Search Home Read Write Forum Login Register
I’m eight years old again. Eight years old. Right in between seven and nine. Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine! Now laugh. Laugh at the joke. Because you’re eight years old. No, because I’m eight years old. I’m not in this place; I’m sitting at my house. Only eight years old and sitting in my house and laughing at the joke. Laugh at the joke, laugh at the joke. Mum doesn’t think the joke is that funny, but she pretends that it is. Laugh at the joke, laugh at the joke. Little Alice made a joke. I made a joke. Laugh at the joke. Mum throws her head back with a laugh because I’m eight years old and I made a joke and I want everyone to laugh. I’m even laughing, laughing at my very own joke. Because I really think it’s funny, I do. Laugh at the joke.

Now, now, I’m only seven. Funny, I’m getting younger. They say that people get older, but no, I’m not. I’m getting younger. Seven is less than eight, isn’t it? And now I’m seven. I was eight, but now I’m seven. Alice is getting younger, that she is. She was eight and sitting in her house and laughing at the funny joke and watching her mum pretend it was funny. But now she’s seven! Less than eight! Getting younger! She’s getting younger, you here that? No, that’s all wrong. I am Alice. She’s not getting younger; I’m getting younger. Because I am Alice! That’s funny, isn’t it? Should I laugh? Laugh because I am Alice? Funny? Laugh at the joke! I’m seven years old and walking around the park with Mum. Look at the butterfly! It’s flying away, Mum! Why is the butterfly flying away? Wings fluttering, flying away. It’s leaving me. Flap! Flapflapflapflap. It’s getting smaller. Shrinking into a little dot and then bam! it’s gone. Gone and far, far away. Gone away from me. Mummy, why’s it gone? Where did it go? Why did it leave me? Look at the butterfly! It’s flying away, Mum! And then it’s gone. Bam! Bambambambambam! it’s gone. That’s it. It’s not coming back, no. Gone. Bam!

Bam! My seven year old self is gone and now? Now I’m only six, only six. Bam! I was seven and now I’m six. Bam! We’re on the playground, we are; me and Mummy and Mary, on the playground. Look, Mum, I can swing all by myself! And I’m going, up, up, in the air, swinging by myself. But Mary needs to be pushed because Mary can’t swing by herself, no, not like me. Mummy, push Mary! Push her as high as me! Push Mary! Mum says that Mary isn’t real; Mary’s in my mind. She’s funny, Mum is. Saying that Mary isn’t real! Imagine! Laugh at the joke, laugh at the joke! I pump my legs higher, higher, and I can almost touch the cloud. The cloud is right there and I am almost touching it! I just need to get higher, higher. Legs going back and forth. Mary could never do this! Back and forth! I’m getting higher and higher and higher and higher! The cloud! Higher and higher! I’m reaching my arm out and I can almost touch it. Look at me! I’m touching a cloud!

But then I jump off of the swing and I’m only five years old when I land on the ground and I’m not at the playground anymore and Mum isn’t there and Mary isn’t either, but it’s just me and I’m in my room with a group of stuffed animals and Mum isn’t there and Mary isn’t either. Somewhere in that jump off of the swing set, I lost a whole year and I’m five years old. Five years old and with my stuffed animals. That one – he’s Petey, the one with the bald spot from me rubbing his head too much. Mum isn’t here, but Petey is. Petey with his bald spot and shiny little black eyes that follow me around the room. Watch me! I’m a ballerina! And I’m spinning around and spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning! Going in circles and Petey is the one with the shiny little black eyes that follow me around the room. And the bald spot from me rubbing his head too much. You can’t forget the bald spot. You can’t forget!

Why am I fifteen years old? What happened to the pattern? I was eight and then I was seven and then I was six and then I was five and now, now I’m supposed to be four! Make me four! I’m not supposed to be fifteen. I’m four, I swear! Four! Fifteen isn’t four and I’m four, not fifteen because I was just five and everyone knows that four comes after five! Or rather, before five, but in this situation – no, I hate that word. In this case – yes, a much better word. In this case, four comes after five! But I’m fifteen and that’s wrong! I’m not supposed to be fifteen and I’m not supposed to be at school and I’m not supposed to be with these people. That’s Frank! I don’t want Frank; I want Petey! Petey with his shiny little black eyes that follow me around the room and. Blank. My mind is blank. I don’t know what else Petey had, though I know there was something more. Shiny little black eyes that follow me around the room and. And. And. Andandand. Blank. That’s all that there is. And blank! That’s all, that’s all. Oh, look, there’s Frank! Petey isn’t here and I forgot what Petey had, but Frank is here and he’s standing right there and I’m fifteen years old and I love Frank. Hello Frank! He’s right there and Petey isn’t and I’m here and I’m fifteen. I’m fine, and you? Yes, I’m fine. Fine. That’s all. Blank! Fine! Fine and that’s it and there’s nothing more. I’m fifteen years old and I’m fine.

