The young man Eddie was seventeen years old, liked to dress in plain clothes, and went unshaven. His black beard was growing and he was a Math major. Currently he was learning about the Mandelbrot set equation.
"Will you be okay?" his friend asked him. Michael. Same age, buzzcut, taped glasses, usual brainiac.
"I`ll be fine, I promise. I know how to take care of myself. I`ve been eating salad and drinking water for three weeks."
"That sounds sort of healthy and sort of not."
Eddie walked out of the building and closed the door, got into his car, and drove to the medical facility. It had black, reflective, obsidian-like walls, an imposing spire that resembled the top of the Capitol Building, and the windows were tinted dark. He thought he could see shadowy shapes moving around, perhaps unformulated voices coming through the glass. A flash of a dark shape came into his mind.
And he walked into the sliding doors. There was a burly security guard who looked up.
"You`re a bit late, Eddie. Did you get a new haircut?"
He nodded. "Shaved my head. I thought it looked cool." He paused. The guard was looking at him curiously.
"How`s the phobias?"
"Fine, thank you," Eddie said irritably.
He motioned toward the hallway on the left. "Okay, big boy. Third room on your right today. New location."
Eddie strode off, thinking to himself.
[He told himself: "The key is to make sure that I know more than they do. If I do that, they begin to see through their excuses then I need to think the way they think."]
He walked in and the nurse set him down on a bed and attached electrodes to his head. "The usual voltage?" he asked.
"Sure thing, Eddie,"she said with a plastic grin. "400 volts. No more."
"Good. Last time I felt a little woozy."
"Don`t you trust us?"
"Not at all."
[Just as long as the current stays below 100 milliamperes, I`m fine.]
The two doctors and the nurse came in, as usual, wearing fake smiles. "We`re going to knock you out. Ready? On the count of three: One-two-three-"
They administered nitrous oxide through the mask Eddie was wearing. He fell unconscious.
The tech doctor was saying, "Charging..."
The Konvulsator 622 voltmeter`s needle bounced up to 100 volts, then 200, and then 400.
"Ready?"Dr. Asner called.
"Clear - charge!"
Dr. Asner pushed the green button with a lightning-bolt symbol inscribed on it.
The apparatus began to emit a low, quiet hum at 330 Hertz, and inside it, the mini-centrifuge began to whirr dutifully, nonchalantly, and softly - The decibel level in the room went from a very quiet 10 - nearly silent - to about 30 - the sound of a whisper. An electric current began to run through the brain of unconscious Eddie.
"Dal-Square positioned," Dr. Asner called. "Mid-axillary marked for V-six."
"Subject entering Phase I," the nurse said. "Resulting in... hypertense hemodynamic response. Request for administration of pentazocine."
"Subject entering ictus phase."
Suddenly the fluorescent lights in the room wavered. The room was temporarily dark.
"What`s going on? Tell the technicians to get electricity back up, we need a stable working environment here!"
One of the nurse techs ran to the door, but the Konvulsator began to emit a much louder, higher-pitched droning noise - about seventy decibels like a vacuum cleaner- and the needle jumped up all the way.
Dr. Farhan glared at the device, then at the unfortunate tech operator. "What`s happening?"he demanded.
The same technician jumped to the machine, his eyes bugged out, fiddling with the dials. "The voltage is going up!" he gasped, and his face whitened, astounded. "I can`t believe it - seven hundred volts - eight hundred - nine hundred - I can`t - I can`t stop the machine!"
Eddie began to moan uncomfortably in his unconscious state, his brain starting to become overloaded with the current.
The noise was getting louder and louder, painfully so. The external viewing force estimated about one hundred twenty decibels, like a chainsaw running right next to your ear. The doctors clapped their hands onto their ears, unable to bear the pain they began to suddenly feel in their eardrums.
"Shut it down, shut it down!"shouted Farhan in alarm, through the jarring noise, his eyes scrunched, his ears covered. "Look what`s happening!"
The machine whirred loudly and began to spark and then began to destruct, and with loud cracks and bangs, began to break apart. The glass viewport fractured and then shattered, and then a corner of the device blew out of the machine into the wall.
A huge bang-
The room burst into flame-
Eddie started to shake and vibrate very terribly, a wall of electricity was stirring around his body...
And then his entire body began to convulse.
chapter one - awakening
It was yesterday - at 5:52 am. And it was still dark outside - I yawned and got up, and I noticed - in the mirror - that my pajama pants and shirt were blue - as usual - but covered with purple trapezoids on them. The weird part was that the trapezoids seemed to be rotating. Suddenly, I spontaneously vomited all over the bed. The vomit pulsed green faintly, with chunks of prismatic malignant blobs - and then I ran down the stairs and out the door and started shouting to the dim neighborhood:
"Cock-a-doodle-doo! The dame has lost her shoe; WHAT DO I DO?"
