I sometimes find myself lacking sanity.
Perhaps this is a cliche thing to believe. Perhaps it just comes with living. Perhaps it is just Karma getting me back for all of the things I’ve done. Perhaps, just perhaps, I really am insane. I first saw her while sitting at my window, staring out at the world. She was sitting on the sidewalk, her long hair matted and twisted into ringlets, her clothes in rags. She looked rugged and worn down, broken and tortured by the world. At her side there was a white five gallon bucket, and she had her arm around it, gripping it tightly as if it was her own life.
I found myself watching her, studying her movements. Occasionally, she would put her hand in the bucket, and then withdraw it ten minutes later. Every time she withdrew her hand, it was covered in a thick, grey substance. After a while of this, she stood up, ventured off, and returned with a long stick. She then began to stir, slowly, meticulously.
Why was she there? Why did she choose to stay there? I became overwhelmed with curiosity, and eventually I arose from my seat at the windowsill and made my way outside.
When I approached her, she did not look up. She did not make a move. She did not acknowledge my presence. Because of her obvious lack of interest, I spoke the first words. “What are you doing?”
She sat in silence for so long that I thought she would not answer. But then, quietly, after what felt like hours, she spoke in a soft, raspy voice, “Stirring concrete.”
“To disguise the head.”
I arched an eyebrow at her, curious. “The head?”
She nodded once, covering her already covered face with even more springy copper hair.
“The one in the bucket.”
Confused, but unwilling to continue asking questions that I was sure would not be answered, I took a deep breath and examined her. Her shirt was torn and tattered, hanging loosely on her skinny body. Her jeans were the same, and her feet were bare. She was covered in both new wounds, and had a thick layer of dirt and grime on her pale skin. “Are you homeless?” I inquired bluntly.
“When was the last time you ate?”
“When the trees were shining.”
Again I was stumped. What would I say to something so strange? “Um, would you like some food? You look hungry.”
The growl of her stomach answered for her.
“Come inside,” I glanced at her bucket warily and added, “You can leave your bucket here.” I did not know why I offered. I did not know what came over me, and why I felt the need to help this woman. It just felt like second nature. It felt like I was meant to do this strange and dangerous thing.
She stood, slowly, cautiously, and then followed me while shuffling her feet towards my home. Once we entered, I directed her to the couch and went into the kitchen to fix her something simple. When I returned with her food, she was sitting still, her shoulders slumped and her head hanging.
I set her food next to her and watched her as she ate. She was particular in how she ate, making sure that each bite contained the same amount of food. Despite the hunger that she obviously felt, she did not eat fast. She ate slowly and deliberately. After a while, I asked, “What’s your name?”
“I do not own my name.”
I sat back in my chair and stared at her in dumbfounded silence. She only got stranger with each and every word she spoke. On the television, a message that warned of a coming storm sounded, making my ears ring. As if to drama to the scene, lighting flashed in the window, hitting a tree in my front yard. I jumped to my feet, spooked by the boom that erupted and the flames that engulfed the leaves. “Shit!” I cursed, glancing at the girl sitting on my couch. “I have to go outside. Um,” I looked down the hall, to the bathroom and said, “Feel free to shower and get yourself cleaned up.” At that, I took off outside and began to panic when I saw the extent of the damage.
The tree was on fire, lighting up my yard with fantastic brightness. The neighbors were running out of their homes, hollering and waving their hands. One of them, a man about my age, was holding a white bucket full of water. He made his way to me hurriedly, and extinguished the majority of the flames. In my shock, I did not move, I only watched. I was frozen, paralyzed. I felt like my feet were glued to the ground, and after he was finished he turned to me. “What the hell are you doing?”
I swallowed, finding no words to respond.
“You’re just going to stand there while someone else keeps the neighborhood from burning down?”
Now that the flames were gone, people were returning to their houses, and no one was there to watch. No one cared if there was not a show.
“Are you listening to me?”
I looked him up and down, in a daze, my body feeling like solid rock. He had dark hair, and dark eyes. He looked like an angry, stern person. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the anger. I did not like the way he spoke, nor did I like the way he held himself. He needed to be silent. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, gazing at my own feet.
“You better be sorry, I have a bad back and I carried this damn thing out here to save your life.”
I nodded silently, deciding what I would do in the split seconds after that. “Here, come inside. I’ll cook you dinner. To thank you.”
His face was smug. He was clearly pleased that his heroic actions were being rewarded. “That’s more like it,” He then made his way into the house without my help.
