Refugees part II. ‘A second study of madness’, or ‘fourteen months later’.



To my surprise, more so than to anyone else’s perhaps, the madness seems to be fading. Gone are the sickening textures that used to gather in fungal clumps behind my eyes, gone are the ghosts in the stairwell. Gone are the fattening concaves and vexes of vision, gone are the lapping waves of insomnia, of which every seventh brought with it voices of phantom ship wrecks, sticky grey strands of seaweed and tiny droplets of blood bursting across the front of my mind.

 The dropping lights are no longer there. My eyes are no longer pulled for no reason towards a single teardrop that falls from nowhere into nothingness in the centre of a room. I no longer jerk involuntarily to mean little whispers in my ears, I no longer run passed closed doors and turn corners with pine needles prickling somewhere in the region of my kidneys. The stone faces and shapeless neons have abandoned my feverish dreams. The smooth-eyed women have given up chasing me through the early morning.

 (On a television somewhere, an old Welsh harp is being plucked by pale fingers. The static flickers in and out, in and out to pointless arias and half-forgotten melodies, but this is only simplicity now. Heimlich, even, if you feel the Austrians can be trusted, after all this time. Anyway, static is merely directionless noise, caught in a tube like an unmade child and bounced against glass, scattered into motes of monochrome applause. I used to see vast Olympic crowds, in static. I would spend hours trying to see someone I knew, wildly cheering an unseen athlete, breaking time. Time beneath the aerial is reduced, somehow. Each second has a sixth or seventh dimension removed, carefully, surgically. Eventually, it is reformed, strings shaking in a particular direction to take the form of a rhinoceros beetle, caught in a balloon, buffeted on the Gulf Stream. From here, to there. That is all.)

 The madness is fading, and it will fade further, until I will doubt it was ever present. An old guest, like a Cheshire Cat that fades from the stomach upwards, leaving nothing but a battered old trilby and a single, semen coloured ring on a coffee table, left by a mug of peppermint tea. I used to take a battered old mirror from house to house. People knew this about me, and people knew very little. I made sure of it. I trapped a single hair in that mirror, flattened between three panes of glass. One day, that hair will split the reflective surface into raw states of volcanic matter; of this I am quite sure. The popular misunderstanding of karma can only exist in this state, it seems to me. “Call no man happy until he is dead” can sit alongside “Omnia mutantur nihil interit”, and still that single strand of ammonia dyed polyformous keratin will complete the dharma I have bestowed upon it. Certainty never came easily, and possibly never will. But once metamorphic, always so, I say.

So, the madness is definitely fading. It really, really is. From my home on the plains, I can see for miles. Actual miles, not the disneyfied fictional miles you get back home. I watch the sky turn itself into the belly of a great horse each evening, I watch clouds gulp shoals of fish as they flex their way across the horizon, and I know that I am part of that. I watch carnivorous plants and young women smear their faces with redness, and I know that I am part of that as well. I see the earth crack with ennui, I see cars ending more microscopic life than I can ever comprehend and I see stray cats and aubergines and broken locks and dull eyed policemen and god and divorcees and filthy carpets and know that it is all me. If I concentrate, and shake my hand at just the right speed, it will pass through this wooden table. If I pull the strings from my arm, and trap them between three sheets of glass, I can do almost anything. The madness is fading.

About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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