The Burden of Perplexing Words

Submitted into Contest #61 in response to: Write about a character who’s obsessed with an era they never lived through.... view prompt


Drama Science Fiction

Havenwood lunatic asylum sits atop a hill on the outskirts of Blackpool and has done ever since Eighteen Sixty Four. This is where I live now. My name is Elena Marchant and I’m a lunatic, apparently. My father didn’t take kindly to my unusual vocabulary, and so he had me locked away in here. He said they can throw away the key for all he cares. He is ashamed of me, I’m nuts he says. No daughter of his, no longer the primrose he nurtured. Nor will I ever be now. I dare say he is much more concerned with what people will say than he is about my well-being. I can see the headlines now:

Magistrate Jacob Marchant has his Daughter certified as Lunatic. 

My mother stands with him of course, forever the dutiful wife. I can’t hold it against her though. Wives are required to act a certain way and if they don’t, well it’s gonna be a lot more trouble than it’s worth to be honest. 

The trouble all started with some rather queer thoughts I had been having and it occurred to me that although I am seventeen years of age and the year is Nineteen Thirty Six I’m not entirely sure that I belong here at all. My mind is in another era all together. It took me a few days to realise that I was out of my own time, I just kept seeing strange things and hearing odd words in my head and although I knew it wouldn’t go down well at all I knew I had to discuss it with my father for peace of mind, I couldn’t carry the burden alone. I saw my father in the lounge one day in his armchair with the morning paper in his face, I couldn’t see him at all really I suppose he just looked like a newspaper with hands at that point. Nevertheless, I knew it was him, and so I approached him for the dreaded conversation.

“Father,” I began. My father put his paper down and looked at me exasperatedly.

“Yes,” he replied in an unenthusiastic manner, avoiding eye contact. 

“What do you suppose we will be living like in the Twenty First Century?”

My father laughed. His face now firmly back inside his newspaper. 

“I don’t suppose I’ll be living at all, If I Make it to Nineteen Hundred and Ninety I’ll be one hundred years of age and I would wager that it’s highly unlikely I’ll make it that far.”

“I’ve been having some unusual thoughts about the future, father.”

“I dare say the best thing you can do is put them out of your mind, you’d be lucky to see the next century as well. You’d be Eighty One at the dawn of the next century.” Suddenly I lost my nerve, I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to and I felt defeated, my face sank down, suddenly heavy with the weight of burden. My father must have noticed how defeated I now appeared. 

“What do you suppose the Twenty First Century will be like?” He said, humouring me.

“I don’t know exactly but I keep seeing strange words in my head.”

“What the devil are you talking about, girl?”

“I keep seeing words in my head, words than shouldn’t exist, words that cannot, and yet they do, in my head at least. Twenty First Century words.”

“What kind of words are you talking about?” He was clearly concerned now, I could see it on his face, his newspaper was down, and he was much closer to me. He was studying my face very closely.




“What in the blazes is that?”

“I think it’s a kind of Social Media, father?”

“Social Media?”

“Yes, Social Media. Like Instagram.”

“Talk sense girl! Insta what? Social Media? What on Earth do you mean?”

“Well I’m not entirely sure, father. It’s all in fragments.”

“What else do you know?” He said softly, the tone was not kind, it was deadly.

“Telephones will be carried in pockets and will be used to take photographs.”

At this point there was a look of anger on his face or was it fear? Maybe a bit of both, he jumped up out of his chair and grabbed me by both shoulders, he started to shake me.

“TALK SENSE GIRL,” He shouted.


He slapped me and I cried my heart out. I was ordered to go to my room and not come out until I saw some sense but to me it all was sense. I knew all about Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I knew about something called YouTube and I knew that Vlogging was something to do with that and I didn’t know why I knew any of these things but I knew that they all made sense. I knew that I was born in Nineteen Nineteen and I had recently celebrated my seventeenth birthday here in Nineteen Thirty Six but I also knew that I didn’t belong here at all. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I should be living in Twenty Sixteen. 

I tried and tried to get my father to listen when in hindsight I should have kept these thoughts to myself. Just over a week later I found myself in this hellish place. I have been here for three months now, at least that’s what they tell me. They could be lying for all I know. All the days blend together in here. I haven’t had one visitor, not even so much as a letter. Why am I here? Do I deserve it? For speaking my mind? My thoughts may be hard for people to understand but I’m no criminal. There are murderers in here and lord knows what else, some of the people in here don’t even know what day it is. One moment they are your friend, and in the next moment they want to pounce on you. I would prefer not to mix with people in here, but they expect us to congregate, we must all get some fresh air, part of the recovery process apparently. I’ve lost count of the tears that I’ve cried. It’s the ghastliest place you could imagine, and they make us take ice baths, can you imagine how that feels? The male guards don’t even look away when I undress. They think I’m a lunatic, so I guess that means they think they can get away with anything. I don’t know what’s on their minds but I know what they’re thinking. What ever happened to being gentlemanly? 

I’ve tried to stop focusing on my hatred for this place now and all I can think of is the future. I don’t know how long I will be in this place or even how long I will live for but all I can think of is the year Twenty Sixteen. It is a certainty that my father will be long gone by then, and so I will never be able to prove to him that I am not crazy but I can prove it to myself. I have had a lot of time to think in here and my thoughts are a lot clearer now, by that I don’t mean that the rehabilitation process is working, not how they expect it to be. Have my nonsense ideas been eradicated? No. Far from it. My thoughts of future events are much clearer. I once spoke of Twitter to my father not fully understanding what it was but now I know that and more. I can see the blue bird logo and I see all the celebrity accounts and the endless retweets. I see YouTube and all the viral videos. I see the rise and fall of MySpace, I see Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram and I now know that the pocket sized phones I once spoke of are called mobile phones. I have seen visions of televisions that resemble cinema screens and ovens that cook in a matter of minutes. I have seen so many things but I know that if I tell anyone any of this I will be in here forever. I have nobody anymore to go home to but there is a whole world out there and I can’t wait to see it, there is going to be a big war in the next decade though and a lot of people are going to die. I’m worried about that. I still don’t know how I know any of these things, but they all make so much sense to me. I can’t wait until the day that I find myself in Twenty Sixteen. 

October 02, 2020 21:38

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