Wherein a mind is fucked. Enjoy.


A thousand and one irredeemable thoughts race through my skull, not a single one of them sticking around long enough to be plucked from the nether, and I feel as though I am in two places at once. In one vision I stand afield, my sword bloody and my armor dented and damaged—a hundred pitiful enemies lay mutilated at my feet. Breasts fill the other as the stripper leans in close, bad music booms overhead and the smell of sour liquor and perfume is enough to choke me.

Those two visions, those two places I can see, feel, and smell, soon multiply again and again. Suddenly I feel as though I am looking through a thousand different eyes, each one experiencing something that I know I am not. I know where I am. I am weightless in white room, left alone to see what needs to be seen. There are no walls, this is no true room—this is a space that is every bit as mental as it is physical. There is no explanation that I can give, I am merely an observer and such things are beyond me. Beyond me, but perhaps one of these visions knows that which I cannot explain. All that there is for me to do is stare off into the white nothingness and watch through my shattered vision a thousand or more versions of myself. They are me or I am them—past and future lives.

#

Darren’s hands moved this way and that as he spoke on and on about something I likely did not care about. It was a distraction beyond my already distracted state that lured me further and further from the words that escaped his lips. I knew that he spoke of the project, but I could not summon up the desire to listen or care. I read the reports, I oversaw the work, I already knew what was happening and the issues the team had gone over countless times.

Lunch was supposed to be a reprieve from such things, but there was no such luck for me. Other team members had taken to fleeing from the building and taking lunch elsewhere, not bothering to invite the increasingly annoying Darren or me for that matter. Though that latter part was my fault, I must admit. I typically came out of hiding several minutes after the beginning of the lunch hour, the haze of work-induced disinterest only just beginning to wear off. I’d stumble off into the cafeteria, where I would sit for only a few short, silent seconds before Darren would inevitably seat himself across from me and begin his mindless chatter that somehow managed to not only pervade the haze, but told it to bugger off as well.

Disinterest yells at me to flee, but my constant state of tiredness never allows it. It is content to shut off my mind until it is time to shuffle back to work once again.

Bits and pieces of unwanted dialogue pierced my mind, stabbing in like those flairs of hell that pain killers fail to hinder. ‘It’s not like we can test the thing on animals, you know?’ I could hear him ask, obviously rhetorically. For a second my mind connected with his question and I found myself confused. I did not know what he was talking about and I would hazard to guess that few people did. There were only a few people on the team that knew the end product of our work, the rest of us only knew what we were assigned to do. There was some slight interest, but the desire to reciprocate in the conversation had long since been forced to the shoulder of the road to languish at the wayside where it belonged.

In my dulled vision I could see that he watched me, his eyes only rarely left my general direction and blinked only a few times. Suspicion, oh suspicion, I will ever remember the day you failed me. I thought nothing of it and let my tired mind drift away once again. This time it drifted fully, my eyes fluttered and my head drooped, and before I knew it and without my leave, sleep came.

#

I did not wake under the blue-white lights of the cafeteria, the smell of cleaning solution and burned food filling my nostrils—such a thing would have been welcome and not too uncommon in my case. I woke instead to the smell of nothing, the lights a pure and bright white. No, I was not in the cafeteria or in any room I had seen before. My arms were strapped to my sides and my feet were similarly bound—I lay upon a table in the center of a room that had the air and look of sterility that only a medical laboratory can produce.

I could feel myself rousing from a haze that was not fully that produced by sleep and could hear muffled voices coming from somewhere behind me.

‘Are… sure… should… this?’ asked one of them, her voice fluctuating in volume and distorting to incomprehensible gibberish. ‘What… someone… out?’

I heard the man’s sight loud clear and when he began to speak I knew the voice. ‘Don’t… no… find… this. If… then… understand… motives.’ Darren. Hearing the voice and thinking of the man and his ridiculous hand gestures brought an image to my mind, it too distorted providing a disconcerting source of brief amusement. The haze was quite obviously tinged with a little something besides sleep. ‘What is,’ I began to ask or demand, though I knew I spoke with all the harshness of a newborn kitten. I did not get very far with my inquiry, whatever brief release I had from the affect of the drugs disappeared and I descended once more into an unknowing oblivion.

#

The haze was gone fully when I awoke the second time and the voices in the corner were no longer in the corner and no longer muffled. There were people gathered in a circle around me all talking in a friendly manner about something that I could not understand. I recognized Darren and even a couple of others, but the rest were unknown to me.

‘No one gives a damn what happens to him if everything goes right,’ said one, her voice similar to that of the previously muffled female.

The man next to her, his features dark in the shade of the bright lights above, grunted in reply. ‘And what happens if things go wrong?’ he asked.

‘If things go wrong,’ answered another voice, one that I clearly recognized, ‘then we get rid of the evidence and forget anything ever happened.’

