House without Windows

 

House without Windows

House Without Windows

Acrylic Painting by Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree

 

The Painting was inspired by the quote below by Nadia Hashimi and her book House Without Windows.

 

“Children always forgive their mothers. That’s the way God’s designed them. He gives them two arms, two legs, and a heart that will cry ‘mother’ until the day it stops beating.”

― Nadia Hashimi

The Brighton…

 

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I recently research for a story I was outlining about the asylums almost 100 years ago. I did wonder if the patients of today get the same treatments. The answer is yes…

The facilities are cleaner, cheerful in many ways, however, the electrical shock therapy still exist; maybe a bit more human, but it does exist as well as cold bath treatments. Most of the control is by drugs, the dose of a drug is upped until it has made the patient more controllable.

We talk about “walls” keeping the US citizen and foreigners’ out, we talk about “civil rights” and we talk about conditions in schools and private homes. What about the home of the mentally ill? A short excerpt below give more thought on Asylums.

 

The Brighton…

 
Brighton was located in Illinois, a house of torture. In 1900, bleeding, freezing and kicks to the head, and shock therapy this best describes Brighton a home for the insane; and their treatment of patients until they were dead. It was Brighton’s’ policy for the insane, they received often physical abuse, water torture, and lobotomies, convinced it would eventually set the patients mind free.

There are those who believe that a spirit lives there today, a young girl, caretakers thought she had run away. They found her lifeless body in 1979 they called it an accident not a crime. Cold, lifeless and unclothed, how she had died no one would ever know. They say a stain in the shape of a human can still be seen on the floor where she died, and at night a ghostly figure floats up and down the hall, many have heard her cry.

A haunting you might say, Brighton a real life house of horrors where murder, suicide and brutality reigned while bodies frail and bloodstained were constrained. Closed, yes, but its dark history remains, buildings and tunnels crumbling and rotting, but the torture within those crumbling walls should never be forgotten.

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Many of these practices are still used today, like then, no one talks about it!

©elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

The Black Box…

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The Black Box…

Shotgun weddings continue in the lives of many southerners, arranged marriages among the wealthy in the Deep South are still tradition; such a marriage would be the beginning; and end of one innocent life in the summer of 1950. Rebecca Darwin returned home after living in an all girl boarding school in western Georgia for twelve years; within weeks she was married to Carter Clayborne one of Tennessee’s’ most eligible bachelors; a union arranged by her mother.

Rebecca was forced into a loveless union arranged by her mother that quickly turned into a never-ending nightmare, one far worse than she could have imagined. Her days filled with constant commands from her mother and mother-in-law, and long nights surrendering to the cruelness of her husband. She would never have believe that being the daughter of Randall Darwin and Katherine Gilhanna-Darwin of Gilhanna Stables in Shelby County Tennessee.

She had seen her parents only once a year for a few days during the past twelve years. In her mind, Rebecca had created a loving father who gave in to the cruel ways of her mother. It was her father that drove her home from graduation; the agonizing silence was overwhelming as she stared out the window at the rolling hills. Her father dropped her off at the front door of the main house; she let the tears spill over her pale cheeks when he drove down the driveway toward the stables and the carriage house where she knew he lived. During the past few visits, Randall Darwin had, for some reason decided to tell Rebecca of his meeting her mother, their marriage and the circumstances surrounding her unwanted birth. Had the father she created been real after all, no!

Now, she was married to a monster with no one to help her. She had given up hope of her father, or that anyone would question the bruised cheeks and swollen lips that appeared the day after her wedding; she knew that everyone, including her father looked the other way; never questioned the heavy make-up or sunglasses. Time moved slowly, it took one year for her to get pregnant; and after losing a baby due to the inhumanities forced to endure from Carter; Rebecca knew that she was doomed. The day she decided to leave Carter; she drove quickly to Gilhanna, her father had to understand, as he had to tolerate the wrath of her mother himself; if she stayed in this marriage one more day, she would die.

Rebecca drove the winding back roads through the hills of eastern Tennessee with lighting speed; as her eyes focused on the rising line from the blacktop road her mind traveled back to her childhood; even her birth and before into the stories she had heard from her father, and Gilhanna staff…

It was at the Gantry County Bar-B-Q and Harness Race that her father Randall Darwin a young Irish horse trainer came into her mothers’ life. Her father came to the United States from England to train racing horses. He knew of the stone-faced Miss Katherine Gilman, and thought she might be of use to him. Yet, his plans did not turn out as he had imagined; Katherine Gilman possess him as if he were one of her horses, he was a unique breed.

“I don’t think we’ve met, do you plan to make Tennessee your home Mr. Darwin”, the inquiry came from a youthful but plain looking Katherine Gilhanna and rolled like honey from her lips.

Katherine was twenty-years older than Randall she instantly offered him a contract to train her horses and the carriage house to live in while he worked for her. It was her late night visits to the carriage house that resulted in her getting pregnant, a pregnancy she did not want; southern tradition, you marry. They were married in a civil ceremony in the local judges’ chambers six weeks after they met; Randall would continue to live in the carriage house and Katherine’s visits to him ended. Katherine lived up to her reputation, as a “cocksure” southerner and she would not have her reputation smeared by an unwanted pregnancy; employees, if they expected to work at Gilhanna Stables signed confidentiality agreements. Her life as a prominent member of the community would not change; her fake performance, as a loving mother-to-be would be the talk of the county.

The only child Katherine would ever have was born on August 27, 1930. Now, Katherine Gillman had two people to hate, her husband and this red headed half-Irish child. She named her Rebecca, a name she did not particularly like and placed her in the care of a small staff of housekeepers, and a nanny. Katherine had no intentions of dealing with a screaming baby. She would instill a fear like no human would ever know in this child.

On her daughter’s sixth birthday Katherine placed her in a Georgia boarding school, she was not to return to Gilhanna until she was eighteen years old. Katherine only allowed her to come home during the Christmas holidays.

In June of 1948, Rebecca graduated from Highland, the Georgia boarding school had become her home. The years of being away from her family had gone by quickly and her dreams lay in another place; the future, college, and then working in some big city or even going to Ireland to live. She could not have known as they drove toward Gilhanna that her endless threads of thoughts would turn an intangible existence created by her mother.

Katherine Gilman set out to buy her daughter a suitable husband, even before Rebecca graduated; arranged marriages… a commonplace solution to control and meet necessary southern social requirements. Randall left Rebecca at the front door and went to the stables he did not want to see what was going to take place in the main house.

Returning to reality, Rebecca pulled over to the side of the road; these memories frightened her and she was no longer able to hold back her tears. Where had those dreams gone? She could see Gilhanna from where she stopped the car; her first day there after eighteen years came flooding back, and the day she met Carter.

As Rebecca thought back, she remembered entering the foyer; seeing her mother doing what might resemble a peacock’s mating dance with her long time friend Ronnie Clayborne. Rebecca look back at the front door wishing her father had come in with her. Sitting on the sofa was Ronnie’s son Carter; she had remembered both Ronnie and Carter from her childhood; before she was sent away to school.

Instantly she had hated his nauseating southern drawl, he had some years ago graduated from college, and still lived with his mother. Rebecca greeted them both politely and excused herself, going to the stables where she knew her father would be…

“So, you’ve had enough of the grand dame of Gilhanna, her confederated friend and lazy son?”

Rebecca’s’ fathers’ rationalization of certain situations could sometime be very straightforward. Randall Darwin walked among the stalls with Rebecca beside him, both in silence; then he told her that he thought Katherine was arranging a marriage between her and Carter Clayborne. Rebecca remembered running to her room using the kitchen entrance to miss seeing her mother. She soon found that she could not hide for long, when her mother entered the room.

“I have arranged for you to go to the Country Club with Ronnie and Carter, you will be
ready by eight.” An unfeeling Katherine turned leaving the room.

“I will not go anywhere with those snobs.”

Rebecca was not surprised with the pain that the sting of her mother’s hand coming violently down across her face had caused. The tears of degradation and rage did not come until her mother slithered from the room, the venom from her hand leaving Rebecca numb.

