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Editor's Notes : Start the Madness by J. D. Rummel
published in Volume 2, Issue 2 on April 3rd, 1995

Lately, I have been contemplating suicide. Hold on, now! Don't start sending mail to Bob, blaming him for driving us Morpites too hard. I only mean I've been thinking about why people take their lives. You know, there's lots of ways to do it. Some do it real fast, but others spend their whole lives at it. That's what I was thinking the night of the storm.

The night of the storm I was wide-awake-tired. The guy on the news said I should stay in. I was old, but I was sure I used to walk to places in this sort of weather. I looked out the window of my safe place at the falling, drifting snow under the streetlight. I was sick of myself. I wanted to go out there, to defy the t.v. guy. I wanted out.

So I announced that I was going for a walk. The Aunt said I was crazy, but she also said if I was going out, I should shovel. Even crazy people should accomplish something.

I went out, but I didn't shovel.

Function. Purpose. Accomplishment. Responsibility. Promises. I wanted none of them. I just wanted out.

Out the back door south was how I started, but after a time, I reversed and went north, into the wind. Into the wind, something said, face the wind. For a while my face burned, but the burning didn't last. Soon I felt nothing. The streets were barren. No traffic. I walked down the middle of once busy thoroughfares and all I heard was the sound of snow crunching under my boots. If I stopped, I heard nothing in the whole city. I watched white snow swirl down off of roofs and silently congregate.

I walked through an old neighborhood, remembering old friends and broken promises to stay in touch. Somewhere else in the night time I heard tires spinning and nothing else, just a frustrated sound, an insistent, angry whining. I knew that feeling. I wandered on, frightening one young woman as she stepped from behind a van. "How are you?" she said, her eyes large in the storm. The question came from some place that read the paper and filled her with fear of men out walking late. I wanted to ease her fear, replying, "Kinda cold," and laughing. She laughed, but she would feel best when I was gone. I walked past apartments, and houses, wondering who was behind all those dark windows, guessing at their faces and lives. Rarely, a car would pass by, intent on unknown destinations.

Illuminated with bright flood lights was the mortuary that handled my mother's funeral. A long ranch style structure steeped in frost. I have forgotten so much. The parts of her that remain I cannot name.

At some point I went into the park, surprised to see that the playground I expected was gone. Whiteness stretched out before me--gathering on the rolling, dipping hills. My feet vanished beneath me. Below, down in a deserted parking lot off in the edge of the streetlights, I saw a single truck, idling, windows fogged. A couple snuggling, or a killer and his victim? The choice was mine. I had to decide.

Life or death.

I chose the lovers.

They weren't cheating. No, tonight only there were no complications from human interactions, no misunderstanding, no lies, no heartache, no disease. Tonight, these lovers were playing for free in the snow.

In that clean, crisp air, distantly I heard it, an arrhythmic metallic clanking from the train yards. I followed it, leaving the lovers behind their clouded glass. I plodded through the powder, sorry to be tearing the virgin snow, walking, making my mark, legs sinking and rising, no hint of fatigue. I was the only one here. With misty words I said my name in the pale night. All that white reflected the barest light and the earth glowed underneath me, stretching to meet a strangely grey sky. I kept walking , licking the flakes in the whistling wind like a dog, pressing on past the caves where I played so long ago. No one knew where I was, and I felt bubble light for just an instant.

A fence halted my march. It separated me from heaps of discarded iron. The source of the clanking was still beyond my vision. Past the scrape I saw clouds rising up, lights beaming rock steady in the chill, but I could never make out the source of the sound. It was one of those things you just can't reach, I knew. I walked the fence, but it never yielded. I didn't think it would, but the action was one you do anyway. My beard was stiff and my chin was numb. The cold was beginning to press me, so I had to c lose the circle. It was time to be safe again.

I went north yet again, and the wind was mean. I dipped down a hill into a valley of pavement and houses leaving the wind above me. Grinning, full of myself, I felt like some ancient voyager, some trail boss who had outwitted the weather and bought his mission some time.

Nothing happened on the last few feet to my home. I didn't disturb the mounting snow on our steps because it was so pretty. I wound back into the alley the way I'd come, seeing the steps I'd made. In the house, the Aunt knew where I was once more, and she told me I was crazy.

And being crazy felt good.

Find something crazy and do it.

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