Category Archives: Write a Novel in a Month – 2011

Final section


Dec 31st

Another year is over, but this will be last year of here & now – tomorrow I will be re-born, she says that tomorrow we will be together, that I will never need to feel alone again. I will, finally, be what I should always have been.

She says that I will rise, phoenix-like from the ashes of my before life.

She says that I will be beautiful, that I will look onto the world with eyes that can really see.

She says that I will fill the space left for me- that I will no longer creep into corners, afraid that somehow I take up more space that I deserve.

She says that I will be free.

And all of this is mine, all I have to do is open the door & let her in.

She says is easy now, all the hard work is over.

I just have to make one phone call………………………………

 

Later

Her voice is louder now, more insistent, “I need to get with the programme, I need to make a move”

For the first time, I am afraid, really afraid of her. I want to block her out, to push her away, I want things to be alright, I want everything to go back to what is was, I want her voice to just stop.

I try to muffle her , to still the wheedling, demanding, now shrieking instructions – I mumble nursery rhymes from that far away time when I really believed that I could make someone else’s’ life better.

This little piggy went to market

The little piggy stayed at home

This little piggy had roast beef

This little piggy had none

& this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home

I curl up into myself, crooning lullabies to myself, trying desperately to comfort the screaming terrified child inside myself

Hush little baby, don’t say a word, papas going to buy you a mocking bird

If that mocking bird don’t sing, papas going to buy you a diamond ring………………

I cannot make enough noise, I roam around the apartment turning on the Hoover, the ancient yellowed food mixer, the washing machine runs empty screaming on fast spin – I try to fill the room with sound  I run from room to room – the TV, silent for so long wheezes into life, the radio shouts out some incomprehensible football score, I find a scratched & dented cd & play it again & again – if I can only drown her out, give myself a moment of stillness then everything will be ok.

My home sounds as if it is holding its own demented, deranged  gathering, but it’s just  is not enough, I am almost glad when my neighbours join in, the muffled shouts, curses and bangs on the wall create another layer, more protection against her shrill keening.

The more I try, the louder she becomes, we are at face off – two screaming dervishes. Locked into some terrible moment, a second of hatred frozen in time forever.  I look into the mirror & see her eyes – hate filled, hate fuelled, hateful,

Suddenly, I am very, very afraid, moaning and clutching my stomach as if to really hold myself together, I curl up in a tiny ball.

I have made a terrible mistake; my twin is not my other perfect half, the element that will make me whole. She is that part of me that common sense tells me to bury deep down in the cellar of my mind, the succubus thrown far away from warmth & light & mothers’ milk – the scurrying thing that  lives somewhere in the spaces between walls and I have let her out.

Suddenly, there is silence, the electricity has run out. The silence is so shocking, so raw in its intensity that I recoil from it as if I have been punched – now there is just her voice, on & on it goes, sometimes shrieking, other times a terrible whispering goading rant. The message is always the same “do what you need to do & I will give you silence, I will give you peace”

Jan 1st

I am defeated, I know now that I cannot deny her what she wants, quite simply, I cannot survive another onslaught – I am ready.

She knows that I need all my wits about me for the task, so her voice has become  tender again, she soothes me, rocks me in a lullaby of love, affection and desire, her voice is calculated to ensure that I am at maximum efficiency, the list of tasks repeats like a mantra of deranged  domesticity in my head

“Make the flat look nice

Buy food

Make the phone call

Invite the changeling to a new years day meal

Act normal”

The phone call is surprisingly easy to make – the changeling is a creature attracted by the superficial, by the look of things, she is careful not to look too closely at anything, so, accepts an invitation to dinner with a mother figure she has seen only once in months and then only to ensure my safe delivery from the mental hospital.

Making the flat look nice is actually far more challenging, even before the whirlwind  of sound & motion that has made up the last 24 hrs, my home could best be described as adequate for a person in my situation.

But good little hausfrau that I am, I do my best, bustling about with a brush & dusters, plumping up cushions & finding scraps of fabric to cover the worst corners of sadness & loss,

I find a huge box of candles, bought where & when I have no idea and cover every surface with them.

I have forgotten that it is really New Years day & that all the shops are closed, so my grocery shopping is perforce somewhat limited.

I come home clutching a cheap bottle of wine, some slightly stale bread, pate & a jar of olives that have been in the shop so long , so unwanted that the whole jar in covered in a thin layer of dust and grime.

