I am a psychopath.
At least my mother thinks so.
Me? I don’t.
I simply see myself as someone who does whatever seems to be necessary in that moment. To take the route that most won’t take. To make life easy for the rest while I do what might be difficult for them. So if you think about it, I am actually a Helper. People, including my mother, should be grateful to me. To have me with her. Instead, she screams and shouts and smashes things around whenever I visit her. Whenever she sees me. Her nurse never fails to remind me that it is just one of her episodes. A reminisce from that accident on the lake. A memory personified in the broken and demented person that my mother has become. The same accident had killed her husband and her other daughter. My father and sister. Left a permanent scar on my face forever disfiguring my features. And forever tainting our relationship with a crimson red. The color of blood.
It does not help that my mother remembers little to less of anything. During her good episodes her eyes remain vacant, staring into nothing. Those days she would eat anything the nurse puts in her mouth. Says nothing while her full-time nurse chats around her. On her bad days she would scream till she foamed from her mouth. Swing her body in a manic rage till she smashes everything around her. Pull her hair while her mouth stays wide open in a shriek, her eyes red with fury till she bleeds at the roots. Each of her bad episodes always start with a glance at me.
I deftly steer my car around a bend in the road. Today would also be one of her manic episodes. I am on my way to see her after almost six months.
I am not heartbroken that she thinks of me this way. That is also not the reason why I haven’t been visiting her more frequently. I just don’t deem it more necessary than usual to visit her. Its not as if she’s waiting with a bated breath for my arrival. What use is it to get her all worked up for nothing? But today, today is different. It is also the anniversary of The Accident. The same accident which has brought us to this chapter. The same chapter which you are also a part of. Why have I chosen to for you to be a witness now? I don’t know. Guess I grew tired of witnessing the events alone.
The road is beautiful. Thick forest lining either sides, sun shining bright in the sky. I am the only one on the road. When the road climbs up, I can see the lake shining in a distance. What I can’t see is the lakehouse hidden on its shore. That’s where I must go. That’s where the accident happened. And that’s where my mother has stayed since the accident.
Shadows. That’s the name of that small house sitting at the edge of the lake. The lake and the property around it were bought by an ancestor from my mother’s side. The same ancestor left their generation broke through poor decisions but somehow guarded Shadows passionately. It had been passed down through generations until it came to my mother. And now, through her, me. Her only surviving kin. I always loved Shadows. As a child I fantasized about owning it one day. Coming over whenever I pleased. Just me, Shadows and the peace of not being surrounded by a bumbling throng of people.
I spot something on the road and brake my car to a gentle stop. Two squirrels were trying to stuff their cheeks with something fallen on the road. Morons! If I wanted to, I could have easily run them over. Or at least tried to. I eye them for a moment. How dumb are these creatures that they don’t even see this big blue car before them? Typical gluttonous beings! I thought for a moment and then smashed the accelerator with my foot.
What? It was funny! The way they jumped away. Come on! I didn’t intend to kill them. I told you, I am not a psychopath. A little harmless fun is healthy folks! What do you do when you are bored? Stare out the window? Anyway they got away.
Or did I let them get away?
I got my speed under limit. Whenever I am on this road, I like to take my time reaching down to the lake. I love the journey as much as I love this destination.
The road descends into a slope, gently tugging the car towards the Shadow. Another great reason I like this house is because it stands protected by the shade of the mountains and the forest around it. Sunset arrives here at least an hour earlier than the rest of the world. And sunrise, is late. I love the quiet. The feeling of serenity. The feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world. Where you can hear no one and nobody can hear you. Which is what happened on that day of the accident.
The smooth road bends to the right into what seems like nothingness. I know better. It dips below. But I was in no hurry to get to the Shadows. As much as I loved that small house, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the presence of two other people in it. One, you guessed it right! My mother. The other of course would be her nurse. To be fair, I could have gotten rid of them anytime I wanted to. One, by relieving her of her duties. The other, by relieving her of her breaths. Both would have been a mercy to its recipients.
I told you…I was a Helper.
Right before the dip in the road, there was an overlook. Barely enough for two cars to stop. It overlooked the vastness, the greenery and the mystery of the valley below. On days when it rained, which was quite often, the valley would be filled with a swirling mist. A mist which snaked its way around trees, dissolved itself in water, masked the living beings with its dewy odor. Sometimes, it occurs to me that maybe, that same mist must have now settled in my mother’s mind. It sufficiently explains why her thoughts are always so clogged. She loved me. Before the accident, she loved me the most. Not my father. Not my sister. Me. For me, her angel who could do no harm, she could walk through fire. But now, I doubt she’d have little problem with pushing me into one.
