Devil on Sea

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Loose Grip on Reality

Chapter 3
Loose Grip on Reality

Mary had always struggled through life. It wasn't so much that it was difficult, although it certainly was, more that it had a sneaky way of disguising the bad right behind the good. It was this constant bad luck that had caused her to never quite trust her surroundings. Take, for example, the day her husband died.

The note trembled slightly in her hand and Mary slowly opened her eyes. The anxiety attack that had threatened to come galloping in had never arrived, and she smiled faintly at the fact it had been over a week since she’d last experienced one.

Perhaps I am getting better. She though with caution, before reading the note for a second time.

“Morning Sweet Pea. Hope I didn’t wake you on my way out but I wanted to get to the office early. I think I may have found the perfect house for the young couple I’ve been showing houses to, and you know how badly I need a sale so hopefully this is the one. Hope you have a good day chicken feet and I’ll check in with you about lunch time, depending on when I’m free. Woke up today loving you just that little bit more.” There was a scrawled image of a winking face blowing a kiss at the bottom of the note and Mary smiled before dropping the note back on the kitchen table.

It’s been ten years and he still acts like we’ve just come back from our honeymoon. Mary thought, still smiling, before her face crinkled in confusion. The note had turned over on its short journey down to the table and there was more writing on the back.

“Oh, before I forget, Mike’s hosting a house warming tonight. You know how much of a cheapskate the boss is and he’s using it as an excuse to have a work’s do, “boost moral” as he put it in the memo that strongly suggested we all attend. Just a reminder that I’ll be driving Carl and Steve there and back. Probably won’t be back until the early morning, you know how much those two like a drink, but I’ll try not to wake you.”

‘I don’t like to sleep alone.’ Mary fretted aloud, before seeing there was a poorly drawn love heart with their initials inside and “4eva” written beside it at the bottom of the note.

Alan. She thought fondly. Her threatening anxiety attack seemed satisfied with that and the threat passed, no doubt saving its strength for a much bigger attack later on in the year. Her anxious mind, the cause of all the anxiety attacks, continued to worry about Alan’s car ride home and how Mary would struggle to sleep without him there. Her years of being bruised and battered rational mind longed for Valium. Then, recognising it’s ever tiring job of placating its anxious counter part, her rational mind also thought of Pro-Plus, for Alan.

So Mary decided to go shopping, calm in the knowledge that her rational side was going to take care of things. However, finally glad for the continuation of the week long break for the first time in months, her rational mind promptly turned itself off. Had her anxious mind noticed it was doing all the thinking it may have poked her rational mind to make sure it did its, and the anxious mind’s, fair share of the work. Unfortunately, all her anxious mind could think of was the intoxicating allure of Valium, and so happily went about making all the decisions that afternoon.

First stop, Lloyds Pharmacy. Mary thought in glee as she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

For a Friday afternoon it was surprisingly quiet, and that suited Mary down to the ground. Unsurprisingly, Mary didn’t like crowds, or loud noises, or people that made loud noises; which to her mind was everyone. Unaware of where anything except the chemist counter was in the shop, but clutching her repeat prescription tightly, she walked straight up to the desk where a pimply faced teen sat; idly flicking through a magazine.

‘A-a-afternoon. I’d like some Valium and Pro-Plus please,’ Mary beamed with pride; she’d only stuttered once, which was quite unlike her when not in the company of Alan. She placed her prescription on the counter, a little too hard, and the young lad raised his eyes from the article he was reading: “10 reasons why your guy might be cheating on you”. He cocked an eyebrow at the strange request causing Mary to blush.

How silly, I’m buying sleeping tablets and tablets that keep you awake. I must sound like a loon. She thought with black humour, her anxiety slipping into first gear.

‘They’re not for me, they’re for my husband. He’s driving late tonight and I thought these mi-might help,’

There, crisis averted. Mary thought, in the hope of calming herself down, the young lad turning to fill her prescription. He won’t think I’m insane and they won’t come and take me away. Mary’s biggest fear was “the men in white coats” and just tentatively thinking about them, like she now was, was apt to send her pulse racing. This is where her rational mind should have stepped in, said some calming words and then stepped back into its usual supervisory role. Alas, it was still on hiatus and didn’t have a clue her anxiety had climbed into gear two; foot resting heavy on the accelerator.

‘PRO-PLUS!’ Mary shouted all of a sudden, causing the teen and three other customers to turn nervously in her direction. She found third gear with the ease that comes with regular practice. ‘The Pro-Plus is f-f-for my ex-fiancé, I mean husband.’

