I agreed to care for my sister’s children for five days while she and her husband vacationed in Australia. My sister has always been a hard worker; she deserved her time off. “They’ll be fine,” I overheard her tell him. “He’s just a little neurotic.”
I tracked their flight online.
I followed the schedule and instructions they’d provided.
But five days became seven, then ten, and the children required constant attention and entertainment, allowing me no breaks during which to concentrate on my work. Expectation birthed anxiety, which brought a crushing end to my normally clockwork sleep cycle.
I took to walking after the children dozed.
I took a knife for safety.
One sleepless night, I wandered out into the cold, dark winter, rejoicing in the childless solitude, if for a mere half-hour, watching the falling snow fill the streetlight illumination like so much static, losing myself for so long I gasped when she approached: an ancient woman I’d never seen, strolling as alone at night as I. “Beware,” she said—passing, “the black ice.”
My head slammed against concrete.
I got home in a state.
There was blood in my ears and a terrible throbbing behind my eyes, and as the children slept I scoured the basement for my first aid kit.
As I neared a certain section of the wall, the throbbing increased.
I noticed a crack.
I kicked the wall and it crumbled.
I ran upstairs and grabbed my torch and my pickaxe, both awoken and screaming.
With the pickaxe I destroyed what remained of the fraudulent wall.
I stepped inside and ignited the torch.
The depth was endless.
A secret underground labyrinth.
But after weeks of dark travel, the subterrain became soft and organic, terminating in a fleshy loam and what appeared to be monstrous jaws. As I neared the exit, holding tightly my burning torch I noticed a flickering light begin to emanate from my irritated throat.
The ground shifted beneath my feet.
Attempting to move, I discovered myself restrained, bound to a white-sheeted bed by leather straps around my wrists, ankles and forehead.
I stepped forward, from warmth into a chilled and sterile air.
A tiny human crawled out of my mouth.
I looked about the giant world. Behind me loomed a giant human head!
It was me / It was me.
Is this madness? I thought.
I calmed myself.
Climbing up my own face, I determined I was in an asylum.
“The straps,” I thought / I heard myself think.
I took out my knife and cut the strap restraining my forehead. It was thick but I managed. Next I freed my wrists and ankles and finally I stood again!
I put on a white coat hanging nearby, and carefully picked myself up and placed myself into the coat’s breast pocket.
I was carried by a god.
Together, I and I escaped the asylum.