There is no such thing as psychics…or mediums…or the afterlife and nothing you say is going to convince me otherwise. I am the authority on this subject, for I am a scientist, and you are not…you are nothing…you couldn’t even keep your husband around for the kid, so what do you know?
Sorry…sorry…that was a low blow…I shouldn’t have said that…it’s just sometimes you make me so angry. Why can’t you just except the truth, that there is no one waiting for us on the other side…you should stop filling his head with lies. I’ve spent the best years of my life proving—as much as you can ‘prove’ anything in my field—that you are full of shit, but it doesn’t matter. I could quote a hundred studies, and actual facts that it’s all fake, and you wouldn’t believe me.
I don’t know why I try anymore.
Maybe it’s because of the kid.
Maybe I want him to have more than you, I don’t know…maybe deep down you’re right…at least about one thing…I do think I’m better than you. Come on, that can’t be a hard conclusion to come to…I’m rich…I’m successful…I’ve never been in a psychiatric ward…and I didn’t get knocked up by the drunk truck driver on my way to church.
I’m sorry that was wrong…I shouldn’t have said that; it belittles us both to think of such things…but you know why I keep saying these terrible things don’t you…its because you make me. You make me by not listening, you never listened to me…you always thought you were right…but you never were.
But I am, don’t you see…no one listened when you prayed for that drunk to come back, because it’s all just a bunch of nonsense you made up in you head. A collective delusion of our society…I tried to tell you…I would have made you believe it…but you were too stupid for that.
And as I stare down at you, lying in that box, I know that even if I were to say something…to try and talk…to you…you won’t say anything back. And do you know why? Because you’re dead…and that’s the end of it.
I don’t miss you.
Everyone says its weird that I haven’t cried yet…but they don’t understand…I don’t miss you…I hate you.
I think I always have…because you were so sure, so sure that there was something else…that there was something else out there…something else that my precious science couldn’t understand…but don’t you see that’s what made it wrong. Science is the building blocks of the universe, it is the only actual way we have of understanding our world. But you didn’t care…no one cares…no one understands.
Not even the kid.
I got custody.
I don’t know if you’d have hated that…maybe you would have…but let’s face it Mum and Grandma are nutcases and what social worker in their right mind would hand over anything living to Dad?
So that left me.
The professional , with a full paying job and no strange ridiculous beliefs. I don’t think they care about that last bit, but they should. They really should.
I pulled him out of that new age hippy crap school you had him in.
He screamed, cried, tried to hit me but don’t worry I didn’t hold it against him…I’m not a monster despite what you might say. I know he’s just a kid, and that he’s angry, angry at the world, at you, at me…especially at me right now…but he’ll get over it. Sure, he might have liked that old school, but he’ll actually succeed in life at this new one.
Don’t you see its for the best…its all for the best. You’d understand…if you could talk back…you’d understand.
It’ll take time…but you’ll see…they’ll see, I’m always right in the end.
It might take the rest of the kid’s life…but he’ll understand this is for the best…this is for the best.
He’s not settling in.
That’s what his teachers tell me anyway…he’s not settling in…not connecting with the other boys.
But its fine…really it’s normal…boy’s just lost his mother…it’s normal.
Fights…they’re normal…aggression is normal, isn’t it?
The teachers tell me he’s been starting fights with the other boys in his class…he tells me he’s been stopping them, so I don’t know what to believe anymore.
He hates me or thinks he does…says he loved his old school…he had friends there…he had a life there…he had a Mum there. He doesn’t have anything here.
He doesn’t understand, but he will…give it time, he’ll understand.
I’m always proven right in the end.
This is just a phase.
He’ll understand soon enough.
They’ll all understand.
It’s all normal, it’s all just normal.
No, it’s not, that’s a lie, nothing’s normal anymore…nothing…you shouldn’t be dead…why did you have to be so stupid? Why couldn’t you just listen to me like you used to before…before the kid was born? Don’t you remember, you hung on my every word…when Mum and Grandma tried to fill your head with that anti-vaccine nonsense I set you right, didn’t I? We went together to get that super-shot when you were pregnant with the kid.
Stupid, I shouldn’t talk to you…it’s a nasty habit…you’re dead…you can’t answer back because there’s nothing of you left anymore. But I don’t have anyone else…no one who would understand…look at me, now I’ve really stepped into crazy town, even if you’d been alive you wouldn’t have understood.
You didn’t understand anything about me…not what I believed…not my field…not even basic science: after all you thought your homeopathy actually helped the kid.
He’s started talking to you.
I can hear him when I walk past his door at night…at least I think it’s you…I hope it’s you.
It shouldn’t matter…it’s all in his head anyway, but it does. If it’s you he thinks he’s talking to, then really its normal…he’s just grieving and I can…I can pretend I don’t hear him…that nothing is wrong at all…but if it’s not.
We fight all the time, it shouldn’t matter that I have to put my foot down about another of your kid’s freakish little habits…but it does. Ha, I know what you’d say there…know it so well it’s almost like I’m hearing your voice in my head. You’d say that it’s not freakish…that all this crazy stuff like hearing voices…or reading the stars…or homeopathy quacks are real. You just have to open your eyes. When I open my eyes in the morning all I see is the drywall in my own ceiling.
There’s nothing out there, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.
Hearing voices is not normal
I should know…it’s not normal…and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.
None of it’s real.
I’ve got friends in the psychology department of my university…I’m taking the kid to see them tomorrow…that’ll fix him, after all it certainly did me.
