Twelve months have passed and they say now that I am healthy enough to live on my own again. They have had me under surveillance ever since I turned into that monster thing. It seems like a distant dream now; I cannot believe that thing was me. I have had two counsellors, both of whom I never spoke a word to. I am afraid to speak. My body was left to rot in the sun and snow while my mind remained sharp. If I speak out, they will know my intentions. I do not want them to know. I only wish to tell you, my dear.
A living-death experience, they called it. I was alive against all sane probability; a temperature of 55oc, malnourished, sick in the head. Apparently my ankle was fractured. They made me come back to the hospital with them. I refused, screaming, because I wanted to come and find you.
I can live on my own again. Freedom, finally.
I sit at a café table, trying to focus my eyes on my hand that is resting on the table to my right. My eyes refuse to work together. They point outwards, I can feel it, rather than pointing at my hand together. I can see my hand in two places, overlapping in the middle. I lift it and both hands I see distort and lift. It is a different feeling than being drunk, though.
I close my eyes, press my thumbs to them, pressing them into my skull slightly. It hurts, but, when I open them again, I can focus happily, despite the headache that is coming on. I see a couple walking hand-in-hand across the road. They pass by the red brick houses. For a moment, my view is obscured as a truck passes, but there they are again, and the woman is laughing. I should not be able to hear her; the café is so dreadfully loud, but the world is utterly silent for me, and all I can hear is her laugh, on repeat, replaying again and again as she walks on by. The boyfriend points something out to her and there is that same laugh echoing. They turn a corner and the world rushes to normal. My mind and sanity is crystal clear, a weight has fallen away. I am not resentful of the relationship I witnessed only for a brief second or two at all. Not jealous. Not envious. I know that love ends eventually. Love ended for me when your spirit left your body and the planet but, as soon as that love’s river ran dry, a new one for you has kindled. It grew and I mistakenly urged it to build. Now you are my only goal.
You may think that, since I have almost lost my mind, I will not love you anymore. No, I love you more. More than I ever have before. I feel like I have said that before, but it is true.
Blinking. I am blinking. So fast that the world is just a reel of photographs. Each one is blurrier than the last: tears are obscuring my view and there is rushing wind in my ears. None of the trees are moving. The wind is in my head, so I shake it. I shake it back and forth, trying to clear the gust and the rain.
I am seeing in sepia. Something else has gone wrong. A man comes over to me. I can hear him clearly enough now that the world is back making its noises, but I can only hear out of one ear. The left one. Fortunately, he is standing on my left side. I stand and quietly reply that I am fine, it was just a fly near to my face. He laughs. Says how much of a problem they are at this time of year. Fascinating, really. Not really. I agree half-heartedly, not caring. My vision is still in that strange brown colour, and I take the opportunity to explore the world through what seems to be old camera film. Tree leaves are brown. A woman’s scarf, which used to be red, is brown. The pale skin of a child is pale brown.
I realize that everyone around me, in one hundred years, will be dead. I do not feel that death will take me, though. Not for at least one hundred years. Perhaps longer. Perhaps never. Maybe in my desperation to get to you, I have created an immortality, a place where I will stay, unable to live normally, unable to die.
I died when you left. I died then. I died when I realized your hand would never be in mine again. I died when I realized you would never hold me in your arms again. I died when you died, is what I am saying. When you were alive, at least I could hold onto hope that I might, somehow, be able to win you back.
Clearly, you would rather be in the arms of death than be in mine. Necrophilia, my sweet? Really?
The man is staring at me. Oh yes, I am still at the café. I smile, feel my cheeks crack with the effort, but I smile. He smiles back, but there is worry there. He questions me more. I delicately shrug, tell him that I have been through something in hospital and it might take me a long time to recover. Well, it’s not a lie. He seems to want to know what. But what can I say? I know that if I describe how I saw myself, he will never believe me. I simply say I don’t want to talk about it much. I would have thought that that would be enough to deter him from interrogating me more, but he insists, pushing me for an answer. Gently, though. Sly. He is not asking me directly. He is asking me questions that would, in a matter of minutes, lead him to discover everything.
