I’m not mad, but I am angry. Crazy is what they call me. My family, my friends; although I don’t suppose I can call them friends anymore the way I’ve been acting.
My leg jitters constantly, like a pneumatic drill. I have to grab it by both hands sometimes just to calm it down. Yeah, I must look mad to bystanders. But fuck them, they don’t come over and ask if I’m okay. They leave a wide berth, as if I’ve drawn a chalk circle around myself and told them not to enter.
I laugh at them sometimes, and when I do, they give me these funny looks. They scrunch their faces, making their mouths all distorted and their eyebrows so high I half expect them to rip off their faces entirely and fly away. I guess laughing’s not helping me.
The people on the TV stare at me when they speak and I’m not talking about the news anchors. The actors and celebrities stare directly into my eyes as they deliver their lines. When I told my friends as we’d watch, they’d look at each other with incredulous glances, not wanting to disagree with me, they knew what I was like when I got angry.
Today though, I watch the TV and no-one is sitting next to me as I shout at the box telling them to stop staring at me. I’m not crazy, but no-one believes me.
The cockroaches in my apartment scuttle, thumping their feet, you’d think they were doing it on purpose, getting as close to me as possible before running away and hiding. A pathetic game to irritate the irritated. They tower over me, seven feet tall, it’s amazing that they are able to scurry into the small holes along my baseboard.
I’ve jammed those damn holes up with newspaper or that DIY gunge that fills gaps, but more pop up all over the place. I’ve given up now. When I hear them, I put my hands over my ears and scream to myself until I feel the vibrations dissipate. I still hear them though, racing each other inside the walls. One day, one day, I’ll stab pencils into my ears to relieve myself of the stress. Though the resonance through my body will still persist and there’s only one way to stop that.
I know my bedroom is full of demons or spirits. I don’t see them with my eyes, but I know they’re there. I check the cupboards quickly, swinging the door open and frantically search though the clothes, but clever they are. They hide in the corners, in the dark. I’ve not caught them yet.
I whip open the drawers, and throw my socks and underwear out leaving them nowhere to hide, but still they do; those cunning evil entities.
I walk into the en suite, turn on the light and grab my toothbrush, before rushing back to check under the bed. I laugh when I don’t see them, it’s all I can do. I promise I’m not crazy.
I lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying my best to fall asleep. I know they are under the bed and in the closet and in the drawers. The roaches make themselves known too. They don’t want me to sleep. They climb the inside of the walls behind my head, gently scraping the drywall, pretending they’re smaller than they really are. I know better, and I won’t let them win.
It’s when I drift off to sleep that I can hear the spirits; their mocking breaths heaving and raspy. But it’s too late for me now, I’m off to dreamland where everything is silent. Sometimes I open my eyes and see those ghastly beings haul themselves onto the bed and crawl towards me, wanting entry into my open mouth.
I don’t dream, and I’m glad of that, it’s the only time I’m free from the madness of the waking hours.
My doctor says I may have sleep apnea. He says I need to lose some weight. He says I need to wear this machine that will help me breath. He says it will stop the hypnagogia. I didn’t want to tell him that they are real. That won’t help me appear sane. I know how to play the system.
He wants me to wear a mask at night that will help me sleep, while all the while it pumps chemicals into my bloodstream to make me docile and compliant. I am not crazy.
In the morning I get up groggy, I never sleep well. At least I don’t have a job to go to, I don’t know if I’d cope having to get ready while those vicious entities play with me. The room is always tidy, I am thankful for that. At least they are considerate enough to put my clothes away in the drawers and closet.
I once told the doctor this and wished I hadn’t – never let on that anything is not normal. He said I probably have somnambulism (sleepwalking disorder) caused by sleep apnea. All he wants to do is medicate me, so I don’t see what’s really happening. I’m through the looking-glass here, people.
My morning consists of cereal or bacon and eggs. I make the choice based on who is in the kitchen when I get there. If it’s my dad (he’s been dead twenty years), I go for cereal, he loved bacon. I can’t stand to hear his moans as he tries his best to articulate himself in his non-corporeal form. His shrieks, as his translucent spirit grows with agony, are not becoming of him.
If it’s the nun, I know I can have either, she don’t bother me – as long as I wear my crucifix. She’ll sit at the dining table and stare at me, but at least she’s silent. I’m not crazy, I promise.
