ARCANE TALES. ARCANUM 0: THE FOOL
They said that I killed the whole family: the two girls, the boy, the parents, even the stuffed animals. When the police found me I was unconscious, I later found out that my hands were stained with blood and I had a heavy blow to the head, guilty of the amnesia that everyone believed I was faking to evade conviction.
A panel of doctors examined me during the process, there was not a single part of my body whose functioning was not thoroughly examined, but it was not my body that they were most interested in, but my mind. What drove a man to commit such a heinous crime?
They asked me questions that I couldn’t answer, they placed cables on my head with the failed intention of locating where the anomaly that had awakened the murderous instincts in an athlete of my stature lay; They gave me a polygraph test, the results of which they distrusted, concluding that a sick mind like mine could circumvent said technology by believing its own lies to be true. They showed me sheets with ink stains, it’s the Test of… of… Right now I don’t remember, what I do remember is that the doctors took hasty notes every time I expressed what I saw: two elephants joining their trunks or a UFO abducting a red butterfly; two African women, heeled, stretching a mass over the brain of someone who looked like he had been a clown, because of the haircut; two dragons facing each other in a thousand-year-old battle, below are the spectators who have made the bets and are fiercely cheering them on…
Finally, and by unanimous consensus, they reached a diagnosis: schizophrenia. I was sentenced to stay in a psychiatric hospital. My state of shock was such that I could not claim anything in my favor. There were too many gaps in my mind, and trying to figure out what its waters hid was more important to me than resisting what was happening.
So I ended up in an institution in the middle of nowhere, where each day was a copy of the previous one, at least at first it seemed that way to me because they didn’t allow me to leave that room so white, so white, that during the day I had to cover up my eyes so their light wouldn’t blind me. My head ached constantly and I developed the habit of brushing the back of it with my fingers in search of the blow that had left me unconscious, right there was a small unevenness that I felt over and over again.
Two questions tormented me: How had I gotten to that house? Why had he killed that family? I had not recognized anyone in the photos they had shown me, but by dint of seeing their faces I was able to invent a story for each one, I gave them names, I talked with them, they never appeared to me, despite the fact that I believed that at some point moment they would come for me to make me pay for my sin; at one time I wished that it were so, because I couldn’t resist the guilt of having hurt them. I asked them for forgiveness in whispers, sometimes when the nurses opened the door I hugged their legs and begged them to forgive me.
Eventually they let me out, I started going to the dining room, sitting in the common areas, walking in the garden. I couldn’t describe anyone, as my entire existence had turned inward. My previous life as a rappelling champion and hang glider pilot faded to a very distant point, sometimes bursts of past experiences with trophies and medals that faded came to me, I took them as mere hallucinations, especially because they were full of colors so vivid that when contrasted with the opacity that surrounded me they must be unreal.
So I ignored that someone was watching me, I was in a secluded corner of the garden when I saw the card fall at my feet, I picked it up without much interest, when I saw it I instinctively put my hand to the back of my head. On the yellow background a young man was preparing to embark on a journey, his luggage was very scarce, in his left hand he was holding a white rose, a small white dog jumped by his side, what I did not understand was why this young man did not look down, he was on the edge of a cliff, so his next step would lead him to fall. At the bottom it read THE FOOL.
«It’s going to fall out,» I muttered, holding the card between my fingers.
—»Maybe he doesn’t care.»
I was startled when I heard those words, I raised my face, but the sun, which was right in front of me, blinded me; I placed my hand in the form of a visor at the level of my forehead and I could make out the silhouette of a man who seemed very tall and even corpulent to me. Then, looking at it in more detail, I was surprised to see that it was an elderly man, between sixty and sixty-five years old, with almost completely white hair and the skin of his face marked by several scars.
I nicknamed him «the tarot madman», because he spent his time with a deck in his pocket and dropped occasional cards in front of certain patients, I don’t know what he intended with that, the truth is that few were interested in it, some not even they raised it, despite the fact that they had a mandala with bright colors on the back.
I started having daily talks with him, he seemed very sane, I wondered why he was there, maybe he had just been locked up because he was old, to me he was the only healthy person in the whole place, including the medical staff. He had watery blue eyes, and sometimes I thought I could make out a certain disturbing light at the bottom of them, similar to the spark of a volcano about to erupt. When he had no company he used to take out the cards at random and place them on the table, I think he never liked what he saw because he looked at the images for a moment and then shook his head, picked up the cards and threw them again, perhaps with the hope of a different result, but that result never came.
I kept the card of THE FOOL, he had several decks in his room and easily replaced the decks he dropped in front of the other internals. When I was alone in my room I would observe the letter in detail, when I slept I would dream of the young traveler, the dog would bark as if warning him something, but he would not listen to it, he was so focused looking up that he inevitably ended up falling, at that moment I I became him and twinge of vertigo woke me up.
One afternoon I saw the volcano erupt. At snack time they served us coffee in large, stained mugs, while we sipped the dark content I asked him.
«Why did you say that the one in the card doesn’t mind falling?»
He looked at me as if for a moment he had forgotten who I was. Then he seemed to come to.
—It’s obvious, he longs for the fall, what’s more, he needs it.
For the first time I thought that my interlocutor was not entirely sane.
—Is he suicidal? Why does he want to die?
The coffee was too sweet for my taste, he seemed to enjoy his.