During the weeks that followed, Katherine forced Rebecca to be with the Claiborne’s day and night. She could do nothing but keep silent, and conform to her mothers’ wishes. Then suddenly, her mother announced her impending marriage to Carter. Rebecca remembered running to the stables.

“Daddy,” it was all she could get out between breathless sobs.

Randall Darwin held his child close, he knew that he could not help her; he was incapable of helping himself. Rebecca had hoped that he would fight for her freedom until the end, but she lifted her from him and walked away. Three weeks later, Rebecca stood by Carter in the middle of the garden beneath an arbor of fresh cut flowers wearing a simple blue linen suit, everything arranged by her mother, her mind paralyzed by the pills she had been forced to take early that morning, and her gloved hands held no bouquet, only each other.

Rebecca woke that spring morning and decided that she would leave. She pulled back onto the road turning toward Gilhanna. Running from the car straight into her father’s arms, Rebecca cried…

“Daddy, I am going to divorce Carter.”

“Now Rebecca have you talked to your mother, and have you thought this out clearly, what you are about to do that is?”

Randall did the only thing he could do; he called Katherine from his office, waited for her return call and then drove Rebecca to the main house. He stared at the hardwood floor of the drawing room, unable to face his only child; he tried not to make eye contact with her. He stood silently pouring himself a drink as Katherine talk to the family doctor. He left when the doctor entered along with Carter, they were talking about how Rebecca had threatened to kill herself and she needed treatment for her own good.

Rebecca watched her father walked through the double door without looking back at her. Her mother and Carter seem to be making a big fuss over how she had been upset with the miscarriages and talking of killing herself. She looked at her arm, the rubber tubing, the syringe, and felt the numbness that caused her to feel heavy, yet weightless at the same time. Her vision blurring, the fleur-de-lis wallpaper became waves of beige and gold swaying in an invisible breeze. The reason she was there dissolved into an ocean of oblivion.

When Rebecca began to regain her senses, she was lying on an examining table in the Shelby Medical Clinic, she recognized doctor who had given her the shot. Standing in the corner of the room were her mother, husband and two sheriff deputies. This time Rebecca did not protest when the doctor gave her another shot of his magic that sent her to a place where she no longer cared. The wheelchair bumped over each crack in the sidewalk, each feeling as if she was falling into a crater. The doctor and nurse put her in the back of a squad car as her mother began to tell Carter that his wife would never leave him. She leans far into the back seat, and in her own heartless way said in a low evil voice…

“You see what happens when you try to disgrace me,” Katherine said cruelly, “putting you away for being insane will be more acceptable than have you leave your husband.”

Her body quivering beneath the threadbare blanket Rebecca fought violently against the straps confining her to the bed, her mind battled with drugged hallucinations; when she slept, they became chaotic dreams. In the end she always gave in, lie quietly watching the unwanted souls shuffle back and forth in the dimly lit hallway. Rebecca knew of Challis Manor, at the edge of the Appalachian foothills it provided medical treatments for the mentally ill, a place where wealthy Tennesseans paid to have members of their families placed to avoid embarrassment; Rebecca was not there because she had a mental or physical problem, she was there because she tried to leave her husband.

Rebecca struggled in the confusion, she had undergone several shock treatments, and it had not taken away her need to be free. She fought confinement, she fought treatments and she wanted her father to come and take her away.

A nurse brought Rebecca two small pills, it was extra medication and it could mean only one thing, it was time for another treatment. They put her on a gurney and placed her in the hallway outside her room. She could not stop her mind as it suspended itself between reality and the delusional. Should she doubt herself, she examined the redness of her wrist made by her constantly fighting the heavy leather straps causing deep cuts, after more medication, Rebecca’s involuntary thrashing turned into calmness.

Rebecca’s mind seemed frozen in time and her body was controlled, but they could not free her of the madness of her confused memories. She would drift for hours in hopelessness, her flesh burning, she wondered if she would ever escape her anguished nightmares of her childhood, her marriage, her life.

“Daddy, is that you?”

Rebecca’s visions clung to her like the sweat that gathered and rolled down her face in her fretful attempt to free. It is hot, no one cared, she turned over on her side a white clad figure took her hand, the gurney was moving, and then stopped. A glass vial of a syringe glittered in the semi-lit room; it was more medication to help them imprison her mind.

