A Day in the Life of Madness

It was a shock to Susan. The comfort of familiarity was lost. In the blink of an eye what had once been Susan’s homeland was now foreign. Susan looked around at the sights and sounds, not knowing what to do, studying her new surroundings.  She was in a warehouse of sorts with a high ceiling. The warehouse was overcrowded and noisy. Hanging from the ceiling by chains, were cages, some large and others small. The small cages were full of carrots, still with their green tops. Susan was transfixed and stood on the spot, unable to move. In the large cages were animals, although Susan had never seen this kind of animal. They were all different, most covered in patchy fur, with some human like features. They did have one feature in common; their teeth were bared. This frightened Susan out of her wits and she started running and looking for an exit to escape this freak show. What the hell? A nervous sweat was trickling down the sides of Susan’s face and her hands were clammy. The stench from the caged human animals was overpowering and nausea hit Susan. Ugh!

No one took any notice of Susan as she raced through the warehouse ; except for one person. The girl had been observing Susan. A scream escaped from Susan as the girl grabbed her on the arm.The girl said, “Come with me now, quickly.” Susan struggled and tried to run away. The girl firmly held on to Susan’s arm and spoke again. “You must come with me now, I’ll help you!” Susan looked at the girl who was wearing a black hat with the rim pulled down over her eyes, rags covering her body and an orange tinge to he skin. “Who are you?” asked Susan. “My name’s Maggie, I know what you are going through and I can help you. You must come with me now!” said Maggie. May as well, shit! Maggie led Susan to a door and they left the warehouse.

Susan’s whole body shook out of control. “Take some deep breaths and follow me,” said Maggie. Susan nodded in confusion. They were in a city with tall concrete buildings, under a grey sky.  Susan noticed there was no greenery; not a tree, shrub or even a leaf in sight. The streets were empty. Occasionally a person scurried out of one doorway and into another. “I’m taking you to my house,” said Maggie. “The sun will be gone soon, so we have to hurry”.  After walking for 30 minutes, Maggie started to run. Susan kept up the pace. They circled around an enclosure, with an 8 foot high wire fence. Behind the fence was a concrete building with one door. Outside the building was a large concrete hole in the ground with steep sides. Water was being pumped out of a pipe above the hole, and the effect was that of water spiraling down a plug hole in a sink.

“Here we go,” said Maggie. The two girls had reached a harbour and Maggie helped Susan down into a dinghy.  Susan did as she was told and Maggie rowed out into the harbour.  The water was black and murky.

Surely nothing lives in this water.

As Maggie rowed, tears fell from Susan’s eyes. This was all too much. “Let it out Susan and I’ll fill you in, said Maggie. I’m not from here either.”

I was at the local supermarket buying milk, and in an instant, boom, I was here in this wasted city.  It took me weeks to adjust and a stranger helped me out, the same as I’m doing for you. Something is wrong with this place and no one will talk about it. The only thing to eat is carrots or meat, and they’re sold at the market after being dropped there once a month through the night. The meat comes from the animals you saw in the cages. I don’t eat them. They’re mutated humans,” Maggie started to explain. Susan’s crying turned to gags. “I’m taking you to a small island in the middle of the harbour. I live there with Tilda and Grandma Chicken. You’ll be safe” said Maggie. “Well how the hell did I get here, where am I, how can I go home?” asked Susan. “I’m so sorry” said Maggie. “You can’t go home. I wouldn’t be here if I knew how to do that.” Maggie reached over and hugged Susan. Susan was beside herself and the tears were running down her face. “You’ll be O.K. You’ll adjust,” said Maggie.

The two girls arrived at a small inlet and pulled up to a wooden jetty. Maggie padlocked the dinghy to the jetty with a heavy chain. The island wasn’t really an island, but a rocky protrusion with a building in the middle, surrounded on 3 sides by a high fence. Maggie looked up into the sky and frowned. The ashen sun was almost down. “Let’s get inside, hurry, come on!” said Maggie. After knocking on the door, it was opened by an old woman, and the girls hurried inside.

“Hey Tilda, look who I found at the markets,” said Maggie. “Tilda, Susan, Susan, Tilda. Yay, we have someone else to stay with us,” said Maggie. Maggie twirled off around the room. Tilda smiled at Susan and gave her a hug. “Welcome Susan,” said the old woman. “Welcome to our home”. Susan’s gratitude came out in tears. “I’ll make us a cup of iced water,” said Tilda. “Take a seat Susan, and please feel at home. We’ll fill you in, you poor lost sole”. Once all three were settled, Maggie began.

“The thing is,” said Maggie. “If you are out at night, you will disappear. The people from behind the Great Fence will capture you. You remember the high fence we ran around on the mainland? I’ve watched them at night. They drug the prisoners and take them behind the Great Fence”.

This must be a dream.  It just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

Susan sat, listened and stared off into space. Tilda patted Susan on the arm and smiled. “The prisoners are told to walk down the concrete spiral hole thingy, and then the water is turned on!  They are washed away by a whirlpool, never to be seen again. Deep, down into the ground. They obviously drown,” said Maggie.

