Fiction: Symptoms Of Madness

June 1, 2018 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

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Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian




I had my own fears. One such fear was that my patients’ madness may affect my sanity. My wife said she heard me talking to myself loudly in my study.


I denied it, yet I knew she was right. Lately, I have been soliloquizing a lot: in my study room, in the living room, on my way to work, on the commuter bus; until a concerned passenger asked:


Sir, is everything okay?


I didn’t realize I was soliloquizing in a bus filled mostly with workers headed for their different offices, on a sunny Monday morning. It felt like I was talking in my heart, alone to myself.


I alighted the bus. A voice kept on telling me that I was mad; and I kept on telling it I wasn’t.






At 3:30 pm, an hour before the close of work, I started towards Maxwell’s room to give him the evening dose of his medicine. He knows I walk with short quick steps. He went for the door before me. I relieved the knob and let him open it.


Maybe my wife was in the right that mental patients are completely different from normal patients who were sick in the body and needed penicillin. And I was wrong that they are the same as normal patients and needed their own version of penicillin.


When the transfer letter arrived. The university management had just transferred me from her teaching hospital to a subsidiary mental clinic. There were two reactions that evening. I saw an opportunity to explore the world of mental health and improve my medical career. But Miriam saw it as a direct attack on her husband’s sanity.


I was going to be the chief psychiatrist at the university’s mental clinic. I tried to convince her that evening that working there was just the same as working at the university’s teaching hospital— ‘for normal people,’ she would interrupt, stressing the difference between both places. And when I told her I wasn’t having a change of mind she curled up in the sofa and sobbed.


I had against all odds begun working at the clinic. Miriam in a similar manner said she had started saying prayers to Mary for me, so I would by no means contract madness from my patients. Plus, she was convinced this was a move by Satan himself to ruin her marriage. I started taking her seriously, when she told me a week later. She had added fasting to the prayers.


She claimed she saw in a vision the devil turning her husband into a raving mad man by enchanting magical spells on him. I laughed and felt my stomach hurt badly from laughing.


I love my wife and she loves me. But I know Miriam, she could be over-protective at times, coupled with a childhood phobia for the mad, she once told me about.


Thoughts of Miriam and what she’d think her husband was turning into filled my head as I played Snakes and Ladders with Maxwell. Just after I watched him guzzle down the pills, exciting water in his throat, even after swallowing the tablets. Maxwell told me after I made my first win. He’s got a surprise for me, a thing he hid behind his back. He called it a birthday gift.


My birthday was past. I feared too because ‘gift’ in German meant ‘poison’.


“I win.” He exclaimed.


My heart wasn’t in the game; it was brooding over the likelihood of a psychiatric doctor contracting some form of madness by communicating with deranged patients.


“Doctor Tony, do you think you will win?” Maxwell asked with shining eyes.


“H’m” I said.


“You mean no?,” he asked.


“Yes,” I said.


“No,” he said, suddenly laughing.


“Okay Max, we will play again tomorrow.”


“Okay Doctor Tony, see you tomorrow.” He said.






The bus that brought me to work had once again crossed my path. This time, neither the white-collar workers nor the concerned lady were there. As if I had looked forward to meeting them again.


The woman seated close to me was breastfeeding her baby. Another passenger, a man glaring at her large tits in a strange enjoyable manner. I think I saw him lick his lips too…


I pressed my face on my window, tears suddenly welling up in my eyes as I thought of Maxwell. I never felt this way while at the clinic. Whenever it was the close of work and I was set to return home, I would suddenly feel it. My love for Maxwell weighing down on me like a burden in such a way that the burden would make me cry. I would begin to miss him terribly.


As I pressed my face on the bus window, that instant, I see Maxwell waving me goodbye from the other side of the road where he stood dressed in the clinic robe. I get this feeling I won’t see him again. That someone was taking him away and leaving me in a terrible state.


I start to sob, blurring my window with tears. “Sir is everything okay?” a man asked.


“No,” I said blubbering.






Miriam arrived home just in time for her favourite sitcom, Lekki Housewives. She had nursed fears; she might miss this week’s edition owing to a tight schedule. She had booked to see the Reverend Father and go window-shopping on a kitchen equipment.


There were a lot of people waiting to see him.


“Mrs. Tony, why are you here?” the Father had asked.


She told him it was about her husband and he graciously let her in before others.


He told her, the fear of her husband contracting madness from his deranged patients was borne out of illusions, even her dreams were borne out of the same illusions. They had no spiritual foundation at all.


Miriam had never felt so misunderstood her entire life. She left the man’s office wishing she hadn’t visited. She got home at four— just in time for the TV drama.


Tony came in minutes later. She kissed him at the door. She noticed his eyes red and teary and wondered. She declined asking him, in the thought that it could be as a result of weariness from working all day and reading too much patients’ reports; more wearisome, when those patients are all deranged.


“How was work today?” she asked him.


“Fine,” he answered with an unusual baldness.


Miriam sank back into the sofa. When Tony asked if the bathtub had hot water heated up? She answered yes, immersed in the television drama.


Miriam edged in her seat when she heard the voice of her favourite cast. The woman’s feathery voice and the way she pronounced words. The cast, a veteran cloth-maker who ran her own label and was married to the governor’s son.


Miriam liked the woman for her voice; she spoke the sort of English her father always wanted them to speak. Queen’s English.


“Tony,” Miriam literally shouted herself out of the sitcom.


“What are you doing and why are you like this?” She said feeling shocked.


“I want a new bar of soap.”


“I don’t like that one in the bathroom,” Tony said feeling quite indifferent, bending over and looking under the sofa.


“And that’s why you had to come out of the shower naked?” Miriam said on top of her voice.


“Yes,” he answered.


“Let me check outside. I could find one lying in the front yard,” Tony said, walking out the door naked.


“What?” Miriam screamed.






Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian

Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian is the co-founder of Africa Haiku Network and co-editor of its Mamba journal. He is crazy about books and anything literature. Find the writer on Facebook, @emmanuelkalusian, Twitter: @ekalu28

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1 Comment

  1. Barnabas June 05, at 01:03

    This is brilliant Jessie. The last part is extremely funny.


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