I bring my car to a stop and got out. Pulling my cardigan tightly around myself, I stepped out of the vehicle. Today was one of those misty days I so love. I inhaled deeply, willing the smell of the forest to expand my chest from within. I would need it. Need it the most when I finally face my mother.
My therapist continually asks me to describe to him about the day of the accident. According to him it holds the key to my psychology. He’s an idiot! It holds nothing!
That day was just a manifestation by a higher power of what had always been in my mind. A way to help others when no one else would.
You see, my sister, the younger one, was a mere 9 months apart from me. And although people say that babies couldn’t possibly understand or store feelings from their infancy, I think I did. What other reason could there be for me to hate my sister?
She was too like Me. Well she shouldn’t have been. She should have been someone else. Someone who looked different. So alike were we in appearance that often we were mistaken to be twins. While she glowed at the supposed compliment, it was a blatant insult to me. How dare she?
If I am fair, I would probably admit that my parents never differentiated between us. We got what we wanted. The only difference was that I demanded whatever I deserved and she, she accepted it with a grateful smile. I could tell that for my father, she was the only child that mattered. I never showed it, but I hated the fact that she could effortlessly be such an easy child for my parents. During those times, it was my mother who kept me tethered to reality. The reality that I could do nothing except be the best. So I was the best. Studies, sports, extra curricular, you name it. And yet…and yet my father’s eyes never lit up for me the way they did for her. My parents never got complimented for my skills alone. It was always.. “Oh you’re so blessed to have such lovely daughters…”
Daughters. Not daughter. Plural. I was stuck with her for the rest of my life.
Or was I?
A gust of air from the valley sent my dark hair blowing around, some end up brushing over my scars. I didn’t bother clutching them in a hair tie. They need to be wild and free. Like me.
Once, I remember clearly, I asked my mother whom did she love the most. She said my name without any hesitation. The satisfaction that gave me remains unmatched. I think she also felt guilty about not being able to give me as much time as a baby as I was entitled to. My father was another story. Another time I heard him tell mother that he didn’t feel safe for my sister to be around me. I had never seen mother so angry. That was who she was. The one person who loved me limitless. Then she changed. Without a warning . After the accident.
I squint my eyes, trying to see as far as I could into the scenery before me. If I went to the Shadows, took the small boat and rowed it to the far end of the lake and you would be standing on the pier, watching me fade into a smaller and smaller version of myself, when suddenly I would vanish. I wish I could witness the shock on your face. Wouldn’t that be fun? So…how would I vanish?
Simple. A small strait connected from this lake to another lake. Hidden lake it is called. The name explains the location. So dense are the trees around the lake near Shadows, this otherworldly connection is easy to miss. For years, it was a secret known only to our family. Until that day.
I decide to restart driving. It would take about an hour to wind down these roads and reach my destination.
My therapist had strongly suggested I didn’t come back. Poor fellow! What does he know? Or maybe he does but is bound by that patient-doctor privilege.
Well what’s wrong in that? People go to priests. I chose a therapist. Much less likely to give you advice. Besides I like the look of horror and discomfort which keep flashing through his features as I speak. Like a prey with no escape in sight. Before you get me all wrong, I should add that I am a nice person. I sent flowers to his home on his marriage. Somehow, me knowing where he lived, knowing about the members of his family, his life, alarmed him. I know he hates seeing me on a regular basis. I know he hates that I work as a qualified nurse. And I also know that he hates more about not being able to do anything about it.
Ah well…he’s paranoid, that man!
How could a grown man be afraid of a thin, frail girl?
But…my father was a stronger man. And he was afraid of me. I knew it. I saw it in his eyes the day he died.
Huh…maybe my therapist does have a good reason to be afraid.
Glancing swiftly in both directions, I gently guide my car back on the road. Not too long mother! I’ll be there shortly.
A swift click on the window buttons resulted in the glasses being pulled down and a blast of air almost punching its way in. It eerily reminded me of the exact moment I had tried to help my sister.
We were on a picnic on the shores of the Hidden Lake. Just us and Nature. For a change, it was nice. Mother had packed a picnic basket and we had all climbed aboard my father’s small motorboat. Everything went well. We ate, swam, even chatted a bit. Mother laid down on the beach with a book and father went a few unsuccessful hours trying to catch fish. My sister and I spent our time swimming or hunting for mushrooms: some edible, most non-edible. It was when we were returning that something unforeseen happened.
