An idea that I simply couldn't get out of my head. This will be 4-5 chapters long in total. Kind of strange at the beginning...

"Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push." -The Joker, The Dark Knight

Dinner, as usual, was burning. The washing machine was also looking ready to explode, and the dishwasher was making that weird ticking noise again.

Such was the daily routine for Maddie Fenton. She had already tried asking Jack or Danny for help without avail, and she knew Jazz was too busy studying psychological nonsense in her room to be bothered with menial chores. Maddie loved her family, she truly did, but their incompetence when it came to simple things such as changing the filter for the dryer or remembering to add soap to the dishwasher was thoroughly disheartening for this hard-working mom.

"Dinner's ready!" Maddie called out as she hastily threw on a pair of old oven mitts to retrieve the blackened casserole. The oven was quite filthy, now that she saw it from this close, but she would worry about that later. The table had been haphazardly set for four, and the kids could pour their own drinks because tonight was Wine Wednesday for Maddie and her husband. The entrée itself smelled like burning rubber from an old car tire, but if they didn't partake, then they could go hungry. Maddie simply hated how all those hours she put in to making this a perfect meal managed to go to waste within the two minute delay of forgetting about the broken oven timer.

"Jazz, this means you too!" Maddie hollered from the bottom of the stairs. "No more skipping meals!"

Going back into the kitchen, Maddie sat at her usual spot at the table and waited for her kids to show up. Jack grinned at her in eager anticipation of his wife's cooking, despite his inability to lose weight like he had been promising to do for years. Maddie had even put him on a special diet recently, and he still remained bloated as ever.

"Jack," Maddie sighed and let her head collapse into her hands. "We really need to do something about the kids. I call them down every night, and it takes them forever to show up! Do you think they're ignoring me?"

Jack said nothing, but continued to stare at the casserole. Maddie peeked through her fingers and glared at him for his indifference. She couldn't stay mad at him for long, however. She didn't marry Jack for his overabundance of sensitivity, after all. Sighing once more, she poured herself a glass of wine. Upon noticing that Jack was still ignoring her, Maddie got to her feet and downed the glass like it was a shot before pouring herself another.

"DANNY! JAZZ! I said get in here, the food is getting cold!"

At that very moment, Danny and Jazz entered the kitchen.

"Our apologies, Mother," the said in unison. "Is there anything we can do for you?"

Maddie sighed for what felt like the thousandth time that day. "No, just sit down and eat before the food gets cold."

As if on cue, Danny and Jazz continued forward and paused when they reached their own respective seats. While she waited for her kids to get settled in, Maddie downed another glass of wine and poured herself her third.

"How was school Danny?" Maddie asked once everyone was situated. The casserole was somewhat cold as she plopped three spoonfuls on everyone's plate, but nobody was complaining. Yet.

"It was wonderful, Mother, how was your day?"

"Oh, the usual…cooking, cleaning after your father…what about you, Jazz?"

"My day was also wonderful, Mother. But nothing is better than having dinner with my loving family."

Maddie grinned as she took a few bites of the chilled food and another swig of wine. "That's good to hear, sweetie. And to keep things fair, I figure I might as well ask, Jack, how was your day?"

"This is Auto-Jack saying, where's the ghost?"

"Ghost hunting? Again? I thought we shut the portal, hun?"

Jack didn't respond.

Crying out in frustration, Maddie downed the rest of her wine and poured herself glass #4 whilst glaring at the quiet figures around her. Her family could be so amazing, yet so infuriating at times. And from the looks of it, Danny and Jazz weren't touching their food! After all her hard work, she thought she could get a little appreciation around here, but it seemed like that would be impossible today.

"Danny, you're on dishes duty. Jack, stay away from the portal."

With that, Maddie abruptly got to her feet and stumbled towards the stairs. After seeing her family ignore her efforts to prepare a nice, healthy meal for them, she simply didn't want to be around them right now. Losing her temper would only hurt her in the long run, so being alone was the best thing for her at the moment.

As she staggered up the stairs with the intent of locking herself in her room, Maddie accidentally knocked one of the photo frames off of the wall adjacent to the staircase. The glass shattered on impact, but the photograph itself remained unharmed.

Muttering incoherently, she bent down to pick it up. It was a family portrait.

Instead of hanging it back up on the wall, Maddie pocketed the picture and tossed the frame into the pile of glass shards that hopefully one of the kids would clean up later.

Somehow, she made it to the top of the stairs, but the wine was definitely affecting her vision and vertigo by now. She swayed precariously from her position on the ledge, overlooking the darkened living room. She strained her ears for signs of a conversation, but couldn't hear any voices below.

Good, she thought. That'll teach them to appreciate me.

Once in her room, she collapsed onto the king bed she shared with Jack. She felt light-headed and warm, but it wasn't a bad feeling. After years of sobriety, it was nice to indulge in a little wine every once in a while, especially now that her kids were teenagers and didn't seem to mind if Mom got tipsy every Wednesday night.

The picture crinkled in her pocket as she rolled over on it. Her hands were shaking, but even so, they were able to retrieve it and bring it closer to her face for further examination.

It had been taken back when Danny was a freshman at Casper High. Back then, he was always wearing those white shirts with the weird red circle in the middle; nowadays it was the same white but the only red had been relegated to the collar section. A much more fashionable choice, Maddie had assured him.

Strangely, Jazz and him were much paler than Maddie remembered, and…since when did Danny have blue eyes? Her children had inherited beautiful green eyes; Maddie guessed this was from Jack's mom's side of the family. The blue tinge must have been from the sun's glare or something.

Maddie didn't know how long she lay here, just staring at the photo of her family, but when the clock chimed twelve times and Jack still hadn't come to bed, she was starting to get annoyed again. The buzz had since worn off, and a feeling of inexplicable sadness came over her. She didn't know what had caused this, but she shrugged it off as an after-effect of the wine.

He must be in the lab, she thought angrily. I swear, tomorrow, I'm shutting that portal down for good!

Having come to a suitable resolution to her problem, Maddie threw the covers over her head and drifted off to sleep.

A good portion of this story is inspired by Shutter Island. Basically, after a horrific accident in which her husband and children are killed, Maddie develops a psychotic coping mechanism in which she pretends they're still alive. Next chapter we'll see her situation from an outsider's perspective (to get a full grasp on the strangeness of it all). Hope you enjoyed this little introduction, and feel free to leave any comments or questions you might have :)