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“Look at her, Charlie. She’s been kissed with madness. Now that her eyes are ruined, what do you think she really sees?”

Charlie fidgeted uncomfortably and tried to force himself to look at the woman. She sat in an easy chair with her legs drawn up, her arms hugging them as she rocked back and forth ever so slightly. She was gaunt and still had a bandage wrapped around her head that covered her eyes. Her mouth was open and she sang a low mewling song that was barely audible.

Charlie thought back to the last time he had seen Edith, the nurse he had found in the upper room of Shockley House with those horrible instruments protruding from each eye as she laughed maniacally, covered in her own blood.

Charlie looked at Dr. Rathbone and said, “Sees?”

“Yes, she sees a different world now, Charlie. What do suppose that world looks like?”

“I don’t know. I think she’s off her rocker. She’s lost it.”

“Obviously she’s mad,” Rathbone said as he stroked his black goatee. “But that doesn’t mean that her world is any less real than this one. Even a lunatic’s world has structure. There are rules and laws; a coherence that allows for her story to continue. We’re all but characters in a story that gives our lives meaning. Does your story have meaning, Charlie Dithers?”

Charlie didn’t know how to answer that. He thought it did, but lately, things were altering the narrative in a way he didn’t like and didn’t fully comprehend. Was this man just messing with him? Was it all some elaborate scheme? Or was this man really trying to show him something that would help explain all the madness?

Charlie’s head was throbbing and he was tired of the place where Rathbone had brought him. Just being with Edith, seeing her this way, made him want to get away and have a drink.

“What do you want from me?” It was the only thing Charlie could think to say.

“I want you to understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Their story. Their language. I want you to understand what happened that night. It is the only way you’ll ever have peace of mind.”

Rathbone leaned down close to Edith’s ear and whispered something that Charlie couldn’t make out. Edith’s mouth snapped shut and she stopped her rocking. As Rathbone stood up Edith began to giggle.

“Come on, Charlie. Let’s go get you that drink.”

As they walked out, Edith’s giggling beat it time to the pounding in Charlie’s head.

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