There are some of those tin foiled covered chocolate Santa’s on special offer – just a  little past their sell by date – I have no other evidence of festive celebrations , but surely these pinned to the wall will help to give the message “everything is fine”

Her voice is cajoling now, “get dressed, make an effort, fit in, don’t draw attention” – for a moment I am confused, the voice seems to be my mothers’, her endless mantra of invisibility.

I shake my head to clear it and take a deep breath, wherever the voice is coming from, and its good advice. I find something clean[ish], brownin [ish] and inoffensive.

I am ready to greet my daughter, but her voice continues in my head, there are other preparations, other plan that must be put in place. Tonight, I really will be the hostess with the mostest. It’s a one shot performance, I am ready for my close up.

Midnight ……………….

It’s so peaceful now, for the first time in months, there is silence in my head. I sit on the floor, back pressed against the wall, savouring the stillness.

The evening went well, all things considered. The changeling arrived on time; I don’t think she is capable of anything as sloppy as lateness. Lateness shows a freedom of thought that she is simply not capable of. So, promptly at 8pm into my door – trippity trappity, she steps, dressed with care. Just enough to show effort, not enough to suggest that this is anything more than a duty visit.

 

We circle each other warily, luckily, we both have enough social veneer to provide a gloss to the encounter.

I ask about her course, she asks if I am taking my medication.

I compliment her on her cardigan; she quietly counts the tablets in the box I have so considerately placed on the centre of the table in the middle of this sad little room.

There is a silence and then we both begin to speak at once

“you scared me , you always scare me, I don’t understand what happened”

“things are going to be a lot better now – I have a plan”

I stop speaking first and there is an awkward pause, good hostess that I am, I quickly offer  her another drink and then I wait.

So, now, it’s  much much later, I’m cold from sitting so still. I stand up slowly, feeling old, tired and stiff and make my way old lady like to the mirror. Slowly I stare at my reflection and although my vision is perforce impaired, I can for the first time, see clearly .

I stare at the bloody pulp that is one side of my face with inner calm & no-body looks back at me.

“if thine eye offends, then pluck it out”


section 11


November 12th

Leaving the apartment for an occasional foray, I have lost my intense interest in sweet food, but she is insistent that I MUST eat, I MUST be seen to have some of the patterns of day to day living, so, every few days she sends me out & now I have made a fantastic discovery.

At first I wondered if everyone I passed was also trying to listen to tiny whispered confidences, to block out the raging ,rampaging, rumbitious roar of the every day – I stared at them in some curiosity –

Who were they listening to?

What messages were being given to them?

For everyone I passed was protecting their ears with huge woolly hats & headphones – somehow I had forgotten the uniform of the young – their need to cocoon themselves in a soundtrack of their own making – so, now I go amongst them, my ears & head swaddled in fabric & outsize eared headphones – everything is diminished, muffled, distanced and my disguise has the added bonus that should I fail to answer promptly a query or comment in a shop, the assistant often repeats it, slowly & loudly as though I am a foreigner struggling to understand the local patois.

Of course, I keep the headphones on at home too, I have become hyper-aware of noise and terrifies that I might miss the commandment that will liberate me from this period of limbo.

I spend a lot of time curled into  a wall, head pressed against the woodchip, rocking backwards & forwards- today for a split second, I saw myself as others might, a thinning middle aged woman, rocking, keening, mumbling to herself – there was a moment of perfect, exquisite sadness & loss and then she started to speak & I was lost again in her voice, her promises to me.

 

 

 

 

Dec 1st

I need to write this down, to try & explain clearly what is happening – when this is all over I will be called to account & I want to tell my story – I know that I will be judged and I suspect found wanting. My whole life has been one of failing others, of not meeting some unspecified hunger in all around me.

One of my first memories is as a lumpen, plain & lumbering toddler who running to my mother after some tiny disaster, heard not the soft murmurs of comfort & affection but instead a hissed intake of badly disguised annoyance and a mumble of “why wasn’t it you – why not you instead of her?”

Whenever I walked into a room, I always felt my mothers’ eyes slide to a point just behind me, looking for someone more interesting, more desirable, simply more – but there was only ever me and her disappointment was the melody that ran through my childhood.

My long gone & in all frankness unlamented husband also used to look at me with the same slightly baffled expression whenever he saw me, a “this is not quite what I expected” gaze – he reminded me of a child who ripping the paper of a long awaited Christmas gift, finds, not the eagerly anticipated toy, but something else, something somehow wrong, something perfectly alright in itself but somehow not quite what was expected or desired.