‘All in the name of science,’ remarked a dark skinned woman I had never seen before. She smiled wide as if thoroughly proud of the comment, her white teeth providing a brilliant contrast to her skin. The others around me had nothing to add it seems and merely chuckled or smiled in turn.

‘Fucking hurrah,’ I said aloud, so that those around me knew that I was finally awake and could go about with whatever they were going to do. ‘Got to love science.’

#

Darren took it upon himself to explain what was going on and I was rather happy to see that he decided to disperse the audience before doing so. Quite frankly, it was a bit creepy.

‘You have to be wondering what is going on,’ he began.

I had a feeling he wanted to continue without me answering, but I had no intention of letting him get away that easily. ‘Well, I was a while back, but then I noticed that I was strapped to a table being stared at by a bunch of scary bastards and I decided that I really don’t care,’ I replied. ‘But eh, you know, continue if you’d like.’ My attempt to shrug was hampered by the straps, but at least I tried.

Darren gave me a sour look, all squinted eyes and pursed lips. It was not as daunting as he likely hoped it would be. ‘Yes, well…,’ he sort of just trailed off. I do not think it was the response he was looking for. He coughed a very fake cough and muttered, ‘Anyway.’ He watched me and I watched him, he did not seem as stupid as I thought he was from our lunchtime one-way conversations. Apparently I was the stupid one for falling asleep at such an inopportune moment. ‘You are here because we need to test something,’ he finally said. ‘As I told you during lunch, right before you fell asleep, we can’t test it on animals.’

I sighed, finally giving in despite not wanting to. ‘Why not?’ I asked.

Darren smiled and I regretted asking the question. He was much like an oily snake, as clichéd as that sounds. ‘Because animals cannot tell us what they see or experience.’

I remembered something from earlier, ‘And this also has the potential for killing me?’

Darren’s gestures were not a ploy, as it turns out. He spread his hands out wide and shrugged slightly, ‘There is no way for us to know that.’

‘So if things go wrong you will just kill me and then dispose of the body to keep this from getting out or will I be a resident at the Strapped Down On A Table Institute of Kidnap and Illegal Testing until something goes wrong and I die or something goes right and I am done away with?’ It may not be the best life, but damned if it wasn’t mine. I felt I had a right to be unhappy about the circumstances.

‘Err,’ was the reply I obtained from Darren.

‘Uh huh,’ I retorted. ‘What does this testing entail then?’

Darren checked his watch as he spoke, ‘We are going to throw you into what amounts as a giant box and then we are going to flip some switches, turn some dials, and press a few buttons. Then we’ll see what happens next.’ He flipped the sleeve of his coat over the watch and looked back at me with a grin plastered across his face. ‘Oh, seems it is about time for us to begin.’

#

They stripped me and, after a few inappropriate comments about size, ushered me through a metal door into a medium sized box of a room painted fully in white. There was some illumination coming from the walls, but I could not see any source for the light. I was beginning to think that they drugged me again.

Darren’s voice boomed into the room from seemingly nowhere in particular and he spoke reassuring phrases that everyone has heard before as I stood there naked, alone, and cold. By that time I was hoping just to get on with things, but they were taking their time. As I stood there in the center of the room cupping my groin, I wanted to yell at them to get on with it. Before I could I heard a low hum and Darren’s voice once again boomed at me. ‘We begin,’ was all he said.

I felt nothing at first, but then a subtle vibration began to run up through the floor and into me. The walls began to glow brighter until finally there was no shape to the walls, the floor, or the ceiling. There was only the bright white of nothing. I could feel the vibration running through me, but it no longer ran up through the floor—I could not even feel the ground beneath me. It took me a few seconds that the room was completely gone and I was floating.

#

Back again to my shattered vision, to a thousand lives splintered across my sight. A man dressed in the robes of high office, a crown upon his head, dances with a beautiful woman while a man in tattered garb is beaten by the rough nightsticks of laughing constables. I can feel every blow delivered, I can smell the woman’s hair and the stench of my clothes, and the music provides a match for the rhythm of the officers’ blows.

I see a man in a hospital bed and I feel the pain that comes from his broken legs. At the foot of the bed is a metal sphere that displays an image of the man in holograph as it explains the damage. Someone somewhere, somewhen, is having sex and I can feel that, too. Oddly enough it does not bother me. I am too far beyond embarrassment.

My vision shatters again and again, with each new fractured piece of the whole comes a new life and new experiences. I briefly feel the phantasmal pain and pleasure from whatever scene it is from each incarnation’s life. As that pain or pleasure flows through me it feels as though a little piece of myself is torn away to drift along with it. Like the thoughts that cannot be retained, so too do those phantasmal feelings remain a flittering, intangible stream that will not be stopped or held. All there is to do is feel myself being stripped away as my vision continues to shatter, as the pain builds, and the pleasure mounts.

