|Torno Kohime Foundation|
Final submission to
the MOOC Writing Fiction course, running between April 28 and June 22.
It was hard to believe that this woman in her mid-thirties, looking rather fragile, constantly staring at the floor, could’ve killed her mother in such a vicious way. For weeks, a parade of witnesses testified before two rows of shocked jurors about the horrors she perpetrated.
Natasha was strongly advised not to testify, but she did sit on the stand, swore she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She uttered a few well rehearsed incoherent sentences, a few unintelligible words and absolutely no reply to any of the questions either the prosecution or the defense asked her.
At the end of each incomprehensible answer, she smiled the most captivating smile at the perplexed jurors. When her defense attorney threw his hands in the air for dramatic effect, her fate was decided.
That smile, that innocent-looking deviously misleading smile, saved her from the electric chair. The psychiatric ward would become her home for the rest of her life.
As time went by, she grew impatient. She still had unfinished business to take care of outside and being caught by that smug rookie detective was definitely an unexpected drawback.
Determined to find a way out, she progressively shook off the image of being a meek, broken woman who struggled with abuse all her life and who, in a moment of sudden anger, killed her mother. She started metamorphosing back into her fierce and daunting self without anyone noticing.
Talking to the shrink seemed to help appease the growing demons inside.
She told him about her past, her obsessively controlling and abusive cop father, at whose hands the kids suffered some of the most sickening punishments. He would yell at them to stand up for themselves, but he would beat them up if they ever did.
She told him about her small sister who was found dead in her bed, some sudden breathing problem, they said. Natasha knew exactly what happened. She heard it all. She was only seven years old and her sister, four.
She told him about her mother who never took the kids’ side, an accusatory tone fluttering in each sentence, the same accusatory tone Natasha fluttered at her mother the moment she did it. It took her a lifetime to prepare for that homicidal moment, but she didn’t tell the shrink about that.
The past, although increasingly distant and crowded by bizarre plans and disastrous certainties, reminded Natasha that moving along, day after day, was her only chance.
The long corridors of the ward had a slightly disturbing feel of childishness as she walked from end to end, wearing her shinny long black hair in a tight braid, the sides of her head carefully shaven, her sneakers screeching on the bare floor.
There were drawings of trees and flowers, and elephants and dolls and all sorts of things that would never fit in a corridor, she fabulated. “Aren’t these drawings nice?” she would ask the warden. He nodded. There were no drawings, only the cold whiteness of aseptic walls, but that didn’t matter. She wanted them to think she was still insane.
However, there was indeed something on those walls. There was a door. Natasha knew it well, the door under the staircase, the door no one else remembered, her way out of there. She found this door by accident when looking for garden supplies.
Shortly after being sentenced, she took up gardening as one of the occupational therapies the ward offered its patients. A Gothic gardener was something most wardens found quite amusing. She would wear her own black clothes, as patients were allowed to, her short nails painted in a deep black nail polish.
Although it did seem a bit odd, gardening soothed her inner turmoil. She didn’t like flowers though. They would die eventually. She preferred bushes, small trees. They would grow and bloom in their own particular, sometimes peculiar way. Just like her.
Her mind kept coming back to that door. It was partially hidden by an empty cupboard that she could easily slide to one side. She realized that it led to a narrow corridor, probably a discontinued way in for supplies.
Natasha was almost caught a few times, snooping around under the staircase, but her relentless smile disarmed even the most suspicious warden. For some reason, that clown’s smile, a middle ground between innocence and devilish incoherence, made people think that she was an idiot, that she could not understand things too well. She could. She understood things far better than anyone, even better than most of the staff.
It was paramount though for her to orderly comply with the demands made upon her. She never grumbled; she did as she was told and she always took her medications, the same medications she would orderly and routinely spit out as quickly as she could.
One day, she found herself in the dining room, ducking just in time while a china plate sailed past her and smashed against the wall. Ruby, the most annoying inmate in the ward was causing havoc. She would throw a fit on a regular basis, which included tossing plates in all possible directions for no apparent reason. The wardens tried to catch Ruby, who ran around in circles behind the sofas and the tables and the benches. The patients yelled and screamed and hit their heads with their fists. Some drooled and laughed uncontrollably.
This routine became quite annoying, however, the confusion, as expected, provided a unique opportunity for Natasha to go to the small door. Finally, it was time. She had gone through this moment over and over again in her mind. She slid out of the room and into the dark corner under the stairs. She was amazed at how smoothly everything went. It took her less than ten minutes to be free again.
The authorities looked for her for months in a frantic urgency, especially when a series of unrelated homicides with male victims caught their attention. There was the yuppie guy at the bar who groped her leg and waved a credit card under her nose. They found the credit card stuffed inside his throat. There was the old man who rubbed himself on her, pretending to reach for the darts stuck on the dart board. They found his eyes turned into two bullseyes. There was the biker dude who wore a black sweaty bandana, who grabbed her braid and pulled her head back to force-kiss her. They found him strangled, the black sweaty bandana waving in the wind.
She was only doing what she had been taught, anyway. Plus, she was getting ready for that unfinished business she still had to take care of, that pesky matter of her father.
He did try to visit her back at the psychiatric ward at some point. However, she vehemently refused to see him. Instead, she paid him a visit as soon as she was ready to start a new life. He was found dead, brutally murdered. He too wanted to scream. He too struggled for air when his face was smothered by a pillow. He too died of some sudden breathing problem.
Natasha still wears black jeans and black t-shirts under a black leather jacket, but she cut her braid off and shaved her head completely. She is called Jennifer now. The authorities never caught her again. “After all, tomorrow is another day," she uttered, smiling.
MOOC, Writing Fiction - Reflections about the course
MOOC Week Two Final Task
MOOC Week Three Writing Task
MOOC Week Five Writing Task