Even the changeling, who really had little to go on in terms of what a proper mother should be – her own flesh & blood  one having managed to fail at every hurdle, who should have greeted my tentative movement towards  warmth & affection like a sun starved seedling, she often pushed me away, not in anger but more a world weary annoyance – “this is not quite what I am looking for – what else do you have?”

This is the way the gentleman ride – trumpy trump, trumpy trump

This is the way the ladies ride – trumpty trump. Trumpty trump

This is the way the children ride – trumpty trump, trumpty trump

But by the second verse, she would wriggle away, choosing instead to follow my husband from room to room, he in turn, would occasionally look down at her in slightly baffled surprise, but she always choose his mild indifference over my clumsy  attempts at parenting.

All of that is , of course, is my explanation for all of this, I have never managed to be what is expected, but now, magically, I have the chance, the opportunity, to get it right, to put everything back where it should be. I can finally make it all good .

 


section 10


4th Oct – dawn

I must not let things slip again – the days & dates must not get away from me. I must be vigilant – my task is clear – I wait for further instructions – I am the handmaid of my sisters’ salvation.

10th October

The thing, the thing, the actual thing is the how & the when & the where and she is obstinately mute on this topic. I have been waiting for direction – but it doesn’t come.

I beg, I cry , I rant – “tell me what to do” – but there is no answer

So, I am forced to consider it myself – how must the changeling die?

She is very clear on one point – I must escape capture, there are those who will not understand my act, they will not see the liberation I am offering, they will trap me & not allow her to complete the circle – it will all be in vain.

So, I need a plan.

 

Halloween

What a perfect night for evil – yes I am all too clear that what I am doing could be seen as evil, as unnatural, as the act of a mad woman – but now that I understand I see why this must happen – it is an act of love.

If my twin returns to me, I can be free and as she has so patiently explained to me, the changeling herself is unhappy with her life; her death will also set her free – I can finally make my daughter happy – I can finally be the mother I hoped to be. In death, I can embrace the changeling, hold her to me & show her the depths of my love for her.

It all makes sense and now I have a plan as well.

In the days before everything unravelled, I loved to read murder fiction; I became a cognoscenti of unusual death, of ritual slaughter, of the disposal & dispersal of unwanted bodies. I read books about the monsters outside, to silence the monster inside. I could comfort myself that my few acts of maternal failure, of parental unkindness were nothing when placed on the continuum of human serial killers. I read books that kept my mind quiet, to silence the tiny voice that plagued me, whispering in my ears “you could do that” “that’s what you’re like” “you know you want to” – I became most interested in the most bizarre, the killer cannibals, the dungeon masters, the collectors of grisly souvenirs – the ones I was most definitely not like, after all I reasoned, all parents struggle with their children, all fantasise about that moment of inattention – I steadfastly ignored the fact that even I was sure that most parents did not fantasise about their child’s funeral.

But, now all this reading has revealed itself as a very useful resource, I have achieved killers 101, I have a game plan.

 

Nov 5th – another bonfire night

– I have a strong feeling of a journey undertaken; I am quite literally,   not the woman I was, when I look down at myself, my lack of substance is ironically the most substantial thing about me – I continue to vanish at a rate.

Her voice is quieter now, she comforts me with visions of what the future will be, a continuous soft monologue , she murmurs into my ears as seductive as any lover. I try and keep myself as still and quiet as possible, mouse-like I creep about, my whole attention focussed on her voice – I am waiting for the signal, but I  have learnt my lessons well, I know now that I must do nothing to attract attention, no more make shift sound proofing, no more careful arrangement of furniture within the apartment – everything must seem normal, I must seem normal and I have hit upon a way to drown out all other sound without the possibility of marking myself out.


section 9


October 3rd – date recognition is now second to none

So,  A month after I arrived, I am gone, back home, back to what passed for a life.

The changeling collects me from the hospital, we drive home in complete silence.  My silence is due in most part to the medication, it muffles her voice, so that all my energy needs to be used to hear her. If I am not vigilant, I find myself leaning forward, my face screwed up in concentration, trying to catch every sound she makes – a position that somewhat puts in doubt my complete denial that I can still hear voices in my head – so I sit bolt upright, face smoothly blank, doing what I need to do.

I suspect that the changelings’ silence is because she cannot think of a single thing to say to me.

My apartment has been cleaned & tidied – this simply makes the space look even poorer and more drably depressing – the mattresses have gone, there are a bunch of garage flowers on the kitchen table, there is a limited selection of own label products on the shelves & in the cupboards.