I ran around the quiet suburb, repeating this phrase at the top of my lungs - the final interrogative said with greater and greater urgency and intensity; and before too long, I heard sirens - red and blue flickered in my hazy vision, and a tall cop got out of his car and roughly seized me by the neck.
"Stop. Stop. Relax. Take a deep breath."
"Go away! She`s persecuting me -- they`re watching me - the eyes. Every move - " but I abruptly twisted, escaped his grip and began to run away from home - west -
He caught me before too long.
[unidentified medical center level 17, East Wing, 403B surge capacity epoch time 19073038122 s ]
There was an occasional beep, and mostly usual silence. A window revealed the skyscrapers outside rain fell lightly on the dark glass skyscrapers with lighted panels and which contained people
[The altitude was 1,454 feet, and we could see the skyscrapers around us. There were people walking around on the street, I could see below - And I thought I could perceive that they lacked a certain amount of knowledge...
And then I turned away from the windows ... and I turned back into what I perceived as a hellish, flaming world...
in which I was trapped and condemned.]
Footsteps were sometimes heard going down the hallway, outside the private room, along with indistinct voices. The heart-rate monitor read 65 bpm. Vitals were steady. He was sleeping. The doctors and nurses together were watching him.
[An unseen observer was watching him from inside the architectural construction]
All of a sudden, there was a spike in the brain-wave display. The medical professionals reacted visibly.
"Beta waves," stated Dr. Cruz, the neurologist. "He's going to wake up any second."
The figure on the bed stirred, and then his eyes opened. The group of doctors clustered around him.
"How do you feel?" asked Dr. Asner. The psychiatrist.
He shuddered and groaned. "Awful." He tried to sit up, but had not the energy, and flopped back down on the bed. "What happened? ... When am I going to get better?"
Asner looked at him with a serious, concerned look. "We don't know, Eddie. You could be here for a very-long-time."
He nodded, and was about to speak, when his throat caught and choked unexpectedly, and his eyes bulged. He was beginning to convulse. The doctors and nurses looked at each other fixatedly, their mouths agape.
Their minds had been frozen by a potent energy. Just for a second.
[It made the entire difference.]
[What do we do?]
"I-" he gasped, his eyes shaking with fear. "I-"
He shook even more uncontrollably, spluttering, his limbs jerking almost as if they had a life of their own, his head twitching, his face screwed up in pain.
[The force emitted an unspoken intention into the room: DO SOMETHING!]
"Extreme acute laryngospasm," diagnosed Dr. Cruz. "Epileptic confounding from stage three onset."
"Administer the medicine, quickly!" shouted Dr. Asner, with a hint of panic. He made to stride over to the medicine table.
"Wait!" the nurse named Nicole said hastily, turning to him. "He just woke up-even a one-milligram dose might kill him-"
But his face was turning blue and spasmodic wrenches began to rack his entire body. The heartbeat monitor was reading 120 bpm and was rising quickly. Tears were leaking from his crumpled eyes... I don't want to die...
Even Dr. Cruz was disturbed.
"Look at him right now!" he shrieked. "He'll die this way. Do it now!"
"You don't know what effect that's going to have!" shouted Nurse Nicole even more loudly, moving to stand in front of the medicine table.
Dr. Asner pushed her out of the way, and as she fell to the ground with a scream, he grabbed a sterilized syringe from the counter and plunged it into the beaker of lavender liquid. He extracted a mass of exactly two milligrams of the drug. And then he injected it into a vein located in Eddie's shaking arm.
A tense, suffocating moment passed with all eyes fixed on him, and then Eddie shuddered violently, gasped deeply, and sank into unconsciousness.
[Once upon a time I was in a different place.]
[He woke up and began shouting at wraiths around him-looked at himself in the mirror-and saw a skeleton- saw an old man-]
"Wake up, my friend."
"What? What are you doing?"
"You need to stop dreaming, my friend."
He was an insubstantial, thin old man. His face lined, wrinkled, ancient. His legs crossed. Wearing a plaid shirt. Spectacles on his nose. Sporting a gray beard. As I looked at him, the face looked vaguely reminiscent of something I knew well, and with an unpleasant phantom-shock in the pit of my stomach I realized that it was myself. In the future. Grown old.
"Where am I?" I demanded. "Are you in my head? Am I awake?"
Something disagreeable began to stir in the back of my head.
