Mad People are My People

Emma Barnes
4 min readDec 2, 2023

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Pull up a chair, my loves

There’s a cup waiting for me at the mad-hatter’s tea party. My friends are there. And my cup waits.

I see the cup. I hear my friends. I want to sit down.

But I have to turn out a light first.

The light is coming from outside the rabbit hole. It’s twinkling from the old world. A world where the cold bosom of stolen wealth makes stupefaction. Deadwoods walking.

I hollered when I first saw the hole. I described it. I took pictures. I shared the words of those that alerted me to it and those who alerted them. I walked up and smelled it, touched it, sang and danced around it, delighted by something at last. I sent news back. But the deadwoods trudged on.

I reassured them, over and over, “missing this hole was not your choice. You were trained not to see it! But you can come and look now. It’s Kaleidoscopic. Multitudes. Real things. Remarkable things. Come and look!” And sure enough, they screamed and pointed, but not at the hole. They pointed at me.

I pointed at the hole.

They pointed at me.

More and more vexed they became. Squabbling and distressed. Reiterating that there was no hole.

I was accustomed to trusting them. So much so, that I entertained their idea once again — that I was hallucinating. Yet the voices inside the hole were all the people upon whom we were standing. Different people. Not “normal” people. The others. Listening to them after living on their broken backs was the least I could do.

I dipped an ear in the hole. It poured forth rich truth. Abundant rivers of reality. All of it was true. A truth my body always knew. The world down there sustained the ivory theatre above. Spirits, animals, earth, ancestors, connections. I jumped in and swam, inhaled, and somersaulted. And then, like a beaten dog returning to its menace, I clambered back up for another try. I brought receipts written in the deadwood’s language. It was no used. The deadwood were dug in by now. They had leveraged their mythologies to make fertile stories about my reliability.

I invited still. “You can glimpse it if you read this”. “It’s safe to come closer”. “I know you are scared. It’s ok.” “Your ancestors are here, begging for you.” It was too much. They could never.

So in I jumped again. Down through layers of tree roots and worms and mychorizia, landing in the party. Where everybody was indeed mad. At last, something real.

And yet I couldn’t sit down. Wthered and nervous from dashed hopes and false starts, I shook. Absurdly, I still wished for the deadwood to taste life. Healing. Rejuvenation. They’d been denied that. This was their only chance. So there at the table I hovered, unable to rip my gaze from the hole, hoping for one-two-three deadwoods bucketing through the soil.

Gently, over more than an hour, more than a day, more than a year, I peeled my eyes from the hole. At last I was ready to sit.

At that exact moment something came barrelling down. But it wasn’t the deadwood. It was a lawyer, come with a message. “Your trees want to send you something. It’s a lawyer of your own. I and she will convey another thing. Something grand. Something that will change everything. You needn’t do anything. Just stay where you are. We have this in hand.”

I pushed my chair back under the table, and left my cup unfilled. I wobbled away to a quiet place. I wondered what this was. Could they? Might they be peeking down the rabbit hole? Do they need help? Are they asking for help?

I stayed still. I ate nothing. I drank nothing. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t move. The sun rose and set. The moon followed. Over and over I watched the glowing orbs, wondering what to do. Nothing, of course. I reminded myself that I had issued all the invitations. I had delivered all the instructions. There was nothing more I could do for them. I sat.

And then their messenger delivered to my messenger a message: “This communication is over”. A mirage.

I once thought I knew the mind of a deadwood. Not any more.

Thank you for keeping a seat. And a cup. I’ll have a double.



Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram