"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." – Jiddu Krishnamurti
“Why don’t you respect what I want?” said the 20-year-old Robert Jones, “I may not be the age of majority, but you can’t just bulldoze over my autonomy like that!”
“Your doctor said it would be better for you to have the chip to regulate your thoughts and emotions,” said his mother, “who am I to argue with that?”
“There is nothing wrong with my thoughts and emotions. I’m different, but I can function fine. I think I know myself better than some essential stranger knows me.”
“Show me your medical degree. Thoughts and feelings are part of the brain, so of course they’re medical.”
“Are armed conflicts problems in electromagnetism because they involve lightning guns? No. Thoughts and feelings are not problems in neuroscience – if they are problems at all – because they involve the brain.” They’re not reducible to the brain, and he’s had that argument too many times and won none, but if he implies it rather than stating it, she doesn’t seem to notice. Almost as if somewhere deep in her heart, she knew he was right.
“Well, you’re the child and we’re the adults. You listen to us and when you move out on your own, you can do what you want.”
“This implant has been killing me though. I can’t go out to the hillside or forest without being bombarded with flashing lights and beeping sounds coming from inside my head. There is no more peace for me. There are always pop-ups, and something about them seems to correlate with what I’m thinking, as if my thoughts were no longer only my own.”
“You don’t find that nice? Nature is slow and boring. I know thousands of people, and you’re the only one I know who likes that, or books and poetry, or worst of all, classical music. That puts me to sleep. This is why no one under the age of twenty-one is allowed to make their own medical decisions. Hopefully when you get older, you’ll join the real world of adults. Also, isn’t it nice to have someone who knows what you want always and gives it to you? Like your own guardian angel. Except we all know that’s not real, and this is.”
“Shut up. If you don’t let me I’m going to get this implant out myself. It’s worse than anything you or anyone else could do to me.”
“But you need it, or else you’ll go crazy and who knows what you would do. You could fail school, or hear voices, or blow all your money, or shoot yourself, or go on a rampage and kill everyone with an axe due to your incurable brain disease.”
“Listen, I control me, not my brain. And no one has ever proven that crying when you read beautiful poetry or feeling joy when you listen to a Beethoven symphony is a pathology.”
“It’s inappropriate emotional affect. That’s a sign of pathology. You also believe in things that are clearly proven to be false, like God, and interpret things as having personal significance to you, when really everything is completely random. That means you are delusional. Just listen to the nice lady who wants to help you, since you can’t understand that you’re sick. If you could understand, you’d want this for yourself.”
“Please, listen to me. The only problems I’ve noticed I’ve had for myself are after I got the chip. Aside from the other things I’ve mentioned, I have been hearing and seeing things that aren’t there. But I know they’re not real, and they don’t quite look like quite like part of the environment –”
“That’s called hallucination. You’re really about to go off the deep end and you really need help.”
“No, that’s not how it works at all. But this is the worst part: Often I will go into a dream at night, or into a brief trance in the waking hours, and I see horrible things, shifting and scintillating so I can never figure out my orientation or theirs. I hear one low voice, shifting like the images, like I imagine a demon would sound. And they’re speaking something I’ve determined to be Akkadian, and even though I can’t understand that normally and it’s not translated for me, I understand it then. They say, your mind is not your own, we know you more than you know you. The heart has reasons of which reason knows not, and we are in the deepest part of your heart, pulling the reins of Dionysus’s horse. We are inexorable – do you not understand? Strange doors have been opened that can never be closed again. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Then I feel worms writhing in my heart first, which cut through it and my head and gut are severed from each other, then worms write in the rest of me, pulsating as they write. Then I am falling apart from the inside, then some giant foot is on me – is it in a jackboot? Some sort of stinking, filthy boot with nailed soles, anyhow. Then I hear nothing and see nothing, and it is over. This all happens in the blink of an eye, but it is as if it lasted centuries.”
“I thought that kind of thing… Was a malfunction with mine, and I was going to go get it fixed, but also afraid to bring it up. No one else has mentioned it.”
“I don’t think technology normally malfunctions in specifically organized ways.”
“That might just be your magical thinking, but even that seems wrong to me.”
Five minutes before eight o’ clock in the evening:
Robert Jones was walking in the parking garage, about to go see a surgeon that could remove his implant. This would take a couple of minutes at most and then he’d be in the clear, and anyways, he was almost there. He brought his mother with him, as she was suspicious as well, although not as intrinsically suspicious.