He merely watched me with an only partly curious expression. But then he spoke.
"Your sanity is deteriorating. It will become increasingly difficult to retain your mind. Yet you will always have the choice to keep it. Remember, then, what I now say.
"You know who I am, and so you know that you can live." He paused.
"When the derangement is at its peak: Remember that you are not alone."
There was a silent interval.
"I'm trying to understand this." My face was perplexed, puzzled.
He heaved a deep sigh. "I know, associate." He leaned forward. "And that is why I tell you this once more:
chapter two - languishing
I was in blissed-out euphoria-world, and I just felt so GOOD. My brain was bursting beautiful butterflies. I didn`t want it to end. Someone had turned up the saturation filter ALL THE WAY.
But all of a sudden, it was just shining like at daytime (though I felt no warmth), with beautiful, vivid green trees, and intense hues, and multicolored monkeys hopping from tree to tree, and people with arms thirty feet long, and gigantic chirping birds and perfect, sentient houses, and a hyper-EDM soundtrack-but all of a sudden, darkness spilt across the sky like ink and I was standing in near-pitch-darkness, where just a second ago it had been so bright. Right? It had been really bright. Really bright...
A glowing, blue-white figure suddenly appeared in the darkness. Instinctually and uncontrollably, I followed it. It glided toward houses in the distance, moving faster and faster, so I was compelled to run to keep up with it.
The entity was saying things. I could hear them! Voices. They were there - in my head -
go in one of the houses....
go in one of the houses...
I obediently ran to the nearest house, across the street. I almost ran into a car, which honked angrily. The driver was shouting at me, cursing angrily. I paid him no mind.
ring the doorbell...
I pushed the doorbell and waited. I was in a nightgown, but who cared? I was shaking, but that was fine. It was cold outside, but I didn`t feel it.
Seconds passed and the door was flung open. A tall, faceless man stood there.
"What is this? Who are you? What kind of time do you call this?"
don't tell him... tell him you have a surprise for him...
"I have a surprise for you," I blurted.
He looked at me, defensively, more-than-suspiciously, angrily. Why? It wasn`t as if I was going to do anything bad... right? Right?
But a sudden voice in my head made my brain hurt, as if stabbed.
PUSH PAST HIM! GET INSIDE HIS HOUSE AND GET TO HIS TELEPHONE!
Without another word, I tried to rush inside his house, but he was blocking the doorway. He pushed me back, roughly, so I staggered. But I wasn`t afraid. I got back up.
"Stop! What are you doing? Honey - honey, help me! A burglar is trying to intrude into our house!"
I heard footsteps and screams. But the commotion had awakened another voice in my head, and other words appeared in my mind.
What am I doing?
NO! DON'T LISTEN TO HIM! GET TO THE TELEPHONE!
I kept on pushing, trying to get inside! "Let me in!"
A frenzy suddenly took hold of me.
With an effort and a strength I didn`t realize I had, I managed to push him away, onto the floor, and break free into his house, and I ran up the unfamiliar steps, to look for a telephone, and the stairs were changing color, like a disco ball, and I saw shapes in front of me, like angels with pitchforks and shapeshifting smiley faces -
"HONEY, CALL THE POLICE!"
I burst into a room by shouldering the door, which crashed against the opposite wall and bounced back again with force, and I could see a dial-telephone, but someone harshly grabbed my ankle and pulled violently, and I fell down and smashed my teeth on the rebounding doorknob. I felt pain and blood.
"STOP STOPPING ME! I HAVE TO GET TO THE TELEPHONE!"
I was panicked, breathing hard, and struggling with all my might, but the forceful grip would not let me go.
[Priority clinical intake ground floor East Wing, psychology office 14 epoch time 19073079092 s ]
"Let's discuss the events that occurred yesterday, Eddie."
He leaned back in a comfortable oxblood armchair, and a cherry-wood bookcase behind him held rows and rows of books. Counseling Psychology, From Inquiry to Understanding, and Understanding Psychosis were a few of them whose titles I could make out. A dim lamp emitted a weak, yellow incandescent light across the room, and our shadows were thrown across the walls, misshapen, disproportionate. It was a rather crammed, small room, and the door was shut. I glanced at it.
"Look at me, Eddie."
I looked at him. He was probably about sixty, was thin, had grizzled gray hair and wore transparent-frame eyeglasses.
"Do you remember how you got here?"
I tried to think, but as soon as I did, I felt a ghost-stab of pain in my brain. "I don't want to think about it. It hurts."
"Do you have any recollection at all?"