I like to stay away from the apartment for as long as possible during the day. It’s as if a field of supernatural energy envelopes it. As I walk away, I feel it pull me back, to the point where it’s like I’m walking through treacle. Once I get to the end of my block and cross at the lights, there’s an audible pop as their grasp relents. I know, they know, I’ll be back in the evening, so they wait, not worried I’m out gallivanting.
I spend most of my day in the park. I get to eavesdrop on conversations of others and pretend I still have friends. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a man telling a woman about his evening. Sometimes it’s more exciting, like a woman broaching the subject of divorce with her husband. Whatever it is, I get pleasure from it. I don’t feel anxious here. The anger subsides and I can relax. My leg doesn’t jitter and my head doesn’t twitch.
At lunch I frequent a local bakery where I’m able to get a sandwich, drink and doughnut for a reasonable price. I take that back to the park and sit at my favourite bench and listen into more discussions and chatter.
Though the last few weeks there has been this man that sits in my favourite spot. He wears a suit that doesn’t fit him well. It’s obvious to me, but no-one else seems to notice. It’s the small things. His white cuffs cover most of his hands. His shoes are too big and shiny. I’ve never seen someone so small with such large feet. His eyes are a dead give away; bright white with no pupils to be spoken of. His top hat is as arrogant as it is obvious, though he blends in in a way I find remarkable.
I’ve ignored him stealing my spot up until today. Today, I sit next to him. I ask him why he is sitting in my seat. He doesn’t respond. Instead he gazes at the others in the park, his head flicking from one side to the other like a lizard.
“Your suit is a dead giveaway”, I say, gesturing at his cuffs. The cufflinks are of coiled snakes.
Mechanically he looks at one hand, then the other. He doesn’t even try to adjust them, he’s that confident.
I lean in. He smells of ash and citrus.
“See them over there,” I say, pointing to the couple I saw earlier, “she wants a divorce and he doesn’t. I’m intrigued to see what happens.”
He lets out a long sigh. I can’t be sure, but I swear I could hear a slither of a reptile tongue to match his reptilian reflexes. I promise I’m not crazy.
We both watch for minutes until the man gets up and points at the woman, shouting so loud we should be able to hear it, but all I can hear is a garble of sounds and words that make no sense to my ears. The man storms off and the woman begins to cry before holding her head in her hands.
I wonder what was said. I want to go over to her and ask, though I know I can’t – that’s not something sane people do and I need to appear sane.
With a lisp, the man next to me announces, “he’s told her that she won’t get anything.”
He sucks air in, and if I didn’t doubt myself, I was sure I saw a forked tongue scatter off into his mouth.
“He’s going to burn their house down,” he continued, sucking more air in, “their children are inside. He’s going to enjoooooy it.”
There it was! The tongue, long and proud, tasting the air in front of us. It was as if he was sampling the woman’s desperation and sorrow.
“How do you know this?” I asked.
I turn my head to see he wasn’t there. I’m not mad, I swear, I saw him.
I watch the woman cry as I eat my sandwich. She left before I started on the donut.
I throw my rubbish in the trashcan and could vouch that I heard it thank me.
“You’re welcome,” I said peering into the metal structure.
The walk from the park should be enjoyable, but as soon as I cross at the end of my road, I can feel the entities that inhabit my appartment wake. He’s coming home.
Today is different though. I stop outside my building to see a pest control employee stagger from inside. In the distance I see a fire rage in a townhouse. I wonder if that was the man burning his children. I hope it isn’t, I don’t wish that on anyone.
The pest control man looks spooked, “Sorry, are you a resident?”
“Yeah,” I say, annoyed he’s blocking my way.
“You can’t go up there. We have a situation,” he says as he puts his hands on his knees.
“I need to go home,” I say not wanting to mention the cockroach problem in my apartment.
“Seven…” he pants, “feet… fucking… roaches…”
Before I can push past him and take the elevator to my room, four government suits race past, flashing their badges.
“I need to get to my apartment,” I cry.
“What number is that sir?”
“25,” I say.
They look at each other and nod, “That’s fine, you can go. But the third and forth floors are under quarantine.”
I let out a big sigh and thank them.
“If you see any cockroaches, let us know.”
“Sure,” I say, nodding, knowing perfectly well I wouldn’t tell them.
I’m not crazy, I promise.