—Not every fall is death, a good fall helps to break the shell.
I knew he wouldn’t tell me more, so I saved the rest of the questions for another time.
One of the nurses bumped into our table and the madman’s cup fell to the floor with a crash, I don’t know why that sound made me shudder. He got up with unusual speed, grabbed the nurse by the neck, threw him to the ground and began to strangle him. He would have killed him if two more nurses hadn’t gotten rid of him, it wasn’t an easy task, when they managed to lift him I could see that his eyes were boiling with fury; the other lay on the ground on the verge of suffocation with the madman’s fingers marked on the skin of his neck. In the fray several cards had fallen to the ground, some face up, others face down showing the distinctive mandala, a kind of floral spider web that had a certain hypnotizing quality.
They kept him in seclusion for several days, I could not forget that inflamed look like a burning powder keg, I constantly remembered his words: «Not every fall is death.» My dreams with THE FOOL changed, at the beginning of the fall I didn’t wake up, but I glided like when I practiced hang gliding. I began to enjoy the dream, I was flying farther and farther. When I woke up I said to myself: “Maybe there is a way out”.
Once, flying within the dream, I saw a house in the middle of an open field, my pulse quickened as I approached it, I saw my body lying in front of it, I was lying unconscious, there was blood on my scalp and on my hands. I woke up anguished, I no longer wanted to continue with those dreams, and yet I couldn’t dream of anything else, each time I returned to the house, but what had brought me there?
It was not easy for me to overcome the fear of the house that seemed to call me, inside was the family that I had murdered in cold blood. I had to face my ghosts, ask their forgiveness, seek in them the redemption that I myself denied. Before going to bed I looked at the Fool’s card, I saw him with his face raised without caring about the imminent fall, then I turned the card over and fell asleep contemplating the mandala on the back.
In one of the dreams I finally dared to enter through one of the windows, there she was, face up, on the kitchen floor. I recognized her at that moment, although when they showed me the photos I hadn’t been able to… I felt a tingling in my veins, the same feeling I had when I met her. That morning she had started hang gliding training and I had been lucky enough to be her coach. I was captivated by her sparkling eyes, her copper-colored hair, her peach-like scent. Now I was looking at her on the ground with her huge eyes open and dull, her lips parted in search of air, exhibited the pallor of death, her face reflected disbelief and panic, she had the marks of fingers around his neck.
When I woke up I continued to remember, the headache was very strong and I had to make a great effort not to give up. She had forgotten her wallet and I went to return it to her, I looked up her address in the database, it was a good opportunity to see her again, while driving to her house I was dazzled by the color of the afternoon on the tops of the mountains, I thought I saw a mountaineer on one of the peaks, he was very still and looked up at the sky, next to him was a white dog.
I arrived at the house, I went up some old and worn steps that squeaked giving me a slight shiver, I knocked on the door, but inside everything was silent, too silent, I looked out one of the windows, behind the curtains I thought I saw a silhouette that moved fast, I had a bad feeling and went down the steps, once down I felt the blow to the head.
From that memory I began to make progress in the individual sessions with the therapist on duty. Every time they took me for a consultation, the tarot madman warned me: «Remember not to give them what they want», but that was exactly what I had to give them to get out of there. I spent another year in that place until the director recommended that I be discharged on the condition that I return once a week and take the prescribed medication.
Once outside, the first thing I did was return to the house where the crime had occurred.
The same mountains were there, but that October morning the sun did not shine on them. I thought I could make out someone on the same top as last time, I stopped the car. Maybe it was the same man, accompanied by the same white dog, or maybe not. My blood ran cold when I felt that he was looking at me, he was just a small point in the distance, it was very unlikely that he would see me; suddenly he jumped into the void. The scream choked in my throat, I froze, I fumbled for the pills in my shirt pocket, I didn’t need those hallucinations, when I was struggling to get one out of the plastic container I saw it emerge between the hills. He was wearing a yellow wingsuit and soared through the air out of sight. I started laughing like I hadn’t in years.
I finally got to the house, everything in it exuded abandonment. Dry leaves, dirt, and broken branches accumulated everywhere. I climbed the few steps to the door, the moan that they emitted under each one of my steps made me shiver.
The door gave way without difficulty, inside the air circulated freely through the broken glass of the windows. I definitely hadn’t been inside that house, at least not when I was awake. The furniture was covered in dust and cobwebs proliferated in the corners. I looked for the kitchen, oriented myself by the dream I had managed to enter. I stopped some distance from where I had seen her body, of course it was gone, but I felt that somehow it was still there, everyone was still there. I never knew where the others were, but it was clear to me that they were still trapped as invisible prisoners of the force that had taken their lives.
Something caught my attention on the floor, next to a chair were the fragments of what looked like a cup, there was a dark stain that the mosaic floor had absorbed, it was probably brown. I crouched down with the absurd idea of smelling the stain to check my hypothesis, but as soon as I bent my knees I could make out a little further, under the table, what seemed to be several decks of cards in disorder, I stooped to be able to pass under the board of the table, some decks were face up, others face down showing the unique mandala that I knew so well. My head began to ache and I put my hand to the back of my head that was throbbing strongly. I stretched out my arm to pick up the one closest to me, I drew the card towards me with a certain tremor in my hand, as soon as I picked it up I had again, before my eyes, the THE FOOL about to jump into the void.