I tried to think without thinking. "I can't remember. All I remember is... this conversation. As if my whole life has only lasted a few seconds, starting from seeing you, just now."
I wanted to feel awful at this unpleasant revelation, but I couldn't. The phantom endorphin-rush was still going on.
"Ouch!" I bent over, clutching my head.
He leaned forward with a look of professional intrigue. "What is it?"
My brain groaned. "I remember something. Streetlamps... I was walking... there were houses... was it at night?"
I thought, frowning. "There's something else... an old man... and a recollection... but what? ..."
His brow furrowed, and his eyes narrowed behind the glasses.
chapter three - imprisonment
[Internal medical facility -- quarantine containment complex, sector B -- epoch time 19073201338 s]
Overweight Nurse: Take the Prozac. Eighty milligrams. Four pills.
Eddie: I don't want to feel happy all the time! It makes me feel too buzzed!
Overweight Nurse: Take the Prozac! You need it right now!
Eddie: In your dreams!
[Eddie stands up suddenly and tries to push past the nurse, but the security guard is standing outside the room, and pushes him back in.]
Eddie: No! Let me go!
[Another nurse comes in with a syringe.]
Eddie (struggling, held down by the guard and the nurse): No, please, no!
[They inject him with liquid Prozac. Eighty milligrams of fluoxetine.]
Overweight Nurse (with an evil smile): In your dreams.
[The nurses and guard leave the room and shut the door. Eddie is left in darkness.]
Eddie (wants to weep, but cannot.)
[Then, once upon a time, a man strode through the middle of the decorated hallway. A purple carpet with gold fringes; shining marble walls, with Raphael's paintings displayed on them in ornate frames; an exquisite triple-decker crystal chandelier hanging from the reflective ceiling; a theater stage at the far end. He started walking up to the stage but before he arrived, he stopped underneath the chandelier. He tried to move, but his feet were stuck. He looked down and to his horror, icicles were entrapping his feet, cold ice was metastasizing up toward his legs, his thighs, his torso -
The chandelier began to shake violently, and its flaming candles dimmed, and because of that, because of that - a ghost appeared -
And he found himself in a darkened world.
"What are you doing here?"
I told the luminescent ghost, which now appeared the be the only light source - a dim indigo, which cast colored, fractalized patterns on the walls - I'm trying to find my lost memories.
"They are inside your mind somewhere; you merely need to find them." The indigo glow strengthened slightly. The light patterns on the walls became more agitated.
Then once again he began to think.
"There's something there. I'm not sure. Chains. My mind is walled."
"Someone left you something." The shade paused, and the indigo aura increased even more, now affecting my brain, now stimulating my cognition. "Remember?"
[ I talked with someone in my unit yesterday. He said this:
I've been here for about 11 months.
I said, What has kept you here for so long?
And he said, "Them. Not me. Them." ]
WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY?
I saw faces like mine - morose, drugged, dead. No laughs. Dead laughs. We could not escape. Everyone wanted to go home, and everyone was sad and quiet, and sometimes rages happened.
One day they let me out. I walked out and got into the car and we drove all the way home. I felt happier that day, once I had arrived home, than all the happiness the pills had given me.
[Extroductive clinical conference ground floor East Wing, psychology office 14 epoch time 19080175324 s ]
"I see blue ghosts in my head. They're projected onto the real world, in my mind. They take shapes of people, or of objects, or of things, but they're not really there. I think it's because I still feel the buzz from the drugs. Why has this happened?"
The psychologist observed me. "Hyperactive neurons. Exacerbated by the anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Fluoxetine, Olanzapine, Escitalopram oxalate, Aripiprazole, Risperidone." He spoke calmly, the tone bordering on boredom, as if we were discussing evening tea.
I felt something at the mention of the drugs.
BANG YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE DOOR.
No, don't do it, Eddie!
Just do it. Don't listen to him.
I'm telling you, don't do it! You know better!
The psychologist paused. "What's going on?"
My face must have shown I was undergoing some painful internal struggle. I was rendered temporarily speechless.
bang your head...
Lightning seemed to flash across my brain, and my head irritably twitched. I wasn't sure if I could think more clearly, or I just thought I could think more clearly.
"Obsessions. Tics. TMJ disorder." He made a note.
"Can you talk to me like I'm a normal human being?" I snapped, annoyed.
The psychologist looked at me for a moment. "Withdrawal side effect: Increased irritability," he muttered to himself, and jotted it down.
Sometimes I have flashbacks.
[unsourced psychiatric penitentiary]
Eddie was sweating. Aliens were surrounding him, their faces fixated on his own. When he moved, their empty, focused eyes followed him around, with some sort of insane, unstable, wide-eyed gaze.