Do you remember those horrible nightmares I used to have as a kid—ugly things running through my dreams like they were out to get me? The same ones Mum was convinced were predicting something terrible…or some crap like that… yeah, well they’re back. Not only that but I think the kid is having them too.
Or so I gather from Mark’s sessions with him.
I’m not supposed to listen at the door, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
None of it’s helping…not the school…not the teachers…not me. That’s why he finds comfort in his mother’s old beliefs…or that’s what Mark says. He tells me I need to calm down…dial back the hate and suspicion and just let the boy grieve how he has to. He says how I feel about psychics or the afterlife doesn’t matter right now…he’s never been much of a friend.
I know he’s wrong…I just know it…I can’t just let the boy believe in your nonsense…not when I’m right. Mark told me I might be the one who needs therapy for not expressing my grief in the proper manner…asshole. That’s what you would have said isn’t it…even if you hated me at the end, you would have never told me I needed to express my grief in the ‘proper manner’.
There is no proper manner for you.
Well suppose that doesn’t matter now…after all you’re dead.
Can’t nag me anymore when you’re in the ground.
When you can’t talk back.
They have no proof it was him.
None at all.
Not the teachers, or the cops, or even the victims.
Yeah, he was in the school at the time but so were a hundred thousand other hormone filled little morons…proximity to the crime can’t tell them shit.
They just don’t want the hassle of dealing with a bereaved little boy.
Don’t want the drama…well, too bad…we’re not going anywhere. I’m going to fight this expulsion…you’ll see, they won’t stop me with a restraining order.
Mum says I should put him back to his old school, or better yet just keep him home and teach him myself…truthfully the latter isn’t the worst of ideas she’s ever had, but I can’t let this insult stand. I just can’t.
I have to make them pay…you’d understand wouldn’t you…yes…mad you may have been, but even I can’t doubt that you loved that boy. I can’t be sure I do, for most of my days are plagued with the pain he causes me.
I don’t sleep anymore, if I’m not woken from slumber by the harsh grate of old nightmares revisited; then it’s the boy and his screams. He’s dreaming of you…of your death…or at least his violent reimagining of it. Yes, it was terrible that you died so young, and hit and runs are never clean…but the way the boy screams and thrashes in his bed at night, you would think you were brutally murdered…more nonsense.
Mark says I should see someone…the absurdity of it…it’s not me who screams like the dead have come to drag me into hell at night. Yet still my colleagues frown at me pointedly as I pass them…true my lack of sleep has begun to show, and sometimes I even forget to shave but well…I’m a doctor, isn’t that enough of a credibility to my sanity?
No, I know it isn’t…and sometimes, sometimes even I agree that I seem to be losing my sense. The dreams have become so awful, worse than they were before, telling of a terrible land were man is dead and the cockroach and the butterfly rule over all. I was certain not to tell that bit to Mark during my chat when your son stormed out on a session one day.
He screamed that my friend was a liar, that you were real and that I was…was just lying to myself if I claimed not to see you as well. I don’t, I will reiterate that, I do not see you. I do not see you hanging over my shoulder…I do not see you leaning over the boy as he sleeps…I did not see you embracing Mum as she wept over your grave.
It’s all just nonsense, at best a coping mechanism—or so Mark says—but I am a doctor, I’m meant to know better than that.
I am a doctor, they can’t tell me otherwise…I know what I am, they can’t lie to me. I remember my years of study, my gruelling hours of research for my doctorate. You believe me don’t you, I am a doctor not a madman. But then I suppose that hardly counts…for you were mad as well and now you are nothing more than a grave in the ground.
They say I am a liar, but that is a lie itself. I am not mad…the boy…he’s doing this, I don’t know how but somehow, he has turned Mark against me. I made him go back to the sessions, and in revenge he said such cruel things about me, lies, terrible awful things…and now oh the way Mark looks at me. It’s as if he can already see the straightjacket draped around my shoulders.
He did set the fire…I’m convinced of that now…why else, would he have told such fanciful lies pertaining to it? As if I, a logical doctor, a scientist would ever lower myself to commit arson. And for what reason does he claim I committed this crime? None, for in his thoughts I am a madman, left with a burning hatred of a sister long dead and her lying little weasel of a son, determined to finish the job I started. I told them it was a lie…it was all a lie.
No one believed me of course, they have all witnessed my decline in health…and in sanity so they say…but I’m not mad…nor a criminal. They cannot say I am, they cannot say I am.
Your son is evil…I know that now…maybe you did as well, maybe that’s why you surrounded yourself with phoney mystics and hippies and even that ridiculous homeopath. It was all to keep the monster at bay…and it worked didn’t it…for all my doubt, your ways worked to keep him normal.
I took that away and suddenly I see…I see what you were doing. What you were trying to stop.
They say that I’m mad, that I’ve always been mad.
They say: Sir, where were you on the evening of your sister’s death?
I tell them, out for a drive, but they bite back with ‘where?’. I know what they’re doing, they’re trying to say I killed you, but it’s a lie…I didn’t see you walking out to greet me…I was stressed…I was tired…I just wanted to go home…I didn’t see you.
I’m not mad, I’m not a murderer, but I can say that till I join you in the ground, no one will believe me. Not even Mum, and she believes everything.
They say I lied.
That I’m a monster.
That I’m not even a proper doctor.
It’s not true.
I’m not mad.
I’m a Scientist.
Charlotte Burnett is a twenty-five-year-old, dyslexic, high-functioning autistic woman, living in Scotland, who has had short stories published in literary journals such as The Write Launch and Coffin Bell. She is currently studying for a degree focusing on psychology and creative writing with the Open University.