Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Jack

by Jack Reeves 

The root of his malady is his fragmentary understanding of reality, i.e., he knows a little of what is going on.

His mental deterioration evolved gradually, undetected: a psychotic aneuryism surreptitiously ballooned in his brain. Now the condition expresses itself by an excessive and irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness toward others.

Concomitant intellectual erosion further deteriorated his discernment, petrifying fragmented, oft false perceptions. These coalesced in systematized delusions of persecution. His enemies--legion, he believes--are bent on his obliteration.

His fear is magnified because who his enemies are or why he is the object of their malevolence, though deeply felt, is only dimly grasped. Such a contortion of reality, according to those who’ve survived it, can be described as ‘fear asphyxiation.’ Symbiotic, the phenomenon, latent in all to varying degrees, feeds on itself. Diagnosis points to paranoia.

This psychosis is in full assault on the fragile pillars of John Reiner’s mind. The mental malignancy metastasized. Its first manifestations occurred when he sensed that people were staring at him. Persons whom he never perceived as threatening became subjects of distrust. Why did the stockman at the supermarket follow him? Why did the postal clerk request to see his signature on his credit card? Why did the highway patrol set up a driver’s license check on the road in front of his home and stop him?

From John Reiner’s perspective, there is neither escape nor fortress to protect from these sinister, organized forces. He could cite this: Yesterday he was traveling on a highway when someone in a large truck stalked him. To test his suspicion, he pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store; the pickup did the same.

As his conviction of a conspiracy became fixed, his fear rocketed. At first he merely thought he had been selected for investigation, for some reason, perhaps by the IRS.

The more he thought about it, the more it seemed clear that the explanation was more sinister: the intent was to destroy him. He believes they embody evil, set on possessing his mind. If they succeed, he will cease to exist.

His condition is now full-blown. He has been four days with only snippets of shallow sleep. His mind wanders in and out of hazy, nonsensical worlds. He is on the threshold of hallucinating. But he is helplessly wedded to the reality he has embraced as truth.

He continues fighting sleep; he believes that consciousness is the only thing between him and insanity--or no mind at all. If he lapses into unconsciousness, he will lose himself.

Each time he senses sleep’s shadow creeping over him, his will rises, desperately struggling to counter the thing that would suck him into oblivion. He cannot succumb, else he will never awaken as himself again.

It is now night; sleep is inconceivable. Two mighty mortal elements--his need for sleep and his fear of sleep--are pitted against each other. He drinks cups of strong coffee but to no avail. Even saturated with caffeine, his body and mind scream for respite. He must keep his eyes open.

He needs to override sleep. Only pain could do that, intense anguish, to shock his body into a waking state. He rushes to the kitchen and rummages wildly through a drawer looking for something suitable, something with prongs. Finding a fork, he bends two middle tines downward so that the remaining two can align with the electrical socket.

Holding the handle, he jabs the tines into the kitchen-counter AC outlet. A jolt of current strikes him like a sledgehammer. Its force and the agony contort his face and spasm his body and mind into immediacy. Possessed by fear, he is fighting for his mind; he must stay in control.

But the relentless waves of sleep wash over him; he feels their enveloping warmth. As his eyes shut and his head falls forward, he overtakes his slide into blackness, reviving himself again by electrocution. The deliberate experience is excruciating.

Heroically willful, he repeats the gruesome remedy as required. Throughout the macabre wake he keeps himself upright by leaning on the counter, gripping the fork in his right hand.

Relentlessly, inevitably, the arms of Morpheus reach for him. How tempting to surrender, to fall into them, to be swaddled in serenity. But he must free himself from their grasp, lest he be suffocated in the embrace.

He struggles to raise his hand, to plunge the tines into the socket again, his other hand gripping--this time--the edge of the aluminum sink. Coordination failing, he manages to find the mark. As the tines touch the target, a bolt of current shoots through his body, shorting to ground, paralyzing his body. He is unable to break contact with either the sink or the socket.

He is frantically aware of the criticalness of the situation. Frozen in statue-like anguish, he cannot free himself from his impersonal executioner. Mindless amperage surges through his body for a seeming eternity of pain and horror before the circuit breaker finally intervenes.

With its snap, his legs buckle; he drops leadenly to the floor. His heart shocked into fibrillation, John Reiner gasps his final breaths. He sees imminent death. His eyes close.

Of them is his final thought.

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