Alan C. Williams
banana thick shake
‘Your days are numbered, squirrel!’ Carol Rathaway stated in her most emphatic voice. The animal, in question, stared back at her, blinked its inquisitive eyes and resumed watching ‘Tess Daly’ on the television. It wasn’t bothered in the least.
Carol seethed, swearing under her breath. The stupid squirrel was taking up more than half the lounge suite, lying comfortably on its back with head on a soft tapestry cushion. It held the remote control in its paws. The cheek of it, Carol thought, holding the remote as though it owned the place. The only consolation was that the little animal seemed content to watch the same show as she wanted. Perhaps it was a fan also.
Tess Daly prattled on. Carol noticed her sequined dress with matching scarf draped over her semi-exposed bosom. The colours seemed wrong; mauve sequins on a green and gold spandex dress? She felt sick.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed the squirrel move, reaching to sip a drink from a sparkling apple juice - her sparkling apple juice. Yuk! Squirrel germs!
Carol exploded in anger. She stormed from the room to find her husband. He was still in bed. He was always in bed on the weekends, it seemed.
Ignoring the intense snowstorm in the hall and a pair of floating orchids, she walked past the dining room. The pink Centurion tank was gone from the ceiling. Carol decided that was a good thing. Pink tanks on ceilings were always unnerving, even though she knew they were a part of her imagination. As for the other apparitions, she understood that they weren’t real because they weren’t there yesterday or last week or last year. No, the main problems were the animals and people since they could move around. Anthony would know if the squirrel was actually there, oh, and Tess Daly’s dress.
She walked into the master bedroom. Anthony was there on the bed. Carol stopped whilst gazing around. The outside wall was missing, replaced by a lush jungle scene with lianas and some of the same orchids which were in the hall. There was some continuity to her illusions, a small enough comfort. Something about the mind making a perverted sense of the random images it came up with, just like a dream. Lava was oozing from a crack in the dresser, carrying green boxes of Black Magic chocolates down to the floor that was itself made of cards. Alongside Anthony, on the bed, was a naked girl.
Carol knew that this was a particularly bad day. She struggled to focus. ‘Ignore the jungle, lava and cards,’ she told himself. Easy! They were inanimate objects and she could still realise that they were products of the damage to the visual cortex in her brain. After all, the tumour was removed and she was alive. The doctors had told her that her continual hallucinations would lessen over the coming months.
Unfortunately, they were particularly vivid at this time and now was the time that mattered. Nightmares whilst she was awake, with shadows, depth and, worst of all, visual continuity similar to special computer effects in the latest movies - the damn illusions behaved like actual objects as she moved around them. They were simply so realistic, she feared that someday soon she would lose touch with reality and become a part of her own fantastic dream world.
Remembering the squirrel, she winced. When she first saw a make-believe animal, she had reached out to touch the vision. The sight of her hand going through the miniature giraffe had been bad enough, although the brain’s reaction to the inconsistency of vision and touch was a lot worse. She could still remember her screams from the violent spasms. It was as though there was a short circuit somewhere. The lesson had been very effective and Carol made sure she never again tried to verify any strange thing that she saw by using her senses. Instead, she would ask Anthony. It was important to know, if only for her peace of mind. After all, there could be a squirrel on the lounge, a snake in the fridge, or ... a stranger on her bed.
‘Anthony?’ she said, trying to ignore the girl as best as she could. She was very pretty.
‘Okay. I’m coming sweetheart,’ he replied. He jumped nimbly from the bed and cuddled up to Carol as they walked back to the hall.
From behind Carol heard a voice, chuckling. ‘It’s all right, love. I’m only an illusion.’
Away from the bedroom, Carol asked Anthony about the naked female.
‘Not again,’ he laughed at her. ‘Bloody hell, Carol. You seem to see nude women around all the time. Don’t you trust me, is that it? Of course she’s not really there. Now, darling, what did you want me to check out for you?’
Carol relaxed. He was correct. The number of times she’d noticed different girls in her house. Did that mean she had some fixation with women? Carol didn’t think so, although something did seem strange about the latest one of them. Something to consider later, perhaps?
She led Anthony to the lounge room, indicating the corner where the Minister of Education stood at attention, the squirrel and finally she inquired about Tess Daly’s weird clothing. Which ones actually existed?
Anthony smiled, happy to help his wife. He saw her concern and put his hand in hers. ‘’No’ to the politician, ‘no’ to the squirrel and ‘yes’ to Tess Daly’s clothes. Is that okay now? Can I go back to bed now sweetheart? I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep.’
Carol kissed him lovingly. He was so good to her and so patient. How could she ever cope without him? He was her only way to distinguish the truth from her fantasy world.
When Anthony left her, she sat next to the squirrel once more. She made sure that her body was well away from the furry beast. No point taking chances. However, Carol did glare at the animal, certain that it had stolen another apple juice from the ‘fridge.
‘Your days are still numbered, squirrel!’ Carol said in her most menacing tone.
To her left, she noticed a kangaroo appear, painting a sign on the lounge room wall. The kangaroo was blue - a soft, pastel blue that blended subtly with the magnolia wall. When the kangaroo finished the graffiti with a flourish, Carol read it aloud.
‘Skippy is a Wus!’ Carol’s head tilted to one side. She did that when she was attempting to solve a problem. She’d discovered that her mixed-up brain would often express her anxieties in visual images and the appearance of the blue kangaroo was one of those times.
‘Why?’ she asked the kangaroo. The marsupial turned to face her, winked then put her paw to her mouth. It was the ‘Quiet’ gesture that a librarian might use.
Silence? Fair enough. The kangaroo couldn’t talk, could she? It was the same as the squirrel and all of those other make-believe images that plagued her present life. Silence? What was the kangaroo trying to tell her ...?
Suddenly she understood the inconsistency that had been puzzling her for the previous few minutes. The fact was that Carol had visual hallucinations, yet the girl in her bedroom had spoken to her. And, more importantly, Carol had heard her speak.
Her expression gradually altered from indifference to pain, finally to anger. Although she was seething, Carol didn’t move from the lounge seat. Instead, she was deep in thought. No point in rushing things. She would wait until Anthony was away from his unclothed female friends - the ones that were ‘only in her imagination’ - then they would have a quiet, civilized discussion.
She considered the details carefully - the doctors’ reports, medical videos of her reacting to imaginary threats ... One shrink had even suggested that her condition was capable of leading to temporary insanity. Yes, decided Carol, it would work. She could get away with it; of that she was certain.
As for not having someone to indicate reality from non-reality; well, she decided that she could live with that after all. It might be more difficult nevertheless she was sure the squirrel would help.
She turned to the furry animal that was now reading Jilly Cooper’s book ‘Rivals’. Carol had to admit that the reading glasses gave the squirrel an air of distinguished elegance.
‘Looks like you’ve got a reprieve, squirrel’ she said, regarding the beast as her new best friend. ‘But as for my darling hubby ...’ Carol leant forward to whisper, ‘His days are most definitely numbered.’
About the author
Also eleven novels to My Weekly. Eight of these are available in libraries as Linford Romance.