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"Is there no way out of the mind?" - Sylvia Plath

We were in a little open field, standing in front of an enormously impressive metal slide. We approached it slowly, but soon arrived at the bottom of its rusty looming ladder.

“We have to climb to the top,” I announced. “When we slide down, we’ll be…”

“We’ll be flying to the moon,” Veia said. It all seemed like a slice of a dream from a long lost life. “Are you ready?” I wasn’t sure that I was, but we climbed up the ladder anyway. Then we pushed off. Down, down, down we went, faster, faster, faster, our lives spinning all around our dizzy heads. They flashed before our eyes…and all that we had ever been was coming back in view again.

“You can change your clothes and you can move away

You can try not to become your own abuser

But every single dream is there to stay

You can’t take the past out of the future.”

Shadowshade provided us with another one of his unpleasant rhymes. I could see Obscurité, then Pinewood High…Tranquility Acres and the children’s home. I saw the house that I was born in, Veia in her cell at D.J.J…Scéléra, Soren, Simone, Vera and Mal…

“You can scrape the ashes off of your bed

You can return every single thing that you borrowed

But you can’t make the voices quiet in your head

You can’t take the yesterday out of tomorrow.”

S. was really having a blast with all of this. Thoink! We were back at the mini-fair, outside the ‘fun’ house and the little store. I wasn’t sure if the funhouse had been very fun. Would one call that fun? I wouldn’t. Hmm…we were still very much inside of the house of chaos, weren’t we? Sometimes I couldn’t tell where I was anymore. Shadowshade clapped his hands and we were inside the convenience store. For some reason unknown to me, I walked up to the cash register and asked the cashier for a pack of full flavor cigarettes.

“No!” The burly cashier shouted. “We do not sell to people of your kind here, you fucking freak! You’re a monster! Get out of here this instant!” He was apparently not very fond of me. Why could this be?

“You’ll be smeared in the news. They won’t understand your reasons. They base their decisions on instruction, forms, regulations, policies and computer codes. You’ll never be understood by a conventional human being, if you can really call them that. They behave as if their intelligence is artificial.” Maybe S. was right, but I didn’t care. I was Ivan the Terrible and I would be so until I drew my last breath.

“They can kill the body, not the soul…unless we sell it to them in exchange for acceptance. But let’s not do that.” Veia agreed with me.

Would I rather keep my soul or my social acceptance? I decided that my soul was more important. I would die before I would become a listless lie, a docile drone… we exited the store and walked back into the field. The grass had turned to sand, and we found out that it was quicksand after it was much too late to free ourselves. We were stuck out in the middle of the goopy shit and it had already risen up to our waists. Oops.

“Don’t worry,” Veia tried to sound reassuring. “Think about the bonkers-ness of everything that has happened here so far. This is probably the way out.” That was definitely possible.

“That is definitely possible,” I replied. Away, away went our heads as they disappeared down into the sand. It tasted like wet cement. How did I know what wet cement tasted like? I must have repressed some memories. Snap! Fwap! Veia was right. We were sitting in two adjacent metal chairs in a perfectly white room. It looked like something one would find in a psych ward.

“This is our last stop,” Shadowshade said. “This room is up to you to name, just like the meaning of your life. You can make it whatever you’d like it to be. If you make it out of this room then you’ll be able to go back out into the ‘real’ world…as if this one isn’t. Everything experienced is a real experience. You experienced it. It becomes reality when it is perceived as such. Truth isn’t the same for everyone.” Then he left us sitting there, unsure what to do.

“What do you think will happen in here?” Veia asked me.

“I have no idea.” I really didn’t anymore, but a little boy was tugging on the leg of my pants. I swiveled around and stared at him.

“Wh-what is this place? Where’s Anna? I want to go home! Mother was right, the monsters are real! The monsters are real!” It was me, only it wasn’t quite me. It was little Tristan. He must have been ten years old. “Make it go away! Make it stop, somebody! Why is all of this on the outside? Help me! Help! Help!” And he was gone. God damn it…he did make a good point; why the fuck was all of this out here? The world had turned out to be a rather dark place indeed.

“Defectives!” A man wearing a white lab coat said upon entering the room. We were defective? I happened to disagree.

“What about us is defective, sir?” I asked the man with short white hair and a large pair of spectacles.

