…when insanity becomes too much






Helen’s feet were sore after a long day. What a long day. It was very long. If you consider that it started so long ago, with her pushing Jimmy the Nod in his wheelchair up the hill to the school. That dirty, dishonest, crippled bastard. And that was first thing in the morning. Before the sun had even risen. Not properly anyway. The sun wasn’t sitting up in the sky. It was behind some bushes. Trees. And now she could still hear the sound of the wheels squeaking. The wheelchair squeaking. And the squeaks running into each other as the wheelchair picked up speed, rolling back down the hill, with the flailing arms and legs of Jimmy the Nod thrown out in every direction. And there wasn’t even a crash. He just disappeared. Around a bend. And then there was Tommy Kilpatrick. Though he wasn’t there. Couldn’t find him. Where was he? No sign of him. Unrequited love. Madness. A thorough search. You have to be thorough. Helen was thorough. Very thorough. But not thorough enough. Because her love was unrequited. A very long day.


And then there were all those girls running everywhere. And the trees. And the sun. When the sun was up in the sky. The day was bright. The grass was bright. And then it was dark. It was dark when Helen woke up a few minutes ago, having taken a nap, having fallen into some bushes, having given up. Having dreamed. Dreams and dreams. Such dreams she dreamt. She dreamt of such things. Such things she couldn’t name. You couldn’t imagine. Such things. Such things dreams are made of. Dreams of hundreds of school girls. Reporters everywhere. Chaos. Disaster. A monkey puzzle tree. The embrace of Tommy Kilpatrick. A final embrace. Requite.


But she hadn’t given up. Had she? No. She would never give up. No matter how long a day was. However long a day can be. Longer even. Not for her was giving up. The thought didn’t even occur to Helen. She could swear to it. She hadn’t given up. What had she given up? She would find that sinister man she had fallen in love with. She was after him. She was right behind him. In control. She felt like she was right behind him. Like he was around the next corner. He was always around the next corner. She could see him standing there, around the corner. Just stood there. That sinister smile. And now, because it was dark, he could have been standing twenty feet away and she wouldn’t have been able to see him, unless he was standing underneath one of the few street lamps. Though if he was in the bushes he could have been standing almost right next to her. The bastard. Right next to her. Helen lunged into the bushes. There he was. Somewhere. Nearby.


And there were so many bushes. How could there be so many bushes? He could have been standing in all of them. In every direction. And then there was all that space in the dark. Space she couldn’t even see. It was like it was never ending. It was like she was so small – she could almost see a picture of space, like it was something instead of nothing. Empty canvas. Darks canvas. And Helen was painting a picture on this canvass. Pictures. Hundreds of pictures. Picture after picture of Tommy Kilpatrick. Him just standing there. And pictures of other people too. Other people lurking. Just standing there. There were so many people. It was crowded. The darkness was swarming with these people. They were standing right up against each other. Leaning against each other. Their fingers in each other’s fingers. Filling every bit of the darkness. Until the darkness was full of a million pictures of other people.


But everything changed with the white brightness of the supermarket. Everything was illuminated. All the people had disappeared. The million people. And there was no sign of Tommy Kilpatrick. It was as though they had all shuffled behind parked cars, lamp posts and shelves of rice and pasta. Run away. But Helen was undeterred. Unrequited. She went forward. She had always been going forward. Ever since she came down the stairs this morning, yesterday morning, every morning. Forward. With the bang of the front door still in her ears. You had to bang it otherwise it wouldn’t shut. It would just swing open all day. It had often swung open all day. You had to give it a good bang.


And Helen hadn’t just found herself stumbling into the supermarket. Into the supermarket and there she was, reasons coming afterwards. Because this was just where she wanted to be. Where she had always been heading. All part of the plan. Here we are. Finally. The supermarket at one in the morning. Or whatever time it is. This was where things were always going to end. Between shelves of tins and cans and packets of crisps. Helen didn’t even pick up a trolley or basket. Didn’t need one. Wouldn’t think of taking one. She stumbled on into the aisles. There were many aisles. As many aisles as there were grains of sand on the beach. Clouds in the sky. Bushes in the darkness.


Each aisle extended into a distant distance. Far distant. Where another aisle began. And another. From every angle extended an infinity of aisles. Aisles of everything. There were hundreds of jars of pasta sauce closing in on her. Hundreds. There were ten different varieties. Eleven. Twelve. They were stacked five, six, seven deep. Five shelves. Both sides of the valley, all the way up the aisle. Pasta sauce. For all those people who eat pasta sauce. Pasta sauce with mushrooms. Mixed vegetables. With a subtle spice. Real virgin olive oil. A hint of the Indian Subcontinent. Green peppers. Onions. In two easy steps. Suitable for celiacs. May contain nuts. Lighter. Taste the difference. Twenty-three different varieties. Twenty-four. Stir in. Just add meat. Original recipe. Six varieties of tomatoes. Sun kissed tomatoes. Twelve tomatoes in every jar. Taste the tomatoes. Packed full of tomatoes. Chunky. Extra special. Full of Mediterranean goodness. Sunshine.


Helen had stacked two hundred on the floor as part of her scheme. It was all part of her plan. She had counted twenty-six varieties, including packets, tins, jars and tubs. And she hadn’t even begun to look at the other side of the aisle yet. Another world. There were twenty six stacks on the floor. The first and second shelves were half empty. The column of mushroom pasta sauce tottered and needed to be shored up. Helen found that she could lean it against the shelving. The packets had to be piled rather than stacked. The tins were the easiest to stack. Jars could only be stacked six high before tottering. Tottering. Helen hated tottering. Couldn’t abide it. Wouldn’t stand for it. A tower of eight jars tottered one last time. Three jars cracked releasing their sunshine goodness in a red gash across the dun white floor.


This was the first intimation that all was not going according to plan. Helen wavered. She was struck by doubt. Maybe. Just maybe she was in the wrong aisle. She could just make out the aisle of toiletries in the distance. They were bright. A white and glowing aisle of white and glowing shelves. Red and blue lines. Subtle pinks. Lighter blues. Extending in neat lines. Shelves. Straight lines following the aisle to the end. Where it ended on a black square of the night.


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