewhere to pretend to be grand.
Zara went to sit in her violet throne. She cried as she remembered them joking about being royalty in their corner together, laughing at the peasantry of the rest of the room. Zara was happy, she didn’t really care that it was just pretend and she knew Marc was satisfied at the start too but over the years she began to realize that somewhere inside was so set on being a grander person and having grander things for them.
It was only near the end she realized not succeeding would destroy him and she wouldn’t be enough to help him. It took her a long time to realize. He never, even until she left, showed his mind breaking.
At first because of bad ideas but then just bad luck, they kept failing miserably. It was getting harder to handle, Zara would sit in her throne and struggle but still manage to laugh it off. She felt the disappointment but she put up a membrane to the failure, it would not rot away her insides.
Marc responded differently, he began to withdraw from her and everything. She could tell he was trying to escape, she was losing him to somewhere else. He seemed so calm but she knew he was bottling up, trying to contain himself somewhere calm, trying to stop himself from exploding and falling into darkness but often his calm facade would break, especially if she tried to talk to him about it. She sat motionless, thinking to herself about the last time she had tried to talk to him.
It wasn’t raining at the time but it was a winter, sombre, a completely white skied day. She was staring at the trees outside, their skeletal silhouettes leaning against the lifeless sky. They sat together silent on their thrones. She’d turned to look towards him. She hoped he would lift his head from his silence and say something. She hoped he would smile but that never was a thing anymore.
‘Marc…please will you talk to me.’
‘What do you want to talk about?’
‘I don’t think you’re happy anymore.’
‘I’m happy.’ Marc said the words but his face remained blank.
‘Do you remember when we used to sit in these thrones and laugh at..’
‘It’s not funny anymore. We live in a shit hole. We’re going nowhere. Still all we have is these stupid chairs.’
She’d wanted to cry and strangle him. She pictured strangling him to death, while crying but she didn’t, she’d tried to stay calm.
‘You love these chairs… we have each other, we have a home…I know it would be nice to have more but a lot of happiness is being grateful for things. It’s not wrong to wish for more but don’t let it upset you when you don’t get it.’
‘You’re high on incense from that stupid meditation class. Why should you be happy? I’m a failure, I can’t give you anything.’
He still wasn’t looking at her. She’d tried to stay calm but she was human and lost it. She thought about how much she wished she hadn’t.
‘We’re a failure. Every time you fail or stumble I fail too. It hurts me. It’s hurting me right now. I am losing you and I’m trying to help you but you aren’t helping. We sit in these thrones together like old times but I feel like I’m sitting with a dying person. You don’t laugh…you don’t cry…you’re blank..like the sky outside, lifeless. You just sit quietly, dying inside and when I try to reach out to you…fuck…why can’t you just pull yourself together and get over our failures. They don’t matter. You’re ruining what we have. You’re hurting me.”
Marc didn’t move but she could see in his eyes something inside did. She remembered she had calmed down and then instantly felt guilty.
Zara felt another pang of regret as she thought about what she’d said. Pull yourself together…I was a witch right there. I can’t blame myself, I was just upset, I tried to help, I wanted to help but I just ended with saying exactly the wrong things. She dragged her nails across the arms of her throne.
She remembered after she’d said that they had then sat in silence. She’d started sobbing, a lonely echo, filling the silent room. But she had to break it, the guilt was killing her.
‘I’m sorry Marc…I’m losing it. I just want to see you happy again…I don’t know what to do…I know you think they’re stupid but we should go to the classes together or something else.. Maybe…you should apply for therapy, some real help. I’m trying, I’m trying so hard but I’m not helping you enough. We both need help.’
Marc still had pain in his eyes but he remained in his bubble.
‘I’m not crazy. I don’t need stupid classes. I don’t need therapy. I don’t help. I don’t need anything… I don’t think I need you.’
She was shocked at how calmly he said the last sentence. It had shot her in the chest. It felt like he’d crushed all of the air out of her. She felt unable to speak at the time.
She thought now about how he’d said I don’t “think” I need you. He wasn’t thinking properly. Really, deep inside, he felt he needed my help. He was playing with it out of anger and then felt he couldn’t take it back..