Oh we can hear them now; the wailing sirens of the white ambulance, the clinking of the heavy metal buckles on the clean white coat. We never should have left the house. Mary’s anxious mind thought to her. Mary tried to block it out but was failing badly. She screamed inside her own mind for her rational mind to step in but her cries went unanswered. Fifth gear had been reached by the time the clerk returned with her prescription, placing a white bottle before her, and Mary’s anxious mind was reeling in fear. Mary felt herself perspiring profusely and she had turned visibly pink. She placed a £10 note on the counter, grabbed the bottle, muttered a thank you, and ran out of the store, bumping into a middle aged man by the doorway.

He’s the one! He’s the one with the taser in case we get erratic. Her anxious mind screamed at her, further spreading fear and paranoia. The clerk tried to shout something as she left but his voice broke and all Mary heard was a faint high pitched whine. What he’d actually tried to say was,

‘You’ve forgotten your Pro-Plus.”

Mary was home long before her anxiety had completely gone away; her anxiety always calming down a lot slower than it built up. Her rational mind, finally sensing something was amiss, had tried to restore calm and wrestle back control but it was too late; her anxiety was having none of it. In fact, all her anxious mind was doing was replaying all the times the world had turned on her, further reinforcing its control over her mind. It thought of the first time Mary had ever been betrayed, by her parents, and Mary was overcome by memory.

Mary was transported back to her 4th birthday. Times were hard in her household and her parents were unable to afford much. They had reasoned, incorrectly, that a four year old couldn’t be affected by much that could have a substantial bearing in anyway shape or form on their development. As such, they had decided over days of deliberation, that rather than stretch their ever decreasing budget to buy Mary a toy that she’d only get bored of after five minutes, to end up playing with the box, that they’d try a different approach. This approach was to expand the anticipation felt when you begin to open a present, by wrapping it in layer upon layer of paper. They also reasoned that Mary would be just as happy with a box that used to contain a toy, than the toy that used to be inside the box.

So they stole the box of a Tonka truck that Peter, the 2 year old from next door, had recently received and the box then promptly thrown away, whilst Mary’s dad began to save his Sunday newspapers for use as wrapping paper. As the month ticked by, Mary’s 4th birthday getting ever closer, her excitement began to grow. Finally, the magical day arrived and Mary was presented with a large, sort of rectangular, News of the World Papier-mâché. It was at this exact moment that her anxious mind was born.

Why are they so smiley? Why are they urging us to unwrap it so slowly? But Mary pushed down her newly cautious anxious mind and began to unwrap, slowly. As the first few layers peeled back her excitement began to grow, as did her anxiety.

This present is huge! It must be a pony, or even a unicorn, Mary thought before she stopped unwrapping and turned to face her parents; an excited smile planted firmly on her baby fat filled face. A unicorn pony! She tore into the rest of the paper, desperate to reach Trixibell inside,

Or should I call her Fluffy? When she was up to her elbows in glue soaked paper Mary gave up on the unicorn pony and stopped ignoring her newly born anxious mind’s warnings. When she finally reached the centre, which required her to lean in up to her shoulders, and removed the Tonka truck box from the more expensive newspaper wrapping, her anxious mind took root and began to thrive.

I warned you! You should always listen to me, Mary. Always! Mary didn’t speak to her parents again for nearly two whole months.

Mary’s rational mind finally wrestled back control and shut out the memory, just in time for Alan to return home from work. Knowing simple repetitive tasks had calmed her down in the past - much in the same way people manning shop-tills have that glazed look in their eyes - Mary’s rational mind set her to tidying up the mess she’d made in her anxious state. At the same time her rational mind set about trying to piece together the chain of events that had lead up to Mary’s anxiety attack, a memory that her anxious mind had no urge in sharing after having the birthday memory snatched from its grasp. As part of the repetitive tasks Mary went to get Alan some clothes out for the party, and seeing the bottle of pills on the table and rationalising that the only thing she could have been given in such a state was over the counter tablets and certainly not prescription medication, her rational mind made Mary slip the container into Alan’s blazer’s chest pocket. It then set about both chastising and placating its anxious counter-part, whilst zoning Mary out in front of the TV. An advert for Pro-Plus came on at some point and it wouldn’t be until days later that her rational mind would realise they were sold in a cardboard boxes, not in plastic containers.

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