We stand in silence in the kitchen, the room is tiny forcing us to stand far closer to each other than either of us would have chosen. There is another beat of silence, then the changeling collects up her bag, reminds me to take my medication, which she has helpfully placed in the exact centre of the table and leaves. The silence extends beyond her leaving and I wait and then I walk over to the bin and put the tablets in side.

& then…….

I realise that I have no idea what to do next, so I sit down at the table, stare at the already browning, never really flowered, unscented roses and like a dutiful child wait for something to happen – I am bolt  upright in the chair – hands folded neatly, looking expectantly at the kitchen clock.

 

Its dark now – but I think it’s the same day still

How I know what she expects of me, it has been a long time coming and I know that I should be horrified, even disgusted but she is me & how can I deny her this – she says it will make her happy and that I’ve had all the luck so far & now it’s her turn- who am I to argue?

And after all she is articulating what has always been inside me – I felt a tremor of acceptance when she told me what she needed – somehow I have always known how this song ends.

The cuckoo, the usurper, the changeling must be beaten out, turned off, evicted & only then can  the rightful one take her proper place – I have been waiting for this message, now I can  put things right, she can return to me, our lives can begin & I will be free of my changelings’ toxic presence and I have been told that all will be returned to me – the circle will be made, there will be no more absence.

 

4th Oct – dawn

I must not let things slip again – the days & dates must not get away from me. I must be vigilant – my task is clear – I wait for further instructions – I am the


section 8


Tuesday September 3rd

I know this with complete accuracy, it is one of the ways that we daily assessed – a grasp on date & time seems to be the primary tool on madness measurement here

My daughter delivered me here two weeks ago, having found my attempts to twin proof my home alarming . I am here for 28 days, to be assessed , to be measured, to be labelled.

At first I was confused, her twinny voice raged in my head, demanding that I listened to her, that I paid attention, that we went straight home right now.

The noise was so much that I could hear almost nothing else and longed for silence, tried to curl up into a ball, to hide in corners, to wrap my head in towels & blankets in an attempt to muffle the sounds.

And, just when I really thought that I could not bear another single second of her screaming.  It all changed. Her voice softened, she came to me in dreams again, stroked me and told me what I needed to say, how to best to cope with this new situation. I was able to nod, smile, answer questions, take part – I could feel the satisfaction in the staff – another loony cured, another mad woman functioning  & all the time I walked through this new performance, I felt her voice in my ear, silkily, smoothly coaching and coaxing me

“yes, I had heard voices”

“no – I didn’t hear then anymore”

“yes – I understand now – I have been ill – thank you for your help”

I am become the model patient – my only goal is to get out. If I was a heroine in a story  written before care in the community became the model of madness management , I would have languished for years in a back ward somewhere, grown grey & faded until finally  love or feminism freed me back into the world, where I became a better person through my suffering.

The reality, which suits me so well, is that they want me out, I want to be out, she, her voice always present, instructing, guiding, steering on a course I don’t understand,  insists that we get out.


section 7


I think it’s Monday.

The changeling was waiting for me today, I find myself walking more & more, huge circles of the town, movement seems to keep everything at bay & if I remember to take a handbag, I can feel almost normal, just a woman going about her every day business – nothing to see here.

She was standing on my doorstep & seemed to have undergone one of her many total transformation through clothes personality changes – gone was the muted grey suit, skirt short enough to suggest at availability, hint of cleavage & cleverly understated statement jewellery – our shared addiction to fashion magazines may not be shared any more, but she clearly is still working some look & I still continue to have some tenuous memory link to all those shiny pages of yesterday.

She stood in front of me, hair cropped, biker boots, artfully torn jeans, her bag large enough to fail the hand luggage test, only her face was the same – that odd mixture of anger, contempt and a terrible , terrible longing. I couldn’t help myself, I shrunk back from her, wishing myself or more accurately  her, far, far away.

“you never answer your phone” – the tone was accusatory, I tried hard to reach for an insouciance tone “well, you know me, technology & all that………………” to my horror, I felt the words slip away, I looked at her in mute despair and for a moment we looked at each other, there was a split second, an opportunity when it would have been so natural, so easy to have gathered her up in my arms, to have given her the comfort she so obviously needed and to have taken some comfort for myself. I pulled myself up, we both drew back from each other, warily eyeballing the other, like two seasoned combatants, I drew on my reserves of British manners “ do you want some tea then?”

We both stepped into the tiny apartment, breathing heavily, both aware of a missed opportunity. She looked around in horror and for a moment I saw my home through her eyes. My energies [ such as they are] have been  all consumed with trying to manage what is left of my life. The interloper in my head allows me so little peaceful time & there are so many rituals I carry out to keep her quiet that my days are a blur of busyness and task, self  management of my new found state.

