4:52 am . . .
I think I’m awake. Although, my body doesn’t seem to be responding to anything I do. My eyes can move, but other than that I’m completely paralyzed. And this is one of the more worrisome positions I’ve been in. Not that this whole night hasn’t been completely unraveling.
I’ve been lying here for probably 15 minutes. I can hear the things going on around me. Somebody up above flushed their toilet a couple minutes ago. A cat outside in the parking lot was hissing at something. My refrigerator just dumped a fresh batch of semi-cubed ice. And here’s me, just still as a board.
An inanimate object.
A useless thing.
A piece of frozen meat.
I can feel myself breathing. My body doesn’t know my mind is awake. And I have this awkward feeling that I am actually two different pieces—the mechanical me, and the mental me. The first thing that starts to grip me is panic.
What happens if there’s a fire?
What if somebody comes around looking for me? I can’t move. Not a single muscle will listen to me. No cooperation with my body.
I hope this isn’t forever.
I pray that this state I’m in will wear off, like drugs. Like, when you’re coming down from anesthetics. Sobering up. Then the thought crosses my mind that this is a vivid dream. A super-intense, lucid dream. A hallucination. I’m just tricking the other parts of me.
I try desperately to scream, and I start to squirm around inside of myself. A snake stuck inside his old skin. A butterfly in its cocoon. Like, the conscious part of me is not connected to the physical part of me. Not completely. And I feel sick, like I’m on a boat that’s rocking in the middle of turbulent waters.
What in the hell is happening?
I hope I don’t throw-up in my immobile state. I might drown. To drown in your own puke, not only would it be the pinnacle of embarrassment, but I imagine that it will be horribly painful. Drowning scares me more than any other type of death. Give me arrows, or lightening. I’ll gladly take fire, or a firing line, even. Stone me, eat me, and crush me up into little bits. But please, don’t let me drown.
Because—and I’m not sure why I have this intense fear—drowning is slow. You see it coming. You know the pain is on its way, and then it chokes you. And you’re trying to fight the urge to breathe, but you don’t have a choice. And then when you do, death grips you.
See, with drowning, you’re dead way before you actually die.
You die, but are aware that you haven’t yet died. It’s a prolonged struggle into the abyss. Some people, it takes them several minutes to finally pass on. Can you imagine?
And I feel this nauseous wave wash over me as my eyes start to water. I can’t control any of it. Desperately, I am trying to remember any of those relaxation techniques that the doctors taught me. Something designed for people to get calm. And I’ll just do the opposite of that. I’ll do it backwards and wake-up.
This is my plan, and it’s fairly moronic.
Since I can’t control my breathing, the old 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . thing isn’t going to fly. I don’t have any feeling in my fingers or toes, so all of that positive energy crap is untenable. Somebody might find me and shake me back. Unlikely, though. Ricky isn’t supposed to come over for several more hours.
It’s still dark outside. And as I’m coming to terms with my helplessness, something in my apartment starts to shake and vibrate. It’s the glass patio door. Earthquake is the only thing I can imagine. In Texas? If it’s an earthquake, I’m done for. This whole place will flatten and crush my body like a bug under a falling load of bricks.
The shaking continues, but it’s only just the patio door at first. Then the chair with the book on it starts to vibrate, too. Just those two things, the door and the chair. Everything else in the room is still.
But more and more, different objects in the room start to shake and quiver. And they’re getting so energetic that they begin to blur. That’s it, I’m losing my mind. That’s what all of this is about. It has to be. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense. I just passed that mad scientist stage in my rotting cortex.
The entire room—everything in it—is jiggling and blurry, and I feel this deeply powerful hum pressing me, like I’m stuck in a giant speaker box. The hum is pressing me from every side, and I feel like my body is sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of some dark lake, or ocean.
And then it starts to fade, while the things—the chairs, dresser, kitchen cabinet, the Book of Sighs, the wall mirror, and the stand-alone lamp in the corner—they all bend and morph. They stretch and shift, longer in places, thinner in others. It’s as if everything in my apartment went through some metamorphosis.