I don’t know how, but our boat capsized right as we were about to enter the strait. How? Don’t ask me. If there was an object which caught it underwater, I wouldn’t anyway know about it. Or if it was because I pushed my sister overboard because she refused to move from the seat I wanted to sit on, it is still not my fault. It was hers. She could have saved us both this whole lot of trouble had she just freaking listened to me!
I take deep breaths to calm myself. Thinking about her always riles me up. Stupid girl! This was all because of her!
My father hit the propeller hard. Half his face was gone when I managed to pull him on shore. All because of her! Because of her, my semi-conscious mother could only make out parts of the events. I lay her on the good side of her husband as I jumped in the lake once more to rescue my idiot sister who despite being a good swimmer, decided to flail about like a blind fish! Somehow, she had also managed to lodge the butter knife into her throat. I recognized my mother’s silverware from the picnic basket.
As I had laid down my family, exhaustion threatened to overtake me but then I knew that my task wasn’t complete. I needed to get help. And I can’t unless I swim to the Shadow. So I did. Alone. Rang up the emergency services, explained what happened, gave them instructions to the Hidden Lake, then took one of our jet skis to once more be with my family.
That, I admit, was a mistake. I should have waited for help to arrive as they told me to.
When I arrived, out of the three people I had left behind, only one seemed okay. My mother.
My father, with half his face missing, looked like he was laboring on borrowed breaths. My sister on the other hand was constantly making these gurgling sounds. It might have had to do something with that knife stuck in her throat. I stood over them, mind running wildly. Surely, these two won’t survive. And by some miracle if they did, my life would be a living hell. It would just be easier for me, and more importantly, them, to go. It was a difficult decision but I helped them. I am a Helper.
I helped my sister by wrenching that knife from her throat. I watched for a moment as blood gushed out like flowing water. I heard my mother’s whimpers from behind me but knew she would understand. Next I kneeled beside my father. Whatever little consciousness was left in his eyes, quickly turned into fear as his pupils expanded at me. He must have understood what I was about to do before I pinched his mouth and nose shut. He was half-dead anyway. The only struggle he put up were pathetic wriggles of his giant body.
It was messy, but necessary. That was what I always did. Went through with difficult tasks so that others won’t have to.
My mother looked fine so I let her be. Only, that was another regret.
You see, from her vantage point, all she saw was me pulling out a knife from my sister and then me, suffocating her husband. She didn’t have those memories of a half, bloodied face etched in her memory. Or that of a knife sticking out of her daughter’s throat. I bore that burden. For her. Yet, I was the murderer. I was the psychopath. Had I known how damaged she would become, I would have helped her too.
When help arrived, they found me passed out, exhausted from exertion and blood loss. They later told me that I had a gash running all around my head which ended on my face. They also told me that most likely I was high on adrenaline and because of that had been able to swim such a long distance and call for help. They asked me about my sister and I told them truthfully, that I had indeed pulled out that knife from her to help her out. I think that meant something else to them because all they did was patted my shoulders sympathetically and then whisked me off in a chopper to the nearest hospital.
My mother had retained extensive brain damage. Whenever she would awake, a barrage of screams and eyewitness accounts of the so called murders would spew from her lips. The medical staff initially tried to make her see sense about how I was only a 12 year old girl. How I pulled out the knife because I didn’t know any better, I must have thought I was helping her.
Well, they were wrong. I knew I was helping her.
Soon, my mother was transferred to psychiatric care.
No one asked about my father. There was no need to. His face provided all the testimony needed.
I killed the engine as my car shuddered to a stop before the porch. There was still plenty of time left for the sun to go down. I pried my fingers off the steering wheel. Lost in thought, they had gripped themselves tight around the wheel, resulting my knuckles to turn white. I turned to face the lake. Unflinching and dark as ever. Inside, I knew my mother would be sitting in her bed, a cup of untouched tea steaming on the bedside table. Her nurse would be sitting on the back porch, sipping her own cup of hot tea. She won’t come in to help my mother drink her tea until she has finished hers. That would give mother enough time to doze off, enough time for me to sneak in silently, enough time for me to put a few drops of something in the tea, then sneak back out and enter the house as if I had just arrived.
Mother had suffered enough, I can’t see her go through any more pain.
It was now time for me to help her.