The mattresses against the wall filched from skips & alley ways are a sane precaution, there are times when she is so loud, so insistent that the urge to try & smash her into silence becomes unbearable – I have created my own padded cell, a desperate attempt to save myself, to keep a sense of care, a stab  at self unharm.

But, standing next to the changeling, I have a sudden moment of clarity and see that the already cluttered room is full of filthy mattresses, the windows  are covered in newspaper. I have collected images of twinhood, tried to create a placatory alter & turned all the mirrors to the wall – it is by any stretch of the imagination an unusual setting.

We stand in silence, shoulder to shoulder & I realise that she is about to make a decision & am afraid.


section 6


 

May day

How appropriate, today is perhaps the day when I admit that I might, just might need help.

May day, may day, – I am vanishing & my dead twin wants to take my place – somehow normality has slipped a long, long way away – we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I am failing to keep up the lifelong pretence with the changeling, everything is fine, all families live like this, we are normal,

The changeling seems to be visiting more often; I find her staring down at me, her face twisted in puzzlement –

“why do you sleep all the time?” she asks

I struggle to give an answer that will not send her screaming to the door

“I feel old and tired” I say, it is a vague enough answer and she is arrogant, with the arrogance of her perfect youth to see this as a fitting answer, after all, in her eyes I am old & tired.

She walks carefully around my tiny flat, picking up the detritus of someone who spends much of their day hiding from the voice inside their head – I find that madness really gets in the way of housework and there is some pleasure, some poetic symmetry in making sure that my home reflects the chaos in my head.

I am always relieved when she leaves, I have managed to ignore the on-going sense of disappointment, of something vital missed that has coloured our relationship since her childhood, so really nothing has changed, I am still letting her down, but being haunted is perhaps a legitimate reason for parental failure.

May day may day may day – I wish there was someone who could rescue me, although clearly [can the mad ever use the word clearly legitimately?] there is quite a lot of backstory to plough through before the possibility of swashing & buckling, heroics & maidens pulled from towers.

Clearly [ that word again] – it is time to go back to sleep

Summer

When  things fall apart, really fall apart, they do so quickly, the last time dear reader, that I addressed you, I was clinging on to a superficial appearance of functionality, I was, in the jargon, coping, perhaps a little fuzzy around the edges, which in my case takes on a whole new meaning, but if you had met me, you would have seen someone going about, taking up space, fitting in.

I glibly described myself as  mad back then, but in that “ho ho ho, we’re all made here you know” way – now I know exactly what madness feels like – not a funny t-shirt or calendar in sight.  this madness sucks me in, creates a web of confusion, I am trapped by my own mind, I no longer know what starts within me or what she has begun. I feel myself loosing the language needed to even explain what is happening – to know  why things have reached this stage………………….. even to understand on any level at all what exactly is going on here…………………………

She has entered me, is now part of me, she possesses me, wraps  herself in me, I feel myself shrinking, diminishing.

Once we were two that made a perfect one – now & oh its happened so fast that I only became aware too late, far too late to stop her, far too late to really understand what she wanted all along.

I woke up in the morning, looked into a mirror and saw her looking out of my eyes. I shook  my head violently, as if I could really dislodge her, I banged my head against the bathroom wall, as if an act of self harm could really make any difference.

I screamed

I cried

I ranted

Finally, I gave up & looked again in the mirror, the face looked back at me, eyes red, sore, aching from salty tears, snot trails on my cheeks, bruises already appearing on my forehead. Her eyes stared back at me with cool defiance and I swear a terrible suggestion of laughter.

She is with me always now, mostly she is happy enough to leave me to get on with everyday things, just an occasional reminder as I pass myself/herself in a mirror that she is here, but some days & these are the worst days of all, she shows me what she can see, I look down with strangers’ eyes at my own body, see myself heaving this sad sack from place to place. On those days I want to scream, to throw myself at the walls. I have considered gouging my own eyes out – at least then I would not have to see the way she looks at me/looks from me, but I am too fearful or perhaps not desperate enough and part of me still clings to the notion that this really cannot be happening.

If I am careful, do nothing wrong, perhaps she will leave, give me back my body, my eyes. I used to think that I was incomplete, now I would do almost anything to feel that incompleteness again. So, I creep carefully, I listen hard, waiting for her messages, I ask her again & again “what is it you want from me?”, so far there has been nothing, but I know that if I just wait – it will all become clear.