In a mo, Flo.
That was her name. Not ‘Flo’, not ‘Mo’, not ‘In a so and so’. Just ‘In a mo, Flo’. Simple. There you go.
Well, occasionally one or another would go, “Hey, Mo Flo!” thinking it was rather funny. But she’d come along and kick them in the tummy. She’d give it some welly, with a fair bit of force. For a few days after, they’d talk a bit hoarse. And when they went to the loo, it was really quite runny…
You didn’t mess with Flo, now THAT was soon learned. She had respect and esteem, and THAT was soon earned. Flo, in a mo, taught everyone here the meaning of Terror and the definition of Fear. A look that was wrong, a word said amiss, a bump or a nudge or a taking the… dessert before it was missed. An eye that was black, a rib that was broke, a nose that dripped blood or a throat begging to choke, Flo, in a mo, was a wind that could whirl and knew just the pressure points that could make you hurl. A belt that was black as the eye she could punch would make you, in a mo, lose all of your lunch.
Not that, of course, it was worth keeping down. Slop, a mucous-like shade of dark brown, with a side dish of something that didn’t have a name – to eat it you’d have to be… erm… insane…
Residents of an asylum, I suppose are just that. But don’t tell a soul. Keep it under your hat.
So ‘In a mo’ was what Flo usually said. And if you tried to rush her, you’d get a kick in the head. So you gave her her time, whether a minute or nine, and if she still wasn’t done or was having some fun (which often consisted of someone’s arm being twisted), and your courage had fled, or you wanted to keep your head, or not end up dead, or bled, or buried beneath an old garden shed – not that there were any, but you get my gist – anything could happen if Flo had got pissed. And then, in the end, you’d ask a friend.
Or what passed for one, cos, when all’s said and done, we are all the same, regardless of name. Prisoners of demons all of our own, in this lunatic asylum that we all call home.Learn More
She went to great trouble to always keep her left hand hidden, until the fateful day when she fell and put her hand out to save herself.
Then everybody could see that tiny extra finger.
“Freak.” That’s what they called her after that. Or “Mutant.” Not as an insult, but as a name. Like Fred or Mary or Jemima.
Granted you didn’t often hear the name Jemima. Except as a Puddleduck, perhaps. We had one in here some time ago. A Jemima. She didn’t last long. She kept staring at me, an accusing look in her eyes. To my knowledge I had never met her before. I’d remember a name like that, surely. I don’t know what she blamed me for (perhaps her name?) but I kept out of her way. She’d just sit there, anyway. Sit and watch. Her eyes would throw their daggers like a circus act in the Big Top, and I could almost feel the balloons popping by my head and between my legs.
No applause, please, Ladees ‘n’ Germs! She’s doing this without the aid of a safety net!
Before she could replace those imaginary weapons with real ones, Jemima was no longer. She was absent, never to be seen again. I didn’t know what her particular brand of Crazy was, nor did I care. But it was nice to not have to dodge the daggers.
Jemima, apart from her obsessive malevolence towards me, was normal. As ‘normal’ as a mental patient can be, anyway.
And Freak? Mutant?
I preferred to call her Abby. It was her name, after all. In most cases, the names you were given in here were humorous or descriptive. Mucous Micky. Bender Benny. Nothing was, usually, meant maliciously. Even, in all honesty, Mutant Freak from Mars. It was just a nickname. Not nasty, not spiteful, just there.
But it made her cry. I didn’t like that. Often, tears will fuel, rather than extinguish, the fire and people will twist the knife that the name-calling has impaled all the more, leaving a wound that will never heal. And, again, it’s with no particularly vindictive intent. Not always, at least. But I’m not like that. We all know I’m no saint. Ask the dead that haunt me each night, twisting their own knives. But I could see, the way she’d hidden that hand, disguised that finger, that she’d had her unfair share of taunts in her life. Why would I want to add to that?
I was called Sin. A kicking each day and twice on Fridays (one for luck, you see). I had the standard number of fingers, toes, heads etc., but I still had a name that invited the fists and the phlegm.
So I called her Abby.