I took a deep breath, flexing and unflexing my muscles. Counting. Feeling. Thinking. Calming. I let myself in, noticing that the man was sitting in the same place that the girl was previously sitting. I assumed that she had heeded my advice, and was pleased. I strolled into the kitchen, trying to keep my wits about me. Once I was out of view, I gripped the counter, my body tense and hard. My eyes drifted to the knives in the corner. They called me, beckoned me. I smiled. We spoke to each other in way that no one would ever understand. We loved each other. We were almost one in the same.
My smile widened when my hand rested on the hilt of my favorite. A long knife, with a razor sharp tip and a serrated edge. I gripped it tight and then slid it into the pocket of my hoody. When I walked back into the living room, I said, “Would you do me a favor?”
The man was still angry. Always so angry. Always. So hateful. “What?”
“I need wood for the fireplace. It’s in the back.”
“You’re asking your guest to go get wood?”
I swallowed hard, trying to keep calm and level. “It would be kind,”
He sneered up at me, his eyes hooded and cold. “I expect payment for that, too.”
I nodded once.
He stood up and sauntered outside, and once he was gone I found myself counting. With each sharp, shallow breath, I counted. After ten breaths, I stepped outside and kept myself close to the wall of my home. I was quiet, so very quiet. Silent, like a ghost. When I found him, his arms were full of wood, and his back faced me. I smiled.
Always so angry.
When the knife pierced his flesh, he spun to face me, throwing the wood in my direction. When it hit me, I was taken aback. I felt the scrapes and the cuts, the bruises that were sure to form, but that did not hinder my path.
Next, his throat was full of hard, shiny steel. He dropped to his knees, choking on his own blood and despair. His eyes were no longer angry. They were empty. Still cold, but empty. I enjoyed the eyes. I enjoyed the way they shined, and the change that was present in them. It took only moments to remove the head and carry it back inside. I dropped the knife in the sink for me to clean later, and then placed the head in the white bucket that he left in the living room.
Breathing was easy again. I was calm. I was euphoric.
Grinning, I looked at myself in the full length mirror in my bedroom. My hair was matted from the rain, and I was tattered and covered in scrapes and bruises, but I was full of glee. So happy. So very happy.
It only lasted moments, and then what happened only moments before finally dawned on me.
I panicked. I could not focus. I ran to the kitchen, rinsing off the knife quickly and sliding it back into its appropriate compartment. Afterwards, I searched for the girl, and found her sound asleep in my bed, her hair no longer matted and her skin no longer dirty. I breathed a sigh of relief that she was not awake.
But then I remembered the head. Oh, the head. I catapulted myself into the living room and took the bucket in my hands before retreating into the garage for concrete mixture. I dumped half of the bag into the bucket and then filled it the rest of the way with water. I considered mixing it in my living room, but then I remembered the girl. I could not do it there. So where? Where could I do it?
Full of fear and uncertainty, I ventured outside and took a seat on the sidewalk, digging my hands into the concrete mixture and trying my hardest to mix it.
I felt my world slip away. Unravel. Snap. I cannot accurately explain the feeling that came over me in those moments. I cannot tell you the feeling of slipping, the feeling of unraveling. I was exhausted, seeing things in black and white.
I sat and thought of my previous days- full of insomnia, full of being terrified to go outside, full of regret, full of depression. Finally, it had all caught up to me. Finally I was downgraded to nothing.
Dazed and irritated with the strength it was taking to stir the concrete, I stood up to find a stick and continued stirring, my mind never resting, always thinking.
In the midst of my thoughts, I saw a form sit next to me out of the corner of my eye. She was beautiful, though she looked tired. She was staring at me with curiosity, her eyes wide.
“What are you doing?” She wondered.
What a silly question! If only she knew. If only she knew the thing that I had become! “Stirring concrete.”
She gave me a look of disbelief. That look…so familiar, and yet my brain could not grasp it. It slipped. It reached, and it slipped. It could not remember. “Why?”
“To disguise the head.” It was only the head. Only the head inside my own. Those cold, dark eyes. So angry. Always so angry. But how did it get there? Why was I hiding it?
“Yes.” The head, the head, the head. Why? Whose head?
“The one in the bucket.” Where did the bucket come from? Why could I not remember?
“Are you homeless?”
A home. I could not grasp it. Maybe I did not have one, whatever it was. “Yes.” Home. Trees. Fire. Knives. So much information, and yet I could not process. What did all of these words mean?
“When was the last time you ate?”
I blinked. Shining trees. Food. That I could remember. The tree was shining, and the people were standing. The tree. It shined.
Credit To – Eat_Isolde