I once knew a lady who lived inside a castle of the mind. She stood watch on the battlements, relentlessly scanning the horizon for threats. She feared shadowy forces were plotting, undermining, creeping up the castle walls, ready to persecute and harm her.
Sometimes she spoke with a stifled sob, as if her voice were strangely muffled. When I tried reaching out to her, I felt I had first to cross the threshold and acknowledge the castle was real. “I am allowing you to enter my world,” she once said.
I had to meet her on her own ground, isolated behind thick defensive walls. It was like playing second violin. Up to a point, I had to defer to her delusions, I had to make compromises, otherwise we could never remain in contact.
Her body language made me uneasy, as if she were shuffling inside a huge cloth bag, and listening to the whimpering ultrasonic vibrations of her own limbs.
We never had real conversations. It was everything or nothing. Even when her picture of the outside world seemed to me a swirling distorted blur, I was either with her 100% or against her 1000%. If I challenged even a single detail of what she said, then her face scrunched up, sometimes even turning a shade of purple, and she accused me of siding with her enemies.
I have actually known a few people like her. Within the castle of the mind, they invented marks of distinction for themselves. One claimed she was changing the course of history. Another had been borne upwards on a beam of light, in a state of rapture, so extraterrestrials could clone his remarkably pure DNA on board their spacecraft. Then there was the lady who had encountered the Devil in person: she even remembered the dreadful squeaking sound his leather sandals made. And I am not about to forget the man who swore he had discovered the true identity of the Antichrist. He knew – he just knew.
These lonely souls were code-breakers of long, forgotten secrets – the troubling destiny of the world. It all seemed so much to bear.
They were also aware that teams of malevolent people were working day and night to undo what they had become. These antagonists sat at glowing desks, they seemed mild-mannered and professional, but deep down they were violent. And they were under investigation.
Returning to the first lady in the castle, I sometimes wonder how it all started. Where did her suspicions come from, the grudges, the vehemence, the endless self-reference, like a spiral forever coiling on itself? Had she misread something in her own actions? Was there some pattern to it all? Could she be saved from herself? I remember trying to help, but it never made a difference.
I also wondered how it would all end. It seemed to me her mind was trapped inside a castle, and would one day be washed out to sea.