After a while, Abby didn’t react to the names. Freak didn’t bring a tear. Mutant failed to raise a sob. She answered to them as if her parents had had a similar sense of humour to my own and had signed the birth certificate themselves. But I knew, I understood, that the knife still twisted. The wound grew.
Eventually, it can grow so big, there’s more rent than real. Rent as in gash, rather than as in dues to pay – though sometimes it might feel like that. Eventually, the wound can feel as if it’s all you are. You have to be your own bandage. You bind the hole with a blind eye and hope it will heal. Sometimes it will.
Sometimes you lock yourself away in an asylum and cry havoc so the dogs of war will administer the drugs.
Trust me, it doesn’t work.
Abby. She bound the wounds with herself. She became wrapped up in a cocoon of self-consciousness that created a wall between her Self and her sanity. The two gazed at each other over an abyss of Abbiness that neither could circumvent. To everyone else, Abby was just quiet. Didn’t speak much. Bit boring really. To me, she was a spark extinguished.
I hoped, I really did hope, that I didn’t follow her lead.
I didn’t have an extra finger. I had something much less visible, yet so much more terrible.
I had me.Learn More
The clock is evil. It’s corrupting Time. It hangs on the wall, a little to the left of the TV, and laughs at us.
It has a face, doesn’t it? And hands? Then it can laugh. And it can show us the two fingered salute.
Poor Time doesn’t stand a chance, and we, as mere spectators, can only watch as she falls under the clock’s wicked spell. We can’t even begin to intervene, to try to prevent the corruption.. We’re held by Time as firmly as gravity holds us to this planet, and there’s not a jot we can do.
I think all clocks are evil. They run chasing after Time, speeding up its pace like hounds after Holmes, right when you just need those few extra minutes to finish that report, or catch that bus, or eat that bacon butty.
Oh how I’d love a bacon butty. Does slop come in bacon flavour?
And when you need that report, or need that bus, or are waiting for that bacon to crisp just the right amount, the clock catches hold of Time and drags her, screaming, backwards, extending those seconds into minutes into hours.
The clock is the second most watched thing in here. First is, obviously, the television. Second would have been the view from the window, but the clock, though it couldn’t beat MTV or Eastenders repeats, attacked the view with a baseball bat and beat it into submission. After the window came the Sacred Spot of the Cornercopias, but that wasn’t even going to try and reach the podium for fear of the same fate the view received. It was a spot, an empty piece of floor tile that held a group of asylum inmates rapt, but it wasn’t stupid!
So the clock, evil, sly and deceitful, is corrupting Time. Once upon a… time… Time was forced into compliance by the dictatorial disc, but now I’m not sure that that’s the case.
You see, I was told Time tiptoed by. But I can hear her footsteps running past me.
And I fear we may run out…
… of Time..Learn More
I was sure it was her, and ran to catch up.
15 years since I saw her last, and I still remembered her walk and the colour of her hair and her… sense of self. She knew who she was. In a world where most were flailing about in a sea of senselessness, she knew. And, at those moments I’d spend in her presence, I knew my Self too.
Granted, once I was away from her, my Self ran and hid in whichever shadowy recess it called home.
I called out her name, my voice suddenly running faster than I and so sounding too quick, too high, too desperate.
She walked quickly. She always did. Heels pushing her legs up to her armpits, she could out stride Superman, leaping buildings in a single bound. By the time I finally was toe to heel and could reach out to grab her, she was already at the bus stop. The number 5.
My hand was on her shoulder, turning her, her name stalling on the tip of my tongue, afraid to leap out into the abyss between us.
Then she turned.
Then she faced me.
Then I saw the ravages of her face.
I saw the gaping hole in her chest.
I saw how her arm hung loosely from her shoulder.
How three fingers of her other hand were missing.
A bus crashing through a post office would do that to you.
In the asylum, no-one can hear you scream. That’s because they’re all drugged up. Or they don’t care. The darkness lay heavy on me, suffocating. I waited for it to smother me, to squeeze the air from my lungs and release me.
But it didn’t.Learn More