Zara looked towards his red, spaghetti covered throne. You could have taken it back. I wish so much you did.
She turned away and closed her eyes, forcing warm tears down her face. She remembered that she’d pulled herself out of her throne and kneeled crying on the floor below him but he had refused to even look towards her. She’d gently took hold of his hand, he didn’t pull it away but it stayed there not holding hers in return.
‘Please, Marc. It’s not impossible to be happy like that again. If it’s me that makes you unhappy…If you don’t want me…and you really do want me to leave you alone…then I will go…but I don’t think it’s me, I think it’s yourself…let me help.’
‘I know my mind, I’m fine. It’s you…I don’t want you. I want you to leave.’
So, heartbroken, she left.
She thought she’d just give him space. She didn’t plan on being gone for more than a day. She was certain he would change his mind but she was wrong, he wouldn’t answer to her when she tried to call or came to his door. She loved him still so she’d kept trying for such a long time, until it was killing her too, so she let go.
She thought back to the last time she tried. She was crying hysterically, frantically bashing every door and window she could, screaming out at him.
When finally he responded to her for the first time in months, by shouting out:
Zara, devastated and guilt ridden, finally went away. She began to believe that maybe she’d done something to him and he really was better without her but, after the fire, Zara found out that people had seen him but no one had spoken to him properly in a year, the last month he had not been seen leaving the house. Since he’d lost her, he’d had no one. In the end, not even himself.
Zara sat in the chair and cried. She realized it really was just his fragile mind, not her. He’d been stewing in his own dirt alone, his mind and everything around him rotting but he’d still looked after her throne. She felt pity and love thinking about it. While his mind was leaving him, before he forgot me, he’d probably dreamt about me sitting beside him again, both of us smiling and laughing like before. Even though he was gone from this reality, that she had lost him completely, she hoped that he was dreaming and finally happy again somewhere else.
Happily ever after?
Insanity, the rules of the world transform and change, you can imagine and believe in impossible realities. Like fiction, like imagination, there are no boundaries.
Two nurses stand together, crammed close, looking through the small window of a door.
‘He’s still not talking but I think he’s still smiling.’ Said one nurse, pushing against the other to get a better view. ‘Yeah…he’s smiling.’
‘I think he’s off on vacation somewhere else. He may come back but…maybe he’s better off staying there for a break. I don’t know…he looks happy.’ Said the other nurse, taking another glimpse, then backing away from the door.
The other nurse stares for a while smiling sadly, then they both start to move away from the door down the corridor.
‘I could do with one too.’ Said one nurse.
They walk away down the corridor laughing, their voices become distant.
‘I’d prefer one in this world..’
They exit the corridor, leaving Marc alone. He’s lying on the floor of his room, curled up, smiling.
He never gained enough, he lost his love, he manically threw around spaghetti, killed his cat and nearly burnt in a fire started by his mind. Now he is curled up alone on a cold floor. It’s no surprise, everyone wonders what puts a peaceful smile across his face.
But we don’t wonder.
We eat his brain.
I see that the mould is covering the brain now, it no longer looks like a brain, it looks like a palace maze. The mould within the rectangle surrounding my hand begins to age and fragment away, in small ashen lumps, that float away from the brain. Gradually all the mould within the rectangle, floats away, releasing my hand and leaving a doorway to a galaxy in front of me.
I walk through the brain door and I float into the vast network of stars around me. I float in peace, the rot left behind. I see something in the distance, I want to go to it.
A sphere of water is floating amongst the stars in the far distance. I think towards it and without either of us moving, the stars travel by bringing us closer. I see the sphere of water is not alone. Floating inside are two thrones, one deep red, the other a deep purple.
There’s a familiar beautiful lady sat in the purple throne, white cat in lap, smiling broadly at me and gently tapping the red throne. I gently float through the sphere and sit beside her. I look over at her smiling back and I feel I will never leave. We hold eyes, hold minds for a while, then hand in hand, we look forwards, still smiling, watching the galaxy, timelessly pass by.