Like everything was pliable and elastic. The lamp was taller, and tilted to the left. The dresser warped down in the middle, the edges twisting slightly. The refrigerator was no longer a perfect rectangular shape, but more of a trapezoid—the right side a few inches higher than the left.
The chair where the Book of Sighs was sitting, it has stretched to nearly twice its original height, thinned in the middle, so that the book is hanging off both sides.
And all of the color in my apartment—the soft browns, the blue carpet, the white trim around the door thresholds, even the brass door knobs—it’s gone. All the color has been washed-out and replaced with shades of grey. Just like the droplets of water in the basin of the sink.
The things that were black, they’re not even black. They are still dark, but everything is a version of grey. Cold dead color. Outside—beyond my convexed, bulging glass patio door—is a wet blue sky.
The same sky that rests in the time between dogs and wolves. Perpetual dusk and dawn. And I can’t see any stars.
This place I’m in, this dream world, it’s a contorted, perverted version of the world I know. Even the clock on the wall is bloated and surreal, like it had been next to a blowtorch too long—pregnant and fat at the bottom, the hour and minute hands, twisted and gnarled. Maybe this is my brain trying to make sense of my disease.
My advanced neuropathology finally taking over.
My tumor eating up the parts of my brain that kept me sane.
And I can’t explain why, but I feel this sharp, icy cut in my chest. Not pain, so much as a cold, razor’s touch. My head tries to lift, but all that happens is that my perspective shifts so that I am looking down at my chest. My clothes, they’re all ripped and shredded.
And on my chest, there’s a giant incision. Not the ‘Y’ incision Ricky told me about from an autopsy. This is the straight cut made by those things . . . those Gatherers. The long, deep cut made by them when I first awoke in the hospital, and nobody seemed to care.
As I look at this cut, I realize that it isn’t sewn shut, or gaping open. It’s just there, the skin choosing to stay closed instead of pouring my guts out into the world.
This is death, my new life.
I feel like I’m on the edge of a slide, about to fall off. I’m unsteady inside my broken body, and I know that at any moment I will fall off some cliff, pass some invisible line in the darkness. I sense myself sliding downward, again. Once more, I see the back of my eyes, from the inside. I see the inside of my nose, and my jaw, and my throat.
And I’m sliding, falling out of me.
And once inside my chest I see the dark bluish light pouring in from my incision, from my gaping hole. A rush of cool air grips me as my legs and lower body slip through this incision.
I’m reaching for anything that will give me purchase. I claw at the insides of my body for something to hold on to. Some piece of me to keep me from leaving my body. But I can’t feel anything.
I reach for my ribs, but can’t feel them. To say I was unsettled would be putting it mildly. And just as I was ready to give up, I heard a soft voice,
“. . . not yet.”
And within seconds I was back behind my eyes, again. The room still shaking and blurry. The room slowly quieting. The vibrations eventually stopping. And everything back as it had been. The sky was no longer between dogs and wolves. It was a bright amber, with orange fingers of light spreading across my apartment.
I heard trucks and birds and people and refrigerators.
The clock on my wall, the one that was pregnant and melted just seconds ago, it was now circular and functioning, again. And it said, 7:17 am.
I sat up the second I could feel my body, grasping at my chest. My white t-shirt was soaked with sweat, and looking through it I could see that my incision was gone. My chest was fine.
Whatever it was that wrestled away control from my madness, it came in the form of that voice. Not yet, she said.
I went right across the room, looking at the Book of Sighs in the normal wooden chair. I grabbed the regularly-shaped phone and dialed Dr. Smith’s number. Perhaps I need to have a more candid and honest conversation with my caseworker.
I don’t know what’s happening to me. Magic, brain disease, voodoo, prophecy? Maybe I’m going nut-bag fucking crazy. Jury’s still out.
But I need help.