Estelle breaks free, gouging her broken fingernails into my flesh, bringing the blood anew. I press my hand over the lacerations. In her wake, a foul stench clings to the air.
She doesn’t resemble the woman I once knew; her form is repulsive now. Stringy grey strands of hair matted with grease fall over the folds of a disintegrating, soiled nightgown. She stopped wearing diapers years ago, preferring to shuffle along in the faecal spattered fabric that drapes her withered frame.
Last evening, I snuck up beside her, grabbing at the tattered cover of the small black book she held in her arms, cuddling it close to her chest. Her grip surprised me when I fought to take it from her. Estelle shrieked, catlike, flying at me in a flurry of madness, clawing as if to end my days.
A wailing Estelle tries to catch me. I’m ready. She trips, falling to her knees, speaking for the first time in the thirteen months since this lunacy began.
“Murderer,” she curses. “You’ll pay, give me back my babies.”
Stunned by her words, I backed up against the wall. The pages flick open, revealing photographs. I kick it towards her. Sobbing, she grabs at the pages, caressing the faces of lost children into her grieving soul. She carefully repositioned them close to her heart.
This is her insanity. I’m to bear the rage of her loss.
“Estelle, listen to me.” “They were sick. No chance existed; it was for the best.”
“Never forgive… never forgive you…you go to hell.”
The conviction of her words sent shock waves of panic into my chest. Swallowing hard on the rising, acid bile, fear creeps in, squeezing my pounding heart.
This never-ending nightmare must have a purpose.
At dusk, Estelle collapses, a crumpled heap of sagging flesh and fabric. I’m half hoping tonight will be the night that I’m set free. “I wish she was gone”—loathing washes over me for thoughts … “My life … I can’t win back until she’s dead.”
“She’s stolen it.”
It’s six in the morning. She’s rising, I’m falling into an endless abyss. A promise made, as yet unfulfilled, until I can wrestle with my conscience and accept that Estelle’s death would be the right outcome for the both of us.
Exhaustion replaces sleep. Visions of Estelle’s death in my mind. Unhinged by her daily ignorance of my presence, her tortuous journey continues. I can only watch helplessly as she saps the life from my spirit.
Her reality remains disconnected from the children that she believes died because of her inability to save their souls. I’m trapped.
Suffering floods my sinful soul. I take it back, knowing that dawn will put another brick in the wall of our prison.
We passed by each other. I can’t take this madness much longer. Oblivious to my loneliness, Estelle looks through me with a vacancy that cuts.
“Estelle, you know me. Look at me.”
There’s no response. I’m nothing to Estelle now.
I flee, navigating my way through the maze of locked doors and corridors with shaking hands and lungs that can’t quite suck enough air. Drained and devoid of emotion, I race towards my future in the morning sunlight.
Freedom tastes good.
There’s no news of my disappearance as I read this morning’s paper.
I read a month later that Estelle had passed away in the asylum. I’m not ready to mingle with the rest of the world yet.
Nancy takes good care of me, unsure if she could ever get by without me. A warm smile flickers across her face.
“Edgar, more tea?”
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
A tale of loss and madness where the boundaries of murder are undefined.
Her first love is writing and has been honing her craft for many years. With painting her second love, her art is locally recognised for its seascapes. Well travelled, she once took a cruiser out to Alcatraz where she was locked in solitary confinement for an hour. "That hour, felt like days," she recalls with a sense of accomplishment.