#FlashFiction #2 – meaning to the madness?
I will be posting, every 2nd friday, a series of short flash fiction that detail the year before the events that take place in my next novel, Harbinger. I will most likely sprinkle in a few short stories about specific characters, and, once I am ready to release the novel, I will combine these stories, do a proper edit, and make them available as a companion anthology. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into Olive’s life before Harbinger. As always feedback is welcomed and appreciated.
Please note: These are unedited, non-proofed first drafts.
October 14, 2011
It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand that fortune cookies were mass produced in some factory somewhere, probably not even in China — a quick wikipedia search on her phone revealed they probably were a Japanese American invention — and that the fortunes contained within were not written by some powerful mystic, though she had no evidence that such a person even existed, but printed out by the thousands via computer. And these fortunes didn’t hold some window to the reader’s destiny and the only guidance, or solace, they provided was self-imposed.
But still, with each cookie she snapped open and savoured, while dissecting the riddle contained within, she hoped. In the moment before she read the red block letters, while she was reading, and in the moments after as she began to interpret — she hoped for a hint. Just a little hint. A shove in the right direction would be welcomed, or even a slap in the face — anything to help with this desperately aching want.
Why? The never ending question perpetually reverberated around in her brain. Why, oh, why?
Yeah sure, she got that everyone asked why, all the time. But she didn’t mean ‘why me’ or even ‘what now’, she meant ‘why is this happening’, why has this always been happening? She didn’t hear voices or think that the world was secretly inhabited and controlled by aliens. She didn’t get anxiety attacks or suffer from paranoid delusions, though honestly who’d really know? She just felt either completely empty, devote of purpose or even, in her extreme moments, worthless, or she had these absolutely compelling urges to…to…to…what? And, that was the problem. Not that the emptiness wasn’t an issue, but the other, this crushing need to do…what? There was no medication for that, at least none that she’d tried had made any difference.
Something was going to happen.
Something had been threatening to happen from around the time she’d hit puberty and had increased in intensity ever since.
If she could just speak the words, or formulate the thought, then she’d been free — free of the burden of not knowing, at least.
So…breathe, refocus, and read: To reach distant places one has to take the first step.
All right, she could work with that, a weighty prophecy to be sure, but all she had to was take a step. Now, she took the term ‘distant places’ figuratively, not literally, seeing as she’d never had the urge to travel — oh, her parents had dragged her around like all good parents who try to provide a glimpse into the outside world for their children’s education — but personally she was much happier staying put, surrounded by minimalist, but prized possessions. So, what would a ‘first step’ comprise of figuratively? An action? A decision? Or a choice? Hadn’t she been taking action by following the urges with awareness rather than blind devotion? And then dissecting the results, which were, admittedly, usually nothing, with her therapist, or when that failed, as it always did, in the relative anonymity of her online world? Couldn’t that be seen as a first step? Except nothing had changed, no matter how many times she’d tried to move forward, to follow the feeling to some conclusion, usually the compelling need to do something, just, eventually, eased and then disappeared. Some times she found herself still repeating an action, perhaps for weeks, only to realize she didn’t actually feel the urge to do so any longer. The incidences only happened once a year or so, with the remainder of the time spent vacillating between utter unfullfillment or obsessing about her weird, compelled actions. Like the time she became obsessed with spiders — the need to look for them everywhere, to know everything about them, and to try to understand their behaviours and feelings…
Um, yeah, admittedly weird. Unfortunately, this last round of urges had only gotten more intense.
Last week Friday, unable to force herself to remain at home, she attempted to eat at the sushi place a block away from Connie’s Cookhouse. She’d barely been able to remain seated while ordering, so she’d gone to the washroom to calm herself, but, by the time her bento box had been delivered, she could barely function with the relentless pounding in her head. White flashes kept streaking across her eyes and she’d had to hold on to the counter while waiting for the confused, and little bit tentative, waitress to process her debit card. She’d left the perfectly tasty sushi sitting on her table and flung herself out the restaurant’s door. By the time she’d done so, everyone in the restaurant had been staring, not in concern, but in anxiety of her ruining their lunch with her obvious illness. As soon as she stepped outside, she’d actually stumbled in the direction of Connie’s Cookhouse. She took a few steps further and the pounding pain in her temples immediately eased. A few more steps and her vision cleared. She practically got mowed down crossing the cross street against the don’t walk signal in her hurry to further ease the pain. As she settled into her normal table, with it’s view of the street, and wrapped her fingers around the plastic, single sheet menu, she was fully in command of her facilities again. Though the crushing awareness of doom’s approach hadn’t eased, but at least she could see and hear and walk again.
Three days later, in her regular monday appointment, her therapist said it was all psychological. That she inflicted that pain upon herself as some sort of self-punishment.
According to him, because of her directionless nature and general unfullfilledness, she felt she was a bad person, and she punished herself for being unfocused by repeating a chosen patterned behaviour. The ritualized nature of the repetition made her feel like she was in control of her life.
When she pointed out her rather privileged upbringing and fairly perfect childhood — at least absent of any abuse or violence or other trauma, which were all cited in clinical assessments as reasons for this so-called-need to control — her therapist felt that only reinforced his position that she was punishing herself for simply being her. She was wracked with self-loathing exactly because there was no trauma to blame. Then he chided her, once again, for reading too many psychology books and online articles.
“Haphazard accumulation of knowledge only leads to faulty self-diagnosis,” he said. Some times she wondered why she subjected herself to these weekly chats, because it always came back to the unanswerable ‘why’. Here’s a new angle, why would she be punishing herself — oh, goody, let’s spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours dissecting that. Forgetting that the core problem hadn’t changed, just the current manifestation.
Sometimes, on the days when she wasn’t just tracking her descent into crazy town, she felt like maybe there was something she was supposed to do, some reason she’d even been born. And that is why she collected the fortunes, that is why she wondered about destiny and whether or not it was just utter bullshit. That is why she’d now eaten in the same Chinese Food Restaurant at the exact same time three weeks in a row, not because the food was damn tasty, which it was, but because some part of her believed that these urges where leading her somewhere and she just had to put in the time, and stay as sane as possible, while she waited for the pieces for click together.
Some times she thought there might be meaning to the madness in her head.
Other Harbinger stories: