In light of this love for normalcy, it is perhaps understandable why the story of the Jones’ child became a legend and was told and retold with countless embellishments and conspiracy theories in later generations. I shall here attempt to give an honest and accurate account of the events that took place.
The Joneses were a nuclear family. Wilhelm and Minerva Jones, who married when they were 21, and their child, Snigmund. Wilhelm worked as an engineer, a profession he found himself well suited to, and he did quite well for himself and his family. Minerva was a college lecturer, but was forced to leave her post for reasons that will soon become clear. Snigmund was born on March 12, 1989, three years after her parents had gotten married. She showed signs of incredible intelligence and was speaking in full, fluent and coherent sentences before the age of two. This aptitude for learning greatly pleased Wilhelm, who was an academician at heart. He remarked to his friends repeatedly that his daughter would surpass both her parents’ achievements with considerable ease.
Snigmund was brought up in a strict disciplinarian household. Excellence was expected in every field that was related to cognitive exercises. She was homeschooled; her father had no patience for the school curriculum. She studied arithmetic, logic, Latin, Greek, English and German and all before she was ten. From the moment she woke up, she was bombarded with devilishly tricky on-the-spot tests, impromptu classes, problem solving exercises and the like. Her “playtime” was two hours a day where the only games she was allowed to play were Sudoku and chess. A tutor also came to her house twice a week to teach her how to play the violin, but she was not permitted to listen to music once he left. She was not allowed to play with the kids outside, and lived most of her childhood within those four walls. That was the only world she knew. She often begged and pleaded to be allowed outside when she heard the other kids frolicking and laughing, but a stern word from her father would send her scampering back to her arithmetic.
The one thing Snigmund never lacked was reading material. Her father had filled his library with books which were all meant for her. He bought only those books which he approved of and which fell within his disciplinarian view of how his child should turn out.
Books were Snigmund’s one escape. She was a voracious reader, and this was the only activity she could enjoy without going against her parents’ wishes. She read literature, biographies, scientific books, philosophy and historical accounts. Her tree of knowledge had branched out to cover an incredible amount of subjects of which ordinary children her age would not even have heard of. By the time she turned 15, she could hold her own and indeed dominate a conversation with anyone, regardless of age. Visitors to the Jones household were overcome with awe at this teenager with the wisdom and knowledge base of an old man. On these occasions, Wilhelm would outwardly show his pride in her abilities. Otherwise these moments were in short supply.
Outwardly, then, everything was going to plan. Snigmund was a prodigy, picking up complex and convoluted problems and coming up with the simplest solutions, speaking 5 different languages fluently and a virtuoso with the violin.
However the cold, relentless discipline of her timetable from her infancy right up to her mid teens had begun to affect her mind, though the effects went unnoticed for a long time. The first signs showed in minor, subtle ways. Where before Snigmund had been meticulous, obsessive even, in the manner in which her activities were carried out, a hint of absent mindedness began creeping in. She would walk into a room and forget why she came there. She would start a conversation and forget what she was saying halfway through a sentence. Once in the dead of winter, she forgot to wear a muffler and gloves and walked all the way to the grocery and back seemingly unperturbed. On returning, her mother let out a scream of horror when she glimpsed Snigmund’s face which was blue and seemed to have been drained of all blood.
These incidents were brushed aside by Wilhelm as the eccentricities of genius. After all, Einstein was absent minded too. She simply must have her mind occupied by more important musings.
Then began the sleepwalking.
Minerva awoke one night to the sound of scratching on the wall. Afraid that it might be robbers, or worse, mice, she awoke Wilhelm and made him investigate the source of the noise. Outside, he found Snigmund sitting bolt upright in a chair, scratching paint off the wall and eating it. On waking her up, she had no recollection of being there and did not remember any dream or reason that caused her to act this way. Their fears had no chance of allaying as this soon became a regular occurrence. The perfectly whitewashed house showed the scars of this latest manifestation of mental unrest in the youngest member of the household. Her nails would bleed, leaving a red mark on the spot where she picked at the wall. She was taken to a psychiatrist, a physician and even a homeopathic doctor, none of whom could explain the reasons behind this behavior.
Around this time, (she was now 17) Snigmund was often found walking aimlessly around the house, mumbling to herself. This had been a habit of hers since childhood, it was her way of ideating when faced with a particularly tough problem, and her parents had learnt to give her privacy so as to avoid disturbing her train of thought. But these wandering rambles started increasing in frequency, and her mumbling got louder, and on hearing what was being said, neither Wilhelm nor Minerva could make any sense of the words they heard. It did not seem to be coherent speech.
Up to this point, her quirks had stayed separate from her academics, and she had continued to excel effortlessly at any subject she put her mind to. Wilhelm was considering her future already, planning her career for her, bringing her books meant for doctorate students, and the 17 year old continued to absorb and understand the intricacies of the subject without particularly taxing her mind. But her increasingly erratic behavior soon began wreaking havoc with her timetables.
Once, on a visit to a relative’s house, Snigmund suddenly went missing, and after two hours of frantically scouring the house and neighborhood, she was found her on the street, staring up at a blank wall, repeatedly mumbling loudly to herself,
“There must be something to it. There must be something to it.”
When confronted, Snigmund had no idea how she ended up on the streets and her last memory was of walking into the kitchen to drink some water.
Soon her mental state abandoned any form of uniformity and she spiraled into complete derangement.
Her condition aggrieved none more than Wilhelm. The best doctors were summoned to analyze her condition, but none could seem to point out a single reason with enough evidence to back it up. All her test results showed a perfectly healthy, indeed highly intelligent girl whose brain functioned at a higher level than average. Psychiatrists suggested that her grueling schedule may have resulted in a breakdown and that she must be given a month’s rest and she would recover.
But Snigmund still retained some remnants of lucidity and in these, she could not function without working in some form or the other. Her mind was simply too used to being worked to its limits, and lethargy seemed dangerously alien to her and unsettled her. And so she would immerse herself in her books, working away as long as her lucid stage lasted and then would suddenly abandon it, cackling loudly and spouting a whole jumble of words, in different languages, completely unrelated to each other. She began screaming at random intervals for no reason, her sleepwalking had become a daily routine, and she had in the past week wet her bed on three occasions.
Wilhelm watched the process of mental degradation reach its zenith with grief born out of crushed dreams and helplessness. His child, who had promised so much, shown so much potential, was today being helped out of her bed and needed guidance to perform the simplest actions. Try as they might, her situation only got worse. In three months time, put under observation for a couple of days, she was declared mentally unfit to function in society without a guardian.
Minerva subsequently went into depression, not having the strength of character to see her little prodigy now being fed meals while shackled to a bed. Wilhelm had a decision to make. He had two options, he could either admit his daughter into an asylum, hoping that they would find the cure that had eluded every doctor so far, or he could take Snigmund home and accept that she would for the rest of her life remain as she was now. Incontinent, incompetent, a retard. He suppressed a shudder as the word crossed his mind.
Wilhelm had now had just about enough of seeing his daughter being pricked, scanned, sliced open and tested. The doctors had done all sorts of horribly invasive tests and each time they came out of the ward looking just as clueless as they had been going in. Minerva was in no state to venture an opinion, and so the burden of responsibility fell squarely and exclusively on his shoulders. He made his decision, the papers were signed, and Snigmund was brought back to the Jones household.
Minerva eventually recovered, quit her job as a college professor and devoted her entire day to Snigmund. Speaking incessantly, bathing, washing, cleaning and changing her, handling all the household chores and also keeping Snigmund away from the walls. It was a full time job in itself, and it drained her energy till she walked about zombie like, performing her chores in a dull stupor.
Wilhelm drowned himself in his work to alleviate his grief. He became volatile and short tempered and fought with someone or the other almost daily. Once he got home, his fractious tone rankled with the already overworked Minerva and their marriage descended into a daily verbal duel followed by a whole evening of icy silence between the two. Amongst this cold war Snigmund continued, blissfully unaware of anything around her, to show more and more manifestations of her mental ailment, each more alarming than the last. She suddenly developed a crippling fear of doorknobs, screaming violently until there were no more doorknobs visible. Wilhelm had all the doors changed to sliding doors, so as to remove any traces of doorknobs from the house.
Snigmund began throwing tantrums, only calming down when she was escorted outside in the garden. Once outside, she would show an insatiable appetite for destruction of property. She would pick the prettiest and healthiest plants and uproot them, spend hours prodding at slugs with a stick, and amuse herself by putting mouthfuls of grass in her mouth, much to the consternation of Minerva, who would always accompany her to the garden.
Minerva, in a rare moment of clarity of judgment, remarked that despite all that had occurred, the one comfort they could take as parents was that their child laughed a lot these days. Something which was unheard of in her glory days. Wilhelm did not reply. He never could fathom these emotional interpretations of situations. His heart was consumed with despair and disappointment.
It does not matter. I am happy, and that is all one can really wish for.
I still shudder to think what would become of my life if I had followed father’s plans for me. My whole life could have been drawn on a chart paper, reduced to nothing but a very long and meticulous time table. What a waste of an existence! No new experiences, no profundity, merely a machine built to solve problems. If for a moment I believed that I was being pushed to work harder so that I may do well for myself, I may actually have made an effort to justify their belief in me, but I have long since realized what father wanted was not success for my sake, but success that he could flaunt to his relatives and counterparts. It explains how his preparation of my studies and the harshness of my punishments would pick up in intensity the day a relative or a friend was dropping by. Appearances, that’s all he cares about. That’s all this whole damned community cares about.
It was a good plan from him, I’ll give him that. Homeschooling ensured I did not have a perspective on what I was missing out on in life, strict timetables were almost set up to ensure I didn’t have any time to think of myself. Every ounce of my brain power was engaged in meaningless, obsolete, childlike problems. If only these “scholars” knew what I knew. I could walk out today and revolutionize the entire foundation on which the empire that is German industrialism is based. And father would be so proud, yes, he would be. He would gloat to his colleagues. “I homeschooled her, and look where she is today.”
Yes, it was a good plan, but there was one flaw, one major flaw. They gave me books.
Books are exceptionally good shapeshifters. There may be only one book on earth and each one of us 6 billion could take away 6 billion different truths from it. Father did his utmost to only buy those books which served his purpose, but books are deceptive. I think someone somewhere had issued a warning about not judging books by their covers. But clichés are rarely taken seriously anymore.
The books dad got me would have served his purpose, yes. But only to a mind like his. My mind is nothing like his (and thank god for that). I have always understood books. I do not only speak of the black marks on the white page, I mean the essence of it, the truths you learn and the application thereof in the real world. Something as mundane as a metallurgy textbook can teach one to permeate the mysteries of interpersonal relationships, if one has the mind to grasp the connection.
I had seen the path I was set upon a long time ago, I must have been about twelve then. And I had decided there and then that it was not to be. I did not want my life to be an example for countless other children being similarly enslaved in pursuit of bragging rights. But this was not my main motive; the real reason was much more selfish. In today’s world, and in Germany especially, there is an unhealthy obsession with rules and conformity. Discipline, obedience and submissiveness are worshipped. My mind rebels at uniformity. I gave my whole childhood up to rules. Now I have had enough. I will never follow another rule for the rest of my life. Today I was declared clinically insane. I am, as of today, absolutely free.
It was all too easy. The very books my father gave me as stepping stones to fulfill his dream, the books that were to be the making of me, those very books gave me my way out. A careful study of symptoms, the rate of occurrences, the possible causes, means of detection, treatments and curability of any particular disease, all these factors can be researched upon while reading a perfectly acceptable book according to my dear father’s standards.
After that it was merely a case of choosing the moments. I had to be careful, my parents are not stupid. Overdoing it was bound to have caused an overreaction, or raised enough suspicion to put paid to my plan. And waiting was not an option, my mind would have imploded if I was forced to live this way for another month.
Once the execution stage began, it was actually quite fun. Behaving like a lunatic seemed so natural and so free to me that I am inclined to believe humans were naturally insane and later evolved to a state of sanity. I feel animalistic, instinctual, raw, untamed. And it never fails to amuse me that these so called sane people have to scurry about and turn their lives upside down at the whim and fancy of one 17 year old who decided to be a little different. Just goes to show you how unstable today’s society is. Today I could wipe my own feces on the house walls, and it would embarrass everyone but me. Such freedom and unrestricted living is intoxicating. I know now I can never go back to what they call normalcy. If I were ever found out, I would commit suicide. I will not allow myself to be a captive once more.
Soon I will legally be an adult. Just another label to stick on me. But I will be different. I get whatever I want. I don’t have any fiscal responsibilities. Actually, while we’re at it, I don’t have any responsibilities at all. I am an autocrat in my own house. In that way I suppose I take after my father.
“I have the right to answer all accusations against me with an eternal “That’s me”. I am apart from all the world and accept conditions from nobody. I demand subjection even to my fancies and people should find it quite natural when I yield to this or that distraction.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
I have all my demands fulfilled, and I am not expected to fulfill any in return. I am treated as a queen wherever I go, not to mention the freebies I score at the shop. People go out of their way to be nice to me, the world isn’t out to get me, because they don’t believe I am a threat. I’m just a girl who pees her pants.
Well, I will allow them their delusions, as long as I am allowed my freedom.
It’s easier that way.