He shook his head. Doctors were standing around him. I AM NOT ALONE... but I felt so alone here, and I was alone here, wasn't I? Wasn't I? If I wasn't alone, who was with me? THE OLD MAN... but what if that was merely another delusion of and in my own mind?
"How do you feel?" one of them asked.
But again. Their faces looked strange. Foreign. In fact, everything did. Things were horribly difficult to recognize. His brain was pounding hard, and he held his head in his hands.
The words coming out of their mouths he could not understand. It was as if someone had plugged up his ears with a million cotton wads. Some THING was in his mind and he could not hear correctly. He raised his eyes and looked at them. Their faces looked concerned, but he perceived it as evil and as hiding wicked motives. They were hypocrites, they were deceived. They would not and could not understand.
I AM NOT ALONE-
Words were coming through. I could hear certain words. That was a plus, right?
"What's your name?"
"Go away!" I shouted, with increased force, backing up, shaking, pointing the accusatory finger at them, just to make my point clear. "You're watching me, aren't you? I know it! You're saying things! You know what I'm thinking! Stop! Stop doing that!"
Every phrase was punctuated with a gasp, but I would not stop shouting the truth at them.
I AM NOT-
"Leave me alone! I don't want to be here!"
There was some mental, purple, translucent wall separating them from my mind, and it was hard to see through. I could not hear or think. I just wanted to get out of there. I leaned against the wall and breathed hard, my knees shaking. I had not slept for 48 hours and had not eaten for 72. But I had to stay awake. I had to. I had to. I had to...
"You need to eat something."
"Don't touch me!" I pushed him off. "Get away!"
I grabbed a pencil and was about to stab out my right eye, but it was wrested away from me.
"Dr. Farhan. He won't. Hook him up to the IV."
chapter four release
[Outpatient services: recurrent consultation ground floor East Wing, psychology office 14 epoch time 19247394108 s ]
"How long is this going to continue?" I groaned, at yet another appointment with my psychologist. Thomas Castillo, Psy.D.
"As long as it needs to," the doctor said firmly.
"I have been doing well. Academic improvement. Emotional stability. Continuous lucidity." I drummed my fingers on his desk. "You have admitted it yourself. Please allow me to be discharged."
"Not until we discuss the treatment plan."
"Treatment plan?" I said, exasperated. "We've gone over the treatment plan every time we've met for the past four years."
"Ah, but this time it's different. This treatment plan is not for you. This one is for the cause."
"The cause?" I said slowly...
The door suddenly creaked open, and a hooded figure walked in, in a black robe, whose face was shrouded in darkness. I stared at it, then back at my psychologist, whose face was inscrutable, and then back at the figure, who stood there, and then back at Dr. Castillo.
"I don't understand."
He looked at me.
"You were set up. This figure you see is not real. I cannot see it. It is the representation of that which haunts your mind."
He stood up, walked over to his wooden cabinet, opened the doors, and pulled out from this cabinet a .357 Magnum. He took it in his hand and walked over to me and offered it to me. I stared at him.
"You can't be serious."
"To convince your brain that the monster is gone, you need a sufficient actual, physical, tangible stimulus, which you put into effect, which tells it that the monster is indeed gone. But of course, the monster never was there in the first place. It is merely from your imagination."
I waited for him to laugh. I waited for him to put the gun back in the cabinet, and the person wearing the hood to take it off and for me to see a nurse, perhaps dressed for Halloween. But none of those three things happened. He stood there, the gun in his hand, and the figure in the robe and hood continued to stand there. I began to feel afraid. As soon as I felt fear, the robed figure looked up.
"Your choice," the psychologist said quietly.
The fear began to take me over, and as that happened, the gun began to shrink, and the robed figure began to grow, and transform into a spiked black beast-rearing toward me- and darkness began eating at the corners of my vision, and the entire office began to melt away-no-I could not let this happen-
"NO!" I shouted.
There was a pause in the melt, and the figure which was about to spring at me recoiled back and spat and hissed. It didn't like that. The gun became a bit more substantial. The psychologist was still standing there, partially existent, his face concentrated, willing me to come back.
FACE YOUR FEAR.
I reached through a foggy haze and tried to grasp the gun. It kept slipping my grip, evading my hand, even though I was sure I was reaching it -
I concentrated even more and this time I grabbed it, I had the gun, it was in my hand-
I cocked the gun and shot Guilt into a million shattered, lavender, fizzling, dead, black trapezoids.
And then I went home, and the old man disappeared, and I got into the bed, and rested at last in peace.