“You didn’t fit in. You didn’t play along. You wanted to play a different game altogether. You wanted to march to the beat of a different drummer, as they say. You did it in your own way instead of like a proper machine. When you are not a proper machine, you are defective. See how that works?”

“We are different and so you call us defective?” I questioned.

“Not quite. You’re defective because you won’t pretend to be like the others. You’re expected to at least pretend.” That sounded both unbearable and unnecessary..

“I am myself. I think for myself with an open mind. I am not sorry for that. I’ve done nothing that has conflicted with my beliefs.”

“Well, boy, if you are a disagreeable non-puppet then you’ll get thrown in the trash. You’re an anti-puppet. That’s even worse. A non-puppet is one who stops going with the flow. An anti-puppet tries to convince the others to free themselves as well. We can’t have that. Are you prepared to be crucified for your disagreement with the majority? That day will come if you continue on your current path, most assuredly… most assuredly indeed.”

“Die as myself or live as a lie? Die on my feet or live on my knees? Dear sir…you suggest that I do the latter in both cases. You suggest that I destroy every part of my being just to become more presentable to the rest of humanity. Just as Jean-Paul Sartre did, I must decline. I know that I’ll be hated for who I am, but even someone who does what I do can have a bit of integrity. I haven’t done anything without purpose.”

“Then you choose to be thrown to the dogs. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you, boy. The dogs will come. They will come.”

“Let them!” Veia shouted back. “If they want us dead and they can find us and do the deed! A few seconds of freedom is worth more than a hundred years of slavery. Sorry, but not sorry.”

“I enjoy the things you say,” I said to her. “Our souls seem to be the same shade.”

“Hip, hip, hooray!”

“I think I like you a lot, Veia.”

“Well that is really a thought.”

“What will you do about it?” The doctor-like man asked. I wasn’t sure…what about Scéléra? There wasn’t a simple solution.

“That doesn’t have to be decided tonight,” Veia assured me.

“Okay, boys!” The old man shouted “Bring in the firing squad! Bring ‘em in! They’ve made their decision! They choose to be different! They choose not to conform! It’s time to put them underneath the soil, where they belong!” What the fuck? What looked like a SWAT team knocked down the door at the front of the room and quickly flooded in. There were seven of them total…unlucky…they came to a halt and pointed their weapons at us. “Take aim!” The old man commanded.

“I have one last thing to say before I go, if you’ll grant me the gift of a few last words…” Everything grew silent. That was my cue. “I hope that one day, somewhere in the future, people will gain control over themselves. Most people in modern societies aren’t in control of themselves. Other things determine their fate…finances, bullies, companies, police, and so on.

“Veia and I control of ourselves. Do you think you are, boys? He tells you to take aim and you prepare to kill when you don’t know why. We became ourselves in spite of everything that tried to stop us. We aren’t acting anymore, so we’ve been awarded death by firing squad. Any death that befalls us for choosing to be ourselves is a noble one.” In death we would preserve our authenticity. That seemed to be the noblest way to die.

“Mister Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun…” I sang and closed my eyes.

“Fire!” Crack! The guns fired, sounding like a giant explosion of thunder at the peak of a storm. I felt nothing as I collapsed on the floor…nothing at all. Then bing! We were in a very brightly lit multicolored splattery-painted room. Only a few feet away there was an EXIT sign. We had made it all the way to the end…almost.

“Congratulations!” Shadowshade cheered. The suit reappeared in front of us. “How are the two of you feeling about all of these daunting premonitions?”

“Things keep losing their meanings to uncontrollable circumstances. When nothing can be done, all that’s left is a quest to not feel.” My reply was pretty bleak.

“But sometimes the dice roll something nice in your direction. It’s a choice, you can take it or leave it. I think most are too afraid…” Veia’s sounded more optimistic.

“Do you believe that you’ll be free of the things you’ve seen here once you venture back outside?” S. proceeded with his warning. “Quite the contrary...the things you’ve seen here are imitations of reality, like pieces of the sky that you can only see while gazing at its reflection in the water. The real dangers are out there. What if the people beg for your crucifixion? What happens then?”

“Then Ivan the Terrible will die as Ivan the Terrible. No one can turn me into anything else.”

“You’ll surely perish,” he bluntly informed us. “But your life will attain infinite worth if you die unbroken. Be sure to look them in the eyes.” Hopefully it would be a while before that day finally caught up to us. “Well…you may leave. It’s raining outside, so expect to get wet. Don’t assume that things will the same way they looked before. They shall never look like that again.