 “Now, now, Maggie,” said Tilda. “I think Susan has heard enough! Come on love, we’ll show you round and find you a bed.”

The inside of the house looked as normal as any middle class home, with ornaments on a sideboard and photos in frames of people long gone.  Tilda, with tears in her eyes, spoke the names of each of the lost family members and friends.  Susan felt Tilda’s sadness and awkwardly put an arm around Tilda’s shoulders.

At the end of the kitchen were double glass doors.  They were shut.  Susan couldn’t see through the glass.  It was yellow, and reminded Susan of the retro decor of the 50’s. “Come along Susan, and I’ll introduce you to Grandma Chicken. You’ll find this hard to deal with, but Grandma Chicken is very excited to meet you. She’s been listening to us talk.” Susan silently followed Tilda towards the glass doors. “You’ll be fine with this Susan,” Maggie said, and gave her a wink. Doubt it! Susan could hear a scratching sound as the three women approached the doors. “Just don’t get too close, she bites.”

Tilda opened the doors and Susan saw the most hideous creature.  It looked like a chicken the size of a short person, with a head covered in not feathers, but human hair, wound up into a bun on top of its head.  The creature looked like the ones Susan had seen in the warehouse and was baring its teeth. The sight frightened Susan.

The big chicken lady person was scratching the floor and making soft clucking noises. “Grandma Chicken was rescued by Tilda from the meat markets,” said Maggie. Her feathers were falling out and she looked scraggly. No one bought her and she was left to rot at the back of the warehouse. It was disgusting! We’ve only been able to save this one. She can end her days here in comfort.” Susan noticed a chicken pen of sorts in the corner of the room, where shredded paper was scattered for Grandma Chicken to toilet.

This was just too much for Susan and out came the tears.  What was this horrid place?  Tilda went over to Grandma Chicken and fixed a stray piece of hair coming out of the bun.  “Grandma Chicken only lets Tilda get close to her,” said Maggie. “Oh dear, your tears will settle down eventually, sweetie.”

“I need to show you something,” said Tilda. Maggie was standing in another corner of the room, in front of what looked like a large painting turned backwards. We’ve heard stories at the markets, frightening stories of homes being broken into and people being whisked away during the night, never to be seen again.  The only defense we have is this mirror. Oh, please!  A mirror, a weapon?  “We were lucky to….well, find this,” said Maggie.

“Um, call me stupid but how is a mirror going to help you?” Susan asked. “That’s the good bit,” said Maggie. If anyone looks in the mirror, the mirror turns a ghastly black and the person is sucked in, and we never see them again. How awesome is that?” Maggie twirled off around the room again. Oh dear, get me out of here. “It’s what happens Susan, no matter how hard it is to believe,” said Tilda. The important thing is that you know what it can do and how it can be used. Never, ever, turn the mirror around unless you are facing an enemy, and don’t look in to the mirror, or poof, you’ll be gone. “Um, O.K,” said Susan. Help!

“Come on and we’ll find you a bed,” said Tilda. Susan was led in to a small bedroom with a mattress on the floor. “Thank you,” said Susan. “Try to get some sleep and we’ll call you later for supper,” said Tilda. Susan lay down and cried until she fell asleep. Dreams of hideous creatures danced around inside Susan’s head.

A noise woke Susan. Susan sat up quickly and took a gulp of air. Holding her breath, she listened. Susan’s body was stiff and motionless. Someone raced into the bedroom. “Quick Susan,” said Maggie. They’re here. It’s them, from behind the Great Fence. We’ve got to go, now!” Maggie tugged at Susan until she got up, and then pulled her towards the door.

 “Tilda went out to stall them, so we could get away.  Come on!  There’s an escape hatch in Grandma Chicken’s room behind the wardrobe.”  Susan started to shake and followed Maggie.  What sounded like a gunshot stopped Susan and Maggie in their tracks.  Susan heard a loud sob escape from Maggie.  On entering Grandma Chicken’s room, Maggie led Susan towards a wardrobe on the back wall.  The double doors suddenly opened and men with torches scanned the room.  Maggie desperately tried to drag the wardrobe aside.  “The mirror,” said Susan. We’re too late, get the fucking mirror!”

At that moment a figure flew through the room and landed on the man inside the doorway. Grandma Chicken was attacking him with such ferociousness it made the other men step back. Maggie and Susan both grabbed for the mirror when another gunshot was heard. Maggie let out another loud sob as they watched Grandma Chicken fall to the floor. Dizziness washed over Susan and she grabbed at Maggie. Both girls lost their balance. Maggie’s grip on the mirror loosened. A torch light fell on the glass of the mirror as it turned and faced the girls.

It happened so fast, and both girls looked in to the black mirror. Susan and Maggie were sucked away and disappeared from Grandma Chicken’s room.

Susan blinked. Maggie groaned. Bright sunlight was glaring in to their eyes. What the hell? On opening their eyes wider the girls saw a shopping mall.

Home? 

Maggie threw her arms around Susan then twirled off through the parking lot. Susan, overwhelmed, shaken and crying, twirled off after Maggie, with a grin.

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