This story is by Colin Gillie and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“You’re free now”
Those words swirl around in my head constantly. Ever since I heard them, when I got to leave that place, they are stuck in my head. No limits. Boundless. Free.
It’s only been a couple weeks since those three little words were uttered but this feels like a new life. My brother Sam picked me up, he has been visiting me for years. It was an asylum but they don’t call it that nowadays. It’s a home or a centre now. And I’m not mad, not any more. Of course they don’t call it mad these days either. There are all sorts of long difficult words now. A different one for every type of mad you can think of and for all the ones you can’t think of. Sam picked me up from the office and we walked side by side all the way out.
It was nice to be outside the boundary of the asylum. Free. I have been allowed escorted walks down this street for years now but I always refused. It felt like breaking the rules they had drilled into me and I didn’t like to break – not even bend – the rules.
But this felt good. Being free, walking along the street with Sam. I don’t look back, I don’t have to go back. I am free.
Like I said that was a couple weeks ago I didn’t like breaking rules…now though? Oh boy, how I like breaking them now.
“Have you taken them today?” Sam asks. I give him a side glance and head for the bathroom
“Taking them now.” I close and lock the door and run the faucet. I discovered a while ago that the pills fit nicely down the plug hole. I look up to the mirror and I swear someone else is looking back at me. “Shake it off. It’s nothing” the reflection tells me. No, I tell myself.
Breaking the rules feels right. So, I have decided – we have decided? – to carry on breaking them. “Keep calm and carry on” that’s what all the signs and posters say. They were all over the walls back in that place. I don’t name it anymore because that makes it feel real again, but it wasn’t. Not really real. That’s just a place I went while he was away but he is back now. Good.
He decides I should keep breaking rules, the more the better. I – “we” – should break ALL the rules, do everything we have ever wanted. We are free now.
Sam leaves me home all day when he is at work. He’s a construction worker upstate so he leaves early in the morning and works long shifts. Sometimes, if it is late or he is too tired he stays at the on site bunks. Even when he does come back to the city, he normally comes to check on me – “us” – then gets changed to go sleep over at his lady friends house. He doesn’t talk about her because he thinks I – “we” – will get jealous but really I – “WE” – don’t mind at all. I – “WEEEE” – have never been interested in girls, or boys for that matter.
It has been a couple weeks of this routine. Sam came home on Friday night and stayed here the whole night and we watched old films and ate popcorn. The entire evening Sam was acting odd like he was uncomfortable, fidgety. After the first film I turn to Sam “What is it?” He looks surprised. I chuckle “I was unwell, I’m not stupid.” He grins in return,
“Would you be okay on your own for a week? There’s issues at work and they need me there full time.”
“I’ll be fine” I say and mumble “I’m not alone anyway.”
“What was that?” Concern colouring his voice.
“I said I’m fine Sam” I try for a reassuring smile.
Sunday evening he leaves us and our planning begins. We stay up half the night plotting and deciding what rules to break and how to express our boundlessness. “We must start small and escalate” he says “day by day, getting bigger and bigger. Always growing, there’s no limit.” It makes perfect sense.
We get a few hours’ rest and are feeling good. First thing is some breakfast. Down the road to the 7-11 we go. We get a Red Bull and Peanut Butter Cups. And it is all free, we are free. First rule broken. We eat and drink standing outside the store and it tastes great, tastes like freedom. Time to escalate. “What is the next step up after stealing?” I ask him. “That was just petty theft…how about grand theft auto?!” He is full of mirth; I can hear the smile in his voice.
I haven’t driven since before that place but surely, it is like riding a bike. We survey all the vehicles we pass by on the walk home. A nice black Audi sedan, an old green Land Rover, a classic Ford. “A classic” he suggests “it is very us.” There’s not much choice around here for classic cars but we know just the one to go for. There is an apartment building near Sam’s house and the guy with the penthouse drives a lovely ’69 Ford Mustang in the original Raven Black paint job. We are gawking in the driver’s window when a voice behind us asks, in a rather irritated tone, “Can I help you?” we spin to face Penthouse Guy. “Smile you fool!” He snaps and I do. “Sorry it’s just such a beauty, I couldn’t help myself.” He smiles as if to say “Here we go, another idiot sniffing the car.” What he actually says is “She, not it. And yeah she sure is a beauty, but I got somewhere to be so…” and he shoos us away with a sweeping gesture. We grit our teeth; we don’t like being treated like a lesser being.
“How about a little breaking and entering before GTA?” He has read my mind. We wait outside the building’s doors until someone comes out. We catch the door before it can close and lock and climb to the top floor. The building has external door security but the actual apartment doors are lacking in that department. One solid backward kick and the door bursts open. We enter gingerly but if there had been anyone there, they would have come running. It is a nice apartment and we have a good nose around. There is a fancy looking coffee maker in the kitchen area, we make a flat white and sit at the hardwood breakfast bar. “So, what is the plan? Just wait for him to come home and jump him for the keys?” I ask the excitement making my voice tremble slightly. “No, find a knife and close the blinds. It should be dark when he arrives. He will know something is up when he opens the door. We will be behind it and surprise him then take the keys. Easy.” We grin. “Yeah easy”.
It doesn’t take long for Penthouse Guy to return. We are in position as his footsteps approach. His keys jangle; he grunts, slowly opens the door. We wait for him to enter the room and we slam the door behind him. We are about to ask for the car keys. The words are ready to come out but before they do, our hand is moving of its own volition. The hand with the kitchen knife. Quick as a cat the blade slips in between ribs and comes away free and gleaming crimson.
I shiver. I, not we. Something has changed, shifted. Penthouse Guy is looking at me, confused. His hands cover the swelling blood coming direct from his heart. He is pallid as he falls back and silently mouths the word “Why?” He is dead before he hits the floor.
“Oh god” I gasp. What I have done dawns on me and there is bitter laughter inside my head. “What have I done? Why did you make me do this?!” I demand but the only answer is that terrible, piercing laughter. I stalk around the penthouse looking out the windows, looking for an answer. I look down at the road outside “There is your answer” his voice full of glee. We are ten storeys up. “It’s the quick way down or back to the looney bin!” I have no choice. I grab the heavy bar stool and swing in at the huge pane. It cracks. Again swing crack. Third try; swing, smash.
I stand on the ledge. Down the street is Sam’s house “at least he won’t see” I think. “This is what happens when you live without rules. In death, you are truly boundless.” I lean forward, with tears in my eyes, and let gravity work. He screeches with laughter all the way down. I close my eyes before impact… “You’re free now.”