#

Then it stops. The pain and pleasure drifts away, leaving a little of myself behind. My vision does not shatter further, but I can still see each incarnation in their shattered panes. The scenes still play out, but things are changing. The king stops dancing with the beautiful woman and looks over his shoulder to gaze into my eyes. The homeless man in tattered clothing looks up from his curled position, the constables long gone, to stare directly at me. His eyes no longer on the holograph, the man in the hospital bed follows suit. Every life, every pane, each shattered presentation changes to this effect. Their expressions are blank or confused as they look at me as I look at them.

The color begins to drain from the background of each panel, slowly fading to white. The fragments of my vision slowly start to heal as well, the shattered pieces and panes fusing together. Only the backgrounds fade, the incarnations remain there, the looks on their faces becoming distraught at the disconcerting change in their surroundings. The space of the room becomes larger, far larger than I remember the small metal room being. My incarnations are no longer in panes, no longer fragmented lives from the past or the future. There, floating in that nothingness, my vision fills with the versions of me. They are alive, they breathe, and they are of flesh. No longer do they appear as if looking through a screen.

They appear as infinite as the space we inhabit. There are too many to count, far more than I had previously seen. I have questions and I know they do as well, but any and every thought rushes through my brain and I cannot catch hold of them. I want to ask how this is happening, but I know that they have the same answer that I do. We have no idea what is going on, how this happened, or why this happened. I can hear muttering and mumbling amongst them, some sound like prayers, some litany, and others just the rambling of unaskable and unanswerable questions.

Red streaks begin to skirt the edges of my vision, like lightning in the night sky. It happens rarely and I give it no thought as I try my best to think of something to say or do. It begins to flash more frequently though, as if we have traveled unwittingly into a storm. The white soon becomes scarred through with red streaks and I can hear the hum once more. It pervaded the room at the beginning, but it had turned inaudible at some point in the process. It grows louder as more red streaks break through the bright white of the room. Shouts begin to sound from my incarnations, they yell and they curse. I watch them and know that they are trying to run away from the red tinged blocks of white that crash down from the above. Like me, however, they cannot run, they cannot move. They are stuck there hovering in the nothingness, unable to avoid the death that falls amongst them. I watch, I cannot help but watch, as the red flashes through the white to send it crashing down on the many variations of me. I watch helplessly as I am crushed over and over again. I cannot close my eyes.

The groaning of the collapsing space fills my ears, barely masking the screams for help and the moans of pain. I hear screaming close by and it takes me only a few seconds to realize that it is me and I can’t stop. I scream until my world goes dark.

#

The sterility of the room I come to in tells me that either I survived my ordeal or hell is a lot cleaner than I anticipated. I am strapped to the table once more, but given the uncontrollable shaking, I cannot find it in me to blame them. Although I sure I could if I tried hard enough, all things considered. There are no voices, muffled or otherwise. The room is silent. I know that someone is there with me though, sitting off to the side of my vision. ‘What happened?’ I ask.

I know it is Darren. ‘We don’t know,’ he answers, his voice quiet. I know I did not tell him what happened to me.

‘You saw, didn’t you?’

Darren remains silent and all I can is his breathing. His lack of an answer is telling enough, but he does answer. ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘not all of it, but the very end.’

I feel I have the right to be bitter. ‘What is this?’ I ask him rhetorically. ‘You were gung ho at the beginning of all this, ready to do the deed and throw away my used up corpse if things did not go as planned. Oh, but add in a few thousand dead versions of me and things are suddenly too much? One man for the sake of science is a worthy sacrifice, but that many? Is that a fucking tragedy or what?’ I laugh. There is no stopping it as it bubbles up to burst forth. Out of breath, I continue, ‘So you fucked up and you fucked up bad. Tell me, how many lives have you destroyed with your toy?’

I can feel the anger building inside of me. It is not a gentle thing and it is not mine. This is the anger of a legion, this is the anger of that warrior standing amongst the corpses of his foes, this is the righteous fury of the king, this anger, is the spirit of thousands of incarnations that replaces small bits of me with small bits of themselves. Darren has moved to my side, to fill my field of vision. I glare at him with the madness and anger imparted to me. ‘Get me the fuck out of these straps and off of this table and out of this place or I swear that you will not live long enough to regret what has happened here today.’

Darren, in his stupidity, complies. He could have left me on the table to rot until they found the time to deal with me. I am still naked as I get off the table and punch the bastard in the jaw. He does not fall to the ground like I hoped he would, which means that the movies lied to me. He does skip over the side clutching his jaw to lean against the wall and watch me as I quickly dress. He does nothing, just stands there. This is no secret government facility. I follow the exits signs out into the sunlight. For the briefest of moments I think about finding some gasoline and matches, but that thought is quickly pushed aside. It has been a long day and I feel the need for a bottle of something hard to drown the memories in.

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