I am panicking now. I try to answer his questions as vaguely as I can, but he demands more information. He is pressing me, pressuring me. I take one step back, and feel the seat of my chair meet the inside of my knee. I draw forwards, then kick out my back leg, scattering the chair across the ground. Then I twist around, sweating, seeing the path spread for me as fellow café-goers rise from their own seats to see what is happening.
I see the gap and I take it, moving past the people as if they were cardboard cut-outs. They all move so slowly. I am at waist-height somehow. I must have dropped to my hands and knees. I take a leap over the chair I struck, and land on the pavement on my hands. However, they do not hold me up as I would have like them to, and I collapse. The man is right behind me. Who is he? Why does he follow me?
I have to be human. I pick myself up as quickly as I can, onto my legs only, jamming my hands into my armpits so I cannot revert to my horrific running once again. I stagger a few steps, feel the ghost of the man’s hand on my left shoulder before he grabs me. His grip is hard and my bones are brittle. He squeezes ever so lightly and pulls me back, reflexes making my arms fly out. My left shoulder disintegrates, breaking under so little force. I let out a scream. It is painful, but I scream because I know that if I do, he will let go.
He does, pulling his hands away as if I was poisonous. My left arm hangs uselessly by my side, and I press it to my chest, holding it in one position so that no pain will shoot through me when it moves. I take off again, and he does not chase me. In less than a second, it seems, I am gone, scrabbling down the pavement towards the pond again. You do not call to me this time. Even if you did, I would not go to you. Not this time, sweetheart – you have caused enough problems for me.
Somehow, though, I always seem willing to solve them.
There is bruising on the inside of my left shoulder now. The broken fragments of bone must have ripped blood vessels. What was I thinking, running from them like that? Now they will be looking for me, wondering why, wondering how my shoulder shattered so easily.
I bet I could rupture my whole body if I concentrated hard enough. I bet I could. I could break all my bones into three-thousand plus pieces, and I could make them tear through my skin, I could make them pull at my organs, piercing them, puncturing the puncturable, ripping the rippable, blocking the blockable. I bet I could. I bet I could make my intestines move, folding in on themselves and working up my body, through my stomach, breaking free of my insides through my mouth, bringing my stomach and windpipe with it. Appendix? What is that for? I bet I could make it explode, scattering flesh like ball bearings out onto the grass.
Yes, I’m not in the water just yet. I sit at our bench, holding my arm tight. I have not lost it. It is still able to be saved. There is warmth at my core, despite the cold autumnal winds. My skin is shivering, but in the middle of my torso, there is a light and there is heat. When I fold up my body slightly, the light burns brighter. I don’t know what it is burning on, I don’t know what is feeding the fire, but it is lit and it is smouldering.
It is still not enough. Still not enough to worm through the ice to the left slightly. My heart. It is encased. Ice. A shooting pain as an icicle grows. All the water from the pond has frozen around my heart. Proof I went into the pond, really. I am glad it is still there.
The ice must be grimy and full of dirt. In all the pictures, ice is so perfect, so beautiful, and it always glints and shines. My ice probably does not. My sanity is the glittering beauty, though. Like the clearest diamond crystal, like the freshest water, I can see through all problems, getting through, sane in body and mind. Monstrous blips are nothing. They are merely my sanity adjusting to my body after a long vacation away.
I close my eyes. The sepia, the sepia. I close my ears. The deafness, the deafness.
When I open both again, I can see and I can hear. I can hear what you cannot hear through your empty ear holes, the call of a lone swan, slowly dying as their partner has not yet returned. I can see what you cannot see through your empty eye sockets, the bluish pond, the khaki grass, the chain-grey sky, even the mauve bruise, in clear, glorious technicolour.
Yes, of course I am sane.