My mind is never quite the same after the fake rape accusation. I live like an animal in the woods, just ahead of starvation. I hallucinate elves and giant toads taking siestas in the soffits of trees and bracken. I squat on the rich, murky earth with a rotten blanket around my shoulders. I break a wild mushroom in half in my palsied hands, frangible and mauve brown. I’ve forgotten i’m hungry.
Once in the full light of day I see an elf come out of the woods and go down the trail half agog and worried of aspect. I sit in the moss and rest. The woods look too green for the season. I decide I need to be shot full of antipsychotics and walk out of the woods but hunting season has started and I freak because I hear the shots and I think they are shooting at me.
When I cross a creek I see that I am very near Fayetteville.
I cross a highway and go into the fields beyond, stumbling over clods in a newly turned swale and come to a river. The woods along it are hung with trash and papers from the water, trees plastered with silt and jetsam in the branches high against the sky.
As I near Fayetteville the roosters are up and crowing. Perhaps there is some freshness in the trees and fields ahead, some relief from the obscurity of night. Everywhere across the awakening land they call and answer. Now as then, this country as in others.
I rest for a moment on the side of the road. A yellow church bus comes into view. I scuttle into the roadside weeds and scrunch there waiting. The bus is all lit up and at the window next to the last seat in the rear a small boy is looking out the window, his nose puttied up against the glass. There’s nothing to see but he looks anyway. He looks at me and I look back. Then the bus clatters around the curve and into forever. When I try to remember where I’ve seen the boy before I realize with a start that the boy looks just like me. It gives me the creeps. I try to shake the image of the face in the glass but it will not go away. As I go down the valley nighthawks rise from the dust in the road with wild wings and red eyes.
An ugly magenta dawn is breaking when I present myself at the Fayette County Hospital Desk. The nightshift nurse finds me leaning against the counter. Me, a weedshaped human swaddled in overalls and covered in red mud.
I’m supposed to be here, I say.
I am never indicted for any crime but sent to the state hospital and placed in a cage next door to a demented man who thinks he’s Ed Gein. He used to steal corpses from the cemetery and lop off the top of the skull and use it to eat soup out of. From time to time when they take us out for an airing I see him but have nothing to say to a crazy man and besides, the crazy man had long ago fallen silent from the magnitude of his crimes.
I am not old but I am getting sick. They say something is wrong with my heart and I am in the hospital for a while and then on the medical unit of the state hospital in restraints and I cannot write in restraints. When they take me out of restraints I am too sick to lift my head up and I know the end is coming soon. And that I no longer care.