Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s “Instructions”
ADINA is sitting on a hospital bed, sketching. She sees a cat climb into the window beside her bed, onto the windowsill. ADINA takes the IV out of her own arm, something she’s regrettably practiced in, and goes over to the cat.
Adina – [Hebrew: “slender, delicate”] Mentally unstable artist recovering from an eating disorder, the same one that her sister died from.
Hello, pretty kitty…come, come here…I can’t reach you from there, Kit-a-Cat. C’mere, KittyKit — there we go. Sweet baby — look at you! You’ve got glasses. What funny stripes. Pretty kitty has fur glasses…here, sit there, I’ll draw you —
(notices a nurse enter)
Hm? Oh, hello. I’m fine – feel fine. I was just going to draw the kit–oh. Where’d she go?
(looking for the cat)
Kitty? Kit-a-ca — no, she was here. I petted her. She had glasses. Oh, kitty, why’d you have to ruin everything — would have been a pretty drawing.
(responding to something the nurse says)
Well I know there aren’t supposed to be, but she got in — wel, you let dogs in, don’t you? I petted Graham last week. Fuzzy little Graham Cracker Teddy Bear.
(settles back down, starts to draw a puppy)
He’s the colour of a graham cracker, you know. But he’s all fuzzy — like a bear! They should’ve named him Teddy. …can I see Graham again? Will you bring him to me? …promise? They always come to see me. Like the glasses kitty. But I only see them once. Only once. The eagle, the old woman, the princesses, the wolves, my sister in the mirror. Only once, no more. Yesterday, when I opened the cupboard, I found a ferret. He was ever so polite, but he had gotten fur all in my favourite teacup. I was angry at him, but I couldn’t slam the door — I would have smashed his tail. But I talking ferret! I’ve jumped in all sorts of puddles, gone all through my closet, jumped out my window, and watched the mirror for hours — I’ve never met a talking ferret before. A ferret wasn’t in the instructions. “Remember your name. Do not be jealous of your sister. If any creature tells you that it hungers, feed it. Trust ghosts. Inside the castle there are three princesses, do not trust the youngest.” No ferrets.
…I’d like another mirror, please. I have a friend I need to visit. I didn’t mean to break the other one. But I could see them — in the shadows. Cara could see them, too — but we couldn’t hear them. Silent as glass. I saw them in the shadows, behind the glass. I can hear them now, though. I heard them when they took Cara. I could hear them, and then I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t reach her. Little One is gone — Tiger is gone — and there’s nothing big sister can do. Big sisters are supposed to be able to protect —
I’m getting quieter, lately. They’re getting louder. Sounds like…glass crunching. That’s when they come through. I could still see Cara. I can still see her. In the corner of my eye, and right before I go to sleep. I want to hear her again. I’d rather hear her than the other one. Couldn’t hear my Tigre anymore — petite was gone.
I could almost — touch — her…
(breaks off, distracted, begins to draw)
I saw them in the shadows, behind the glass. When I go behind the glass, I can’t hear anything. I step on something, and I can feel it crunch beneath my feet. But…no crush, no squish, no creak, no squeak. Voice stops at the throat — I can’t say my name. My name. My name. That is very important, you know. To remember your name. What is my name?! “Remember your name. Do not be jealous of your sister. If any creature tells you that it hungers, feed it. Trust ghosts. Inside the castle, there are three princesses. Do not trust the youngest.” The youngest is the prettiest one. Slender as a willow.
Willow, willow, willow…
Her hair is white and her eyes are greener than apples. I can see her bones when she dances. The wind can move her. I want to dance with her. To move so lightly, slightly, rightly. To barely make a ripple in the water. (singing) Willow, willow, willow. Sing all a green–(spoken) Don’t feel yourself move. I want to move like that. I want to be moved by the wind — but don’t trust the youngest. She is the prettiest, but she’ll steal your voice, and speak for you. Choose for you. She’ll choose the bones for you. She burns your throat — my throat burns when I try to say my name. I’ve stopped saying my name. I haven’t said my name in a very long time.
(ADINA is struggling to remember her name, panic mounting. At a point, it stops, replaced by complete — and unnatural — calm.)
What is my name? What’s my name? I stopped trying, now I don’t…my name, my name, my…name…name, name–“Remember your name. Trust ghosts. Inside the castle, there are three princesses. Do not trust the youngest.”
She is the prettiest — but do not trust the youngest. She is in the shadows. Do not trust the youngest — the wind can move her bones, but her voice is strong. Her voice is the sound you hear in the glass. She grows louder. My voice is low — I can’t hear my name. I don’t know my name. That is very important, you know. To remember your name. “Remember your name. Trust ghosts. There are three princesses in the castle — do not trust the youngest.” She will steal your voice and replace it with her own. “Do not be jealous of your sister…”