“Daddy I’m afraid.”

“Daddy, are you out there?”

Rebecca’s visions clung to her like the sweat that gathered and rolled down her face; she remembers a little girl riding with her daddy on the back of a fine Tennessee walking horse in an open field. She felt someone pick up her hand, turning it was a white clad figure, the gurney was moving, and then stopped. A glass syringe glittered in the semi-lit room; it was more medication to help them imprison her mind.

“Daddy, daddy are you out there, I’m afraid.”

Rebecca knew about the small room designed for suffering; the plastered walls had cracks that snaked toward the ceiling resembling leafless trees in winter. She tried to open her eyes but the glare from the lights blinded her. The room filled with people, nurses, doctors; one saying shock treatment again might be risky; somewhere in the distance, Rebecca could hear her mother’s voice fervently auguring with someone. She could picture her mother’s face contorted with anger; then remembered, her mother preferred a lunatic in the family instead of a divorced daughter.

“You see what happens when you try to disgrace me, putting you away for being insane will be more acceptable than have you leave your husband.”

White flecks began to explode behind the lids of Rebecca’s closed eyes. Her arms and legs strain against the leather straps as convulsions, a reaction from the drug raced through her body. She opened her eyes and watched as the blood coming from her bound wrist spread across her pale flesh leaving a crimson trail down to the sheet. She drifted among abysmal visions of pain and humiliation; traveling into a realm of kaleidoscopic dreams when she heard her mother say…

“I am paying you people enough to take such a risk, and I signed a waiver, what else do you want?”

Rebecca opened her eyes and looked at the mirrored window across from her; she knew behind it stood her mother, and Carter. The poignant smell of antiseptic became heavy in the air. Rebecca felt herself losing control of her thoughts; she could feel her eyes as if on a mission of their own dart back and forth taking in the limited boundaries of the small treatment room, a surge of electricity violated her body, her mind, and her senses. A nurse put a wooden paddle between her teeth; the electrical current coursed deeply into her brain. If she woke, she would try to remember once again who she was; how she got into the asylum and the Rebecca Darwin that she was before she married Carter Clayborne.

Rebecca’s eyes opened and were oblivious of the intense light invading her enlarged pupils; she tried to focus on a large mirror above her. In its reflection was that of a young girl lying on a small narrow bed, leather straps on her arms, legs and across her chest, her skin had a bluish tint of death; her body emancipated, her hollow raven eyes seem more animal than human. Then the lights became soft, a white garment of serenity blanketed the young girl. Rebecca closed her eyes then opened them for one last look looked; she knew that she and the young girl were the same and would soon be free; she smiled.

It was just a small black electrical box sitting on a chipped white enamel table; nineteen-year-old Rebecca Clayborne her eyes now like dark stagnant pools was unhooked from the box. Before they wheeled her from the room she closed her eyes for the last time, she had firsthand knowledge of the power of the little black box! It altered minds, made people submissive; Katherine Gilhanna-Darwin and Carter Clayborne would no longer have to worry about being embarrassed, there would be no a divorce in the family. Rebecca knew that her mother and the Gilhanna money controlled “the black box”!

 

©elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

Check on Amazon.com Books – under Ann Johnson-Murphree

 

The Cost of Freedom…

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Ancestors have served in the military for more than 150 years, all served their respective states with pride. Even though the Civil War was for many reasons both good and bad, all were still soldiers with many giving their lives for their beliefs. Although the poem written at the bottom of this narrative are in fact my mother’s brothers; these boys served in WW I and the Korean War.  The ancestors are Murphree, Roberts, White,  and Vest; members of these families have served in American Revolutionary War, Cherokee–American Wars, Creek War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict. I also want to honor my son and say thank you for  your service in the United States Air Force.

The Cost of Freedom

Standing in what looked like a sea of white as a warm afternoon breeze touched their bronzed faces three young men rode home in an old wagon through fields of cotton unaware that their youth would soon be forgotten.

There was a time when they were three babies crawling at their mothers feet waiting patiently for warm sweet milk and tea cakes luxuries in their world, a poor mans’ treat.

