Mind Map

Evelyn Vale, Calamity. Acrylic on canvas, 2023

 

By Ginger Marhev

        He crunched across the wet gravel. The paths curled wildly, arranged only by the thoughts of their creator. He looked up at the window of the manor before him, where the shadows took form, knowing he was expected. The rain parted above him as he stood there, generously lurching away from him. If she wanted to kill him, he’d be dead already.

        He did not know why he was there, he knew he had to find her.

        The clouds swirled furiously. They were desperate for escape. The storm wanted to run its course like it should have all those years ago. She did not let it, and he knew this, because there was no other option.

        The door opened for him, a rabbit in a suit with a red bowtie smiling politely. He smiled back as he stepped over the threshold. The bipedal rabbit closed the door. The storm outside made him feel like there should be an umbrella to put away or a coat to remove, but he was dry. Outside, truly outside, it’s a lovely day, he thought. He didn’t know if that was true, did he? He glanced back at where the rabbit manservant had been. It had been reduced to a smiling skeleton by the concept of truly outside, still holding onto the door handle. It crumbled into dust and he stumbled backward in fear.

        The wallpaper was so intricately patterned that he continued down hisway, if only to follow it. His steps left no imprint on the carpet, but when he brushed his fingers against the antique wallpaper it left grooves and tears like there was nothing solid behind it. She was there, at the end of the hall when he finally made it there. Eyes closed, black skirt swirled around her feet in a satin arc like a frozen sea as she lounged on a red sofa. She seemed trapped in place. A black veil lay on the moss-green floor, torn from her black hat. Tear-stains ran down her cheeks and neck, but her face was peaceful like a porcelain doll. 

        The wall behind the sofa had deep scratches in it, swathes of wallpaper torn down, her nails still bleeding from the furious effort of it.  It was all so fresh, as if her grief still echoed in the hallways. Her moth-eaten dress was the only sign that she’d been trapped here for years.

        He took a step forward. Her eyes flew open, bloodshot, before he could figure out why.

        “What, what is it now?” her voice seemed so far from her body.

        “Nothing is okay,” he said, not knowing if the words were his own. “Your accursed land, it- I don’t remember.”

        The rabbit had become bones. He couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here. The scratches in the wall were deep and violent in a triangle above her head. It looked like a witches hat. It was a witches hat, a wallpaper-patterned cone sitting on her hair.

        How had he gotten here? The words fell out of him. “You need to stop this. It’s okay.”

        She saw him. She saw him. “You’re here.”

        “I don’t–I don’t think I am. This won’t work.” That was all him.

        Her eyes went dark, her mouth fell open further and further.

        “How dare you not be real. All this is for you. I brought you all the way here–”

        He half-remembered the way it had felt to breathe. “You need to stop. You need to move on. Please.” Thunder struck outside. He reached out a hand.

        She took it. New tears fell down her face and onto the ground as the sounds of the rain cleared and her hand slowly phased through. He was only dust, after all. 

        And as she saw that, the rest of him fell away. The witches hat unraveled, and her feet sunk into the carpet in a way they hadn’t in years. 

        A rabbit wearing a bowtie hopped into the room.