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Madness

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I can’t claim to have ever been happy, but I did feel a sense of satisfaction
When I married the love of my life, Regina. She is everything to me,
As I am to her, but lately, things have gotten stranger. I am a fraction
Of the woman I once was, and nothing is as it appears to be.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly the voices started. I all know is that they
Were just whispers at first. Quiet mutterings in the back of my mind.
Forever engraved on the inside of my skull is the memory of that day—
The day the screaming started. The day my sanity began to truly unwind.

I can’t say who the voices belonged to. None of them were familiar. All I know
Is that they told me to do things— unspeakable things— to the people I loved most.
I started going to see Archie, and I tried keeping it secret, but I didn’t even go
Twice before Regina found out. Nothing got past her. As she put it, “First and foremost,

I can’t pretend to know what’s going on with you, Emma, because you haven’t told
Me anything. What is it that you think you can’t talk to me about? Do you remember
Our vows? We swore there would be no secrets between us. Secondly, you’ve been cold
Lately. You’ve been this way for months. I’m pretty sure it all started in September.”

I can’t say that I wasn’t annoyed by her in that moment, but later I felt guilty. She was only
Trying to help me, and to understand. She had always been that way. It was a major reason why
I asked her to marry me. I was mortified. She’d known all this time. Did she feel lonely,
Even while we were together? Sometimes I would catch myself staring absently at her, and I—

I can’t remember. I can’t remember the last sixteen hours. Everything else seems fine, but me?
I feel like an absolute wreck. I’m wearing different clothes now. I’m in my room. In my hand
Is a picture of Regina, Henry and I. The glass is broken and there’s a gash in my hand. I can see
The blood oozing out of it and it’s making me feel lightheaded. I wrap it up with a gauze band.

I can’t stop shaking. I’m trembling, but I don’t feel cold. In fact, I’m sweating. It’s such
A terrible feeling. I don’t know what to make of it. There’s this sickly feeling in the pit
Of my stomach. It hurts when I breathe, and my head throbs with pain. There is so much
Going on with me that it’s hard to keep track of, and even harder to talk about. Fuck this shit.

I can’t take this anymore. I walk on shaky legs out of the bedroom and peer downstairs into
The living room. The place is empty. I grip the rail tightly as I descend the steps and realize
The front door is wide open. I frown. That’s not like Regina, and I know Henry wouldn’t do
It, either. I close it and head into the kitchen. It’s here that I’m left with pure terror in my eyes.

I can’t even begin to comprehend what I’m seeing. In the kitchen, is a man with a wicked grin
And blood dripping from his scarlet hands, one of which is gripping a long, crimson blade.
I scream and I bolt towards the door, only to find it locked. I can’t unlatch it. I’m locked in
My home— the one place that should be safe— with this monster. I’ve never been so afraid.

I can’t find my family, and I can’t find a way out of this living nightmare. If there is a Hell,
I’m certain this is it. This man, I’m entirely convinced, is the Prince of Darkness in the flesh.
I don’t know what he’s done with my wife and son, but I’ve got to stop him. I can’t tell
If I’m dreaming. It all feels so real, but then I’m jolting awake. The memory is still fresh.

I can’t understand why this is happening. None of it was real. There was no blood. There
Was no man. My family is safe, though I fear they may not be for long. What if I black
Out? What if I hurt them and don’t even realize it until it’s too late? I don’t want to scare
Them, but I have to tell them what’s going on. I have to spill, and I won’t hold anything back.

I can’t bring myself to look either of them in the eye. “I need some help,” I tell them, “I’ve been
Hearing voices. They scream and curse at me.” Tears well in my eyes and slip down my cheeks.
“And I’ve also been seeing people who aren’t really there. I won’t tell you the horrors I’ve seen.
It would give you nightmares.” When questioned, I tell them this has been going on for weeks.

I can’t keep going on like this. I’ve checked myself into a psychiatric ward. I’ve been in here
For a week now. At least that’s how long I think it’s been. It’s hard to keep track of the days.
There are no clocks, at least none that I can see, but I keep hearing them anyway. The fear
Instilled in me has not subsided. The disembodied voices, and the ticking, happen always.

I can’t think straight. Where is Regina? And Henry? Why haven’t they come to visit me?
Why haven’t they come to tell me how much they miss me? Why haven’t they answered any
Of my letters? I’m not allowed to write with pencils. I can only use crayons. I don’t want to be
Alone anymore. The men in white ask me if I have negative thoughts. Oh yes, I have many.

I can’t use real pencils. The men in white say I could hurt myself. They say I’m a threat,
Not just to myself, but to others as well. I don’t get it. Why would they think that about me?
Sometimes a man speaks to me. He has dark eyes and a hook for a hand. “We’ve got to get
Out of here,” he tells me, but I refuse. I can’t leave. It’s been getting dark. Too dark to see.