Their mother insisted they go to school and discover their own dreams she vowed at their birth that her children would not break their backs or sell their souls working as poor farmers in the cotton fields planting, hoeing and picking the south’s white gold.

Eighteen, nineteen and twenty years old, they had never known anything but working the red southern soil day after day sacrificing their mothers’ dream for very little pay.

Threadbare overalls shirtless and shoeless they stopped at the dirt road leading to the farm they called home knowing that this way of life was quickly to end their decisions saddened their father broke their mothers’ heart leaving it so crushed that it would never mend.

They reached a nearby creek at setting sun sipped on moonshine laughed had one last day of fun then left for home. It was no more than a shack but supper always a feast for kings then they crawled into cornhusk beds it was a hard life but a life where they knew that they belonged.

Then one winter day it all changed as proud Americans that wore their pride like armor there was no question they would answer the call, not only for them but also for us all.

It was early morning when their father stood quietly drawing on his old pipe under the old oak tree thinking of the warmth of the coming spring while their mother sat in her rocking chair afraid of what the future would bring.

One by one they walk out the door childish faces broad smiles shinny shoes starched uniforms. Three young men proudly walked down the old dirt road that day no one knew when or if they would ever return but these young men knew it was to defend freedom an endowment blessed with the day they were born.

Mother and father held each other as they slowly walked into their home and closed the door while their three young sons walked away straight and tall ready to fight a war in a land they did not know on a faraway shore.

The window of their house proudly displayed three gold stars the days gradually turned into years their mothers’ heart had stopped beating death had finally stopped her tears. Their father grew old as he walked fallow land alone with his life consumed by his many fears.

Then one day as he stood beneath the oak tree drawing in the smoke from his old pipe while thoughts begin to drift back on his life. He wondered where it had gone but knowing that their mother at last is happy that her young sons were finally coming home.

He stared down the road as three shadowy figures grew closer would he recognize them he could not even remember how long it had been. Their youth was gone their smiles were drawn the war returned his sons now three broken and scarred old men.

 

Author’s Books on Amazon.com
Ann Johnson-Murphree

 

With Death comes Freedom…

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A short-short story…Freedom
He was a young man, bitter with his life and he did not suppress his tongue, life was arguments and questions. He needed no prompting; his waking hours seem devoted to causing weeping. He rarely laughed; he had a skill for creating pain, even in his passionate moments. His joy was to reign over his human possession, his wife. She would cease to have a will of her own, she was afraid and she obeyed.
To serve, to have no mind of her own, she too thought he owned her. Women were mistresses of his heart, yet there was no freedom for his own wife. She was not his equal, when he was with her his words brought new-bleeding to her heart. He was only satisfied when he drew blood, his appetite for hurting never ceased.
Their vows he had broken thousands of times. His mouth foul and dishonest, an adulterous heart beat within his broad barrel chest. The past, his youth, his suffering, maybe at the hands of another. Had this brought him to this day? He was not true or kind; he felt no shame in the bruises he left behind. Among those who knew him, he could do no harm; these people did not know him.
She had not asked for pearls or rubies, and she did not ask that her blood be shed. His moods released terror in his path, and his wife lay like twisted metal after it had met with deadly winds. She felt no worth, or equalities, only the wrath of his sickly attempts to have her go mad.
His affections never tender. His wife like a lamb at the altar of his desires. Spirits sought her, he kept them at a cold distance, and it was he and only he that owned her. The scars of battle went unseen, she was a caged animal. His victory did not make her weak; her bosoms may belong to him as he drank from the fountain of her youth. Her discipline held by grace, she vowed to never give in to the bond he commanded.
She tore loose from those bonds screaming, “Your fist no longer stings, my stomach no longer will live in knots, and my body will no longer be confined. Your torture inflames my spirit; I no longer cringe in shame. I will no longer suffer the pain; I will no longer live in shock or fear. My heart breaks, God did not design for it to be this way.”
She asks herself did my torturer have a soul; did he take an oath with the Devil? She did not weep, she did not cry, she did not show fear, “It is the last time,” she thought. She was not aware of the time that he poisoned her, but she knew now that she was going to die. He would never let her leave him, with her face covered with weeping water, one could barely hear her moans, and she could not escape the tragedy of her life. She will fall into a sleep from which she would not wake. Her final thought danced across her dying mind finally, she was free.