“Just go up then down

A sound! A thud, or a whup?

The floor is the ceiling

Is it? No! The time is up.”

Shadowshade vanished and the exit door swung wide open. We were going to make it out alive. That was a feat in itself. We went through the doorway and found a large steel pipe. It was hollow and the inside looked almost like a slide. This was the way out. We hopped into it and zoomed straight downward. Soon we were propelled upward again and zipped around a corner in the metal maze. Up, down, up, down, gaining momentum as we slid…

We fell out of a faucet and into a sink and were swallowed by a vortex that swirled around the drain. We plunged under in seconds. We sank below the surface and were sucked and pulled into the hole. Just like a porno. We were lost now, falling… falling…falling through the air thousands of feet above the city. A pure white glow hovered all around us. What was happening? Were we dead? Were we ghosts?

“Weeeee!” Veia shouted as we plummeted closer and closer to the ground. Maybe that’s what skydiving feels like. It was actually pretty fucking exhilarating. I could see the house now. Were we going to slam into the roof of it? I certainly appeared as if we were! I hoped that we wouldn’t…or did I? We neared the surface and could see ourselves sitting in the grass just in front of the house ‘that someone had entered’. We looked a bit dazed. We were going to land right on top of us! Quickly, painlessly, we slipped into our bodies and became ourselves again. We were sitting on the ground, spirits that had just returned to their bodies.

“We made it.” Veia looked over at the now closed front door. The house had finally been entered. We even lived to tell the tale.

“That was a lot more than I expected it to be.” I pulled on the grass, still sitting down in the rain.

“I’m glad we went,” she replied.

“What do you think it all meant?”

“We saw how the world perceives us…maybe we saw the future along the way.”

“Do you think they’ll come with a firing squad?” I wondered if they would.

“I’m sure that they could.” I still felt very befuddled. A woman in a red raincoat was approaching us.

“This house! Oh my, make sure you don’t go inside! Sir and Madame, I’ve lost my little boy. Have you seen him run past?” Desperation consumed her fragile features, but alas! We had not.

“Alas! We have not,” I answered. So she went along her way, slinking off into the faintly falling rain. Only a moment later, a much smaller figure approached from the same direction that she had. It was a young boy, maybe two or three years old. It had to be her son…right?

“Don’t tell that bitch that I’m stalking her.” He sustained a hushed tone as he arrived in front of us. His face now looked considerably older and goblin-like, and little devil horns stuck out from his small forehead.

“I roasted and gulped her kid down weeks ago. I’ve been posing as the boy ever since. It’s a delightful game. Give it a try sometime.”

“Ha!” Veia shouted. She was incredibly amused. I was too, honestly.

“What the hell are you?” I had to know.

“I’m a something. I’d rather be a ‘me’ than a “not me’, see? I’m a secret.” He then ran after the woman and they both disappeared into the downpour. Was she going to be roasted and gulped down next, or did the little fiend only feast on children?

“Do you think that really happened?” I wasn’t sure if it had.

“Oh yes, it certainly did.”

“You’re right, we did see it happen. That’s enough for it to be real. It was real to us. Let’s be off!” We made our way all the way back to the park, arriving there just before dawn. Our night’s weirdventure was at its end. “When will I see you again?”

“Wait for nightfall and travel to where the trees grow, remember? I’ll hear you coming. If I don’t, then the trees will tell me. Goodbye, dear.” Then it just sort of happened. We held each other for one last moment in the dawn and kissed feverishly underneath the tall old trees…

“I’ll come back.” I walked away from the park and back into semi-reality. Would I be back? Possibly…probably…hopefully? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I rode the early morning bus back home and arrived around eight in the morning. No one had woken up yet, but no one was on the couch and the TV was still on. I let myself plop onto the cushions. I was overly overtired, but I could rest at last! Before I fell asleep I managed to hear a little of what the glowing box was chattering about.

“Police claim that there is a connection between the murders of John Janglehorn and Father Peter Dickinson. Our officer’s recent death may be connected to these as well. Authorities are actively seeking suspects. We hope to have more answers in the next few days. Stay tuned! Here come the commercials! Buy, buy, buy! Bye!” Shit…they were coming for me.

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