Then he heard a slight ticking noise, that came from somewhere quite near, but he could not figure out where - as if it were moving, and he turned, looked around, could not find it. Eight beats - it tapped out eight beats.
“What are you looking around like that for?”
“Oh, I just thought I heard something.”
Then he was certain he heard something.
“O FREUNDE, NICHT DIESE TÖNE!”
“What the fuck?”
“You’re going crazy. This isn’t such a good idea. I think we should head back to the car right now.”
“No, that’s a horrible idea.”
She grabbed him in something like a judo grip and dragged him back towards the car.
Then the clock hit exactly eight, and there was one flash of light, as if from a gun, but there was no gun.
Then he heard nothing and saw nothing, which was unbearable. Then he saw a tunnel, gold, red, silver, glaring on the blackness, with pulsating ribs as he fell swiftly down, and became surrounded by the images from his own mind, from his own heart, like he heard the shamans did back in alien times and alien places.
Then he heard the demonic voice again.
“Welcome to the abyss of your own mind. It is forever incomprehensible to you but utterly simple to us. You have been disconnected from your body, and to it you will never return. This is what awaits the mind after separation from the body: Neither Heaven nor Hell, neither Elysium nor Tartarus, neither Valhalla nor Niflheim. You’ll wish for any of those rather than, as we said, this abyss. This is both death and a new life, a dream from which you shall never awaken. You shall be here until the end of the Universe ‒ and then you shall be merely extinguished. It is like annihilationism, but annihilationism for all without discrimination! The pain of being will be but an infinitesimal speck compared to the dread of extinguishment to you. You shall never awaken from this dream, because you shall be in dreamless sleep forever. Even when others think they have restored you to your body ‒ and they will ‒ all it will be is an image of you, essentially your doppelgänger, and no one will pay attention enough to know it is not you, and even if they do, they can do nothing about it.”
“I refuse to bow down to you.”
“We know you thoroughly, and you know yourself not at all. What do you think you can do?”
He then saw himself in a forest, which he thought was so overcrowded with trees that it made the distance and the sky itself appear black, before he realized that the distance and the sky actually were black. Then he saw, creeping behind trees, what he soon realized was his own visage, prancing joyfully, but also slinking sinisterly through the shadows. It came into clear view for him at a moderate distance, and pointed and laughed at him silently.
“Don’t you understand? You are dead now. And you will have to face yourself. There is nothing you will hate more than yourself once you see your rotten, weak core. At best you were like a whitewashed tomb.”
Then he found himself lying in his own bed, in the morning, and everything seemed normal enough, except he had missed his alarm.
No, not everything ‒ he lay on his back rather than his side, and could not flip over, for his back was flat and hard, and he was covered in alien white, oozing splotches, and he had six little legs that flailed around out of his control without any weight to push them down.
This has all been very clever, but would you please cut it out already? he tried to say, but all that came out was the voice of a beast.
That is also a very nice detail.
“You brought this on yourself. You didn’t stand up for yourself when you knew something was off ‒ whose fault is that?”
“I don’t know. I almost got out of this, but my mother wrestled me away.”
“You’re weaker than a woman! You may as well be a little girl!”
Then he found himself in some sort of hospital room, but with no doors and no windows, not even any lights (where was the dim, yellowish light coming from?), on a patient’s chair ‒ and in a girl’s body.
“I have nothing to say and I’m saying it,” he said to try to lighten the mood, but it came out in a squeaky little voice that disgusted him to hear from his own mouth. Then from behind him he saw the shadow of a doctor, but the doctor himself was invisible even when the shadow, which drifted and had its upper body move but was otherwise stockstill, moved in front of him. The shadow appeared to be holding some sort of invisible object like a hammer with a hollowed-out center in the shape of a small head and point in the center of that. He felt this instrument push against his head, and the point go in, but seemingly without having to break his skull or even skin.
“Don’t you understand ‒ all you are is a body and a brain! This is why we know all your fears, your shame, much better than you!” Then he was overcome by something like chaotic, red lightning within his head, and found himself in darkness, with no body at all, no way to move, no way to feel, no way to even scream, and nothing around him.
“Enjoy your stay!”
Soon he lost track of time, but it felt like billions of years at the least, and his thoughts grew ever more alien to himself.