 

©2018.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Rise and Kill the Beast…

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Rise and Kill the Beast…

 

She woke, rising from her bed; the next stop in front of the long mirror in her bedroom. My God, she thought there in the mirror was an old woman thin lips, long gray hair, crevices lining her face. She watched the face turn pale, fear rose from the pit of her stomach closing off her breath. Suddenly she grasps the sides of her face stretching her cheeks upward until the face was smooth. When had this happen, it was her face in the mirror! Was it during the dense darkness of the night that this happen? She open her mouth to say something, the words’ fell upon her ears anxious, a sham, her heart beat faster and fear hung in her mouth like hot lava. What is next, hopelessness, death? This is the stage in life that people pray to their God for their sins, or whatever they have done wrong, the end could be near, was this fear.

 
Where did the time go, the long dark braids, the nimble fingers and graceful body? The body that played tennis, rode a bike, skied over rough waters, time was so short. She was a person that shields her spirit from the darkest, deepest pits of the Hell and learns to tolerate life. Someone, whose body gave birth, lived with the Devil’s own spawn until her escape. The one who refuse to cry or shrivel in fear as she waited for the feel of a fist.
Someone who waited for the long fingers to clutch around her neck, then in the light of day hide the truth and lies, live in mystery so no one would know. She trembled but let out no sign of fear. The body allows tears to fall after the evil thing had gone away. She tried to flatten herself upon the bed made of stones, her mind fled before she could breathe the stagnant air before the extravagant retreat.

 
These pains were hard to bare, the Devil’s spawn wanted groveling, her throat already like splintered wood, why had fate brought her to this doomed place, imprisoned her to live and be lost forever. To live in torment and dire despair, her spirit continuous crawling through the fires of hell, and she wailed her doom to the pits darkness. Never knowing a peaceful life, a loving or genteel life denied. Her mind always filled with wisdom and untouched by the suffering. Sure, she was defeated, but she would someday rise and kill the Beast.

 

 

 

 

©2018.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

 

Books can be purchased at Amazon.com – Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction

Misery’s Problems…

 

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Misery’s Problems…

 
Misery has sent many souls Hell. They condemn

themselves; a mournful cry comes from their place

of unrest. They cry for what they wanted in life and

did not get, they could not be satisfied with what they

had, misery prevailed. They have helped destroy the

earth.
In the beginning there was cold, unceasing and

relentless rain, there seem to be a mutation of the earth

as the decades went forward with minds unchanged.

Days were heavy with hail, turbid waters mixed with

cold and snow, fiery had a tight hold on the waters that

covered the earth, still many humans could not see the

doom and darkness upon the earth.
Their souls are putrid, the soil of the earth is foul, above

them the ravens swarm in and out of the acid sky, the

beast of the earth roams follow grounds. Each of those

misery humans fell to the ground gathering handfuls of

soil casting it into the hollows of the earth. They now

know that gluttonous greed will bring rancid air and their

belly’s growl like the beast of the night with hunger.
There are many who tried to save Earth, they toiled in the

dead ground and prayed for blessings, they watch the

writhing shadows of misery, it was too late. Everyone hungry,

cold, uncomforted, everyone will die for the mistakes of few.

The waters both salty and fresh began to dry, cracks became

vast and deep. The land was soft and filled with bugs and worms.

The air clogged their lungs they cried and they prayed it was

too late. Those who did not believe that one day we would destroy

the Earth now became sinful spirits living in irrevocable doom.
There are those that believed the earth was being destroyed,

there are those who tried to find a resolve for these worldwide

conditions. To those that did not believe the earth was dying,

became accusers living in great pain. Warnings from the sinners

were no more than strange words, there is no way that we can

reach perfection on earth, it is too late. It is not too late to resolve

misery’s problems, we must cease our downward path and heal

mother Earth.

 

 

©elizabethannjohnsonmurphree.2018