I can’t sleep. I won’t sleep. Each time I close my eyes, I see a face. A horrible, grotesque face.
The face of the Devil’s worst nightmare. Its eyes are large— too large— and its pupils are black.
Its skin is like chalk. It is the face of death and despair. It lives, not here, but in some dark space
Where everything is twisted and chaotic and pure evil. I’ve seen that place, and I won’t go back.

I can’t go back there. Not now, not tomorrow, not next week— not ever. I just want my wife.
I want to see her perfect face in my dreams, rather than the phantom’s. I want to feel her skin.
I want to smell her shampoo and taste her sweet lips: spiced apples and cinnamon. Such is life.
I want to hear her greeting me with a pleasant ‘Hello.’ I want to hear her lovely voice again.

I can’t stay in this place any longer. I have to get out. I have to go and find my family. I need
Them, and they need me. I know it. I can feel it! If I don’t see them again, well, who knows
What I might do? I managed to sneak out of my room one night. I make it to the gate. Freed,
I climb up and over the fence and flee into the surrounding woods. I love it when it snows.

I can’t say the same for Regina. She always hated snow. I thought it was an irrational grudge,
But now I understand. The air is freezing, yet my skin feels like it’s burning. I can see someone
In the distance, watching me with an unreadable expression. I call out, but they don’t budge.
As I grow closer, I see that it’s just a scarecrow and I relax a bit. I’ve really done it. I’ve won.

I can’t believe I thought I could get away. I was gone from that place for no more than six hours.
They found me curled up like a fetus in the bitter cold, suffering, or so they claim. It’s all a blur
To me. I just remember seeing white. Nothing has changed. Everything is white. The powers
That be seem to think I deserve this. Just thinking of the color white makes me ill. I need her.

I can’t live a moment more without Regina, or Henry. Where are they? Here I sit, bound tightly
In a white jacket. It feels like a disease. Red and black are not the colors of death. It’s white.
It’s always been white. The walls, floor and ceiling are white. My skin is white. Even nightly,
In the darkness, I see that the moon is white. It haunts me. It makes my skin crawl with fright.

I can’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense. The nurse just walked in and it’s Regina. My wife.
She’s here. She’s come to get me out of this place! Or so I thought. She keeps acting like she
Doesn’t know me, like we aren’t and never have been married. The room is spinning. My life
Is on a downward spiral. I can feel it. The air is cold like death. Wicked are the things I see.

I can’t make sense of any of this. Regina is Regina, but she isn’t. At least, she doesn’t think
She is. She’s under some sort of spell. That’s got to be it! They have clouded her mind
Somehow, someway. They’ve made her think she never loved me. Sometimes my pupils shrink
When I see my reflection. It’s from my medicine, I think. They make me take it. How unkind.

I can’t believe any of this. The nurse who looks like Regina says there is no mention of my son
Or my wife in my record. She won’t let me look at it though, so I’m convinced she’s just lying
To me. She must think I’m an idiot. I’m smarter than the rest of these people. I’m the only one
Who can fix this broken world. I’ll save them from themselves. I’ll heal them as they’re dying.

I can’t keep this up. Not a moment more. Regina insists we were never romantically involved.
I almost started to believe it, but then I saw her in my dreams, begging me to wake her up. She
Needs me. She needs me to break the spell put on her by the men in white. I’ve finally solved
The mystery, I realize. Regina’s been cursed, and the men in white are practitioners of wizardry.

I can’t be sure, but I think she’s trying to tell me something. I’m convinced she’s using some
Sort of secret code. I try to let on that I know what she means, but she acts completely aloof.
Maybe she’s just trying to maintain her cover. She must be a spy. Hopefully she will come
And rescue me with her other spy friends. It’s real, I’m sure of it. If only I can find proof.

I can’t understand why I thought all of those ridiculous things. Ever since the men in white
Started giving me the magic beans, I’ve realized that everything I thought I knew was a lie.
I was never married. I never had a son. The files weren’t lying. It was psychosis alright.
The voices are just whispers, every now and again. I no longer have any desire to die.

I can’t thank the doctors enough for what they’ve done. Before I know it, I’m out in the real
World once again. No more white walls, I tell myself. No more bars on the windows. No more
Straightjackets. No more nurses or needles. No more sedatives. No more needing to conceal
The magic beans in my pillow after pretending to take them. I grin as I walk through the door.

I can’t wait to finally see my family again. Regina and Henry rush over and pull me into a tight
Embrace. “It’s good to be home,” I tell them, “You won’t believe the kinds of things I’ve had
To go through in that awful place.” They console me when I start to cry. Regina plants a light
Kiss on my cheek and my heart swells. I’m back with the people I love, and I’m just so glad.

I can’t be sure, but I think there might be something wrong with me. Sometimes I can still see
Flashes of white in my vision, but then I’m back in my house with my wife at my side and I
Know everything’s going to be alright. I do my best to maintain a contented smile as the three
Of us sit on the couch for a movie. If I didn’t have my family, I think I would much rather die.

I can’t believe I ever went to that godforsaken place. Sometimes, though, when I lie awake
Late in the night, catching glimpses of a sterile white room, I wonder if I ever even left.