“Now, Alice,” the voice says, “we are going to have a little chat! How about that!” The owner of the voice –a thirty-something nurse with a bright smile and carefully pressed clothing­– stares into a blank face. I don’t want to have a chat with you. Alice looks back, but she avoids the nurse’s eyes, as though looking into them would kill her. The avoidance is obvious and deliberate, but the smile of the nurse does not so much as sag, contrary to the pantyhose that she is wearing, old, and with a run in the knee that she pretends not to notice. “How are you!”

That’s not a question. I don’t have to answer, I don’t!
Alice continues playing her game of looking anywhere but into the eyes of the nurse. The poster behind her head advertises some sort of treatment, but Alice does not bother to read it. Treatment? I’m past that. No, I’m fifteen and I’m fine. Past treatment? Fifteen and fine. Fifteen and fine. Fifteenandfine! The chant is getting louder inside her head and she wants to tell the nurse, but her mouth remains firmly shut. Tell the nurse her secret? Never! Fifteenandfinefifteenandfine! Fifteen and fine and the nurse will never know the secret!

As Alice’s tightly closed lips work their way into a small, knowing smile, the nurse presses on. “Alice, sweet. Did you hear me? I asked you how you were, dear.” Fifteen and fine, that’s how I am! And you’ll never know because it’s my secret! Her smile grows larger and she doesn’t stare into the nurse’s eyes. No, she stares at the poster, right behind the nurses head and she smiles because she knows that the poster doesn’t matter. Because Alice is fifteen and fine!

And I’m not at school anymore and it’s not all happy, but Frank is there. Hello Frank! No, this isn’t that time. No! Frank is there, but I’m not fifteen and I’m not fine. Not fine and not fifteen and not fifteen and fine and no Petey and just Frank and Frank and Frank and Frank and her! Her! She isn’t Petey and she isn’t Frank and she isn’t Mum and she isn’t Mary and she’s. Blank. That’s what she is! Hello Frank! She’s. And what is she doing? She’s. And what is she wearing? She’s. And what is her name? She’s. I’m fine, and you? She’s. Blankblankblankblank! There’s too much blank, too much! It’s turning white, this blankness and now it has sharp fangs and it’s coming after me and I’m running and I can’t get away and I’m trying to and the blankness still keeps coming and it’s pointing something at me and I’m surely going to die and I’m not running anymore and I’m not going to give up and I will fight back and she’s. The blankness! It’s shredding itself and now, now it will die! Shreds of blankness are going everywhere and it’s like it’s snowing, only there isn’t any snow, just millions of little pieces of blankness! Blank! Swirling all around me and the butterfly is flying away! No, don’t go! Don’t leave me! I want to catch the butterfly, but I can’t swing that high! I can touch the cloud, but the butterfly is above the cloud and I’m yelling at Mary to swing higher and grab it! But Mary can’t swing that high and she wants to make me happy, so she tries, but then she’s falling and I try to save her and I start to fall with her! And the butterfly gets higher and higher but we’re both falling and getting lower and the butterfly is flying away! And Mummy says that she isn’t real and she’s holding my hand and we’re falling together and there’s no one to catch us except for Petey! But his eyes aren’t there, no, they’re gone and Petey doesn’t have eyes anymore and he can’t watch me be a ballerina and he can’t catch us when we fall! And bam! Bambambam! We hit the ground and we’re not younger, but we’re not getting older either and we’re trapped, just me and Mary and Petey, trapped in this state, this state of blank. And Mummy isn’t there and Frank! Where’s Frank? Hello Frank! Frank is here and then he isn’t and then he is and then he isn’t and then he is and then bam! We’re gone and we’re flying away together, as high as the butterfly and I’m sure we’re going to catch it, but I don’t want to leave Mary and Petey behind, trapped in that state of blank! Come back, come back! And that’s it! Blank! My hands wrap themselves around the butterfly and I’m not sure if I’m eight or seven or six or five or fifteen or four or one hundred and two, but I have the butterfly and I have Frank and we’re! Blank! And then she’s! Blank! And then! Blank.

Laugh at the joke, laugh at the joke.

Track This Story: Feed

Write a Review

out of 10


Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.

Register Today!