Indeed, I did get to know him. From that moment, the strange man did not leave my side. At first he didn’t say much, mainly he lurked behind me as I walked or watched me from the shadows and corners of whatever room I was in, a knowing grin on his face as if he was keeping some great secret. At night, he sat perched on the bedpost and watched me as I slept. I tried my best to ignore him, force myself to make him disappear, to believe that he was simply a figment of my imagination. But he did not disappear, no matter how much I reasoned it seemed as if this man was no hallucination, for if he were could I not force him away at will? Slowly I began to accept him; he became my silent companion, like a pet raven, a little dark and unsettling but surprisingly good company nonetheless. The more I accepted him the less lonely I became, the less pain I felt. He was a bit like alcohol, the more of him I took in other things became blurry and I felt less.
“How long are you going to ignore me, friend?” the man finally spoke up one night, as he was perched on his usual spot. “I know you notice me, and I know you’ve stopped trying to “will me away” as if I’m some sort of illusion. Don’t you think it’s time that we introduced ourselves?”
“I – I suppose so,” I stammered, quite taken aback that he had spoken; I had forgotten the steely sound of his voice.
“Well, I suppose I will start with the introductions.” His usual grin twisted in a slightly different way to look slightly amused and then faded into a very solemn and sincere expression. “Since I already know all about you, and you seem to be too shy to speak I will tell you about myself. My name is Madness, I am the living embodiment. Oh don’t look so concerned, my friend, you should count it an honor I am here. Many claim to be mad, but very few have truly had me as a companion. People do not understand that madness, true madness, is not a disease or something that needs to be cured. It is a higher state of mind, of being, allowing one to escape the tedious troubles of the “real world” and achieve true happiness. My job is to help and befriend troubled souls like yourself, so they might achieve this happiness.”
“So I’m mad?” The words came out colored with horror and disbelief, and Madness looked quite offended by that tone.
“Yes, but don’t you know that to be mad is a great thing? The great geniuses of your world have all been mad, have all been my personal companions. Aristotle, Socrates, Galileo, Shakespeare, every one of them my friends. The commoners of this world label people with greatness they haven’t experienced before with a fictional disease, a stigma they paste on those who are different, and they use my name to do it!” He was now pacing angrily about the room.
“So it is good to be mad?” I tried to make my voice as gentle as possible.
“Yes! Don’t you see? You’re a genius, Simon! You don’t need to waste your time and abilities here, with all of these normal, common people. You are so much better.”
“Then where do you suggest I go?”
“With me, to my world.” Madness seemed to be shaking with excitement.
“Yes!” He clasped my hands between his, “You’ll love it. It is a land of wonder. Everything is vibrant and interesting, nothing like you’ve ever seen before.”
“Are there other people in this world of yours? People you’ve taken there?”
“Of course, but not everyone is from your world you know. There are natives from my world as well. Time, for instance, is a very close friend and neighbor of mine. I’ll introduce you when we get there.”
“Time? As in the kind that passes?”
“Well I am certainly not speaking of the herb. Thyme the herb is an absolutely wretched creature, I can hardly stand him.”
“Your world certainly sounds interesting,” I leaned back, trying to process everything. How could Time be a person? But then again how could Madness be a person? Curiosity burned inside of me, as did a single thought. Madness took notice.
“I take it I have you intrigued?” I nodded. “And nothing is keeping you anymore, correct?” I nodded again. “Then, my friend, what do you say?”
“When do we leave?”