Thank you. You have opened the book, and started to read. I would have been lost without you. But we must be careful that we don’t deconstruct you, as I seem to have deconstructed her. I hate that word ‘deconstruct’ but it does apply here. You notice that I say “we” – it is, of course, not within my power to do such things on my own – but what we are going to do together here, right now, may prove to be very dangerous for you. My words and your eyes. My thoughts and your thoughts. It’s the mingling that can cause the damage. It was the mingling of her existence with mine that resulted in her current condition.
Right now I am looking out at you just as you are now looking in at me. But I cannot quite see you. I cannot quite break that barrier and come into your room and look at you properly and see how you talk and walk. Not yet. I have a good idea what your life is like but I cannot be sure. She was the only one, so far, that I have been able to make a complete connection with.
Nevertheless I invite you into my life – I suppose I must say that I invite you into my ‘lives’ – because my life has never been as clearly defined as yours. I have not lived within the same boundaries as you. There is a barrier to break through. She has been the only one with whom I have been able to break that barrier so far. She cared for me.
As you read these pages you will understand what has happened. You see we each suffer from the delusion that the world we see and hear and touch, the world that we appear to live in, that this world is shared by everyone else. We believe, without stopping to think about it, that we all live in the same world and see the same things and do the same things. And we make an awful mess of trying to handle that simplicity. It is just as well that most of us have no idea how things really are.
This is where the first whiff of danger may be noticed. Yes, I am going to tell you how things really are. I will let you see it not only from the point of view of what I suppose I must call “ordinary people” but also from her point of view and, as best I can, from my own points of view. It will be up to you to decide what reality you wish to be in. I had no desire to be in your reality, the reality of words and objects. I just became aware that I was – and I felt terribly trapped.
Our identities are quite casual things. We find ourselves here and others impose an identity on us. Because my newborn body was found in a wooden crate at the markets I was described as “the baby in the crate” and “the crate baby”. After a while, in the institution, I became known simply as Crate. By the time she arrived to take the five of us to live at Mansfield Road I had become completely institutionalised and my name was recorded as Krate. They preferred the hard K to what might have been seen as a soft C. I am sure they had no knowledge of the word krater or of the alchemist’s use of that word. No knowledge of alchemists, period. No knowledge of time or space or the idea of parallel universes; very little knowledge of human beings at all, though they thought they knew it all. None of this should have worried me – except here I was trapped, as you are, in a human body with all its limitations of time and space. The basic difference between us is that I was aware of this whereas I very much doubt if you are.
It happened that the body I was trapped in, Krate’s body, was ill-formed, misshapen, extremely awkward in its movements and though able to make strange and wild sounds, it was a body incapable of human speech. I immediately wanted to be out of that body, no longer hampered with it – you’ve probably felt like that on odd occasions. I felt like it all the time and I could do nothing about it. Nothing, that is, as far as my flawed human body and mind were concerned. The mind, being a function of the brain, is as much a part of the body as the stomach and the digestive system or the heart and the circulation of the blood.
I was locked up and drugged from birth. The institution. Wire mesh fences and chemical shackles. Hosed down. Treated as non-human. That’s how my body-mind grew to physical maturity. When I was mature nobody asked me if I would like to go to the nearest bar and drown my sorrows. Not that I could understand their words at first. Your words. And not just because my ears were twisted like malformed fungi. I didn’t use any of their words – and not just because my upper lip was cleft and my tongue much smaller than theirs. It was just that they were not my words.
She was different. She was the one who went with us out of the institution and settled with us in a residential home. Five of us, all adults, and a rotating team of carers that included her. She was an ordinary person. Well, no, perhaps she was not. To all intents and purposes she lived and acted like an ordinary person. That is how she was when we met. She changed. In an amazingly short space of time she connected with me, and she began to find herself in a reality other than her usual reality. Perhaps I should say in addition to her usual reality. She joined me. And this is what I am asking you to do. I have pieced together everything I could find and added details that only I know. I have taken the position of the observer, the witness – as well as the major protagonist. Take my hand. Join me.
This is a work of fiction – but based on my first-hand experience with those whose minds are still struggling to find ways of communicating with us.
There are far more worlds of reality than the one we like to call ‘normal’. Those who live partly, or fully, in these other realities are put away in the ‘too hard’ file – sometimes a place of caring but too often a prison where the iron bars are replaced with chemical restraints.
I have explored in my life the paths of chemical restraint and chemical enlightenment. I have met with many who live in the outer darkness of our normal world, mystics and madmen, gurus and grotesques. I hope this novel brings my readers a little way towards understanding that there is a whole lot going on from which we might learn something, if only a little more tolerance.